This section is from the book "Botanic Drugs Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics", by Thomas S. Blair. Also available from Amazon: Botanic Drugs, Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
Some of the more important mints, or Labiatae, are separately considered. The remaining ones will be grouped together here.
Cunilia Mariana, Dittany, a very fragrant mint essentially the same as pennyroyal. See "Hedeoma." Hyssopus officinalis, Hyssop, stimulant, aromatic, carminative, and tonic. Dose of oil, 1 to 2 drops. Lavandula officinalis, Lavender, tonic, stimulant, and carminative. The U. S. P. Spirit of Lavender contains 5% of the oil of the flowers. The average dose is 30 minims. Lycopus Virginicus, Bugle-weed or Water Horehound, is more bitter and less aromatic than most of the mints. Has a reputation for improving the circulation through an influence upon the sympathetic system, and is used in doses of 5 to 10 minims of the fl. Has also been used in chronic cough. It was stated of lycopus that it slows the rate of the heart-beat. I have made very careful test of this, with proper controls and twice-daily records on the chart, and very little influence of any kind was demonstrated, so far as the circulation was concerned. Certainly the heart was not slowed. I have thought, however, that it is about the equal of wild cherry as a tonic and cough remedy in chronic pulmonary affections. It is not reasonable to expect a sedative action from a mint; but it is not at all unreasonable to expect a tonic influence such as we get from horehound. See "Marrubium." I believe these two agents to act similarly, and that they do not possess anything like the value in tuberculosis and hemorrhagic difficulties once attributed to lycopus. However, lycopus is somewhat astringent. Leonurus cardiaca, Motherwort, is another bitter mint with tonic properties. The same can be said of Melissa officinalis, Balm.
Mentha piperita, Peppermint, is widely official in several forms. Mentha viridis, Spearmint, is official in the U. S. and England, mentha arvensis, Japanese Peppermint, is official in Japan, as is also its oil. Oil of Curled Mint is derived from Mentha crispa, official in England and Russia.
Menthol, a stearoptene, is derived from peppermint oil of any origin. It is too much of a gastroenteric irritant for internal use, and it is absorbed slowly; but from the skin it is rapidly absorbed and it depresses the sensory endings. It is employed superficially in the treatment of neuralgia of peripheral origin. Combined with camphor, chloral, or phenol, and placed in the cavity of a carious tooth, it relieves the aching. It has been applied to bails in an effort to abort them, sometimes with success. Equal parts of menthol, thymol, and hydrated chloral, rubbed together until liquefied, is the basis of several formulae, variously medicated with morphine, atropine, and cocaine, and used externally in rheumatism and other painful affections. Dissolved in oil, menthol enters into various formulae used in laryngology. Coryfin is an acid ester of menthol.
Peppermint and spearmint are agreeable aromatic stimulants and carminatives adapted to the treatment of many minor gastrointestinal derangements.
Nepeta cataria, Catnip, is used in hot infusion for infantile colic. Ocimum basilicum, Sweet Basil, has an action similar to lavender. Origanum vulgare, Wild Marjoram, is stimulant, tonic, and emmena-gogue. Sweet Marjoram, 0. Majorana, acts similarly. Rosmarinus officinalis, Rosemary, is used principally as a perfume.
Scutellaria lateriflora, Skullcap, formerly official but only in the U. S., has been deleted from the U. S. P. IX. Very slightly aromatic, but quite bitter. Contains no active ingredient, so far as known. It has been disappointing as a remedy, for it was once considered as a nervine and antispasmodic. Salvia officinalis, Sage, widely official but has been deleted from the U. S. P. IX. It is a tonic-astringent of value as a gargle and culinary flavor. Thymus is separately considered. Mountain Mint, Pycnanthemum incanum, and P. lini-folium, Virginia Thyme, are disagreeable mints no longer used to any extent.
It seems to me that the mints contain aromatic substances - stearoptenes, etc. - that should be studied as regards their action in the blood-stream. Under "Echinacea," q. v., and elsewhere, reference has been made to this matter. The well-known action of camphor, q. v., a stearoptene, illustrates the thought. Two of the mints, peppermint and thyme, contain stearoptenes, and other mints probably do also. Menthol and thymol, when injected, produce a positive pharmacologic action somewhat similar to that of camphor. Also read what was said under "Inula," which contains an alant-camphor.
"Plantex" and "Autolysin" are proprietary products of similar formula, but the product made up each according to the ideas of the producers. The formula was given in the N. Y. Med. Jour. for Feb. 19, 1916, in an article upon Autolysin; it is as follows:
Menyanthes trifoliata (leaves)..............
