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Journal of Medicinal Plants Research Vol. 6(8), pp. 1489-1491, 29 February, 2012 Available online at DOI: 10.5897/JMPR11.

323 ISSN 1996-0875 2012 Academic Journals

Short Communication

Colchicum autumnale: A review

M. Akram1*, Osama Alam1, Khan Usmanghani1, Naveed Akhter2 and H. M. Asif2

Shifa a ul Mulk Memorial Hospital, Hamdard University, Karachi, Pakistan. Faculty of Pharmacy and Alternative Medicine, The Islamia University of Bahawalpur, Pakistan.
Accepted 19 January, 2012

Colchicum autumnale is an important ingredient of most of the herbal preparation. It is very useful herb and it comprises of many compositions by Unani Hakeems. Meadow Saffron and Naked Lady are the common names of C. autumnale. Physicians use it widely as the best healer of internal injuries. The flowers emerge from the ground long after the leaves have died. Colchicum extracts were first described as a treatment for gout in De Materia Medica by Pedanius Dioscorides in the first century AD. Colchicine was first isolated in 1820 by the two French chemists P.S. Pelletier and J. Caventon. It was originally used to treat rheumatic complaints and especially gouty attacks. it was also used for its cathartic and emetic effects. The plant grows widely throughout the northern hemisphrere. The objective of this review is to provide a consolidated report on medicinal uses of C. autumnale. Key words: Colchicum autumnale, medicinal uses, research study.

INTRODUCTION The name Colchicum is derived from the district of Colchis, located on the ancient eastern shore of the Black Sea (Rodnan et al., 1970). The plant and its extracts have been used for centuries in the treatment of gout, rheumatism, dropsy, prostate enlargement and gonorrhea. Extracts have been used to treat cancers. The first official Pharmacopeia of the United States (1820) listed Colchicum preparation (Rodnan et al., 1970). Today, the plant is a primary source of colchicine, which is used therapeutically to treat gout and experimentally in cellular chromosomal studies. In addition to its Food and Drug Administration (FDA)approved use (gout), colchicine has been used in the following conditions: neurologic disability caused by chronic progressive multiple sclerosis, familial Mediterranean fever, hepatic cirrhosis, primary biliary cirrhosis and as adjunctive treatment of primary amyloidosis (Kyle et al., 1997), Behet disease (Russell et al., 2001), pseudo-gout, skin manifestations of scleroderma, psoriasis, palmo-plantar pustulosis and dermatitis herpetiformis (Wickersham and Novak, 2002). HABITAT Colchicum autumnale grows in wet meadows, woodland clearings and shady rocky habitats on non calcareous substrates. It may be found up to an altitude of 2,000 metres.

MEDICINAL USES Colchicine is a potentially poisonous natural product and secondary metabolite, originally extracted from plants of the genus Colchicum (Auutumn crocus, Colchicum autumnale, also known as the meadow saffron). Its name comes from Colchis or Kolchis (Greek: Ko, Kolchs), an ancient Georgian state and kingdom, on the eastern shore of the Black Sea, where plants were widespread. The first medical use of the bulbs of the meadow saffron has been reported in the first century AD. In Unani Tibb it is most useful and famous agent for removing joint pains, backache and gout, etc. It is accepted largely by Unani and Ayurvedic physicians as a traditional healer of internal injuries. Colchicum autumnale has also antioxidant qualities due to which it has been used to treat internal injuries for centuries. C. autumnale combination is successfully used for curing

*Corresponding author. E-mail: Tel: 920216440083. Fax: 920216440079.


J. Med. Plants Res.

piles. C. autumnale has special useful effects in gout (small joints pain). C. autumnale has slight toxic effect without any addictive element so it gives a rejuvenating deep sleep to the users of its compositions. As a famous pain killer C. autumnale gives relief in all types of muscular, joint and gastric pains. C. autumnale relieves burning muscular tissues, periosteum and synovial membranes of joints. C. autumnale is a beneficial treatment for the foot palm burning. C. autumnale has positive effects on the efficiency of the sex organs. C. autumnale has also been used for enlarging of penis. C. autumnale is used to treat several kinds of cancer tumor and unnecessary access in growth of cells.

analgesic property. The mechanism involves binding to microtubule protein (tubulin) and preventing mitosis. lt also causes depolymerization and disappearance of fibrillar microtubules in granulocytes, preventing release of lactic acid and proinflammatory enzymes in joints including a glycoprotein thought to be the initiating agent in acute gouty arthritis. Colchicine has a number of other pharmacological actions including lowering body temperature, depressing the respiratory center and enhancing the action of central depressants. It has also been shown to activate T lymphocytes.

RESEARCH STUDY Botany Crocus plants are members of the lily family and often are cultivated for their long, ornamental flowers. This perennial herb grows to approximately 0.3 m in height and has pale purple flowers and a fleshy conical root (corm). The corm has a bitter, acrid taste and radish-like odor (Ellwood et al., 1971) Low-lying leaves are arranged around the base of the plant, growing from the bulb. In the springtime, the plant has leaves but no blossoms (Gabrscek et al., 2004). The plant is native to grassy meadows, woods and riverbanks in Ireland, England and portions of Europe and has been cultivated throughout much of the world. Colchicine poisoning by accidental ingestion of meadow saffron (C. autumnale): pathological and medicolegal aspects Although intoxications with colchicine, the alkaloid of C. autumnale (meadow saffron), are well known, in most cases, the intoxications are evoked by oral or parenteral preparations traditionally used as medication against gout. It is reported that two persons confused this highly poisonous plant with wild garlic (Allium ursinum). While one person merely complained about a 3-day episode of nausea, vomiting and watery diarrhea, the second person died of multi-organ system derangements 48 h after the ingestion of the colchicum leaves. At autopsy hemorrhagic lung oedema, hypocellular bone marrow, centrilobular fatty necrosis of the liver and necrosis of the proximal convoluted tubuli of the kidneys were observed. A colchicine concentration of 7.5 g/ml was found in the bile whereas no substance was detected in the postmortem blood (Michael et al., 1999).

