Sea onion

It grows in the Mediterranean from the Canary Islands to the coast of Syria.

Perennial bulbous plant. The bulbs are large, their weight is traditionally within 2 kg, but often 4-5 kg. Above-ground leaves number 10-20, oblong-ovate, arcuate, shiny, 30-60 cm long. The flower stem is leafless, up to 1 m high, ending in a large (up to 40 cm) dense racemose inflorescence. The fruit is a box.

There are two varieties: var. alba – flowers with a greenish-white color within the flower bed, the inner scales of the bulb are white or slightly yellowish (European Mediterranean coast); var. rubra – flowers with pink within the flower bed, inner scales are purple or pink (African coast).

Up to 10 bufadienolides were found in the bulbs of the white variety. The main trioside is glycoscillaren A, and the mixture of all glycosides is designated as glycoscillaren B. Glycoscillaren A is the primary trioside formed by the aglycone scillarenin and rhamnose and two glucose molecules. During hydrolysis, the bioside scillaren A is formed first, and then the rhamnoside proscillaridine A.

Of the other glycosides, scylliglaucoside, formed by scilliglaucogenin and β-glucose, is the most important.


The bulbs of the red variety contain the monoglycoside scilliroside, whose genin differs from scillarenin in hydroxyls at C 6 and C 8 , and at C 6 it is acetylated.

For medical purposes, only the dried inner scales of the bulbs of the white variety (Bulbus Scillae) are used. It is used in the form of water infusions; the action is close to the strophanthus. At the same time, diuresis is greatly increased, since the scales still contain the bitter glycoside scillipicrin, which has a diuretic effect. There is a lot of mucus in the bulbs – sinistrin (up to 30%) and sugars (up to 20%).

Bulbs are very strong deratization drugs; for this purpose, mainly the red variety is used.

The plant contains bufadienolides.



For centuries, plant products containing cardiac glycosides have remained unchanged. They provide a selective therapeutic effect in heart failure. These plants are known to the peoples of different countries. The ancient Egyptians and Romans used squill as a heart and diuretic. The ancient Greeks used jaundice. Many plants containing cardiac glycosides have been used by the African people since time immemorial to make arrow poison. in Europe since the 18th century. foxglove began to be used.

The therapeutic effect of cardiac glycosides is due mainly to their aglycones (genins). The sugars that make up the glycoside molecule affect the solubility, permeability through cell membranes, the ability to bind to blood and tissue proteins; being inactive, they affect the activity and toxicity of glycoside molecules in general.

Aglycones of cardiac glycosides are derivatives of cyclopentanoperhydrophenanthrene, having at C 17 substitutes: an unsaturated five-membered lactone ring – the cardenolide type or an unsaturated six-membered lactone ring – the bufadienolide type.


The whole variety of aglycones, and hence their properties, is due to the specific features of the substituents. So, for example, a substituent at C 19 can be of different oxidation states – groups CH 3 OCH, CH 2 OH. In addition to a constant hydroxyl at C 3 (here esterification with sugars occurs) and almost constant at C 14 , hydroxyls can be C 5 and C 16 . Even greater differences in the structure are introduced by the number (up to 30) and the diversity of monosaccharides, among which most are specific for cardiac glycosides. According to the number of monosaccharides attached to genin at C 3 , bi-, trio- and tetrazides are distinguished.

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