Senecio. Life root. Senecio aureus.
(Some of the Senecio species contain toxic pyrrolizidine alkaloids. More info here: Livertoxic PAs --Henriette.)
Senecio. N. F. IV. Life Root.—Senecio was introduced into the N. F. IV. It is defined as follows: "The dried overground portions of Senecio aureus Linné (Fam. Compositae), gathered when flowering." N. F. Various species of this composite genus have been domestically used in the treatment of amenorrhea both in Europe and America, and their value has been confirmed by various practitioners. (See P. J., Dec., 1897.) The species specially used have been Senecio vulgaris L., Common Groundsel, Senecon, Fr., Kreutzkraut, Jacobskraut, G.; an annual European plant introduced into this country and growing quite commonly in waste grounds, and the North American species, S. aureus L., commonly called golden ragwort or liferoot and growing in wet meadows in the Northern United States. It is described as follows: "Stems from 3 to 6 dm. in length, if entire bearing a basal rosette of leaves; sparingly clothed with successively smaller leaves and bearing at the summit several yellow heads in a loose corymb, white floccose when young, but mostly glabrous when expanded, radical leaves on long, slender petioles, mostly of rounded form from 5 to 7 cm. in breadth, the base often cordate, the summit rounded, the margin crenate-dentate; stem-leaves gradually changing from the shape of the radical leaves to lyrately-pinnate, then pinnatifid and sessile, and at length clasping, oblong, and incised; heads slender peduncled, from 12 to 25 mm. in breadth, the lance-linear involucral scales in about two series, closely appressed, rays about ten, bright-yellow, disk flowers very numerous, small, bearing a glabrous akene and a white pappus. Odor characteristically aromatic; taste bitter, slightly astringent and distinctly acrid and pungent. Senecio yields not more than 10 per cent. of ash." N. F. IV. The fluidextract is official in the N. F. IV and made from a menstruum of two volumes of alcohol and one volume of water. It is used in the dose of one fluidrachm (3.75 mils) three times a day.
In S. vulgaris, and in lesser amount also in S. Jacoboea L., Grandval and Lajoux (Union Medicale du Nord-est, xix, 1895) have found two alkaloids, senecionine, C18H26NO6, which is slightly, and senecine, which is readily, soluble in ether. According to Wiet, senecionine is a paralyzant of the peripheral motor and sensory nerves, while Bunch has found that the alcoholic extract of Senecio Jacoboea is capable of producing a rise of the arterial pressure due to contraction of the arterioles, followed, if the dose has been large enough, by arterial dilatation with fall of pressure. (B. M. J., 1900, ii, 212.) Senecin of the eclectic practitioners is made by precipitating the tincture with water and is not therefore a pure active principle.
The rhizomes of the Mexican species, Senecio grayanus Hemsl. and S. cervariaefolius Sell., constitute maturin, the plants being known as matarique, maturin, or guerena. They produce rise of temperature, dilatation of the pupil, and violent tetanic spasms. Henckel states that they contain a glucoside resembling digitalin. (A. J. P., Jan., 1891; also Nouv. Rem., 1888, and P. J., March, 1889.) Several species of senecio, especially the S. Jacoboea, have been accused of causing poisoning in cattle which have eaten them. Cushny has found in the S. Gladifolium Watt (? can't find it. -Henriette) two alkaloids, senecifoline and senecifolidine, which are actively poisonous, causing symptoms similar to those which have occurred in animals after eating the compound. The most characteristic pathological lesion was cirrhosis of the liver. The fluidextract of S. vulgaris has been recommended by Dalche and others in dysmenorrhea and amenorrhea. (Bull. Med., 1904.)