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55. Colchicum Autumnale, Linn.—Common Meadow Saffron.

Botanical name:

[image:17684 align=left hspace=1]Sex. Syst. Hexandria, Trigynia.
(Herbae agrestis cormus recens et exsiccatus: semen, L.—Cormus et semina, E.—The cormus and seeds, D.)

History.—Dioscorides [Lib. iv. cap. 61.] speaks of Colchicum (κολχικον), and states that it grows abundantly in Messenia and at Colchis (from which latter place it received its name). Dr. Sibthorp [Prodr. Fl. Graeae, i. 250.] found three species of Colchicum in Greece—viz. C. autumnale, C. montanum, and C. variegatum; and of these he considers the first to be the Colchicum of Dioscoridcs. In this opinion he is to a certain extent confirmed by the editors of the Pharmacopcca Graeca (1837), who apply the modern Greek namo of κολχικον to C. autumnale. But there is reason to doubt the accuracy of this opinion: for this species is only found in Greece, on this side of the Sperchius, at an elevation of at least 3500 to 4000 feet—at Parnassus, and Thymphrastus; whereas C. variegatum, which Fraas [Synopsis Plant. Florae Classicae, p. 284, 1845.] thinks is the κολχικον of Dioscorides, is common, and occurs on the Xirobuni, [Xirobuni, by Col. Baker called "Xezo Vouni," (Journal of the Geographical Society, vol. vii. p. 84, 1837.)] at an elevation of only 1000 to 2000 feet, at Hymettus, Messapius, and Helicon.

For the introduction of colchicum into modern practice we are chiefly indebted to Stork, [Libellus quo demonstratur Colchici Autumnalis Radicem non solum tuto posse exhiberi hominibus, sed et ejus usu interno curari quandoque morbos difficillimos, qui aliis Remediis non cedunt, 8vo. Vindob. 1763.] in 1763; but partly, also, to the opinion that it is the active principle of a celebrated French remedy (eau médicinale) for gout.

Botany. Gen. Char.—Perianth single, tubular, very long, rising from a spatha; limb campanulate, six-partite, petaloid. [Stamens six, inserted into the throat of the tube. Ovarium three-celled. Styles three, filiform, long. Stigmas somewhat clavate.] Capsule three-celled; cells united at the base (Hooker, with some additions).

Sp. Char.—Leaves plane, broadly lanceolate, erect (Hooker).

Root fibrous. Cormus (improperly called root or bulb) ovate, fleshy, large, covered with a loose brown membrane. The leaves are produced in the spring along with the fruit, and disappear before the flower appears. Flowers several, lilac or pale purple, arising from the cormus by a long, narrow white tube. [Miller says that, in Warwickshire, the flowers are called naked ladies, because they appear without leaves.] Fruit oblong, elliptical, composed of three cells, which may be regarded as distinct follicles, with intermediate fissures. Seeds small, spherical, with a rough brown testa and large fleshy strophiola; internally they are white, and consist of a minute embryo lodged in a horny elastic albumen. The flowers appear in September, and the fruit the following spring or summer.

There is a variety, β with late flowers (floribus serotinis), growing near Devizes, in Wiltshire, which flowers in the spring.

Florists cultivate several sorts; such as the white, the striped-flowered, the striped-leaved, the broad-leaved, the many-flowered, and the double flowered.

Hab.—Moist rich meadows in many parts of England and in various countries of Europe.

The plant is propagated by seeds, by a single mature cormus, or by several immature or infant cormi.

Collection of the Cormi.—The cormus is biennial. It first appears about the end of June or beginning of July: it flowers in the autumn, and produces its leaves in the spring, and its seed in the June of the following year. It then begins to shrivel, becomes leathery, and finally disappears in the succeeding spring or summer.

The activity of the cormus varies at different seasons of the year. It is usually considered to be greatest when the cormus is about a year old—that is, about the month of July, between the withering of the leaves and the sprouting forth of the flower of the young cormus. At this period the cormus is fully developed, and has not exhausted itself by the production of the young one. But many of the cormi brought to market have already pushed forth their flowers, which are broken off so as to prevent the circumstance from being observed. "I have seen many cwts.," says Dr. Lindley, [Flora Medica, p. 569.] "sent to town in this state, which nevertheless found a ready sale, and at the best price."

It is to be dug up in the month of July, or before the autumnal bud shoots up.—Ph. Lond.

