Selected writings of John King:
In the early years of Eclecticism, Eclectics were ostracized by pharmacists as well as by physicians of the dominant school. Thus they were forced into methods of pharmacy of their own, extremely crude and complex though they may have been. A double advantage accrued to them, however, for it was the beginning of a crusade for representative medicines and taught them, through contact, to know drugs—drugs that could be depended on for therapeutic results. Moreover, it gave the incentive to investigation which only necessity is likely to foster. The ultimate achievement of all this is the worldwide standing now accorded to Eclectic pharmacy. Opposition and antagonism are often of great benefit to the opposed faction, and the refusal of pharmacists to prepare medicines for the early Eclectics, or the half-hearted and unsatisfactory preparation of such, only served to strengthen the arch which was to uphold Eclecticism.
The article selected illustrates the type of materia medica contributions which were eagerly welcomed by the pioneer Eclectics, and is reproduced herein to show one of Professor King's earliest efforts in the field of pharmacology. Crude though his methods might have been, and cruder still the products, yet were these medicines in therapeutic virtues in advance of those methods pursued and galenicals prepared by those who opposed the simple office pharmacy of the pioneer.—Ed. Gleaner.
PREPARATIONS FOR SKIN AND EYE AFFECTIONS.—Messrs. Editors: I have always been opposed to the use of any mineral preparation in the treatment of disease, whether administered internally or applied externally; and invariably employ agents derived from Nature's garden, whenever they can be found to benefit, or effect a cure. If I mistake not, this is the true principle upon which Eclectic Reform is based, viz.: to employ medical plants in all cases where they prove beneficial,—but never allow a patient to suffer or die for the want of other remedial means, because our knowledge is not sufficiently advanced to enable us, in any given case, to relieve by botanic remedies, always avoiding all such as under common circumstances of their use are liable to do harm. At all events, this is the principle, by which I am governed in my treatment of all cases of disease which come under my care; and in the treatment of some thousand cases during the last several years I have been quite successful without the use of any mineral preparation whatever, save in about 10 or 12 cases, with whom I used preparations of iron internally, and of zinc externally.
In the agents externally employed I fear there has not been that attention paid to the action of the medical virtues of plants which its importance demands; thus we find recommended in some of the older books of reform, among the preparations for cutaneous diseases, ulcers, ophthalmia, etc., those old and deleterious articles, as Murias Hydrargyri, Hydrargyri Oxydum Rubrum, etc., and which has given occasion for foul-mouthed slander to report, and in a number of instances with effect, that notwithstanding our assertions of botanic treatment we slyly employed some of the strongest mineral poisons.
However much truth such report may bear upon its face, it is basely false, as may be ascertained by referring to the many works on Medical reform of more recent date.
My object in the present communication is to call the attention of Eclectic physicians to, a few medical preparations which I have been in the habit of using for the relief or cure of affections of the eyes, and which have seldom disappointed me in their result.
Take a piece of stout limb of Tag Alder, (Alnus Rotundifolia., just cut from the shrub, through the center of which bore a hole, running lengthwise with the grain. Place any quantity of good, fine common salt into this hole, and then close it tightly at each end. Place the limb thus prepared in a fire, or among hot ashes, and let it remain there until it is nearly charred through, which will generally be in about 36 hours. When cold, split the limb, and the salt will be found formed into a hard roll, like a roll of brimstone. Finely pulverize the salt thus prepared, and keep it in closely stopped vials.
A small quantity of this powder blown into the eye will be found an excellent remedy for scrofulous and other ophthalmic diseases, granulations of the cornea, etc.
In scrofulous and any other disease depending upon a taint or impurity of the system, external means must always be accompanied by proper internal means.
No. 2.—FULIGINOUS OPHTHALMIC POWDER.
Boil about four ounces of good, hard, clean soot in four pints of soft water for about ten minutes. Filter the liquid while hot, and evaporate to dryness. Pulverize finely, and keep in well stopped vials. Used the same as the Saline Powder. In some instances a combination of the Saline with the Fuliginous Powder will be found invaluable. By combining one ounce of the Pulv. Fuligin. with one ounce of stramonium ointment, it makes an excellent preparation for tinea-capitis, and many cutaneous diseases.
Take one or two pounds of fresh Yellow Dock roots, (Rumex Crispus., cut off the outside bark and wash them free from any dirt or gritty substances; beat the roots, thus prepared and quartered lengthways, with one pound of fresh butter, and continue beating until the juice of the roots has become well incorporated with the butter, and then carefully remove all the fibrous and other portions of the roots which have not combined with the butter. To this add two ounces of resin of Hydrastis Canadensis, one ounce of the dried Hydro-Alcoholic extract of Baptisia Tinctoria, and half an ounce of the resin of Sanguinaria Canadensis, each of which must be very finely pulverized. Incorporate them thoroughly together, and allow them to stand a week before using.
Useful in many cases of strumous and other ophthalmic affections, cutaneous diseases, etc.
No. 4.—GOLDEN OINTMENT.
Prepare the Rumex and butter as above, and to every two pounds of the preparation add two ounces of the resin of Iris versicolor, two ounces of the resin of Hydrastis Canadensis, two ounces of the resin of Sanguinaria Canadensis, all in very fine powder, and half an ounce of the ethereal oil of Saffron. Incorporate thoroughly, and use as above.
No. 5.—TONIC OINTMENT.
Melt spermaceti, one pound, add to it Balsam Tolu, one ounce, and enough good olive oil to make it of the proper consistence for an ointment; then stir in prepared Soot as above, one ounce, dried Hydro-Alcoholic extract of Cornus Sericea, two drams, dried Alcoholic extract of Aletris Farinosa, one dram, resin of Hydrastis Canadensis, two drams; all very finely pulverized, and keep stirring till cold.
Rub a small quantity on the inner surface of the eye-lids every night and morning. Useful for chronic inflammation and weak eyes.
The above remedies will be found beneficial, and much safer than articles containing any of the salts of Mercury; and their action can be modified or increased, according to circumstances, by increasing or diminishing the quantities of the articles employed in their preparation.—J. KING, M. D., Western Medical Reformer, 1846.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.