Colchicum is an annual herb with brownish fleshy underground stems. It is almost conical in shape, flattened on one side and round on the other. The plant has very narrow leaves, broadening towards the tip, large yellow flowers and fruit with recurved tips. The chief constituent of colchicum is the alkaloid, colchicine, which occurs in the form of yellow flakes, crystals or as whitish yellow anorphous powder. Its odour resembles the hay when dampene and warmed.
It' a medicine of great repute in Afghanistan and northern India. 'I ~e medicinal properties were well known even amongst the Arats. Its corms and seeds are incorporated in the British Pharmacopoeia and allopathic medicine alludes it as a remedy for gout.
The active principle colchicine contained in the corms is useful in relieving pain and inflammations of gout. Clinical experiments with colchicum in small doses over a long period have shown success in about 60 per cent of patients. The seeds, chiefly the rind also contain colchicine, and may be used in the treatment of gout in the same manner as the corms.
The drug is beneficial in the treatment of rheumatic swelling. A paste made with saffron and egg can be applied beneficially to rheumatic and other swellings.
Dried and powdered root of the plant is useful in the healing of wounds. It should be sprinkled on the affected area.
Precautions: It has a very bitter taste, and darkens on exposure to light. It has similar action as colchicine, but the latter is more active and toxic. When taken in large doses, colchinine causes intestinal pain, diarrhoea and vomiting. The use of the drug can cause severe irritation in the intestines. To counteract this, it is advisable to use the drug with belladonna or hyoscyamus (khurasana ajwain).