The Physiomedical Dispensatory by William Cook, M.D., 1869    



Description:  Natural Order, Convolvulaceae. A twining plant, growing wild in Western Asia and in portions of Greece and Turkey. Stems fifteen to twenty feet long, numerous and smooth; leaves alternate, arrow-shaped, smooth, and on long petioles; flowers an inch or more in length, funnel-shaped, pale yellow, axillary; sepals five, obovate; bracts awl shaped; stamens and styles shorter than the corolla. The roots are perennial, two or more inches in diameter at the top, tapering, three or four feet long, brownish without, whitish within, with an acrid milky juice, succulent. This root abounds in a resinous material, which may be obtained from either the fresh or the dried plant.

Scammony is valued for its resin, which is the medicinal portion always alluded to in Pharmacy, and which passes under the various names of Scammony resin, Virgin scammony, and Lachryma scammony. Mr. Maltass, in the London Journal of Pharmacy, gives a detailed account of the preparation of this resin; from which the following particulars are condensed:

While the plant is in full flower, a slanting incision is made in the root about an inch below the crown; and a shell placed below this catches the milky sap, which flows freely during the cool hours of the day. Plants about four years old, and those growing on dry and poor soils, are best; and one root yields from sixty to one hundred grains of resin. The juice is gathered from the shells into a copper vessel, thoroughly mixed, and afterward dried completely on skins, in a shade. It comes to market in small, broken masses; of a nearly black color, resinous, of a cheesy smell, and readily forming a milky liquid when moistened with either water or saliva. Its powder is ashy-brown.

Properties and Uses:  The resin above described is the part used. It is an active stimulant, operating on the bowels, and producing prompt watery stools. It will usually cause an evacuation in two hours, and often proves griping. It is less irritating than gamboge, and less bitter. and nauseous than jalap. It is wholly inadmissible in dry, irritable, and inflamed conditions of the bowels. Large quantities will prove very drastic. It is useful only when a prompt action of the bowels is important, and in very sluggish conditions. It may be added in small quantities to more relaxing and active agents, as leptandra. Its small dose is its chief recommendation, as its action is too vigorous to make it a suitable agent for common use. Dose for an adult, ten to fifteen grains. It is usually best to mix the powder well with fine starch or elm.

Pharmaceutical Preparations:  I. Confection. Powdered scammony, three ounces; powdered ginger, one ounce and a half. Rub these into a uniform mass with three ounces of simple sirup and an ounce and a half of clarified honey; and then add one fluid drachm oil of caraway, and half a fluid drachm oil of cloves. It forms a warming and prompt cathartic. Dose, thirty to fifty grains; for a child, three to ten grains. II. Emulsion. Four grains of powdered scammony triturated slowly with two ounces of milk, form a nearly tasteless purgative dose for a

 Medical Herbalism journal and    

    The Physiomedical Dispensatory by William Cook, M.D., 1869    

child. III. Compound Powder. Four ounces of scammony, one ounce of ginger, and one drachm of caulophyllin, make the least griping of all the scammony compounds. Dose, ten to fifteen grains; for a child, as a cathartic in worms, five to eight grains.

Medical Herbalism Journal