This section is from the book "Smith's Family Physician", by William Henry Smith. See also: Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies that Medical Doctors Don't Know.
In making up, or in getting made up, prescriptions ordered in this book, recollect that the good effects thereof must depend, in the first place, upon the quality of the drugs, and secondly, upon their being prepared in a proper manner. When Mixtures are ordered, containing Infusions - that is, substances infused in boiling water, (as tea is made), - the article to be used must be the pure drug itself, not any powder, which, if not actually adulterated, will probably have been made of an inferior quality of root or bark. For instance: Gentian Root must be the root sliced. Cascarilla bark, or Peruvian bark, or any other bark ordered, must be the bark bruised in a mortar, not the powder. In making infusions, the water must be boiling hot when poured over the ingredients, and the jug must be covered over with a cloth, and set by the fire or on the stove, (but not so as to continue boiling), for a couple of hours, and then the liquor strained through a piece of fine muslin; then bottled, and kept well corked. When simple syrup is ordered, which is generally to improve the taste of the medicine, the same quantity of lump, sugar will answer the purpose. When brandy is ordered to be added to any mixture, and the very best cannot be obtained, it is better to substitute half the quantity of alcohol. Little of the brandy brought to this country being as pure as alcohol, if of proper strength, must necessarily be. When sugar is added to an infusion it may be mixed with the ingredients before the water is poured on them; but all other additions, such as alcohol, brandy, spirit of Ammonia, or any other such substances are not to be added till after the infusion is strained off. Bottles containing spirituous liquids, or other volatile matter, should always be kept well corked.
Pills are usually made of three or five grains weight, but if any of the pills ordered are too large for the patient to swallow comfortably, they may be divided, and he may take two instead of one. Some people cannot take large pills.
Every family accustomed to making up medicine at home, should have a pair of "Apothecaries' Scales and Weights," and a graduated glass measure. The cost is but trifling, and much greater accuracy is obtained in weighing and measuring, and that in cases where accuracy is of importance.
Any preparation in which Copper is used, as, for instance, pills made with Sulphate of Copper, must be mixed up with a wooden or ivory knife, or, in a Wedgewood mortar, as the contact of Iron or Steel would decompose the Sulphate, and cause the Copper to leave the substance it was combined with, and attach itself to the Iron or Steel.
A valuable collection of prescriptions will be given in the course of the work, and it is to be hoped that proper precautions will be used in getting them prepared.