1) an extract of the fresh corm, having doses of ¼ to 1 grain, and (2) the Vinum Colchici, made by treating the dried corm with sherry and given in doses of 10 to 30 minims. This latter is the preparation still most generally used, though the presence of veratrine both in the corm and the seeds renders the use of colchicine itself theoretically preferable. The dried ripe seeds of this plant are also used in medicine. They are exceedingly hard and difficult to pulverize, odourless, bitter and readily confused with black mustard seeds. They contain a volatile oil which does not occur in the corm, and their proportion of colchicine is higher, for which reason the Tinctura Colchici Seminum—dose 5 to 15 minims—is preferable to the wine prepared from the corm. At present this otherwise excellent preparation is not standardized, but the suggestion has been made that it should be standardized to contain 0.1% of colchicine. The salicylate of colchicine is stable in water and may be given in doses of about one-thirtieth of a grain. It is often known as Colchi-Sal.
Pharmacology.—Colchicum or colchicine, when applied to the skin, acts as a powerful irritant, causing local pain and congestion. When inhaled, the powder causes violent sneezing, similar to that produced by veratrine itself, which is, as already stated, a constituent of the corm. Taken internally, colchicum or colchicine markedly increases the amount of bile poured into the alimentary canal, being amongst the most powerful of known cholagogues. Though this action doubtless contributes to its remarkable therapeutic power, it is very far from being an adequate explanation of the virtues of the drug in gout. In larger doses colchicum or colchicine acts as a most violent gastrointestinal irritant, causing terrible pain, colic, vomiting, diarrhoea, haemorrhage from the bowel, thirst and ultimately death from collapse. This is accelerated by a marked depressant action upon the heart, similar to that produced by veratrine and aconite. Large doses also depress the nervous system, weakening the anterior horns of grey matter in the spinal cord so as ultimately to cause complete paralysis, and also causing a partial insensibility of the cutaneous nerves of touch and pain. The action of colchicum or colchicine upon the kidneys has been minutely studied, and it is asserted on the one hand that the urinary solids are much diminished and, on the other hand, that they are markedly increased, the specific gravity of the secretion being much raised. These assertions, and the total inadequacy of the pharmacology of colchicum, as above detailed, to explain its specific therapeutic property, show that the secret of colchicum is as yet undiscovered.
The sole but extremely important use of this drug is as a specific for gout. It has an extraordinary power over the pain of acute gout; it lessens the severity and frequency of the attacks when given continuously between them, and it markedly controls such symptoms of gout as eczema, bronchitis and neuritis, whilst it is entirely inoperative against these conditions when they are not of gouty origin. Despite the general recognition of these facts, the pharmacology of colchicum has hitherto thrown no light on the pathology of gout, and the pathology of gout has thrown no light upon the manner in which colchicum exerts its unique influence upon this disease. Veratrine is useless in the treatment of gout. A further curious fact, doubtless of very great significance, but hitherto lacking interpretation, is that the administration of colchicum during an acute attack of gout may often hasten the oncoming of the next attack; and this property, familiar to many gouty patients, may not be affected by the administration of small doses after the attack. Altogether colchicum is a puzzle, and will remain so until the efficient poison of gout is isolated and defined. When that is done, colchicine may be found to exhibit a definite chemical interaction with this hitherto undiscovered substance.
In colchicum poisoning, empty the stomach, give white of egg, olive or salad oil, and water. Use hot bottles and stimulants, especially trying to counteract the cardiac depression by atropine, caffeine, strophanthin, &c.
COLCHIS, in ancient geography, a nearly triangular district of Asia Minor, at the eastern extremity of the Black Sea, bounded on the N. by the Caucasus, which separated it from Asiatic Sarmatia, E. by Iberia, S. by the Montes Moschici, Armenia and part of Pontus, and W. by the Euxine. The ancient district is represented roughly by the modern province of Kutais (formerly Mingrelia). The name of Colchis first appears in Aeschylus and Pindar. It was inhabited by a number of tribes whose settlements lay chiefly along the shore of the Black Sea. The chief of those were the Lazi, Moschi, Apsilae, Abasci, Sagadae, Suani and Coraxi. These tribes differed so completely in language and appearance from the surrounding nations, that the ancients originated various theories to account for the phenomenon. Herodotus, who states that they, with the Egyptians and the Ethiopians, were the first to practise circumcision, believed them to have sprung from the relics of the army of Sesostris (q.v.), and thus regarded them as Egyptians. Apollonius Rhodius (Argon, iv. 279) states that the Egyptians of Colchis preserved as heirlooms a number of wooden κύρβεις (tablets) showing seas and highways with considerable accuracy. Though this theory was not generally adopted by the ancients, it has been defended, but not with complete success, by some modern writers. It is quite possible that there was an ancient trade connexion between the Colchians and the Mediterranean peoples. We learn that women were buried, while the corpses of men were suspended on trees. The principal coast town was the Milesian colony of Dioscurias (Roman Sebastopolis; mod. Sukhum Kaleh), the ancient name being preserved in the modern C. Iskuria. The chief river was the Phasis (mod. Rion). From Colchis is derived the name of the plant Colchicum (q.v.).
Colchis was celebrated in Greek mythology as the destination of the Argonauts, the home of Medea and the special domain of sorcery. Several Greek colonies were founded there by Miletus. At a remote period it seems to have been incorporated with the Persian empire, though the inhabitants evidently enjoyed a considerable degree of independence; in this condition it was found by Alexander the Great, when he invaded Persia. From this time till the era of the Mithradatic wars nothing is known of its history. At the time of the Roman invasion it seems to have paid a nominal homage to Mithradates the Great and to have been ruled over by Machares, his second son. On the defeat of Mithradates by Pompey, it became a Roman province. After the death of Pompey, Pharnaces, the son of Mithradates, rose in rebellion against the Roman yoke, subdued Colchis and Armenia, and made head, though but for a short time, against the Roman arms. After this Colchis was incorporated with Pontus, and the Colchians are not again alluded to in ancient history till the 6th century, when, along with the Abasci or Abasgi, under their king Gobazes, whose mother was a Roman, they called in the aid of Chosroes I. of Persia (541). The importance of the district, then generally called Lazica from the Lazi (cf. mod. Lazistan) who led the revolt, was due to the fact that it was the only remaining bar which held the Persians, already masters of Iberia, from the Black Sea. It had therefore been specially garrisoned by Justinian under first Peter, a Persian slave, and subsequently Johannes Tzibos, who built Petra on the coast as the Roman Headquarters. Tzibos took advantage of the extreme poverty of the Lazi to create a Roman monopoly by which he became a middleman for all the trade both export and import. Chosroes at once accepted the invitation of Gobazes and succeeded in capturing Petra (A.D. 541). The missionary zeal of the Zoroastrian priests soon caused discontent among the Christian inhabitants of Colchis, and Gobazes, perceiving that Chosroes intended to Persianize the district, appealed to Rome, with the result that in 549 one Dagisthaeus was sent out with 7000 Romans and 1000 auxiliaries of the Tzani (Zani, Sanni). The “Lazic War” lasted till 556 with varying success. Petra was recaptured in 551 and Archaeopolis was held by the Romans against the Persian general Mermeroes. Gobazes was assassinated in 552, but the Persian general Nachoragan was heavily defeated at Phasis in 553.
By the peace of 562 the district was left in Roman possession, but during the next 150 years it is improbable that the Romans exercised much authority over it. In 697 we hear of a revolt against Rome led by Sergius the Patrician, who allied himself with the Arabs. Justinian II. in his second period of rule sent