This section is from the book "Dental Medicine. A Manual Of Dental Materia Medica And Therapeutics", by Ferdinand J. S. Gorgas. Also available from Amazon: Dental Medicine.
Gelsemium is obtained from the root of the gelsemium sempervirens - yellow jasmine - woodbine, belonging to the natural order Apocynaceae, which grows plentifully in the southern United States. The root is of a brownish color externally, and a grayish color within, and is sold in small pieces, from one-half to two inches in length, and a quarter of an inch in thickness, being hard and slightly cracked longitudinally. It has a bitter taste, and an aromatic odor, somewhat like that of green tea.
Gelsemium has a depressing and sedative influence upon the nervous centres, and diminishes the force and frequency of the heart's action. It contains a very powerful alkaloid, gelsemia or gelsemina, which is colorless, odorless, with an intensely bitter taste.
Gelsemium, in moderate doses, causes a languid feeling, attended with mental calmness, slow action of the heart, drooping eyelids, dilatation of the pupil, and some feebleness of muscular movements. In larger doses it causes vertigo, double vision, amblyopia, paralysis of the muscle that elevates the upper eyelid, so that it cannot be raised, dilated pupil, labored respiration, on account of its effect upon the respiratory muscles, slow and feeble movement of the heart, great muscular weakness, and a reduced sensibility to pain and touch. Such effects occur about half an hour after the gelsemium is taken, and continue for two or three hours, when they disappear.
When poisonous doses are taken, all of the symptoms described above occur in a more intense degree, and there is first an unsteady gait, until all muscular power is lost, the-lower jaw drops, the muscles of the tongue are paralyzed, speech being impossible, the respirations are very labored, slight and irregular, and the action of the heart weak, feeble and intermittent, and generally the skin is covered with a profuse perspiration. Death occurs from asphyxia, but consciousness is preserved until near the end, which is generally calm, and not disturbed by convulsions.
Gelsemium is internally administered in tetanus, mania, convulsive or spasmodic cough, such as whooping-cough, pneumonia, remittent and typho-malarial fevers, ovarian and other forms of neuralgia, cerebro-spinal meningitis, pleuritis, etc., etc.
Of the fluid extract of gelsemium - Extractum Gelsemii Fluidum - the only officinal preparation, to Of the tincture of gelsemium - Tinctura Gelsemii - (gelsemium alcohol, Oj,) the dose is gtt. x to gtt. xx. The fluid extract is preferable for administration; but one fluidrachm of this has caused death. Dose of the alkaloid gelsemia, gr. 1/60 to gr. 1/20.
Gelsemium is greatly extolled as a remedy for neuralgia of the fifth nerve, often affording permanent relief, especially when the affection is associated with diseased teeth. The dose may be repeated at any time after an hour and a half, if the pain is not relieved; a third dose is seldom required. In neuralgia of the face or head, three-minim doses of the tincture of gelsemium every half hour, will often act very beneficially, and leave no ill effects. Owing to the toxic effects of this drug, care is necessary that the dose is a moderate one, and the symptoms carefully observed.
For Neuralgia from Devitalized Teeth.
Tinct. gelsemii .... gtt.x Tinct. aconiti . . . gtt.v
One teaspoonful every hour.
For Odontalgia, Internal Remedy. Dr. Dunoycer. Gelsemium .... I milligr. Aconitine(cryst.) . . 1/4 milligr. Valerianate of quinine 5 centigr. For one pill.
Give 1 to 3 pills to an adult in the 24 hours.
For Dentalgia. Tinct. gelsemii . . . Tinct. ferri perchlori . Syr. aurantii ....
For 1 dose. To be repeated thrice daily.