This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Bezoar: a preternatural or morbid concretion, formed in the bodies of land animals. Several of these kinds of substances have been used medicinally, and distinguished either by the names of the countries from whence they are brought, or of the animals in which they are generated.
1. Lapis bezoar orientalis. Oriental bezoar stone: supposed to be produced in the pylorus, or in a cavity at the bottom of the fourth stomach, of an animal of the goat kind, which inhabits the mountains in different parts of Persia. It is said, that the bezoar is found only in the old animals, only in those which seed on some particular mountains, as the eastern one of the tract called Benna in the province of Laar, and only in a few of these; and that, though of great value in Europe, it is of greater in Persia itself; from whence it has been inferred, that the generality of the stones, fold under this name in Europe, must be of another original (a). Thus much is certain, that artificial compounds have been often substituted in the room of this costly concretion.
The genuine oriental bezoar of the shops is about the size of a kidney-bean (b), of a roundish or oblong rounded figure, of an even smooth surface, and of a shining olive or dark greenish colour: on being broken, it appears composed of a number of concentrical coats, of which the inner are smooth and glossy as the outer: in the middle is either a cavity, or some powdery matter, or some small bits of the leaves or stalks of plants, or other like substances. The common marks of its genuineness are, its striking a yellow or green colour on white paper that has been rubbed with chalk; a red-hot needle not piercing into it, or occasioning any bubbles, but either making no impression at all, or at most taking off only a little scale or cruft; and its suffering no diminution of its weight, or disunion of its parts, by steeping in water.
(a) Kaempfer, Amaenitates exoticae, p. 398 & seqq. Slare, Dissertation on bezoar. Neumann, Chemical works,
(b) Mercatus, (Mctallotheca, armar. viii. cap. i. p. 173.) describes a stone of this kind (presented by the king of Portugal to cardinal Alexandrinus) weighing four ounces; so that if equally compact as the common bezoar (whose gravity is to that of water nearly as one and half to one) its volume must have been about five cubic inches.
The genuine stone has no manifest smell (a) or taste; and is not sensibly acted on by rectified spirit any more than by water. Reduced into an impalpable powder, it retains its greenish hue; which, by moistening the powder, in levigation, with a little spirit of wine, is somewhat improved. The powder agitated with water or spirit, sub-sides uniformly and totally; leaving no greenish matter dissolved in the liquors, as those powders do, in which the bezoar tincture has been imitated by certain vegetable matters. The powdered bezoar dissolves almost totally, and with considerable effervescence, in the acids of nitre, and of sea salt; and tinges them of a deep yellow or red colour. The vitriolic acid raises a slight effervescence with it, but dissolves exceeding little, Vinegar likewise acts on it very weakly.
Bezoar was formerly accounted a high alexipharmac; insomuch that the other medicines, possessed, or supposed to be possessed, of alexipharmac powers, have been denominated from it bezoardies. It appears, however, that this notion, adopted from the Arabian schools, has no just foundation; and that this calculous concrete, which lies inactive and indigestible in the stomach of the animal in which it is produced, is equally indissoluble and inactive in the human stomach, unless where either a morbid acid is generated in the body, which is rarely the case in the acute diseases wherein bezoar has been chiefly given, or acid liquors are taken along with it. Solutions of it in the nitrous or marine acids, given in doses of a few drops with proper diluents, the form in which it was used by Kaempfer, may, doubt-less, be of service in acute diseases, as antiseptic and antiphlogistic saline compounds; though not more so than solutions of the common testaceous earths. The bezoar in substance can have no other salutary operation than as an absorbent of acid humours; and appears, from experiment, to be the most weakly absorbent, or the most difficultly acted on by animal and vegetable acids, of all the earthy bodies commonly made use of in this intention.
(a) The flight ambergris smell, perceivable in some of the oriental bezoars, is supposed to be introduced by art: Cartheufer looks upon those which have this smell as being wholly factitious (Rudimenta m. m. i. 214.)
2. Bezoard occidentalis Pharm. Paris. Occidental bezoar: said to be found in the stomach of an animal of the stag kind, a native of Peru and some other parts of the Spanish West Indies. It is larger than the oriental, from the size of a walnut to that of a hen's egg or more (a): its surface is rough, and the colour less green, being often greyish or brownish without any greenness: it is likewise more brittle, of a looser texture, composed of thicker coats, and exhibits, when broken, a number of fine crystalline striae curiously interwoven. It is less esteemed than the foregoing; though apparently not inferiour, so far as is known, in any respect that can influence its virtue as a medicine.
(a) There are accounts of occidental bczoars of much larger sizes: Mercatus (ubi supra, p. 174, 175.) describes and figures a stone of this kind weighing no less than fifty-six ounces, though part of the outer crusts had been removed.
3. Lapis simiae seu bezoard simiae Pharm. Paris. Bezoar of the monkey: said to be found in the stomach of certain monkies; which are common in the Brasils, and in some parts of the East Indies, but which very rarely produce the admired stone. This species is about the size of a hazel nut, harder than the other bezoars, and of a very dark greenish colour almost black. Its great scarcity has rendered it of more value, and, among some, of more medicinal estimation, than the two foregoing, but prevented its having a place in the shops.
4. Calculus humanus, bezoar microcosmicum quibusdam dictus. The calculus of the human bladder. This concrete is various in degree of hardness, as well as in appearance, figure, and size: the softer masses are for the most part pretty easily, the harder more difficultly, dis-solved, in part at least, by. acids, and corroded by soap leys and lime-water: other menstrua for them are not known. Some have employed this stone as a succedaneum, and even in preference, to the foregoing costly bodies, and report that they have found it to act as an excellent sudorific and diuretic(a); ascribing to the stony matter the effects of the theriaca, oil of amber, and oil of juniper berries, with which it was joined.
5. Lapis porcinus Pharm. Paris. Lapis malacensis. Bezoar hystricis. Pedro del porco.
(a) Bontius, Animadversiones in Garciam, lib. i. cap. 46.
Bezoar of the porcupine: said to be found in the gall-bladder of an Indian porcupine, particularly in the province of Malacca. It is of a roundish figure, of a pale purplish colour, of a soft substance, smooth and slippery to the touch(a). This concrete is of a very different nature from the four preceding: it has an in-tensely bitter taste, and, on being steeped in water for a very little time, impregnates the fluid with its bitterness, and with aperient, sto-machic, and, as is supposed, with alexiphar-mac virtues. How far it differs in virtue from the similar concretions found in the gall-bladder of the ox and other animals, does not appear.