Colchicum (from Colchis, a country where it abounded), a common name of the colcliicum autumnale (Linn.), or meadow saffron, a perennial bulbous-rooted plant, growing naturally in the temperate climates of Europe, and cultivated for its medicinal properties. It prefers wet meadows, which it often covers with its bright, purple, crocus-like blossoms. The bulb or corm resembles that of a tulip, and feeds the growing plant, being exhausted and replaced every year. Colchicum closely resembles the autumn crocus, from which it is distinguished by having six stamens instead of three, and three styles instead of one. The corm, seeds, and flowers all possess the medicinal properties of the plant, which depend upon the alkaloid, colchicia. From the corm and seeds are prepared wines, extracts, and tinctures. - Colchicum is employed in the treatment of gout and rheumatism, and allied affections. The preparation for gout, celebrated under the name of eau medicinale d'Husson, is said to be a vinous infusion of colchicum. It materially lessens the duration of the paroxysms of gout, but is apt when too freely used to depress the system and thereby induce a more speedy recurrence of the disease.
It has been shown to increase not only the water, but the organic solid constituents of the urine; this increase, however, is not due to uric acid, as might perhaps be supposed from its action in gout. It has a marked sedative action upon the heart, stimulates the secretions, and is apt to excite nausea and catharsis. While there is no doubt that advantage may be obtained from the administration of colchicum in certain forms or conditions of gout, rheumatic gout, and rheumatism, yet grave disadvantages are apt to result if it is given injudiciously. It should never be administered in the asthenic forms of gout or rheumatism; the doses should always be small at first, and gradually increased; it should not be allowed to excite continued nausea, or vomiting or purging; it should not be given for more than a week or ten days continuously, as its effects are apt to accumulate in the system; it should rarely or never be given to aged people or young children. In fine, its appropriate use is limited to the sthenic forms of gout and acute forms of rheumatism that occasionally occur in people of robust constitution, who are in the prime of life.
It should be remembered that where neuralgia occurs in persons who come of a gouty or rheumatic race, it sometimes yields to a judicious course of colchicum. The dose of the acetic extract of colchicum is from 1 to 2 grains three times a day; of the wine of the root from 10 to 20 drops, and of the wine of the seeds 20 to 30 drops, three times a day. The tincture of the seeds may be given in the dose of half a teaspoonful to a teaspoonful.