This section is from the book "A Practitioner's Handbook Of Materia Medica And Therapeutics", by Thos. S. Blair. Also available from Amazon: A Practitioner's handbook of Materia Medica and Therapeutics.
Eclectic Tinctures. The eclectics have been most fortunate in having had identified with them two such eminently scientific pharmaceutic chemists as Prof. J. Uri Lloyd and Dr. William S. Merrell. Headed by these gentlemen, the school has developed the chemistry and pharmacy of plant medicaments in a manner of vital interest and importance to all physicians, whether employing them as the eclectics do or in other manners. Two lines of their preparations are upon the market: the so-called "specific medicines" of Lloyd and the "normal tinctures" of Merrell. The former have more official eclectic recognition, although the latter are identical with them except in a few instances.
The former have probably been a little more developed in detail, and especially as concerns a few drugs, but the two lines of preparations in most essential particulars are parallel. Because of their official standing we will discuss the former, although equally commending the "normal tinctures." The name "specific medicine" is rather unfortunate. The eclectics do not mean them as specific in disease, but as specifically representing the active medicinal content of the drug employed. Pharmaceutically they are high-grade tinctures, one minim of which represents one grain of the dry crude drug. They are largely used by regular physicians, who call them Lloyd's tinctures. Their labels bear the eclectic indications, and their so-called "usual prescription," but a table of minimum and maximum doses is issued by the manufacturers. Extensive use of them upon the part of the author suggests the caution that many of them should be administered in only half the dose of the usual grade of fluidextracts, when given for the full physiologic effect, until one has cautiously felt his way in each individual case. Their great activity is readily explained, since they are made usually of plants in their green or recent state: (some of the "specific medicines" are chemicals, however), and the few not worked fresh are subjected to special processes in drying. Also, it may be said that their high price justifies the makers in purchasing the cream of the available supply, just like a few of our fluidextract manufacturers do.
The process employed varies with the substance used, but is usually a combined maceration and percolation with the aid of ingenious concentrating apparatus in which heat is not employed. Strong grain alcohol is the menstruum, and individual processes are used with different drugs to get rid of inert resins, extractive matter, starches, coloring matter, and plant detritus. The result is a clean and highly active tincture. In administering remedies for their actions in small doses, these products present distinct advantages over ordinary tinctures and fluidextracts, and our rather conservative official standards could most advantageously incorporate some of these processes in the elaboration of official preparations. In practical use the "specific medicines," the "normal tinctures," and the "mother tinctures" do not present their claims so tangibly in the large as in the small dose. A really high-grade fluidextract is a tincture to all intents and purposes, only it is stronger than are the usual tinctures. The amount of inert substances in the fluidextract is relatively large or small according to the menstruum and the processes of extraction employed, and, in the large dose, they do not much interfere with the action of the active principles of the drug, but we should employ the green plant fluidextract or the assayed product in the instances already dwelt upon. In the small dose many of the high-grade fluidextracts do very well, but in general the special tinctures made from green drugs are distinctly preferable. One wants as little admixture of inert substances as is possible, since they interfere with the action of the small portion of active medicine present, and this is particularly true when they are added to water and the precipitated resins carry down and sometimes react upon the proximate principles of the plant. Again, the action in small doses is not always due to alkaloidal substances or the generally considered active principles.
These volatile or readily destroyed ingredients of the green plant are rarely found in any appreciable quantity at all in a fluidextract, as they are dissipated in the drying of the plant or in its manufacture into the fluid-extract. It is far from our purpose to appear pedantic or disloyal to the regular school of medicine, and it will probably be hard to convince the physician who knows that good fluidextracts do not fail him in the usual doses, that they are apt not to do so well in small doses; yet anyone practically conversant with the matters here discussed will bear out, in the main at least, our present contention. Most unfortunately, our fluidextracts are being altogether too much displaced by proprietary elixirs and by ineligible tablet forms of vegetable drugs. It impresses the writer that this is far more disloyal to our own school than it is to define the limitations of the fluidextract; and it is distinctly detrimental to scientific medicine to discard our own carefully worked out official formula in favor of the commercially prompted efforts of men who seldom know so much about drugs as do the able and distinguished gentlemen who go to in- finite pains to render accurate and efficient our own official standards. In the following pages ec. tr. will be used to specify all standard preparations of this kind.