This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
Diphtheria is scarcely more than a modification of scarlet fever. The patient first complains of lassitude, headache, loss of appetite, has rigors and chills, active and quick pulse, a light furred tongue, redness of the back of mouth, enlargement of the glands about the neck, a hot, dry and pungent skin, and in most cases an exudation upon the mucous surfaces of the upper air-passsages. This soon becomes organized into a tough, white membrane, covering the soft palate and tonsils. These sometimes degenerate into ulcers. The breathing in consequence of this membrane becomes hurried and difficult, pulse quick, and frequently the asphyxia ensuing ends in death. It generally reigns as an epidemic and is regarded as contagious.
TREATMENT. -- The first step in the treatment should be a thorough emetic and an active cathartic; free perspiration should be produced by aconite or veratrum, and the kidneys should be kept in vigorous operation. Flannel cloths, wet with the compound tincture of capsicum, myrrh, and lobelia, should be applied to the neck, changed every half hour, and applied as hot as the patient can bear it. Jugs of hot water should be applied to the feet. The inflammation of the throat should be subdued by a gargle of a hot decoction of golden-seal. If the disease assumes an unfavorable aspect, give a powder containing one grain of quinine, one-half grain of capsicum, and one grain of hydrastin every two hours. If the patches ulcerate, use a gargle of sumach and wild indigo. For the difficulty of breathing give sanguinaria and lobelia in emetic doses for the purpose of dislodging the membrane. The secretions should be increased even to ptyalism by irisin, the effect of which will be to overcome the adhesiveness of the membrane. The "Herbal Ointment" used for this purpose, and also to subdue the local inflammation, acts specifically and should be used in all cases.
During convalescence the diet should be nutritious, and baths, fresh air, and a liberal amount of fresh fruits ordered.