Dr. Christison [Dispensatory, 3d edit. p. 353.] has expressed some doubts as to the propriety of collecting the cormi in July; for though they are plumpest, firmest, and abound most in starch at this period, yet he has found the shrivelled cormi in the succeeding April to be equally if not more bitter; and he quotes the analyses of Stoltze to show that, while the October cormus yields 2 per cent. the March cormus yields 6 per cent. of bitter extract. But there is an error in the quotation which vitiates the inference intended to be drawn from it. Stoltze found that the October cormus contained 2.17 per cent of bitter extractive, and that the March cormus contained 5.91 of sweet extractive matter combined with some bitter extractive; and he concludes that the October cormus is much more active, and contains more bitter extractive, than the spring cormus.

The seeds should be gathered when fully ripe. The London market is principally supplied from Gloucestershire, but partly, also, from Hampshire and Oxfordshire.

Description.—The cormus, commonly called the bulb or root (radix colchici, Offic.), when gathered at the proper season, is about the size of a chestnut, and somewhat resembles in external appearance the bulb of the common tulip (Tulipa Gesneriana); which, as well as other liliaceous bulbs, are distinguished from the cormus of colchicum by being composed of laminae or scales, whereas the cormus of colchicum is solid. [Some years ago, a load of tulip bulbs was delivered at Apothecaries' Hall, London, for colchicum cormi. The late Mr. Anderson, gardener to the Apothecaries' Botanic Garden at Chelsea, for many years cultivated somo of these tulips, in commemoration, I suppose, of the attempted fraud.] It is rounded on one side—flattened on the other, where is perceived the fibrous germ of a new cormus, which, if allowed to grow, shoots up and bears the flower, while the old cormus wastes. It is covered by two coats—an inner reddish-yellow one, and an external brown one. Internally, the cormus is white, fleshy, solid; contains a milky juice, is very feculent, and has an acrid bitter taste.

Desiccation.—The slices are to be quickly dried, in a dark airy place, with a heat not exceeding 170° F. [Battley, Lond. Med. Rep. xiv. 429.]

Having removed the outer coats, cut the cormus transversely in thin slices, and dry by a heat which is to be at first gentle, and afterwards slowly raised to 150°.—Ph. Lond.

The late Dr. A. T. Thomson [Ibid., p. 314.] recommended the slices to be dried upon clean white paper without artificial heat; but the time required for this is an objection to it in practice. The dried slices (radix siccata, Offic.) should be about the eighth or tenth of an inch thick, rounded, oval, with one notch only on one part of their circumference (not fiddle-shaped), inodorous, of a grayish-white colour and an amylaceous appearance.

The seeds (semina) are about the size of those of black mustard, odourless, and have a bitter acrid taste. Their colour is brown, varying from pale to dark or blackish. They somewhat resemble several of the cruciferous seeds (black mustard, turnip, and rape), but are larger than these; moreover, the latter being more oily are more readily crushed. I have known colchicum seeds mistaken for grains of paradise.

Composition.—The colchicum cormus was analyzed in 1810 by Melander, and Moretti; [Bull. de Pharm, vol. ii. p. 217.] in 1818 and 1819, by Stoltze; [Berlinisches Jahrbuch für die Pharmaecie, Bd. xix. S. 107, 1818; and Bd. xx. S. 135, 1819.] and in 1820 by Pelletier and Caventou. [Journ. de Pharm, vi. 364.]

Analysis of Pelletier and Caventou.Stoltze's Analysis
Cormi gathered in March.Ditto, in october.
Fatty matter composed of Olein, Stearin, Volatile acid.Volatile acrid mattertracerather more
Soft resin0.040.06
Supergallate of veratria.Crystallizable sugar0.411.12
Yellow colouring matter.Sweet extractive with some bitter extractive5.91Uncrystallizable sugar2.72
Gum.Bitter extractive2.17
Starch.Dificultly-soluble extractive1.300.52
Inulin in abundance.Gum, like tragacanth0.811.65
Lignin.Starch7.6410.12
Ashes, a minute quantity.Lignin2.321.61
----Extractive, soluble in potash0.610.52
Colchicum cormus.Water81.0480.31
------------------
Colchicum cormus99.90100.80

The seeds have been submitted to chemical examination, in 1832, by L. A. Büchner, Jun., [Repert. für die Pharm. Bd. xliii. S. 376, 1832.] who found in them fixed oil, free acid, bitter extractive (impure colchicina), and resin.

