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From Xalapa through Jalap to Jollop

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Convolvulus jalapaThe scuba diving enthusiasts among you will probably be familiar with Jollop, which, I am told, is a brand of lubricant used to ease one’s entry into a drysuit or wetsuit.

This recently gained knowledge reminded me of those people — mainly members of the older generation — who refer to bottles of medicine as jollop. In their case the term probably came to us via the British army slang for any kind of medicine.

It is thought to be a corruption of jalap, a drug made from the tuberous root of the Jalap bindweed, Convolvulus jalapa, also known as Ipomoea jalapa or I purga.

Although grown commercially in India, where it probably came to the attention of the army, the drug originated near Xalapa Enriquez (also known as Xalapa or Jalap), the capital city of the Mexican state of Veracruz. This fertile area, situated beneath the volcanic peaks of the Sierra Madre Oriental, or Mexican Andes, also gave its name to Jalapeño chillies.

Mexican (or Veracruz) jalap was introduced to Europe in the early 16th century by Spanish explorers who referred to “purga de Jalapa” meaning “purge of Jalapa”, which gives us a clue to its uses.

The principal constituent of jalap is a glycosidal resin that has a slightly smoky odour. Its taste has been described as unpleasant followed by pungent acridity, but it can be masked with sugar or jam.

The smoky smell was once thought to have come from the way the roots were dried over fires but is now known to be, partly at least, inherent in the drug.

Jalap has a strong purgative action, is said to accelerate the action of rhubarb, and has been used in combination with other laxatives and with carminatives such as ginger and cloves.

Jalap resin from other sources, such as Tampico jalap from Ipomoea simulans, Brazilian jalap from I tuberosa and Orizaba jalap from I orizabensis, have occasionally been used as an alternative to Mexican jalap but have not been grown commercially to any great extent.

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From: Beyond pharmacy blog

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