Selected writings of John M. Scudder.
If for no other reason than to make the physician familiar with good medicinal preparations and to know the tools with which he worked Dr. Scudder advocated a simple form of Office Pharmacy. His experience with concentrations and other valueless medicines is recounted herein, and he tells of his crude but simple devices and office-made medicines.
To one familiar with Eclectic drug history it need scarcely be told that concentrations or resinoids was one of the rocks upon which early Eclecticism came near perishing. To those not familiar with this interesting chapter of our history we would commend a reading of Bulletin No. 12, Pharmacy Series No. 2 of the Lloyd Library, titled "The Eclectic Alkaloids, Resins, Resinoids, Oleoresins, and Concentrated Principles," by J. U. & C. G. Lloyd, 1910. (available here and here)—Ed. Gleaner.
SOME EXPERIENCES IN THE PRACTICE OF MEDICINE.—One who has practiced medicine for fifteen years, commencing at the bottom and by hard work gaining the top, will have had experiences that may benefit others who have not passed over the entire road. It is well for us once in a while to review, that we may compare our present with our past, and determine how far we have advanced.
In 1855 much of Eclectic Medicine was an unmitigated humbug. It was the day of the so-called concentrated medicines, and any thing having a termination in "in" was lauded to the skies. It was claimed that these resinoids were the active principles of the plants, and as they would replace the old drugging with crude remedies and teas, they must prove a great boon. But they did not give success, and finally, after trying them for a while, the practitioner would go back to the crude articles and old syrups and teas with success; or he would settle down to Podophyllin catharsis and quinia.
I finished my collegiate course with faith in my teachers, but as month by month passed, and the concentrated remedies proved worthless, it became less and less, until finally I was forced to make a radical change in my methods. There is one safe rule to follow in all such cases, where a preparation fails, or in other words, where manufactured articles disappoint you, purchase the crude articles and prepare them yourselves.
Money is a scarce commodity with the young practitioner, and I soon found that drug bills, with resinoids at sixty cents to two dollars per ounce, were eating up all the ready money. There were then two reasons that caused me to turn my attention to office pharmacy—want of good medicines, and scarcity of money.
I can recollect, as well as if it was yesterday, the calculation of expenses to make a commencement, and as the stock of ready money was but a few dollars the estimate had to be made upon a small basis. I had settled in my own mind that alcohol was the best solvent, and that a tincture prepared by percolation was the best preparation. Going to the nearest grocery where earthenware was kept, six one gallon jugs were selected, which showed, by tapping on them a thin bottom. A few careful blows with the hatchet knocked out the bottom, making a hole sufficiently large to introduce the hand. Taking an inch board and fixing it firmly as a shelf some two feet from the cellar floor, and boring six two-inch auger holes through it for the necks of the jugs—the pharmacy was on end, and in running order.
The process of percolation was very simple. The jug was cleansed and corked; a wisp of dried wire-grass was placed in the neck, and the bruised or ground article was packed in rather tightly, then the menstruum (common whisky at twenty cents per gallon) was poured on. After standing twenty-four hours the cork was drawn, and the percolation would progress without much attention.
There was a real satisfaction in doing it. The remedies came out nice and fresh, they were cheap, and their medicinal value was far greater than those purchased in a drugstore. I prepared tinctures of everything medicinal that grew in the neighborhood, of course in small quantities, but sufficient for office wants.
I determined very early in my practice that finely powdered and fresh Hydrastis Canadensis, at twenty-five cents per pound, was fully equal to Hydrastine, at two dollars per ounce. That Podophyllum, either in fine powder, in infusion, or in tincture with whisky, was a much kindlier and better medicine than Podophyllin. That Carbonate of Iron, at twenty-five cents per pound, was fully equal to any of the costly preparations, if given in small doses. That an infusion of Alnus, Rumex, and Scrophularia in very moderate quantity, or a tincture prepared from these with whisky, was worth more as an alterative than all the Compound Syrup of Stillingia of the shops. That Acetate of Potash, at seventy-five cents per pound, was the equal, both in scrofula and syphilis, to Iodide of Potassium, at four dollars.
All of this had to be learned by experience, for I had received Materia Medica from the modern Cleaveland, and not from the old-fashioned Professor Jones. My professor of Materia Medica, like many others who profess to teach Eclecticism, was trained in the old-school, and knew little of our practice. If I had received the present teaching it would have saved me much trouble. . .
The teaching of special sedatives commenced in 1859, and was rendered prominent when I took the chair of Practice, and it, with the Acetate of Potash, were frequent subjects of jokes, as Dr. Scudder's Hobbies. They have remained hobbies ever since, and have safely carried the writer and some thousands of others. So it has been with other direct remedies. When introduced they are gladly taken hold of, and soon number their hundreds of supporters.
If any one will take the trouble to prepare, or have prepared for him, tinctures of the recent indigenous articles of his section of the country, he will find much satisfaction in their use. It gives a man a love for investigation, which grows as he pursues the subject, and will finally give much valuable experience.—SCUDDER, Eclectic Medical Journal, 1870.
The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.