In the 6th century Alexander of Tralles used colchicum for gout, iron for anaemia, and rhubarb in liver weakness and dysentery.
COLCHICUM, the Meadow Saffron, or Autumn Crocus (Colchicum autumnale), a perennial plant of the natural order Liliaceae, found wild in rich moist meadow-land in England and Ireland, in middle and southern Europe, and in the Swiss Alps.
Colchicum was known to the Greeks under the name of KoXXucov, from KoXXIs, or Colchis, a country in which the plant grew; and it is described by Dioscorides as a poison.
As a specific for gout colchicum was early employed by the Arabs; and the preparation known as eau medicinale, much resorted to in the 18th century for the cure of gout, owes its therapeutic virtues to colchicum; but general attention was first directed by Sir Everard Home to the use of the drug in gout.
The chief constituents of colchicum are two alkaloids, colchicine and veratrine.
The official dose of powdered colchicum is 2 to 5 grains, which may be given in a cachet.
Colchicum or colchicine, when applied to the skin, acts as a powerful irritant, causing local pain and congestion.
Taken internally, colchicum or colchicine markedly increases the amount of bile poured into the alimentary canal, being amongst the most powerful of known cholagogues.
In larger doses colchicum or colchicine acts as a most violent gastrointestinal irritant, causing terrible pain, colic,vomiting, diarrhoea, haemorrhage from the bowel, thirst and ultimately death from collapse.
The action of colchicum or colchicine upon the kidneys has been minutely studied, and it is asserted on the one hand that the urinary solids are much diminished and, on the other hand, that they are markedly increased, the specific gravity of the secretion being much raised.
These assertions, and the total inadequacy of the pharmacology of colchicum, as above detailed, to explain its specific therapeutic property, show that the secret of colchicum is as yet undiscovered.
Despite the general recognition of these facts, the pharmacology of colchicum has hitherto thrown no light on the pathology of gout, and the pathology of gout has thrown no light upon the manner in which colchicum exerts its unique influence upon this disease.
A further curious fact, doubtless of very great significance, but hitherto lacking interpretation, is that the administration of colchicum during an acute attack of gout may often hasten the oncoming of the next attack; and this property, familiar to many gouty patients, may not be affected by the administration of small doses after the attack.
Altogether colchicum is a puzzle, and will remain so until the efficient poison of gout is isolated and defined.
In colchicum poisoning, empty the stomach, give white of egg, olive or salad oil, and water.
Tofieldia, an arctic and alpine genus of small herbs with a slender scape springing from a tuft of narrow ensiform leaves and bearing a raceme of small green flowers; Narthecium (bog-asphodel), herbs with a habit similar to Tofieldia, but with larger golden-yellow flowers; and Colchicum, a genus with about 30 species including b the meadow saffron or autumn crocus (C. autumnale).
Colchicum illustrates the corm-development which is rare in Liliaceae though common in the allied order Iridaceae; a corm is formed by swelling at the base of the axis (figs.
- Corm of Meadow Saffron (Colchicum autumnale).
- Corm of Colchicum autumnale in autumn when the plant is in flower.
Upon the exposed mountain slopes a species of rhubarb (Rheum Ribes) is noticeable.
Martagon, candidum, chalcedonicum, Szovitzianum (or colchicum), bulbiferum, croceum, Henryi, pomponium - the "Turk's cap lily," and others, will grow in almost any good garden soil, and succeed admirably in loam of a rather heavy character, and dislike too much peat.
The following, however, among others, are distributed throughout the whole, or a great part, of the range: Colchicum alpinum, Crocus vernus, Orchis globosa, Petrocallis pyrenaica, Astragalus depressus, A.
Thus in acute gout the most common and most trusted remedy for removing the pain is colchicum, but at present we do not know what action it has upon the system, or why it gives so much ease in the pain of gout while it has comparatively little effect upon pain due to other causes.
Amongst those are to be classed small doses of aconite and colchicum; the former especially tends to lessen the process of inflammation generally, when it is not too severe.
During an attack of acute gout nothing relieves so much as colchicum, but during the intervals potash or lithia salts taken in water are advisable, as tending to prevent the deposits of urate of soda.