This is a species of the family of cedars, and is found indigenous only in Central America. It is of more stunted growth than any of its brethren of northern latitudes, and bears a large bean, similar in size, shape, and color to a horse-chestnut, but very brittle. To Mr. John P. Curry is due the honor of having first introduced this tree to public notice. His attention was first called to the cedran-tree while on the Isthmus as consulting engineer for the Panama Eailroad Company, by observing the neutralizing effect that its beans exercised upon a snake-bitten buzzard. The bird was struck by a rattlesnake, and then made its way to a cedran-tree, and after pecking at one of its beans flew off apparently uninjured. A native to whom Mr. Curry related the incident scouted the idea of a rattlesnake-bite being dangerous, and exemplified his confidence in the efficiency of an antidote by bringing a snake of twelve rattles the following day, and allowing himself to be bitten by it. He then took a cedran bean, and, having chewed it, swallowed a portion, and saturated the wound with his saliva; after which treatment no disagreeable feelings or unpleasant effects resulted from the bite. Mr. Curry, after having been thus satisfied of the marvellous curative powers of these beans, verified his experience by writing to the Alta California newspaper, and carried about a peck of the beans to San Francisco, where many successful experiments of their efficiency were made by Professor Lanzwert, a German physician, on dogs, cats, rabbits, etc., which were allowed to be bitten by rattlesnakes. After these tests the neutralizing power of these beans was found never to fail when applied to human beings bitten by these reptiles.
Very few physicians, however, had any knowledge of the curative properties possessed by this tree until a tincture was manufactured from its roots by Parke Davis & Co. about three years ago. Its extracts are considered a safer antidote than whiskey or alcohol, producing as they do a chemical reaction of the blood in from six to eight hours; but for snake-bite their neutralizing effect is almost instantaneous after being taken into the system. They are also a cure for gout, and an antidote for hydrophobia.
Mr. Curry's experience, since, further evinces the frequency of rattlesnake-bite being completely neutralized and cured by simply eating a portion of a bean, or taking a tea made from half a bean.
Therefore it would seem, from the incident of the buzzard having been bitten, and its instinctive knowledge of the antidotary power of this tree, that to science has been given a remedy for prevention of the effects of so many occasional diseases before considered incurable, thus proving conclusively that nature is continually making experiments, as well as man, and bringing to observing human beings, through the instincts of animals, birds, and even insects, grand discoveries in science, meteorology, and medicine.