The seeds of Abrus precatorius.

Not officinal.

Characters. - Small hard seeds of a brilliant scarlet colour, with a black spot round the hilum.

Composition. - They contain a ferment closely associated with a proteid to which the name of abrin has been given. The activity of the ferment is destroyed by a temperature over 60° C.1 The infusion when left for a short time swarms with bacteria.

Action. - When applied to the eye the infusion causes inflammation of the conjunctiva. The seeds are sometimes used to kill cattle illegitimately. The seeds are moistened with water and rolled into small cylinders or needles with which the animal is stabbed, the point being left in the wound. The animal dies in a few hours. The seeds contain no alkaloid, and possibly death may be due to the ferment of the seeds causing micrococci and bacilli to develop in the blood in the same way as papain (p. 85).

1 Warden and Waddell, The Non-bacillar Nature of Abrus-Poison. Calcutta, 1884.

Use. - An infusion is used to produce purulent ophthalmia in order to cure granular lids. The infusion is made by mixing the powdered seeds (3) with cold water (500), and adding hot water (500). This is filtered when cold. It is applied three times the first day, and repeated on the second or third day if necessary. An emulsion made by triturating the seeds with water and painted on with a brush is useful in unhealthy ulcers and lupus.