Modern chemistry has succeeded in extracting the medicinal principle from Peruvian bark, so that now the former may be taken without the great mass of crude impurities in the latter. This extract is called quinine.
A prejudice has been created against quinine, we believe mainly by the inventors of patent nostrums for the sake of selling their own wares. Twenty years ago there was a famous pill sold in the Western States as a cure for fever and ague. It was called Sappingtons pill, and was a powerful remedy. Dr. Beaumont, of St. Louis, analyzed it, and found that all its medicinal virtues were due to the arsenic which it contained. Now, quinine is a vegetable substance, and is decomposed in the system into gases which pass away. But arsenic, like all of the metallic poisons, remains in the system, and if successive doses of it are taken, however small, they accumulate until the quantity becomes sufficient to destroy life. And killing the patient is not the worst of its effects; it produces a frightful train of diseases, more terrible than death. There is no greater folly than the buying of patent medicines to cure fever and ague.. If they will cure the disease they must contain either Peruvian bark or arsenic. If they contain the latter they are of course to be avoided; and if the former, it is better to purchase the pure quinine at the druggists than to pay a swindling price to have it mixed with the useless and frequently deleterious compounds that are employed to disguise it.
This substance will almost invariably cure the milder forms of malarious disease, and a few years ago it was discovered, at about the same time both in Italy and this country, that even congestive fever could frequently be cured by enormous doses of quinine. Since that discovery, a considerable number of persons have been snatched from the very jaws of death by spoonfuls of this powerful extract. It is important that the remedy should be properly administered, and when a soldier is attacked he will of course consult the surgeon of the regiment; our advice refers only to the prevention of the disease.
TO PREVENT THE ATTACKS OF MALARIOUS DISEASE
All experience has confirmed the observation of the natives of Peru, that Peruvian bark has a powerful influence in counteracting the poison of malaria. Though, after malarious poison is absorbed into the system, it sometimes remains many months before manifesting its presence outside of the tropics it is propagated only in the months of August, September and October; and if during these three months a small quantity of Peruvian bark or quinine is taken daily, it will generally prevent the occurrence of the disease. As much as can be taken up on the point of a penknife say to the length of half an inch will, as a rule, be sufficient; though if the dose is doubled it is immaterial. It can he taken by placing it directly on the tongue, as, though bitter, it is a clean bitter, not unpleasant to most people. If the taste is not agreeable, however, it may be put into the coffee at breakfast, when it will not be perceived.
We advise all of our soldiers to consult the surgeons of their several regiments in regard to the wisdom of this course, and if it is sanctioned by them, as it will be, to follow it resolutely. The quinine would doubtless be furnished from the army chest, as the government could not expend money more judiciously for securing the efficiency of the troops, and consequently for the vigorous prosecution of the war.