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In vols, xx and xxii of the Practitioner, Dr. G. Hunter Mackenzie gives the details of a series of thirty-seven experiments with Aconite and Aconitine on frogs and rabbits. He gives (vol. xxii, p. 173) a summary of the results of these experiments in the following words:
"1. Aconite and Aconitia act primarily on the respiration by their influence on the respiratory centre and peripheral sensory branches of the vagus.
"2. They have no direct action on the heart, and only affect that viscus secondarily through the medium of the lungs.
"3. Their action on the nervous system consists in, firstly, irritating, and secondly, paralysing,the peripheral sensory nerves and posterior roots of the spinal nerves. They have no direct action on the brain or the vaso-motor nerves. They increase the irritability of the peripheral motor nerves and of the motor columns of the cord.
"4. They do not induce muscular paralysis, but, on the contrary, increase the irritability of voluntary muscle.
"5. They induce convulsions mainly through their augmenting the irritability of the anterior column of the cord, the motor nerves and muscles.
"6. They firstly increase, and secondarily diminish, temperature.
"7. Death ensues from asphyxia and respiratory collapse."
Now, apart from the fact that these conclusions of Mackenzie from his experiments on frogs and rabbits, even were they correct, are of no manner of use to us as a guide to the therapeutic use of Aconite, it is evident that they are quite inconsistent with what we know of the pathogenetic action of Aconite on man. That Aconite has a direct action on the heart is shown by the numerous cardiac symptoms it gives rise to in cases of poisoning and in provings. Achscharumow,* Liegeois and Hottot,f and Ringer,f from their own experiments assert th&t Aconite has a distinct and specific effect on the muscular substance of the heart. That Aconite
* Arch.f. Anat. Phys. « wist. Med., 1866, p. 255, et seq.
has a specific action on the brain is evident from the marked cerebral symptoms it caused in almost all the provers and cases of accidental poisoning. The intellectual functions of the brain are not always affected, but sometimes delirium,* loss of consciousness and coma have been observed, and the emotional disturbances are peculiarly well marked both in poisonings and provings, and post-mortem observations show congestion of blood-vessels of brain and its membranes, and even serous exudation. Symptoms of paresis and paralysis are not uncommon. Ringer and Murrellf say that Aconite paralyses all nitrogenous tissues. AchscharumowJ says it paralyses the voluntary muscles. Harleyj says it has no action on the sympathetic nerve, but, on the other hand, Bagshawe§ relates a case of Aconite poisoning in which the main feature was paralysis of the sympathetic nerve. Boehm and Wartmann|| conclude from their experiments on animals that Aconitine paralyses first the sensory and then the motor part of the cord.
It would be easy to multiply these illustrations of the conflicting and contradictory conclusions of experimental physiologists in regard to the effects of Aconite, all derived from observations and experiments on the lower animals. These contradictions teach us that such experiments are
* This was Especially well marked in a case of poisoning recorded by Dr. Bead (N. S. Wales Med. Gaz., vol. iv, p. 43). He was poisoned by frequent medicinal doses of Aeon., and when seen was highly delirious, talking all sorts of nonsense, imagining strange figures, goblins, &c., abont the bed. Mistook people, and rambled incoherently. As a rule, after poisoning by a large dose of Aeon., the intellect remains clear, but other functions of the brain, especially the emotional, almost always show signs of great derangement.
t Ringer's Handbook of Therapeutics, 9th edit., p. 467. J Loc. cit.
§ Practitioner, vol. xi, p. 26.
|| Verhand. der med. Oesellsch. zu Wurzburg, 1872, n. P., vol. iii, p. 62. % Dr. Hughes has shown (Pharmacodynamics, 4th edit., p. 159) how erroneous is the conclusion drawn from experiments on animals, that Aeon. paralyses the sensory nerves. These may be and are rendered insensible to impressions from without, but they are often the seat of severe pain, sometimes amounting to sharp neuralgia, as many cases of provings and poisonings of intelligent creatures show.
