Concentrated Medicines.

Botanical name: 

Selected writings of John King:

Related entries: Discovery of Podophyllin - Important Remedies - Discovery of Podophyllin, Etc.

The class of agents of which this pioneer paper treats was the forerunner of concentrations which passed under the name of "Eclectic resinoids." The latter preparations, though alluring by reason of their apparent elegance and possibility of small dosage, were of little medicinal value. As a matter of fact, many were totally inert. Dr. King introduced the resins of podophyllum and macrotys, and the oleo-resin of iris, preparations which proved to have medicinal activities of pronounced degree. He afterward prepared resin of leptandra, which to his great disappointment, proved inert. Designing persons, seeing a commercial opportunity, but conscienceless, prepared and sold a series of so-called resinoids or concentrations, staking their opportunity on the success attending the administration of those prepared by Professor King. The resinoids as thus, dishonestly made were either lacking in therapeutic value or worthless by reason of gross adulteration, and soon brought the attempted improvement of Eclectic pharmacy as contemplated by Dr. King into disrepute. To the young school this proved almost an irreparable disaster. To Dr. King it was a crushing sorrow. Attempt to saddle the resinoid stigma upon Dr. King because he had evolved this method of concentrating medicines proved an ignominious failure. That, he was in nowise responsible for the fraud and chicanery of the money-changers was soon established. Dear to his heart as was the contemplated improvement in Eclectic pharmacy whereby medicines might be made representative and be given in small doses, Dr. King fearlessly shattered his hopes. rather than to lend countenance to dishonest pharmacy, and he promptly repudiated all the resinoids except those which he personally knew to be honestly prepared and therapeutically active. The uncompromising foe of crookedness at all times, he now used his pen freely to expose these graft-medicines and medicine grafters. Faith in John King averted the disaster that must certainly have fallen upon Eclecticism had these men and their iniquities remained unattacked. To this day podophyllin as a true type of those concentrations intended by John King remains a powerful and salutary medicine, accepted universally as a leading drug in all schools of practice; the unrepresentative resinoids are known only in the history of past records.

The article below is the first or pioneer paper on "concentrated medicines" appearing in Eclectic literature, and will therefore stand as source-history for investigators in the field of Eclectic pharmacy. We regret our inability to give Dr. King's first article on Podophyllin, in Philosophical Journal and Transactions (1844), which volume is not accessible to us at present.—Ed. Gleaner.

CONCENTRATED MEDICINES.Gentlemen: I have for a long time noticed an obstacle to the progress of Medical Reform, with a very numerous portion of community, particularly those who, when unwell, desire the least medicine possible to effect a cure (which, by the way, is not a limited class), and the obstacle is: the large doses and enormous quantities of medicine usually administered by those who practice with medical plants. I have -known many individuals who were favorable to a Botanic system send for a mineral physician during an attack of illness, and take his medicine in preference merely because, however nauseous and dangerous it might prove, the dose was small in quantity. This is truly a very great hindrance to the extension of Reform, and one which undoubtedly every Reformer has met with in the course of his practice.

However, there is no actual necessity for this; our medicines are as capable of being prepared in diminished quantities, as any other, and when thus reduced are much more effectual in their results. Thus Blue Flag root (Iris Versicolor) contains resin and mucilage; in the former reside its purgative and alterative properties, in the latter its diuretic. Then why administer the crude root in powder, in which these properties are combined with woody fibre and other inert substances, when a few grains of the proper constituent will answer? The same is the case of the Cohosh root (Cimicifuga Racemosa); its alterative, anti-scrofulous., anti-rheumatic, emmenagogue, and other properties for which it is generally employed, reside in its resin. Then certainly it is useless to administer it in conjunction with tannin, gallic acid, gum, etc., when a few grains of its active principle is sufficient. The medical constituent of a plant is all that we require. True, there are some plants whose virtues consist in the union of these constituents, but they are scarce.

For the last several years I have prepared my medicines, or rather those of which I make the most frequent use, in such a manner that the doses, in quantity, are much smaller than usual, and are fully as effectual in their results, if not more so, than the same articles as generally administered. The object particularly in chronic disease is not to shock the system by repeated large quantities of active medicine, as is too much the case with practitioners, and from which cause very few real and permanent cures are effected in chronic cases, but to give medicines in the least possible doses that may be found necessary to keep the system constantly under their peculiar alterative, tonic, or other action, and always in union with the other requisites of proper exercise, diet, cleanliness, etc.

My method of preparing these medicines depends upon the required active constituent or constituents of the medicines; thus, with the greater part of tinctures I prepare them saturated instead of the common strength, which of course lessens the dose in quantity. With the Alterative syrup, for instance, instead of boiling to 16 porter bottles, as mentioned in Beach's Am. Practice, vol. 3, page 258, I reduce it to 8 porter bottles, of which the dose is one teaspoonful 3 or 4 times a day. And so with all other syrups, charging, of course, proportionately.

