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Scilla. U. S., Br.

Botanical name:

Scilla. U. S., Br.

Squill. Scill.

Related entry: Urginea

"The fleshy, inner scales of the bulb of the white variety of Urginea maritima (Linné) Baker (Fam. Liliaceae), cut into pieces and carefully dried. Preserve Squill in tightly-closed containers, in a dry place. If made into the official tincture and assayed biologically, the minimum lethal dose should not be greater than 0.006 mil of tincture, or the equivalent in tincture of 0.0000005 Gm. of ouabain, for each gramme of body-weight of frog." U. S. "Squill is the bulb of Urginea Scilla, Steinh., divested of its dry membranous outer scales, cut into slices, and dried. When powdered should be kept quite dry over quicklime." Br.

Squills; Scille, Fr. Cod.; Bulbus Scillae, P. G.; Meerzwiebel, G.; Scilla, It.; Escila (Bulbo de), Cebolla albarrana, Sp.

Urginea maritima (Urginea Scilla Steinh.) is a perennial plant, with fibrous roots proceeding from the bottom of a large bulb, which sends forth several long, lanceolate, pointed, somewhat undulated, shining, deep-green leaves. From the midst of the leaves a round, smooth, succulent flower-stem rises, from one to three feet high, terminating in a long, close spike of whitish flowers. These are destitute of calyx, and stand on purplish peduncles, at the base of each of which is a linear, twisted, deciduous floral leaf. The squill grows on the sea coast of Spain, France, Italy, Greece, and the other countries bordering on the Mediterranean. The bulb is the official portion. It is generally dried for use, but is sometimes imported in the recent state packed in sand.

Properties.—The fresh bulb is pear-shaped, from 15 to 30 cm. in diameter, weighing as much as 5 or 6 pounds, and consists of fleshy scales attenuated at their edges, closely applied over each other, and invested by exterior scales so thin and dry as to appear to constitute a membranous coat. There are two varieties, distinguished as the red and the white squill. In the former the exterior coating is of a deep reddish-brown color, and the inner scales have a whitish rosy or very light pink epidermis, with a yellowish-white parenchyma; in the latter the whole bulb is white. They do not differ in medicinal virtue. The bulb abounds in a viscid, very acrid juice, which causes it to inflame and even excoriate the skin when much handled. By drying, this acrimony is very much diminished, with little loss of medicinal power. The bulb loses about four-fifths of its weight in the process. Vogel found 100 parts of fresh squill to be reduced to 18 by desiccation. The process is somewhat difficult, in consequence of the mucilaginous character of the juice. The bulb is cut into thin transverse slices, and the pieces dried separately by artificial or solar heat. The outer and central scales are rejected, the former being dry and destitute of activity, the latter too fleshy and mucilaginous.

Dried squill, as found in commerce, is "in irregular, more or less curved, somewhat flattened pieces, from 0.5 to 5 cm. in length, yellowish-white, somewhat translucent, nearly smooth and lustrous with slight projections of fibro-vascular bundles; brittle when dry and somewhat flexible when damp; odor slight; taste bitter and acrid. Under the microscope, sections of the scales of Squill show on the upper and lower surface a thin-walled epidermal layer, a mesophyll of nearly isodiametric or slightly elongated thin-walled cells and occasionally show in alcoholic or glycerin mounts spheroidal aggregates of a carbohydrate; numerous more or less rectangular cells containing mucilage and bundles of raphides of calcium oxalate, the latter from 0.075 to 1.0 mm. in length; fibro-vascular bundles few and isolated, with spiral or reticulate tracheae. Occasionally some of the parenchyma cells contain a few somewhat spherical starch grains. The powder is light yellow, with a tendency to cake in moist atmosphere and consisting of very irregular fragments; when examined under the microscope it exhibits numerous single crystals and bundles of long raphides of calcium oxalate; fragments of thin-walled, colorless parenchyma, frequently with dark intercellular spaces due to the inclusion of air; fragments with spiral or reticulate tracheae are occasionally found. Squill yields not more than 8 per cent. of ash.

Examined by the microscope, the bulb is seen to be pervaded by innumerable minute acicular crystals of calcium oxalate. According to Hartwich, the mucilage occurs either in the form of large drops, filling the parenchymatous cells, or as masses enclosing the raphides. For an elaborate microscopic study, with plates, see A. Pharm., July, 1889. Water distilled from it had neither taste nor odor, and was drunk by Vogel to the amount of six ounces without effect. When kept in a dry place, squill retains its virtues for a long time; but if exposed to moisture it soon becomes mouldy.

"Assay. In curved, yellowish-white, somewhat translucent strips, from about two and a half to five centimetres long, frequently tapering towards both ends; tough and slightly flexible while moist, but brittle and easily pulverisable when dry. Almost inodorous; taste disagreeably bitter. Ash not more than 5 per cent." Br.

