Discrediting the Eclectic Alkaloidal, Resinoidal Concentrations.

In the article titled "Podophyllin and Macrotin," Eclectic Medical Journal, Cincinnati, January, 1849, Mr. Wm. S. Merrell reviewed the articles of Hodgson (1832) and Lewis (1847), who had assayed the root of mayapple. Mr. Merrell also gave his own method of making the resin of podophyllum, which he had named Podophyllin, a name considered proper by himself and others high in authority.

In that article, which, excepting the contributions of Dr. King, was the first paper that seriously considered the pharmacy of these substances, Mr. Merrell announced that the authority for the said name, for giving which, as already stated, (pp. 11-13), he had been severely criticised, was the author of the United States Dispensatory (p. 27)

Following this, (February, 1849, pp. 66 to 68), Dr. John King, in the same journal, gave his part in the record, citing his method, as used in 1835:

In the fall of the year 1835, I produced for the first time some resin of Podophyllum, Macrotys, Iris, and Aletris, also the dried Hydro-alcoholic extracts of Leptandra and Hydrastis. In obtaining the resin of Podophyllum, I made a saturated tincture of the root, which was placed into an equal quantity of water, and the alcohol distilled off; the resin remained at the bottom of the vessel, and had the appearance of a burnt substance, which led me to imagine that it had probably become injured by the mode adopted for its collection.

As the action of the concentrated principles of our remedies is now undergoing investigation, I would refer to my communication named in the commencement of this, for a list of articles 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 Can., Phytolacca Dec., Cornus Sericea, Rumex crispus, and Apocynum Cannabinum.—Eclectic Medical Journal, 1849, pp. 66 and 68.

In August, 1849, Dr. S. H. Chase contributed an article commending Leptandrin, to which the editor appended a note, as follows:

We think the value of Leptandrin in dysentery has been thoroughly proved by the experience of the profession in Cincinnati. As a cholagogue remedy of very little purgative power, well calculated to change the morbid diathesis, it is entitled to a high rank.—Eclectic Medical Journal, 1849, P. 394.

In October, 1851, the New England Medical and Surgical Journal, in an editorial by Calvin Newton, M. D., answered the "question frequently asked," and wrote as follows concerning "the comparative efficacy and value of the concentrated preparations of medicines:"

Which have of late been introduced to the notice of the profession. In answer to such inquiries, we will here say, that we have given several of these preparations a pretty fair trial, and some of them we now hold in high estimation, particularly the leptandrin, podophyllin, and the macrotin.

Came now a voluminous flow of questionings concerning the new remedies, their pharmacy, for which extravagant claims were too often made, and their uses, which involved all concerned in the work, be they conservative or otherwise.

In 1850, E. M. Journal, July, pp. 297-305., Mr. Wm. S. Merrell contributed another voluminous article, titled, "Eclectic Pharmacy." In it he concedes to Dr. King priority in discovering the resins under discussion.

Justice requires me to state that Dr. John King, now Professor in the Eclectic Medical Institute at Memphis, had previously obtained several of these medicinal principles in a form somewhat less refined, and had successfully employed them in his practice, and had published some notices of them in the Medical Reformer. But these facts had attracted but little notice, and were wholly unknown to me till after several of my articles had acquired a considerable notoriety.

Whilst thus granting credit of discovery and of therapeutical use, Mr. Merrell, very truly and very properly, claims the credit of introducing the products in commerce. His paragraph on the subject may be repeated:

It is often asked with respect to Podophyllin, Leptandrin, and other analogous preparations, am I the discoverer of these? I answer, I am so, in the same sense that Fulton invented the steamboat and Morse the electric telegraph. The power of steam and its application to machinery was known before the time of Fulton, and it had even been applied to the propelling of a boat; but he carried these inventions one step further and first made them of practical utility in navigation.

The substances mentioned were all prepared after the process of making resin of podophyllum, the process being given as follows:

The process of procuring these is in theory very simple. It is, in general, to obtain a saturated alcoholic tincture of the root. To this add a large quantity of water, and distill off the alcohol. The watery menstruum holds in solution the gum, mucilage, extractive and most of the coloring matter, while the resinoid substance subsides, and is collected, washed, and dried. Still the process requires in many points no little skill and pharmaceutical experience for its success.

