United States Dispensatory 1926
Compiled by Ivor Hughes.

Stavesacre Seeds are the dried ripe seeds of Delphinium Staphisagria, Linn." Br.

Staphisagria, U.S.IX; Staphysagrise Semen; Semen Staphisagria, Staphidiagrise or Pedicularis; Staveeacre Seeds; Staphisaigre, Fr.; Stephanskorner, Lausekorner, G Stafisagria, It.

Delphinium Staphisagria L., or stavesacre, is a handsome, annual or biennial plant, one or two feet high, with a simple, erect, downy stem, and palmate, five- or seven-lobed leaves, supported on hairy petioles. The flowers are bluish or purple, in terminal racemes, with pedicels twice as long as the flower, and braeteoles inserted at the base of the pedicel. The sepals are five in number, irregular, petal-like, the upper one being spurred at the base. The petals are four, irregular, the two upper having long spurs which are inclosed in the spur of the calyx, the two lower having short claws. The pistils form a many-seeded pod or capsule in fruit. Alike with the seeds of many other ranunculaceous plants, those of this species require planting soon after they ripen, if a good percentage of germination is to be obtained.

The plant is a native of the south of Europe. E. M. Holmes (P. J., 1921, cvi, 265) calls attention to the remarkable fact that the plant in the English botanic gardens hitherto considered to be Delphinium Staphisagria is in reality another species, i.e., Delphinium pictum Willd. The author accounts for the absence of the true plant in botanic gardens partly by the fact that it is only half-hardy in Great Britain, while D. pictum is hardy, and partly by the reason that the illustrations in several works on medicinal plants � even in Bentley and Trimen's " Medicinal Plants "are incorrect or unreliable. The two species are distinguished as follows: D. Staphisagria has very hairy stems, glandular hairs being mixed with the long spreading soft hairs; flowers that when well-developed have an ultramarine blue tint; a calyx with very short or almost obsolete spur; carpels containing only four or five seeds. D. pictum "Willd. has shorter soft hairs, but no glandular hairs on the stems; the flowers are of a pale lilac color; the spur is as long as the calyx segments; each carpel contains ten or twelve seeds, and these are only half the size of those of D. Staphisagria. The true D. Staphisagria extends from Teneriffe around both the northern and southern coasts of the Mediterranean to Asia Minor.

It is quite possible therefore, that varieties having blossoms of different tints may occur. The evidence obtainable, however, goes to show that the form of the plant from which the seed of commerce is obtained has clear blue flowers. (T. B. P., 1899, 300.) For description of other species of this genus, see Delphinium. The commercial supplies of this drug are imported from Leghorn, Italy.


Description and Physical Properties.� The seeds of stavesacre are officially described as "irregularly triangular or obscurely quadrangular, arched, blackish-brown when fresh, but becoming dull greyish-brown on keeping. Surface wrinkled and deeply pitted; kernel soft, whitish, oily. No marked odor; taste nauseous, bitter and acrid." Br. " Under the microscope, transverse sections of Staphisagria show an outer layer of nearly tabular, thick-walled, non-lignified cells, some being extended centrifugally, and forming the reticulations of the seed-coat; 2 or 3 rows of parenchyma cells with more or less irregular thin walls; a thin layer of very small, thick-walled cells with numerous, lattice-like or reticulate pores; endosperm large, composed of polygonal cells enclosing small aleurone grains and fixed oil, the latter forming in large globules on the addition, of hydrated chloral T.S." U. S. IX.

The seeds of the field larkspur, D. Ajacis L., are recognized in the National Formulary (see Delphinium). These are readily distinguished, being about 2 mm. in length and of a black or blackish-brown color.

Constituents. In 1819 Lassaigne and Feneulle isolated from Staphisagria an alkaloid which they called delphinine. Marquis in 1877 obtained four bases, delphinine (crystalline), delphinoidine (amorphous), delphisine (crystalline), staphisagrine (amorphous). Kara-Sto-janow (In. Dis., Dorpat, 1890) asserted that delphinine and delphisine were identical. Keller (A. Pharm., 1910, ccxlviii, 468) maintains that none of the above writers have separated delphinine in a pure state as is shown by the great variation in empirical formula, which they give.

Walz (A. Pharm., 1922, cclx, p. 9) gives the formula for delphinine, C34H47O9N. If delphinine be rubbed up with an equal quantity of malic acid, and some drops of concentrated sulphuric acid added, there will be produced an orange-red color passing into rose, growing deeper after some hours, and finally changing from the edges to violet, and at last becoming cobalt blue. (Tattersall, Chem. News, 41.) It is stated that no other alkaloid and no other organic acid, except malic, affords this reaction. (Pftanzenstoffe, 2d ed., 1884, 617.) The total amount of alkaloids is about 1 per cent. Ahrens (Ap. Ztg., 1899, 361) obtained from the residue of the seeds of D. Staphisagria, from which delphinine, delphinoidine, delphisine and staphisagrine had been extracted, the alkaloid staphisagroine (B. Chem. G., 1899, 1581). For Katz's process for extracting delphinine, see Ph. Ztg., 1900, 735.

Uses.�The seeds were formerly used as an emetic and cathartic, but have been abandoned

Ed. note: Since the monograph was written Larkspur seed are back and of course they do those things that tradition say they do.  they are a fine head lice killer hence the name Pedicularis; Staveeacre.  Potters Cyclopaeida 1988 states Parasiticide, Insecticide, Antispasmodic. This is in Tincture form and and further state that care must be taken.