The Active Principle of the Root of Caulophyllum Thalictroides.
Preparation. — Caulophyllin is the name I have given to the active principle of the root of Caulophyllum Thalictroides. It is an Eclectic remedy, not known or used by any other class" of practitioners, and was first manufactured by W. S. Merrell of Cincinnati. He prepares it by precipitation from the saturated tincture, similar to the preparation of cimicifugin, using, however, as small a quantity of water as possible to prevent waste, as the precipitate is soluble in water.
Chemical Properties. — Caulophyllin thus prepared is a resinous substance of a light-brown color, with a peculiar, not unpleasant odor, somewhat similar to podophyllin, and leptandrin, and a slightly bitter taste with some degree of pungency. Its chemical reactions have not been thoroughly investigated ; it appears, however, to be a neutral substance, like salicin, exhibiting neither acid nor alkaline principles. It is insoluble in ether. In water it is partially soluble, in alcohol more so ; the addition of aqua ammonia renders it completely soluble in either menstruum, and the solution becomes of a dark-reddish wine color. Its aqueous solution is also rendered perfect by the addition of liquor potassa, nitric, or muriatic acids. Acetic acid does not solve it.
The N. Y. Journal of Organic and Medical Chemistry, vol. i, p. 12, states that Caulophyllin may be obtained by treating the root of Caulophyllum with distilled water, and obtaining an aqueous solution by percolation. This solution is to be decolorized by animal charcoal, then evaporated in vacuo, and precipitated with an infusion of nutgalls, or, what is still better, 96 per cent, alcohol. A white precipitate is obtained, which can be dried on filter-cloth and powdered. The properties of the caulophyllin thus obtained, are similar to those detailed above, being soluble in water, partly so in alcohol, and possessing similar therapeutic influences ; yet, it is there termed an alkaloid. It is to be regretted that in our eagerness to discover concentrated medicinal principles and their therapeutic advantages, but little attention is bestowed upon their chemical relations.
Properties and Uses. — Caulophyllin appears to exert a direct influence upon the uterus, acting as an alterative, uterine tonic, and parturient, according to the periods in which it is employed. In the more common unhealthy conditions of this organ and its appendages, known as amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, passive menorrhagia, leucorrhea, congested cervix, etc., it is equal to, if not surpassing the cimicifugin. A combination of equal parts of caulophyllin, cimicifugin, and carbonate of ammonia, will be found especially valuable not only in the above-named affections but likewise in epilepsy, hysteria, rheumatism and dropsy, in which diseases it has been recommended as an antispasmodic. It may also be advantageously combined with aletrin, asclepidin, senecin, etc., in many forms of disease of the female generative organs. It has been spoken of as a parturient, but we have no knowledge of its influence as such — though we are aware that the root from which it is prepared does exert a parturient effect ; which property, if retained by the caulophyllin will no doubt render it valuable to the accoucheur. Added to podophyllin or other active purgatives, it prevents tormina, and is, probably, the best agent that can be employed for this purpose.
Dr. T. J. Kindleberger of Springfield, O., writes that he has used it with much advantage in after-pains, in menstrual suppression, and in dysmenorrhea. He closes his letter, by observing, " In my opinion it far surpasses ergot, both in its acting more mildly, and with more certain results. It will, no doubt, occupy a very elevated position among remedial agents, when it becomes fully known to the profession." The ordinary dose of the article is from one-fourth of a grain to one grain, two, three, or four times a day. As a parturient it should be given in doses of from two to four grains, and repeated at intervals of from fifteen to thirty or sixty minutes, after actual labor has commenced. In one case, reported, where labor had lasted five days, the patient much enfeebled, and the labor complicated with artificial pains, caulophyllin was given in two grain doses every half hour ; but three doses were given, labor having commenced soon after the second was taken, and terminated successfully in one hour and forty minutes from the time the first powder was given. Caulophyllin may be advantageously combined with dioscorein in bilious colic and flatulence. With podophyllin and muriate of ammonia, it forms an excellent combination for some nephritic diseases, accompanied with pains of a spasmodic character.
The American Eclectic Dispensatory, 1854, was written by John King, M. D.