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.
Difficulties here begin with the crude drug. C. J. Zufall in a paper1 asserts that the pharmacopeial descriptions of aconite, apocynum, belladonna leaves, berberis, buchu, capsicum, cardamon, coca, colchicum seed, cubeb, ergot, grindelia, lupulin, savin, scoparius, viburnum opulus and viburnum prunifolium are more or less defective. This paper is one of many bearing upon the same problem, a matter of very considerable importance and one that merits the most careful investigation. The integrity of our botanic crudes is the foundation of the success or failure of botanic remedies.
Theoretically considered, the United States Pharmacopeia products should be those of highest development from the scientific and the clinical standpoints, yet "New and Nonofficial Remedies," 1916 edition, lists and describes proprietary products of the following botanic drugs: Various agar preparations, certain vegetable tar products, a few atropine derivatives, chinosol, eucodin, stypticin, styptol, several digitalis products, cymarin, ouabain, various products of ergot, filmaron, aristol, several ipecac products, B. bulgaricus and Kefir fungi specialties, several carbohydrate medicinal foods, coryfin, several opium principles and derivatives, phloridzin, various pollen extracts, numerous quinine derivatives, sandalwood oil derivatives, euscopol, tannic acid derivatives, apinol, urease, valeric esters, validol camphoratum, several caffeine-like bodies, cerolin, and numerous others.
Among non-proprietary and also non-official products made by designated manufacturers are named these: Agaric acid, homatropine hydrochloride, ber-berine hydrochloride, cantharidin, cypress oil, digi-toxin, special ergot products, emetine, several morphine salts, apiol, a few quinine salts, oil of pine, and thiosinamine.
This American Medical Association publication is strong testimony to the fact that modern commercial enterprise is pushing ahead of the slowly-changing United States Pharmacopeia, and is introducing new and valuable forms of medicaments derived from the old botanic drugs.
But "New and Nonofficial Remedies" does not take up pharmaceutical classes of preparations except as regards biologicals and certain classes of compounds; the United States Pharmacopeia performs that function, and as a rule it is well performed. But the United States Pharmacopeia, while admirable as a book of standards, does not serve so well as a book of processes. Indeed, it is hard for it to do so. It is one thing to outline processes of drug extraction suitable for the retail pharmacy and quite another thing to outline them for the large pharmaceutical manufacturer who works his drugs by machinery and in bulk. The large makers, who work on a basis of constant assays and other exactitudes, often improve upon official processes and list both United States Pharmacopeia and their own tinctures, fluidextracts, etc., and these special products are usually superior.
To begin with, the large manufacturer enjoys especial facilities in securing his crude drugs in their most active and workable condition. Eucalyptus, for instance, rapidly loses its volatile constituents, although the leaves should not be worked green. Various barks, such as cascara and wild cherry, require special handling and a certain age, while others, such as the bark of the root of chionanthus, require special slow extraction. Then, too, other drugs should be worked in a green or recent state. Zea, or cornsilk, contains as its active agent maizenic acid, which is lost in the process of drying. Some of the narcotic drugs are much injured by drying. Pulsatilla, active on account of its volatile anem-onin, becomes almost wholly inert by drying. Some reports contend that differences in physiological actions obtain as between certain recent and dried drugs. While this may be exaggerated, there is no doubt that the proper condition of a drug for working is far from uniform as involves the various agents, and hence the dried drugs sold in bulk may or may not be in the best condition for working. The large manufacturer is in position to secure his crudes in proper condition and to work them at the right time.
Fermentative changes ruin some plant structures, and microorganisms proliferate very rapidly in others. Cactus grandiflorus, which is rich in a form of mucilage, is utterly destroyed by drying. Indeed, and based upon careful personal investigation, the concentrations of cactus sold in granule form proliferate microorganisms even after being made up, and I know of no form of the drug which retains its integrity except that made from the recent material placed in strong alcohol and kept strongly alcoholic as a finished product.
Resinous matters, chlorophyll, red tannates, pectin, and other substances, are apt to give rise to destructive changes in defectively handled crude drugs.
The practical matter for the physician, therefore, is to buy tinctures, fluidextracts, extracts, etc., from the large makers of such pharmaceuticals, and not depend upon drug-store manufacturing.