This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Frumenta, Farinacea, Cere alia, Medicorum, Triticum ejusque amylum & furfur; oryza-, avena; hordeum, etc. Bread-corn or grain: wheat, with the starch made from it by maceration in water, and its bran; rice; oats, barley, etc. * (a).
These farinaceous seeds are less nutritious than the dietetic articles taken from the animal kingdom, but the nutriment they afford is milder and more benign: it is said that gouty and other chronical disorders, which are palliated or relieved by using milk for the only aliment, receive like relief from sarinaceous aliments, provided the slomach is sufficient for their digestion (a). In all cases, they are a necessary addition to animal food; and are, perhaps, the best correctors of the putrid disposition which animal substances of themselves would produce. The alimentary animal substances, which of themselves run into high putrefaction, undergo, when mixed with the farinacea, a resolution of another kind; the mixture tending, not to a putrid, but to an acid state(b). These mixtures appear to be sooner resoluble than either the animal or vegetable matter separately: probably they are easier also of digestion in the stomach.
(a) The nutrimental matter in grain and other vegetables is, 1. starch, which yields in analysis the same principles with honey, sugar, manna; viz. an acid, and an oil, which links: 2. glutinous vegeto-animal matter; the dark coloured substance which in starch-making fettles on the surface of the white, and is taken off for seeding hogs; of the same nature with the caseous part of milk; not soluble in water or spirit; yielding in analysis no acid, but a volatile alkaline spirit and salt, and an oil which swims. - Starch is the same substance in ail vegetables containing it: seculae of arum root, bryony, iris, dandelion, American manioc or yacca, freed from the poisonous juice, is an identical matter with starch of wheat. - The glutinous matter is likewise the same in all vegetables. From juices of herbs, heated, a green secula separates; from which spirit extracts green resin, of the same general properties with other relins, leaving behind a pure glutinous vegeto-animal substance. The secula which separates first, or with least heat, is richest in tinging resin; the next, in the glutinous matter. Repeated digestion in large quantities of spirit is necessary for complete separation. Rouelle, etc, Journ. de Med. 1773.
Among the common kinds of grain, rice is accounted the mildest and most nutritious, and supposed to be particularly serviceable in dysen-teries and diarrhoeas. It is less viscous than wheat, or of less tenacity when boiled with water. It swells to a larger bulk in water than any other grain.
Wheat, whether in the form of flour or of starch, is perhaps the most glutinous of all the farinacea. The viscous substance which the flour forms with milk, is often a salubrious aliment in fluxes and catarrhs. The starch is used medicinally for the same intentions, in powders, mixtures, and other forms: a. dram of starch, with three ouoces of any agreeable simple water, and a little sugar, compose an elegant gelly, of which a spoonful may be taken every hour or two. These gelatinous mixtures are likewise an useful injection in some diarrhoeas, particularly where the lower intestines have their natural mucus abraded by the flux, or are constantly irritated by the acrimony of the matter.
(a) Vide Malouin, Chimie medicinale, part. iii. chap. 2. torn. i. p. 234.
(b) See Dr. Pringle's experiments on this subjeel, in the appendix to his observations on the diseases of the army.
Oats are reckoned to be less viscous, and less nutrimental, than the two preceding.
Barley is less nutrimental, less glutinous, more cooling, more easily resoluble by fermentation, and probably in the stomach also, than either of the foregoing. Among the ancients, decoctions of it were the principal medicine, as well as aliment, in acute diseases; and from the common use of shelled barley, ptisana, in that form, other preparations of this kind, though made with different ingredients, have been often distinguished by the same name. The barley is freed from the shell in mills, and in this state called French or Scotch barley. A sort of shelled barley has been commonly brought from Holland in small round grains, called from their pearly whiteness, hordeum perlatum, or pearl barley * (a),
Decoctions of the farinacea in water, containing only their lighter and more agreeable parts, are very useful diluents in acute and other inflammatory diseases: however trivial preparations of this kind may appear to be, they are often, in these cases, medicines of primary importance. The most: elegant and grateful beverage is prepared from pearl barley, by washing, for example, two ounces of it, from the mealy matter that adheres, with cold water; then boiling it with about half a pint of fresh water, which will acquire some tinge, and is to be thrown away; and afterwards putting the barley into two quarts of boiling water, and continuing the coction till one half is wafted.
* (a) Maiz, with water forms the most gluey viscid sub-stance of any of the farinacea. We have never been able to make it undergo such a fermentation as to have the friability of our grains. Cullev, Mat. Med.
Decoct. hor-dei Ph. Lond.
An infusion or decoction of well toasted bread is likewise a' very agreeable diluent, of the astringent kind. In the cholera morbus, or bilious vomitings and purgings-, it is often retained by the stomach when other liquors and medicines are rejected; and in several instances, by being drank plentifully, has effected a cure.
Bran, consisting of the husks or shells of the grain, with a portion of its sarinaceous matter, is supposed to have a laxative and detergent quality. Decoctions of it sweetened with sugar, are used by the common people, and sometimes with good success, against coughs.
*Wort. Dr. Macbride, in his very ingenious Experimental Essays, having laid down as a principle, "that the cure of the scurvy depends on the fermentative quality in the re-medies made use of," was led to inquire after a substance, capable of being preserved during a long sea voyage, and yet containing materials by which a fermentation might be occasionally excited in the bowels. Such an one appeared to him to be found in malt, which is well known to be the grain of barley, brought sud-denly to a germinating state by heat and moi-sture, and then dried, whereby its saccharine principle is developed, and rendered easy of extraction by watery liquors. The sweet in-fusion of this, called wort, he proposed to give as a dietetic article to scorbutic persons, expecting that it would ferment in their bowels, and give out its fixed air, by the antiseptic powers of which the strong tendency to putrefaction in this disease might be corrected.
It was some time before a fair trial of this proposed remedy could be obtained; and different reports were made concerning it. By some cases, however, published in a postscript to the second edition of the Doctor's work, in 1767, it appears that scorbutic complaints of the most dangerous kind have actually been cured at sea by the use of wort. Its general effects were to keep the patients open, and to prove highly nutritious and strengthening. It sometimes purged too much, but this effect was easily obviated by the tinctura thebaica. Other unquestionable cases of its success in this disease are to be seen in Vol. v. of the London Med, Ess. and Inq.
The use of wort has hence been adopted in other cases where a strong putrid disposition in the fluids appeared to prevail, as in cancerous and phagedenic ulcers; and instances are publifhed in the fourth volume of the work above-mentioned of its remarkable good effects in these cases.
As the efficacy of the malt infusion depends upon its producing changes in the whole mass of fluids, it is obvious that it must be taken in large quantities for a considerable length of time; and rather as an article of diet than medicine. From one to four pints daily have generally been directed. The proportion recommended in preparing it, is one measure of ground malt to three equal measures of boiling water. The mixture must be well stirred, and left to stand, covered, three or four hours. It should be made fresh every day.