1. Colchicina; Colchicia; Colchicine.—The existence of this principle in colchicum seeds was announced by Geiger and Hesse. [Journ. de Chim. x. 465.] They prepared it by digesting the seeds in boiling alcohol: this dissolved a supersalt, which was precipitated by magnesia, and the precipitate treated with boiling alcohol. By evaporation, colchicina was deposited. The following are said to be its properties: It is a crystallizable alkaline substance, without odour, but having a bitter taste. Its hydrate is feebly alkaline, but neutralizes acids, and forms crystallizable salts having a bitter taste. It is soluble in water, and the solution precipitates the solution of chloride of platinum. Nitric acid colours colchicina deep violet, which passes into indigo blue, and quickly becomes first green and then yellow. Concentrated sulphuric acid colours it yellowish brown.

Colchicina is said to be distinguished from veratria by the following characteristics: 1st, it is soluble in water, whereas veratria is not; 2dly, it is crystallizable, whereas pure veratria is not; 3dly, it does not possess the acridity of veratria; and it differs from the latter in this, that, when applied to the nose, it does not excite sneezing, whereas the least portion of [impure] veratria occasions a most convulsive sneezing.

Colchicina is a powerful poison. One tenth of a grain, dissolved in weak spirit, killed a young cat in about twelve hours. The symptoms were salivation, diarrhoea, vomiting, a staggering gait, cries, convulsions, and death. The stomach and intestines were violently inflamed, and had extravasated blood throughout the whole course.

2. Starch.—The starch grains of the cormus of colchicum are moderately uniform in size: though normally rounded, they present more or less flattened faces, produced by their mutual compression in the cells of the plant, by which they have acquired a polygonal appearance. Many are mullar-shaped, some are dihedral at one end, others trihedral; owing to the mutual pressure of two, three, or four particles. The hilum is usually stellate.

Chemical Characteristics. α. Of the Cormi.—The decoction of the fresh cormi, when cold, forms, with a solution of iodine, a deep blue precipitate (iodide of starch); with sesquichloride of iron, a faint bluish tint (gallate of iron); with diacetate of lead, or protonitrate of mercury, a copious white precipitate; with nitrate of silver, a precipitate which is at first white, but becomes in a few minutes black; with tincture of nutgalls, a very slight, dirty-looking precipitate, which is somewhat diminished by the effect of heat [Pelletier and Caventou [Journ. de Pharm, vi. 365.] regard this precipitate as a mixture of the tannates of starch and inulin [The precipitate produced in an amylaceous decoction by infusion of nutgalls, disappears when the liquor is gradually heated to 122° F.: but if inulin be present, it does not disappear until the liquor has reached the boiling point.] (and of veratrin ?)]; and with a solution of gelatine, a slight haziness. Fresh-prepared tincture of guaiacum, with a few drops of acetic acid, produces a cerulean blue colour with the fresh cormus, indicating the presence of gluten.

β. Of the Seeds.—The decoction of the seeds, when cold, yields, with oxalate of ammonia, a white precipitate (oxalate of lime); with diacetate of lead, a copious white precipitate; and, with nitrate of silver, a precipitate. If the decoction be concentrated, and poured into alcohol, a gelatiniform precipitate is produced.

Physiological Effects. α. On Vegetables.—Not yet determined.

β. On Animals.—Colchicum is a poison to animals. It acts as a local irritant, reduces the force of the circulation, and causes inflammation of the alimentary canal. Animals, for the most part, refuse to feed on it. It has, however, been eaten by deer and cattle, and proved poisonous to them. [Wibmer, Wirk. d. Arzn. u. Gifte, Bd. ii. 150.] It is said to prove injurious at spring-time only. [Hacquet, in Wibmer, op. cit.; also, Want, Lond. Med. and Phys. Journal, vol. xxxii. p. 216.] Moreover, we are told that when dry it may be eaten in hay with impunity. Störck [Lib. de Colchico, p. 17.] and Kratochwill [Quoted by Wibmer.] gave it to dogs, on whom it acted as an acrid poison, and caused death. Sir E. Home [Phil. Trans. 1816.] injected 160 drops of a vinous infusion of colchicum into the jugular vein of a dog: all power of motion was instantly lost, the breathing became slow, the pulse hardly to be felt. In ten minutes it was 84, in twenty minutes 6O, in an hour 115, with the respiration so quick as scarcely to be counted. In' two hours the pulse was 150, and very weak. The animal was purged, vomited, and very languid: he died in five hours. On dissection, the internal coat of the stomach was found inflamed, in a greater or less degree, universally. From this experiment it appears that the action of colchicum on the alimentary canal is of a specific kind.

In opposition to the above statements, it deserves notice that Orfila [Toxicol. Gén.] has frequently given to dogs, in the month of June, two or three cormi without perceiving any sensible effects; from which he infers that climate and season of the year have great influence on their deleterious properties.

