580 MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE
doses administered for a long time. Thirty grains have caused death, but
recovery has followed a dose of 150 grains. Death has occurred in 24 hours
but may be delayed for several days.
Treatment.—-Give emetics or wash out the stomach with warm water
containing tannic acid and empty the bowels by purgatives or enemata.
Keep up the body heat; use stimulants and amyl nitrite for inhalation. In
chronic poisoning the treatment should be directed to remove the cause.
Post-mortem Appearances.—Jaundice of the skin and ecchymoses of the
blood in the abdominal organs. The lungs, kidneys and uterus may be
Chemical Analysis.—Ergot may be separated from an organic mixture,
suspected bread or flour by treating it with alcohol acidulated with sulphuric
acid. The extract thus obtained is red in colour, and shows two bands—
one in the green and the other in the blue—in the spectroscope. If heated
after adding caustic potash, ergot assumes a lake-red tint, and emits a fishy
odour, which is due to the evolution of trimethylamine.
The following colour tests may also be applied for detecting the alkaloids
of ergot: —
1. If a small amount of the alkaloidal residue be dissolved in about 1 cc.
of concentrated sulphuric acid and a trace of ferric chloride solution be
added, the solution acquires an orange-red colour changing to deep red,
while the margin appears bluish or greenish-blue.
2. To a small amount of the alkaloidal residue dissolved in a few cubic
centimetres of glacial acetic acid add a trace of ferric chloride solution. If
this solution is allowed to float cautiously on concentrated sulphuric acid
contained in a test tube without shaking it, a brilliant violet or intense blue
colour is formed at the zone of contact.
3. About 2 grammes of finely powdered ergot are freed from oil with
10 to 15 cc. of petroleum ether in a small separating funnel closed with a
plug of cotton wool. An infusion is prepared from 1 gramme of the ergot
thus treated in 20 grammes of water and 1 drop of hydrochloric acid. Four
grammes of this corresponding to 0.2 gramme of ergot are filtered off, and
after the addition of 1 drop of ammonium hydroxide are vigorously shaken
with 10 cc. of ether. Five cc. of the clear ether are withdrawn and layered
on about 2 cc. of pure sulphuric acid in a test tube; within a few minutes a
corn-flower blue zone must form about 0.5 mm, below the interface of the
two liquids. After standing for one-and-a-half to two hours it becomes wider
and less distinct, until it gradually fades away. It can best be observed in
dispersed light by holding the test tube against a window fitted with frosted
Medico-Legal Points.—Ergot is largely used as an abortifacient Its
action is more effective on the uterus, which is already contracting. It fails
in the early pregnancies.
CAPSICUM ANNUUM AND CAPSICUM FRUTESCENS (CHILLIES,
RED PEPPER, CAYENNE PEPPER, LALMIRCH)
These plants belong to N.O. Solanaceae, Capsicum fruits are powdered
and are then universally employed in India as a principal condiment in pre-
paring various chutneys and curries. The chief constituents to which
capsicum fruits owe their pungency and acridity are capsaicin, capsicin (a
crystallizable substance), a volatile alkaloid smelling like comine, a volatile
oil, a resin and fatty matter. The dried ripe fruit of capsicum minimum is
24. K. Hering, Ap. Ztg., 43, 91, 13&1; Jour. State Med., June 1929, p, 369.