Claviceps purpurea, (Fries) Tulasne. The dried sclerotium, developed on rye plants with not more than 5 p.c. seeds, fruits, or other foreign organic matter.

Habitat. Eastern countries, Russia; cultivated in Spain, Germany, France.

Syn. Ergot of Rye, Spurred Rye, Cockspur Rye, Smut of Rye, Mother of Rye, Hornseed, Secale Clavatum, Mater Secalis, Clavus Secalinus; Fr. Ergot de Seigle, Seigle Ergote' (noir), Ble' Cornu; Ger. Secale cornutum, Mutterkorn, Zapfen, Hunger-korn.

Er'go-ta. L. Fr. Fr. ergot, argot, a spur -- i.e., its spur shape.

Clav'i-ceps. L. Clava, a club -- i.e., shape of the mycelium or sclerotium.

Pur-pu're-a. L. Purpureus, purple colored -- i.e., the purple claviceps -- color of the sclerotium.

Scle-ro'ti-um. L. Fr. Gr.... Hard -- i.e., a hard body formed by certain fungi.


Rye: culm 1.5-2 M. (5-6 degrees) high; leaves .25-.5 M. (10-20') long, upper surface rough; spike 10-15 Cm. (4-6') long, 2-sided, 2-flowered spikelet, June; fruit July; seed (grain) oblong, grooved on upper side, hairy at summit, brownish. SCLEROTIUM (ergot), cylindraceous, obscurely 3-angled, fusiform, obtuse, somewhat curved, 1-4.5 Cm. (2/5-1 4/5') long, 3-5 Mm. (1/8-1/5') thick, purplish-black, longitudinally furrowed; fracture short, white, tinged with purple or gray; odor characteristic but free from mustiness of rancidity; taste oily, somewhat acrid, disagreeable.


grayish-brown -- purplish and whitish fragments of outer tissue and thin-walled cells. Tests: 1. Shake 1 Gm., for 5 minutes in a closed flask, with ether 20 cc. + 15 drops of 20 p.c. sulphuric acid, shake filtrate thoroughly with 15 drops of cold saturated sodium bicarbonate solution, the separated lower aqueous layer -- red or violet (pres. Of sclererythrin). 2. Hot water added to crushed or powdered -- no rancid or ammoniacal odor.

Ergot that breaks with a sharp snap, devoid of pinkish fracture, hard, brittle between the teeth, odorless and tasteless, should be rejected. Should be dried at a low temperature, and as it deteriorates with age should not be kept longer than one year. Solvent: diluted alcohol. Dose, gr. 15-60 (1-4 Gm.).


Rye is to Russia what corn is to America, its bread approximating nearer that of wheat than any other grain. The origin of the sclerotium is the biennial thallophyte (fungus) Claviceps purpurea, parasitic during moist seasons on the ovary of grains, grasses, sedges -- Carex, Cyperus species, etc., (that of rye alone being collected for medicine), -- the development having three stages: 1, Mycelial -- when blooming a few ovaries in some grain heads become covered with sweet, yellow mucus, honey-dew of rye, whose disagreeable odor repels bees, but attracts ants, beetles, and flies -- the once supposed cause of the diseased grain, but now known only to aid its dissemination and thereby the spreading of the disease; the filamentous cells (hyphae), collectively forming the mycelium, spread over the lower portion of the ovary and cause decomposition of ovarian tissue, production of honey-dew (sugar), and innumerable reproductive bodies (conidia) imbedded therein; 2, sclerotial -- when this conidial formation is at its height the mycelium ceases its superficial gowth, presses into the ovary and begine to form a denser tissue at its base and central portion, and, growing upward, horn-like body, sclerotium (official ergot) -- the dormant or resting form of the fungus; 3, thalloidic -- when in the following spring ergot sprouts in many heads (stromata), consuming its fixed oil and other constituents, and becoming shriveled and worthless; have formed upon the head's surface spherical-topped excrescences, size of small pin's head, containing the orifices of flask-shaped cavities (conceptacles, perithecia) from whose base many cells (spore-sacs, asci) arise, each containing 8 filiform spores formed synchronous with rye flowers, so that the two (spores, flowers) acting together develop again the sphacelia (sclerotium), hence the necessity of using fresh ergot in medicine, at the end of the second stage, prior to the beginning of the third.

