« STRYCHNOS NtJX VOMICA 703
Post-mortem Appearances.—Rigor mortis sets in more rapidly and may
persist for a long time. Usually the muscles are relaxed at the time of death
an^soon become extremely rigid, but in some cases the tetanic spasm may
pass into cadaveric rigidity without the initial stage of relaxation. Livid
patches may be observed on the body, and may be mistaken for bruises
caused by violence.
The mucous membrane of the stomach and duodenum occasionally
shows patches of ecchymosis or congestion. The liver and kidneys are
generally congested. The heart is usually empty and contracted, but its
right side is sometimes gorged with dark fluid blood. The lungs are con-
gested. The brain and its membranes and the upper part of the spinal cord
are found congested.
In a fatal case by strychnine poisoning which occurred at Lucknow ,on
the llth December 1929, I found the following post-mortem appearances : —
The stomach was contracted and contained about an ounce of a pinkish
fluid. Some mucus was adherent to the mucous membrane of the stomach
which was congested. There were some submucous hsemorrhagic points
along the greater curvature. The same appearances were found in the duo-
denum. The chambers of the heart were empty. The large vessels were
gorged with blood. There were some subendothelial hsemorrhagic points on
the surface of the right chamber of the heart. The lungs were slightly
collapsed and were congested especially towards the bases. On section they
exuded dark fluid blood. The lining membrane of the larynx and trachea
was cyanosed, congested and covered with froth towards the lower part.
The pharynx was cyanosed, and so was the oesophagus in its upper part.
The brain and the upper part of the cord were congested. The vessels of the
cortex were engorged with blood. The liver, spleen and kidneys were
Chemical Analysis.—Strychnine may be separated from organic matter
by the Stas-Otto process, in which ammonia is used for rendering it alkaline
and chloroform for extracting the alkaloid. But for the quantitative extrac-
tion of strychnine from viscera Naidu and Venkatrao suggest an alternative
method to the Stas-Otto process, which consists in warming the minced
visceral material with a few drops of strong alcoholic potassium hydroxide
solution and extracting the alkaloid directly with ether.0
In cases of poisoning by nux vornica the extracted residue contains both
strychnine and brucine, and as the presence of brucine interferes with the
tests for strychnine it is necessary to separate strychnine from brucine by
dissolving the residue in about 2 cc. of dilute sulphuric acid and 2 drops of
strong nitric acid and allowing it to stand for 30 to 60 minutes at 15° to 20°C.
The solution is then rendered strongly alkaline by adding sodium hydroxide
solution and extracted several times with chloroform. The chloroform
extracts are washed and collected together. The combined extracts are
evaporated to dryness, and the residue thus left is free from brucine and is
tested for strychnine.
Tests for Strychnine.—1. Colour Test—If a drop of strong sulphuric
acid is added to a small fragment of the dry brucine-free residue placed on
a white porcelain slab, no colour reaction occurs, but if a small particle of
potassium dichromate or manganese dioxide is drawn through the mixture
•with the aid of a glass rod, a play of colours .will .follow from blue to dark
violet to reddish-purple, red or orange and finally to yellow.
2. A bitter taste 'will be perceptible in a solution of 1 in 70,000 of water.
5. The Analyst, Jan. 1945, Vol. 70, pp. 8-10. '\