Anhalonium.—Under the name of Pellote are used in Mexico for narcotic purposes, certain cacti whose tops have entered commerce under the name of Mescal Buttons. These were formerly believed to belong to the genus Anhalonium, but at present are referred to species of Mammalaria and of the genus Echinocactus, which is characterized by a flexible epidermis, its freedom from spines and tubercles and its segments not assuming the form of a projecting or leaf-like organ. (See Schumann in Engler and Prantl's Pflanzenfamilien, and Reports of Missouri Botanical Gardens, 1898.) In a mass of such cactus tops sent to the Pharmaceutical Institute of Leipzig from Mexico as pellote, experts have recognized the products of Mammalaria fissuratus, M. retusus, Echinocactus Williamsii Lem., and E. Lewenii Henn. Moreover, from A. jourdanianum, L., Lewin obtained traces of an alkaloid (A. E. P. P., xxxiv). There is little doubt but that various allied species of cactus are represented in the commercial drug. The most important of these plants are E. Lewenii and E. Williamsii, which inhabit the valley of the Rio Grande in Mexico, and are furnished with stems reaching about half an inch above the surface of the ground, surmounted by a top composed mainly of the blunt leaves of the plant, bent around a tuft, of from half an inch to an inch in diameter, composed of short, yellow-white filaments or hairs. It is this top which constitutes the mescal button, which is from an inch to an inch and a half in diameter, one-fourth of an inch in thickness, with a convex under surface, a texture which is brittle and hard when dry, but becomes soft when moistened, a very bitter disagreeable taste, and an odor when moist which is peculiar and disagreeable, and is especially marked in the powdered drug. According to C. H. Thompson, the buttons of E. Lewinii and E. Williamsii are readily distinguished by the fact that the surface of E. Lewinii, is traversed by thirteen shallow narrow furrows giving the appearance of there being as many irregular or much broken ribs or obtuse ridges, while in E. Williamsii the furrows and ridges are eight in number and regular.
In 1888, L. Lewin separated from E. Lewinii an alkaloid, anhalonine, which has the formula C12H15NO3, and crystallizes in small white prisms, soluble in ether, alcohol, and chloroform. Subsequently, Heffter (Ber. d. Chem. Oes., 1896) separated from E. Lewinii, besides anhalonine, three alkaloids: mescaline, C17H17NO3, in white needles melting at 151° C. (303.8° F.); anhalonidine, C12H15NO3, fusing at 160° C. (320° F.), and lophophorine, C13H17O3. (See also A. E. P. P., 1898, xl.)
Kander (A. Pharm., 1899, vol. ccxxxvii) has found that in commercial mescal buttons, besides the alkaloids already mentioned, are two other bases, pellotine and anhalanine, so that Merck has offered as commercial products the following salts: Anhaloninae Hydrochloridum cryst., Anhalonidinae Hydrochloridum cryst., Lophophorinae Hydrochloridum cryst., Mescalinae Sulphas cryst., Pellotinae Hydrochloridum cryst. According to the researches of Heffter, pellotine, C13H19NO3, is contained exclusively in L. Williamsii, but as this cactus is present in most, if not all, of the commercial buttons, it was naturally found by Kander in analyzing the commercial drug. However, the correctness of the conclusion of Heffter is challenged by Merck's chemists, who, in the analysis of L. Williamsii, found the same quantity of the same alkaloids as is present in the true mescal button. For a description of these alkaloids see M. R., 1898 and 1900. E. White (J. P., xxv) obtained mescaline, 1.16 per cent.; anhalonidine, 1.16 per cent.; anhalonine, 0.46 per cent.; lophophorine, 0.14 per cent. Anhaline, C10H17NO, is an alkaloid crystallizing in colorless stellate prisms, which has been extracted from L. fissuratum.
