« AnteriorContinua »
have been macerated; and recommends it as particularly relieving the cough and dyspnea and promoting expectoration." This we would particularly impress on the recollection of our readers. To palliate the pangs of human suffering, and soften the severer features of irritation and distress, form to the benevolent mind a grateful but melancholy office; and unhappily too often, in phthisical maladies, the only one which the phy. sician can hope to undertake with success.
We perfectly coincide with Dr. Duncan in his opinion that counter-irritation may be more successfully employed against catarrhal, than any other form of pulmonary phthisis. But experience has taught us, that blisters, kept open only for a few days, are utterly inadequate to remove that ulceration of the bronchial membrane, upon which we believe the external phenomena of this modification of the disease to be essentially dependent. The process of purulent secretion should be permanently established from a large ulcerated surface, on the parietes of the thorax; and its operation may, we suspect, be greatly promoted by a full but cautious introduction of mercury into the pulmoniac's system. Catarrhal phthisis, it should seem, is the only species of pulmonary disease, in which, after purulent expectoration has been established, that powerful medicine, except in a very mild and alterative form, can be successfully, or even safely, prescribed.
Some valuable remarks on the regimen and exercise of phthisical sufferers, and on the best 'mode of palliating the more distressing symptoms by which they are harassed towards the close of the disease, terminate the chapter. We beg leave to recommend them to the attention of our readers.
From an Appendix, on the preparation of a soporific medicine from the common garden lettuce, which, it seems, is printed in the first volume of the Memoirs of the Caledonian Horticultural Society, we shall quote at considerable length. Dr. Duncan has prepared from this plant a narcotic, which he considers little inferior to opium in its soothing powers, and exempt from many inconveniences by which the exhibition of the valuable product of the poppy is frequently attended. This is an important communication. A knowledge of it cannot be too soon or too generally diffused, so that the Doctor's opinions respecting his lactucarium may be brought to the test of experiment.
“ It has been the opinion of many, that all the milky juices spontaneously exuding from wounded vegetables, possess somewhat of the same sedative power with the milky juice of the poppy. Few plants in Britain afford such milky juice more co
, piously than the common garden lettuce, the lactuca sativa of Linnæus; and every one must have observed, that this juice, when spontaneously inspissated by the heat of the sun on the wounded plant, soon assumes the dark colour of opium, while at the same time it possesses in a high degree the peculiar, and I may say, specific taste which distinguishes that substance. And beside this, it is a well known fact, that lettuce was much used by the ancients as a soporific.
6 'These circumstances led me to turn my thoughts on some method of collecting and preparing this substance, that I might try its effects in the practice of medicine; and after several trials of different modes of preparation, what I shall now briefly describe are the best methods I have yet been able to discover.
“ I dedicated to this experiment, in my garden at St. Leonard's Hill, near Edinburgh, a small bed of that variety of let. tuce which is commonly known among gardeners by the name of ice lettuce. I allowed the plants, about a hundred in number, to shoot till the
of the stem was about a foot aboye the surface of the ground. I then cut off about an inch from the top of each. The milky juice immediately began to rise above the wounded surface. Though then of a white appearance, it had next day formed a black or dark-coloured incrustation over the surface where the stem was cut off. I found it impos. sible to separate this by scraping, as is done with the milky juice exuding from the head of the poppy, when it has assumed the form of opium; I therefore cut off with a sharp knife a thin cross slice of the stem, to which the whole of the dark.co. loured opium-like matter adhered. This was thrown into a wide mouthed phial, about half filled with weak spirit of wine, the alcohol dilutum of the Edinburgh Pharmacopeia, formed of equal parts of rectified spirit and water. By this menstruum, the whole black incrustation on the thin slice of the stalk was dissolved, and the spirit, as inay be readily concluded, obtained both the colour and taste of the black incrustation.
“ Each of my plants, in consequence of the fresh wound inficted by the removal of the thin cross slice, afforded a fresh
incrustation every day. And by throwing these into the phial, I soon obtained what I concluded to be a saturated solution of the exudation from the lettuce, or rather of the milky juice in its inspissated state. It was then strained off, to separate the pure solution completely from the thin slices of the stalk. To this strained spirit, which had nearly both the appearance and taste of the ordinary laudanum of the shops, I have given the name of solutio spirituosa succi spissati lactucæ. From trials made with this solution, both on myself and others, I have no doubt that it is a powerful soporific. But to obtain a form, in which it might be exhibited with greater certainty as to the dose, I evaporated the spirit, and thus brought the residuum to a dry state. In this state, it has very much the appearance of the opium imported into Britain, particularly of that which is imported from Bengal, and which is a much softer substance than the Turkey opium. To this opium-like substance, I have given the name of lactucarium; and from some trials which I have made with it, when exhibited under the form of pills, it appears to me to be little inferior in soporific power to the opium which is brought from Bengal. “From the lactucarium thus obtained, I have formed a tinc
a ture, by dissolving it to the extent of one ounce in twelve ounces of weak spirit, which is the proportion of the opium to the spirit, in the liquid laudanum of the Edinburgh College. To this formula I have given the name of tinctura lactucarii. I consider it the best formula I have yet been able to contrive for obtaining the soporific and sedative powers of the lactuca sativa; and in different cases I have, I think, seen manifest good effects from it, both as inducing sleep, allaying muscular action, and alleviating pain, the three great qualities of opium, which demonstrate it to be one of the most powerful sedatives. At present, however, I intend nothing more but to communicate to the Caledonian Horticultural Society, a method of preparing a soporific medicine from common lettuce. For ascertaining more fully its medicinal effects, I am at present engaged in a series of trials, which may, perhaps, be likewise communicated to them.
