"A mixture of alkaloids obtained from the seed of Asagraea officinalis (Schlechtendal et Chamisso), Lindley (Nat. Ord.—Liliaceae)"—(U. S. P.).
Preparation.—The British Pharmacopoeia (1898) directs the preparation of veratrine as follows: Take of "cevadilla of commerce, 2 pounds (Imp.), or 1 kilogramme (Metric); distilled water; alcohol (90 per cent); solution of ammonia, hydrochloric acid, of each, a sufficient quantity. Macerate the cevadilla with half its weight of boiling distilled water, in a covered vessel, for 24 hours; remove the cevadilla; squeeze it; dry it thoroughly in a warm place; then beat it in a mortar, and separate the seeds from the capsules. Reduce the seed to powder; moisten the powder with the alcohol; pack firmly in a percolator; pass the alcohol through the marc until the percolate ceases to be colored; concentrate the alcoholic solution by distillation, so long as no deposit forms, and pour the residue, while hot, into 12 times its volume of cold distilled water; filter through calico; wash what remains on the filter with distilled water, until the filtrate ceases to precipitate with the solution of ammonia. To the filtrate add solution of ammonia in slight excess; let the precipitate completely subside; pour off the supernatant liquid; collect the precipitate on a filter; wash it with distilled water until the filtrate passes colorless; distribute the moist precipitate through 12 fluid ounces (or 400 cubic centimeters) of distilled water; add gradually, with diligent stirring, sufficient hydrochloric acid to make the liquid feebly but persistently acid; add 60 grains (or 4 grammes) of the purified animal charcoal of commerce; digest with moderate heat for 20 minutes; filter; allow the liquid to cool; add solution of ammonia in slight excess, and when the precipitate has completely subsided pour off the supernatant liquid; collect the precipitate on a filter and wash it with cold distilled water until free from chloride; dry the precipitate, first by imbibition with filtering paper, and then by the application of warmth"—(Br. Pharm., 1898). (For other processes, see this Dispensatory, preceding edition.)
Description and Tests.—The U. S. P. directs "a white or grayish-white, amorphous or semi-crystalline powder, odorless, but causing intense irritation and sneezing when even a minute quantity reaches the nasal mucous membrane; having an acrid taste, and leaving a sensation of tingling and numbness on the tongue; permanent in the air. Very slightly soluble in cold or hot water; soluble in 3 parts of alcohol at 15° C. (59° F.), and very soluble in boiling alcohol; also soluble in 6 parts of ether, and in 2 parts of chloroform. When heated to 175° C. (347° F.), veratrine melts, forming a light-brown liquid. Upon ignition, it is consumed, leaving no residue. An alcoholic solution of veratrine has an alkaline reaction upon litmus paper. With nitric acid, veratrine forms a yellow solution. On triturating veratrine with concentrated sulphuric acid, in a glass mortar, the yellow or orange-red solution exhibits, by reflected light, a greenish fluorescence, which becomes more intense upon the addition of more acid, while the liquid is deep red by transmitted light. On heating a small portion of veratrine with a few Cc. of hydrochloric acid, the liquid will acquire a deep-red color"—(U. S. P.). Veratrine is also dissolved by glycerin (1 in 96), and olive oil (1 in 56). Bromine water immediately produces a purple color when added to a fresh sulphuric acid solution of veratrine.
Chemical Composition.—Veratrine from sabadilla seeds is a mixture of alkaloids and their derivatives (see details, under Sabadilla). Care must be taken to distinguish between the different alkaloids bearing the same name, veratrine. The veratridine of Bosetti (Amer. Jour. 1883, p. 263; also see Sabadilla) is identical with the veratrine of Weigelin and E. Schmidt.
G. B. Frankforter and L. B. Pease (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1899, p. 130) found commercial specimens of veratrine to consist chiefly of an alkaloid identical with the cevadine of Wright and Luff; this substance was found associated with from 0.8 to 3.8 per cent of an alkaloid insoluble in ether.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Locally, veratrine (or its salts) is an irritant. When 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 a coolness and more or less numbness; there is seldom redness or vesication unless the preparation is strong and applied with brisk friction. Taken into the nostrils, 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 diarrhoea, 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 diarrhoea (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 occasional extreme pruritis and tinglings which may persist for weeks. In medicinal doses it produces a feeling of warmth in the stomach and bowels, which extends to the chest and extremities. In poisoning by this agent, 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. Veratrine has been recommended internally in nervous palpitation, palsy, epileptic convulsions, pertussis, gouty, rheumatic and neuralgic affections, dropsy, etc.; but its efficacy in these affections, except in sciatica and other forms of severe neuralgia, is not well established. Besides, it is too dangerous a remedy for internal administration, and is seldom, if ever, so employed by Eclectic physicians. The dose is from 1/12 to 1/6 grain, 3 times a day, in pill form. One grain of veratrine may be mixed with 12 grains each of liquorice powder and extract of hyoscyamus, and made into 12 pills; one of these may be given every 3 or 4 hours. It is best used in the form of a salt, as the acetate, tartrate, citrate, or sulphate. Veratrine is more frequently used as a local application than as an internal remedy, and even then is considered by many a very dangerous agent. When so used it is chiefly to allay the pains of superficial functional neuralgias, for which it is less effective than aconitine, though the latter should be used only in extreme cases, and very cautiously at that. Veratrine is formed into an ointment, liniment, or tincture in the proportion of from 5 to 40 grains of veratrine to 1 ounce of lard, or oil, etc., a small portion of which is to be rubbed on the affected part for 10 or 20 minutes each time, repeating the application twice a day. Not over 3 or 4 grains must be used in a day, and in ordinary cases only 1 or 2 grains. If the skin is tender or irritated, still less must be used; and if there be a cut or abrasion, it must not be used at all. It is also applied externally in the above-named forms of disease. The doses of veratrine recommended are: For internal use, 1/120 to 1/4 grain; endermically, 1/8 to 1/4 grain; hypodermatically, 1/6 grain. The latter occasions much pain, and may produce a local abscess (see Mixtures and Ointments).