Ergot must be dried (too much causing injury, too little moldiness) and stored (very dry, in well-stoppered bottles) with great care, as the fixed oil soon inclines to become rancid, and a mite ofttimes will attack it, in either case rendering the product worthless. This deterioration may be prevented largely by either (1) deoleation -- extracting fixed oil with ether or petroleum benzin, drying (2) adding occasionally a few drops of chloroform to the closed container, (3) suspending in the container a tube of potassium sulphate saturated with formaldehyde, (4) keeping over unslaked lime, (5) coating with ethereal solution of Tolu or (6) mixing powdered drug with benzoin (5 pc.); in any event only the preservation of the sclerotium (entire) can be relied upon. There are three varieties: 1, Spanish, largest, finest-looking, highest-priced, bluest; 2, Russian, reddish-purple, considered most active; 3, German, reddish-purple.


Alkaloids .38-.6 p.c.: Ergotoxine, Parahydroxyphenylethylamine (Tyramine), Histamine, Isoamylamine, Ergamine, Enzymes (2). Fixed oil 30 p.c., sclererythrin (coloring matter), scleromucin (mucilage); ergotininic acid, clavine, ergotinine, all three more or less inactive; ash 5 p.c. Such names as cornutine, sphacelotoxine, ergotinic acid, etc., only represent indefinite substances and should be abandoned.

Ergotoxins. -- This, the essential active constituent, produces the true therapeutic effect of ergot (bluing of the cock's comb, contracting uterus, etc.): it is amorphous, but forms crystalline salts, phosphate, sulphate, tartrate, suitable for hypodermic injection; its presence in the other constituents often contribute its marked properties; action may largely be due to the amino group, in which fresh ergot is richest -- just before rye is ripe.

Para-hydroxyphenylethylamine (Tyramine). -- This and other amines (ammonia from putrefaction) may stimulate the uterine muscular wall (nerve-endings) and raise blood pressure, while histamine stimulates uterine action, but lowers decidedly blood pressure, both serve chiefly as synergists to the action of ergotoxcine.

Enzymes. -- These (one diastasic, the other hydrolyzing fats) rapidly deteriorate and reduce the physiological activity of ergot that has been dried slowly and imperfectly, forming a rancid, fatty odor (tramethylamine); both enzymes lose hydrolytic power by prolonged keeping or complete drying of the ergot, hence the necessity of proper care in this process.

Fixed Oil. -- This is a dark brown liquid containing eleic acid 68 p.c., oxyoleic acid 22 p.c., palmitic acid 5 p.c., sp. gr. 0.925, and when removed by ether or petroleum benzin the ergot retains full alkaloidal strength which remains unimpaired for years if kept with care.


1. Fluidextractum Ergotae, Fluidextract of Ergot. (Syn., Fldext. Ergot., Fluid Extract of Ergot; Br. Extractum Ergotae Liquidum; F. Extrait fluide d'Ergot de Seigle; Ger. Extractum Secalis cornuti fluidum, Mutterkornfluidextrakt.)