Yet the precipitates were not, all of them, resins proper, a fact that Mr. Merrell comments on as follows:

Like the pure resins, they are neutral in their chemical character, i. e., neither alkaline nor acid, so that they are not disposed to combine directly either with acids or alkalies, except with the latter in the same manner as oils do, forming saponaceous compounds. They are, like resins, softened by heat, and when cold and dry, (unless combined with an oil, as many are), break with a vitreous fracture. Still they are not properly resins, for they are not perfectly liquefied by heat alone, nor are they fully soluble in essential oils, as the pure resins are.

For these reasons, Mr. Merrell introduced the name resinoid, claiming the word resinoid (resembling resins) to be an appropriate class-title. His words may be reproduced, as follows:

The most important class of these new agents is the Resinoids. We call them Resinoids; that is, as the word imports, "resembling resins."

In detail, Mr. Merrell defends the names applied to the substances introduced, citing, as typical among the in terminations, the resins discovered by King, viz.: The resins of Podophyllum and Macrotys, to which Mr. Merrell adds Jalapin as a proper title for resin of jalap.

The names by which I have designated these resinoids is found fault with. Some contend that they should be denominated the Resin of Podophyllum, of Macrotys, or Iris, etc., while others claim for them no higher appellation than that of extracts, but both denying their right to the termination of in or ine. Well, what is a name but an abbreviation to avoid the prolixity of a description of that which we wish to designate?

In records of abstract science it may be well enough to designate a thing by a description of its character, but when that thing becomes one of commerce and daily use, convenience requires that it be indicated by a single word, or at least, by the fewest practicable. Now I claim to have as good a right to give names to things as any one else, especially if they are my own offspring. But I have not acted without authority. Professor Wood, author of the U. S. Dispensatory, who is no mean authority, speaking of the bitter substance obtained from the root of the Podophyllum by Wm. Hodgson, jun., says: "Should this be found to be the purgative principle of the plant," (for this was not then ascertained, and indeed as obtained by Mr. H. its purgative property was nearly destroyed), "it would be entitled to the name of Podophyllin." Turner, in his Elements of Chemistry, mentions many articles perfectly analogous to these which he designates by the termination ine, added to the generic names of the articles from which they are obtained, as Haematoxyline, Gentianine, Populine, Liriodendrine, etc. 29 For the sake of perspicuity, I propose this as the mode, in part, of naming the proximate principles of vegetables, viz.: that the names of the alkaloids uniformly terminate in a, after the analogy of the alkalies and alkaline earths, soda, potassa, magnesia, etc. Thus we should have Quinia, Morphia, Strichnia, Veratria, etc. But that the names of the resinous principles or resinoids should be made to terminate in in, after the analogy of the generic substance resin or rosin, and accordingly we should write Podophyllin, Macrotin, Jalapin, etc. This rule I have adopted in naming the new medicinal principles which had not before received a settled designation.—Eclectic Medical Journal, 1850, p. 299.

29 With respect to the final e in these names, good authorities differ, some adding, and others omitting it.

In order that a list of the articles and prices Mr. Merrell felt justified in quoting at that date may be preserved, we reproduce from the Eclectic Medical Journal, September, 1856, his advertisement, together with a few well advised comments concerning same:

Class I. Powdered Resinoids.

They are mostly of a resinoid character, in form of a powder, more or less colored, and generally Amorphous. . . .

Eight years ago we introduced the first three of these to the notice of the Profession, and many of them are now regarded by a large class of Physicians as indispensable to a judicious practice.

