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Squill

Squill

Botanical Description & Habitat

Urginea maritima

Family
Liliaceae

Common Names

Scilla
Sea onion
Sea squill
White squill

Description

A perennial herb native to the Mediterranean.

Habitat
Mediterranean region

Medicinal Parts
The dried sliced bulb, gathered soon after flowering.

Historical Properties & Uses

It had a traditional use as a rodenticide.

Squill is a lily plant with a long history of use in treating dropsy and heart disease. It was also used as an expectorant in the treatment of minor coughs, whooping cough, asthma and bronchitis. Less common uses included emetic, and external application to bruises, burns, cuts and open sores.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E for mild cases of heart insufficiency and kidney disorders.

It is included in some commercial cold preparations.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Method of Action

Squill has Distinct Cardiovascular Activity
Squill contains cardiac glycosides of the bufadienolide type, scillarin A and B. The former is a pure crystalline glycoside, on hydrolysis producing proscillaridin A together with the sugar scillabiose.

Proscillaridin acts quickly, much like strophanthin. Scillarin B is a mixture of glycosides. Squill also contains mucilage (4-11%), sinistrin and calcium oxalate.

The action of squill falls somewhere on the continuum between digitalis and strophanthin. The action of squill is less than digitalis. It differs from digitalis in that it has a marked diuretic property that might at times be indicated.

A combination of squill and digitalis sometimes produce a reliable diuretic in difficult cases, producing a bearable, but temporary degree of comfort.

Proscillardin is well suited for oral use in mild to medium-severe heart failure, since it does not accumulate much, increases diuretic and is well tolerated. Digitalis, by contrast, tends to accumulate and can cause damage to the kidneys.

The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia recognizes squill as an expectorant, cathartic, emetic, cardioactive and diuretic. It is indicated in the treatment of chronic bronchitis, asthma with bronchitis, and whooping cough, with specific indications for chronic bronchitis with scanty sputum.

Combined with myrrh and coltsfoot in bronchitis; with ipecac in whooping cough. It is notable BHP does not list heart failure as an indication for squill, though such uses are indicated in the British Pharmaceutical Codex.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Known Interactions

Squill, insofar as its diuretic action, increases the renal excretion of sodium and chloride and may potentiate the hyperglycemic and hyperuremic effects of glucose elevating agents. The effects of dopamine and diuretic agents are additive.

Diuretics may potentiate the action of antihypertensive drugs, ganglionic or peripheral adrenergic blocking drugs, tubocurarine and norepinephrine.

The German Commission E notes there may be increased effectiveness and side effects from simultaneous administration of squill with calcium, laxatives, quinidine and saluretics (substances which remove salts). It also extends the therapy of glucocorticoids (i.e. corticosteroids).

Possible Interactions

Squill and sparteine may have synergistic oxytocic activity. Cyclopropane or halogenated hydrocarbon anesthetics may sensitize the myocardium to the cardiotonic effects of squill, though the chances of this happening are very slight. Squill is synergistic with parenteral calcium salts, pancuronium, succinylcholine, rauwolfia alkaloids, ephedrine, epinephrine, and other adrenergic agents.

The inotropic action of squill may be reduced by propranolol, but the effects of the two substances on av are additive.

In conjunction with ACTH or corticosteroids, this diuretic is more prone to produce hypokalemia.

The use of diuretics may require dosage adjustments of antidiabetic drugs. The diuretic action of this herb may reduce renal clearance of lithium.

An initial dose of captopril (an antihypertensive) may cause a severe drop in blood pressure within three hours if the person is also using a strong diuretic. Veratrum alkaloids may potentiate the activity of squill (up to 50%).

Additive effects may occur between the hypotensive property of squill and dopamine receptor agonists such as bromocriptine mesylate. Squill should be used with caution in conjunction with CNS depressants or stimulants.

The hypotensive effect of squill may be potentiated by anorectic drugs such as fenfluramine, whose effects are mediated by brainstem serotonin, and may be additive with the analgesics nalbuphine HCl and propoxyphene HCl.

Comments

Prolonged use of this diuretic may affect certain lab test results such as electrolytes (especially potassium and sodium), BUN, uric acid, glucose, and pbi. Strong diuretics such as this in conjunction with indomethacin may produce natriuretic effects.

The hypotensive property of squill may be additive with the central nervous system depressant activity of the analgesic nalbuphine HCl. The same is true of the analgesic propoxyphene HCl.

Due to hypotensive principles, it would be wise to avoid using squill with procarbazine antineoplastic agents, to eliminate the chance of central nervous system depression.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Human poisonings are rare, but squill has been used as rat poison. Large doses of squill are to be avoided in any case, because they are capable of producing violent gastrointestinal inflammation, nausea, purging, dullness, convulsions, stupor, and sometimes death.

Red squill may induce CNS effects resulting in convulsions.

White squill has not generally been associated with human toxicity, although it is potentially life-threatening due to its cardiac effects.

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Apr, 1991.

Preparation & Administration

Use three times daily

Infusion
Use 60-200mg of dry bulb

Liquid Extract
Use 0.03-2ml of 1:1 in 70% alcohol

Tincture
Use 0.3-2ml of 1:10 in 60% alcohol

Vinegar
Use 0.6-2ml of 1:10 in dilute acetic acid

This herb has approval status by the German Commission E.

Recommended daily dosages in Germany are as follows:

0.1 - 0.5 g powdered sea onion.

References:

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.

References

Blumenthal, M (Ed.): The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Council. Austin, TX. 1998.

Braun, H. & D. Frohne. Heilplanzen-Lexikon Fuer Aerzte und Apotheker. Gustav Fisher Verlag, Stuttgart, New York. 1987.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, British Herbal Medicine Association, 1983.

Duke, J.A. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, CRC Press, Inc., Boca Raton, Florida. 1985.

Facts and Comparisons. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Apr, 1991.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Sim, S.K. Medicinal Plant Glycosides, University of Toronto Press. 1967.

Weiss, R.F. Herbal Medicine. Beaconsfield Publishers, LTD, Beaconsfield, England. 1988.

 


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