This section is from the book "Materia Medica And Therapeutics: An Introduction to the National Treatment of Disease", by John Mitchell Bruce. Also available from Amazon: The pharmacology and therapeutics of the materia medica.
Cascarillae Cortex-Cascarilla Bark.-The bark of Croton Eluteria. From the Bahama Islands.
Characters.-In quills, two or three inches in length, and from two to five lines in diameter, dull brown, but more or less coated with white crustaceous lichens; breaks with a short resinous fracture; is warm and bitter to the taste; and emits a fragrant odour when burned.
Substance resembling Cascarilla: Pale Cinchona Bark, which is less white, smooth, and small.
Composition.-Cascarilla contains a complex mixture of aromatic oils and resin, a crystalline bitter principle, cascarillin, and some tannin, etc.
Infusum Cascarillae. 1 in 10. Dose, 1 to 2 fl.oz.
Tinctura Cascarillae. 1 in 8. Lose, 1/2 to 2 fl.dr.
Cascarilla acts in virtue of the aromatic oils and the bitter principle which it contains. It is a pleasant and useful aromatic bitter stomachic, but is somewhat difficult to dispense, as the infusion readily decomposes, and the resin separates from the tincture when prescribed with acids.
Oleum Crotonis-Croton Oil.-The oil expressed from the seeds of Croton Tiglium.
Characters of the seeds.-About the size of a grain of coffee, oval or oval oblong, dull brownish-grey, without odour.
Substance resembling Croton Oil Seed: Castor Oil Seed, which is larger, bright, polished, and marbled.
Characters of the oil.-Slightly viscid; colour brownish-yellow; taste acrid; odour faintly nauseous.
Composition.-The active principle of croton oil is crotonic acid, C9Hn02, a fatty acid, partly free, partly combined with glycerine. "With this there are present many fixed oils (oleic, palmitic, stearic, myristic and lauric) as well as their free acids; and several volatile acids (1 per cent. in all), which give its odour to croton oil, viz. acetic, butyric, baldriac and tiglic acids, and are derived from the fixed oils after extraction only.
Impurities.-Other fixed oils.
Dose.-1/2 to 1 min. placed on the tongue or in crumb of bread.
Linimentum Crotonis.-1 in 8, with Oil of Cajuput.
Externally.-Croton oil is a powerful irritant to the skin, causing a burning sensation and redness, followed by a crop of papules, and finally severe pustules, which last for days, heal by scabbing, and may leave unsightly cicatrices. Croton oil liniment is much less used than formerly as a counter-irritant in affections of internal parts, especially the lungs and joints.
Internally, also, croton oil is a powerful irritant, causing burning in the throat, heat in the epigastrium, possibly nausea, and purgation. It acts as a very rapid drastic cathartic, with some pain, producing a motion within 1 to 2 hours, which is partly solid, the effect being repeated several times during the next twelve hours in a more liquid form. The irritant effect consists chiefly in direct inflammation of the mucous membrane, with increased watery transudation, heightened peristaltic action, probably glandular (not biliary) hypersecretion. The muscular excitement, and consequent griping which it produces, commence before the oil has reached the duodenum, to be acted on by the pancreatic juice and bile, and are, therefore, partly reflex acts, originating in irritation of the gastric nerves by the free portion of the crotonic acid, section of the vagi postponing its purgative action. This accounts for the rapid action of the drug.
Croton oil is used when a speedy and complete evacuation of the bowels, and diminution of the arterial pressure, are demanded. It is a proper purgative in some cases of apoplexy ; in intestinal obstruction from impacted faeces; or where other purgatives have failed in constipation, and an organic obstacle does not exist. The smallness of the dose, which can be put in food, renders it a convenient purgative for insane and unconscious patients. Croton oil must always be given with great care; and is inadmissible in feeble subjects, in organic obstruction, and in inflammatory states of the stomach and intestines.