This 1898 classic revision of Professor John King’s original work of 1852 is an encyclopedic text that encompasses the entire materia medica of the Eclectic physicians of the last century.
The term Eclectic Medicine was coined by Dr. Constantine Rafinesque (1784-1841), a physician who lived among the Native Americans, and observed their use of medicinal plants and other traditional therapies. The Eclectic Medical Institute was created in the early 1830s in Ohio as an alternative to the conventional medicine of the time. Eclectic physicians adopted in practice whatever modality was beneficial to their patients.
Dispensatories present therapies whose effectiveness has been verified with patients in both clinical and hospital settings. The following entry excerpt details the medical actions, uses and dosage of cod liver oil.
Action, Medical Uses, and Dosage
Cod-liver oil is nutritive and alterative. It has long been used as a domestic remedy in chronic rheumatic and strumous diseases, especially in the northern parts of Europe, and has been in general medicinal use only since the treatise upon it by Professor Bennett, of Edinburgh, in 1841, although employed occasionally in the profession as early as 1766.
Cod-liver oil is a remedy for defective nutrition, and when tolerated can be relied upon to give good results; but if it provokes persistent nausea, vomiting, disgust, and diarrhea, it can not be expected to be other than harmful. Cod-liver oil is a fat-producing agent, excelling other fats which have been proposed as substitutes for it, in digestibility. When cod-liver oil “is kindly received by the stomach it increases the quantity of red corpuscles, improves the appetite and general strength, and the pulse becomes full and strong, flesh increases, and nutrition is improved” (Locke’s Syllabus of Mat. Med., p. 346). Though used for many conditions, it has been shown to do the most good in the poorly nourished, suffering from phthisis pulmonalis, tabes, rickets, chronic bronchitis, and chronic rheumatism in the scrofulous. It is not necessarily a curative agent, but in many conditions it tides the patient over while other agents exert their curative effects.
In tubercular arthritis, and so-called scrofulous inflammations of the joints, its influence is often marked. Where there is necrosis, however, it effects are less evident. It may be given in tabes mesenterica when there is emaciation, a hard abdomen, offensive breath, and cough. When epilepsy depends upon a scrofulous and debilitated condition, cod-liver oil often proves a good remedy (Locke).
In rickets, given internally and applied locally to the spine, it is one of our best remedies. Fistula in ano, scrofulous enlargements, and scrofulous ulcerations call for it. It undoubtedly prolongs the consumptive’s life, but it should not be forced if the stomach persistently refuses to tolerate it. In some cases, it does not seem to derange the stomach, but nauseates by its unpleasant taste. In these cases the difficulty is sometimes overcome by persisting in the use of the remedy or by changing from one to another preparation of the oil. In all cases where it can be tolerated, the pure oil should be preferred over the emulsions.
The diseases, besides those enumerated, in which it is said to be most efficient, are strumous diseases, strumous ophthalmia, pseudo-syphilis, in scrofulous constitutions, and various chronic cutaneous diseases, as in eczema, impetigo, prurigo, lichen, squamous affections, pityriasis, ichthyosis, etc. Gout, and occasionally caries, it is said, have yielded to its influence. It is also asserted to have been found useful in diseases of the joints and spine, lupus, obstinate constipation, worms, and incontinence of urine; and may be advantageously employed in all chronic cases, in which the disease appears to consist mainly in impaired digestion, assimilation, and nutrition.
Externally used in opacities of the cornea, a drop or two placed on the cornea with a camel’s-hair pencil; also in various chronic cutaneous diseases, rhagades, chaps, eczema, excoriations, and fissures. Its use is contraindicated in plethora, or where there is a strong tendency to it, lest hemorrhage be provoked. When long used, it is said to frequently occasion an eruption on the surface of an eczematous character. But little advantage will be apparent from the administration of cod-liver oil, until its use has been persevered in for 5 or 6 weeks, though it often commences earlier.
