DIGITALIS PURPUBEA 713
Post-mortem Appearances.—Not characteristic. There may be signs of asphyxia and
cedema of the lungs.
Chemical Analysis.—Pilocarpine is extracted with chloroform from the alkaline
solution and evaporated.
Tests.—1. A small crystal of potassium bichromate is placed in a test tube con-
taining 1 to 2 cc. of chloroform. One cubic centimetre of a 3 per cent solution of hydro-
gen peroxide and a fragment of the extracted residue are added, and the mixture is
shaken vigorously for a few minutes. The aqueous upper layer becomes dark-purple in
colour and the lower chloroform layer develops a dark-blue colour.
2. A drop of the residue dissolved in dilute hydrochloric acid placed in the eye
of a cat causes contraction of the pupil.
Medico-Legal Points.—Accidental poisoning may occur from the eating of pilocarpus
or jaborandi leaves or from an overdose of a pilocarpine preparation used in medicine.
Owing to its depressant action on the heart it must be used with care in cardiac diseases.
Areca or Betel Nut (Supcvri).—This is the nut or fruit of Areca catechu or betel nut
palm, N.O. Palmacese, which is cultivated in Southern India and Malaya. The nut is
used as a masticatory by the people of India and Eastern Asia. It is cut into slices and
is chewed alone or is taken with betel leaves, lime and catechu with or without tobacco.
The nut is also used as an anthelmintic and as an astringent.
The betel nut contains several alkaloids, the chief of which is arecoline, an oily
liquid, which is soluble in water and most of the organic solvents, and boils at 220 °C.
It is highly poisonous and resembles pilocarpine in action.
Acute poisoning may be caused by chewing unripe betel nuts, the chief symptoms
being flushing of the face, profuse perspiration, bronchial spasm, contraction of the pupils,
thirst, colicky pain in the abdomen, diarrhoea, tetanic spasms, difficult breathing, slow
pulse and collapse.
Some individuals are very sensitive to betel nuts, and develop poisonous symptoms
soon after taking even a small fragment of a betel nut. In his annual report for the
year 1938, the Chemical Examiner, Bengal, describes the case of a woman, aged about
30 years, who, soon after taking a pau (betel leaf) prepared with lime, catechu, tobacco,
and betel nut, felt giddiness and nausea, perspired profusely and died from collapse in
half-an-hour. At the post-mortem examination the mucous membrane of the stomach and
the brain and its membranes were found congested.
Chemical Tests.—1. Ten milligrammes of arecoline are mixed with hydrogen pero-
xide and hydrochloric acid and evaporated to dryness on a waterbath. The residue is
dissolved in 1 cc. of water, and the solution on the addition of some resorcinol and a few
drops of strong sulphuric acid assumes a reddish-blue violet colour, which changes to
red after some time. If ammonia is added in excess, the colour regains its original blue-
violet colour, which appears lemon-yellow under quartz light.
2. A drop of mercuric chloride solution added to a drop of a neutral solution of
arecoline forms mostly octahedral crystals.
DIGITALIS PURPUREA (DIGITALIS OR FOXGLOVE) &
This is a poisonous plant belonging to N.O. Scrophulariaceae, and grow-
"Ing wild in the hedges in the South of England. It is now cultivated in India
and many other parts of the world.
The root, leaves and seeds of digitalis contain as active principles
several glycosides, of which digitoxin, digitalin, digitalien, and digitonin are
the most poisonous.
The pharmacopceial preparations of digitalis are as follows: —
1. Digitalis Proeparata (Digitalis Pulverata, Prepared digitalis or Powdered digi-
talis) .—Dose, i to 1J grains.
2. TabelloB Digitalis Proeparatoe (Digitalis Tablets).—Each tablet must contain one
graia of prepared digitalis, if the quantity to be contained in a tablet is not stated.
3. Tinctura Digitalis.—Dose, 5 to 15 minims,
The non-official preparations of digitalis are—
1. Digitoxinum (B.P.C.).—A mixture of digitoxin and gitoxin, occurring in minute,
white crystals with an intensely bitter taste. Dose, 1/600 to 1/60 grain.
Nativelle's digitalin granules consist mostly of digitoxin, the dose being 1/600 to 1/240
2. Digitalinum (B.P.C.).—An odourless, yellowish-white powder with an intensely
bitter taste and containing digitalinum verum and other water-soluble glycosides from