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common names: pituri, pitchiri, pitcheri and many variants, emu plant, poison bush
Allen: Cyclopoedia, V. 10.
Ringer: Lancet, Apr., 1879. Am. J. Med. Sc., Apr., 1879. p. 539.
Description of the substance
Duboisia hopwoodii is an evergreen shrub, it grows to height of 2.5m with a spread of 2.5 m. The stem is erect, with straggling branches; the leaves are narrow and 10cm long; the flowers are white externally, purplish internally and bell shaped, occuring in large sprays; the fruit are small, dark berries.
The calyx and corolla are 5-parted, with obtuse lobes. The stamens are didynamous, with the rudiment of a fifth, and bear 1-celled anthers. The fruit is a small, black, 2-celled berry, which contains a few reniform, rough seeds.
The genus Duboisia is intermediate between the natural orders Solanaceae and Scrophulariaceae, and was referred to the former by the older authors; Bentham, in the Flora of Australia, classes it with the latter, but more recent developments regarding a natural constituent (duboisine), seem to indicate that its true place is among the Solanaceae.
A native of W.A., S.A. and N.S.W. (Australia), it is adaptable to most soils and positions, and is drought and frost resistant.
Propagation is by seed.
The chief constituent of this leaf, called duboisine by its discoverers, was found by Prof. A. Ladenburg to be identical with hyoscyamine (C17H23NO3) (Ber. d. Deutsch. Chem. Ges., 1880, p. 1257). The properties of duboisine are therefore described under hyoscyamine (see Hyoscyamus). Another isomeric alkaloid was obtained by Merck, called pseudo-hyoscyamine, forming yellowish needles of an acrid, bitter taste, soluble in alcohol and chloroform, slightly soluble in ether. Its melting point is 133° to 134° C. (271.4° to 273.2° F.), while hyoscyamine (duboisine), melts at 106° to 108° C. (222.8° to 226.4° F.) (Merck's Index, 1896).
As an internal remedy, neither the shrub nor its alkaloid (except as hyoscyamine) have come into general use. Used in this manner, duboisia will be found to possess properties similar to those of belladonna and its congeners. Duboisine, and its sulphate, are more commonly employed in this country, principally in ocular therapeutics; it has been found by Drs. Wecker and Galezowski, of Paris, to be a prompt and unirritating mydriatic, the mydriasis being accompanied with paralysis of the ciliary muscle, and consequently an absolute loss of accommodation. The mydriasis produced does not appear to annoy the patient, nor to last as long as when occasioned by atropine; nor does the employment of the agent give rise to the intense conjunctival irritations (follicular conjunctivitis and eczema of the lids) so often following the application of atropine. It may be employed in all maladies of the eyes in which atropine is indicated, being contraindicated in glaucomatous conditions, and in diseased conditions of the fundus. From 2 to 4 grains of the sulphate of duboisine are dissolved in 1 fluid ounce of water, and of this solution from 2 to 5 drops may be instilled into one or both eyes as required; the mydriatic effect commences in a few minutes. The solution of the sulphate of duboisine has likewise been successfully employed, by hypodermatic injection, for checking the pathological sweatings common to phthisis, etc., and also as an antidote to poisoning by mushrooms, antagonizing the paralyzing effect of muscarine on the heart. It is reputed palliative in exophthalmic goitre. The dose to be used will differ with various individuals, from the 1/80 or 1/30 to 1/20 grain. The beginning dose should rarely exceed 1/70 grain. For ophthalmic use 1 to 4 grains to 1 ounce of distilled water.
(king's American dispensatory)
The action of duboisia upon man and animals is very similar to that of belladonna, hyoscyamus, etc. Dogs and cats to which it has been administered, almost immediately commence walking with difficulty, stumbling over the least obstacle as though they were blind, and falling asleep as soon as they are left at rest, having the pupils largely dilated; these results also followed its introduction into the system by hypodermatic injection. Large doses internally, or by subcutaneous injection, occasion large pupillary dilatation, dryness of the mouth and throat, increase the number of pulsations, and give rise to general debility, vertigo, and cephalalgia; the results are the same with man as with animals. The alkaloid, duboisine, produces similar effects. The sulphate of this alkaloid, subcutaneously injected in large doses, occasions a sort of intoxication, mental derangement, pupillary dilatation, incoordination of muscular motion, relaxation of the vesical and anal sphincters, and an increased temperature at first, succeeded by a very marked diminution.