Podophyllin, (from Mandrake), per oz.,$0.75
Leptandrin, (from Culver Root), per oz., 0.75
Macrotin, or Cimicifugin, (from Black Cohosh), per oz., 0.62
Baptisin, (from Wild Indigo), per oz., 1.00
Caulophylline, (from Blue Cohosh), per oz., 1.00
Cornine, (from Dogwood), per oz., 1.00
Corydaline, (from Turkey Pea), per oz., 4.00
Cypripedin, (from Ladies Slipper), per oz., 1.00
Dioscorein, (from Wild Yam), per oz., 2.00
Eryngine, (from Corn Snake Root), per oz., 1.00
Eupatorine, (from Boneset), per oz., 1.00
Geranine, (from Cranesbill), per oz., 0.62
Hydrastine, (from Goldenseal), Neutral per oz., 1.50
Hydrastin, Resinoid and impure Alkaloid combined, per oz., 0.62
Jalapin, (from Jalap Root), per oz., 1.00
Juglandin, (from Butternut Bark), per oz., 0.75
Lobeline, (from Lobelia Herb), per oz., 1.00
Myricin, (from. Bayberry), per oz., 0.63
Phytolaccin, (from Garget or Poke), per oz., 1.00
Prunine, (from, Wild Cherry), per oz., 0.75
Sanguinarin, (from Bloodroot), Resinoid per oz., 0.75
Sanguinarina, (from Bloodroot), Alkaloid per oz., 0.80
Scutellarine, (from Scullcap), per oz., 2.00
Senecionine, (from Life Root), per oz., 2.00
Trillin, (from Birth Root), per oz., 1.00
Xanthoxylin, (from Prickly Ash Bark), per oz., 1.00

A few of the above have as yet been but partially tested in practice, but from the favorable reports we receive of them, and from their sensible properties, we feel confident that they are continents of the medicinal virtues of the plants they represent.

We have obtained dry resinoid powders from several other roots, barks, and herbs, as the Gelsemium, Iris, Helonias, Helenium, Rhus Glabra, Stillingia, etc., but these in powder do not appear to us to possess the full virtues of the plants that yield them, and we can not recommend them as eligible preparations. We therefore omit them in this class. We may probably yet succeed in obtaining several of them of a satisfactory quality, and shall then add them, and others which may be discovered, to the above list.

Class II. Soft Resinoids and Oleo-resins, etc.

These are the Resinoid and Oleo-Resinous substances which constitute or contain the Medicinal principles of the plants from which they are named. Most of them, like many of the first class, are precipitated by water from their alcoholic solutions, and are of nearly the same degree of medical power and purity. But they are soft or semi-fluid in their character, and can not be presented in the powdered form without decomposing, or greatly modifying those native combinations in which they exist, and in which we conceive they best represent the medical properties of their sources. We present them in form of soft extracts, or thick oils, put up in 1 oz. vials, as follows:

Apocynin, (from Dogsbane), per oz.,$0.75
Aletrin, (from Star Root), per oz., 0.75
Asclepidin, (from Pleurisy Root), per oz., 0.75
Eupurpurin, (from Queen of Meadow), per oz., 0.62
Helonin, (from Unicorn Root), per oz., 0.72
Iridin, (from Blue Flag), per oz., 0.62
Liatrin, (from Button Snake Root), per oz., 0.75
Rhusin, (from Sumach), per oz., 0.62
Ptelein, Oil of Ptelea, (from Wafer Ash), per oz., 0.75
Oil of Lobelia, (from Lobelia Seed), per oz., 0.75
Oil of Capsicum, (from African Cayenne), per oz., 0.75
Oil of Male Fern, per oz., 1.00
Oil of Stillingia, per oz., 1.00
Oil of Xanthoxylum, (from Prickly Ash), per oz., 0.75

Mr. Merrell also calls attention (see preceding list) to the oleoresins, which were afterwards by some persons called "soft resinoids," to distinguish them from the "dry resinoids."

Nearly allied to the resinoids are those medicinal principles which are extracted from certain vegetables by sulphuric ether, and are presented in the form of fixed oils. Of these I have prepared only those of Lobelia, Capsicum, and male fern. The first probably holds in solution the alkaloid Lobelina, and the second the resinoid Capsicin, but I have never made an analysis of them. These are powerful agents. The Oil of Lobelia is valuable in Tetanus and some other extreme cases, as it is easy to introduce enough upon the tongue to relax the whole system speedily, but it should not be used pure as a common emetic, as there is too much danger of producing local inflammation of the stomach, by the action of so concentrated a medicine.—E. M. Journal, 1850, pp. 302, 303.

