Gelsemium. U. S. (Br.)
Gelsemium. Gelsem. [Yellow Jasmine Root, Yellow Jessamine]
"The dried rhizome and roots of Gelsemium sempervirens (Linne) Aiton filius (Fam. Loganiaceae)." U. S. "Gelsemium Root is the dried rhizome and root of Gelsemium nitidum, Michaux." Br.
Gelsemii Radix, Br.; Gelsemium Root, Yellow Jasmine, Yellow Jessamine, Carolina or American Yellow Jessamine, Yellow or Evening Trumpet Flower; Gelsemium, Fr. Cod.; Jasmin sauvage, Fr.; Gelsemie, Giftjasmin, G.; Gelsemio, Sp.
The yellow or Carolina Jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) is one of the most beautiful climbing plants of our Southern States, ascending lofty trees, and forming festoons from one tree to another, and during its flowering season, in the early spring, scenting the atmosphere with its delicious odor. The stem is twining, smooth, and shining; the leaves perennial, opposite, nearly persistent, short, petiolate, lanceolate, entire, dark green above, and paler beneath;
the flowers in axillary clusters, large, of a deep-yellow color, and fragrant, with a very small, five-leaved calyx, and a funnel-shaped corolla, having a spreading, five-lobed, nearly equal border. The fruit is a flat, compressed capsule, divisible into two parts, two-locular, and furnished with flat seeds, which adhere to the margins of the valves. The plant grows in rich, moist soils along the sea-coast from Virginia to the south of Florida and Texas. The flowers are said to be poisonous. Gelsemium elegans Benth., of upper Burma, is an extremely poisonous creeper which contains gelsemine or an allied alkaloid.
This official plant must not be confounded with the true yellow jasmine of Madeira, often planted in the Southern States, which is the Jasminum odoratissimum L., which also has very fragrant yellow flowers.
Properties.—It is officially described as: "Rhizome cylindrical, usually in pieces from 3 to 20 cm. in length and from 3 to 30 mm. in diameter; externally light yellowish-brown, longitudinally wrinkled, with purplish-brown longitudinal lines and transverse fissures; the upper surface with a few stem-scars, the under and side portions with numerous roots and root-scars; fracture tough, splintery; internally light brown or pale yellow, bark thin, wood distinctly radiate, excentral, pith disintegrated; odor slight; taste bitter. Roots light brown; fracture one-half transverse, the other oblique or splintery. Under the microscope, sections of the rhizome of Gelsemium show a strong development of cork, the walls being grayish or yellowish-brown and more or less lignified; a cortex made up chiefly of parenchyma containing starch and having in the outer portion small scattered groups of stone cells or sclerenchymatous fibers, and in the inner portion in the region of the medullary ray prisms of calcium oxalate; woody portion made up of broad wedges consisting of large trachea? and fiber-tracheids separated by starch-bearing medullary rays, the innermost cells, or those nearer the pith, being strongly lignified, while the outermost layers, or those nearer the cortex, are non-lignified and may contain prisms of calcium oxalate; an internal phloem or sieve, the cells forming distinct, more or less rounded groups, the latter being partly surrounded by a thin-walled starch-bearing pith. The powder is dark yellow, tracheae with bordered pores numerous, and conspicuous; spiral tracheae few; bast-fibers and fiber-tracheids long and narrow, strongly lignified; starch grains spherical, from 0.004 to 0.008 mm. in diameter; calcium oxalate in mono-clinic prisms from 0.015 to 0.03 mm. in length; occasional groups of stone cells or sclerenchymatous fibers, the walls being very thick, porous, and strongly lignified." U. S.
"In nearly cylindrical pieces about fifteen centimetres or more long, and usually from six to eighteen millimetres thick; occasionally with fibrous rootlets attached. Fracture splintery. In transverse section, a thin cortex, and a porous, yellowish, distinctly radiate wood with numerous, conspicuous, straight medullary rays. Rhizome usually with a brown or dark brownish-violet cork, often much fissured; nearly straight, and exhibiting silky fibres in the bast. Root yellowish-brown, finely wrinkled, and somewhat tortuous. Slightly aromatic odor; taste bitter." Br.
