103 as there is a purple-flowering variety, without any shade of purple on the stem or leaves. There is a white-flowerMATERIA MEDICA. ing variety, whi...

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103 as there is a purple-flowering variety, without any shade of purple on the stem or leaves. There is a white-flowerMATERIA MEDICA. ing variety, which has no purple tinge about it. The lower leaves of digitalis are said to be in tufts ; this is certainly a mistake ; ON DIGITALIS PURPUREA. BY DR. HOULTON.* DR. HOULTON observed, that in order to advance medical botany, the leaves are all single. As this is a biennial plant, it might be supposed that it would be easy to distinguish the first from the second a branch of science still in a very imperfect state, nature must be carefully studied; nature is rich in facts, and facts are year’s leaves. Two figures were given for this purpose in the what truth is made of. He had frequently brought before the Pharmaceutical Journal, vol. i., but quite inadequate to the purThe leaves of the different were intended. Society the results of his own observations; how far they were posefor which they growth are not to be distinguished by shape ; on both original, he was not able to state; many of them he had not found years’ we find leaves varying from the ovate to the lanceolate in books. He did not wish any one to place implicit confidence in plants his statements, but to compare them with nature, and then to shape; the upper leaves of the stem are always lanceolate. A receive or reject them ; his aim was to forward the grand and practised eye can distinguish these different leaves, but it is beneficent objects of the Society. He observed that it was an difficult to give any sufficient rules on this point. If detached article of his medical faith, that a correct knowledge of plants is leaves are brought with a strip of the bark of the stem attached the first step towards their due administration as remedial agents to the footstalks, they are second year’s leaves ; there being no stem in their first year, the first year’s leaves are, or were, usually brought —a principle he found not sufficiently felt and acknowledged : 11 Medicus notitiâ plants destitutus de viribus ejusdem nunquam to market in tufts, from being attached to the crown of the rooty the fibrous parts of which were usually removed by the collectors. juste judicavit."—Linnaeus Materia Medica. It is of importance to know that the first year’s leaves are of are discordant the medicinal Opinions very powers respecting of digitalis purpurea; this he believes to arise, in a great measure, considerable size when the second year’s plant is in perfection: from the want of uniform preparations of the plant. Authors this is not the case with some biennials-as hyoscyamus niger. We cannot procure the first and second year’s leaves of this plant at may not have satisfied themselves properly that they have given the same period, in their natural mode of growth. The parts ta it a fair trial, that they have not only employed the true plant, but also, that all other circumstances have been duly attended to be employed in medicine, named by authors, are the root, leaves, that are essential to their obtaining from it an effective medicine. flowers, and seeds. Should any one wish to employ the root, the rule he has given Dr. Houlton considered it very probable that the ancient physicians various other occasions should be borne in mind-viz., that employed this plant, but we have no information respecting their on the roots of biennial plants are to be collected in the autumn or nor is the mentioned of its medicinal virtues, opinions plant by them. It is found in Gerard, and was considered by him to be winter of the first year of their duration. This rule he had never In the seen in any books, but it is an absolute one. Dr. Withers menan expectorant and deobstruent about the year 1600. " there is a tions, that Dr. Crawley, of Cambridge, was cured empirically of edited Dr. 1706, Botanica," So]men, Pharmacopoeia by formula for aqua digitalis. The editor states, that he cured some hydrothorax, by the root, after regular practice had failed. The consumptive people by the syrup of foxglove, administered in leaves of this plant, like the leaves of all biennials, should be this water, about the middle of the last century; it was employed gathered in the second year oftheir duration, and as soon as posthe first flowers have expanded. The plant with a by the surgeons of the Worcester Infirmary in the form of sible afterstem be selected; the leaves, after removing the cataplasms and ointment for scrofula. It was formerly in popular purplishshould should be carefully dried, without the aid of artificial midrib, as an external remedy in some diseases of the scalp. Murray, use in the " Apparatus Medicamen," 1776, states, that though it is not in heat; no rule is mentioned for the collecting the flowers and seeds. the " London Pharmacopoeia," yet it is more employed in England In a work of distinguished rank, it,is asserted, that as digitalis is than in any other country. It is not mentioned by Alston, who a biennial plant, its first leaves may be procured at any season of wrote in 1778. Dr. Wittey, it appears, was the first writer who the year. Now this is, not from its being a biennial merely, but the circumstance of its being a very early biennial. The brought