Botanical name: 

The ripe seeds of Delphinium Staphisagria, Linné (Nat. Ord. Ranunculaceae). Mediterranean Basin; cultivated. Dose, 1 to 2 grains.
Common Name: Stavesacre.

Principal Constituents.—Fixed oil; a poisonous crystalline alkaloid, delphinine (C22H35O6N), acting like aconite; an amorphous narcotic alkaloid delphinoidine (C42H68O7H2), delphisine (C27H46O4N2), a crystalline alkaloid, a slightly water-soluble alkaloid, staphisagrine (C22H32O5), and the alkaloid staphisagroine (C20H24NO4). The first three alkaloids are soluble in alcohol, chloroform and ether.
Preparation.—Specific Medicine Staphisagria. Dose, 1 to 5 drops.

Specific Indications.—"Irritation and chronic inflammatory conditions of the genito-urinal tract; painful, scalding micturition; prostatorrhea; urinal incontinence in aged men; urethral irritation, with a sensation of in complete urethral evacuation-a sensation as if a drop of urine were rolling along in the canal; menstrual derangements, with long intermenstrual intervals and prolonged flow; spermatorrhea in anemic subjects; depression of spirits; hypochondriasis; hysteria, with uterine or ovarian irritation, despondency, moroseness, and violent outbursts of passion; black specks before the eyes in reading; mental irritability and restlessness in painful and exhaustive diseases; uterine disorders, with feeble pelvic circulation; deep-seated soreness, dragging and bearing-down pains; leucorrhea; and painful urination." (American Dispensatory.)

Action and Toxicology.—In small doses staphisagria quiets nervous irritation. In large doses it is a depressive poison, acting very much like aconite to which it has a close botanic relationship, but does not produce such intense benumbing and tingling effects as the latter. It causes decided gastro-intestinal irritation and depresses the heart and circulation, and the motor tracts of the cord. Its topical use has proved fatal to a child, and its toxic symptoms are closely analogous to those of poisoning by aconite. It kills by paralyzing the respiratory centers (asphyxia). One of its alkaloids has narcotic properties; and another, delphinine (dose 1/60 to 1/10 grain), has an acrid and benumbing taste and an action much like aconitine, an action which is possessed in greatest force by the combined alkaloids of stavesacre. It is exceedingly poisonous.

Therapy.—External. Locally staphisagria seeds are parasiticide and analgesic. Delphinine, though it should not be employed, acts upon painful areas like veratrine. The powdered seeds may be mixed with fats and applied for the destruction of pediculi. An ointment (4 parts in 20 of benzoinated lard) is a good form. Equally effectual and more manageable is an equivalent dilution of the specific medicine with vinegar, dilute acetic acid or ether. It must not be used unless the skin is intact, and then with caution as to quantity. It is also said to be fatal to the itch mite which causes scabies.

Internal. Staphisagria is sedative and a remedy of limited power in irritation of the mucous membrane of the genito-urinary tract and some phases of nervous disorders. It is contraindicated by active inflammation. From a very early date its local application has been credited with the destruction of pediculi. As Scudder recorded some years ago, the nervous conditions best met with staphisagria are those shown by hysteria and hypochondriasis with depression of spirits, despondency, moroseness, and violent outbursts of passion. As a rule, the sexual disorders benefited by staphisagria are those accompanied by nervous depression, or at least by marked irritability. When properly indicated, it proves useful in the treatment of prostatorrhea, spermatorrhea resulting from masturbation, in chronic irritation or inflammation of the genito-urinary tract resulting from gonorrhea or from cold, and in prostatitis, gonorrheal or otherwise, all of these conditions being associated with depression of spirits and a sense of restlessness and irritation along the course of the urethra. It is especially useful in renal incontinence of old men with teasing desire to urinate frequently, and in the urinary annoyances attendant upon uterine disorders. It will not relieve all cases of spermatorrhea, but if carefully prescribed, according to indications it will prove beneficial in the majority of cases. The best marked indication we have found for staphisagria is a sense of incomplete urination with a feeling as if a drop of urine were constantly attempting to pass along the urethral canal. The indications for staphisagria, as concisely stated by us in the American Dispensatory, are given here under Specific Indications.

The Eclectic Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 1922, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D.