Scientific Name(s): Agrostemma githago L.
Common Name(s): Cockle, Corn campion, Corn cockle, Corn rose, Corn-pink, Crown-of-the-field, Purple cockle
A. githago is an annual herb with a few erect branches covered with fine, soft hairs. The leaves are linear lanceolate and the red flowers grow up to 5 cm wide. The plant bears small (5 mm), brown seeds. It was originally native to Europe, but has long been naturalized in the United States to the extent that it is a troublesome weed in winter wheat fields and is considered a noxious weed in many areas.Osol 1955, USDA.2014
In European folklore, the seeds have been used for treating cancers, hard tumors, warts, and apostemes (hard swellings in the uterus). In Turkish traditional medicine, the seeds of the plant are used as a diuretic, expectorant, and antihelminthic. Seeds have also been put into the conjunctival sac to induce keratoconjunctivitis. Its saponins are irritating and have been claimed to have local anesthetic effects.Avci 2006, Duke 2002, Koz 2010
Saponin content has been described, including githagin, agrostemmic acid, sapotoxin A, prosapogenin githagin, and aglycone githagenin. The ripe seeds contain a number of aromatic amino acids, including 2,4–dihydroxy-6–methylphenylalanine, L(+)-citrullin, sugar, oil, fat, and starch. The seedlings possess allantoin and allantoic acid. The roots are reported to contain up to 2% lactosin starch; sprouts contain allantoin. The oil contains 41% unsaturated fatty acids and a high portion (3.4%) of unsaponifiable lipids that yield 8.3% mixed alkanes from C19 to C33. The unsaponifiable lipids were found to have 45% crystalline alpha-spinasterol, as well as small quantities of a triterpene ester and a di- or triterpene-like unsaturated acyclic ketone.Duke 1996, Hebestreit 2003, Jankov 1970, Siepmann 1998
Uses and Pharmacology
The synergistic effect of agrostin and saponin is now considered the likely mechanism of cytotoxicity. Saponins are known to alter cell membrane permeability, while agrostin has been determined to be a ribosome-inactivating protein. The combined effect of these 2 constituents has been shown to inhibit proliferation of human leukemic cells and tumor cells in mouse models.Chiu 2001, Heisler 205, Koz 2010 Activity against viruses, including the HIV virus, has also been attributed to this effect.Au 2000, Stirpe 1983, Wang 2001
There are no clinical data regarding the use of corn cockle for its cytotoxic effect.
Extracts of the aerial plant parts reduced cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein in hypercholesterolemic mice.Avci 2006
No recent clinical studies of corn cockle provide a basis for dosage recommendations due to toxicity concerns. Traditionally, doses 2 to 3 g of seeds have been described; higher doses are considered toxic.Duke 2002
Pregnancy / Lactation
Avoid use. Documented embryotoxic effects.Chan 2001
None well documented.
No recent clinical studies of corn cockle provide a basis for information on adverse effects due to toxicity concerns (see Toxicology).
Poisoning has been described, including GI irritation, severe muscle pain and cramping, vertigo, respiratory depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and salivation followed by depression and coma. A disease known as githagism is believed to be due to poisoning by corn cockle seeds and affects humans, goats, cattle, and poultry, with githagi the active toxin.Stedman 2006 The oral median lethal dose for saponins in rodents ranges from 50 to 750 mg/kg.Duke 2002
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