This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Colchicum: Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Colchicum autumnale Stoerck. & Linn. Colchicum commune C. B. Colchicum anglicum purpureum & album Ger. & Park. Meadow saffron: a plant with a fleshy bulbous root, producing from its lower part a smaller bulb: from this last arises, in autumn, along a furrow in the side of the old root, a slender hollow transparent pedicle, widening at top into a flower like those of the crocuses, divided into six segments, of a purplish or whitish colour, withering in two or three days: from the same root, next spring, come forth three or four upright leaves, like those of the lily; in the middle of which appear, on short pedicles, commonly three triangular pods, about the size of small walnuts, divided into three cells full of roundish dark-coloured seeds. It grows wild in rich moist meadow grounds in the southern and western parts of England. The roots, freed from the outer blackish coat and the fibres at bottom, are while fresh of a white colour, and full of a milky juice; in drying they become wrinkled, and of a blackish or dark reddish brown.
This is one of those plants, whole violent and singular effects in the bodies of animals-engaged the attention of Dr. Stoerck; in hopes that by giving it in very small doses, or by due preparation, it might be converted into a medicine not only safe, but capable of relieving disorders in which the common remedies prove ineffectual. He observes, that on cutting the fresh root into slices, the acrid particles emitted from it irritate the nostrils, fauces, and bread, and that the ends of the fingers with which it had been held become for a time benumbed: that applied for two minutes to the tip of the tongue, it rendered the part rigid and almost void of sensation for six hours: that less than a grain, wrapt up in crumb of bread and taken internally, produced alarming symptoms, a burning heat and pain in the stomach and bowels, strangury, tenesmus, third, total loss of appetite, etc. which were greatly relieved by an acidulous mixture with syrup of poppies, and which on the fourth day went entirely off: that an infusion of three grains of the root in four ounces of wine, slowly swallowed, occa-sioned a tickling in the larynx and short dry cough, soon after a heat in the urinary passages and a copious discharge of pale urine, without sensibly affecting the other functions of the body: that an ounce of the sliced juicy root being digested with a gentle heat in a pound of vinegar for forty-eight hours, and the bottle frequently shaken; the root became almost in-sipid, and the drained vinegar proved acrid in taste, irritated and constringed the fauces, and raised a short cough: that this vinegar, mixed with twice its quantity of honey, and gently boiled down to the consistence of honey (frequently stirring the mixture with a wooden spoon) proved a diffidently grateful oxymel, which taken in doses of a tea-spoonful, that is, a dram, promoted a copious discharge of urine, without inconvenience. After these experiments on himself, he made trial of this oxymel, in the hospital at Vienna, in desperate hydropic and other serous disorders, in which it was always found to act without disturbance, as a mod potent diuretic, after the common medicines employed in that intention had failed. He begins with giving a dram twice a day in any suitable vehicle, and gradually increases the dose to an ounce and sometimes an ounce and a half in a day: if this lad quantity should prove ineffectual, he thinks there are little hopes of any benefit from this medicine. * The Edinburgh college have received into their pharmacopoeia a syrup of colchicum, made with the: same infusion of the root in vinegar as above described, in which are dissolved twenty-six ounces of fine sugar.