Sabadilla. Cevadilla. Schoenocaulon officinale.
Sabadilla. Cevadilla.—The dried ripe seeds of Schoenocaulon officinale (Schlecht.) A. Gray [Asagraea officinalis (Chain. and Schlecht.) Lindl.], were recognized by the Br. Pharm. of 1885. At one time cevadilla was generally believed to be derived from Veratrum Sabadilla Schiede. The plant grows in the Andes of Mexico and in the mountains of Guatemala and Venezuela. It is also cultivated. The fruit is a capsule having three locules in each of which there are from three to four seeds. A resemblance, existing or supposed, between this fruit and that of barley is said to have given rise to the Spanish name cevadilla, which is a diminutive of barley. The seeds are elongated, pointed at each end, flat on one side and convex on the other, somewhat curved, 5 to 8 mm. long, wrinkled, slightly winged, black or dark brown on the outside, whitish within, hard, inodorous, and of an exceedingly acrid, burning, and durable taste.
Pellatier and Caventou first noted the presence of an alkaloid in cevadilla, which base they called veratrine; Meissner in the same year announced the presence of an alkaloid, sabadilline, C34H53O8N, and Couerbe, Merck, and Weigelin all described what they considered as distinct bases; but its exact composition remained unsettled until Wright and Luff (J. Chem. S., 33, 338) found in it three bases: (1) cevadine, C32H49O8N, (agreeing with the base described by Merck as veratrine), crystallizing in needles or compact crystals, fusing at 205° C. (401° F.) (202° C. (395.6° F.), according to Merck), insoluble in water, easily soluble in alcohol and ether, and decomposed by hot alcoholic potash into cevine, C27H43O8N (C27H45O9N, Flückiger), and methyl-crotonic acid (cevadic acid of Pelletier and Caventou), C5H8O2; (2) veratrine, C37H53O11N, obtained from the syrupy mother liquor from which the cevadine has crystallized; (3) cevadilline or sabadilline, C34H53O8N, obtained after the extraction of the veratrine with ether; it is insoluble in ether, slightly soluble in boiling benzene, and readily soluble in fusel oil, uncrystallizable, and appears to yield methyl-crotonic acid on treatment with alcoholic soda. For method of extracting the alkaloids, see U. S. D., 19th ed., p. 1636.
Merck has since (M. R., Jan., 1891, 3-9) isolated two new alkaloids from cevadilla, which he names sabadine and sabadinine respectively. The former has the formula C29H51NO8, crystallizes from ether in short needles, and fuses at from 238° to 249° C. (460.4°-464° F.). It dissolves in concentrated sulphuric acid with a yellow color and a green fluorescence, which gradually disappears, while the liquid assumes a blood-red and then violet color. The alkaloid is sternutatory, although in a much less degree than veratrine. The second alkaloid crystallizes from ether in filiform needles, which begin to sinter at 160° C. (320° F.), but show no fixed fusing point. Concentrated sulphuric acid causes a permanent blood-red color. The formula is given as C27H45NO8. This alkaloid is not sternutatory. Cevadilla yields about 0.3 per cent. of veratrine.
Cevadilla is an acrid, drastic emeto-cathartic, operating occasionally with great violence, and in overdoses capable of producing fatal effects. Known in Europe as early as 1752, and formerly used to some extent as a taenicide, in doses of from five to twenty grains (0.32-1.3 Gm.), it was official solely as the source of veratrine. It is the principal ingredient of the pulvis capucino-rum, sometimes used in Europe for the destruction of vermin in the hair.
According to E. Falk, 0.001 Gm. of pure cevadine will paralyze the frog; 0.01 Gm. will cause death from cardiac paralysis in rabbits; 0.02 Gm. per kilogramme produces paralysis, interrupted by tetanic spasms. Cevine was found to be much less poisonous than cevadine, though producing similar symptoms.