Colchicum autumnale L. (Colchicaceae)

(Syns.: C. borisii Stef.; C. bulgaricum Velen.; C. crociflorum Sims; C. orientale Friv. ex Kunth)
  • Shahid AkbarEmail author


Autumn crocus is native to grassy meadows and woods and river banks in southeastern Ireland, England, the Netherlands and Denmark, and at altitudes between 400 and 1,200 m ranges east to Poland and south to Spain and central Italy and North Africa. Corm and seeds were well known to ancient Greeks and Romans for their remedial property in gout, rheumatism, arthritis, dropsy, gonorrhea and enlarged prostate. Dioscorides and Galen described corms toxic and lethal, as they taste delicious and increase the desire to eat more; its leaves, corm and seeds are all poisonous. In Babylonia, it was used for swelling poison of the limbs, scorpion sting, head and eye diseases, as well as for breast pain. The plant was called by different names through the ages: ephemera, finger of Hermes, pater noster, and tue-chiens. Modern phytonyms refer to the land of Colchis, a mythical place close to Armenia. According to Byzantine historians, first use of C. autumnale in the treatment of gout was by the 5th century physician, Jacob Psychristus. The disease (podagra) was common at the time, its main causes being overconsumption of alcoholic drinks and food, and thus referred to as the ‘disease of kings,’ though the disease was recognized by Hippocrates in the fifth-century B.C., who called it ‘the unwalkable disease.’ Some refer to Byzantine Christian physician, Alexander of Tralles in the 6th century A.D. as the first user for the selective and specific treatment of gout. Besides the main active principle colchicine present in amounts up to 0.6%, the corm contains several other alkaloids. In modern practice, the alkaloid colchicine is only used as a specific treatment for gouty arthritis. Colchicine was approved by the FDA for the treatment and prophylaxis of gout flares, and has also been used with varying success in the treatment of familial Mediterranean fever, alcoholic, posthepatitic and primary biliary cirrhosis, psoriasis, Behçet’s disease, aphthous stomatitis, linear IgA dermatosis, relapsing polychondritis, Sweet’s syndrome, scleroderma, amyloidosis, leukocytoclastic vasculitis, epidermolysis bullosa, and dermatomyositis. In the early 1950s, demecolcine (substance F) was used for the treatment of leukemia, lymphoid hemoblastoses and Hodgkin’s disease.


Açafrão-bastardo Aci çiğdem Autumn crocus Chicolquicos Hirantutiya Hiranyatuttha Høsttidløs Qatel el-kelb Qiū shuǐxiān Suranjaan shireen 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.StocktonUSA

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