This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Scammonium Pharm. Lond, & Edinb. Diagrydiunii Scammony: the concrete gummy-resinous juice of the roots of a species of convolvulus (convolvulus (scammonia) foliis fa-git tat is postice truncatis, pedunculis bifloris Linn.) distinguished by the leaves being shaped like an arrow-head and having two semicircular notches at the bottom on each side of the footstalk, the flowers being of a pale yellowish colour and standing two on one stem: it is a native of Syria, and has been lately found to bear the colds of our own climate. The scammony is extracted in Syria, by baring the upper part of the root in June, cutting off the top obliquely, and placing a shell or some other receptacle at the depending part to receive the milky juice, which on (landing concretes into solid masses.
The bed scammony is brought from Aleppo, in light spongy masses, easily friable, glossy, of different (hades of colour from a grey or yellowish white almost to black, when reduced to powder of a brownish white colour. An in-feriour sort comes from Smyrna, in compact hard ponderous pieces, full of sand and other impurities. Such should be chosen as crumbles the mod easily betwixt the fingers, grows in-stantly white on the contact of watery moisture, and leaves little or no feces on being dissolved. Its colour in the mass affords no criterion of its purity or goodness.
Scammony has a slight unpleasant smell, and a weak bitterish subacrid taste. It consists of about equal parts of refinous and gummy matter, and hence dissolves almost totally in a mixture of equal parts of rectified spirit and water, that is, in proof spirit. Rectified spirit takes up the refin, with some part of the gum: if the tincture be infpiffated a little, and then mixed with water, the gum continues dissolved, and the pure resin precipitates. By trituration with water, or by bare maceration, the scam-mony is resolved into a milky liquor verging to greenish; which on standing deposites some portion of the resin, but retains its milkiness.
This gummy-resin is one of the strong sti-mulating cathartics; more kindly in operation, and hence in more general use, than most of the other substances of that class: the dose is from two or three grains to twelve* Sundry ill qualities have been ascribed to it, which it is not found to possess: and fundry correctors have been devised, which it does not appear to want. In cold indolent ferous habits, scam-mony itself procures generally a plentiful evacuation with great ease and safety: in inflammatory cases, and the more irritable disposi-tions, it is indeed dangerous; but no other-wife to than the reft of the strong purgatives; and no otherwise than by virtue of that power on which its efficacy in the opposite circum-stances depends.
By the smallness of the dose of this medicine, its easy solubility, and its having little taste, it is fitted for being commodiously taken in almost any form. It is made in the shops into a powder, with the addition of an equal weight of hard extract: of jalap, and a fourth of its weight of ginger†; or with equal its weight of crystals of of tartar‡. It is likewise combined with aloes, and also with calomel, in different officinal powders. A scammoniate electuary is com-posed of one ounce of scammony, aromatifed with half an ounce of cloves, half an ounce of ginger, and a scruple of the essential oil of caraway-seeds made up with syrup of roses; of which composition, one dram and a half contain fifteen grains of the scammony§. Agreeable purging troches, for those who are not easily prevailed upon to take medicines of this kind in other forms, are prepared, by grinding together three drams of scammony, four drams of crystals of tartar, four drops of oil of cinnamon, and eight ounces of fine sugar, and moistening the mixture with so much rose-water as will render it of a due consistence for being formed: each cablet is made to weigh about a dram†, and consequently contains two grains and a half of scammony. One of the moil: elegant liquid preparations is a solution of the scammony in a strong infusion or decoction of liquorice, poured off from the feces, and aromatifed with some grateful distilled water or aromatic tincture; as those of cardamom-seeds.
Pulvis e scammonio comp. † Ph. Land. ‡ Ph. Ed.
Pulv. e scam-mon. cum aloe Ph.Lond. Pulv. e fcam-mon. cum calom. Ph, Lond.
§ Electar. e fcammonio Ph. Lond.
The dried root of the plant, as well as its juice, may perhaps deserve some notice. Dr. Ruffel, to whom the public is obliged for an accurate hi history of this drug, relates that a decoction of half an ounce of the root procured five stools, without gripes, fickness, or any manner of uneasfiness, and, on repeating the trial several times, had the same effect: and that the decoctions are entirely without smell, and in taste rather sweetish than disagreeable. Neither the stalks, leaves, flowers, or seeds, seemed to have any purgative virtue (a).