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Sabadilla.—Cevadilla.

Botanical name:

Related entries: Veratrum Viride (U. S. P.)—Veratrum Viride- Veratrum Album.—White Hellebore - Veratrina.—Veratrine

The seeds of Schoenocaulon officinale, Asa Gray (Veratrum officinale, Schlechtendal; Sabadilla officinarum, Brandt; Helonias officinalis, Don; Asagraea officinalis, Lindley), deprived of and unmixed with their pericarps.
Nat. Ord.—Melanthaceae.
COMMON NAMES: Cevadilla, Sabadill.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 287.

Botanical Source and History.—The precise origin of this remedy is yet somewhat obscure; by some cevadilla is referred entirely to Veratrum officinale, with the synonyms as given above, while others consider it the product of V. Sabadilla, Retzius, with other plants of allied species. It is not probable, however, that Veratrum Sabadilla furnishes much of the commercial seed. The British Pharmacopoeia (1885) gave Schoenocaulon officinale (Asagraea officinalis) as the only plant from which the seeds are procured. It is not official in the edition of 1898. The following is a description of two plants from which the seeds are reputed to be obtained:

Veratrum Sabadilla of Retzius, is a plant 3 or 4 feet high, with a simple, erect, round scape. The leaves are numerous, spreading on the ground, all radical, ovate-oblong, and obtuse, with from 8 to 14 ribs, glaucous underneath. The flowers are blackish-purple, rather nodding, on spreading, simple, or a little branched panicles; pedicels very short, approximated in twos and threes; those of the fertile flowers eventually becoming turned to one side; those of the sterile flowers deciduous, and leaving a scar. Segments of the perianth ovate-lanceolate, and veinless. Ovaries 3, oblong, connate, and obtuse; styles acute, and dilated downward; stigmas simple. Capsules 3, in form resembling those of Larkspur, occupying only one side of the stem, opening at the apex inside. Seeds 3 in each cell, imbricated, curved, blunt on one side, sooty, and acrid. This plant inhabits Mexico and the West Indian Islands (L.).

Schoenocaulon officinale, Gray (Asagraea officinalis, Lindley, Veratrum officinale, Schlechtendal, and Helonias officinalis of Don), is a caespitose plant, bulbous, with the leaves linear, tapering to a point, even, smooth, entire, channeled above, carinate at the back, and about 4 feet long, by 3 lines broad. The scape is naked, the height of a man, quite simple, and terminated by a raceme 18 inches long. Perianth deeply 6-parted, spreading, yellowish-white, permanent, with linear, thick, veinless, obtuse segments, 3 of which are rather broader than the others. Filaments 6, somewhat clavate, those opposite the broad segments of the perianth longer than the others, and all longer than the perianth. Anthers large, yellow, cordate, and obtuse. Ovary formed of 3 cells, united by their sutures, with an obscure stigma. Fruit tricapsular; the carpels united by their suture separable. Seeds winged, and wrinkled. The lower flowers are hermaphrodite and fertile; the upper male and sterile. This plant is a native of the eastern side of the Mexican Andes, near Barranca de Tioselo, by the Hacienda de la Laguna, in grassy places (L.).

Description.—Cevadilla seeds are said to be brought from the Antilles, from Mexico (ripe capsules), and from Venezuela (seeds only), and are generally associated with the tri-follicled fruit, each division of which is composed of a slender elastic, membranous follicle, and from 1 to 3 black, shining, flat, shriveled, winged, elastic seeds. The seeds are odorless, but have a bitter, acrid, tingling taste, which is intense, persistent, and disagreeable; and their powder excites violent sneezing and discharge from the nostrils. They yield their properties with difficulty to water, but readily to alcohol. They are used as a source of the alkaloid veratrine, of which the yield is one-third of 1 per cent.

Chemical Composition.—Sabadilla seeds contain fixed oil (24.6 per cent), resin (10 per cent, of which 8.5 per cent is insoluble in ether), the alkaloid veratrine (Meissner, 1818) (see Veratrina), a peculiar volatile and crystallizable fatty acid called sabadillic or cevadic acid (Pelletier and Caventou, 1819), etc.

The alkaloidal constituents have been frequently investigated. C. R. A. Wright and A. P. Luff (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1878, p. 489, from Lond. Jour. Chem. Soc., Aug., 1878, p. 358) come to the following conclusions: The seeds of Veratrum Sabadilla contain: (1) amorphous veratrine (C37H53NO11), first isolated by Couerbe (1834); upon saponification it splits into veratric acid (dimethylprotocatechuic acid) and a new base, verine (C28H45NO8); (2) crystallizable cevadine (C32H49NO9), the principal alkaloid, first isolated by Merck (1855) and named by him veratrine. It melts at about 205.5° C. (402° F.), and upon saponification splits into the base cevine (C27H43NO8) and methylcrotonic acid (C5H8O2) with which the above cevadic acid is identical. The authors could not obtain the crystallizable, non-sternutatory (3) sabadilline of Couerbe (1834), Hübschmann (1852), and Weigelin (Jahresb. der Pharm., 1871, p. 34), the existence of which, however, is upheld by Masing (ibid.). Wright and Luff found instead a similar body, likewise insoluble, or nearly so, in ether, but amorphous and insoluble in water, and named it cevadilline. The amorphous alkaloid sabatrine of Weigelin (loc. cit.) is believed by the authors to be a mixture. They likewise disbelieve the statements of former authors (Weigelin, E. Schmidt and R. Köppen, Archiv der Pharm., 1877, p. 1) that cevadine (veratrine) occurs in two isomeric modifications, one crystalline, the other amorphous. Bosetti, however (Archiv der Pharm., 1883, pp. 81-106), differentiated commercial veratrine into a crystallizable base, nearly insoluble in water, soluble in alcohol and ether, and identical with cevadine (C32H49NO9), which he names veratrine, and an isomer of the latter, soluble in water, which he calls veratridine (also see Veratrina). E. Merck (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1891, p. 338) isolated from cevadilla seeds two new alkaloids sabadine (C29H51NO8) and sabadinine (C27H43NO8, or C27H45NO8). Both are crystallizable and non-sternutatory. Wright and Luff believe the sabadilla alkaloids to be closely related to the alkaloids of aconite. Sabadilla seeds, when assayed by Keller's method (Jahresb. der Pharm., 1892, p. 14), yield from 4.25 to 4.35 per cent of total alkaloid, while the yield is usually stated to be only from 1 to 2 per cent.

Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Cevadilla seeds have been used as a vermifuge, and to destroy vermin in the hair, but their dangerous drastic and irritating properties have caused them to be dismissed from practice. They are principally used in the manufacture of veratrine; and rarely, but with great caution, in some nervous diseases, tapeworm, etc. The dose is from 5 to 15 grains, for the expulsion of taenia, and other worm. An extract has proved beneficial in painful rheumatic and neuralgic affections. Cevadilla is now used only as a source of veratrine, to which all of its activity and toxic properties are due.


King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.



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