Selected writings of John King.
When specific medication was in its infancy. Professor King offered as a decidedly specific agent the use of small doses of Elaterium for chronic inflammation of the neck of the bladder. This can scarcely be called a disease, but rather a condition of localized inflammation, and therefore the detailed symptomatic indications as given by Dr. King bring this agent within the field of specific medication, in which specifics for conditions, not for diseases, are recognized. The article shows the painstaking exactness which Professor King was accustomed to apply to his studies and offers the fullest and the first study of the conditions in which Elaterium is now considered a specific remedy. His reference to the introduction into American medicine of Apis as a remedy in urinary troubles should also not be overlooked.—Ed. Gleaner.
ELATERIUM: A SPECIFIC IN CHRONIC CYSTITIS. A SPECIFIC FOR CHRONIC INFLAMMATION OF THE NECK OF THE BLADDER.—Prof. J. M. Scudder,—DEAR SIR : As you are at this time engaged in preparing a list of specific remedies for the readers of your Journal, I now present you with one from which I have derived success in every instance where it has been employed. I will state in advance that as far as I have been able to learn the agent to which I here refer, Elaterium, has never been employed for this purpose. All the writers who have written upon this article view it merely as a drastic purgative, from Pliny to the present time. In a Dispensatory I have, which is 111 years of age, it is spoken of as a dangerous drastic purgative. Nor have I been any more successful with homeopathic writers, whose provings have never led them to view it as a remedy in the disease under consideration, or for its symptoms. Though, I have no doubt, since I now mention it, that they will soon solve the matter, as they did with the honey bee, after I had first made its value in urinary difficulties known to the classes to whom I lectured. I therefore claim the right to the discovery of Elaterium as a specific in chronic inflammation of the neck of the bladder, until some other party can show a distinct and definite priority.
I have used this remedy since 1849, and during that time have treated about forty-five cases (some of whom were patients of other physicians) and with invariable success. The symptoms among these patients were more or less severe, and nearly of a similar character; they may be summed up as follows: frequent desire to urinate, with pain if the urine was retained for a short time after the desire manifested itself; one or more urinations during the night; urine frequently voided with pain and difficulty; with some, during urinations, "it seemed as though the urine was poured into the urethra;" a constant sense of weight or pain in the region of the neck of the bladder, frequently increased upon standing or walking; with some standing occasioned a paralytic sensation and uneasiness in one or both thighs. In the worst cases a "severe, indescribable, cramp-like, aching pain" in the region of the neck of the bladder, and in the perineum, was experienced immediately after urinating, which sensation frequently extended, with more or less violence, over the whole of the lower region of the pelvis, and low down into the thigh; the region of the neck of the bladder was distended, and painful to the touch as well as on standing or sitting. With a few, in whom the disease had been of long standing, there were also present cold feet, swollen feet, hectic fever, colliquative perspiration, cough, etc.
In the more severe cases I have usually commenced by giving half a fluidrachm of the Tincture of Elaterium one, two, or three times a day until it acted upon the bowels; and afterward continue its use in doses of from five to ten drops, gradually increasing it as it could be borne. Great relief has always followed in these cases as soon as the purgative effect came on from the first large doses, and that, too, in cases where other purgatives had been frequently taken without any relief whatever. In less severe cases I commence with six or eight drops three times a day, gradually increasing it as could be borne, and being very careful to avoid giving it in doses to act upon the bowels. This action I have only deemed necessary at the commencement of treatment in the more severe and obstinate cases.
A great difference will be found among different persons as to the doses they can bear; while some can take from six to twelve drops three times daily for weeks without any unpleasantness arising therefrom, others will be found who can not bear more than one or two drops for a dose, on which account some care and attention is required on commencing the treatment.
As the agent is apt to excite nausea and vomiting, I have generally administered each dose of it in a teaspoonful or two of syrup, sarsaparilla syrup, or compound yellow dock syrup, etc. In cases of cold feet, general sensation of cold or chilliness, tincture of prickly ash bark may be added to each dose; if the liver is torpid, tincture of apocynum androsaemifolium, etc. Gastric acidity, constipation, nervous irritability, anemia, etc., when present, require the usual treatment for their relief or removal. I prepare the tincture by adding one drachm of pulverized Elaterium to one pint of alcohol, ninety-five per cent; allowing it to stand two or three weeks with frequent agitation. I will remark here that I have likewise found this remedy very beneficial in chronic gastritis, and other chronic inflammations of mucous tissues. In procuring the Elaterium be very careful that it is good, as there is much in the market that is worthless.—J. KING, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1870.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.