The light-colored oil is the best. Some prefer the darker colored oils. The dose of cod-liver oil is 1/2 fluid ounce, twice a day, or more; but it is best to begin with small doses at first, say 1 drachm only, in order to lessen the risk of nausea and vomiting. Patients soon accustom themselves to its use without repugnance. It is best given alone, followed by some claret, or a little sugar and cinnamon powder, or prepared with aromatic oils, the same as castor oil (which see). It may be given in coffee, milk, or brandy, and for consumptives in Bourbon. A pinch of salt sometimes renders it palatable, while others advise the chewing of a small portion of smoked herring. Tomato catsup and particularly the froth of malted beverages appear to mask the unpleasantness of the oil. (For various methods of rendering the oil palatable, see Emulsio Olei Morrhuae.)
Dr. Alexander Wallace recommends a mixture of equal parts of lime-water and cod-liver oil, well shaken together, as a tonic, sedative, antacid, and nutrient; it forms a thick, milky emulsion, palatable, especially when taken with a little sherry wine, and may be used in all the forms of disease in which cod-liver oil is recommended.
BRONCHITIS: Inflammation of mucous membrane of the bronchial tubes. Characterized by increased mucus secretion by the tracheobronchial tree. In chronic conditions the productive cough is usually present for at least 3 months of two consecutive years.
CONSUMPTIVE: Pertaining to or afflicted with tuberculosis.
EXCORIATION: Abrasion of the epidermis or of the coating of any organ of the body by trauma, chemical burns, burns or other causes.
ICHTHYOSIS: Condition of the skin in which the skin is dry and scaly, resembling fish skin.
IMPETIGO: Inflammatory skin disease marked by isolated pustules, which become crusted and rupture, principally around mouth and nostrils. Usually caused by staphylococcal, streptococcal or combined infection.
LICHEN: Any form of popular skin disease; usually noting lichen planus. Begins with pinhead-sized papules, reddish or violaceous, glistening, then coalescing, forming rough, scaly patches; usually symmetrical lesions on the flexor surface of the arms, trunk, and genitalia, and on the oral and vaginal mucosa.
NECROSIS: Death of areas of tissue or bone surrounded by healthy parts.
PHTHISIS PULMONALIS: Pulmonary tuberculosis, any wasting or atrophic disease.
PITYRIASIS: Skin disease characterized by branny scales. Includes dandruff.
PLETHORA: Overfullness of blood vessels or of the total quantity of any fluid in the body. Congestion causing distention of blood vessels.
PRURIGO: A chronic skin disease marked by constantly recurring, discrete, pale, deep-seated, intensely itchy papules on extensor surfaces of limbs. Begins in childhood and may last a lifetime.
RHAGADES: Linear fissures in the skin, especially at the corner of the mouth or anus, causing pain.
RHEUMATISM: A general term for acute and chronic conditions characterized by inflammation, soreness and stiffness of muscles, and pain in joints and associated structures. It includes arthritis (infectious, rheumatoid, gouty); arthritis due to rheumatic fever or trauma; degenerative joint disease; neurogenic arthropathy; hydroarthrosis; myositis, bursitis, fibromyositis; and many other conditions.
RICKETS: A deficiency condition in children that results in inadequate deposition of lime salts in developing cartilage and newly formed bone, causing abnormalities in shape and structure of bones. (Primarily due to Vit. D deficiency which affects the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the intestine and the reabsorption of phosphorus by the renal tubules. May also result from inadequate intake or excessive loss of calcium.
SCROFULA: [L. scrofula, breeding sow] A variety of tuberculous adenitis that is most frequently encountered. It is thought to be a secondary involvement of cervical lymph nodes as a result of localized hematogenous spread from a pulmonary lesion. Most common in childhood.
STRUMOUS: Affected with scrofula. Affected with goiter.
TABES: A gradual, progressive wasting in chronic disease.
Diabetic – peripheral neuritis.
Dorsalis – sclerosis of the posterior columns of the spinal cord.
Ergotica – from use of ergot (rye infected with Claviceps purpurea fungus).
Mesenterica – emaciation and general disorder of the functions of nutrition due to engorgement and tubercular degeneration of the mesenteric glands.
TUBERCULOSIS: An infectious disease caused by the tubercule bacillus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and characterized pathologically by inflammatory infiltrations, formation of tubercles, caseation, necrosis, abscesses, fibrosis, and calcification. It most commonly affects the respiratory system, but other parts of the body such as gastrointestinal and genitourinary tracts, bones, joints, nervous system, lymph nodes, and skin may become infected. Fish, amphibians, birds, and mammals (especially cattle) are subject to the disease.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2007.