Related entry: Santoninum (U. S. P.)—Santonin
"The unexpanded flower-heads of Artemisia pauciflora, Weber"—(U. S. P.) (Artemisia Lercheana, Karel et Kirel; Artemisia maritima, var. pauciflora, Ledebour; Artemisia maritima, var. Stechmanniana, Besser).
COMMON NAME AND SYNONYMS: Levant wormseed; Semen cinae, Semen sanctum, Semen contra, Semen santonici.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 157.
Botanical Source and History.—The plant furnishing santonica is one of the many forms of Artemisia maritima, a plant having a wide distribution, especially in salty soils of marshes in the northern hemisphere of the Old World. "It is found in the salt marshes of the British Islands, on the coasts of the Baltic, of France and the Mediterranean, and on saline soils in Hungary and Podolia; thence it extends eastward, covering immense tracts in southern Russia, the regions of the Caspian, and central Siberia, to Chinese Mongolia. The particular variety which furnishes at least the chief part of the drug, is a low, shrubby, aromatic plant, distinguished by its very small, erect, ovoid flower-heads, having oblong, obtuse, involucral scales, the interior scales being scarious. The stem in its upper half is a fastigiate, thyrsoid panicle, crowned with flower-heads. The localities for the plant are the neighborhood of the Don, the regions of the lower Volga, near Sarepta. and Zaretzyn, and the Kirghiz deserts"—(Pharmacographia). The great fair of Nishnei-Novgorod is the chief mart for Levant wormseed, the drug being conveyed there from Moscow, St. Petersburg, and the western ports of Europe. Two commercial varieties of the drug are known in Europe, the one under consideration being called Aleppo, Levant or Alexandria wormseed, the other is known as Barbary wormseed, and is the product of other Artemisiae, growing in Arabia and Palestine, the exact species being yet undetermined.
Description.—"From 2 to 4 Mm. (1/12 to 1/6 inch) long, oblong-ovoid, obtuse, smooth, somewhat glossy, grayish-green, after exposure to light, brownish-green, consisting of an involucre of about 12 to 18 closely imbricated, glandular scales, with a broad midrib, enclosing 4 or 5 rudimentary florets; odor strong, peculiar, somewhat camphoraceous; taste aromatic and bitter"—(U. S. P.).
Chemical Composition.—Levant wormseed contains resin, essential oil (about 2 per cent), and the crystalline, active principle, santonin (1 1/2 to 2 per cent) (see Santoninum). Oil of Levant wormseed "has a yellowish color and a penetrating, disagreeable odor; specific gravity 0.930. It consists chiefly of cineol (C10H18O), with some dipentene" (see Essential Oils, by Prof. F. B. Power, 1894). Cineol is identical with eucalyptol and cajuputol.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Levant wormseed is seldom used in substance in medicine, but is the official source of santonin. In small doses, it is a gastric stimulant, and in larger amounts, a nervous and circulatory stimulant. Very large doses have produced a sense of depression, at the stomach, nausea, emesis, purgation, and congestion of the brain. Wormseed is a vermicide, and is less apt than santonin to produce yellow vision. It is a remedy for the expulsion of lumbricoides and rectal ascarides, and less efficient for taenia. The dose of the powder is from 10 to 40 grains, 3 times a day, in syrup, honey, or similar fluid, in combination with a purgative, such as jalap, etc.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.