Emmenagogues are remedies which have the property of exciting the
catamenial flow; ecbolics, or abortives, are drugs which excite
contraction of the uterus, and are supposed to have the power of
expelling its contents. The vegetable substances commonly reputed to be
abortives are ergot, savin, aloes (Hierapicra), digitalis, colocynth,
pennyroyal, and nutmeg; but there is no evidence to show that any drug
property. Lead in some parts of the country is a popular
abortifacient. A medicine may be an emmenagogue without being an
ecbolic. Permanganate of potassium and binoxide of manganese are
valuable remedies for amenorrhoea, but will not produce abortion. The
vegetable substances frequently used as abortives are savin and ergot.
=Savin= (Juniperus Sabina).--Leaves and tops of the plant yield an
acrid oil having poisonous properties, and which has even produced
Symptoms.--Those of irritant poisons. Purging not always present, but
tenesmus and strangury.
Post-Mortem Appearances.--Acute inflammation of alimentary canal.
Green powder found. This, washed and dried and then rubbed, gives odour
Test.--A watery solution of savin strikes deep green with perchloride
of iron, and if an infusion of the twigs has been taken the twigs may be
detected with the microscope. The twigs obtained from the stomach, dried
and rubbed between the finger and thumb, will give the odour of savin.
=Ergot= (Secale Cornutum).--A parasitic fungus attacking wheat,
barley, oats, and rye, which is reputed to have the power of causing
contraction of unstriped muscular fibre, especially that of the uterus.
Symptoms.--Lassitude, headache, nausea, diarrhoea, anuria,
convulsions, coma. Small quantities frequently repeated have in the past
produced gangrene of the extremities, or anæsthesia of fingers and toes.
Tests.--Lake-red colour with liquor potassæ; this liquid filtered
gives a precipitate of same colour with nitric acid.