From some I obtain only the resin, by extracting all that Alcohol will take up, then filter the Alcoholic tincture, to which add an equal quantity of water and separate the Alcohol by distillation; the resin sinks in the water. Thus, an excellent hepatic is obtained from the Hydrastis Canadensis, in the dose of from one-fourth to three grains; a purgative, alterative, or emmenagogue from the Iris Versicolor, Podophyllum Peltatum, Sanguinaria Canadensis, Cimicifuga Racemosa, Caulophyllum Thalictroides, etc. Sometimes I distil the Alcoholic tincture to a certain quantity without the addition of the water, and then evaporate the remainder, until the residue is of the required consistence for pilular extract, or powder, as with Sang. Canad., Aletris Farinosa, Peonia Officinalis, Euphorbia Ipecacuanha, Apocynum Cannabinum, etc.

With other articles I make the Alcoholic extract, as above, then boil the roots or herbs in water till all the virtue is obtained; reduce it to an extract and then combine the Alcoholic and aqueous extracts together, as with Rumex Crispus, Solanum Dulcamara, Leptandra Virginica, Baptisia Tinctoria, Inula Helenium, Arctium Lappa, Aristolochia Serpentaria, Berberis Vulgaris, Cornus Sericea, Viburnum Oxycoccus, Cypripedium Pubescens, Juniperus Sabina, Xanthoxylum Fraxineum, Phytolacca Decandra, etc.

With some articles I make an alkaline extract, but with only those which contain resin and have a drastic effect, which is made by adding from time to time during the evaporation of the Alcoholic, tincture, and at every time when the resin begins to separate from the liquid, small portions of pearlash (Carbonate potash.), And continue adding it in like manner until the extract is finished; this renders the article less drastic, and completely prevents it from producing any nauseous or irritating sensation, as with the Iris Versicolor, Podophyllum Peltatum, etc.

There are other articles again, where I obtain the ethereal oil or extract, and which is made by saturating sulphuric ether with the article, filtering and then allowing it to evaporate spontaneously; as with Capsicum, Secale Cornutum, Cochlearia Armorica, Crocus Sativa, Ictodes Fœtida, Lycopus Virginicus, Lobelia Inflata, Scutellaria Lateriflora., etc.

By preparing medicines as above there is no change of the virtues of the constituent principles requisite, chemically considered, as is the case with sulphate of quinine, and some other articles in which there is often entire decomposition, or at least new combinations; the doses are also small in quantity, and the effect much greater upon the human system than when combined with inert, woody, and other substances.

In preparing syrups the following will be found one of the best modes: Have a vessel which will hold from 40 to 50 pounds of plants, to which add two gallons of water, and if the article contains resin add in addition one pound and a half of saleratus, which must be dissolved in water before it is added; by a gentle heat gradually distil off this water, returning it, as it runs off, into the vessel, by means of a tube adapted for that purpose. Continue the distillation in this manner until the herbs or roots are all as soft as mush; then remove them from the fire, and by means of a screw press press out all the fluid, until the articles are left dry in the press, remembering to add to it the two gallons of water which had been used to soften. Place this expressed liquor in a barrel, by itself, and keep it closed. In like manner obtain the expressed liquid of each article, separately. To prepare a syrup pour into a barrel churn the necessary quantity of each ingredient, together with sufficient molasses or syrup to sweeten; churn the articles together for half an hour, then bottle and cork tight. The dose of any purifying syrup thus made is: one teaspoonful 3 or 4 times a day; and it will keep well in any climate.

If, however, it is inconvenient for a physician thus to prepare his syrups, he can make a very pleasant cordial as follows: Take one pound of any mixture required and in a coarsely bruised state; place it in a vessel and add to it three pints and a half of Alcohol, place it over a fire till it boils, then cover tightly and remove from the fire. When cold pour off the Alcohol in a separate vessel, and add more Alcohol, merely sufficient to cover the articles; let this stand three days, and pour it into the same vessel with the other. To the mixture of roots add six pints of boiling water and when cold add the Alcoholic tincture and six pounds of loaf sugar. Let it stand for a week, frequently shaking it, and it will be fit for use. Dose, from a tablespoon half full to a wine glass half full, 3 times a day.

As this subject is of essential importance to the best interests of Reform I have not deemed the above suggestion superfluous or uncalled for, and trust that every true Reformer will investigate and make known his discoveries, mode of preparation, etc., through the medium of your journal.

Before closing I would remark that I am engaged in preparing an "United States Botanic Dispensatory," a work very much needed by all classes of Botanic practitioners, and will thankfully receive any communications (postpaid) giving accurate accounts of plants, with full descriptions, history, chemical composition, employment, doses, etc., or of other safe and valuable medical articles.—JOHN KING, M. D., Western Medical Reformer, 1846.

Owingsville, Bath County, Ky., March, 1846.

The Biographies of King, Howe, and Scudder, 1912, was written by Harvey Wickes Felter, M. D.