Wormseed, the popular and trade name for two drags used as anthelmintics, of very different origin and composition. I. The chenopoclium of the United States Pharmacopoeia, often called American wormseed, is the fruit of chenopodium ambrosioides, var. anthelminticum, or C. anthelmintieum of some authors. The structure of the genus is sufficiently described under Pigweed; this belongs to a section in which the species are scentless and neither smooth nor mealy like the common pigweeds, but furnished with abundant glands containing an aromatic oil. Wormseed is a biennial or perennial, introduced from tropical America, and found in waste places, especially southward. It grows 1 to 2 ft. high, and in the southern states 4 to 5 ft.; the stem grooved, much branched above, with alternate, oblong-lanceolate, deeply toothed, and sometimes much cut leaves; the minute apetalous flowers in slender terminal or axillary racemes. The whole plant has a strong, peculiar, and somewhat aromatic odor, due to a volatile oil which is especially abundant in the seeds. As found in the shops, wormseed consists of small yellowish green grains, about the size of a pin's head, the seed being invested by a thin bladdery seed vessel; they have a pungent and bitterish taste.
The seeds are used in domestic practice and by physicians to expel the round worms in children, and are regarded as very effective. The dose is 20 to 40 grains, but on account of the difficulty of administering them the oil is most frequently used. The oil, the production of which is peculiar to this country, is mainly prepared in Maryland, where the plant is cultivated for the purpose; it is separated by distillation, and has the properties of the seeds in a concentrated form; the dose for a child is four to eight drops. lit The European wormseed was probably known to Dioscorides, and has long been in use in various European countries under different names, such as semen santonicce, semen sanctum, and semen contra. Its origin was for a long time obscure, but it is now ascertained to be the product of a composita, Artemisia maritima, var. Stechmainiana, numerous plants formerly regarded as distinct species being now united under the variable A. maritima, or sea artemisia. It grows in sandy wastes near the coast from England around the Mediterranean, covers wide tracts in the region of the Caspian, and extends to Siberia. The drug is chiefly collected on the Kirghiz steppes in northern Turkistan, and mostly finds its way into commerce through the fairs at Nizhni Novgorod. Though called a seed, the drug consists of the small unopened flower heads of the plant, which, though minute, have the structure common to the composite family, and consist of three to five florets, closely surrounded by an involucre of several scales; the heads are oblong, a tenth of an inch long, and require about 90 to weigh a grain; when rubbed they have a camphorous odor, and their taste is bitter and aromatic.
The chemical composition of this wormseed is quite complex; besides 1 per cent, of a peculiar essential oil, its most important constituent is santonine, of which it yields 1½ to 2 per cent., and upon which its anthelmintic properties depend. Santonine crystallizes in colorless rectangular crystals, which when exposed to daylight split up into irregular fragments; it is sparingly soluble in water, but dissolves in three or four parts of chloroform, is inodorous, and has a bitter taste. The drug, in doses of 10 to 60 grs., is an active vermifuge, but santonine in doses of 3 to 6 grs. is preferred. In large doses it produces a singular effect upon the vision, objects appearing to those under its influence as if viewed through yellow glass; and if the dose is very large, they appear as if seen through a red medium.
American Wormseed (Chenopodium ambrosioides, var. anthelmintieum).
European Wormseed (Artemisia maritima, var. Stechmanniana).