Professor King was a personal acquaintance, a correspondent, and an admirer of the talented Professor Tully, of Yale University. Immediately after discovering the resin of podophyllum, he communicated the process, together with his experience as regards its violent energy, to that exceptional authority, who, although an Allopathic physician, was both very liberal and very enthusiastic in his views concerning the ideals and efforts of the independent American reform investigators. Professor Tully called Dr. King's attention to the plant macrotys, 19 and in 1835 King obtained its resin (macrotin or cimicifugin), after his previous method of making resin of podophyllum.
19 Eclectic physicians have always used the term macrotys in preference to cimicifuga. (See Lloyd Brothers' Drug Treatise No. XIII, P. 3.) The name macrotys under Eaton's authority, and Rafinesque's precedent, had become established in early American botany. Eclectics do not believe in changing the name of a remedy every time a botanist alters the name of a plant for some reason, personal, fanciful, or discursively proper or improper. Hence in Eclectic literature, the name macrotys still has precedence.
Soon thereafter, 1840, he made and recorded the production of the resinous principles of iris versicolor, aletris, and leptandra. The last substance, although more of a resin than is resin of podophyllum, did not carry the therapeutic qualities of the drug, proving to be practically inert. For this reason it was subsequently replaced by the dried extract of leptandra, under the name leptandrin. The same was also true of the resin of hydrastis, a plant that contains an abundance of resin and was one of Dr. King's remedial favorites, but which failed to give an active, resinous product. These exceptions to the rule which had produced the energetic resins of jalap, podophyllum, and macrotys were exceedingly disappointing to the men who hoped to evolve a line of similar active principles from all plants. However, the various resinous, alkaloidal and extractive substances under the termination in, followed successively as commercial products, and within a few years Dr. King, as a means of introductory classification, very reluctantly referred to them under the blanket title "Concentrated Principles." This is shown, 1849, by the closing sentence in his article, titled "Important Remedies," as follows:
As the action of the concentrated principles of our remedies is now undergoing investigation, I would refer to the communication named in the commencement of this article 20 for a list of preparations 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 Canadensis, Phytolacca decandra, Cornus sericea, Rumex crispus, and Apocynum Cannabinum.— Eclectic Medical Journal, 1849, p. 63.
Be it observed that these concentrated principles were by Dr. King called dried hydro-alcoholic extracts, and also that the list does not include any drug dominated by a poisonous or active resin or oleoresin. Notwithstanding criticisms and unfounded statements to the contrary, it is seen that, at that early date, the very opening of the American Materia Medica, Dr. King had instituted an intelligent classification of these substances, that should not have been neglected.
Under his classification, no blanket title would have been necessary. Had it been adopted, the so-called alkaloids, concentrations, or resinoids, that plagued Eclectic pharmacy in succeeding years, would have been unknown.
But, as shown in the historical section of this Bulletin, the care of Dr. King was not effectual in controlling either the nomenclature or the composition of the many incongruous substances that, in rapid succession, were thrown upon the American drug market under the names alkaloid and resinoid. Nor was it possible to resist the marvelous claims made for their therapeutical virtues. Within a brief period several manufacturers of medicines were rivaling each other in their efforts to establish for their respective make of the "Resinoids," "Concentrations," and "Alkaloids" both priority and superiority.
In this turmoil Dr. King and other Eclectics were most unfortunately and unhappily embroiled, and that, too, not without reason, from the fact that Dr. King had introduced the resin of podophyllum and others similar. This, added to the fact that these popular "Eclectic Remedies" were making inroads on medicines from abroad, 21 led professional antagonists and those connected with foreign drug affairs, together with men who did not care for fact or were not inclined to investigate, as well as those who believed that independent investigation should at all costs be prevented, to attempt to saddle upon King the whole heterogeneous mass of conglomerates grouped under the name "Concentrations," and thus to discredit him and suppress the "Reformers." As a result of this, men who did not read carefully or who were unacquainted with either King or his ideals, or were prejudiced beyond reason, were led to blame him for what others, over whom he had no control, and whose methods were directly opposed to his, were doing. A bitter ending it was to the hopeful dream of that self-sacrificing philanthropist and scholar!
21 This commercial phase of the problem must not be overlooked. Europe supplied jalap and resin of jalap (coming from Mexico to London, thence to America); calomel at that time was imported from England, as were Spanish flies through London. These and such as these were being rapidly displaced by the new remedies.
Concerning this phase of the subject, Dr. Alexander Wilder wrote us as follows:
So far as the exploiting of "Concentrated Remedies" and the whole array of these peculiar extracts is concerned, the endeavor to throw a responsibility on Dr. John King, beyond the three preparations known as Podophyllin, Macrotin, or Irisin, is without warrant. Dr. King was too careful to go faster in such matters than he felt that his footing would be safe. He was simply an expositor of the few substances that he had discovered, and had neither disposition nor interest in foisting upon the confidence of his medical brethren, or the public generally, a large number of the "new remedies" that he had neither discovered nor tested.
Can the dilemma of Dr. King be more forcibly emphasized than by quoting his own words of protest against the imposition of the so-called Eclectic alkaloids, resinoids, and concentrations, written in the very height of the enthusiasm that had arisen in the Eclectic school in their behalf?
Concentrated medicines: I have been accused of unjustly opposing these remedies, and discrediting them to the profession. I confess to having opposed the principle that all the agents of our indigenous materia medica would yield their virtues in the form of a powder, and I still continue in the same belief. —Dr. John King, editorial in the Eclectic Medical Journal, Vol. XXI, p. 96, 1862.
To this may aptly be added the far-reaching paragraphs of Dr. King in the Preface (pages 9 and 11) to the American Dispensatory, 1870:
The only point to be regretted is that many worthless so-called "concentrated preparations" have been presented to the profession, purporting to be those of American Medical Reformers, and which have been gotten up by either ignorant or unprincipled parties, for the sole purpose of realizing wealth. The failure of these worthless articles to effect beneficial results in the treatment of disease might lead many to reject even those of value; which consideration alone has elicited the above remarks. . . . It is well known that many of these preparations, from which the manufacturers have, in some instances, already realized immense wealth, are valueless, or nearly so, while others again are downright impositions; for what chemist can believe in the reduction, for instance, of an active medicinal oil to the condition of a powder, without having its medical power more or less destroyed by the process for such reduction, even were the operation a mere trituration of the oil with some absorbent powder?