A microscopic character, said by Rothrock to be diagnostic, is the more or less complete division of the pith into four parts by plates of large thin-walled cells. (A. J. P., 1884.) For elaborate study of structure of gelsemium, see A. J. P., 1898, 398; A. J. P., 1899, 422; D. C., 1901, 244. Holm has contributed an article on the morphology of the overground portion of Gelsemium sempervirens. (Merck's Rep., 1908, p. 86.) Tunmann (Ph. Zentralh., 1907, p. 679) has made a pharmacognostic study of gelsemium and has proposed its identification through the microsublimation of aesculin. (See Ap. Ztg., xxvi, p. 812.) Tutin (P. J., Feb. 10, 1912) has shown that the sublimate obtained by Tunmann from gelsemium root must have consisted of scopoletin. Tutin further states that "The detection of scopoletin in gelsemium may prove to be a valuable means of distinguishing this drug from others of a similar appearance, such as that derived from Gelsemium elegans Benth., but it is doubtful whether the sublimation method is the most convenient one. If 0.5 gramme of ground gelsemium be heated in a test tube with chloroform, the mixture filtered, and the filtrate shaken with water to which a few drops of dilute ammonia have been added, the aqueous layer, on separation, will be found to show a distinct, blue fluorescence, thus indicating the presence of scopoletin."
Sayre (A. J. P., 1897, 8) found specimens of the root mixed with considerable proportions of the stem. Ingham (A. J. P., 1897, 234) found that there was not much difference between the root and rhizome in alkaloidal value, but the stem does not appear to contain either gelsemine or gelsemic acid. (See also A. J. P., 1897, 140.) Gelsemium yields its virtues to water, and readily to diluted alcohol. Analyzed by Henry Kollock, it was found to contain gum, starch, pectic acid, albumen, gallic acid, fixed oil, a fatty resin, a dry acrid resin, yellow coloring matter, volatile oil, extractive, lignin, a peculiar alkaloid called gelsemine, potassium, calcium, and magnesium salts, iron, and silica. The alkaloid, however, was not obtained sufficiently pure to admit of a full investigation of its properties. (A. J. P., xxvii.) After Kollock's experiments, the alkaloid was obtained in a crystalline form, but still impure, by Maisch, from a tincture of the root, by a process of which a very brief abstract is given in A. J. P., 1869, by C. L. Eberle, who in the same paper publishes the results of his own investigation. Eberle not only extracted gelsemine, but also satisfactorily established its alkaline properties, and proved that it was not contained in the wood of the root. Soon afterwards, the chemistry of yellow jasmine was more thoroughly investigated by Theo. G. Wormley. (A. J. P., 1870.) He obtained pure gelsemine from the root and a peculiar acid, which he called gelseminic (gelsemic) acid.
Wormley obtained the acid by acidulating a concentrated aqueous solution of the drug and extracting with ether. (For details of his method, see U. S. D., 19th ed., p. 578.) The acid, when pure, is colorless, inodorous, almost tasteless, and readily crystallizable, usually in groups or tufts of fine needles. The action of concentrated nitric acid upon gelsemic acid or any of its salts, produces a yellow, reddish, or red solution, which, if treated with ammonia in excess, becomes of a deep blood-red color, lasting for hours. The one-thousandth of a grain will exhibit these changes. Potassium, sodium, or ammonium hydroxide, added to the acid, cause it to become intensely yellow, and form with it highly fluorescent solutions. The acid is fusible, and, at a high heat, volatilizable without change. Robbins (Deut. Chem. Ges. 1876, 1182), stated that it was identical with aesculin (the glucoside of the horse-chestnut), and gave it the formula C15H16O9 + 1 ½ H2O.
But Coblentz (Proc. A. Ph. A., 1897, 225) showed that it differs from aesculin in several particulars, and gave for its formula C13H11O5. which melts at 206° C. (402.8° F.). E. Schmidt believes that Wormley's gelsemic acid is identical with scopoletin derived from scopola root, and gives the name as ß-methylaesculetin, C9H5(CH3)O4.
Gelsemine was obtained by Wormley, from the concentrated extract from which gelsemic acid has been separated by ether, by rendering it slightly alkaline, then shaking out repeatedly with chloroform. It is a brittle, transparent solid, crystallizing with difficulty from alcohol. Boiling water sparingly dissolves it. It softens at 38° C. (100.4° F.), and fuses at 45° C. (113° F.). The pure base gives no color reaction with strong nitric acid, and the mixture is scarcely changed in color by heating. Strong sulphuric acid has no apparent action upon it, but if to the mixture a little manganic oxide be added and then rubbed with a glass rod, a deep crimson-red is obtained, passing to green. This reaction is so delicate, that it can be demonstrated with a solution of 1 in 100,000. If this reaction be performed upon the pure alkaloid, the color may be sufficiently intense to cause it to be mistaken for strychnine, but if a parallel experiment be carried on with strychnine, the two alkaloids cannot be mistaken, for the strychnine gives an intense purple, passing to red. Gerrard analyzed the alkaloid with care, and gives the formula C12H14NO2 as its correct composition. F. A. Thompson (Ph. Era, 1887, p. 3) announced the presence of a second alkaloid, which he called gelseminine. After obtaining a solution of the alkaloids as sulphates he agitates it with an alkali and ether; the ethereal solution is shaken with water acidulated with hydrochloric acid, and the alkaloids are converted into hydrochlorides; gelseminine hydrochloride being easily soluble, and gelsemine hydrochloride less soluble, the latter is deposited on standing, and may be obtained pure by repeated crystallizations. He asserts that gelseminine differs greatly in physical and chemical properties from gelsemine, but, as he did not succeed in obtaining it absolutely pure, did not give the differences.