It has been said that horses eat colchicum with impunity; but it is probable that this statement is erroneous. Withering [Brit. Plants, ii. 402, 7th edit. 1830.] states, on the authority of Mr. Woodward, that, "in a pasture in which were several horses, and eaten down nearly bare, the grass was closely cropped, even under the leaves, but not a leaf bitten."

Some further information on the effects of colchicum on dogs will be found in Sir C. Scudamore's Treatise on Gout and Rheumatism, 3d edit. p. 477, 1819.

γ. On Man.—Colchicum is acrid and sedative. Taken internally, in small and repeated doses, it promotes the action of the secreting organs, especially the intestinal mucous membrane. The kidneys, the skin, and the liver, are less certainly and obviously affected by it. Salivation has been ascribed to it by Dr. Aldridge.[Dublin Hospital Gazette, p. 52, Oct. 1845.] The most constant effects observed from the use of larger doses are nausea, vomiting, and purging. Reduction of the frequency of the pulse is a common, though not an invariable effect. Mr. Haden [Practical Observations on the Colchicum autumnale, 1820.] was, I believe, the first to direct attention to the advantages to be taken of this effect in the treatment of inflammatory diseases. In some experiments made on healthy individuals by Dr. Lewins, [Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, vol. xlvii. p. 345, 1837.] debility, a feeling of illness, and headache, were experienced. This feeling of debility is not, however, to be referred to the evacuations produced; for, as Dr. Barlow [Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine, art. Gout, vol. ii. p. 371.] has observed, the number of motions is sometimes considerable without any proportionate depression of strength ensuing. "I have known," says Dr. B., "even twenty stools occasioned by a single dose of colchicum, the patient not complaining of the least debility." The action of colchicum on the secretory apparatus is not confined to that of the alimentary canal: after the use of three or four full doses of this medicine, copious sweating is often produced, especially when the skin is kept warm. On other occasions, the kidneys are powerfully acted on. In one case, mentioned by Dr. Lewins, seventy drops of Vinum Colchici caused the discharge of upwards of a pint of bile by vomiting. Violent salivation resulted, in a case recorded in an American journal. [Wood and Bache's United States Dispensatory, 3d edit.] Chelius, of Heidelberg, [Lond. Med. Gaz. vol. ii. p. 830.] asserts that, in gout and rheumatism, colchicum occasions a striking increase in the quantity of uric acid contained in the urine: in one case it was nearly doubled in the space of twelve days. But this effect is by no means constant, ns Dr. Graves [Ibid., vol. vii. p. 548.] has pointed out. Indeed, it sometimes happens, in acute rheumatism, when the urine is loaded with uric acid or the urates, that under the use of colchicum the quantity of these matters in the urine is diminished; so that it would seem rather to prevent the formation of uric acid in the system than to provoke its elimination.

In excessive or poisonous doses colchicum acts as a powerful poison. In a case related by Mr. Fereday, [Lond. Med. Gaz. vol. x. p. 160.] where two ounces of the wine of the seeds of colchicum were swallowed, the symptoms were acute pain in the bowels, coming on in about an hour and a half after taking it, vomiting, acute tenesmus, small, slow, and feeble pulse, cold feet, and weakness of limbs. The nausea, vomiting, and pain in the stomach continued with undiminished violence, the pulse became also imperceptible and intermitting, the urine was suppressed, the respiration hurried, purging of copious liquid stools came on, and loss of sight for a minute or two after getting out of bed. The patient died forty-seven hours after swallowing the poison. On a post-mortem examination, the skin of most parts of the body was found to bo covered with a purple efflorescence: no inflammation was observed in the alimentary canal; two red patches were found, one in the stomach, and the other in the jejunum. These were produced by the effusion of a small quantity of blood, in the one case, between the muscular and mucous coats; in the other, between the peritoneal and muscular coats. Ecchymosed spots were observed on the surface of the lungs, of the heart, and of the diaphragm. More recently, a case of poisoning by a decoction of the seeds has been recorded; [Journ. de Chim. Méd. t. vi. 2de Série, p. 505.] as, also, by the leaves of this plant.

In Mr. Fereday's case, the only indications of an affection of the nervous system were weakness of the limbs, the temporary loss of sight, and the slowness and feebleness of the pulse.

