This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Scilla Pharm. Lond. & Edinb. Scilla fa-dice alba, & Scilia vulgaris radice rubra C. B, Ornitbogalum maritimum Tourn. Scilla maritima Linn. Squill or Sea-onion: a plant with a large bulbous onion-like root; from which rise, first a naked stalk bearing several hexapetalous white flowers, and afterwards large green lilylike leaves with a remarkable rib in the middle of each. It grows spontaneously on sandy shores in Spain and in the levant, from whence we are annually supplied with the roots. They should be chosen large, plump, fresh, and full of a clammy juice: some are of a reddish colour, and others white, but no difference is observed in the qualities of the two sorts, and hence the college allows both to be taken promiscuously.
, (a) Medical observations and inquiries, by a society of phy-/taans in London.
† Morfuli purgantes Ph. Brandcn-burgh.
This root is to the taste very nauseous, intensely bitter, and acrimonious: much handled, it exulcerates the skin. Taken internally, it acts as a powerful attenuant and aperient: in doses of a few grains it promotes expectoration and urine: in somewhat larger ones, it proves emetic and sometimes purgative. It is one of the most certain diuretics in hydropic cases, and expectorants in asthmatic ones, where the lungs or stomach are oppressed by tenacious phlegm, or injured by the imprudent use of opiates.
This medicine, on account of its ungrateful taste, is most commodiously taken in the form of pills; into which the dried root may be reduced, by beating it with thrice its weight each of ammoniacum and lesser cardamom-seeds in powder, and extract of liquorice, and a sufficient quantity of simple syrup † or one dram of dried squills may be mixed with three drams each of powdered ginger and soap, and two drams of ammoniacum, making up the mass with syrup of ginger‡. In whatever form squills are given, unless when designed to act as an emetic, the addition of some grateful aromatic material is of use, to prevent the nausea which of themselves they are very apt, even in small doses, to occasion.
Pil. fcillicae Ph. Ed. †
Pil. e fcilla Ph. Lond. ‡
The fresh root loses in drying about four fifths of its weight, without any considerable loss of its taste or virtue; the vapour which exhales appearing to be little other than merely aqueous. Hence four grains, which are the mean dose of the dry root in powder, are equivalent to near a scruple of the fresh squill. The most convenient way of drying it is, after peeling off the outer skin, to cut the roots trans-verfely into thin slices (not to separate the coats, as has been usually directed) and expose them to a gentle warmth.
The ancients, in order to abate the acrimony of the squill for certain purposes, inclosed it (after separating the skin, and the fibres at the bottom with the hard part from which they issue) in a paste made of flour and water, and then baked it in an oven, till the paste became dry, and the squill soft and tender throughout. The squill,so prepared, was beaten with two-thirds its weight of flour, the mixture formed into troches, and dried with a gentle heat. These troches were supposed to be alexipharmac, and in this light were made an ingredient in the-riaca. The virtues of the fresh squill may be preserved by beating it with sugar into a con-serve, in the proportion of one ounce of the squill to five ounces of fine sugar.
Water, wine, proof spirit, and rectified spirit, extract: the virtues both of the fresh and the dry root. The London college have directed a tincture in which two ounces of fresh dried squills are digested for eight days in a pint of proof spirit. Nothing rises in distillation with any of these menstrua, the entire bitterness and pungency of the squill remaining concentrated in the infpiffated extracts: the spirituous extract is in smaller quantity than the watery, and of a proportionably stronger almost fiery taste.
Scilia exfic-cata Ph. Lond. & Ed,
Troch. e scilla.
Conf. fcillae Ph. Lond.
Tinct. fcillae Ph. Lond.
Alkalies considerably abate both the bitterness and acrimony of the squill: vegetable acids make little alteration in either, though the admixture of the acid taste renders that of the squill more supportable. These acids extract its virtue equally with watery or spirituous menstrua; and, as an expectorant in disor-ders of the breast, excellently coincide with it. The college of London directs an acetous tincture to be prepared, by macerating a pound of the dry roots in six pints of vinegar, with a gentle heat: to the liquor pressed out, and after fettling poured off from the feces, one twelfth its quantity of proof spirit is added, to prevent its growing soon foul. The college of Edinburgh for the same preparation directs the proportions of two ounces of dried squills, two pounds and a half of distilled vinegar, and three ounces of rectified spirit. A scillitic oxymel is obtained by boiling a quart of the acetous tincture with three pounds of clarified honey, till the mixture acquires the consistence of a syrup: and a syrup of squills, by dissolving three pounds and a half of fine sugar in two pounds of the vinegar. These preparations are used, as expectorants, in doses of one, two, or three drams, along with cinnamon or some other grateful water: where the first passages are overloaded with viscid phlegm, an ounce or more is given at once, to procure a more speedy and effectual evacuation by vomit.