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Red Squill

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  • Botanical: Drimia maritima
  • Family: Asparagaceae
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Red Squill

Botanical

Drimia maritima

Family

Asparagaceae

Known as

Urginea maritima, Squill, Sea Squill, Sea Onion, Maritime Squill, Weiße Meerzwiebel,

Old Use

medicine, industry, poison

Parts Used

bulbs

Medicinal

asthma, bronchitis, bladder disease, bladder weakness, bronchitis, coughs, digestion, dropsy, gastrointestinal, high blood preasure, urination, vascular, vomiting

Heart & Circulation

circulation, dropsy (edema), high blood pressure, rapid pulse

Infection & Inflammation

swollen feet

Respiratory System

asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, cough

Stomach & Intestinal

abdominal pain, bladder disease, bladder weakness, constipation, diarrhea, digestion, gastrointestinal, kidney weakness

Properties

antibacterial, antiseptic, anti inflammatory, diaphoretic, diuretic, tonic

Description

This plant 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.

Properties & Uses

The mediaeval reputation of Squill was originally as a diuretic, the older authorities attributing its diuretic action to a direct stimulant effect upon the kidney. As a diuretic, it is frequently employed in dropsy, whether due to chronic disease of the kidneys or to the renal congestion consequent to chronic cardiac disease. Squill is not employed, however, when the kidneys are acutely inflamed. In the treatment of cardiac dropsy, Squill is frequently combined with digitalis. Squill stimulates the bronchial mucous membrane and is given in bronchitis after subsidence of the acute inflammation. It is generally used in combination with other stimulating expectorants, its effects being thereby increased, and is considered most useful in chronic bronchitis, catarrhal affections and asthma. The tincture is administered combined with other expectorants, especially ipecacuanha and ammonium carbonate. Vinegar, Oxymel and Syrup of Squill are also common constituents of expectorant cough mixtures. It is largely sued for its stimulating, expectorant and diuretie properties, and is alsoa cardiac tonic, acting in a similar manner to digitalis, slowing and strengthening the pulse, though more irritating to the gastro-intestinal mucous membrane. On account of its irritant qualities it is not administered in diseases of an acute inflammatory nature. It has also been given as an emetic in whooping-cough and croup, usually combined with ipecacuanha, but as an emetic is considered very uncertain in its action. To prevent its too great action on the stomach, it is frequently eombined with a portion of opium. With calomel, it forms a powerful stimulant of the urinary organs.

Cautions

In poisonous doses, Squill produces violent inflammation of the gastro-intestinal and genito-urinary tracts, manifested by nausea, vomiting, abdominal pains and purging, and, in addition, dullness, stupour, convulsions, a marked fall in temperature, enfeebled circulation and sometimes death.

The powdered drug and extracts made from it have been largely used as rat poisons and are said to be very efficacious, the red variety being preferred for this purpose, although there would not seem to be sufficient evidence of its superiority

Distribution

This plant often grows in rocky coastal habitat, especially in the Mediterranean Basin, where it is common. It occurs in many other types of habitat, except for the driest deserts. It can grow in open and very shady areas. Its habit of producing leaves in the spring and flowers in the fall is an adaptation to the Mediterranean climate of its native range, where the summers are hot and dry.

Constituents

The chemical constituents of Squill are imperfectly known: three bitter glucosidal substances Scillitoxin, Scillipicrin and Scillin. 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 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.

For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.