In perusing this publication, we have met with some opi. nions expressed by Dr. Duncan, which we cannot, without a mean dereliction of our principles and professions, suffer to
pass unnoticed. And against their promulgation from such a source, too prevalent as they already are among medical men, we solemnly and earnestly protest.
Towards the close of the eighth chapter, our author, speaking of the necessity of a due regulation of the passions, in subjects suffering from pulmonary disease, has this observation: “ At the same time, it is equally necessary to avoid what will depress the patient; and even where there is very faint expectation of recovery, the chance of such an event will be diminished, by endeavouring to make the patient fully sensible of his own danger.”
From Scotland, where religion, at least in its external forms, is established and observed with uncommon purity and strictness, and where, consequently, it may be hoped that infidelity has not yet shed, as among the children of the more polished and enlightened south,” her pestilential influence: from a man fast journeying, as Dr. Duncan must now be, to the "tomb of his fathers,” we did not expect to hear doctrines like these openly disseminated. And we do hope that, should another edition of his work be called for, he will so far humour the "absurd prejudices” of us infatuated reviewers, as to alter or expunge this obnoxious passage.
By some, whose eye may glance over our perishable page, it will perhaps be thought, that the opinions of the venerable writer before us, have been criticized with a freedom and asperity ill-suited to his years, his character, and situation; and that, neglecting the peculiar excellencies of his work, we have confined ourselves to the invidious task of raking up, and exposing, real or imaginary errors. To these accusations, if such be preferred against us, our reply is brief, we trust, demonstrative of their futility: Criticism respects not the distinctions of rank, or title, or reputation; truth is the object of her researches. Anxious in its pursuit, she regards, with indifference or contempt, every minor consideration, which may arise upon her stern and rugged path. Again, the real excellencies of the productions of art, as those of nature's boundless domain, shine with a native and intrinsic lustre. Obtrusive on every passing eye, little hesitation or sagacity is requisite to descry them. Eulogy heightens not their value, nor can ignorance and prejudice permanently sully or obscure it. But to detect error under its most specious disguise; to separate it from the sterling gold of truth; to strip from its surface the tinsel gloss, with which, by the alchemic touch of genius, by the influence of character, or the graces of a polished and commanding style, it may have been invested, is a delicate and laborious process; requiring, for its successful execution, all the concentrated powers of the human mind. For this department of science, criticism was instituted. Upon her hand this arduous process devolves; and, by its results, the merits and utility of her individual labours must be eventually determined. Lastly, we deem it an imperious duty to examine, with redoubled rigor and circumspection, doctrines promulgated by the aged or eminent of our art. Error, stamped with the name and authority of a Duncan, must prove, in its consequences, peculiarly peruicious; because every where received and propagated with peculiar confidence and celerity.
Viewed in one light, this little volume may convey an instructive lesson, pregnant to the diffident yet aspiring heart with consolation and encouragement. To charm by the splendour, to strike with the novelty, or astonish by the magnificence of its views, are the exclusive attributes of gepius; but how successfully a mind of eyen common powers and cultiva
under proper impulse and direction, be exerted; how essentially contribute to the honour and interests of any science, upon which its energies are employed, the perusal of these pages will incontestably demonstrate.
In fact, we know not whether in a science, like that of me. dicine, which admits only of being improved by the slow processes of rigid observation and of cautious induction from facts, genius, impatient of toil, and soaring above restraint, be pre-eminently calculated to excel. Au appeal to the historic re.cords of that science, will justify inferences decidedly opposite. To men possessing patience, industry, unwearied application, invincible firmness, and all the more solid and sterling qualities of the human mind-qualities rarely implanted in the fervid and volatile bosom of genius; to a Bonetus, a Morgagni, a Lieutaud, and a Baillie, medicine is principally indebted for her present state of culture and exaltation and certain it is, that one faithfully recorded history of disease, illustrated by minute dissection, is, when poised in the scale of practical