Anamirta cocculus. Cocculus Indicus.
Nat. Ord.— Menispermaceae. Sex. Syst.—Dioecia Dodecandria.
Description.—Anamirta Cocculus, formerly called according to Linnaeus, Menispermum Cocculus, is a strong, climbing shrub, with a corky, ash-colored bark, with deep cracks or fissures ; the leaves are thick, smooth, shining, coriaceous, roundish, acute, very slightly cordate, if at all, sometimes truncate at the base, with five digitate ribs, about six inches long, and as many broad ; stalks a little shorter than the leaves, tumid at both ends, especially the lower. Flowers dioecious; female flowers in lateral compound racemes. Calyx of six sepals in a double series, with two closely-pressed bractioles. Corolla none. Stamens united into a central column dilated at the apex. Anthers numerous, covering the whole globose apex of the column. Drupes, one to three, globose, one-celled, one-seeded. Seed globose, deeply excavated at the hilum. Albumen fleshy. Cotyledons very thin, linear-oblong, distant, diverging, very membranous.
History. — This plant is a native of the Malabar coast, and of eastern insular and continental India. The parts used are the berries or fruit, which, as found in the shops, are round, subreniform, about the size of a pea, inodorous, of a grayish-black color, and composed of an external, thin, hard, brittle shell, covering another, which is white, and still denser, and contains a white nucleus divided by a central placenta. They are inodorous, but have an intensely and permanently bitter taste. They contain picrotoxin, or picrotoxic acid, which is a very bitter, poisonous principle, menispermin, an alkaline principle, paramenispermin, hypopicrotoxic acid, fixed oil, etc.
Properties and Uses. — Poison. Given to animals it acts on the cerebrospinal system, causing nervous tremors, convulsions, and tetanus; it also acts on the stomach as a local irritant. It is never used internally, but has been applied externally in form of powder or ointment, in some obstinate cutaneous affections, tinea capitis, and for the destruction of vermin in the hair. It is sometimes used to stupefy fish in order that they may be caught, and it is asserted that the fish thus taken are not poisonous. It is likewise added to malt liquors to render them bitter and intoxicating, but which is highly improper and dangerous.