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Veratrina.

Botanical name:

Veratrine, Veratria.

A mixture of alkaloids obtained from the seeds of Schoenocaulon officinale, Asa Gray (Sabadilla officinarum, Brandt; Asagrea officinalis (Chamisso and Schlechtendal) Lindley; (Sabadilla seeds) (Nat. Ord. Liliaceae). Tropical regions from Mexico to Venezuela.

Description.—A white or grayish-white, non-crystalline powder, without odor, but causing violent irritation and sneezing when even a minute quantity comes in contact with the nasal mucosa. It should not be tasted. Veratrine is slightly hygroscopic, though very sparingly dissolved by water (1,760 parts). It is very soluble in chloroform, alcohol and ether.

Action.—Locally, veratrine (or its salts) is a violent irritant closely resembling aconitine in action. Applied in alcoholic solution, ointment, or oleate, it excites a singular sense of heat and tingling, or prickling pain, which, however, does not last long, but is followed by coolness and more or less numbness; there is seldom redness or vesication unless the preparation is strong and applied with brisk friction. Inhaled, even in minute quantity, it occasions severe coryza and excessive sneezing. Muscular twitching has resulted from its application in ointment to the face, and sometimes it gives rise to headache, nausea, griping, slight diarrhea, and depression of the action of the heart. When swallowed it is a violent, irritant poison, causing great acrimony in the parts over which it passes, salivation, peculiar prickling numbness of tongue and mucous membranes, violent vomiting, profuse and sometimes bloody, and bilious diarrhea (sometimes constipation); weak, irregular and quick pulse; cardiac depression; pallor of face and great faintness; cold sweats; muscular twitching and aching pain along the spine; contracted abdomen and pupils; and occasionally extreme pruritus and tingling which may persist for weeks. In so-called medicinal doses it produces a feeling of warmth in the stomach and bowels, which extends to the chest and extremities. In poisoning by it, the stomach should be thoroughly evacuated, and tannin solutions freely given and pumped out. Stimulation should be resorted to to overcome the depression; for this purpose alcoholics, aromatic spirit of ammonia, ammonium carbonate, artificial respiration, etc., may be employed.

Therapy.—External. Veratrine should be used only as an external application, and then rarely, in superficial functional neuralgia, myalgia, herpes zoster, chronic arthritis, acute gout, and other painful local inflammations. It is less effective than aconitine, but both are equally dangerous and great care should be exercised that it is not applied where the epiderm is denuded, nor should it be allowed to come into contact with or even be used near the eye, on account of the violent conjunctivitis caused by it. A 2 per cent solution in equal quantities of olive oil and oleic acid is usually employed.

Internal. Veratrine should not be used as an internal medicine.


The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1922, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D.



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