the plant fully under the notice of the profession. He from observed, that it was an ingredient in a nostrum (for the cure of leaves of biennial plants die in the winter: in mild.winters, and situations, the leaves of digitalis will remain through dropsy) that had been purchased; he ascertained that it had been in sheltered winter. Leaves have been offered for sale as digitalis which employed successfully in that disease by irregular practitioners in the The Doctor’s knowledge of botany led him to were those of verbascum nigrum ; they have much of the general Yorkshire. detect the active part of the secret remedy, and it shows how im- appearance of digitalis leaves, and might deceive the unwary. Other species of verbascum have leaves somewhat similar to those portant a practical knowledge of medical botany is to physicians, of digitalis. The usual preparations of the leaf are, the powder, and also how desirable it is that the popular remedies of this tincture, infusion, fluid-juice, and extract. He saw no need of should be examined. country scientifically others than the powder and the tincture; the more simple Digitalis purpurea is in the list of simples of the edition of 1668 any of the "London Pharmacopoeia," and in that of 1720; it was re- ’, we kept our vegetable pharmaceutical preparations the better. It the changes that have taken place in the prejected by the framers of that of 1745, and was readmittedin the is worth noticing, tincture and infusion in the present PharmaPharmacopoeia of 1788, after an exile of forty-three years. It parations of the col)o3ia: they are both weaker than in the former Pharmacopoeia. was not honoured by any formula until 1809, when we first had The relative strength of the two tinctures is as 8}to 10; a tincture and an infu-ion, and the medicine was thus formally introduced to the profession. He (Dr. Houlton) had witnessed and that of the infusion as 8 to 21. Here is a great differits employment in dropsy, consumption, and pneumonia exten- ence : it is important to bear this in mind when we compare practice of authors who wrote previously to 1836 with those sively, some years previously to this period; it was then very the have written since. The infusion of the present Edinburgh who much employed; but at the present time, as far as his observation is double the strength of that of the London. extended, practitioners do not place much reliance upon it-it Pharmacopoeia The opinions of authors as to the dose of this medicine are has the character of being an uncertain medicine. The fact is, curiously different. The ordinary dose of the tincture, accordwe are not at present aware of all the circumstances which modify ing to those who are accounted the best authorities, is from ten its action; the uncertainty is in ourselves, not in the medicine. He could not find a satisfactory description of this plant in any to forty minims. Dr. Pereira states that he has frequently given of our works on botany and materia medica, except so far asI a drachm of the tincture of the best quality three times a day for fortnight, without observing any marked effect. He adds, " I class, order, and genus; with regard to species and variety, there aknow that some practitioners employ it in much larger doses, as remains something to be done. Digitalis purpurea is in the class an ouncf, or half an ounce, with much less effect than might be didynamia; order, gymnospermia; natural order, lunidse of LinDr. Pereira further states, that Mr. King, of Saxmundnaeus, and scrofularia of Lindley. This beautiful plant, bearing imagined." in Suffolk, gives from half an ounce to an ounce of the tincture ham, is and ahunlarge pendent purple flowers, indigenous, grows cases, with decided advantage ; that he, Mr. King, has dantly in many parts of this country, but is said not to be found in some wild in Suffolk, Norfolk, or Cambridgeshire; its favourite habitat given as much as two drachms tochild nine months old. Mr. is on dry, elevated situations; it had not, as he had said, been King lives in a county in which, we are informed, the plant does well described by authors. It has been said to have a knotty not grow. He (Dr. Houlton) should like to know something of the root; if such is sometimes the case, it is rare. The stem, foot- history of Mr. King’s tincture. He would not advise any one to stalk, and under surface of the leaves of the true digitalis pur- try such doses prepared after the plan proposed in this paper-that from the genuine purple-stalked digitalis. He had seen very purea, have a purple tinge; in some specimens, the leaf is purple is, effects from ordinary doses when continued for several throughout. The purple colour of the stem has not, so far as he unpleasant had read, been mentioned by authors ; yet it is a most importantt days. He was inclined to believe that the differences amongst authors, in reference to the dose of this very important remedy, * Dr. Houlton’s paper was read before the Medico-Botanical Society at the ! arose from the want of uniformity in the preparations they emlatter end of last year, and the above analysis has been in our hands ever hence they write on different things under the same names, since. Our columns have been so crowded, that we have not hitherto had and discordant statements are the necessary consequences. space to devote to it.



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