The rhizome and roots of Spigelia marilandica, Linné.
COMMON NAMES: Pinkroot, Carolina pink, Maryland pink, Worm-grass.
ILLUSTRATION: Bentley and Trimen, Med. Plants, 180.
Botanical Source.—Carolina pink is an herbaceous, indigenous plant, with a perennial, very fibrous, yellow root, which sends up several erect, simple, nearly smooth, 4-angled stems, of a purplish color, 6 to 20 inches high. The leaves are opposite, sessile, ovate-lanceolate, acute or acuminate, entire and smooth, with the margin and veins roughish-hairy; they are 3 or 4 inches long by 1 1/2 or 2 1/2 inches broad; the stipules are scarcely perceptible. The flowers are few in number, in a terminal secund spike, supported on short pedicels; they are somewhat club-shaped, scarlet externally, yellow internally, from 1 1/2 to 2 inches in length. The calyx is persistent, with 5 long, linear, subulate, finely-serrulate divisions, which are reflexed in the ripe fruit. The corolla is funnel-shaped, 4 times as long as the calyx, the tube inflated in the middle and angular at top, divided into 5 acute, spreading segments, the edges of which are slightly tinged with green. Stamens short, inserted into the mouth of the corolla between the segments; anthers oblong, heart-shaped, and exserted. Ovary small, superior, and ovate; style about the length of the corolla, jointed near its base, and terminating in a linear, fusiform, fringed stigma, projecting considerably beyond the corolla. The capsule is double, consisting of 2 cohering, 1-celled, globular carpels attached to a common receptacle, and containing numerous, small, angular seeds (L.—W.—G.—B.).
History.—Botanists have varied in their classification of this plant. Besides the above-given order, Loganiaceae, we find it classed in the natural order Gentianaceae, also Spigeliaceae and Rubiaceae; suborder, Spigelieae. It is usually known as the Carolina pink or Worm-grass. This plant is a native of the United States, growing in dry, rich soils, and on the borders of woods in the southern states, and flowering in May and June. The plant, of which several varieties exist, was used by the natives as an anthelmintic long before the discovery of America, and through them a knowledge of it was imparted to the early settlers, who used it for some years before it was introduced to the profession. Drs. Lining, Chalmers, and Garden, of South Carolina, acquainted the medical public with its uses, since which time it has become an official remedy. It is generally received in bales or casks from the western states, in which section it has been found growing in great abundance. The part used is the rhizome and its roots.
Description.—Pinkroot is composed of a number of delicate, crooked, corrugated fibers, of a dark-brown color externally, issuing from a short, dark-brown rhizome. Age impairs the virtues of pinkroot. Often the roots of other plants, particularly those of Phlox Carolina, Linné, also known as Carolina Pink and Georgia pink, will be found mixed with those of spigelia; they, together with the stalks and leaves of the latter, should be carefully removed before preparing the medicine for administration. The U. S. P. describes pinkroot as "of horizontal growth, about 5 Cm. (2 inches) or more long, 2 or 3 Mm (1/12 or 1/8 inch) thick, dark purplish-brown, bent, somewhat branched, on the upper side with cup-shaped scars; on the lower side with numerous, thin, brittle, lighter-colored roots, about 10 Cm. (4 inches) long; the rhizome internally with a whitish wood and a pith which is usually dark-colored or decayed; odor somewhat aromatic, taste sweetish, bitter and pungent. It should not be confounded with the underground portion of Phlox Carolina, Linné (Nat. Ord.—Polemoniaceae), the roots of which are brownish-yellow, rather coarse, straight, and contain a straw-colored wood underneath a readily removable bark"— (U. S. P.). Prof. Maisch suggests (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1883, p. 631) that the virtues ascribed to spigelia might, in reality, be those of phlox, since this root has long been used in the southern states. Prof. Trimble (ibid., 1886, p. 479) found in the root of phlox a peculiar camphor (phloxol), which is soluble in petroleum-ether with red fluorescent color. Spigelia does not yield such a substance, hence petroleum-ether may be used to distinguish phlox from spigelia chemically. (For the microscopic characteristics of phlox, also see H. G. Greenish, Pharm. Jour. Trans., Vol. XXI, 1891, p. 839.) Phlox glaberrima, Linné, has like properties, and is said to resemble spigelia more than Georgia pinkroot does.
