gout corms seeds bulb
COLCHICUM, the Meadow Saffron, or Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale), is a perennial plant of the natural order Melanthacece or Colchicacece, found wild in rich moist meadow-land in England and Ireland, in Middle and Southern Europe, and in the Swiss Alps. It has pale-purple flowers, rarely more than three in number ; the perianth is funnel-shaped, and produced inferiorly into a long slender tube, in the upper part of which the six stamens are inserted. The ovary is three-celled, and lies at the bottom of this tube. The leaves are three or four in number, flat, lanceolate, erect, and sheathing ; and there is no stem. Propagation is by the formation of corms from the parent bulb, and by seeds, The latter are numerous, round, reddish-brown, and of the size of black mustard-seeds. The bulb of the meadow-saffron attains its full size in June or early in July. A smaller bulb is then formed from the old one, close to its root ; and this in September and October produces the crocus-like flowers. In the succeeding January or February it sends up its leaves, together with the ovary, which perfects its seeds during the summer. The young corm, at first about the diameter of the flower-stalk, grows continuously, till in the following July it attains the size of a small apricot. The parent bulb remains attached to the new one, and keeps its form and size till April in the third year of its existence, after which it decays. In some cases a single corm produces several new plants during its second spring by giving rise to immature corms.
Colchicum owes its medicinal properties to an alkaloid, named colchicine, which is present in all parts of the plant. It was discovered by Pelletier and Caventon, and was identified as distinct from veratrine by Geiger and Hesse in 1833. According to Oberlin, colchicine is a complex body, containing a crystallizable neutral substance, colchiceine. Htibler assigns to colchicine the formula C171119 NO5 , and considers it to be isomeric with colchiceine (Arch. der Pharnt., torn. cxi. 194; Aura. de Pharm. et de Min., torn. ii. 490, 4th ser). It is an intensely bitter body, soluble in alcohol and water, but insoluble in ether, and is a powerful poison, small quantities causing violent vomiting and purging ; tannin, which precipitates it from solution, has been recommended as an antidote for it. Colchicine is present in smaller quantity in the seeds than in the bulbs ; and in the latter, according to Stolze, it is more abundant in spring than in autumn ; Shroff, however, states that the corms for medicinal use should be collected after or during the time of flowering. The preparations of colchicum employed as medicine are the extract, made by macerating dried shreds of the bulbs in sherry or acetic acid, the expressed juice of the bulbs, purified and concentrated by heating, straining, and evaporation at a temperature below 160° Fahr., and an alcoholic tincture of the seeds. Whether swallowed or injected into the veins colchicum acts as an irritant of the stomach and intestines and a nervine sedative ; small doses stimulate the secreting and excreting functions, but when continued they impair the appetite, and much disturb the stomach. Large quantities produce vomiting, profuse perspiration, heat in the abdomen, considerable reduction of the rate of the pulse, and dysenteric symptoms, and may cause death from exhaustion.
Colchicum was known to the Greeks under the name of Koxxntov, from KoAxis, or Colchis, a country in which the plant grew ; and it is described by Dioscorides as a poison. In the 17th century the corms were worn by some of the German peasantry as a charm against the plague. The drug was little used till 1763, when Baron Storck of \ ienua introduced it for the treatment of dropsy. In febrile diseases it was first extensively employed by Mr Haden. As a specific for gout colchicum was early employed by the Arabs ; and the preparation known as can medicinale, much resorted to in the last century for the cure of gout, owes its therapeutic virtues to colchicum ; but general attention was first directed by Sir Everard Home to the use of the drug in gout. Full doses are apt to provoke sickness and diarrhoea, but give immediate relief from the sufferings caused by arthritic disease; whereas small quantities are not effectual for several days. According to Dr A. B, Garrod, the beneficial effects of colchicum are not explicable either by its purgative properties, or by its sedative influence on the vascular system ; nor is there evidence that it produces any of its effects by causing an increase in the elimination of urea and uric acid by the kidneys. Dr Graves considers that colchicum operates in gout by lessening the formation of uric acid in the system.
Colchicum may often be employed in acute rheumatism, in the treatment of bronchitis, asthma, eruptions of the skin, and of dyspepsia in gouty patients ; also as a cholagogue instead of /perennials. The "liermodactyl" of ancient writers is supposed to be the same as the modern drug of that name, which consists of the corms of a species of colchicum.
See Christison, Treatise on Poisons, 4th ed., pp. 381-6 (1845); FltIckiger and Ilanbury, Pharmacographia, p. 636 (1874); Garrod, Gout and Rheumatic Gout, 3d ed. chap. al. (1876); English Botany, ed. J. T. Boswell Syme, 3d ed., vol. Ix. p. 225 (1869); Balfour, Class Book of Botany, 3d ed., p. 931 (1871). On Colchlelne, see Watts's Chemical Dictionary, voL i.; Wurtz, Dictionnaire de Chimie, t.