It is deserving of notice that, in this case, also in another related by Chevallicr, [Ibid., viii. 351.] likewise in a third mentioned by Mr. Dillon, [Stephenson and Churchill's Med. Bot. vol. ii.] and in Mr. Haden's case, [Magendie's Formulary, by C T. Haden.] no convulsions were observed; and, in the first three cases, no insensibility. In the last case, however, Mr. Haden mentions that at "ten P. M. she fell into an apoplectic kind of sleep, which terminated in death before morning." It is remarkable that convulsions are ascribed to veratria by Magendie, and to colchicina by Geiger and Hesse. In one case of fatal poisoning from an ounce and a half of the tincture of colchicum, [Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, xiv. 262.] delirium occurred.

It is a popular notion that colchicum acts as an emmenagogue; and hence it is sometimes used to produce abortion. Several poisonous cases of its use for this purpose have occurred.

Some persons appear to be peculiarly susceptible of the influence of colchicum. In Mr. Haden's case, ℨijss of tincture of colchicum caused death in a female whose mother was also exceedingly susceptible of the action of colchicum in even very small doses. In a case related by Mr. Mann, [Taylor, On Poisons.] ℨiijss of the wine of colchicum in divided doses caused death on the fourth day.

The above account of the effects of colchicum applies both to the cormi, the seeds, and the leaves. The flowers are likewise poisonous, and a fatal case from their use is mentioned by Dr. Christison. [Treatise on Poisons, 3d edit. p. 782.] They have been recommended for medicinal use.

Uses.—The following are the principal diseases in which the Meadow Saffron has been employed:—

1. In Gout.—The circumstances which of late years have led to the extensive employment of colchicum in gout are the following: About seventy years ago, M. Husson, a military officer in the service of the king of France, discovered, as he informs us, a plant possessed of extraordinary virtues in the cure of various diseases. From this plant he prepared a remedy called Eau Médicinale, which acquired great celebrity for abating the pain and cutting short the paroxysm of gout. [Dr. E. G. Jones, An Account of the Remarkable Effects of the Eau Médicinale d'Husson in the Gout.] "Various attempts were made to discover the nature of its active principle. In 1782, MM. Cadet and Parmentier declared that it contained no metallic or mineral substance, and that it was a vinous infusion of some bitter plant or plants. Alyon [Elém. de Chimie.] asserted that it was prepared with Gratiola; Mr. Moore [Two Letters on the Composition of the Eau Médicinale. 2d edit. 1811.] that it was a vinous infusion of white hellebore with laudanum; Mr. Want [Med. and Phys. Journal, vol. xxiii. 1814.] that it was a vinous infusion of colchicum. Although most writers have adopted Mr. Want's opinion, we should bear in mind that the proofs hitherto offered of its correctness, viz., analogy of effect, cannot be admitted to be conclusive, as is well shown by the fact that they have been advanced in favour of the identity of other medicines with the Eau Médicinale.

The power of colchicum to alleviate a paroxysm of gout is admitted by all; but considerable difference of opinion exists as to the extent of this power, and the propriety of employing it. Sir Everard Home, [Phil. Trans. 1816.] from observation of its effects on his own person, regarded it as a specific in gout, and from experiments on animals concluded that its beneficial effects in this malady are produced through the circulation.

Dr. Paris [Pharmacologia, 6th edit. vol. ii. p. 175.] observes: "As a specific in gout its efficacy has been fully ascertained; it allays pain, and cuts short the paroxysm. It has also a decided action upon the arterial system, which it would appear to control through the medium of the nerves." But if by the word specific is meant a medicine infallibly, and on all patients, producing given salutary effects, and acting by some unknown power on the disease, without being directed by indications, [Vide Dr. Parr's Lond. Med. Dict. art. Specifica.] undoubtedly colchicum is no specific for gout.

That colchicum alleviates a paroxysm of gout, I have before mentioned; but that alleviation is palliative, not curative. It has no tendency to prevent a speedy recurrence of the attack; nay, according to Sir Charles Scudamore, [Treatise on Gout and Rheumatism, 3d edit. p. 197.] it renders the disposition to the disease much stronger in the system. Furthermore, by repetition its power over gouty paroxysms becomes diminished.

The modus medendi of colchicum in gout is an interesting, though not very satisfactory part of our inquiry. I have already stated that some regard this remedy as a specific; that is, as operating by some unknown influence. Others, however, and with more propriety, refer its therapeutical uses to its known physiological effects. "Colchicum," says Dr. Barlow, [Cyclopaedia of Practical Medicine, art. Gout, vol. ii. p. 379.] "purges, abates pain, and lowers the pulse. These effects are accounted for by assigning to it a cathartic and sedative operation; and it is this combination, perhaps, to which its peculiar virtues are to be ascribed." The fact that a combination of a drastic and a narcotic (as claterium and opium, mentioned by Dr. Sutton, [Tracts on Gout, p. 201.] and white hellebore and laudanum, recommended by Mr. Moore) [Op. cit.] has been found to give, in several cases of gout, marked and speedy relief, seems to me to confirm Dr. Barlow's opinion. The idea entertained by Chelius, and adopted by Dr. G. Hume Weatherhead, [Treatise on Headaches, p. 88, 1835.] that colchicum relieves gout by augmenting the quantity of uric acid in the urine, is not supported by fact, as I have already mentioned. Whether it acts by preventing the formation of uric acid in the system, I am not prepared to say.

