Choke cherry was used to take the pain of a cough away, which it does, and also to stimulate the body to kill the microcritter causing the cold in the first place. This herb is a lovely combination of cough reliever and body tonic. A little forgotten, but, a very useful medicine, if you have access to it.
Chapter from My PhD Thesis
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians
Chapter from my PhD Thesis
Part Used: Bark
Chemical Constituents: Significant phytochemicals include cyanidin and tannin. (15)
Prunus grows up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States . A favourite food amongst certain migrating birds, the seedlings spring up in any open space. The Mohawk, Huron, Illinois-Miami, Delaware, Cree, Ojibwe, Penobscot, Iroquois, Chippewa, Menomini, Meskwaki, Potawatami, Tete de Boule, and Malecite tribes used the tree as a source of food and medicine. The drupes were collected and dried for later consumption. The bark of the tree was used to treat small pox, scurvy, soreness of the chest, haemorrhages from the lungs, sore throat, coughs and colds, inflammation of the bowels, diarrhoea, stomach cramps, cholera infantum, poor digestion, gangrenous wounds, sores, pains, severe burns and wounds with exposed flesh, scrofulous neck, and internal pain. It was seen as a panacea. (16)
The colonials met the drug upon their arrival to North America and used it extensively as a domestic medicine. It was used to treat coughs, colds, consumption, and malaria, burns and wounds. In early American medicine, it was considered one of the most important native drugs, ranked along with Sassafras. The drug was named in the USP 1820, appeared in the secondary list of the 2 nd edition of the 1828 edition, and became official in 1830. (12, 14)
Eclectic Notes (1–14)
Tonic, stimulant, sedative, expectorant, allays irritation of the mucous membrane(respiratory, digestive, and urinary tract), mild aromatic tonic, valuable tonic, lessens vascular excitement, strengthens patients suffering form phthisis, sedative to circulatory system, stimulates
“Rapid, weak circulation; continual irritative cough, with profuse muco-purulent expectoration; cardiac palpitation, from debility; dyspnoea; pyrexia; loss of appetite; and cardiac pain.” (6)
Atonic states of the circulation and perspiration, all diseases where it is important to impart tonicity without excitement, first stage of convalescence from inflammatory attacks, tuberculosis, systemic tuberculosis, tuberculosis and other diseases attended with debility and hectic fever, debility following inflammatory diseases admissible earlier than more stimulating and energetic tonics, malaria, intermittent fevers, convalescence from inflammatory and febrile diseases, chronic troubles with hectic fever, cough, colliquative diarrhoea, some forms of irritative dyspepsia, whooping-cough, irritability of the nervous system, cardiac palpitation when there is nervous fever, debility consequent upon irritable dyspepsia, anaemia, chlorosis, or nervous diseases, conditions marked by undue sweating, diarrhoea, dysentery, or any other manifestation of feeble condition of the exhalants, not during the active period of acute diseases but rather during the convalescent period.
Chronic vascular excitement, cardiac palpitations not due to structural wrongs, irregular or intermittent action of the heart, heart irregularities in chronic bronchitis and anaemia, convulsive action of the heart in men who are overworked, palpitation from disturbed condition of the stomach, heart troubles with weakened muscular structure, when there is dilation or valvular insufficiency, especially when due to prolonged gastric or pulmonary diseases.
Debility of the digestive organs, dyspepsia, dyspepsia connected with irritable state of the stomach, convalescence following acute hepatitis, debilitated conditions of the digestive and assimilative organs following jaundice from hepatic torpor with poor appetite, digestive power, and abnormal evacuation, irritation of the stomach with cough, irritable stomach from whatever cause, nervous irritability of the stomach.
Lack of muscular tone in patients recovering from fevers and other exhausting diseases.
Sedative to the nervous system, general irritability of the nervous system, acute opthalmia.
Convalescence following inflammatory respiratory disease, phthisis with hectic fever, convalescence following pleurisy, pneumonia, whooping cough, phthisis with cough, fever, and poor strength, disease of the respiratory apparatus of a subacute or chronic character, chronic coughs with excessive expectoration, reflex cough, cough of nervous patients with no apparent cause, nervous irritability of the respiratory tract.
Ill conditioned ulcers.
