Scammonia Radix. U. S., Br. Scammony Root. Scam. Rad.
"The dried root of Convolvulus Scammonia Linné (Fam. Convolvulaceae), yielding not less than 8 per cent. of the total resins of Scammony Root." U. S. "Scammony Root is the dried root of Convolvulus Scammonia, Linn." Br.
As the resin of scammony is obtained in Oriental countries by a somewhat tedious process, it has been very difficult to obtain sufficient quantities of the genuine article for use in medicine. The British Pharmacopoeia long ago solved the question by making official scammony root from which the resin is prepared. The U. S. P. IX following this precedent and for the same reason has introduced scammony root. There seems to be little doubt, however, that the natural exudation has properties which make it a more desirable medicine than the extracted resin. (C. D., lxix, p. 864.) On the other hand, the therapeutic committee of the British Medical Association states that the natural exudation possesses no advantages over the resin. (P. J., 1908, xxvii, p. 811.) Hemsler states that the extracted resin of true scammony root as well as the resin obtained from Mexican scammony (Ipomoea Orizabensis. are sold for "virgin" scammony. (Proc. Md. Ph. Assoc., 1908, p. 35.)
Scammony root is officially described as follows: "Cylindrical or somewhat tapering, from 10 to 25 cm. in length and from 1 to 4.5 cm. in thickness; externally grayish- to reddish-brown; usually distinctly twisted, deeply longitudinally furrowed, marked by distinct root-scars, otherwise nearly smooth except for the lenticels and abraded cork, the upper portion terminated usually by a number of short stem branches; hard and heavy; fracture tough, irregular with projecting wood-fibers; internally somewhat mottled, showing yellowish, porous wood-wedges separated by whitish parenchyma containing starch and resin, bark thin; odor slight, resembling that of jalap; taste very slightly sweet, becoming slightly acrid. Under the microscope, sections of Scammony Root show a corky layer consisting of from 2 to 10 rows of cells with thin, yellowish-brown lignified walls; an outer cortex with numerous stone cells occurring singly or in small groups, the walls being moderately thick, porous and not strongly lignified; parenchyma with numerous starch grains and mono-clinic prisms of calcium oxalate; fibro-vascular bundles numerous, circular or elliptical with a well developed wood consisting of large tracheae surrounded by slightly lignified wood-fibers; phloem or sieve prominent in which are included large resin ducts; the parenchyma, both in and surrounding the bundles, more or less collapsed and containing either starch or calcium oxalate crystals. The powder is light grayish-brown; when examined under the microscope it exhibits starch grains from 0.003 to 0.018 mm. in diameter, mostly single, occasionally 2- to 4-compound, the grains showing occasionally a central cleft; calcium oxalate crystals numerous, in monoclinic prisms from 0.01 to 0.045 mm. in length; fragments of leptomes or sieve with accompanying yellowish-brown resin cells; tracheae mostly with reticulate thickenings and simple or bordered pores and associated with short wood-fibers having prominent oblique pores; stone cells of variable shape and varying from 0.04 to 0.11 mm. in length, the walls being from 0.006 to 0.012 mm. in thickness, slightly lignified and traversed with prominent, often branching pores; lignified cork cells relatively few.
"Assay.—Proceed as directed under Jalapa, using 10 Gm. of Scammony Root in No. 60 powder." U. S.
"Brownish-grey or yellowish-grey, tapering or nearly cylindrical, varying usually from two to eight centimetres, or more, in diameter. Frequently contorted and longitudinally furrowed; enlarged at the crown, and bearing the remains of slender aerial stems. Fracture very coarsely fibrous; internally light or dark grey. In transverse section, numerous rounded wood-bundles distributed throughout a paler ground-tissue in which dark resin cells can be distinguished with a lens; in the parenchymatous tissue abundant, characteristic starch grains. Characteristic odor; taste at first somewhat sweet, afterwards slightly acrid. Yields to alcohol (90 per cent.) a resin which has the properties described under Scammoniae Resina.'" Br.
The wood consists of compressed pale brown, coarsely porous, usually subdivided fibers in a parenchymatous tissue similar to the bark. For microscopic structure, see Dragendorff's Jahresbericht, 1875.
The root of the male jalap (orizaba root, Mexican scammony, Purgo macho) has recently largely replaced in commerce the scammony root on account of its containing a much larger percentage of resin chemically indistinguishable from that of scammony. The Levant or true scammony root, it is said, averages a little under 9 per cent. of resin, while the Mexican root usually yields over 15 per cent. Male jalap occurs in transverse pieces one-half to an inch in thickness and two to four inches in diameter or in the case of the smaller roots in pieces three or four inches long sometimes obliquely cut, the transverse slices show concentric rings with protruding coarse fibers which at once distinguishes it from the true scammony in which the vascular bundles are scattered.
Large quantities of a false scammony root of unknown botanical origin have appeared in the London market. The root is 2 to 3 inches in diameter with a thin, brittle, blackish-brown bark, and on transverse section six or seven rings of wood. It is odorless and tasteless. (See P. J., May, 1901, 596.)
Mexican Scammony Root.—Mexican scammony root has been identified by E. M. Holmes as being undoubtedly the root of Ipomoea orizabensis, and is described as follows: The appearance is quite characteristic and quite different from that of scammony root. It occurs mostly in transverse slices, showing concentric rings, from which coarse fibers protrude on both of the transverse surfaces. The sections are mostly those of the larger portion of the root, and vary from two to three inches or more in diameter, but are only about one-half to three-quarter inch in thickness. The smaller roots are about one inch or so in diameter, but are frequently three or four inches long; a few pieces are obliquely cut. The concentric arrangement of the vascular bundles at once distinguishes it from the root of Convolvulus Scammonia, in which they are scattered and somewhat rounded, forming isolated strands, in the softer tissue. It appears that during 1903 there was an importation of over 3000 bags, which sold readily to the German makers of scammony resin. Analyses made showed from 6.4 to 22.2 per cent. of resin, but most of it yielded about 17 per cent. While chemically there appears to be no difference between scammony resin and the resin of Ipomoea orizabensis, it remains to be ascertained if they are identical in their physiological action. At the request of Holmes, Harold Dean determined the amount of resin in a specimen and, in a separate paper, gives the method employed and the results, as follows: The drug was powdered, exhausted by percolation with alcohol (90 per cent.), the greater part of the alcohol distilled off, and the resulting strong tincture poured into three times its volume of water. The resin separated as a mass of honey-like consistence. It was well washed with boiling water until the washings were free from sugar and from color, and then dried on a water bath until the weight was constant. The yield of resin amounted to 18.5 Gm. from 100 Gm. of the powdered drug; this is the highest percentage yet recorded from this source. The dried resin was pale brown, and almost entirely soluble in ether, the insoluble portion from 18.5 Gm. weighing less than 0.25 Gm. It had the general characteristics of scammony resin. The powdered drug, dried at 100° C. (212° F.), yielded 9.89 per cent. of ash. (P. J., March 5, 1904, 226, 327.)
Uses.—Scammony root in substance is not used medicinally, but solely for making resin of scammony.
Off. Prep.—Resina Scammoniae, U. S. (.Br.); Tinctura Jalapae Composita (from Resin), Br.; Pilulae Aloes, Hydrargyri et Scammonii Composita (from Resin), N. F.; Pilula Colocynthidis Composita (from Resin), N. F.; Pilulae Colocynthidis et Hyoscyami (from Resin), N. F.; Tinctura Jalapae Composita (from Resin), N. F,