Botanical Name: Convolvulus Scammonia
Species: C. scammonia
Common Names: Syrian Bindweed, Scammony
Habitat:Convolvulus Scammonia is native to the countries of the eastern part of the Mediterranean basin; it grows in bushy waste places, from Syria in the south to the Crimea in the north, its range extending westward to the Greek islands, but not to northern Africa or Italy.
Convolvulus Scammonia is a twining perennial plant,growing to 0.8 m (2ft 7in). It bears flowers like those of Convolvulus arvensis, and having irregularly arrow-shaped leaves and a thick fleshy root. It is in flower in July, and the seeds ripen in September. It has flowers of a very delicate tint of sulphur yellow and leaves of a similar shape to some native species.The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees, flies, self.The plant is self-fertile.
The roots are 3 to 4 feet long and from 9 to 12 inches in circumference; tapering, covered with a light grey bark and containing a milky juice. Scammony is a gummy resin, obtained from this milky juice of the root by clearing away the earth from the upper part of the root and cutting off the top obliquely, about 2 inches below where the stalks spring. Then a vessel is fixed in such a position as to receive the exuding juice, which gradually hardens and becomes the Scammony of commerce. The best Scammony is black, resinous and shining when in the lump, but of a whitish-ash colour when powdered, with a strong cheesy smell and a somewhat acrid taste, turning milky when touched by the tongue. It occurs in commerce in irregular pieces 1 to 2 inches or more in diameter.
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Prefers a light basic sharply drained soil of low to medium fertility. Prefers a sunny sheltered position. Thrives in dry soils and succeeds in ordinary garden soils. The root can be up to 1.2 metres long, so for best results a deep soil is required.
Seed – sow spring in a greenhouse. Germination can be slow and erratic, a period of cold stratification might help reduce the germination period. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division in spring. Cuttings of young shoots, August in a frame in sand
The dried juice, virgin scammony, obtained by incision of the living root, has been used in medicine as scammonium, but the variable quality of the drug has led to the employment of scammoniae resina, which is obtained from the dried root by digestion with alcohol.
It is a drastic cathartic, closely allied in its operation to Jalap; though not so nauseous, it is more active and irritating, and in inflammatory conditions of the alimentary canal should not be used.
The root itself is seldom used: the resin prepared from it is generally combined with other cathartics to diminish its action and prevent griping.
The active principle is the glucoside scammonin or jalapin, C34H114O6. The dose of scammonium is 5 to 10 grains, of scammony resin 3 to 8 grains. Like certain other resins, scammony is inert until it has passed from the stomach into the duodenum, where it meets the bile, a chemical reaction occurring between it and the taurocholate and glycocholate of sodium, whereby it is converted into a powerful purgative. Its action is essentially that of a hydragogue, and is exercised upon practically the entire length of the alimentary canal. The drug is not a cholagogue, nor does it markedly affect the muscular coat of the bowel, but it causes a great increase of secretion from the intestinal glands. It acts in about four hours. In large doses it is a violent gastrointestinal irritant. In consonance with the statement that scammony acts only after admixture with the bile, is the fact that hypodermic or intravenous injection of the drug produces no purgation, or indeed any other result. The drug frequently kills both roundworm and tapeworm, especially the former, and is therefore an anthelmintic. It is not largely used, but is very effective in the treatment of severe constipation, especially in children
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