This article proved the beginning of an acrimonious controversy over the new products which, as already shown, had suddenly sprung into commercial activity. Throughout the land inquiries had arisen concerning their composition and methods of production. Eclecticism, which, as a reform practice, had to this date been on the offensive, but which yet had been wisely ignored by the "Allopaths," known also as the "Regular School," could no longer be neglected. It was now artfully, but yet discreetly, attacked in its most vulnerable point, viz., the alkaloidal, resinoidal craze. One sentence in the article of Mr. Merrell was not taken kindly by the Faculty of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. It occurred in reference to fluid extracts then coming into "Regular" conspicuity, to-wit:

This mode of exhibiting medicines is now the hobby of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy.—Eclectic Medical Journal, 1850, pp. 297-20, 303.

The time being now opportune to attack the whole alkaloidal, resinoidal, concentration subject, which, as we have shown, was sadly vulnerable, Mr. Merrell's article was selected as the text. In the American Journal of Pharmacy, October, 1881, (pp. 329 to 335 inclusive), Professor Edward Parrish, than whom there was no abler pharmacist, attacked Mr. Merrell and all things relating to the new resinoids. Concerning the drugs yielding the resinoids, Professor Parrish extricates the "Regular" school from their use, as follows:

They are obtained from the roots of Podophyllum peltatum, Cimicifuga racemosa, Sanguinaria Canadensis, Leptandra Virginica, Iris versicolor, and certain other roots, which are little used by regular practitioners.

To this Mr. Merrell made no reply, and seemingly, as is usually the case in a personal attack, the article made no impression on either the manufacturers or the consumers of the products involved. But several of the newly introduced resins cited by Professor Parrish as Eclectic products could not be brushed aside by criticisms. They proved to be very energetic and very great favorites in all directions. Into such demand did they spring, as to take all the care their makers could devote to the laboratory. But the ultra enthusiasts wrecked the opportunities of the day. So marvelous were the qualities attributed to these products, as a class, that men skilled, as well as men unskilled, were led to start their indiscriminate manufacture, and in the craze the list of items was enlarged by leaps and bounds. The legitimate resinous precipitates were quickly crowded into a corner, whilst in quick succession lists of "concentration" this, and "concentration" that, appeared. In these all kinds of bodies figured, as though established both as concerns their pharmaceutic quality and therapeutic action. These lists embraced dried extracts, oleo-resins absorbed by magnesia or other inert substance and then powdered, alkaloids and alkaloidal salts of hydrastis and sanguinaria, more or less impure, a few legitimate resins, pure as well as depraved, and products made by precipitating solutions of sodium carbonate and alum, in contact with organic liquids which threw down colored precipitates of aluminum hydroxide, more or less flavored with the drug, etc., etc. These and other substances, under many labels, came as parasites to plague the school that had given to the worthy members of the class a position in medicine.

The legitimate pharmaceutical work of Mr. Merrell, and the professional care of Dr. King, were insufficient to control either the names or the products masquerading under the plant names, and within a brief period Eclecticism became saddled with an alkaloidal-resinoidal fad that bade fair to discredit the most earnest efforts of its disciples, to crush its usefulness, and to close its career. It was now apparent. that either the aklaloidal-resinoidal craze in Eclecticism must be at once arrested (as well as the theory that to the poisonous constituents of plant remedies were due their therapeutic qualities), or the school must perish. This all men concerned in the ideals of the Reform School of American medicine now fully comprehended. To add to the dilemma came a new complication, for about this time the Thomsonians became involved in the craze, as may be shown by the following brief historical reference.

In 1849, E. S. McClellan & Co. 30 began in Cincinnati the manufacture of "podophyllin." They soon sold out to Drs. Hill, Crutcher & Co., (F. D. Hill, Jos. Crutcher, Jos. Brown), but again established themselves in business. Dr. Brown was a professor in the Physio-Medical College (Thomsonian), of Cincinnati. His make of concentrations was commended editorially, as follows, in the Physo-Medical Recorder, 1850, pp. 167-8, and also by contributors to that journal, who, for the time, forgot the principles of Thomson:

30 For the history of this firm, and the bitterness of the controversy, see Eclectic Medical Journal, 1850, pp. 342 to 344, and p. 384. The firm afterward became the very worthy house, H. H. Hill,& Co., Race and Fifth Streets, Cincinnati. They were long a factor in American plant products, but are out of business, with no direct successor.

CONCENTRATED MEDICINES.—Two years ago the idea (could it have been conceived of) that the huge doses of medicine then given, by our practitioners generally, could and would be reduced to doses of from one to three, or even five grains, would have appeared as chimerical as the idea, twenty years ago, that one man could stand in the city of Boston and converse with his friend in New Orleans almost as readily as if they stood side by side. But time and experience have fully demonstrated the fact.

