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CERBERA  THEVETIA                                                      719

A man of Parner in Ahmednagar District committed suicide by taking the
juice of Kaner root (Nerium odorum) .2G

Nerium odorum is sometimes used as suicidal poison and rarely as a
homicidal poison, but it has caused death when administered as a love potion.
In his annual report for the year 1949, the Chemical Examiner, Madras, cites
a case in which a man offered some pills containing oleander to the barren
wives of a man saying that they were " prasadams " of a deity. The husband
and the two wives took them and suffered from poisonous symptoms. One
of the wives died and the other wife and the husband recovered. In his
annual report for the year 1951 the Chemical Examiner, Uttar Pradesh and
Madhya Pradesh, mentions a case in which a woman of Surguja District in
Madhya Pradesh suspecting her step-mother-in-law of having her two chil-
dren by witchcraft mixed Kaner paste with sharbat and administered it to
her step-mother-in-law while she was drinking liquor along with other
persons during a wedding. She felt burning sensation inside, vomited several
times and died two hours later. Kaner was detected in the portions of
viscera and other articles received for examination.

As a cattle poison the juice of the root is sometimes smeared on a rag,
which is then inserted into the anus of the animal intended to be killed.

Oleander was detected in the viscera of the female bodies which
were completely burnt externally at the cremating place in Midnapur and
Bhubneshwar (Puri) ,27


This is a plant belonging to N.O. Apocynaceae, and is widely cultivated
as an ornamental shrub in gardens in the plains in India. It has linear
lanceolate leaves, large, yellow bell-shaped flowers and a green, globular
fruit containing a single nut, light brown in colour and triangular in shape
with two cells, each enclosing a pale yellow seed. The plant is highly
poisonous and contains as active principles two glycosides, namely, thevetin
and cerberin. Both these glycosides reside in the milky juice which exudes
from all parts of the plant. Thevetin, C27H84Ot2j is sparingly soluble in
water, but dissolves readily in ether and choroform, and melts at 178C. It
is highly poisonous and, when injected into the dorsal lymph sac of a frog,
produces convulsions and death. The minimum fatal dose for a frog weigh-
ing about ten grammes is one-fiftieth of a milligramme. Ten milligrammes
injected into a dog weighing about three kilogrammes produces defecation,
vomiting with retching, frothy salivation, paresis of the hind limbs and ter-
minal spasms, and causes death in about ninety minutes. Cerberin,
CooHaaOu, is freely soluble in water and alcohol but insoluble in ether,
benzene or chloroform, and is also toxic, the lethal dose for a frog weighing
about ten grammes being about one-fortieth of a milligramme. Eight milli-
grammes injected into a dog weighing about three kilogrammes produces
frothing at the mouth, retching with vomiting and collapse, and causes death
within an hour. Its paralytic action is not so well marked as that of nerin
or thevetin.28

Ghatak29 isolated from the kernels of the seeds of yellow oleander, two
glycosides, thevetin and thevetoxin. The first glycoside was obtained in
snow-white, slender needles melting at 192 C, by recrystallization from

26.   Bombay Chemical Analyser's Annual Report, 1927, p. 5.

27.   Bengal Chemical Examiner's Annual Report, 1923.

28.   S. R. Naidu et al, Jour, and Proc. Irist Chem., Vol. XV, Dec. 1943, pp, 134-144.

29.   Bull. Aca,d. Science, U.P., 1932, II, No. 2.