Selected writings of John King:
This, one of the earliest contributions to the history, pharmacy, and therapy of the concentrated medicines of the early Eclectics, should be read in connection with the articles on "Concentrated Medicines," "Discovery of Podophyllin, etc." "Preparations for Skin and Eye Affections," by Professor King, and the editorial reproduction of Professor Lloyd's paper on The Discovery of Podophyllin. These original papers, brought into this one issue, constitute a series of source histories on early Eclectic medicines, available to those who do not have access to the original contributions.—Ed. Gleaner.
IMPORTANT REMEDIES.—In the, April number, 1846, Volume V, page 175, of the last series of your invaluable Journal, I directed the attention of Eclectic practitioners to the usefulness of employing the concentrated or active principles of medicinal plants, in preference to the usual mode of administering the crude articles in bulk with all their woody fiber and other inert principles, by which means disease can be combated more energetically and effectually, and a great objection to our practice be entirely removed, viz.: the large and disagreeable doses in general use. Since the communication above referred to, I have been pleased to learn that efforts have been made, and are still progressing, both in the preparing and testing the active constituents of our most valuable agents. The articles on Podophyllin and Macrotin, in the January number of the present New Series, I consider of vast practical importance to the practitioner; and I can not refrain from again alluding to the remedies and some of the forms in which I have employed them.
In the fall of the year 1835 I procured, for the first time, some resin of Podophyllum, Macrotys, Iris, and Aletris, also the dried Hydro-alcoholic extracts of Leptandra and Hydrastis. In obtaining the resin of Podophyllum, I made a saturated tincture of the root, which was placed into an equal quantity of water, and the alcohol distilled off; the resin remained at the bottom of the vessel, and had the appearance of a burnt substance, which led me to imagine that it had probably become injured by the mode adopted for its collection.
A young lady who was present at the time, and heard my observations concerning it, placed twelve or fifteen grains of it on a small piece of paper, and saying that she needed a dose of medicine, inquired if she might take that quantity. Supposing it inert, I answered affirmatively. In an hour or two after taking it she was attacked with excessive vomiting and hypercatharsis, which continued for three or four hours before I was notified of it. I found her in severe pain and distress, vomiting and purging, cramps in the stomach and extremities, weak, small pulse, coldness of the extremities, and nearly every symptom usual to Asiatic cholera;—she was sinking rapidly.
As the treatment of the case is published in the July number, 1844, of the New York Philosophical Medical Journal, I will briefly state that mustard to the wrists and ankles, a solution of bi-carb. potas., often repeated, fomentations to the stomach and bowels, and diaphoretic powders effected a cure, although the patient has since that time labored under some chronic affection of the stomach. This was my introduction to Podophyllin, and it was a long time before I ventured to employ it again; however, I conquered my prejudices, and have found it one of our best remedial agents, as a cathartic, emeto-cathartic, alterative, and hepatic, and decidedly beneficial in gonorrhoea, stricture, recent disease of the prostate, etc.
The Podophyllin, as now prepared by Mr. Merril, is more refined than that I have been in the habit of making, and the dose is from two to four grains, which will generally produce an emeto-cathartic result; yet as a matter of economy it will be found that if ten grains be well triturated with twenty grains of sugar of milk, it will make ten or fifteen active doses. R. S. Newton, M. D., substitutes loaf sugar for that of milk.
The resin of Iris Versicolor, or Iridin, will be found to contain many properties similar to the Podophyllin, without much of the nauseating and disagreeable effects of this last, and may be used in the same class of disease. I prefer it to the Podophyllin in dropsical affections, and in cases accompanied with dropsical swellings. As anti-periodic agents, I can say nothing, never having employed them, or observed their action as such. In those obstinate cases of scrofula and other glandular diseases, where our most powerful agents seem to exert no influence whatever upon the disease, I have found salivation to produce that degree of action upon the glandular system, that by merely its addition to the treatment I have often cured such maladies by the same remedies which the patient had previously been taking for a long time without the least degree of benefit.
But there is a wide difference between the irritating, poisonous, and often uncontrollable salivation produced by mercury, and the mild, harmless, and readily-controlled salivation of medicinal plants, which do not manifest their salivant result until they have roused the whole glandular system to a condition rendering useful the action of our eutrophic treatment. I know of no better sialagogue than a mixture composed of equal parts of Podophyllin, Iridin, and the dried Hydro-alcoholic extract of Xanthoxylum Frax; of which half-grain doses must be given and repeated every two or three hours. I recommend this as an officinal Eclectic formula for all cases where salivation is deemed necessary; also as an unrivaled alterative in many forms of chronic disease.
Prof. Tully called my attention to the resin of Macrotys in 1835, which I obtained in the same manner as for the Podophyllin resin. I have used it with most excellent and I may say extraordinary results in scrofula, many forms of cutaneous disease, paralysis, enlarged spleen, chorea, rheumatism, etc. In some of these diseases I employ it in conjunction with a saturated tincture of nux vomica, two to four drops, three times a day, in a cup of sweetened water. In the treatment of phthisis pulmonalis, I believe the Macrotin will be found an indispensable agent, knowing as I do the value of the saturated tincture of the root in that disease, as well as in laryngitis. In uterine diseases I have given a mixture of equal parts of the macrotin and resin of aletris (aletrin, I suppose), and think the combination far preferable to either article alone. In some indolent habits the addition of the Podophyllin will be found to increase its efficacy. The action of all these articles, as with Podophyllin, will be very energetic in smaller doses than usual, if thoroughly triturated with sugar of milk, or loaf sugar, to which fact I especially desire to invite the attention of Eclectic physicians, as it is a point of no small importance to them.
As the action of the concentrated principles of our remedies is now undergoing investigation, I would refer to my communication named in the commencement of this for a list of articles worthy of immediate notice, and will mention several which I have made and used, as particularly deserving the confidence of physicians: dried hydro-alcoholic extracts of Baptisia Tinctoria, Euphorbia Ipecac., Hydrastis Can., Phytolacca Dec., Cornus Sericea, Rumex crispus, and Apocynum Cannabinum.—J. KING, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1849.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.