Melilotus officinalis (leaves)................
Mentha crispa (leaves).....................
Brassica alba (seeds) .........................................
Anemone hepatica (leaves).................
Viola tricolor (flowers and leaves)...........
Urtica dioica (whole plant except root).......
Rheum officinale (root).....................
Hedge hyssop (whole plant except root)......
The working formula, as enunciated by Beebe, follows in the article; but it is complex and involved, and it would not be profitable to reproduce it here. The product called Autolysin is a hydro-alcoholic-saline emulsion, most of the alcohol being evaporated before the emulsion is sealed in ampules. Plantex is, when finished, a clear solution in a hydrous glyco-alcoholic menstruum.
These agents are recommended in the treatment of cancer, and as auxiliary in the treatment of cancer by the usual surgical method. It is contended that daily administration both before and after operation, as well as in inoperable cases, gives much symptomatic relief, especially from pain, odor, irritating and fetid discharge, and from blood oozing from the neoplasm. It is not to be assumed that these agents are proven to bear any specific relationship to cancer as such; but it may well be that the systemic secondary infection that is such a factor in cancer may be antagonized by them.
We don't know the cause of cancer, and any treatment given in an effort to cure the disease is necessarily empiric. This applies to all of the prevalent methods as well as to the use of Plantex or Autolysin. However, a large clinical literature upon the use of these agents has accumulated, much of it sufficiently critical to give a hope that they are supplementary or auxiliary means for combating the disease that may not be ignored, especially so in view of the paucity of resource available and the further fact that their discreet use is harmless to the patient. And it seems, from hundreds of clinical cases reported, that the post-operative use of this form of treatment gives encouraging results in many cases; but it should be emphasized that neither Autolysin nor Plantex should be used to supplant any of the recognized forms of treatment.
Horowitz and Beebe have evolved a lot of theory upon the subject, the latter claiming that "chlorophyll, lipoids, and extractive matter" are the important content. For recent data on the lipoids (lipins), see "Physiological Chemistry" by Mathews (William Wood and Company). Furthermore, certain stearoptenes, such as camphor and menthol, are really terpenes, or stearols of the terpene group, which may be classed as lipins (lipoids) from a chemical basis. See "Abies" for a discussion of the terpenes. And it must also be conceded that chlorophyll yields pyrrol derivatives, like hemoglobin does. Chlorophyll has a plant function strikingly akin to blood corpuscles in biologic life. Plant chromoproteins are wonderful agents. What do they do when injected into the blood?
Perhaps if plant extracts containing lipins plus chlorophyll (it is hard to separate the two), and lipins only of the terpene group - stearoptenes, etc. - were injected into the blood-stream, some pretty definite things would be done by them in the direction of vital stimulation and raising the opsonic index to mixed or secondary infections. The mints, Labiatae (mentha, thymus, etc.), and the Com-positae (echinacea, inula, etc.), seem to me to be somewhat promising in this direction, as do the Coniferae. As Thiosinamine and Fibrolysin, q. v., are derived from mustard, the Brassica alba (white mustard) in Plantex and Autolysin may be a prominent factor in their effects upon neoplasms.
These proteomorphic theories are plausible, but we should not stress them. In an article on vaccine therapy in The Jour. Amer. Med. Ass'n., Jan. 20, 1917, David John Davis argues for the theory of the nonspecific effects of bacterial vaccines, contending that proteins, albumoses, serum lipoids, colloids, etc. (animal or vegetable proteins), are more important than any assumed specific agent in the vaccine; and he suggests that a sterile pure chemical preparation of some proteose which can be carefully standardized may be the coming "vaccine." This is rather revolutionary, and it may open up a wide field for the subcutaneous and intravenous use of plant extracts, not only in cancer but in other affections.
Erwin F. Smith, "Studies on the Crown Gall of Plants: Its Relation to Human Cancer," in The Jour. of Cancer Research, April, 1916, traces a remarkable similarity between human cancer and plant cancer, or crown gall. The hypothesis is offered by a gentleman who is not yet prepared to back up his theory, in a letter to me, that multicellular plants protect themselves from invasion or destruction by unicellular plants (plant cancer, etc.) by developing protective enzymes or other protective bodies; and he speculates upon the possibility of these plant-cancer anti-bodies, administered to a human sufferer from cancer, influencing human cancer. Only by the most painstaking laboratory investigation, however, will light be thrown upon these problems.