Sarracenia Purpurea. (Sarracenia.)
Preparation.—Prepare a tincture from the fresh root, in the proportion of ℥viij. to Alcohol 76° Oj. Dose from gtts. j. to gtts xx.
The experiments of Dr. Porcher, of South Carolina, showed that it exerted a marked influence on the sympathetic. From a large dose there was congestion of the head, with irregularity of the heart's action, lasting several days. Following this first effect, the general vigor of the digestive apparatus was increased, and the appetite was unusually active. It is claimed that it has been successfully employed in chlorosis, and other diseases of a similar character.
It was introduced to the notice of the profession by Dr. W. Morris, of Halifax, in 1861, as an antidote to the virus of smallpox. He made the following statements in a letter to the American Medical Times:
"Sir—You have by this time, in all probability, heard something of an extraordinary discovery for the cure of smallpox, by the use of ‘Sarracenia Purpurea,' or Indian cup, a native plant of Nova Scotia. I would beg of you, however, to give full publicity to the astonishing fact, that this same humble bog-plant of Nova Scotia is the remedy for smallpox. in all its forms, in twelve hours after the patient has taken the medicine. It is also as curious as it is wonderful that, however alarming and numerous the eruptions, or confluent and frightful they may be, the peculiar action of the medicine is such that very seldom is a scar left to tell the story of the disease. I will not enter upon a physiological analysis now; it will be sufficient for may purpose to state, that it cures the disease as no other medicine does—not by stimulating functional reagency, but by actual contact with the virus in the blood, rendering it inert and harmless; and this I gather from the fact that if either the vaccine or variolous matter be washed with the infusion of the Sarracenia, they are deprived of their contagious properties. The medicine, at the same time, is so mild to the taste, that it may be mixed largely with tea or coffee, as I have done, and given to connoisseurs in these beverages to drink, without their being aware of the admixture. Strange, however, to say, it is scarcely two years since science and the medical world were utterly ignorant of this great boon of Providence; and it would be dishonorable in me not to acknowledge that had it not been for the discretion of Mr. John Thomas Lane, of Lanespark, County Tipperary, Ireland, late of Her Majesty's Imperial Customs of Nova Scotia, to whom the Mec-Mac Indians had given the plant, the world would not now be in possession of the secret. No medical man before me had ever put this medicine upon trial, but in 1861, when the whole Province of Nova Scotia was in a panic, and patients were dying at the rate of twelve and a half per cent., from May to August, Mr. Lane, in the month of May, placed the ‘Sarracenia' in my hands to decide upon its merits; and, after my trials then and since, I have been convinced of its astonishing efficacy. The only functional influence it seems to have, is in promoting the flow of urine, which soon becomes limpid and abundant, and this is owning perhaps to the defecated poison or changed virus of the disease exclusively escaping through that channel. The ‘Sarracenia.' I have reason to believe a powerful antidote for all contagious diseases, lepra, measles, varicella, plague, contagious typhus, and even syphilis, also a remedy in jaundice. I am strongly inclined to think it will one day play an important part in all these."
This report was confirmed by Dr. Herbert Miles, of the British Army, and Captain Hardy of the Royal Artillery. The evidence in its favor from physicians and residents of Nova Scotia would seem to be complete, that the Sarracenia has a direct prophylactic influence, and a direct and prompt curative action when the disease is developed.
The remedy, however, has been thoroughly tried by a number of physicians in the United States, and by physicians in private practice, and in the hospitals in England, with the report that if not entirely inert, it has no such antidotal power as has been ascribed to it. The evidence against it is just as positive as that in its favor.
What conclusion can we come to then? The only way we can reconcile these opposing statements is, that the same agent was not employed in both cases. In Nova Scotia, where the plant is abundant, we may suppose it was used fresh; in the United States and in England, it was dried and so old that it had lost its medical properties. I am confirmed in this opinion by my experience. Wishing to try this remedy, I obtained three samples, and neither of these possessed in the least degree the physical properties attributed to Sarracenia. When fresh, it is bitter and astringent, heaving a somewhat pungent impression on the fauces. The specimens I obtained had no taste.
In order to give the remedy a fair trial, let us have it prepared from the fresh root, obtained at the proper season. If an antidote to smallpox, its value can not be over-estimated; if it only exerts the influence over the sympathetic first named, it will prove a valuable remedy.