The tubers of Dicentra Canadensis, De Candolle (Bicuculla Canadensis (Goldie), Millspaugh; Corydalis formosa, Pursh; Corydalis Canadensis, Goldie).
COMMON NAMES: Turkey-corn, Squirrel-corn, Wild turkey-pea, Stagger-weed.
Botanical Source.—This is an indigenous perennial plant, from 6 to 12 inches in height, and having a root-stalk bearing many small deep-yellow round tubers, about as large as peas. The leaves are ternately compound, with stalked divisions, incisely dissected into linear or oblanceolate segments, and decidedly glaucous underneath. The scape is slender and naked, rises from 8 to 12 inches in height, and bears a simple raceme of from 4 to 8 flowers, which are cordate-ovate, 5 lines broad at base and 7 to 9 lines long, short-petioled, nodding, greenish-white tinged with purple, and somewhat fragrant. The spurs or nectaries are short and rounded. The fruit is a many-seeded pod-like capsule.
History.—This beautiful little plant has been considerably employed in medicine. It flowers very early in the spring, in this section of the country as early as March; and the root or tuber, which is a small, round ball, should be collected only while the plant is in flower. It grows in rich soil, on hills and mountains, among rocks and old decayed timber, and is found westward and south of New York to North Carolina. It must be distinguished from the Dicentra (Corydalis) Cucullaria, which flowers at the same time, and very much resembles it.
Description.—The root or tuber of the Dicentra Canadensis (C. formosa, Pursh. when fresh is of a darkish-yellow color throughout, while the Dicentra Cucullaria (C. Cucullaria), or White ear-drop has a black cortex or rind, and is white internally. When dried, the external covering of the tuber is of a light grayish-yellow color, about 1/4 of a line thick, inclosing an internal light-yellow substance; frequently it is of a dark color externally, and internally yellow or brownish -yellow, It has a faint peculiar odor, and a taste at first slightly bitter, succeeded by a somewhat, penetrating, peculiar, and persistent sensation, which gently influences the fauces, and increases the flow of saliva. Water or alcohol extracts its virtues.
Chemical Composition.—The only analysis we find on record of this species of Corydalis (C. formosa, Pursh), is that of Mr. William T. Wenzell (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1855, Vol. 27, p. 207), who found the root to contain corydaline, fumaric acid, yellow bitter extractive, acrid resin soluble in alcohol or ether, containing volatile oil, tasteless resin, soluble in alcohol and insoluble in ether, brown coloring matter, starch, albumen, bassorin, cellulose and cortical substance, and inorganic salts. The alkaloid corydaline occurs in several species of Corydalis, covered in 1826, by Wackenroder, in the root of Corydalis cava, Schwgg. (C. tuberosa, De Candolle). It crystallizes in white prisms or fine needles, which melt at 135° C. (275° F.). It is odorless and tasteless in substance, but its alcoholic solution or the solutions of its salts are bitter. It is not soluble in water, soluble with difficulty in alcohol, soluble in ether, chloroform, amyl alcohol, carbon disulphide, benzol, and turpentine. Its solution in alcohol has a strongly alkaline reaction. The formula for corydaline has been variously stated by different authors as C18H19NO4 (Wicke), and C22H29NO4 (Dobbie and Lauder, Jour. Chem. Soc., 1892). Adermann's corydaline (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1890, p. 396) (C22H21NO4), is probably not identical with the body long known by that name. The alkaloids of Corydalis cava have been investigated more closely than the others. E. Merck (Archiv. der Pharm., 1893, p. 131), reports the occurrence of the following: Bulbocapnine, crystallizable, was present in largest quantity; fuses at 199° C. (390.2° F.); corydine, an amorphous alkaloid; corydaline, the alkaloid of Dobbie and Lauder, fusing at 185° C. (275° F.), and a base melting at 218° C. (424° F.). The last alkaloid is probably not identical with Freund and Josephy's corycavine, isolated in 1893, together with bulbocapnine, from commercial corydaline. For Adermann's investigations, see Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1890, p. 396. The preparation sold under the name CORYDALIN, as an old Eclectic concentration, is a mixture of corydalis constituents. It has a dark yellowish-brown color, and not being a definite, proximate principle, should not be confused with the alkaloids.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—This agent is peculiar to Eclectic practitioners, and was formerly much employed by them. It is tonic, diuretic, and alterative. In all syphilitic affections, it is an excellent tonic and alterative; and will likewise be found valuable in scrofula, and in many cases where tonics are indicated. As a tonic, it possesses properties similar to gentian, calumba, or other pure bitters; its alterative properties, however, render it of much value. In syphilis, especially in the constitutional form, when occurring in debilitated or broken-down constitutions, its efficacy is not equaled by any other agent as an alterative tonic; but from considerable experience with it, I am by no means satisfied that it exerts any real influence as an antisyphilitic, properly so-called, as has been heretofore believed (King). On the other hand, Webster and others regard it as a very valuable remedy in the disorders depending upon syphilis and scrofula, in the former comparing its action to that of Berberis aquifolium. It is claimed to be a remedy for syphilitic nodes, and particularly when they are recent. The tibia and the skull bones seem to be chiefly impressed by it. The periosteal shin pains of syphilitics are said to be promptly alleviated by corydalis. In syphilitic ulcerations the drug should be given internally, and an infusion used locally. Prof. Locke recommends it in amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea, and leucorrhoea in atonic cases with a scrofulous or syphilitic diathesis. Also as a tonic to the digestive organs with enlargement of the abdomen due to atony, and declares it excellent in dysentery and diarrhoea with coated tongue, fetid breath, and poor digestion. It is likewise of value in the cachexia following miasmatic fevers. Dose of the infusion, from 1 to 4 fluid ounces 3 or 4 times a day; of the saturated tincture, from 1/2 to 2 fluid drachms; of corydalin, from 1/2 to 1 grain 3 or 4 times a day. The infusion to be made of 4 drachms of the powdered bulb and 1 pint of boiling water. Specific corydalis, 10 to 60 drops. Webster expresses the hope that the Eclectics will not let the homoeopaths discover this remedy anew.
Specific Indications and Uses.—Syphilitic or scrofulous diathesis; yellow skin with lymphatic enlargements; syphilitic nodes. Increases waste and improves nutrition.