In acute gout occurring in plethoric habits, blood-letting should precede the use of colchicum. This medicine should then be exhibited in full doses, so as to produce a copious evacuation by the bowels, and then the quantity must be considerably diminished. Though purging is not essential to the therapeutical influence of colchicum, it is admitted by most that, in a large number of cases at least, it promotes the alleviation of the symptoms. Hence, many practitioners recommend its combination with saline purgatives, as the sulphate of magnesia. Sir Charles Scudamore has experienced "the most remarkable success from a draught composed of Magnesiae gr. xv ad xx; Magnes. Sulphat. ℨj ad ℨij; Aceti Colchici ℨj ad ℨij; with any distilled water the most agreeable, and sweetened with any pleasant syrup, or with 15 or 20 grains of Extract. Glycyrrhiz."

2. In rheumatism.—The analogy existing between gout and rheumatism has led to the trial of the same remedies in both diseases. But its therapeutical powers in the latter disease are much less marked than in the former. Rheumatism may affect the fibrous tissues of the joints, the synovial membrane, the muscles or their aponeurotic coverings, the periosteum, or the neurilemma, constituting thus five forms of the disease, which may be denominated respectively the fibrous or ligamentous; the synovial, arthritic, or capsular; the muscular; the periosteal; and the neuralgic forms of rheumatism. [Dr. Macleod, Lond. Med. Gaz. xii. 120.] Of these, colchicum is said to produce its best effects in the synovial form. It is remarkable, however, that in all the severe cases of this variety of rheumatism which have fallen under my notice, the disease has proceeded unchecked, or was scarcely relieved by the use of colchicum. In one instance, that of my much-lamented friend, the late Dr. Cummin (whose case is noticed by Dr. Macleod, in the Lond. Med. Gaz. xxi. 358), the disease proved fatal by metastasis to the brain. In another melancholy, but not fatal case, the gentleman lost the sight of both his eyes, and has both knee-joints rendered stiff. In neither of these cases was colchicum of the slightest avail.

Of the mode of administering colchicum in "rheumatic gout," recommended by Mr. Wigan, [Lond. Med. Gaz. June 30, 1838.] I have no experience. He gives eight grains of the powder in some mild diluent every hour until active vomiting, profuse purging, or abundant perspiration take place; or, at least, till the stomach can bear no more. The usual quantity is eight or ten doses; but, while some take fourteen, others can bear only five. Though the pain ceases, the more active effects of the colchicum do not take place for some hours after the last dose. Thus administered, Mr. Wigan declares colchicum "the most easily managed, the most universally applicable, the safest, and the most certain specific in the whole compass of our opulent Pharmacopoeia." But its use in these large doses requires to be carefully watched.

3. In dropsy.—Colchicum was used in dropsy with success by Störck. [Libellus.] It has been employed in dropsical cases with the twofold view of purging and promoting the action of the kidneys. Given in combination with saline purgatives, I have found it beneficial in some cases of anasarca of old persons.

4. In inflammatory diseases generally.—Colchicum was recommended as a sedative in inflammatory diseases in general by the late Mr. C. T. Haden. [Practical Observations on the Colchicum autumnale, 1820.] He used it as an auxiliary to blood-letting, for the purpose of controlling arterial action; and gave it in the form of powder, in doses of six or seven grains, three or four times daily, in combination with purgatives, in inflammatory affections of the lungs and their membranes, and of the breasts and nipples. In chronic bronchitis it has also been found useful by Dr. Hastings. [Treatise on Inflammation of the Mucous Membrane of the Lungs, 1820.]

5. In fevers.—The late Mr. Haden, [Op. cit.] and more recently Dr. Lewin, [Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal, April, 1837.] have spoken favourably of the use of colchicum in fever. In my opinion, it is only admissible in those forms of the disease requiring an active antiphlogistic treatment. In such it may be useful as an auxiliary to blood-letting and cathartics.

