- Botanical: Physostigma venenosum
- Family: Leguminosae
- Hits: 1090
Known asOrdeal bean, Kalabarbohne, Gottesurteilbohne
Medicinalcirculation, convulsions, high blood preasure, laxative
Heart & Circulationangina, hemostatic
Mind & Nervesepilepsy
Stomach & Intestinallaxative
The plant is a large, herbaceous, climbing perennial, with the stem woody at the base, up to 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter; it has a habit like the scarlet runner, and attains a height of about 50 feet (15 m). The flowers, resting on axillary peduncles, are large, about an inch long, grouped in pendulous, fascicled racemes pale-pink or purplish, and beautifully veined. The seed pods, which contain two or three seeds or beans, are 6 or 7 inches (15 or 18 cm) in length; and the beans are about the size of an ordinary horse bean but much thicker, with a deep chocolate-brown color.
Properties & Uses
Chiefly used for diseases of the eye; it causes rapid contraction of the pupil and disturbed vision.Also used as a stimulant to the unstriped muscles of the intestines in chronic constipation. Its action on the circulation is to slow the pulse and raise blood-pressure; it depresses the central nervous system, causingmuscular weakness; it has been employed internally for its depressant action in epilepsy, cholera, etc., and given hypodermically in acute tetanus. Physostigmine Salicylas is preferred for the preparation of eyedrops.
Calabar bean contains physostigmine, a reversible cholinesterase inhibitor alkaloid. The alkaloid physostigmine acts in effect like nerve gas, influencing communication between the nerves and muscles, and resulting in copious salivation, seizures, loss of control over the bladder and bowels, and eventually loss of control over the respiratory system, causing death by asphyxiation.
The main antidote to Calabar bean poisoning is atropine,which may often succeed; and the other measures are those usually employed to stimulate the circulation and respiration. Unfortunately, the antagonism between physostigmine and atropine is not perfect, and Sir Thomas Richard Fraser has shown that in such cases there comes a time when, if the action of the two drugs is summated, death results sooner than from either alone. Thus atropine will save life if three and a half times the fatal dose of physostigmine has been taken, but will hasten the end if four or more times the fatal dose has been ingested.
West Africa, Old Calabar. Has been introduced into India and Brazil.
The chief constituent is the alkaloid physostigmine (eserine), with which are calabarines, eseridine, and eseramine. Eseridine is not employed medicinally.