Discovery of Arnica

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No notice is given in the earlier authors on medical botany, of the Arnica montana, although by some ( Chaumeton, Flore Medicale) it is supposed that the Arnika of Dioscorides, commented on by Matthiolus (lib. iii., cxlvii.), is identical with this plant. However, Dr. Adams {Supplement to
Dunbar’s Lexicon, 3rd edit.), a good authority on these subjects, says, that h’kiaix.ot. is the same as Aa/xao-oiviov, as expressly
stated by Galen (lib. iii. p. 154). R. Stephens calls it Plantago aquatica, and it is so acknowledged by Cordus, Sibthorp, and Sprengell but the description given by Dioscorides is more like the Doronicum than the Plantain; Clusius describes a plant under the name of Doronicum Pannonicum, which agrees in most respects with the Arnica montana.

The same plant is mentioned by Gerarde (lib. ii. p. 742) as the German Marigold, or Chrysanthemum latifolium ; by Gesner as Caltha alpina ; by Dodonaeus as Chrysanthemum latifolium ; by Pena and Lobel as Nardus celtica altera ; and as Ptarmica montana {Daleschampii in Hisior. Lugd., p. 1169).

It was not brought into use till the beginning of the last century, when it was extolled by a German physician, of the name of Fehr, as the panacea for contusions and bruises ; hence it obtained the name Panacea lapsorum. Dr. Collin, of Vienna, used it extensively in the Pazman Hospital in that city for four years, from 1771-74, with, as he relates, most unprecedented success, and through its agency hundreds of patients were snatched
from the jaws of death. He used it extensively in intermittent and putrid fevers, supposing it to possess tonic and antiseptic qualities in the highest degree, and also in malignant dysentery.

It was observed that on first giving this medicine, it frequently produced vomiting and uneasiness at the stomach ; when given improperly, and in too large doses, it excites great anxiety, shooting and burning pains, and even dangerous hemorrhages, vomiting, vertigo, and coma.

It has also been recommended and given in paralytic disorders; chronic rheumatism; retention of urine from paralysis of the bladder; amaurosis; intermittent, putrid, and typhoid fevers, and, according to Haller, in epilepsy ; it was also used much in France, at the end of the last century, in colliquative diarrhoea.

Althoff preferred Arnica to Peruvian bark, as an antiseptic to putrid fevers; and Stohl called it the Quinine of the poor, and declared it to be specific in dysentery.

Arnica was supposed to be contra-indicated by an inflammatory diathesis, a predisposition to hemorrhages, and internal congestions.

Besides Collin, as mentioned above, Stohl, Kausch, Crichton, and Gilbert advocated its use in mucous, adynamic, putrid, and petechial fevers. Mueller, Buechner, and La Marche, in peripneumonia, nephritis, rheumatism, and gout.

Junker, Eschenbach, and Collin, in hemiplegia, epilepsy, and amaurosis.* It became what is termed a fashionable remedy about the latter part of the last century and commencement of the present one ; but from its great abuse, or rather indiscriminate use, fell into disrepute, although, had it been discreetly administered in diseases for which it was appropriate, it would have become then, as it has now in homoeopathic medicine, an invalu-
able remedy in many serious diseases.

Hahnemann, in his Materia Medica Pura, has the following observations upon Arnica.

” Notwithstanding all its carefully-constructed dogmas, its scholastic definitions, and subtle distinctions, the established system (i.e. allopathy) has never succeeded in discovering the specific properties of this plant, nor in finding any certain remedy for that general affection (often very serious) which results from severe falls, shocks, blows, contusions, etc., or from twisting or tearing the solid parts of the human frame.

At length, after innumerable attempts and trials, the people discovered for themselves the desired remedy in Arnica. Two hundred years ago,
a physician, named Fehr, communicated to his brethren, for the first time, the discovery of this domestic remedy ; since when.
Arnica has been called Panacea lapsorum. The case has been similar with regard to all other specifics ; the art of medicine owes the knowledge of them to domestic practice, and has never made a single discovery for itself, because those who practise it, have not taken the trouble to try the pure effect of natural substances on persons in health.”

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