Elaterinum. Elaterin, CHO, U.S.P.

Ecballium Elaterium, (Linne') A. Richard. A substance obtained from the juice of the fruit.

Habitat. W. Asia, N. Africa, S. Europe -- Mediterranean Basin, dry waste places; cultivated.

Syn. Squirting or Wild Cucumber, Wild Balsam Apple; Fr. Concombre sauvage, Elaterine, Elatine; Ger. Eselsgurke, Springgurke, Elaterin.

Ec-bal'li-um. L. fr. Gr. ek, out, + ... , to throw -- i.e., the fruit expelling its contents when fully ripe.

El-a-te'ri-um. L. fr. Gr...., driving out, , purging -- i.e., its medicinal property. El-a-te- ri'num, Elat'er-in -- both simply derivative names.

Plant

Common perennial, squash-like vine; stem trailing, tendril-bearing, succulent, bristly, .6-1.3 M. (2-4 degrees) long; leaves cordate, 7.5-12.5 Cm. (3-5') long, lobed, hispid, pale green; flowers monoecious, yellow; fruit 5 Cm. (2') long, 2.5 Cm. (1') broad, oblong, pale yellowish-green, beset with fleshy prickles, 3-celled, containing bitter, watery, mucilaginous juice in which are many light brown seed.

Constituents

Elaterin 44 p.c., green resin 17 p.c., starch 6 p.c.; prophetin, ecballin (elateric acid), hydroelaterin, elaterid.

Elaterinum. Elaterin. -- Obtained by exhausting elaterium (a substance deposited by the juice of the fruit) with hot alcohol and precipitating with water, or treating with hot chloroform and precipitating with ether, washing with ether and recrystallizing from alcohol or chloroform. It is in minute, white, hexagonal scales, prismatic crystals; odorless; slightly acrid, bitter taste, permanent, soluble in alcohol (325), boiling alcohol (100), chloroform (15.5), ether 450, benzene (310); insoluble in water; alcoholic solution neutral. Tests: 1. Solution of .01 Gm. in 5 cc. of melted phenol, + a few drops of sulphuric acid -- crimson, rapidly changing to scarlet; incinerate -- ash negligible. 2. Shake .1 Gm. With distilled water 9 cc. + diluted hydrochloric acid 1 cc.; to separate portions of filtrate add .5 cc. mercuric potassium iodide T.S., or iodine T.S.--no turbidity (abs. of alkaloids). Impurities: Alkaloids, readily carbonizable substances. Dose, gr. 1/20-1/10 (.003-.006 Gm.).

Adulterations

Elaterium

Starch, calcium carbonate, various minerals colored green. Owing to this adulteration and the irregular treatment in collecting and curing, it becomes a very uncertain product, hence the official Elaterin is much to be preferred, which as a rule is pure.

Commercial

Fruit when ripe is yellow and falls to the ground from its attachment, and at the instant of separation the entire contents are expelled violently (hence called squirting cucumber), through the socket or peduncle orifice -- due to osmosis from pericarp to central pulp, causing engorgement, therefore tension and rupture at weakest point. Elaterium should be prepared from the fruit collected with the stalk, just before ripe, cutting fruit lengthwise, lightly pressing (best without pressure), straining, the juice, setting aside to deposit, and putting this (sediment) on porous tiles to dry by gentle heat, avoiding exposure to the sun. Forty cucumbers without pressure yield 6 gr. (.4 Gm.), and 40 pounds (18 Kg.) yield only 240 gr. (15.5 Gm.). Elaterium occurs in grayish fragments or scales, odor tea-like, taste bitter, acrid; should not effervesce with hydrochloric acid. Dr. Clutterbuck's is considered best.

Preparations

(Unoff.) ELATERIN: Trituration, 10 p.c., gr. 1/2-3/4 (.03-.05 Gm.). Pulvis Elaterini Compositus, 2.5 p.c., gr. 1-4 (.06-.26 Gm.). ELATERIUM, dose, gr. 1/8-1/4 (.008-.016 Gm.). Solution of Elaterium, 1/4 p.c., in alcohol + p.c. nitric acid, dose, mxxx (2cc.).

Properties

Hydragogue cathartic (most powerful known), producing profuse watery evacuations with griping and much prostration; large doses nauseate, vomit, inflame stomach and bowels, increase flow of urine, and may kill. Does not vomit nor purge dogs, rabbits, but kills them by convulsions. Those working in it often have ulcerated fingers, eyes, etc.

Uses

The fruit was employed by the ancients, being recommended by Dioscorides in mania, melancholia. Sydenham used it in dropsy, but it fell into disfavor through its severity, until brought forward again by Dr. Ferriar. Useful in dropsy, Bright's disease with dropsy (as it is believed to eliminate more urea through the bowels than any other cathartic), brain and lung congestion, uremia, but never in heart disease.

Poisoning.: Same as for aloe, etc. Evacuate stomach, give demulcents, opium, stimulants.