6. In various other diseases.—For expelling tape-worm, colchicum has been found efficacious by Chisholm and Baumbach. In some chronic affections of the nervous system, as chorea, hypochondriasis, hysteria, &c, Mr. Raven [London Medical and Physical Journal, Jan. 1817.] employed it with advantage. In humoral asthma, and other chronic bronchial affections, I have found it of great service, especially when these complaints were accompanied with anasarcous swellings.

Administration.—The cormi and seeds of meadow saffron have been employed in substance, in a liquid form, and in the state of extract.

1. PULVIS CORMI COLCHICI.—Dose, from two to eight or nine grains. To preserve it, Mr. Wigan recommends it to be kept mixed with sugar.

2. PULVIS SEMINUM COLCHICI.—Dose the same as that of the cormus. The seeds are to be preferred to the cormi, as being more uniform in their properties.

3. TINCTURA [SEMINUM] COLCHICI, L. Ed.; Tinctura Seminum Colchici, D. [Tinctura Colchici Seminis, U. S.].—(Meadow Saffron seeds, bruised [ground finely in a coffee-mill, Ed.], ℥v; Proof Spirit Oij. Macerate for seven [fourteen, D.] days, and strain, L.) "Percolation is much more convenient and speedy than digestion," E.—[Colchicum seed, bruised, four ounces; diluted alcohol two pints. Macerate for fourteen days, express and filter through paper, or moisten the powder with the diluted alcohol, allow to stand for twenty-four hours, and then displace, U. S.]—Dr. Williams [London Med. Rep. vol. xiv. p. 93.] objected to this preparation as being "turbid, unpalatable, and disposed to precipitation." The same writer [Op. cit. vol. xv. p. 442.] also asserts that the active property of the seeds resides in their husk or cortical part, and, therefore, protests against bruising them. But were his assertion correct (and it is most improbable that the embryo is devoid of activity), bruising them cannot destroy or injure their activity. The average dose is from fℨss to fℨj. I have repeatedly given fℨij at a dose without any violent effect. Dr. Barlow, who prefers this to the other preparations of colchicum, advises that in gout a drachm, a drachm and a half, or two drachms of the tincture should be given at night, and repeated the following morning. If this quantity fail to purge briskly, a third dose may be administered the ensuing night. Externally, the tincture has been employed as a liniment to relieve rheumatic, gouty, venereal, and other pains. [Laycock, London Medical Gazette, vol. xxiii. p. 899; and vol. xxiv. 388.]

4. TINCTURA [SEMINUM] COLCHICI COMPOSITA, L.; Spiritus Colchici ammoniatus, L. 1824.—(Meadow Saffron seeds, bruised, ℥v; Aromatic Spirit of Ammonia Oij. Macerate for seven days, then express and strain.) Dose ♏ xx to fℨj.—This preparation was recommended by Dr. Williams as being "of greater value when acidity or flatulence prevails than the Vin. sem. Colchici, and better adapted to the palates of those who object to the flavour of white wine." It is seldom employed. Mr. Brande [Dict. of Mat. Med. 1839.] says doubts are entertained as to the propriety of employing ammonia in it.

5. VINUM SEMINUM COLCHICI [Vinum Colchici Seminis, U.S.].—No formula for this exists in any of the British pharmacopoeias. The following is Dr. Williams's formula: Meadow Saffron seeds, dried, ℥ij; Sherry Wine Oj (wine measure). Macerate for eight or ten [fourteen] days, occasionally agitating, then filter. The average dose is fℨss to fℨj. I have given it to the extent of fℨij. Dr. Williams says it may be gradually increased to fℨiij.

[This formula has been adopted by the U. S. Pharmacopoeia, which directs double the proportion of each of the ingredients, and directs maceration for fourteen days.]

6. VINUM [CORMI] COLCHICI, L. E. [Vinum Colchici Radicis, U. S.].—(Meadow Saffron cormus, dried and sliced, ℥viij; Sherry Wine Oij. Macerate for seven days [express strongly the residuum, E.], and strain) [The directions of the U. S. Pharm. are: Take of Colchicum Root one pound; White Wine two pints. Macerate for fourteen days, with occasional agitation, and filter; or by displacement.] Average dose fℨss to fℨj.—Sir E. Homo [Phil. Trans. 1837.] thought that the second and subsequent deposits which take place from this wine contain the principle which acts on the stomach and bowels, while that which cures the gout is retained in permanent solution. But Sir C. Scudamore [Treatise on Gout, 3d edit. p. 513.] found the sediment to be inert.

