This section is from the book "Botanic Drugs Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics", by Thomas S. Blair. Also available from Amazon: Botanic Drugs, Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
Spurred Rye, the sclerotium of Claviceps purpurea. Universally official. Ergotoxine, the active principle, may produce gangrene and degenerative nerve-tissue changes, with impaired intelligence and contractures of the limbs. Ergot also contains amines, formed by the putrefaction of proteins by bacterial action. There is also a small amount of acetyl-choline.
Ergotoxine has an action of the curare type, but variously influences different animal species. In the human species ergot stimulates uterine contraction and may produce peripheral gangrene. Arterial and plain muscle are little influenced, if at all. There is also a toxic action, noted in the previous paragraph.
The amines - there are two of them - have an adrenalin action, but much weaker than adrenalin; they cause a rise of blood-pressure due to arterial constriction and cardio-acceleration. Plain muscle is stimulated by the amine existing in smallest amount; and it may induce anaphylactic shock similar to that produced by the injection of foreign protein in the form of decoctions of animal organs. This raises the interesting, but as yet unsolved, question of the effects upon the human organism of the injection of vegetable protein.
Ergot stimulates contraction of the uterine muscle, rendering it highly useful in post-partum hemorrhage. The drug is little used except in the third stage of labor, pituitrin being preferable in facilitating labor in uterine inertia. One must be careful not to induce hour-glass contraction and thus incarcerate the secundines. The technic of ergot employment is so fully presented in works on obstetrics that details may be omitted here.
In shock ergot does not serve so well as does strychnine, as it is too slow in action. There is no rational basis for its use in enuresis and chorea.
Hemorrhage, other than post-partum, is not well met with ergot; it causes no greater vasoconstriction at the bleeding point than elsewhere, and certainly it is not wise to raise blood-pressure in hemorrhage. Ergot has a theoretical value in the treatment of aneurism and to promote the absorption of effusions and slight blood-clots involving the brain cortex. Ergot formerly had some vogue in the treatment of recurring mania and other neural affections; but there is no definite data in support of these contentions.
As an abortifacient ergot has enjoyed a dubious and largely unmerited notoriety. Unless dangerous doses are given - doses large enough to poison the fetus and seriously endanger the woman - it seldom induces abortion. Its vogue in this direction is probably due to the fact that other agents are usually administered with it by those resorting to the desperate expedient of criminal abortion.
Fluidextract, average dose 30 minims; wine, 2 fluidrachms. The active principles are inferior to ergot itself. All ergot products should be assayed and physiologically standardized. Cornu-tol is adopted to hypodermic use in doses of 10 to 30 minims; twice as much by mouth. The product is standardized and dated. Ergotinine Citrate is given in doses of 1-200 to 1-100 grain hypoder-mically. Secacornin, a solution of the active principles, is given by intramuscular injection in doses of 8 to 15 minims. Ergotole is given in 5- to 20-minim doses, and may be used hypodermically. Many firms put ergot in ampules ready for hypodermic use. Ergone is preserved with chloretone and is used in doses of 10 to 60 minims. Ergot is practically inert externally applied.