The drug from Selye’s perspective
State of Resistance
The drug was used to raise resistance to whooping cough, pneumonia, pleurisy, intermittent fevers, malaria, debility, tuberculosis, inflammatory disease, and all debilitating diseases.
State of Exhaustion
The drug was used when resistance could not be maintained and State of Exhaustion set in. Indeed, the list of signs treated with the drug nearly perfectly matches Selye’s description of State of Exhaustion . Signs treated with the drug include debility, hectic fever, cough, dyspepsia, undue sweating, diarrhoea, dysentery, abnormal secretion from glandular structures, abnormalities of skin and mucous membrane, wasting, temperature abnormalities, and ill conditioned ulcers.
From Selye’s perspective, the drug was used to augment the GAS, which suggests it increases adaptation energy. Evidence to this effect includes the following. It was used to raises resistance to infectious disease. The drug was used to stabilise patients having entered into State of Exhaustion . The Eclectics saw this drug as a powerful stimulant to the vital force. When acute or chronic disease depleted vital force, and physiological functions were thereby depressed or perverted, the drug was used. The drug was used to boost the recuperative capacity following prostrating disease. Lastly, the drug was used to inspire healing in wounds and non-healing sores.
Brekhman’s Adaptogen Criterion
An adaptogen should be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism.
Eclectic and contemporary literature reports the drug to be innocuous. (1–16)
The action of an adaptogen should be non-specific i.e. it should increase resistance to adverse influences of a wide range of factors of physical, chemical, and biological nature.
Clinically the drug was used to increase resistance to acute and chronic microbial infection (bacterial, viral, and protozoan), fatigue associated with chronic disease, and debility. (1–14)
Experimentally, compounds found in the drug have been shown to increase resistance to free radical damage, bacteria, tumours, liver damage, cancer, mutation, fungus, and viral infection (HIV). (15)
An adaptogen may possess normalising action irrespective of the direction of the foregoing pathological changes.
Clinically the drug was used to correct the physiological abnormalities associated with State of Exhaustion (abnormal secretions, sweating, diarrhoea, and mucous, abnormal temperature, non-healing wounds and ulcers, digestive abnormalities, dyspepsia, etc.) (1–14)
Experimentally, compounds found in the drug have been shown to normalise abnormal sweating, abnormal prostaglandin synthesis, swelling, inflammation, hyperglycaemia, hypertension, dysentery, ulceration, and hyperactive immune function. (15)
The drug exhibits properties consistent with Brekhman’s definition of an adaptogen. It is innocuous, it raises resistance to an assortment of biological threats, and normalises physiological function.
Prunus virginiana was an important drug in frontier America . The colonials were physically stressed and found themselves exposed to a New World brimming with infectious disease. The bark of this tree, readily available, was collected when infectious disease struck and threatened life or limb.
When the Eclectic movement began, the medical community knew that Prunus could be used to raise resistance to infectious disease. The Eclectics became more specific about the drug. They said that it increased vital force. They used it to raise resistance to infection and to stabilise patients experiencing constitutional collapse. They noted that the drug had a vital effect on wounds and sores. After its application, wounds that were not healing on their own, healed. The Eclectics addition to the collective knowledge of this drug was its utility in energising patients labouring under chronic disease.
The use of the drug, once chronic stress had depleted a person of all vitality, might be seen as a unique Eclectic use. It was unique to them, in part, because the medical establishment of that day used mercury, bleeding, purging, and the like to treat the same. The observation that the drug could be used to bolster a patient in a state of collapse was something the Eclectics came to all on their own.
Potential Clinical Applications
The drug was used to increase resistance to tuberculosis. Experimentally, the drug has been shown to act in an antibacterial manner and to normalise mucous secretion. The drug may have a role in the treatment of tuberculosis and in the prevention of tuberculosis related state of exhaustion.
• Prunus virginiana and its effects on the GAS. The drug should be tested out in the animal model to determine its specific effects on the GAS.
• Prunus virginiana and State of Exhaustion . The drug was used to stabilise patients who had entered into State of Exhaustion . Its role in HIV and Hepatitis C related State of Exhaustion should be explored.
• Prunus virginiana and antibiotic resistant strains of tuberculosis. The drug was used to increase resistance to tuberculosis, especially when the disease became chronic. Its role in increasing resistance to antibiotic resistant tuberculosis should be examined.
