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COLCHICUM  AUTUMNALE                                               589


There are three species of veratrum belonging to W.O. Melanthacese. These are
Veratrum album (white hellebore), Veratrum viride (green hellebore) and Veratrum
officinale (sabadilla). Several alkaloids have been obtained from these plants, the chief
of which are veratrine, jervme, pseudo-jervine and cevadine. From among these, vera-
trine is a non-official preparation, having the dose of 1/64 to 1/16 grain to be given in
pill form.

Veratrine.—Veratrine is a white, amorphous, inodorous powder, having an acrid,
bitter taste, feebly soluble hi water, but readily soluble in acids, alcohol and ether. Pure
veratrine is crystalline in character. It resembles aconitine in its action.

Symptoms.—A tingling sensation followed by numbness in the mouth, tongue, throat,
and oesophagus and gradually spreading to other parts of the body; salivation; sneezing
and running of the nose and eyes; nausea ; persistent vomiting; diarrhoea accompanied
by abdominal colicky pain and tenesmus ; itching of the skin, which becomes reddened
and is covered with perspiration; dilated pupils; giddiness; feeble pulse; slow and
gasping respirations; muscular spasms; convulsions; collapse; death from respiratory

Fatal Dose.—Uncertain. Three grains of veratrine have produced poisonous symp-
toms. Eighteen grains of powdered white hellebore have caused death, while half-an-
ounce of the powder taken by mistake for cream of tartar has been recovered from.

Fatal Period.—Uncertain. Death occurred in the case of an old peasant in 75
minutes, after he had taken hellebore by mistake for liquorice powder.51 Death has also
occurred in 2 and 4 hours, but it may be delayed for several weeks.

Treatment—Administer emetics or wash out the stomach thoroughly with, warm
water. Tannic acid or vegetable astringents will precipitate the alkaloid. Give spirit
ammonia aromatic and other stimulants, such as digitalis and strychnine. Keep the
patient flat on the back, and start artificial respiration, if necessary. Morphine may be
given to check pain and diarrhoea.

Post-mortem Appearances.—These are not characteristic. The mark's of acute in-
flammation may be found in the alimentary canal, and hypersemia of the brain and its
membranes may sometimes be present.

Tests.—Strong sulphuric acid gives a play of colours, viz. yellow, orange and lastly
red. On heating, the colour becomes red at once or the red colour is developed on adding
bromine water.

Concentrated hydrochloric acid has no action in the cold, but on boiling the solution
for a minute or two, it acquires a permanent bright red colour.

Weppen's Reaction.—One part of veratrine rubbed with six parts of cane sugar is
moistened with a few drops of concentrated sulphuric acid. The colour developed is first
yellow, dark green, then blue and lastly dirty violet.

Medico-Legal Points.—All parts of the varatrum plants are poisonous, but the chief
source of poison is their root. It has been taken with a view to causing abortion.

Poisonous symptoms have been produced by the subcutaneous injection of veratrine
as also by the application of veratrine ointment.


This plant belongs to N.O. Liliacea*. All parts of the plant are poisonous, and are
fatal to human beings as well as to cattle. The plant contains two active alkaloids,
colchicine and colchiceine. These appear to exert a similar pharmacological action, but
the former is more poisonous than the latter. The conn (Colchici cormus) and the seed
(colchici semen) are official in the British Pharmacopeia. From the former are prepared
an official preparation, Extractum colchici siccum, with the dose of 1/6 to i grain and
a non-official preparation, Vinum eolchici, with the dose of 10 to 30 minims; from the
latter are prepared official preparations, Extractum colchici liquidum, with the dose of
2 to 5 minims and Tinctura colchicit with the dose of 5 to 15 minims.

Colchicine is usually an amorphous, yellowish, bitter powder, but may be obtained
in a yellow, crystalline form. It is soluble in water and alcohol. The dose of colchicine
is 1/120 grain to 1/60 grain.

Colchiceine occurs as lustrous white needles. It is slightly soluble in water, more
readily in hot water, and dissolves easily in alcohol, chloroform and amyl alcohol, but is
almost insoluble in ether and benzene,

Symptoms.—The symptoms usually supervene from one to three hours after swallow-
ing a poisonous dose. There is -burning pain in- the -mouth, throat, oasophagus and

51.   Jour, Amer. Ned. Assoc., May 6, 1922, p. 1403.                         , ,   -'   '                 * '* />