Page images
PDF
EPUB

kill a large dog. A sixteenth or an eighth of a grain is sometimes sufficient to cause vomiting in a man. Like ipecacuanha, it is used as a cough medicine, in which case the doses are of course very small. Thus Majondie recommends eight grains of pure emetine and lour ounces of sugar to be made into nine-grain lozenges, each of which will contain about 5'. of a grain of pure emetine.

The Febrifuge Alhalies.—Two of these are contained in cinchona (Peruvian bark), one being called cinchonine, and the other quinine ; both of these are present in many kinds of cinchona, but the absolute quantity of both, as well as the relative quantity of each, vary extremely in different species. Thus, in a pound of one species Dr. Michaelis found thirty-two grains of cinchonine and sixty-four of quinine; in a pound of another, eighteen grains of cinchonine and eight of quinine ; and in a pound of another, two hundred and eighty-six of quinine and no cinchonine.

Both these alkalies possess, like cinchona, the power of curing ague : the quinine is by far the most used ; but, as it is scarcely soluble in water, it is the sulphate of quinine which is commonly prescribed. The sulphate of quinine dissolves in water, slightly acidulated with sulphuric acid, and with the addition of tincture of orangepeel forms an elegant though intensely bitter mixture.

The sulphate of quinine, when exposed to the temperature of boiling water for some time, becomes luminous and highly electrical; the sulphate of cinchonine possesses the same properties in a less degree.

These alkalies are certainly valuable additions to the materia medica ; for many patients who could not, or would not, take cinchona in substance, can easily digest two grains of the sulphate of quinine. It is in vain,* however, to imagine, with some enthusiastic physicians, that cinchona can be entirely discarded ; partly because the alkalies which they would substitute are much more expensive, and partly because it is not always advanta* " Quel praticien donnerait aujourd'hui le quinquina en poudre ou en extrait, de preference au sulfate de quinine on ii la salioine TMajendie.

geous to get rid of the other principles with which the alkalies are associated in cinchona. Nevertheless, fruitful as modern analysis has been in discoveries of this kind, it may be doubted whether any one of them, even morphia itself, is more important than that of quinine.

Salicine.—This is another febrifuge medicine ; it is obtained from the bark of the willow. The dose is about twelve grains in the four-and-twenty hours. It sometimes succeeds when the sulphate of quinine has failed, and vice versa.—Ilicine, derived from the ilex aquifblium (common holly), is also said to cure agues. It is remarkable that, in the language of medicine, jeb/ifuge signifies curing agues and not curing continued fever: the reason probably being, that at the time when this word received its acceptation, agues were the commonest kind of fever; the reverse being the fact at present.

Veratrine.—Four-and-twenty years ago, when the eau medicinale d'Husson was at the acme of its reputation, Mr. James Moore wrote two letters, in which he endeavoured to show, by a number of curious facts, that this specific for the gout was indebted for its powers to white hellebore {veratrum album). It afterwards appeared that the bulb of the meadow-saffron (colchicum autumnale), and not the white hellebore, was the principal ingredient. Mr. Moore's ingenious supposition, however, though wrong in form, was right in substance; for the veratrum and the colchicum both owe their virtue to the same alkaloid — veratrine.

This potent remedy acts with extreme violence even in very minute doses, and its effects are most marked when applied to a mucous membrane. A small quantity put into the mouth excites most abundant salivation; if snuffed up into the nose, it causes sneezing of dangerous intensity; a quarter of a grain introduced into the intestinal canal produces abundant evacuations.

Majendie once gave two grains of veratrine, within four-and-twenty hours, to a patient without producing hypercatharsis; but then in this case the patient was a man who had had an apoplectic fit some time before. Majendie justly cites this as an instance of the way in which the effects of medicines are modified by the state of the nervous system ; for he himself, having only tasted the potion which contained the two grains, experienced for several hours an insupportable acrimony in his mouth and pharynx, which was not quite gone on the following day: the patient had not felt anything of the kind.

An ointment made with four grains of veratrine to the ounce, may be employed externally in cases of tic douleureux or obstinate chronic rheumatism. It is a violent and unmanageable remedy in all its forms.

