Scammoniae Radix, B.P. Scammony Root. Scammoniae Resina, B.P. Scammony Resin. Scammonium, B


Related entry: Jalap - Kaladana - Turpeth

Scammony root is obtained from Convolvulus Scammonia, Linn. (N.O. Convolvulaceae), a climbing plant indigenous to the Eastern Mediterranean. The dried root is brownish-grey in colour, cylindrical or slightly tapering, often spirally twisted, and usually of considerable size, varying commonly from 2 to 10 centimetres in diameter; it is crowned with the short remains of numerous aerial stems. The transverse section exhibits a number of nearly circular handles, distributed throughout a parenchymatous ground tissue. The odour is characteristic; the taste, sweetish, and slightly acrid. On incineration, it yields about to per cent. of ash.

Constituents.—The root contains from 3 to 13 per cent. (average about 8 per cent.) of resin, consisting almost entirely of scammonin; it also contains starch and sugar (10 per cent.). The starch of scammony root is in small grains, which are usually compound (two, three, or four constituents); the isolated, component, starch grains are conical or muller-shaped, and usually exhibit a v-shaped or radiately cleft hilum; the large grains measure about 20µ to 25µ.

Action and Uses.—Scammony root is rarely used except for preparing the resin in which its properties reside (see Scammoniae Resina).


Scammony resin is prepared by exhausting scammony root by percolation with alcohol, then recovering most of the alcohol by distillation, and precipitating the resin from the residual liquid by slowly pouring it, with constant stirring, into ten times its volume of water. After the resin has subsided, it is collected on a filter, washed with boiling, distilled water, and dried on a water-bath. The resin, as thus obtained, occurs in brownish, translucent, brittle pieces, with a sweet, fragrant odour, and resinous fracture. It consists almost entirely of the glucosidal resin, scammonin, and is identical with the ether-soluble resin of jalap root. Boiling with a diluted mineral acid converts it into scammonolic acid and glucose. It dissolves in hot solutions of caustic alkalies, and is reprecipitated on acidifying. Much of the scammony resin of commerce is obtained from Mexican scammony, the root of Ipomoea orizabensis, Ledanois (see Jalapa).

Action and Uses.—Scammony resin is a drastic purgative, resembling jalap and colocynth. Its action is rapid, but it may cause nausea and vomiting. Large doses set up acute gastro-intestinal irritation, with congestion of the pelvic organs. Absorption has been known to occur and to set up cystitis and nephritis. The action of scammony is greatly facilitated by bile, which assists solution. It is employed, usually with other purgatives such as colocynth or jalap, to relieve cerebral congestion by lowering blood pressure, and to remove fluid in dropsical conditions. The resin is of service as an anthelmintic, and is given with calomel or santonin to remove thread worms and round worms. It is administered in pill form as Pilula Scammonii Composita, and in powders or cachets as Pulvis Scammonii Compositus. When prescribed in pills, an equal weight of soap should be ordered; this assists the preparation of the pill mass, promotes solution in the intestine, and enhances the purgative action of the drug.

Dose.—2 to 5 decigrams (3 to 8 grains).


Confectio Scammonii, B.P. 1885.—CONFECTION OF SCAMMONY.
Scammony resin, in powder, 30; ginger, in fine powder, 15; oil of caraway, 1.25; oil of cloves, 0.625; syrup, 30; clarified honey, 15. Mix the powders with the syrup and the honey, add the oils, mix. Confection of scammony is an active cathartic. Dose.—½ to 2 grammes (10 to 30 grains).
Pilula Scammonii Composita, B.P.—COMPOUND SCAMMONY PILL.
Scammony resin, 1; jalap resin, 1; curd soap in powder, 1; tincture of ginger, 3. Mix together the tincture, soap, and resins; dissolve by the aid of a gentle heat, and evaporate on a water bath until the product is of a pilular consistence. The tincture of ginger in this formula might, with advantage, be replaced by 0.5 per cent. of oleoresin of ginger. Dose.—2 ½ to 5 decigrams (4 to 8 grains).
Pulvis Scammonii Compositus, B.P.—COMPOUND POWDER OF SCAMMONY.
Scammony resin, in powder, 4; jalap, in powder, 3; ginger, in powder, 1. This powder is used instead of compound powder of jalap if a more powerful action is required. Dose.—6 to 12 decigrams (10 to 20 grains).
Pulvis Scammonii cum Calomelane, B.P.C.—SCAMMONY POWDER WITH CALOMEL.
Mercurous chloride, 20; scammony resin, 80. Dose.—3 decigrams (5 grains) for an adult.