Those medicines, exhibited in almost Homeopathic doses, not less mildly, efficiently, and safely, than the crude articles from which they were prepared; and the smallness of the dose divests the reformed practice of everything that was cumbersome, inconvenient, and disagreeable, and renders it as acceptable to the patient as the Homeopathic practice, so far as regards the dose.

We can not but regard this improvement in our materia medica as the brightest feature in the great and glorious work of medical reform.

Our Allopathic friends have, for a long time, been engaged in the preparation of concentrated medicines, and their agents have done much, very much, toward rendering their practice acceptable and popular; but how different their articles from ours. They extract proximate principles, many of which are most deadly in their character. From extract from the poppy they extract their morphine, from the strychnos (nux vomica) they extract their strychnine, two grains of which will kill; from cinchona they extract their quinine, etc.

Now, our agents are reduced to a concentrated form without breaking up the relations existing between the proximate principles. For example, we reduce lobelia to so concentrated a form, that from three to five or ten drops upon loaf sugar, or dropped into water, are sufficient to produce emesis; still, this article is not lobelina, one of the proximate principles of lobelia, and is as safe as lobelia herb or seed. Again, we reduce leptandra to so concentrated a form, that a dose of from one to three or five grains will produce catharsis, yet this is not leptandrin, one of the proximate principles of leptandra. And so on, with our other remedial agents.

Now, we do regard this process one of the most valuable improvements of these days of improvements, and we bid Drs. Hill, Crutcher & Co. God-speed in this good work!

With this great improvement in our materia medica, we feel more than ever inclined to the belief, that the Physio-Medical Practice will soon, very soon, become the most popular and successful practice of medicine. . . . In the meantime let practitioners beware of impositions, for it would mean that every fellow, who can raise three dimes, is embarking in the business of Concentrating Medicines, not so much with the view of improving the character of medicines, as to get the dimes. Some there are who have engaged in the business who are ignorant of the first principles of chemistry and pharmacy.—Physo-Medical Recorder, Vol. XVIII, 1850, pp. 167, 168.

Let us call attention to two features of this editorial.

In the one case it was said,

We can not but regard this improvement in our materia medica as the brightest feature in the great and glorious work of medical reform.

In the other direction, the readers were warned against fraud as follows:

In the meantime let practitioners beware of impositions, for it would mean that every fellow, who can raise three dimes, is embarking in the business of Concentrating Medicines, not so much with the view of improving the character of medicines, as to get the dimes. Some there are who have engaged in the business who are ignorant of the first principles of chemistry and pharmacy.

Thus the problem became more complicated, for now three schools in medicine, Thomsonian, Eclectic, and Allopathic, were acrimoniously involved, two of them (Eclectic and Thomsonian) being much perplexed and painfully implicated. The Homeopathic school happily escaped.

Throughout the year 1851, Professor E. S. McClellan carried articles on the subject in the Worcester (Mass.) Journal of Medicine (Eclectic). In September, 1851, Newton 31 and Kelley of that city began the manufacture of the various resinoids, alkaloids, etc. In 1852 appeared "The Eclectic Dispensatory," by King and Newton, 32 in which, however, only the legitimate resins and oleo-resins were given a position. Soon thereafter the American Chemical Institute of New York, B. Keith & Co., (see p. 21), entered the field, and from that date to 1865, all physicians of America, through journals and circulars, were flooded with extravagant literature concerning the marvelous American alkaloidal and resinoidal remedies. The few worthy members of the group were soon overshadowed by those unworthy of the name, many of the intruders being entitled to no legitimate home anywhere. The odium of it all rested, by reason of the origin of the products, on the Eclectic school, although (Wilder) the American Chemical Institute of New York, and their agent, Grover Coe, the most conspicuous of all implicated in the publicity given these products, had (before this time) "united their interests with those of the dominant (Allopathic) school."

31 Dr. Calvin Newton, not R. S. Newton.
32 R. S. Newton, M. D.

The Lloyd Libary Bulletin # 12: The Eclectic Alkaloids, 1910, was written by J. U. & C. G. Lloyd.