The drug is abundant in the wild and readily grown.
King, John. The American Eclectic Dispensatory. Moore , Wilstach, and Keys. Cincinnati . 1854. P. 773.
Scudder, J. M. Specific Medication and Specific Medicines. Revised. Fifth Edition. Wilstach, Baldwin and Company. Cincinnati . 1874. P. 209.
Scudder, J. M. The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Published by the Author. Cincinnati . 1883. P. 442.
Scudder, J. M. The Eclectic Family Physician. Twenty first edition, fifth revision. Two volumes in one, with appendix. John K. Scudder. Cincinnati . 1887. P. 217.
Watkins, Lyman. An Eclectic Compendium of The Practice of Medicine. John M.Scudder’s Sons. Cincinnati . 1895. P. 446.
Felter, Harvey Wickes and Lloyd, John Uri. Kings’ American Dispensatory. Volume one and Volume two. Ohio Valley Company. Cincinnati . 1898. P. 1583.
Webster, HT. Dynamical Therapeutics—A work devoted to the Theory and Practice of Specific Medication with special references to the newer remedies. Webster Medical Publishing Company. Oakland . Second Edition. 1898. P. 378, 408.
Felter, Harvey. Syllabus of Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics. Compiled from notes taken from the lectures of F.J.Locke. Edited with pharmacological additions by H.W.Felter. Second edition, with appendix. Scudder Brothers Company. Cincinnati.1901. P. 170.
Peterson, F.J. Materia Medica and Clinical Therapeutics. Published by the Author. Los Olivos , California . 1905. P. 131.
Lloyd Brothers. Dose book of Specific Medicines. Lloyd Brothers, Cincinnati . 1907. P. 198.
Fyfe, John William. Pocket Essentials of Modern Materia Medica and Therapeutics. The Scudder Brothers Company. 1903. P. 241.
Lloyd, JU. History of the Vegetable Drugs of the Pharmacopoeia of the United States . Bulletin number 18: pharmacy number 4. 1911. P. 66.
Ellingwood, Finley. American Materia Medica, Therapeutics, and Pharmacognosy. Ellingwood’s Therapeutist. Chicago . 1919. P. 259.
Lloyd, John Uri. Origin and History of all the Pharmacopoeial Vegetable Drugs, Chemicals and Preparations. Volume 1: Vegetable Drugs. The Caxton Press. Cincinnati . 1921. P. 257.
Dr. Dukes Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Agricultural Research Service. USDA.
Erichson-Brown. Charlotte . Medicinal and other uses of North American Plants. Dover publications. New York . 1979. P. 159–162.
Notes from the Eclectic Physicians
1854. John King. Materia Medica. – PRUNUS VIRGINIANA
Properties and Uses – Tonic and stimulant in its operation on the digestive organs, and at the same time exercising a sedative influence on the circulatory and nervous systems. It is therefore, useful in all diseases where it is of importance to impart tonicity, and yet, to avoid any undue excitement of the heart and blood-vessels, as for instance, during the first stage of convalescence from inflammatory attacks, and in many pulmonary diseases. It is very generally used in phthisis, where hectic fever exists, and has also been used with benefit in some forms of dyspepsia. In large doses it diminishes the action of the heart, owing probably to the hydrocyanic acid which it affords. it has likewise been of service in scrofula and other diseases attended with much debility and hectic fever. Externally it has been found useful in decoction as a wash ot ill-conditioned ulcers.
An excellent preparation is a syrup made by macerating four ounces of the powdered bark with twelve fluidounces of water, for two days; the mixture is then placed in a percolator or displacement apparatus, returning the liquid which passes till it comes away clear – displacing with an additional quantity of water, until twelve fluidounces of infusion are obtained, and then dissolving in this thirteen ounces of loaf sugar; the dose of this syrup is from half a fluidounce to one ounce. Dose of the powdered bark, one or two drachms; of the infusion, one ounce of bark to one pint of cold water, and allowed to stand a few hours, from one to four fluidounces, four or five times a day, and which is the best mode of using it.
The tincture of Prunus should be prepared from the fresh inner bark, in the proportion of 3viij. to Alcohol 50degree Oj. Dose from gtts. v. to 3ss.