7. ACETUM [CORMI] COLCHICI, L. E. D. [U. S.].—(Meadow Saffron cormus, dried [and bruised, D.], ℨiiiss [℥j, D.]; Dilute Acetic Acid Oj [Acetic Acid of commerce (sp. gr. 1044) f℥iv; Distilled Water ℥xij, D.]; [Proof Spirit f℥iss, L.], Macerate the colchicum in the acid [diluted with the water, D.], in a covered vessel, for three [seven, D.] days; then express, set aside for the feces to subside, and strain. [To the strained liquor, add the spirit, L.]—The Edinburgh College directs colchicum-bulb, fresh and sliced, ℥j; Distilled Vinegar f℥xvj; Proof Spirit f℥j.)—The London and Dublin Colleges, in their Pharmacopoeias for 1850, have very properly substituted the dried for the fresh cormus ordered in the preceding Pharmacopoeia, on account of the impossibility of procuring the fresh at all seasons of the year. [The U. S. Pharm, orders of Colchicum Root, bruised, two ounces; Diluted Acetic Acid two pints. Macerate the root with the diluted acetic acid, in a close glass vessel, for seven days; then express the liquor and set it by, that the dregs may subside; lastly, pour off the clear liquor.]—In practice, one part of the dried cormus may be considered equal to three parts of the fresh: for Mr. Battley [Lond. Med. Gaz. xii. 463.] says the cormus loses about 67 per cent. of its weight in drying; and Mr. Bainbrigge [Haden, Practical Observations on Colchicum autumnale, p. 77.] obtained 2 lbs. 15 oz. of dried slices from 8 lbs. of fresh cormi. The proof spirit used in preparing the acetum is for the purpose of checking decomposition. By the action of the acetic acid on the colchicina of the cormus, an acetate of this alkaloid is obtained. Sir C. Scudamore [Observations on the Use of Colchicum.] regards an acetic preparation of colchicum as milder than the wine or tincture made with the same relative weights of cormi and liquids, though it is a most efficient preparation in gout. He advises, as I have before mentioned, that it should be given in combination with magnesia, by which its acid menstruum is destroyed (acetate of magnesia being formed), and the active principle of the colchicum left in the most favourable state for administration. The average dose is from fℨss to fℨij.

8. EXTRACTUM [CORMI] COLCHICI ACETICUM, L. E. D. [U. S.].—(Fresh Meadow Saffron cormus, lb j; Acetic [pyroligneous, Ed.] Acid f℥iij- Bruise the cormus gradually sprinkled with the acetic acid, then press out the juice, and evaporate it in an earthen vessel which is not glazed with lead [over the vapour-bath, Ed.] to a proper consistence. The Dublin College orders of Colchicum Root, dried, ℥iv; Dilute Acetic Acid f℥viij. Digest the root in the acid for fourteen days, then filter, and evaporate, by means of a water-bath, to the consistence of a soft extract. [Take of Colchicum Root, in coarse powder, a pound; Acetic Acid four fluid-ounces; Water a sufficient quantity. To the acetic acid add a pint of water, and mix the resulting liquid with the colchicum root. Transfer the mixture to a percolator, and pour water gradually upon it until the liquid passes with little or no taste. Lastly, evaporate the liquid in a porcelain vessel to the proper consistence, U. S.]—This compound contains the acetate of colchicina. It is a very favourite remedy in the treatment of gout and rheumatism, and was introduced into practice by Sir C. Scudamore. Dr. Paris [Appendix to the Eighth Edition of the Pharmacologia.] observes that he has "found it useful in promoting healthy discharges of bile." He occasionally combines it with blue pill, calomel, or potassio-tartrate of antimony. The dose is from gr. j to gr. iij twice or thrice a day.

9. EXTRACTUM COLCHICI [CORMI], L.—(Fresh Meadow Saffron cormus lb j. Bruise the cormus, sprinkled with a little water, in a stone mortar; then press out the juice, and evaporate it, unstrained, to a proper consistence.)—This is a favourite preparation with Dr. Hue, of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, in the early stage of acute rheumatism. The dose is gr. j every four hours.

10. SUCCUS COLCHICI; Preserved Juice of Colchicum.—I am informed that in one experiment from one cwt. of very fine cormi gathered at the end of August, and well bruised and pressed, four imperial gallons and f℥xij of a light fawn-coloured juice were obtained. This juice becomes darker coloured by exposure to the air. After standing forty-eight hours the spirit is added to it. A large quantity of feculent deposit is formed, and the liquor acquires a paler tint. The deposit by boiling yields a coagulum. Exposure to light appears to render it somewhat paler. The smallest dose of succus colchici is five minims.

Antidote.—See Veratrum album.


The Elements of Materia Medica and Therapeutics, Vol. II, 3th American ed., was written by Jonathan Pereira in 1853.



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