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Artemisia Santonica. Wormseed, Santonica, Semen santonica, Semen sanctum.

Description: Under this specific title and these common names, commerce has for many years kept upon the market the unexpanded flower-buds of some undetermined varieties of wormwood. They are principally imported from Russia; but are also obtained from Palestine, Arabia, Asia Minor, and Persia. For a long time they were supposed to be the Artemisia santonica only, (tartarian southernwood;) but it seems more probable that most of them are the product of Artemisia contra. Our American southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum. is, no doubt, very closely allied to the foreign article.

Though called wormseed, (as are also the seeds of Chenopodium anthelminticum,) they are not seeds at all; but, as already stated, are the small, round, unexpanded flower-buds, mixed with pieces of peduncles, and some minute leaves. They are greenish, sometimes covered with a minute white down, have a strong and not very pleasant smell, and a pungent, very bitter taste.

Properties and Uses: From the old Arabic school of medicine, down to the present time, this article has been prominent as a remedy for worms. The round, tape, and seat (pin) worms, are all said to yield before it, with much certainty. Its physiological action seems to be much like that of the common wormwood, but more stimulating and diffusive, and less locally tonic. Dose, from ten to thirty grains of the powder, night and morning. It may also be given by infusion.

Pharmaceutical Preparations: I. Santonine. This is a neutral principle, obtained in the form of large and heavy white crystals. I abridge the following mode of preparation from Pereira: "Take of santonica, bruised, one pound; slacked lime, seven ounces; boil the santonica for an hour with a gallon of distilled water, and five ounces of the lime, in a copper or tinned vessel; strain, and express strongly. Boil the residue with another half gallon of water and the rest of the lime; then treat as before. Mix the liquids; let them settle well; decant the clear fluid, and evaporate to two pints and a half. While the liquor is hot, add slowly, with brisk stirring, enough hydrochloric acid to render it slightly but permanently acid; then set it aside five days. Now remove an oily scum carefully; and decant the fluid from the precipitate which has formed. Collect the precipitate on a paper filter; wash with pure water till nearly free from acidity; dilute half a fluid ounce of ammonia solution, and wash with that, and again wash with water. Dry the precipitate between folds of filter paper, at a gentle heat; mix with sixty grains of animal charcoal; digest with nine ounces of hot rectified spirits; filter while hot, and set in a dark place for two days. The precipitate that forms may be again washed with hot alcohol, and left to re-precipitate; and finally dried, and preserved in a dark-blue glass bottle, away from the light! The crystals thus obtained are flat, colorless, almost devoid of taste, (leaving behind a very feeble bitterness,) nearly insoluble in water, and sparingly in cold alcohol. They will turn orange-yellow in a strong light, and lose a portion of their properties; and finally be decomposed. Castor oil and sweet oil dissolve them; and they are also soluble in solutions of the alkalies–toward which they behave as an acid. These facts have led to exhibition of santonine either in one of the above oils, or in a solution of soda. Dose, for a child six years old, a grain to a grain and a half, twice a day. It is the common practice to use it three days consecutively, and to use purgatives in conjunction with it; for it is reported that large doses, or its continued use, will cause purging, vomiting, abdominal pains, and cold sweats. I have frequently used it in large doses for a week or more, and seen no such effects; Prof. G. Hasty tells me he has administered it very freely without ever observing such symptoms; and some practitioners give from three to five grains at night, with a gentle cathartic the following morning. It often colors the urine a canary yellow; and the more so if the liver have been inactive.

II. Suppositories. Twelve grains of santonine may be made into four suppositories, with a sufficient quantity of cocoa butter, or of bayberry tallow and beeswax, softened with a little olive oil. One of these introduced to the rectum on going to bed, and carried all night, is said to be almost infallible in removing the " pin " or seat worm.

It may be added of santonine, that some practitioners find a cathartic seldom needed after it; and when any physic is given, leptandrin is considered the best. Some physicians value it much in obstructions of the kidneys. Though pronounced dangerous by some, no death from its use has been reported. See Indiana Transactions for 1867.


The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com



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