Chemistry Colchicine is the main active principle found in autumn crocus and is present in a concentration of approximately 0.6% of corm; concentrations may exceed 1% in the seeds (Malichova et al., 1979), Dried leaves and flowers contain the same concentration of colchicine as fresh parts; however, dried flowers and seeds contain 15 times as much colchicine as leaves (Malichova et al., 1979). A variety of other related alkaloids have been isolated from the plant, including colchicerine, colchamine, colchicoside, demethyl-3-colchicine, cornigerine and 2demethylcolchifoline (Malichova et al., 1979; Danel et al., 2001). Colchicine is not destroyed by heat or boiling and is highly soluble in water. Colchysat is a hydro-ethanolic extract of fresh C. autumnale blossoms (Poulev et al, 1994).

Colchicine for pericarditis Colchicine has been commonly prescribed for the treatment of gouty arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and in other inflammatory diseases. Evidence has shown that the colchicine is effective drug to treat an acute attack and may be a way to cope with the prevention of pericarditis in acute and recurrent cases and after cardiac surgery. In one study, it was evaluated that colchicine is safe and useful in recurrent pericarditis, if specific precautions are followed, although less evidence supports its use for the treatment of acute pericarditis, where colchicine remains optional and there is a need for further multicentre confirmatory studies (Massimo, 2009).

Pharmacology The active principle in colchicum is the alkaloid. Its chemical structure is well known and it provides dramatic relief from acute attacks of gouty arthritis. This antirheumatic effect is highly specific for gout and colchicum has little effect on non gouty arthritis and no

Rheumatoid arthritis C. autumnale has been used as an ingredient of Arthritin. Arthritin tablet was found effective for treatment of

Akram et al.


rheumatoid arthritis (Asif and Akram, 2011).

REFERENCES Akram M (2010). Clinical evaluation of herbal medicne for the treatment of hyperuricemia, M. Phil thesis, Hamdard Univ. Karachi Pak., pp. 4244. Akram M, Mohiuddin E (2010). Comparative study of herbal medicine with allopathic medicine for treatment of hyperuricemia. J. Pharmacog. Phytother., 2(6): 86-90. Asif HM, Akram M (2011). Rheumatoid arthritis: A Review article, IJABPT, 2(1):108-111. Danel VC, Wiart JF, Hardy GA, Vincent FH, Houdret NM (2001). Selfpoisoning with Colchicum autumnale L. flowers. J. Toxicol. Clin. Toxicol., 39: 409-411. Foster S, Johnson R (2006). Desk Reference to Natures Medicine. National Geographic: Washington, DC. Kyle RA, Gertz MA, Greipp PR (1997). A trial of three regimens for primary amyloidosis: colchicine alone, melphalan and prednisone, and melphalan, prednisone, and colchicine. N. Engl. J. Med., 336: 1202-1207. Lewis WH, Elvin-Lewis MPF (2003). Medical Botany: plants affecting human health. John Wiley and Sons Inc.: Hoboken. Malichova V, Potesilova H, Preininger V, Santavy F (1979). Alkaloids from leaves and flowers of Colchicum autumnale L. Planta Med., 36: 119-127. Poulev A, Dues-Neumann B, Bombardelli E, Zenk MH (1994). Immunoassays for the quantitative determination of colchicine. Plant. Med., 60: 77-83. Rodnan GP, Benedek TG (1970). The early history of antirheumatic drugs. Arthritis Rheum., 13: 145-165. Russell AI, Lawson WA, Haskard DO (2001). Potential new therapeutic options in Behet's Syndrome. BioDrugs, 15: 25-35. Wickersham RM, Novak KK (2002). Managing eds. Drug Facts and Comparisons . St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc., 2002.

Gouty arthritis C. autumnale has been used as an ingredient of Gouticin. Gouticin tablet was found effective for treatment of gouty arthritis (Akram and Mohiuddin, 2010).

DISCUSSION Autumn crocus is not recommended for medicinal use due to the poisonous alkaloid (colchicines that are found throughout the plant). The highest concentration of colchicine is in the seeds and corms during the summer and the amount of colchicine in two or three seeds can be fatal (Lewis and Elvin-Lewis, 2003). Used in small, carefully controlled doses, colchicine can be an effective painkiller and anti-inflammatory and in pharmaceutical form is still commonly used to treat gout. Modern herbalists still use extracts of C. autumnale to treat gout attacks. Given the risks of colchicine, pharmaceutical preparations of colchicine are safer than herbal preparations, which may have widely varying amounts of colchicine. Colchicine acts to prevent cell division; a property that has important potential in cancer therapies. However, colchicine is not currently used to treat cancer due to its toxicity and high rate of side effects (Foster and Johnson, 2006). C. autumnale has been used as an ingredient of herbal coded formulation gouticin for treatment of hyperuricemia and was found effective (Akram, 2010).

CONCLUSION C. autumnale is commonly prescribed for treatment of acute gouty arthritis. It has remained a drug of choice for treatment of acute gouty arthritis. It is effective in crystal induced inflammation. It should be prescribed in inflammatory disorders of joints.