Sayre (J. A. Ph. A., 1912, p. 458; 1913, p. 436; 1914, p. 314, and 1915, p. 60) has made a series of investigations of the principles of gelsemium based partly upon the work of C. W. Moore (J. Ch. Soc., 1910, p. 2223), who reported gelseminine to consist of two amorphous alkaloids. Sayre found two alkaloids differing in physiological activity and color reactions, the one of which he called gelseminine (the former name for the combination of the two), and the other gelsemoidine, which was later changed to sempervirine. This latter alkaloid is similar in some of its properties to cinchonamine, particularly in the matter of the insolubility of its salts in water. Sayre also calls attention to the fact that the alkaloid commercially supplied under the name gelseminine is usually the crystalline alkaloid gelsemine. He states that the principles obtained by him show the following color reactions with sulphuric acid and manganic oxide: Gelsemine, at first crimson, then green, and finally yellow; gelseminine, at first brown, then pink, and finally yellow; gelsemoidine, at first purple and finally blue.
Uses.—According to the researches of Cushny (A. E. P. P., 1892, xxxi, 49), gelseminine is so much more powerful than gelsemine that it is improbable that the latter alkaloid plays any part in the effect of the whole drug in mammals. Gelseminine is a depressant to the centers in the spinal cord and, in large doses, also paralyzes the peripheral motor nerves. Gelsemine acts, in the frog, much like strychnine, causing convulsions, by stimulating the spinal cord, which are followed by paralysis due to an effect on the motor nerves. In toxic quantities gelsemium lowers the blood pressure, probably by a direct action on the heart, but death is usually brought about through respiratory failure. When locally applied, or if given internally in poisonous dose, it causes dilatation of the pupil with loss of accommodation.
Formerly gelsemium was used as an arterial sedative and febrifuge in various sthenic fevers, but is probably useless for this purpose. Barth-olow (Pract., 1870, v, 200) has recommended it in spasmodic disorders, as asthma and whooping cough. It is, at present, rarely used except in the treatment of neuralgias, especially those involving the facial nerves. The mode of its action in these cases is obscure, but there is considerable clinical evidence of its utility.
The symptoms of gelsemium poisoning are: dizziness, dimness of vision, dilated pupil, general muscular debility, and universal prostration, reducing the frequency and force of the pulse, and the frequency of respiration. After very pronounced poisonous doses the symptoms which have just been enumerated are intensified: double or impaired vision, ptosis, dilated insensible pupils, falling of the lower jaw, loss of power of enunciation, and excessive muscular relaxation are associated with slow, labored breathing, which in some cases is interrupted by violent spells of dyspnea; consciousness is long unimpaired, but is apt to be lost before death, and in rare cases unconsciousness has been present, even although recovery followed. Of the various symptoms of gelsemium poisoning the most characteristic are the dropping of the jaw and the ocular manifestations, combined with general muscular relaxation. The effects usually begin in half an hour, but sometimes almost immediately. According to Wormley, death has occurred at periods which vary from one to seven and a half hours. Twelve minims of the fluidextract are said to have proved fatal to a boy three years old, and thirty-five drops of a tincture of the bark have caused death in one hour and a half* In several instances a drachm of the fluidextract has, under treatment, been recovered from.
The treatment of poisoning by gelsemium should consist in evacuating the stomach, maintaining absolute rest in the horizontal position, keeping up the bodily temperature, if required, by external warmth, and administering spinal and arterial stimulants. We have very little experimental data as to the physiological antidotes to gelsemium. Our general knowledge indicates that ammonia, strychnine, and digitalis given hypodermically should be of service in the treatment of the poisoning.
Gelsemium should be administered in the form either of the tincture or of the fluidextract, the dose of the tincture being ten minims (0.6 mil), that of the fluidextract two minims (0.12 mil); to be repeated, if necessary, every 2, 4, or 6 hours, and gradually increased until the object is obtained, or some obvious effect is produced on the system.
Dose, of gelsemium, one to two grains (0.065-0.13 Gm.).