In addition to its tonic influence, which it possesses in common with mahy of our indigenous bitters, it has other valuable medicinal properties. It allays irritation of mucous membrance, both of the gastro-intestinal canal, the respiratory tract, and urinary apparatus. This will probably prove its most important use. The influence upon the circulation and upon secretion is not decided, but in atonic states will sometimes be found very desirable. In some of these cases I have combined it with the Tincture of Nux Vomica or Solution of Strychnia, with excellent results.
The remedy is so common, and so easily prepared, that it should find a place in every office, and I have no doubt that as it is employed, other uses than those named will be developed.
1883: Scudder: (tonic)
(The bark of Prunus Virginiana – U.S. )
Preparation – Tincture Prunus. Tyrup Prunus Virg.
Dose -Of either, the dose will be from gtt. v. to 3j.
Therapeutic Action – The Prunus Virginiana is tonic, astringent and sedative.
The bark of the wild cherry is regarded as one of our most valuable indigenous remedial agents. It is a mild, unirritating aromatic tonic, and very acceptable to the stomach. Its first impression seems to be that of an excitant, agreeably to the testimony of Drs. Morris and Eberle, but it is not generally supposed to be possessed of excitant properties. It is a mild and valuable tonic, used with advantage in cases of dyspepsia; epecially when connected with an irritable state of the stomach, or when attended with general irritability of the nervous system, over which it exerts a manifestly sedative influence. It is well suited to the debility which follows many inflammatory diseases, in which cases it is admissible at an earlier period than the more stimulating and energetic tonics. It has been employed very successfully, as a tonic, in the treatment of intermittent fevers, but is inferior to the cinchona.
1887: Scudder: PRUNUS VIRGINIANA – WILD CHERRY
Wild cherry bark is another agent that may be used with advantage in some cases. It is employed in the same manner as the preceding, usually in combination with other articles of its class, and especially in cases where the lungs are affected.
1895: Watkins: PRUNUS, SP MED:
Rapid and weak pulse, deep constant harassing cough, copious muco-purulent expectoration, dyspnoea, cardiac pain, pyrexia, anorexia. Ten to thirty drops in four ounces of water; teaspoonful every four hours.
1898: Felter and Lloyd – PRUNUS VIRGINIANA (U.S.P.) – WILC CHERRY
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage -Wild cherry bark has a tonic and stimulating influence on the digestive apparatus, and a simultaneous sedative action on the nervous system and circulation. It is, therefore, valuable in all those cases where it is desirable to give tone and strength to the system, without, at the same time, causing too great an action of the heart and blood vessels, as, during convalescence from pleurisy, pneumonia, acute hepatitis, and other inflammatory and febrile diseases. Its chief property is its power of relieving irritation of the mucous surfaces, making it an admirable remedy in many gastro-intestinal, pulmonic, and urinary troubles. Like lycopus, it lessens vascular excitement, though it does not control hemorrhages like that agent. It is best adapted to chronic troubles. It is also useful in hectic fever, cough, colliquative diarrhoea, some forms of irritative dyspepsia, whooping-cough, irritability of the nervous system, etc., and has been found an excellent palliative in phthisis, the syrup being employed to moderate the cough, lessen the fever, and sustain the patient’s strength. It has likewise been of service in scrofula and other diseases attended with much debility and hectic fever. Wild cherry is an excellent sedative in cardiac palpitation, not due to structural wrongs. It is particularly useful in this disorder when there is nervous fever, tuberculosis, or the debility consequent upon irritative dyspepsia, anemia, chlorosis, or nervous diseases. Externally, it has been found useful, in decoction, as a wash to ill-conditioned ulcers an dacute ophthalmia. Dose of the powdered bark, 1 or 2 drachms; of the infusion, 1 ounce of bark to 1 pint of cold water, and allowed to stand a few hours, from 1 to 4 fluid ounces, 4 or 5 times a day, and which is the best mode of using it; syrup of wild cherry, 1 fluid drachm. This agent may be used as a vehicle for Fowler’s solution and other medicines. Specific prunus, 1 to 20 drops.
Specific Indications and Uses – Rapid, weak circulation; continual irritative cough, with profuse muco-purulent expectoration; cardiac palpitation, from debility; dyspnoea; pyrexia; loss of appetite; and cardiac pain.
