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598                                             MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE

volume of distilled water). Plug the test tube with cotton wool and keep it for 16 hours.
At the end of this period an orange colour of the lower acid layer will develop if arge-
mone oil is present hi the original sample. The orange colour can be discharged by the
addition of a few drops of concentrated sodium hydroxide solution or liquor ammonia,
and can be made to reappear by the addition of a few drops of strong hydrochloric acid.
The colour can also be discharged by the addition of a small piece of zinc. In cases of
fairly high adulteration orange needle-shaped crystals will be observed.


This belongs to N.O. Menispermaceas, and is also known as Anamirta paniculata. It
grows in Southern and Eastern parts of India and in Burma. The berry has a dark
brown wrinkled surface, and constitutes the Cocculus indicus or Levant nut of com-
merce. On section the berry contains a mushroom-shaped body which consists of a
bitter seed on the top of a short stalk. The berry contains a poisonous, non-alkaloidal
principle, picrotoorm, which exists as colourless, shining prismatic crystals, and has an
intensely bitter taste. It is soluble with difficulty in cold water, but dissolves freely in
hot water, alcohol or chloroform. The shell or husk of the berry does not contain picro-
toxin, but contains a non-poisonous principle, called menispermine. It is, therefore,
possible that an entire berry, when swallowed, may pass through the body without
causing poisonous symptoms.

Symptoms.—Bitter taste in the mouth, burning pain in the oesophagus and stomach,
salivation, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, profuse sweating, intoxication, giddiness, lethargic
stupor and unconsciousness. The respirations are at first increased and afterwards
become slow and laboured. The pulse is usually weak. The characteristic features in
most cases are tetanic spasms with complete relaxation of the muscles during the inter-
vals. The pupils are contracted during spasms and dilated during the interval of
relaxation. Death occurs rapidly from failure of respiration or slowly from gastro-
intestinal symptoms.

Fatal Dose.—Uncertain.   About 40 grains of the powdered berries have caused death.

The medicinal 'dose of picrotoxin is 1/100 to 1/20 grain. One-third of a grain has
caused toxic symptoms, and 2 to 4 grains would be a dangerous dose for an adult,

Fatal Period.—Thirty minutes to three hours, but death may sometimes be delayed
for several days.

Treatment.—Administer intravenously a soluble barbiturate or by inhalation an
anaethetic to check spasms, and then wash out the stomach. Avoid chloral hydrate or
chloroform. Give intravenous injections of a 25 per cent solution of glucose, and start
artificial respiration, when necessary.

Post-mortem Appearances.—The stomach may be congested or may show signs of
irritation. The lungs and brain are congested. There may be peritonitis in cases of
•delayed death.

Chemical Analysis.—Picrotoxin may be extracted from acidulated organic mixtures
by ether. It is dissolved by strong sulphuric acid producing a yellow colour, which
changes to violet on the addition of a trace of potassium bichromate and becomes brown
on further adding the same. Picrotoxin may be mistaken for sugar as it reduces Fehling's
solution. If picrotoxin is mixed with aboui three times the quantity of potassium
nitrate, and the mixture is moistened with the smallest quantity of concentrated sul-
phuric acid, and then a strong solution of sodium or potassium hydroxide is added in
excess, an intense red colour will appear.

Medico-Legal Points.—Accidental cases of poisoning occur among children from
eating the berries. A decoction or extract of the berries is sometimes used to facilitate
theft or rape, and to adulterate country liquor to increase its intoxicating ef!ect An
ointment of picrotoxin is employed to destroy pediculi, but care must be taken in its
application as it is absorbed through the abraded skin. A girl, about 2 years old, died
in about' three hours from the application of about 23 ounces of a pediculllcide, called
*' Kil-ve ", containing picrotoxin and veratrine.00

The powdered berries are used for poisoning fish in rivers. For this purpose the
berries are mixed with flour and a little tobacco, made into a dough, and small pellets
are thrown into water. They are also used for poisoning cattle.

Picrotoxin is destroyed in the body within two hours, and only a small portion is
excreted in the urine.


This tree belongs to N.O. Moruigeae, and grows wild in the Sub-Himalayan range*
The fresh root of this tree closely resembles the common horse-radish in taste, smell

66.   Benedict Skitarelic, Jour. Amer. Med. Assoc., Aug. 16, 1947, p, 1297,