There are good reasons why every physician should have such knowledge of pharmacy, that he can perform or direct all the simpler operations for preparing medicines. Without this knowledge, his education is deficient, in that he has not that knowledge of his tools which is so essential to good work. He is in a condition to be imposed upon by imperfect and worthless remedies, and must surely lose confidence in medicine, except given in large doses, for its gross effects.
In country practice, a knowledge and practice of office pharmacy is an important element of success. The preparation of a remedy gives an interest in it that leads to thorough study and careful use. We learn what a good preparation is, amid its advantages over the common stock in the drug trade, and we will afterward use more care in making our purchases. It economizes time, saves money, and cultivates habits of thrift all of which are deficient in the medical profession.
It is not only an excellent school for the physician himself, but is also an admirable school for the student. It is a study of the Materia Medica, that gives a practical knowledge of remedies, and impresses the mind through the organs of sense, leaving lasting impressions.
I do not wish to be understood as advising the preparation of all medicines; or keeping the office dirty and unsightly with the refuse of roots, barks, and herbs. This is the opposite of what we desire; skill is associated with neatness and cleanliness. I know some pharmacists that are so slovenly and dirty in person and surroundings, that I should not like to take their medicines. (The only one who ever offered an objection to office pharmacy, had these faults in excess.)
A half dozen neat tin percolators of the capacity of two to ten pounds, hung in a closet or cupboard, with a large mortar, comprises the apparatus. The alcohol is kept in stock, and the crude material is procured at proper seasons and used fresh, or in some cases is ordered of the wholesale druggist when obtaining other medicines.
The process of percolation is a very simple one. The crude material requires to be as finely comminuted and as closely packed in the percolator as possible. It is then covered with alcohol, and allowed to stand for forty-eight hours, when the tincture is drawn off. Filter it through paper, and you have a fine looking remedy, that will give satisfaction whenever used.
In office pharmacy I have advised the strength to be ℥viij. of the crude material to the pint of alcohol, because it is more easily manipulated by one who is not expert. All the formula in this work are of this strength, for every remedy named may be prepared in the office.
The physician in the country will probably prepare only those remedies that are indigenous, and at the proper season the year's supply. It is not very difficult to find some one to gather the crude material, and the preparation comes at that season when there is least to do.