A fixed oil, obtained from the seeds of Croton Tiglium, a shrub of Asia. The oil is quite thick and becomes more so with age; deteriorates rapidly in quality and should not be kept long, but, if possible, always obtained fresh. In color it may vary from a pale yellow to a dark reddish-brown. The taste is acid and hot.
It is a very complex substance, containing several fixed oils and volatile acids. It is supposed to contain a vesicating principle and a distinctly purgative one, but the latter has not yet been obtained separate from the others. Croton oil is soluble in alcohol.
It is a very powerful irritant and vesicant when externally applied, causing burning and redness of the skin and an eruption of papules, which in a short time become pustular. Taken internally it irritates actively; 16 causes burning in the throat and epigastrium, and has a very rapid action as a drastic and hydragogue cathartic.
The bowels are first opened in one or two hours after it is taken, and catharsis re-occurs several times within twelve hours or more, with great thoroughness, some pain, and, usually, a decided degree of prostration.
With unconscious or delirious patients it may be placed directly on the back of the tongue. In applying it externally, the amount ordered is taken on a bit of flannel, and rubbed into the prescribed spot on the skin until there is well-marked redness. The eruption appears usually in about four hours; if it does not, the application is repeated.
The eruption remains for several days, and may, on disappearing, leave small cicatrices behind it.
Though so active in small doses there have not been many known instances of fatal poisoning by croton oil. Large doses usually provoke immediate vomiting, but symptoms when developed are those of gastro-enteritis, with violent catharsis and great prostration.
In some instances, instead of acting in the usual way it seems to be absorbed into the blood, and produces nervous symptoms, such as palpitation and restlessness, headache, giddiness, and confusion of ideas.