Toxic Terrors
(The Good and the Bad)

When people think of Autumn Crocus they usually think of regular crocuses not this fall blooming species that is actually part of the lily family. It may not be well known but it has been used for medicinal purposes dating back to ancient Egypt, India, and Greece where the primary ingredient, colchicine, was used to treat gout. It also has the ability to interrupt cell division in plants and animals and has been used to develop a new cultivar of plants. Colchicine (C22H25NO6) is a yellow alkaloid concentrated mainly in the corm and seed of the plant.

Caution! Toxic!
Cochicine is a very toxic substance. The ability to stop cell division can aid in creating different cultivars, but, when it is not controlled the toxin suppresses mitotic activity causing severe damage to organs. If your body can no longer produce new cells to replace the old ones (such as white blood cells for immunity) eventually your body will shut down.  Symptoms of ingestion can include but are not limited to: watery stools,  burning in the epigastric region, and lowered heart and blood pressure as well as large amounts of fluid in the cavities of the brain. In certain cases people who have eaten Autumn Crocus have died within three days, even after being admitted to the hospital.

Most of the causes of ingestion are because Wild Garlic and Autumn Crocus are often mistaken for each other since both live in damp areas and are from the same subclass Liliidae.  In the spring before the Autumn Crocus has flowers the leaves are similar to the garlic plant. While the wild garlic is edible the crocus is not A 43 year old woman was admitted to the hospital after accidentally eating Colchicum autumnale instead of wild garlic. Many different tests were run and after 17 days of care in the hospital she was released. 12 weeks later she still had symptoms of muscle weakness and 3 years after she reported four different times of hair loss and chronic muscle weakness as well. Although cases of accidental poisoning are rare most of them are fatal, dosages vary.

Benefits (how it works)
'In gout, crystals of uric acid are deposited in certain joints. White blood cells migrate to the areas of the body where uric acid has been deposited. They attempt to engulf the crystals, and, as a result, lactic acid and pro-inflammatory enzymes are released. These substances give rise to the characteristic pain and swelling of gout. Colchicine inhibits the migration of the white blood cells into the inflamed area, causing a reduction in pain and inflammation.' (1)

A new hope for curing tumors may be just around the corner. A new colchicine drug has the capability of cutting off blood flow to solid tumors, thus killing off the offensive growth. Surprisingly enough this drug is found in our toxic friend, the autumn crocus. Many tests have been run on mice and the method has been proved effective at attacking tumors/cancers of the colon, lung, breast, and prostate. It is considered a ‘smart bomb’ since it targets solid tumors, leaving the healthy tissue around them unaffected. The trick to this is attaching colchicine to another substance that makes it ineffective until it contacts an enzyme made strictly by tumors. Trials on mice cured 70% of hosts with no diverse effects. The next step is clinical trials.

Go to Facts to learn more neat things!                   Return to Home Page