Scammony is a gum-resin, obtained by incision from the living root of Convolvulus Scammonia, Linn. (N.O. Convolvulaceae). Scammony root contains in the parenchymatous tissue superposed, elongated cells, filled with a resinous emulsion. In collecting the drug the crown of the root is cut off obliquely, and the emulsion which flows is collected in a shell placed at the lower end of the cut surface. The contents of the shells are collected and added to from time to time. They are then made into cakes and allowed to dry. The finest commercial qualities of scammony, known as virgin scammony, occur in large, flat, dark grey or blackish pieces, or irregular, flattened lumps, which are easily broken, thin fragments being translucent and yellowish-brown. The fractured surface is glossy and usually exhibits small cavities, probably produced by fermentative changes that take place during the slow drying of the drug. The odour is cheesy, and the taste slightly acrid. Occasionally virgin scammony of a golden-brown colour and with very few cavities is met with; this is obtained by rapidly drying the collected gum-resin, but it is seldom seen in commerce. Scammony is much adulterated, the chief admixtures being starch and chalk or other inorganic matter. The latter is best determined by incineration. On incineration, it should not yield more than 3 per cent. of ash. The B.P. ash limit is often exceeded even in samples that contain more than 70 per cent. of resin. Starch may be detected by boiling a little of the drug previously emulsified, cooling and adding iodine; traces of scammony starch are occasionally present, but foreign starches (wheat starch) should be absent. Adulteration with foreign resins may be detected by dissolving the resin extracted by ether in hot solution of potassium hydroxide. On acidifying, scammony resin is not precipitated, whereas most foreign resins are. Inferior qualities of scammony are usually hard and tough, break with a dull fracture, and are not porous. Skilleep is a variety consisting of farinaceous dough mixed with some of the gum resin. Scammony may be distinguished from scammony resin by its porosity, by its characteristic odour, and by the gum present, which enables it to form an emulsion when triturated with water. Factitious mixtures of powdered resin with powdered gum acacia may also be distinguished from genuine powdered scammony by the odour, but admixtures of these with the genuine drug are not easily detected.

Constituents.—The drug consists of resin (see Scammoniae Resina) and gum, the quality of the drug being determined by the amount of resin present; this being soluble in ether can be removed by that solvent and weighed. Pure virgin scammony may yield as much as 90 per cent., but commercial qualities usually vary from 75 to 85 per cent., and the B.P. limit is 70 per cent. The drug should not contain more than traces of starch.

Action and Uses.—The action of scammony resembles that of scammony resin (see Scammoniae Resina). It is, however, miscible with water or milk, the resin forming an emulsion with the gum present (see Mistura Scammonii).

Dose.—3 to 6 decigrams (5 to 10 grains).


Mistura Scammonii, B.P. 1885.—SCAMMONY MIXTURE. Syn.—Emulsio Scammonii.
Scammony, in powder, 6 grains; milk, 2 fluid ounces. Triturate the scammony with the milk until a uniform emulsion is obtained. The mixture should be freshly made as required. Scammony mixture is occasionally employed as a brisk cathartic in dropsy and cerebral affections, but has a tendency to gripe. Dose.—30 to 90 mils (1 to 3 fluid ounces).

The British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1911, was published by direction of the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.