By Finley Ellingwood, M.D., Chicago
This remedial agent has come into use within the last ten years, because of its direct influence in correcting those deprivations of the body fluids which depend upon organic causes. To class this remedy as an alterative or an antiseptic would greatly narrow its field; in fact, it is impossible to apply such term to the remedy in the breadth of its influence. They but inadequately convey to our mind the therapeutic possibilities of the drug.
Echinacea angustifolia is the narrow-leaved, purple cone flower commonly called Black Sampson. It is found only in prairie regions, and is indigenous to the United States, growing chiefly in the Western States. The variety growing east of the Mississippi does not possess the essential therapeutic properties. It blooms during the months of June, July and August, and is known in Kansas as the niggerhead. This name is derived from the peculiar shape and dark color of the head forming the fruit.
In 1870 Dr. H.F.C. Meyer, of Pawnee City, Nebraska, made the astonishing declaration that in several instances he had allowed himself to be bitten by a rattlesnake, and had then bathed the bite in a strong tincture of Echinacea. He also took the tincture in drachma doses internally, and felt but little effect from the bite. This statement had so much of Quackery in its tone that little attention was paid to it. Subsequently this influence has been proven in hundreds of cases, as the remedy is now in almost general use in some localities for this purpose. As stated above, its field covers the entire range of organic infection. Blood poisoning, in the common acceptation of this generic term, in all its from in met more promptly with this remedy than with any single remedy or any combination of remedies. Its field covers acute or chronic auto infection, acute direct septic infection, slow progressive blood taints, and all faults of the blood from imperfect elimination and pyaemia.
As a remedy for septicemia the promptness of its action has surprised every physician who has yet prescribed it. If it had no other influence than that of antagonizing direct septic infection, this would be sufficient to class it as of first importance among specific remedies for this purpose.
In infection from the bites of venomous snakes, tarantulas, spiders, scorpions, and the stings of insects and wasps, its influence is immediate and in every way satisfactory. It should always be given internally, and applied also externally at the same time. Where there is recent infection it is advisable to inject the remedy into the surrounding parts with a hypodermic needle. It is a local anesthetic, and apart from thee temporary pain caused by the injection of the tincture, its effect is immediate.
In the treatment of tetanus the wounds should be opened freely, and all extraneous matter thoroughly removed. This remedy should then be poured into the wound or introduced on antiseptic gauze, and injected into the surrounding tissues as well. The gauze should be kept saturated, and the remedy should be administered in drachma doses every two hours. Several cases of tetanus, in the incipient stage, have been cured and always with no further development, after the first use of the remedy.
As a remedy for pyaemia the results from the use of Echinacea alone have been surprising. Several most extreme cases have been reported, where the infection was general and where there was great destruction of tissue. The influence of the remedy, when the pus has been removed and the cavities are cleansed antiseptically, is pronounced from the first. The patient has a rapidly developing vigor and improved vitality, the appetite returns, the nervous system is aroused and stimulated, the functions of all the organs of the body are in every way improved, and convalescence, though slow in extreme cases, is in every way satisfactory.
This agent improves the appetite and digestion and overcomes many forms of dyspepsia, especially those which depend upon fermentation. In ulcerative stomatitis, in stomatitis materna, and in ulcerations, of the gastro-intestinal tract from whatever cause, this remedy will be found efficient.
It has been found of much service in typhoid fever. While it does not abort the fever, the entire course of the disease is mild, and it modifies uniformly all the pathological conditions. All observers are positive that it greatly modifies the temperature. A large number of experiments have been made to determine the difference in the range of temperature with and without the remedy. And the result have convinced the observers that a reduction of from one to three degrees is produced by this drug. The blood does not become impaired, assimilation and nutrition are sustained, fermentation is avoided, nerve force is retained, elimination of all excretions is improved, ulceration of Peyer’s patches ceases, other enteric symptoms abate, there is little if any tympanite, and there has as yet been no case of haemorrhage or perforation reported as having occurred after this agent was begun.
In septic fevers the influence of Echinacea is much the same as in typhoid. Through its stimulant influence upon the nerve centres the vital forces are not depressed by the poison. In one case, where there was extreme septic absorption after a badly conducted abortion, with nephritis and almost complete suppression of urine, where uremia had supervened and delirium and mild convulsions were present, twenty drops of the fluid extract of Echinacea was given every two hours continuously. Persistent heat was applied over the kidneys, and after a single dose of an antispasmodic no other remedy was administered. All the conditions dependent upon the septic absorption were promptly and satisfactorily relieved, the improvement being plainly apparent in forty-eight hours.
Its influence upon uremic poisoning is as in the cases above mentioned. While it does not as promptly restore the renal secretion as perhaps some other remedies or combinations would do, it very materially accelerates the influence of other remedies. The writer has used persistent heat alone with this remedy where the suppression was more or less complete.
In those cases in which are exhibited boils, acne, carbuncles, abscesses, and various forms of glandular inflammation, this agent is of direct value.
Because of its marked influence upon the blood, and because of its profoundly stimulating and nutritional influence upon the central nervous system, it is said to be a remarkably beneficial agent in the treatment of cerebro-spinal meningitis.
It is in common use in the treatment of diphtheria, and while a valuable agent it is not so pronounced in its effects as it is in other conditions. After the membrane has been thoroughly removed, the influence of Echinacea upon those conditions of blood disorder which depend upon the absorption of the toxines is satisfactory.
Extravagant statements concerning the action of a remedy do not establish confidence in its influence. The prompt results of Echinacea, when correctly applied, have caused all writers to express themselves so positively and with such apparent extravagance as to really retard the introduction of this agent to the profession at large. It, however, will yet escape for itself, by its inherent valuable therapeutic properties, with the entire profession, a fixed and permanent place. It will replace inorganic alternative, as it has in reasonable doses no toxic or undesirable influences, and its elimination is perfect.