This section is from the book "A Treatise On Therapeutics, And Pharmacology Or Materia Medica Vol2", by George B. Wood. Also available from Amazon: Part 1 and Part 2.
These pills are made by mixing together compound extract of colocynth, extract of jalap, mild chloride of .mercury or calomel, and gamboge, then forming them into a mass with water, and dividing the mass into pills.
They were first introduced into the U. S. Pharmacopoeia of 1830; in order that the profession might be in possession of an officinal cathartic compound, uniting all the advantages which had recommended certain empirical or patented pills to general use, and prepared on scientific principles. The special objects aimed at, in their formation, were efficiency and mildness of action, smallness of bulk, and influence upon the hepatic function, in conjunction with their purgative effect. The well-established fact, that the more powerful drastic cathartics might, by combination, be deprived of much of their violence or harshness of operation, without any loss of efficiency as cathartics, was taken advantage of in this case. Tho principle, upon which this result takes place, has been already explained. (Sec page 496.) The cathartic ingredients are colocynth, scammony, and aloes, contained in the compound extract of colocynth, with jalap, gamboge, and calomel added. The several ingredients enter into the composition in the proportion of their mean full doses. it will be perceived that difference in locality and mode of action are secured; the gamboge operating more especially on the upper portion of the alimentary canal, the aloes on the lower, calomel on the liver, and colocynth, scammony, and jalap, about equally on the whole track, though with some difference, in the character of their action, between colocynth and the other two. it will be noticed, also, that, by the character of the several components, there is secured a hydragogue operation, along with an influence directed more especially to the peristaltic motion; and a tonic action on the stomach and bowels, so as to balance the tendency to exhaustion from the copious serous discharge. The convenience of smallness of size is obtained by the use of the extracts, in the case of the two most bulky ingredients, namely, colocynth and jalap. Prepared originally upon principle, they have been found to answer well in practice, and are now extensively employed throughout the United States. They may be used in all cases, not complicated with inflammation or irritation of the stomach or bowels, in which brisk purgation is demanded; but are specially applicable to congestion of the portal circulation generally, and either active congestion or torpor of the liver; as in our autumnal fevers at their commencement, bilious disorder with constipation, jaundice, hepatitis, etc.
Each pill contains about 3.5 grains; and three or four pills may be given for a full dose to an adult. One will generally operate as a laxative, and may be given in cases of constipation with deficient biliary secretion. The stools produced by them are generally bilious. if made out of impure materials, or without conformity to the officinal directions, they may be expected not to operate in the manner here described; and if any parcel be found very feeble, or very violent, the result may be ascribed to one of these causes.
The British Pharmacopoeia has a Compound Pill of Gamboge (Pilula Cambogia Composita, Br ), consisting of gamboge, Barbadoes aloes, the aromatic powder, and soap, beat into a mass with syrup, which may be given as an active cathartic, in the dose of ten or fifteen grains; but this preparation is not calculated to answer the same purposes as the U. S. pills above described.