* Professor Schroff, of Vienna, has communicated the following results of experiments made by M. Heinrich, on his own person, with colchicia. One-hundredth of a grain soon produced nausea, which lasted for several hours; and the pulse was reduced in the first two hours eleven pulsations in the minute. Eight hours after the first dose, he took one-fiftieth of a grain. Until after three hours and a half, no effect was produced except eructations and a slightly increased flow of saliva. After this there were nausea and griping pains in the bowels, which ended in violent vomiting and purging. The vomiting continued more or less for several hours, and was followed by eructations, nausea, and total loss of appetite, lasting four days, with tympanitic abdomen, gurgling, sensitiveness to pressure, griping pains, and a disposition to diarrhoea. The day following the taking of the alkaloid, there were shivering and fever, which continued for several hours, obviously owing to inflammation of the bowels. He was confined to his bed most of the time for four days. (B. and F. Medico-chir. Rev., Jan. 1858, p. 191.)

Some doubt has been thrown by L. Oberlin upon the claims of colchicia, as procured by the process of Geiger and Hesse, to be the pure active principle of colchicum. By a simple treatment (see U.S. Disp., 11th ed., p. 284) he obtained from it a crystallizable product, neither acid, alkaline, nor saline, which possessed powerfully poisonous properties, and must, if his observations may be relied on, form one at least of the active constituents of the drug. Oberlin proposes to call it colchiceine. it consists of nitrogen, carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. [Note to the second edition )

Since the experiments of Oberlin, Mr. J. E. Carter, of Philadelphia, has succeeded in extracting an alkaline principle from the bulb; and the probability is that the colchiceine of Oberlin is the product of chemical change in the process (See U.S. Dispensatory, 12th ed., p. 312.) - Note to the third edition.

Colchicum has been supposed to have the properties of diminishing the frequency of the pulse, and abating pain, by a direct influence, independent of its nauseating or evacuant operation; but, though it often undoubtedly produces the effects referred to, it is by no means ascertained that they are not secondary results; and, in relation to the relief of pain, I am quite convinced, from my own observation, that, when experienced, it is always a consequence of some antecedent action. I am, however, disposed to think that the medicine has a sedative influence on the heart, probably through the organic nervous centres.

Sometimes symptoms of nervous disorder are experienced during the action of colchicum, such as headache, and feelings of weakness and depression; but they are not different from what might readily be supposed to depend on nausea, or other gastric disorder.

Certain individuals are extremely susceptible to the influence of colchicum, being much nauseated, vomited, and greatly distressed, by doses which in general produce no sensible effects whatever.

Poisonous Effects

Colchicum is, in large doses, a violent and extremely fatal poison, and numerous instances of death are on record from its having been taken by accident, especially in consequence of mistaking its vinous or spirituous preparations for wine or ardent spirits. The symptoms almost universally produced are nausea and violent vomiting, usually coming on in about half an hour, followed by excessive purging; and the two continue in general, till near the close. Along with them are burning sensations in the oesophagus and stomach, excessive thirst, abdominal pains, tenesmus, feelings of great weakness, and extreme prostration, as indicated by the hurried respiration, the feeble and almost absent pulse, and cold extremities. Death usually occurs within twenty-four hours, and is rarely postponed beyond the second day. in some cases purging is absent. in general the intellect remains clear till the last, and death is not preceded by convulsions. in a very few instances, headache, stupor, and delirium have been mentioned among the symptoms; but not more frequently, nor in greater degree, than might be referred to the sympathetic effect of the gastro-intestinal disorder. Four autopsies made by Dr. Casper at Berlin, and five by M Jules Roux at Toulon, gave the following results. The blood was of a dark, cherry-red colour, or like that of currant-jelly, and, according to Dr. Casper, was of a thick consistence. The ascending vena cava was greatly distended with blood in all the cases; the kidneys were much congested; the brain was also congested; but the lungs were normal. in the cases of Dr. Casper, the right side of the heart was full of blood, in those of M. Roux, that organ was flaccid, and contained a little dark blood sometimes coagulated. The liver was in some instances congested, in others not. in M. Roux's cases the spleen and portal vein were congested; the stomach and bowels were in two of the cases quite normal, in one merely congested, and in the others reddened or much softened, indicating gastro-enteritis, but not ulcerated. The absence of inflammation of the stomach has been noticed in other cases. {Lond. Med. Times and Gaz., June, 1855, p. 605.) Death has been caused, in one instance, by two drachms and a half of the tincture of colchicum; and, in another instance, the same result followed the medical administration of three drachms and a half of the wine. (Taylor on Poisons) in general, more than an ounce of the wine has been taken in the fatal cases.

In the treatment of the poisoning, after the free use of demulcent drinks to wash out the stomach, opiates should be given by the mouth or rectum, strong sinapisms applied over the abdomen, and stimulants, such as wine-whey, administered, if necessary to prevent death from prostration.

Mode of Operation

it is most probable that colchicum produces its effects, even the purging and vomiting, through absorption, the active principle being taken into the circulation, and operating through the blood, either directly on the parts affected, or primarily on the organic nervous centres which govern the functions. in favour of this view is the length of time which elapses before the emetic effect is produced, unlike in this respect the operation of the more acrid emetics, as sulphate of copper; the intense nausea and prostration produced by large doses; and the fact, stated by Sir E. Home, that by 100 drops of the wine injected into the jugular vein of a dog, the same symptoms of vomiting, purging, and prostration, as from the poison taken into the stomach in man, were observed, and, after death, universal inflammation of the gastric mucous membrane. The increased secretion is the obvious result of the acrid principle introduced into the circulation, and seeking an outlet from the system by the various emunctories.