Skip to main content
574 MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE
to each, of the assembled villagers. The two suspected brothers also were each given
a pill. These two were white and quite different from the black pills. One of the brothers
protested aii what appeared to him to be an obviously invidious distinction but the
quack explained that the whiteness of the pills was due to accidental coating with
sacred ash, As the explanation was apparently satisfactory, this brother gulped down
the pill. The other brother who was more cautious ate only a part of the pill and kept the
other portion. The first victim who swallowed the whole pill developed purging,
vomited blood and died in 20 to 24 hours. The second victim who had swallowed only
part of a pill recovered under proper treatment. The Chemical Examiner detected by
microscopic examination, in the stomach and in the intestines of the deceased, tissue
similar to that found in the outer covering of croton seeds. The suspected poison and a
grinding stone also showed under the microscope tissue resembling that found in the
outer covering of croton seeds. The quack was arrested and sentenced to undergo
rigorous imprisonment for two years.
Croton seeds are poisonous to fish and a case is recorded where croton
oil was used for poisoning fish in a tank in Contai, Midnapur,10 In his
annual report for the year 1938, the Chemical Examiner of Bengal describes
a case in which croton seeds were mixed with beef for poisoning a tiger
belonging to a circus party. A timely warning saved the tiger.
The root of the plant is used as an abortifacient in Malay Peninsula and
the fruit is sometimes boiled in water and added to food with homicidal
Croton oil is sometimes employed by wild tribes to poison their arrows,
but Windsor found that the arrow poison used by the Abor tribe of the
North-East Frontier of India was a paste made by pounding the soft parts
of croton tiglium and not obtained from the seeds.12
When applied to the skin, croton oil may produce watery and bloody
stools owing to the excretion of crotonoleic acid into the intestines*
ABRUS PRECATORIUS ( JEQUIRITY, INDIAN LIQUORICE, ^
GUMCHI OR RATI)
This is a beautiful climbing plant, belonging to NX). Leguminosse and
found all over India. Its seeds are egg-shaped and scarlet in colour, with a
black spot at one end, and are each about 1/3 inch long and J inch broad,
having an average weight of 1| grains. They are used by Indian goldsmiths
for weighing silver and gold. White seeds are also met with.
The seeds contain an active principle, ebriu, a tox-albumin, similar in
action to ricin extracted from castor oil seeds. In addition to this the seeds 13
contain poisonous proteins, a fat-splitting enzyme, abrussic acid, hsemag-
glutinin and a quantity of urease. The shell of the seeds contains a red
Abrin is a tasteless, amorphous solid, having a pale grey colour. It
dissolves readily in cold water with the exception of a few flocks, and the
solution, which is of a faintly yellow colour, froths on agitation. It is also
soluble in glycerin. The root and the stems also contain an active principle,
glycyrrhizin. Abrin loses its activity when boiled and, therefore, the seeds,
when cooked, may be used without any harmful effects. The seeds are
powdered, boiled with milk, and are then used as, a nervine tonic in 1 to 3-
grain doses. If administered uncooked, they produce vomiting and
diarrhoea. A decoction of the decorticated seeds, if instilled into the eyes,
wiU produce purulent ophthalmia and may cause fatal poisoning due to its
absorption through Hie conjunctivse.
11 " r^t^M*^3^1- ****£ Rep" 1916 > Ind'
11. Gimlette, Meet. Pois. and Char. Cures r> 146
12. Ind. Med. Gaz., Jan. 1912, p. 11.
13. Chopra, Indigenous Drugs of India, 1933, p. 263.