attended with the greatest uncertainty as to the effects of the drug on animals of the same species, and that therefore they can be of little or no use, indeed, are altogether misleading as to its effects on human beings. And if this is the case with respect to Aconite, a drug that has been so extensively employed in experiments on animals, how much more uncertain and deceptive must be the conclusions arrived at from the scanty trials of other drugs on animals. In fact, the only reliable information with regard to the action of drugs on the human being is that derived from the records of careful provings on intelligent persons and of poisonings, accidental or designed. Physiologists themselves are beginning to feel and to acknowledge this, and must in the end adopt the method of proving medicines taught and practised by Hahnemann as the only sure and certain way of learning their effects on man. We can easily believe that those who have hitherto held up Hahnemann to derision and scorn, will not willingly confess that he was the true pioneer of pharmacodynamic knowledge, but to this it must eventually come; and the true knowledge of the pure effects of drugs on the human system will thus only be obtained when investigators consent to tread the path pointed out, and first successfully trod, by the great German. It is mere waste of time, not to mention its cruelty to the victims and the exasperation caused to zoophilists, to gloat and potter over the unintelligent agonies and strugglings of tortured frogs and other brutes, in the vain expectation of deriving from them some information respecting the pathogenetic effects on and therapeutic uses to man of new and unknown drugs.
Orts, By George Macdonald, LL.D. London: Sampson Low and Co., 1882.
This collection of essays is interesting to us as it contains one on our late colleague Dr. Russell's admirable work, The History and Heroes of Medicine, a book which we fear is not sufficiently known to the rising generation of Hahnemann's followers. The essay itself seems to have been a review written for, and for all we know published in, some periodical, though the author gives us no information on this point. It gives a very good idea of the nature 01 Dr. Russell's work, and expresses a very favourable opinion of it, but certainly not more favourable than the work deserves.
"It is," says Dr. Macdonald, "the work of a man of liberal education, of refinement, and of truthfulness, with power to understand and faculty to express/' and he concludes :—" We rise from the perusal of the book, whatever may be our feelings with regard to the truth or falsehood of the system it advocates, with increased respect for the profession of medicine, with enlarged hope for its future, and with a strong feeling of the nobility conferred by the art upon every one of its practitioners who is aware of the dignity of his calling." A book which could produce such an impression on a man of genius and culture does not deserve to be neglected by the members of the profession for whom Dr. Russell chiefly wrote. Our own opinion is that The History and Heroes of Medicine should be regarded as one of our classics, and should occupy a place of honour in the library of every one of the author's colleagues.
Phthisis Pulmonalis or Tubercular Phthisis. By Gershom N. Brigham, M.D. New York, and Philadelphia: Boericke and Tafel.
"Numerous as our treatises on pulmonary consumption may be, the appearance of this work needs no apology, provided the author has something to say. From the homoeopathic standpoint no very exhaustive treatise has yet appeared. Upon histological and pathological questions much has been written of late, and yet the profession have come to no agreement." Such are the opening words of the introductory chapter of this work. How far readers will agree with the author's first proposition will depend very much on how far they consider the something he has to say fulfils the want he names in his second, and sheds light on the obscure questions of histology and pathology he names in his third. For our own part we may say frankly we feel he has greatly over-estimated his powers; we cannot admit that this is by any means an "exhaustive treatise" from the homoeopathic, or any other standpoint, and pathological questions we find rather less than more clear for the author's treatment of them. This is the more to be regretted because there is much that is of real value in the book; and those portions which are of no value have such slender connections with the valuable part that they could all be cut away without in the least being missed. If the author had confined himself to giving us an account of the chief remedies that are found of service in consumption and chest disorders generally, with exemplifying cases, we should have had nothing but praise to give him. But his ambition has led him too far. He has, with the best intentions, endeavoured to do too much, and has—done it!
The first 76 pages of this volume of 241 pages, are devoted to an account of the pathology, symptomatolgy, and physical signs of phthisis. Then follows a chapter on "Atnenorrhoea, Ovaritis, and Endometritis as Causes of Phthisis;" a chapter on Haemorrhage, with the chief remedies, their leading indications, and illustrative cases; one on Catarrhal Phthisis with remedies and cases; one on Pneumonia; one on Complications, in pharynx, larynx, and intestines; one on Regimen, Climate, and Surgical drainage; a short one on Acute Tuberculosis; and then the piece de resistance, the last 80 pages of the book, on Chronic Tubercular Phthisis, giving leading remedies with indications, and cases, original and gathered from various sources, illustrating their action. This is followed by a note on Favourable Symptoms, and another on the Mode of Administering Remedies. A glance at the above will show that power of arrangement is not one of the author's strong points. Neither is clearness of thought and expression. So long as he confines himself to arranging the characteristic symptoms of remedies, and stating simply the observations of himself and others, we can follow him with profit; but as soon as he attempts to leave this solid ground, and ven