Percolate 100 Gm., with sufficient purified petroleum benzin to remove fixed oil, discard benzin percolate; remove ergot from percolator, expose it to air, when dry moisten with sufficient 1st menstruum (diluted alcohol 98 cc. + hydrochloric acid 2) to keep damp while macerating 6 hours in a tightly covered container, pack in percolator, add remainder of 1st menstruum, then 2d menstruum (diluted alcohol) to saturate and cover; macerate 48 hours, percolate with 2d menstruum until exhausted; reserve first 85 cc., reclaim alcohol from remainder, concentrate residue at 60 degrees C. (140 degrees F.) to soft extract, which dissolve in the reserved portion, mix thoroughly, add 2d menstruum q.s. 100 cc. When administered by intramuscular injections to single-comb, white Leghorn cocks, in doses of .5 cc. for each Kg. Of body weight of cock--the comb becomes darkened in degree as by same dose of standard fluidextract; contains alcohol 37-42 p.c. Dose, mxv-60 (1-4 cc.).

2. Extractum Ergotae Aquorum, Ergotine, N.F. -- Ergot 200 Gm., chloroform water q.s. to exhaust, evaporate to 100 cc., cool, add alcohol 100, evaporate to pilular consistence. Dose, gr. 1-5 (.06-.3 Gm.) + water, hypodermically.

Unoff. Preps.: Emmenagogue, ecbolic, parturient, astringent, hemostatic, excitomotor, poisonous. Value depends upon (1) bluing (gangrene) of the cock's comb. (2) contracting the uterus, (3) raising the blood pressure: contracts all unstriped (involuntary) muscle, especially uterus and intestine, expelling their contents. Depresses heart muscle, hence slows pulse, contracts arterioles (hemostatic), thus increasing arterial pressure; diminishes sweat, saliva, milk, urine. In large doses gastro-intestinal irritant, causes nausea, vomiting, colic, thirst, purging, convulsions, "acute ergotism," or by many small doses may have "chronic ergotism:' this last may be in two forms: 1. Convulsive, causing tetanoid spasms of the flexors, respiratory muscles, death by asphyxia. 2. Gangrenous, causing cold, numb limbs, loss of sensibility, gangrene of lower extremities, buttocks, etc., epileptic convulsions, coma, death.


In labor to increase the power and duration of uterine contractions--tetanic spasm; these are continuous while natural labor-pains are intermittent, hence ergot is dangerous in thoughtless hands. Should never be used until after head is born, when it simply promotes firm uterine contraction; it is still wiser to withhold it until after birth, to prevent postpartum hemorrhage and aid uterine contraction (fluidextract 3j (4cc.) by mouth, or better, hypodermically. A small dose (one-third) often controls uterine inertia in labor, where nerve-stimulants (coffee, strychnine, etc.) fail; this does not bring on constant tetanic contraction, but simply the "to-and-fro" movements. Effect lasts half an hour, being felt in 15 minutes, and should be repeated every 15 minutes until action manifest. Used also in epistaxis, night-sweats, dysentery (bloody), diarrhea (serous), hemorrhoids (bleeding), chronic metritis, dysmenorrhea, menorrhagia, fibroids polypi, plethoric amenorrhea, atonic spermatorrhea, atonic arterial hemorrhage (males and females), spinal congestions, splenic enlargement, lax sphincters, incontinence of urine, aneurisms, diabetes. Externally to hemorrhoids.

For hypodermic injection -- employ "Ergot Aseptic," or "Ergone," or solid extract deprived of alcohol and dissolved in water -- introduce near seat of trouble; results here much better than by mouth; should have bladder and bowels freely open. The ergot formed on grasses is often sufficient to cause grazing animals to abort, and flour made of grain containing much of it will also sometimes act medicinally.


Have gastric disturbance, vomiting, diarrhea, thirst, burning pain in feet, tingling in fingers, cramps in extremities, dilated pupils, cold surface, dizziness, small and feeble pulse, convulsions. Evacuate stomach (pump, emetics, purgatives), use tannic acid, stimulants, amyl nitrite (inhallation), strychnine, digitalis, friction, hot baths.


Cardiac and motor depressants (aconite, veratrum, lobelia, etc.), caustic alkalies, metallic salts.


Digitalis, belladonna (circulation), strychnine (nerves), ustilago, cotton root bark, hydrastine, emmenagogues.