This remedy is valuable in debilitated conditions of the digestive and assimilative organs following jaundice from hepatic torpor. It improves the appetite, augments the digestive powers, and promotes normal evacuation.
Form for Administration- I have used a preparation of preserved cider and wild cherry bark with the best results. A quart bottle is loosely packed with the fresh inner bark of the wild cherry and afterward filled with pleasant apple cider. This may be taken in small wine-glassful doses three or four times a day. In the absence of the opportunities for such a combination the specific medicine may be used in five or ten-drop doses.
1901 : Harvey W Felter (Tonics)
PRUNUS VIRGINIANA – WILD CHERRY
BOTANICA ORIGIN -The bark of Prunus serotina , Ehrhart; gathered in autumn; Nat. Ord., Rosaceae , Eastern United States .
SPECIFIC PRUNUS VIRGINIANA is made of the recent inner bark of the root. It contains much tannin and turns black with iron salts.
This is a tonic, sedative, and astringent. Use the inner bark in an infusion made preferably with cold water. Its active principle is hydrocyanic acid, and this is driven off by heat.
Wild Cherry lessens vascular excitement and is a good drug in undue sweating, diarrhoea, dysentery, or any case where there is a feeble condition of the exhalants.
It is an excellent agent in the phthisis, moderating the cough, lessening the fever, and sustaining the strength of the patient. In this trouble use a syrup made by using one half ounce of the fluid extract to three and one-half ounces of simple syrup. Dose, a teaspoonful four times a day. Or for this purpose macerate for several hours two ounces of the bark in one-half pint of cold water, strain, dissolve in it, without heat, one pound of white sugar. This may also be used as a vehicle for other medicines.
Fowler’s Solution may be added to the syrup if desired.
We may use Wild Cherry for its influence on the heart, brain, and nervous system. It is an excellent sedative for palpitation of the heart, with nervous fever or tuberculosis. It is good in irritable dyspepsia, improving the condition of the stomach, quieting nervous irritability, and increasing the tone of the digestive tract and nervous system. Here the syrup made by first taking a strong infusion and then adding enough sugar may be employed. This is probably the best preparatin. Dose, one or two teaspoonfuls every three hours. As a tonic this agent may be used in all atonic conditions where other tonics which lack the sedative qualities can not be administered.
1905: Petersen – PRUNUS SEROTINA
Syn – Prunus; Prunus Virginica
P. E. – Bark collected in autumn
N. O. – Rosaceae
N. H. – United States
Properties: Tonic, sedative, astringent
Use: Prunus is largely used in form of a syrup as a menstrum for other remedies. Useful in all atonic conditions where a sedative influence is desirable. In coughs with feeble respiratory action vascular excitement with excessive perspiration, irritable dyspepsia, chronic coughs, pthisis pulmonalis, it modifies the fever and cough and helps to sustain strength of the patient. Of value in diarrhoea and dysenter. It has tonic influence over the heart, brain and general nervous system, allays irritation of the digestive tract, respiratory organs and has a soothing influence on the nervous system. As its action is mild too much must not be expected from its administration. In the form of a syrup as a menstrum it materially assists the act.
Irregular or intermittent action of the heart, heart irregularities in chronic bronchitis and anemia, convulsive action of the heart in men who are overworked, irritation of the stomach, with cough, lack of muscular tone in patients recovering from fevers and other exhausting diseases. Prunus virginiana is tonic, astringent,stimulant, expectorant, and in large doses, sedative.
The Prunus virginiana (wild black cherry), found throughout the eastern parts of the United States, has been widely used in domestic medicine since the days of the Indian, being perhaps more highly valued in this direction than by members of the profession, although it has been recognized in the Pharmacopeia since the first edition of this work, 1820. No more popular bark of a native tree, excepting sassafras, is known to home medication. It has a place in all works on early American domestic medication.
1919: Ellingwood – PRUNUS, PRUNUS SEROTINA
Synonym – Wild Cherry.
This is often called, though improperly, Prunus Virginiana, which belongs to the Choke Cherry family.
Constituents – Hydrocyanic acid, amygdalin, volatile oil, emulsion, tannin, gallic acid, resin, starch, a bitter principle.
