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strychnine(strĭk`nĭn), bitter alkaloid drug derived from the seeds of a tree, Strychnos nux-vomica, native to Sri Lanka, Australia, and India. It has been used as a rat poison for five centuries, and rat biscuits still remain a cause of accidental poisoning in humans. Strychnine is a potent stimulant of the spinal cord; it also increases the secretion of gastric juices and heightens sensory awareness. Strychnine poisoning is characterized by violent convulsions. It is treated by keeping the victim absolutely quiet and administering barbiturate sedatives and artificial respiration. See first aidfirst aid,
immediate and temporary treatment of a victim of sudden illness or injury while awaiting the arrival of medical aid. Proper early measures may be instrumental in saving life and ensuring a better and more rapid recovery.
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an alkaloid contained in the seeds of the strychnine tree (Strychnos nux-vomica) and in the seeds of other plants of the genus Strychnos growing mainly in tropical Asia and Africa. Strychnine was discovered in 1818 by the French chemists P. J. Pelletier and J. B. Caventou, and its structure was established in 1946 by R. Robinson. In 1954, R. B. Woodward and his colleagues achieved a complete synthesis of strychnine (approximately 30 steps). In its chemical structure strychnine is a complex polycyclic compound with the formula C21H22O2N2; it is a strong monoacid base difficultly soluble in water and readily soluble in alcohol and chloroform.
Strychnine is highly poisonous and is used for the extermination of animal pests. Strychnine nitrate and galenicals obtained from the seeds of Strychnos plants are used in medicine. In therapeutic doses, strychnine stimulates the reflex functions of the spinal cord and increases the excitability of the oblongatal (respiratory, vasomotor centers; center of vagus nerves) and higher centers of the brain. In toxic doses, strychnine causes characteristic tetanic convulsions (opisthotonus, risus sardonicus). The effect of strychnine derives from the ability to facilitate the transmission of excitation in the interneuronal synapses of the spinal cord, primarily in the region of the internuncial neurons, which act as inhibitory cells. The effect is also due to strychnine’s ability to reduce the reflex reaction time in nerve centers and intensify the dissemination of excitation in the spinal cord.
V. V. PARIN