Strychnos Nux-vomica,


The dried, ripe seeds, containing 2.5 p. c. of alkaloids.

Habitat. India, Hindustan, E. India islands, Malabar, Ceylon, Java, N. Australia.

Syn. Nux. Vom., Dog (Quaker, Bachelor's) Buttons, Vomit (Poison) Nut, Dog Poison, Crow-fig, Ratsbane, False Angustura, Columbrina, Ordeal-root, Nux Metella, Semen Nuces Vomicae; Fr. Noix vomique; Ger. Semen Strychni, Brech-nuss, Krahenaugen.

Strych'nos. L. fr. Gr.

Nux Vomica Nux Vomica 639

night shade, equivalent to L. solarium, used anciently for several poisonous plants, but not for the present one.

Nux' Vom'i-ca. L. nux, a nut, + vomere, to vomit - i. e., excessive doses may vomit, or require vomiting to save life, small doses may allay it.

Plant. - Small tree, 4.5-9 M. (15-30°) high, trunk short, thick, crooked, branches irregular, bark yellowish-gray, nearly smooth; leaves exstipulate, 5-10 Cm. (2-4') long, roundish, oval, 3-5-nerved, apex acute, entire, shining; flowers in winter, whitish, funnel-shaped, 8 Mm. (1/3') long, paniculate cymes; fruit shining, globular, 4-5 Cm. (1 3/5 - 2') thick, rind thin tough, orange-yellow when ripe, filled with poisonous white gelatinous pulp in which 1-5 seeds are immersed irregularly. Seeds, orbicular, nearly flat, occasionally irregularly bent, 10-30 Mm. (2/5-1 1/5') broad, 4-5 Mm. (1/6-1/5') thick/very hard when dry; grayish, greenish-gray, covered with appressed hairs giving a silky lustre; hilum - a circular scar at the centre of one of the flattened sides and connected with micropyle at the edge by a ridge; internally showing a thin, hairy seed-coat and large grayish-white endosperm, at one end of which is embedded a small embryo with 2 ovate 5-7-nerved cotyledons; inodorous; taste intensely, persistently bitter. Powder, light gray; microscopically - chiefly thick-walled endosperm cells containing fixed oil globules, few aleurone grains, lignified non-glandular hairs with walls having large pores, few spherical starch grains in tissues of adhering pulp. Solvents: alcohol (75 p. c.); boiling water partially. Dose, gr. 1/2-5 (.03-3 Gm.).

Fig. 310.   Strychnos Nux vomica: a, flowering branch (1/4 natural size); b, cross section of fruit; c, corolla; also anther, pollen, pistil, ovary, seed, enlarged.

Fig. 310. - Strychnos Nux-vomica: a, flowering branch (1/4 natural size); b, cross-section of fruit; c, corolla; also anther, pollen, pistil, ovary, seed, enlarged.

Adulterations. - Seeds: Rare - as nothing resembles them closely; Powder: Common - various inert substances (increasing amount of hairs) and olive stones, often 50 p. c. Rasped: "Vegetable ivory" (coroso, negrito), seeds of Phytel'ephas macrocar'pa (Australia, used natively for making buttons) and of Metrox'ylon vitie'se (so-called Australian "coroso," Fiji Islands, imported into Hamburg for the purpose; odorless, tasteless, bony, revealing decided structural differences under the microscope).

Commercial. - Plant resembles our dogwood and its fruit a small orange. Seeds are washed free of pulp and dried in the sun, the best being recognized by light color, ample breadth, thin edge, excessive silkiness, and prominent hilum; they may readily be powdered by breaking into small pieces and drying several days with hot air or carefully applied direct heat; powder should be uniform so as not to retard or prevent thorough exhaustion by menstruum. There are four varieties valued in the order named: 1, Bombay; 2, Cochin (Calcutta); 3, Ceylon; 4, Madras.

Constituents. - Alkaloids 2.5-4-5.3 p. c: Strychnine .25-2 p. c, Brucine .5-2 p. c, Igasurine (probably impure brucine), all combined with igasuric (strychnic, tannic, caffeo-tannic) acid; Loganin, fixed oil, proteids 11 p. c, yellow coloring matter, gum, sugar 6 p. c, ash 1-3.5 p. c. Dunstan and Short found total alkaloids to vary from 2.74 p. c. in small Madras to 3.9 p. c. in large, silky Bombay seeds, of which 30-50 p. c. was strychnine.

Strychnina, Strychnine, C21H22N2O2, official. - (Syn., Strych., Strychnia; Fr. Strychnine; Ger. Strychninum, Strychnin.) This alkaloid is found not only in nux vomica, but also in other loganiaceous plants (seeds); it was discovered by Pelletier, 1818, and may be obtained by boiling powdered seeds with acidulated (HC1 or H2SO4) water, thus liberating tannic (igasuric) acid, mucilage, coloring matter, etc., and forming chlorides or sulphates of the alkaloids; concentrate and add milk of lime to decompose alkaloidal salts (forming CaCl2 or CaSO4) and to precipitate strychnine and brucine; wash precipitate, treat it with diluted alcohol to dissolve brucine, or with alcohol or benzene to take out strychnine, thus leaving brucine in the mother-liquor. If diluted alcohol be used for brucine, then by boiling residue with alcohol strychnine is obtained; can purify with animal charcoal and reprecipitate with ammonia. It is in colorless, transparent, prismatic crystals, white crystalline powder, odorless (must use great caution in tasting, and then only in very dilute solutions, which are exceedingly bitter - 1 in 700,000), permanent, soluble in water (6420), boiling water (3100), alcohol (136), boiling alcohol (34), chloroform (5), benzene (180), very slightly in ether; saturated solutions alkaline, laevorotatory; forms numerous salts (hydrochloride, nitrate, phosphate, sulphate, etc.). Tests: 1. With sulphuric acid containing 1 p. c. of ammonium vanadate - deep violet-blue, changing to deep purple, cherry-red; incinerate 1 Gm. - ash .1 p. c. 2. Solution of .1 Gm. in sulphuric acid 2 Ml. (Cc.) - only pale yellow (abs. of readily carbonizable organic substances) until a fragment of potassium dichromate is added - deep blue color, changing to deep violet, purplish-red, cherry-red, orange, yellow. Impurities: Brucine, readily carbonizable organic substances; commercial strychnine contains some homo-strychnine, C22H24N2O2. Should be kept in well-closed containers. Dose, gr. 1/60-1/20" (.001-.003 Gm.).