Prussic acid.—This most dangerous of all medicines was discovered by Scheele in 1780, but was first used by Professor Brera of Padua in 1809. It derives its name from having been originally made from Prussian blue; and, in like manner, its synonym hydrocyanic (acid) is derived from v$wp, water, and Kvovos, blue. A single drop of pure Prussic acid is sufficient to kill a strong dog; but what is commonly called by that name is much diluted, sometimes containing only three per cent, of real acid. Even this, however, is dangerously and destructively powerful, requiring such caution in the prescriber and compounder as is not always to be found. Several of the French forms of Prussic acid are exceedingly strong, and it unfortunately happens that there is a syrup of hydrocyanic acid in the Parisian codex (pharmacopoeia) much stronger than one of the same name in . common use. Some years since, seven epileptic patients, in one of the Parisian hospitals, lost their lives from this cause. Their physician had prescribed a moderate dose of the syrup, meaning the common one; but the attendant administered the syrup of the codex, and in three quarters of an hour the unhappy victims of a defective nomenclature were no more. It is to Prussic acid that bitter almonds, laurel-leaves, peach-blossoms, &c. &c, owe their poisonous qualities.

Iodine is an elementary substance, discovered by M. Courtois in 1813. It is obtained from the mother-water of kelp, but exists also in sponge and a great number of sea-weeds. Iodine is of a bluish-black colour, resembling bits of shining coal, with which it is said to be sometimes adulterated: this fraud may easily be detected, as iodine dissolves in alcohol, and isconverted into vapour of a beautiful violet colour at a temperature of about 350° of Fahrenheit. It is upon this circumstance that its name is founded, which is derived from Itostjs, of a violet colour. As burnt sponge, which contains iodine, was long known to be the best remedy in the treatment of bronchocele {goitre), Dr. Coindet tried the effects of iodine in the same disease; and as these were very encouraging, and his testimony has been confirmed by that of innumerable practitioners, iodine continues to be the remedy most frequently employed in bronchocele. It is administered with great advantage in scrofula, and many disagreeable eruptions are cured by iodine with less expense of constitution than by mercury.

Iodine, by combining with hydrogen, forms hydriodic acid; and this again, by combining with potash, forms the hydriodate of potash, a milder remedy than iodine, and employed in larger doses in the same diseases.

Iodine alone will hardly dissolve in water, but its solution is easily accomplished by the assistance of the hydriodate of potash; the solution of the two combined forms the ioduretted hydriodate of potash, a useful medicine.

Like other good things, iodine has been abused, and especially by persons who have undertaken the management of their own cases. Thus Dr. Zinck tells us, that "As soon as it was known that the tincture of iodine would cure goitre, it was used at Lausanne in inconceivable quantities, to such an extent, that I may say without much exaggeration, that the phial of tincture of iodine took the place of the bon-bons box, for many carried it about with them. With a few exceptions, everybody used it, including those who were afraid that they might have the goitre; and the medicine was sold in the apothecaries'shops without a physician's prescription. I have reckoned up with M. Bischoff, an apothecary of our town, that we are quite within the mark if we estimate at ten pounds' weight the iodine which he used in making the tincture which he sold the first year; and the other apothecaries sold it too. Many persons sent for it from Geneva, erroneously supposing that it would be better. This mania for taking iodine had its victims; but, as a general fact, we had but i'ew in comparison with the great number of persons who used the tincture without any precaution; all those who sank under it had overdosed the remedy."

The quantity of iodine stated in the above quotation to have been used by Bischoff the pharrnacien, is very great; for ten pounds are seventy thousand grains, and a grain is a common dose, and perhaps more than a proper one.

The combinations of iodine with lime, iron, arsenic, barytes, zinc, sulphur, and mercury, have been medicinally used, but can hardly be considered as established remedies.

Bromine has many analogies with iodine, and like it exists in many marine substances. It has been found in mother-water of salt-pits, in sea-water, in the waters of a great number of springs, and in sea animals and vegetables.

We do not know that any one uses bromine in this country. Majendie says that he employs it when iodine seems not sufficiently active, or when patients have become accustomed to its action.

Chlorine takes its name from its colour, for it i« derived from x*-wpos, green; it is a greenish-yellow gas of a pungent taste and smell. Its specific gravity is 2-4216. It was discovered by Scheele in 1774; but Sir Humphry Davy first showed that it was an elementary body. This gas, diluted with water, has been administered internally in scarlet and typhus fever, and, mingled with the steam of hot water, has been inhaled in phthisis and other diseases. The late Mr. Thackrah of Leeds, who wrote so ably on the diseases of workmen, tried this expedient in the bronchitis, to which flaxmen are peculiarly subject. (Bronchitis means inflammation of the bronchi, the ramifications of the windpipe.)

"The inhalation of chlorine gas we have tried rather extensively among the workers in flax, suffering from

« PreviousContinue »