Scammony (Gr. ), a medicinal drug, the concrete juice of convolvulus scammonia. This is a perennial species with a woody root, which in old plants is 2 or 3 ft. long and 3 or 4 in. thick; its stems are numerous, twining, and* woody at base, furnished with arrow-shaped leaves, and bearing long peduncles, each of which produces several pale yellow flowers about an inch long and striped with purple. It is found in Asia Minor, Syria, and the neighboring countries, Smyrna and Aleppo being the principal places of export. In collecting scammony, an excavation is made to expose the root for 4 or 5 in.; the top of the root, or crown, with its attached stems, is removed by a slanting cut, and at the lower edge of this slope a mussel or other shell is stuck into the root to receive the juice; at the end of about 12 hours the flow ceases, the shells are collected, and at the same time the cut surface of the root is scraped to remove any of the partially dried juice that may remain. The products attained by these methods are mixed and dried.
The purest form of scammony is that which is allowed to dry in the shells, but this is only to be seen in cabinets of materia medica; the mixed product from the shells and scrapings is nearly as good, and even in this state it is very rare. Scarcely any article of medicine is more persistently adulterated than scammony; the work begins with the peasants who collect it, and much of it is made over a third time before it enters commerce. Chalk, ashes, sand, and wheat flour and other farinaceous articles are added; and what is known as Montpellier scammony is made up of different resins and starchy substances, and contains no scammony. Pure scammony is in irregular resinous lumps, of which 88 to 90 per cent. is soluble in ether; but it is more commonly met with in the form of round flattened cakes and more or less impure, though called virgin scammony. It has a peculiar cheesy odor, especially in powder; the amount and kind of foreign material mixed with it is readily ascertained by the use of solvents and a mieroscope. The dried root has been sent to Europe, where the resin has been prepared by exhausting the root with alcohol.
Scammony was used before the present era, and was mentioned by the early writers; and though not employed to any great extent, it has long had a place in the various pharmacopoeias. It is a powerful drastic purge, regarded as more active than jalap and less violent than gamboge; the dose of the pure drug is 10 or 15 grains. In this country it is rarely used alone; it enters into the compound extract of colo-cynth, which is the basis of the popular compound cathartic pill. For medical use the resin, which is officinal, is preferable on account of the uniformity of its composition. The scammony root is officinal in the British Pharmacopoeia.