The bulb of Colchicum autumnale.—Europe.
Preparations.—Tincure of Colchicum. Wine of Colchicum.
Dose.—The dose of either of these preparations will vary from one to thirty drops.
Therapeutic Action.—Colchicum is cathartic, emetic, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, sedative, anodyne, and acro-narcotic. In small doses it promotes the secretions, especially that from the mucous membrane of the bowels. If the doses are larger, nausea, vomiting and purging, with a reduction of the pulse, are the ordinary effects; a sense of debility with headache, also follows its use. These effects are not invariable, and not dependent upon the degree of purgation; copious perspiration, increasing the biliary secretion, or an augmented flow of urine, are common effects following its use; salivation sometimes results. In gout and rheumatism, it is said in some cases to strikingly increase the amount of uric acid in the urine. In over-doses it acts as a violent poison, causing severe pain in the bowels, vomiting, acute tenesmus, small, slow and feeble pulse, cold feet, and weakness of the limbs.
The colchicum is a peculiar and very interesting remedial agent. Its peculiarity arises from the number of properties which it possesses, and from the diversity of impressions which it makes upon the system. Operating as it does, sometimes violently as a hydragogue cathartic, perhaps as an emetic; sometimes as a diaphoretic or diuretic, at others as an expectorant; now as a stimulant to all the secretions, then upon one secretion only, or upon a part of them; and again, as a sedative, diminishing the momentum of the circulation, while at another time it acts in small doses as an anodyne, lessening the nervous sensibility.
In large doses it almost invariably produces purging, attended with nausea and vomiting, a burning sensation in the stomach, tenesmus, and sometimes strangury.
Colchicum has been regarded as a specific curative agent, in the treatment of gout, but at this time it is considered merely as giving temporary relief. The similarity existing between gouty and rheumatic affections, suggested the employment of this agent in the latter disease, also. But the high estimate placed upon it in gout as a curative agent, is not fully realized in the treatment of rheumatism. As a hydragogue cathartic and depletive agent, as a sedative and anodyne, and as a diuretic and diaphoretic, it can not fail, as a general rule, to lessen the pain and inflammatory excitement, and thus prove a valuable palliative, if not a curative agent.
In other painful inflammatory diseases, it reduces the pulse, renders it softer, and allays the general irritation and pain. It also stimulates the intestinal exhalants, and causes copious watery stools. "The influence which it exerts over the pulse, supersedes the use of the lancet," say those who deplete with that instrument. "Its most frequent operation," says a distinguished author, "I believe when fairly tried, has been to allay pain, reduce the pulse, and diminish symptomatic fever."