The virtues of squill are extracted by alcohol, but apparently only in part by water. It has been analyzed by Vogel, J. H. Marais, Lebourdais, Tilloy, Merck, and by Schmiedeberg (Zeit. Physiol. Chem., 111, 112) with varying results. The bitter principle, not yet obtained pure, is scillitin. Merck, however, obtained three compounds of this class—scillipicrin, scillitoxin, and scillin. Jarmersted (A. E. P. P., 11, 22) obtained a glucoside which he called scillain, but which seems to be identical with scillitoxin.

Ewins (J. P. and Ex. T., 1912, ii, p. 155) separated from the squill two active principles, although neither of them in crystallizable form. The first is water soluble glucoside, which is fatal to the frog in doses of 0.03 Gm. for a 25 gramme frog. The second is a resinous body, very slightly soluble in water, but readily so in alcohol. Fatal dose for a frog is 0.06. Besides these they found a trace of caffeine. These authors state and it is generally acknowledged that the so-called active principles of squill which are found upon the market are not true principles but are impure bodies.

Schmiedeberg found a peculiar mucilage, analogous to dextrin, which he calls sinistrin, (C6H10O5.. It is white, easily soluble in water, insoluble in alcohol, laevo-rotatory; on boiling with dilute sulphuric acid it yields levulose and an inactive sugar of reducing properties. The mucilage is not affected by saliva or diastase. This last statement, however, was contradicted by F. Kurtz (A. J. P., 1894, 246), who says that diastase acts upon it, producing a reducing sugar. Kurtz also obtained a reducing sugar (probably dextrose) along with the gum direct by extracting the bulb with hot alcohol. S. Wanizewski (A. J. P., 1893, 498) found scillinine, soluble in alcohol, but insoluble in water and in chloroform; scillapicrine, soluble in both water and alcohol, and scillamarine, soluble in both chloroform and alcohol. The bulbs of Scilla maritima also yield a slightly colored liquid oil of unpleasant odor when distilled in a current of steam. (Husemann's Pflanzenstoffe, 2d ed., p. 406.)

Uses.—Squill belongs to that series of drugs, commonly known as the digitalis group, which have for their characteristic properties the power of slowing and strengthening the pulse, of contracting the blood vessels, and in toxic doses causing systolic spasm of the frog's heart. While it in many regards closely resembles digitalis in its physiological action, it is notable for the strong degree of vasomotor action and for its local irritant effect. Probably by virtue of its effects on the circulation, but also largely because of its local irritant action upon the renal epithelium, squill is one of the most active diuretics among this group of drugs. Indeed it is so stimulating to the kidney that in overdose it is capable of causing an acute inflammation of this organ. When given in large dose, partly because of the central emetic effect which is characteristic of the digitalis group, but largely because of its local irritant influence upon the stomach, it produces severe nausea and even vomiting. In overdoses it has been known to cause hypercatharsis, strangury, bloody urine, and fatal inflammation of the stomach and bowels.

While squill is capable of exercising all the beneficial effects of digitalis in chronic heart disease, because of its action upon the alimentary canal it is rarely employed for this condition unless associated with dropsy. Because of its stimulant action upon the kidney as well as upon the heart, it is peculiarly useful for the evacuation of edematous infusions due to weakness of the heart, and is also sometimes of service in the ascites of hepatic cirrhosis. When, however, there is active inflammation of the kidney it must be used with great caution if at all. Like other emetic drugs, if given in sufficient doses to nauseate it tends to increase in the bronchial secretions and is occasionally used as an expectorant in bronchitis and spasmodic croup. Because of its potent action upon the circulation its use for this purpose, however, is not to be encouraged.

Neither water nor dilute acetic acid entirely extract the activity of squill. The only liquid preparations, therefore, which thoroughly represent the drug are those made with alcohol, of which the tincture is probably the better.

When given in substance it is most conveniently administered in the form of pill.

Dose, of squill, from one to two grains (0.065-0.13 Gm.).

Off. Prep.—Acetum Scillae, U. S., Br.; Fluidextractum Scillae, U. S.; Oxymel Scillae, Br.; Pilula Ipecacuanha cum Scillae, Br.; Pilula Scillae Composita, Br.; Syrupus Scillae, U. S., Br. (from vinegar); Syrupus Scilla Compositus, U. S. (from fluidextract); Tinctura Scillae, U. S., Br.; Mistura Pectoralis Stokes (from Fluidextract), N. F.; Oxymel Scillae (from Vinegar), N. F.; Pilulae Digitalis, Scillae et Hydrargyri, N. F.


The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.



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