1. Colchici Cormus. Colchicum Corm.
2. Colchici Semen. Colchicum Seed.
1. The dried corm, containing .35 p. c. of colchicine.
2. The dried seeds, containing .45 p. c. of colchicine.
Habitat. C. and S. Europe, N. Africa (England, Greece, Turkey, Switzerland); moist pastures and meadows.
Syn. Colch. Corm., Colchicum Root, Colch. Sem., Meadow Saffron, Naked Ladies, Autumn-, Fog-, Meadow-, Michaelmas-, or Purple-Crocus, Upstart, Bulbus (Tuber) Colchici; Colchici Radix; Colchici Semina; Fr. Colchique, Safran batard, Bulbe de Colchique - de Safran batard, Semences de Colchique; Ger. Semen Colchici, Zeitlosensamen, Herbstzeitlose, Wiesensafran, Zeitlosenknollen.
Col'chi-cum. L. fr. Gr.
Colchis. An ancient province in Asia Minor, east of Black Sea, where this poisonous plant flourished; also the home of Media, the sorceress and poisoner of ancient legend.
Au-tum-na'le. - L. au(c)tumnalis, belonging or peculiar to autumn - i. e., the plant blooms Sept.-Oct., covering meadows with saffron-colored flowers resembling a carpet.
Plant. - Bulbous perennial, several inches high; leaves radical, 3-5, sheathing 15-30 Cm. (6-12') long, 2.5-5 Cm. (1-20 wide, erect, entire, strap-shaped, smooth, shiny dark green; flowers 2-6, large, lilac-purple, resembling croeus except anthers extrorse; corolla-tube 12.5-15 Cm. (5-6') long, two-thirds being underground; fruit of 3 inflated follicles, united at base, 4 Cm. (1 3/5') long, brown, papery, dehiscent; seeds numerous. Corm, ovoid, convex on one side, flattish with a groove on the other, 25 Mm. (1') long, 18 Mm. (JO thick; epidermis thin, brownish, wrinkled; internally whitish, solid; usually in reniform, transverse or ovate longitudinal slices, 2-5 Mm. (1/12-1/5') thick; flat surfaces whitish, slightly roughened, crystalline under hand lens; fracture short, mealy; odor slight; taste bitter, acrid. Powder, grayish-brown; microscopically - numerous starch grains, .003-.03 Mm. (1/8300-1/830') broad, few tracheae and fragments of epidermal cells. SEEDS, ovoid, irregularly globular, pointed at hilum, 2-3 Mm. (1/12-1/8') broad, when fresh several seeds cohering, dark brown, finely pitted, tough, of almost bony hardness (by which they are distinguished readily from other seeds of similar appearance); internally whitish, mostly endo-sperm; nearly inodorous; taste bitter, acrid. Powder, light brown; microscopically - oil globules, aleurone grains, starch grains, .005-.016 Mm. (1/5000 1/1550') broad. Solvents: diluted alcohol; vinegar; wine. Dose, Corm, gr. 2-8 (.13-5 Gm.); Seeds, gr. 1-5 (.06-3 Gm.).
Commercial. - Plant resembles our garden tulip, requiring 2 years for the cycle of complete development, but all parts have medicinal properties. Planting the bulb in the spring, by autumn a new cormus is formed on the lateral inferior portion, being still embraced half around by the parent whose place it is destined to take, sending roots downward and a spathe upward from which flowers emerge, Sept.-Oct., but as yet no leaves; the lower corolla-tube, underground, whitish, perishes by Nov., while the fruit rudiment (ovary) remains under-ground until the following spring, when it rises on the stem in the shape of a 3-lobed, 3-celled capsule, bringing with it the first leaves. The
Fig. 45. - Colchicum aulumnale: 1, closed capsule; 2, open capsule; 3, styles; 4, cross-section of capsule; 5, seed.
Fig. 46. - Colchicum corm (tuber): front and rear view; also transverse section.
corm is most active when a year old, and should be collected June-August of the second year, after seeds are ripe and just before the sprouting forth of fall flowers from newly forming cormus; it is then most developed and least exhausted from the formation of new bud and soon to be evolved corm, provided it be left in the ground. It now is dug, washed, sliced, and dried by sun or fire (65° C; 150° F.), and resembles the tulip bulb, although without concentric scales; loses upon drying 70 p. c. The seeds are the most concentrated portion of the plant and should be collected when fully ripe, July-Aug.; their horny albumen renders powdering difficult, which is accomplished best in a mill with hardened plates; if pestle and mortar used, seeds must be absolutely dry or be macerated in their menstruum to soften, so as to mash easily. Unless very fine, cold solvents extract only one-third of the colchicine, but hot solvents exhaust irrespective of fineness. England and Germany furnish our supply, the quality usually being determined simply by the degree of bitterness.
Constituents. - Colchicine .5 p. c. (Colchi-ceine), Colchicoresin, Beta-colchicoresin, starch, sugar, fixed oil (seeds - 5-6 p. c.), gum, ash 2.6-8 p. c.
Colchicina, Colchicine, C22H25NO6, official. (Syn., Fr. Colchicine; Ger. Colchicin.) - This alkaloid is prepared by exhausting seeds with hot alcohol, recovering latter, adding water (to remove resin, fat, wax), shaking from brown filtrate with 4 portions chloroform, mixing these, distilling, dissolving residue in water, shaking with chloroform, evaporating last solution, thereby getting crude colchicine-chloroform; dissolve in alcohol, evaporate, treat with warm ether, crystallize, heat crystals with water, evaporate. It is in pale yellow, amorphous scales or powder, darker on exposure; odorless or nearly so; bitter taste; soluble in water (22), hot water (21), ether (220), benzene (100), alcohol, chloroform, insoluble in petroleum benzin; aqueous solution neutral, laevorotatory, yellowish, intensified by mineral acids; melts at 144° C. (291° F.). Tests: 1. Stir .001 Gm. with a few drops of sulphuric acid - lemon-yellow, changed by a drop of nitric acid to greenish-blue, red, yellow. 2. Aqueous solution (1 in 100) 5 Ml. (Cc.) + 2 drops of ferric chloride T. S. - no color (abs. of colchiceine); heat - brownish-red, then brownish-black. 3. Alcoholic solution (1 in 20) 1 Ml. (Cc.), + a drop of ferric chloride T. S. - garnet-red; incinerate .1 Gm. - ash non-weighable. 4. Heat .01 Gm. + potassium hydroxide T. S. 2 Ml. (Cc.) + a drop of aniline - no odor of phenyl-isocyanide (abs. of chloroform). This alkaloid and its salicylate are the best forms for use. Should be kept dark, in well-closed containers, and great caution must be used in tasting, and then only in very dilute solutions. Dose, gr. 1/160-1/120 (.0004-.0005 Gm.). Colchiceine, C21H23NO6+1/2H2O. - Not in drug, but produced as a result of hydrolysis in percolating with acid menstrua; readily converted into colchicine by etherification with methyl alcohol and hydrochloric acid, or with methyl iodide + sodium hydroxide in methyl alcohol; with mineral acids splits into acetic acid, methyl alcohol, and apocolchicine; it occurs in white crystals, non-toxic, inodorous, soluble in alcohol,
Fig. 47. - Colchicum seed: a, natural size; b, section magnified.
chloroform, hot water, also in alkalies and their carbonates giving yellow solutions.