Preparations -Extractum Pruni Virginianae, Fluid Extract of Wild Cherry. Dose, from a half to one dram. Specific Medicine Prunus. Dose, from one to ten minims.
Therapy -The tonic influence of this agent is more markedly apparent when it is administered in disease of the respiratory apparatus of a subacute or chronic character. it is not given during the active period of acute cases, but is of value during the period of convalescence.
It is a common remedy in the treatment of chronic coughs, especially those accompanied with excessive expectoration. It is valuable in whooping-cough. The syrup is used as a menstruum for the administration of other remedies in this disease. It is excellent also in reflex cough – the cough of nervous patients without apparent cause. The syrup may be used persistently in phthisis, for the administration of many other agents which seem to be indicated during the course of the disease. Wild cherry is popular in the treatment of mild cases of palpitation, especially those of a functional character, or from reflex causes. Palpitation from disturbed conditions of the stomach is directly relieved by it. It is said to have a direct tonic influence upon the heart when the muscular structure of that organ is greatly weakened, where there is dilatation or vulvular insufficiency, especially if induced by prolonged gastric or pulmonary disease.
As a remedy for dyspepsia it has many advocats. It is a tonic to the stomach improving digestion by stimulating the action of the gastric glands. It soothes irritability of the stomach from whatever cause. Although the properties of a nerve sedative are not ascribed to this agent, general nervous irritation is soothed by its administration, nervous irritability of the stomach and of the respiratory organs is allayed, an da tonic influence is imparted to the central nervous system.
Until 1910, from which it is dropped, Prunum is named in every issue of the U.S.P., excepting the New York edition of 1830.
The cultivated varieties of the prune tree, Prunus domestica, or prune, are believed to descend from a wild prune, native to Greece , the shores of the Black Sea, and the Caucasus, reaching even into Persia . Pliny (514) records the fact that one of the numerous varieties of the plum tree known in his day afforded a laxative fruit. The pulp of the prune has been used in domestic medicine as well as by the medical profession, paralleling (or following), the efforts of those concerned in early medication. The pulp of the French prune was an ingredient of the once celebrated confection Lenitive Electuary. History does not record the beginning of the use of this fruit in the confection formerly so popular in domestic medicine.
PRUNUS VIRGINIANA (Wild Cherry)
Named in every edition of the U.S.P. In the first, 1820, (2d ed., 1828), it appears in the Secondary List. From 1830 it became fully official. U.S.P., 1910, directs stem-bark of Prunus scrotina (Prunus virginiana), the Wild Black Cherry Bark.
The Prunus virginiana, wild black cherry, found throughout the eastern parts of the United States , has been widely used in domestic medicine since the days of the Indian, being perhaps more highly valued in this direction than by members of the profession, although it has been recognized in the Pharmacopeia since the first edition of that work, 1820. No more popular bark of a native tree, excepting sassafras, is known to home medication, which gave it a place in all works on early American domestic medicine. Its description and uses by the American pioneers are admirably given by Buchan, (110), in Every Man His Own Doctor, as follows:
“The common wild cherry tree is often found in woods and hedges and is associated with the trees of the forest, growing to the height of forty or more feet and of a very large size. The gum which exudes from the tree is said to be equal to gum arabic. This tree produces in autumn a small bitter cherry, black when quite ripe, which serves for food for birds who frequently become intoxicated from eating them. They also are infused in brandy by the country people on account of the pleasant aromatic flavor which they impart to the liquor. The bark of the wild cherry tree is powerfully tonic, and has been frequently substituted for the Peruvian bark, with great success. It is slightly narcotic, and commonly produces a drowsiness in those who take it. From the experiments of Mr. C. Morris of Virginia , (Inaugural Dissertation, 1812, Phila.), it appeared that the bark of the root was more powerful than the bark of the trunk. It has been very useful in dyspepsia, and in consumption of the lungs. The Indians, it is said, use the bark in the cure of syphilis. Very excellent effects have been produced by washing ill-conditioned ulcers with a decoction of the bark, and the same has proved anthelmintic. The leaves of the tree are poisonous to certain animals. While this valuable tree abounds in the United States , we act unwisely, says Dr. Mease, in sending thousands of dollars out of the country for the Peruvian bark.”
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