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Botanical Name : Drimia maritima
Synonyms:Urginea maritima. Scilla maritima (Linn.). U. anthericoides. U. scilla. Drimia maritima.
Common Names: Squill,Red squill, Sea squill, Sea onion, Maritime squill, Indica.Urginea.
Habitat: Squill is native to southern Europe, western Asia, and northern Africa. It is found in dry, sandy places, especially the seacoast in most of the Mediterranean districts, being abundant in southern Spain, where it is by no means confined to the coast, and is found in Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, Corsica, southern France, Italy, Malta, Dalmatia, Greece, Syria and Asia Minor. In Sicily, where it grows most abundantly, it ascends to an elevation of 3,000 feet. Its range also includes the Canary Islands and the Cape of Good Hope. It is often grown under figtrees in the Italian Riviera, and is grown in many botanical gardens, having first been recorded as cultivated in England in 1648, in the Oxford Botanic Gardens.
Squill is a perennial flowering plant. It grows from a large bulb which can be up to 20 cm wide and weigh a kilogram. Several bulbs may grow in a clump and are usually just beneath the surface of the soil. In the spring, each bulb produces a rosette of about ten leaves each up to a meter long. They are dark green in color and leathery in texture. They die away by fall, when the bulb produces a tall, narrow raceme of flowers. This inflorescence can reach 1.5 to 2 m in height. The flower is about 1.5 cm wide and has six tepals each with a dark stripe down the middle. The tepals are white, with the exception of those on the red-flowered form. The fruit is a capsule up to 1.2 cm long.
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Its fibrous roots proceeding from the base of a large, tunicated, nearly globular bulb, 4 to 6 inches long, the outer scales of which are thin and papery, red or orange-brown in colour. The bulb, which is usually only half immersed in the sand, sends forth several long, lanceolate, pointed, somewhat undulated, shining, dark-green leaves, when fully grown 2 feet long. From the middle of the leaves, a round, smooth, succulent flower-stem rises, from 1 to 3 feet high, terminating in a long, close spike of whitish flowers, which stand on purplish peduncles, at the base of each of which is a narrow, twisted, deciduous floral leaf or bract. The flowers are in bloom in April and May and are followed by oblong capsules.
Succeeds in ordinary garden soil according to one report, whilst another says that it requires a very free draining gritty or sandy soil in full sun. The bulbs have a summer resting period and should be kept dry at this time. Some protection from winter wet is strongly recommended. Easily grown in a warm sunny position. A very ornamental plant, it is not very hardy in Britain according to one report, whilst another says that it can be grown in N. European gardens though it does not flower very freely there. Another report says that the plant can tolerate temperatures down to about -7°c. The bulb should be only partially buried. This species is cultivated in the Mediterranean area for its use in the drug industry. The bulbs are harvested after 6 years growth with a yield of about 25,000 bulbs per hectare. There are two main forms of this species, one has a white bulb and the other has a red one. The red bulb is the form that is used as a rat poison whilst the white bulb is used as a cardiotonic. Another report says that herbalists do not distinguish between the two forms. Only the red form contains the rat poison ‘scilliroside’, though both forms can be used medicinally. The bulb is very tenacious of life, one specimen that had been stored for 20 years in a museum was found to be trying to grow. A good bee plant.
Seed – best sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse. Sow the seed thinly so that the seedlings can be left in the pot for their first growing season. Give them regular liquid feeds when in active growth to ensure that they do not suffer nutrient deficiency. Divide the young bulbs once the plant becomes dormant, placing 2- 3 bulbs in each put. Grow them on for at least another year in pots and plant them out into their p
Part Used: Bulb, cut into slices, dried and powdered.
Constituents: The chemical constituents of Squill are imperfectly known. Merck, in 1879, separated the three bitter glucosidal substances Scillitoxin, Scillipicrin and Scillin. The first two are amorphous and act upon the heart, the former being the more active; Scillin is crystalline and causes numbness and vomiting. Other constituents are mucilaginous and saccharine matter, including a peculiar mucilaginous carbohydrate named Sinistrin, an Inulin-like substance, which yields Laevulose on being boiled with dilute acid. The name Sinistrin (in 1834, first proposed by Macquart for Inulin) has also been applied to a mucilaginous matter extracted from barley, but it remains to be proved that the latter is identical with the Sinistrin of Squill. Calcium oxalate is also present, in bundles of long, acicular crystals, which easily penetrate the skin when the bulbs are handled, and causes intense irritation, sometimes eruption, if a piece of fresh Squill is rubbed on the skin.
The toxicity of Squills has more recently been ascribed to a single, bitter, non-nitrogenous glucoside, to which the name Scillitinis given, and which is the active diuretic and expectorant principle.
The bulbs also yield when distilled in a current of steam, a slightly coloured liquid oil of unpleasant odour.
The chemistry of Squills cannot yet be regarded as fully worked out, since most of the glucosides described have only been prepared in an amorphous condition of uncertain chemical identity.
Antiarrhythmic; Antidandruff; Cardiotonic; Diuretic; Emetic; Expectorant; Miscellany.
The Medicinal Squill was valued as a medicine in early classic times and has ever since been employed by physicians, being official in all pharmacopoeias. Oxymel of Squill, used for coughs, was invented by Pythagoras, who lived in the sixth century before Christ.
Sea squill contains cardiac glycosides which are strongly diuretic and relatively quick-acting. They do not have the same cumulative effect as those present in foxglove (Digitalis spp.). The bulb has been widely used by herbalists, mainly for its effect upon the heart and for its stimulating, expectorant and diuretic properties. The fresh bulb is slightly more active medicinally than the dried bulb, but it also contains a viscid acrid juice that can cause skin inflammations. This is a very poisonous plant and it should only be used under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. The dried bulb is cardiotonic, strongly diuretic, emetic when taken in large doses and expectorant. The bulb can weigh up to 2 kilos. It is used internally in the treatment of bronchitis, bronchitic asthma, whooping cough and oedema and is a potential substitute for foxglove in aiding a failing heart. The bulb is harvested in the autumn, sliced transversally and dried for later use. Externally, the bulb has been used in the treatment of dandruff and seborrhoea.
The red bulb form of this species contains the poisonous substance ‘scilliroside’. This substance is poisonous to rodents but does not kill other species (which vomit instead).
Known Hazards: The bulb is poisonous in large doses. The red form especially has a fairly specific action on rats. The fresh bulb contains an acrid juice that can cause skin blisters.
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