From time immemorial the Kiowa Indians of the Rio Grande have used the mescal buttons for the purpose of producing intoxication during their religious ceremonies. Attention was first called to the peculiar cerebral action of the drug by D. W. Prentiss and Francis P. Morgan (T. G., 1895), who found that from two hundred and fifteen to two hundred and thirty grains (14-15 Gm.) (four to five buttons) will produce a peculiar cerebral excitement attended with an extraordinary visual disturbance, characterized by an incessant flow of visions of infinite beauty, grandeur, and variety, of both color and form, often followed after a time by the seeing of monsters, grotesque faces, and gruesome shapes. During the intoxication there are dilatation of the pupil, muscular relaxation, and some slowing of the pulse. Loss of sense of time, partial anesthesia, weakened heart's action, great muscular relaxation, wakefulness, and in some cases nausea and vomiting also have been noted, but no distinct alteration of the respiration. These results have been confirmed by several observers.
A. Mogilewa (A. E. P. P., xlix, 137) found that mescaline, anhalonidine, anhalonine, lophophorine, and pellotine acted similarly in lessening the frequency and force of the isolated frog heart, varying simply in quantitative power. The most thorough research upon the anhalonium alkaloids is that of W. E. Dixon [J. P., xxv) whose report is somewhat marred by the fact that he does not state in his experiments which one of the alkaloids was employed; he simply affirmed that anhalonine and anhalonidine are identical in physiological activity, that lophophorine differs only in being more toxic, and that mescaline has a physiological action almost indistinguishable from that of its associated alkaloids. He finds that "the alkaloid" is not locally anesthetic; that increased salivation is one of the most characteristic symptoms of its action; that in therapeutic doses, in man at least, it produces constipation, but that in toxic dose it causes diarrhea and bloody stools; that its main circulatory effect is upon the cardiac muscle and contained ganglia, causing slowing of the heart and a rise of arterial pressure; that it kills by action on the respiratory centers so that in man the most serious result of an overdose is rapid, shallow breathing, with a sense of suffocation; that upon the nervous system it acts most powerfully, producing in the frog, and to a lesser degree in the mammal, increasing loss of muscular power with heightened reflexes, believed to be due to spinal stimulation. The motor nerves appear to be depressed, since they are paralyzed when the drug is applied locally to them. In experiments upon two human subjects, there was wide dilatation of the pupils, with uncertainty of gait like that of alcoholic intoxication, tremors, and heightened reflexes, although sensation was distinctly blunted. The psychical symptoms caused by the largest doses resemble somewhat those from cannabis indica. The dose of the alkaloid used by Dixon was three and eight-tenths grains (0.25 Gm.).
In Heffter's experiments pellotine was found to be physiologically feeble, one-thirteenth grain (0.005 Gm.) causing only temporary stiffness in the legs of the frog, two-thirteenths grain (0.01 Gm.) producing stiffness, heightened reflexes, strychnine-like tetanus, lasting from three to four days, ending in recovery. In man, from seven-tenths to nine-tenths of a grain (0.045-0.058 Gm.) produced only temporary sleeplessness with sense of weariness. Pilcz (W. K. W., ix, 1896) has used pellotine as a calmative in fifty-eight cases of insanity in doses of from one-third to one grain (0.021-0.065 Gm.). About half the cases were markedly affected, sleep coming on in from half an hour to an hour and a half after the hypodermic injection and continuing through the night. No disagreeable results and no collapse occurred, although Langstein is said to have seen collapse following the dose of seven-tenths of a grain (0.045 Gm.).
The value of mescal buttons as a remedial agent is doubtful; it has been employed to a slight extent in various forms of neurasthenia and hysteria, and is asserted by S. F. Landry (T. G; 1888) to be especially valuable in cases of asthma. It has also been alleged to be useful in neuralgic and rheumatic affections. Prentiss and Morgan give the dose of the crude drug as from seven to fifteen grains (0.45-1.0 Gm.); of the fluidextract, from ton to fifteen minims (0.6-0.9 mils); of the 10 per cent. tincture, from one to two teaspoon-fills (3.75-7.5 mils).