Chemical Composition.—Wackenroder found in the root, fixed oil (a trace), acrid resin, tannic acid, a bitter, acrid principle, etc. Dr. R. H. Stabler, in a later analysis of pinkroot, found it to contain a volatile oil, tannic acid, wax, inert resin, salts, etc. He believes the activity to reside in a bitter, acrid principle, which is soluble in water or alcohol, insoluble in ether, non-volatile, neutral, and deliquescent. The alkaline carbonates do not diminish its activity. Water and alcohol are equally good solvents for its medicinal virtues (Amer. Jour. Pharm., 1857, p. 511). In 1879, Mr. W. L. Dudley (Amer. Chem. Jour., Vol. I, p. 104) found the active constituent to be a volatile alkaloid, spigeline, yielding precipitates with alkaloidal reagents, and resembling coniine and nicotine. It was obtained by distilling ground pinkroot with calcium hydroxide.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage.—Pinkroot is an active and certain vermifuge, especially among children. In large doses, it is very apt to purge, and produce various unpleasant symptoms, as increased action of the heart and arteries, dizziness, dilatation of the pupils, imperfect vision, and muscular spasms, often terminating in convulsions, together with various other indications of narcosis. One of its more frequent effects is spasmodic twitchings of the eyelids. These symptoms seldom happen when catharsis is produced, either by the drug alone, or exhibited in combination with a purgative. The toxic effects are counteracted by the diffusible stimulants, alcohol, ammonia, and ammonium carbonate. The powdered root may be given to a child from 2 to 4 years of age, in doses of 5 to 20 grains; or 1 or 2 fluid ounces of a strong infusion, administering it twice a day for a few days, and then giving an active purgative. A jelly has been recommended as an agreeable form of administration, as follows: To 16 fluid ounces of water add 8 ounces of pulverized pinkroot, and 4 drachms of Corsican moss, and boil down to 10 fluid ounces. The decoction should then be decanted into a saucepan containing 2 1/2 ounces of white sugar, and again boil down, carefully stirring with a silver spoon until 4 ounces of jelly are obtained. Then strain through a sieve into a jar containing 2 drops of the essence of citron or caraway. It will keep for some time in a cool place, and its flavor may be improved by substituting syrup of raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries, or mulberries, etc., for the sugar. It is also useful in those conditions of the system, caused by worms, which resemble infantile remittent and other febrile diseases, and hydrocephalus. A well known worm tea is composed of pinkroot, 1/2 ounce; senna, 2 drachms; savine, 1/2 drachm; manna, 2 drachms. Mix, and infuse in a pint of water. Dose, 1 to 2 fluid ounces. Anthelmintic dose of powdered pinkroot, for an adult, 1 to 2 drachms. Spigelia is a remedy for endocardial troubles, but is regarded as inferior to the Spigelia Anthelmia, Linné, both being used for the same purposes in cardiac affections (see Related Species).
Related Species.—Spigelia Anthelmia, Linné (Anthelmia quadriphylla), Demerara pinkroot. An annual of the West Indies and South America. The root has been used by the natives of those countries for centuries as an anthelmintic. It is the form of spigelia official in the Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia (1890), and possesses decided narcotic qualities. It was introduced into Europe by Dr. Browne, in 1751. The French gave it the name Brinvilliers, after the Marchioness de Brinvillière, the celebrated poisoner, executed in 1676, and who is said to have used this drug upon her victims. The fresh plant is very poisonous, and contains the volatile alkaloid, spigeliin (Boorsma, in Dragendorff's Heilpflanzen, 1899). This drug is said to act specifically upon the heart, and particularly the endocardium. It is valued by some practitioners in cardiac palpitation and endocarditis, especially the rheumatic form, and to guard against relapses of cardiac rheumatism. Painful conditions of the heart, the pain extending along the arm, angina pectoris, and cardiac neuralgia, with palpitation, are conditions in which it is employed with asserted success. Large doses debilitate the heart. Browne (1751) compared its narcotic power to that of opium. The usual method of administering this drug is to add from 10 to 15 drops of the Homoeopathic mother tincture to 4 fluid ounces of water, the dose of which is a teaspoonful every 2 hours.
Other Anthelmintics.—Vernonia anthelmintica. East Indies. The bitter, nauseous, black seeds of this plant, in doses of 50 to 60 grains, are valued in Ceylon as an anthelmintic.
Sethia acuminata.—Ceylon. The juice of this plant and the dried, powdered leaves are reputed vermifuge. Dose, 15 grains.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D.