This section is from the book "An Experimental History Of The Materia Medica", by William Lewis.
Tobacco: a plant with alternate leaves, and monopetalous tubulous flowers divided into five sections: the flower is followed by an oval capsule, which opening longitudinally, sheds numerous small seeds.
1. Nicotiana Pharm. Lond. Nicotiana major latifolia C. B. Nicotiana Tabacum Linn. Tobacco: with large, sharp-pointed, pale green, soft leaves, about two feet in length, joined immediately to the stalk without pedicles. It was brought into Europe by M. Nicot, from the island Tobago in America, about the year 1560, and is now cultivated for medicinal use in our gardens. It is perennial, as is said, in America; and annual with us.
The leaves of tobacco have a strong disagree-able smell, and a very acrid burning taste. They give out their acrid matter both to water and spirit, mod perfectly to the latter: the aqueous infusions are of a yellow or brown colour, the spirituous of a deep green. They yield nothing considerable in distillation with either men-struum: nevertheless their acrimony is greatly abated in the infpiffation of the tinctures, the watery extract being less pungent than the leaves themselves, and the spirituous not much more so. The several sorts of tobacco brought from abroad, are stronger in taste than that of our own growth, and the extracts made from them much more fiery, but in less quantity.
Tobacco taken internally, even in a small dose, or decoctions of it used as a glyster, prove virulently cathartic and emetic, occasioning extreme anxiety, vertigoes, stupors and disorders of the senses: some have nevertheless ventured upon it both as an evacuant, and in minuter quantities as an aperient and alterant, in epilep-fies and other obstinate chronical disorders; a practice which, though in some cases it may have been succefsful, appears much too hazardous to be followed, particularly in the more irritable, hot, dry, bilious constitutions. By long boiling in water, its deleterious power is abated, and at length destroyed: an extract made by long coction is recommended by Stahl and other German physicians, as the most effectual and safe aperient, detergent, expectorant, diuretic, etc. but the medicine must necessarily be precarious and uncertain in strength, and has never come into use among us.
* In the year 1785, Dr. Fowler published "Medical Reports of the Effects of Tobacco principally with regard to its diuretic Quality in the Cure of Dropsies and Dyfuries." In these he represents it as a safe and effectual remedy, properly administered, proving a pretty certain diuretic, and generally an anodyne. Its operation is commonly attended with vertigo; and frequently with nausea. It often acts, in a full dose, as a laxative. The mode of exhibition which he generally used, was a watery infusion of an ounce to a pint, given by drops, from six to a hundred, twice a day.
The smoke of tobacco, received by the anus, is said to be of singular efficacy in obstinate constipations of the belly. Hoffman observes, that horses have often been relieved by this remedy, but in human subjects it has been rarely tried; and says he has known some of the common people, who laboured under excruciating pains of the intestines, freed in an instant from all pain by swallowing the smoke. Both the decoction and the smoke have not unfrequently been injected in cases of incarcerated hernias, and often with success. The smoke thus applied is recommended as one of the principal means for the revival of persons apparently dead from drowning or other sudden causes; but some sus-pect the narcotic powers of tobacco, as unfavourable in these cases.
Tobacco is sometimes employed externally in unguents and lotions, for cleansing foul ulcers, destroying cutaneous infects, and other like purposes: it appears to be destructive to almost all kinds of infects, to those produced on vegetables as well as on animals. Beaten into a mash with vinegar or brandy, it has sometimes proved a serviceable application for hard tumours of the hypochondres(a). Some caution however is requisite even in these external uses of tobacco, particularly in solutions of continuity: there are instances of its being thus transmitted into the blood, so as to produce virulent effects. Of the common uses of the leaves brought from America, prepared in different forms, both the advantages and inconveniences are too well known to require being mentioned here.
2. Nicotiana minor C. B. Priapeia qui-bufdam nicotiana minor J. B. Tobacco anglicum Park. Hyofcyamus luteus Ger. Nicotiana ruftica Linn. Englifh tobacco: with short, somewhat oval leaves, set on pedicles. It is annual, originally a native of America, but now propagates itself plentifully in England and other parts of Europe.
(a) Edinburgh medical efsays, vol. ii. art. 5.
The leaves of this species are said by some to be of the same quality with those of henbane; by others, to be similar to the preceding, but weaker, which, in point of taste, they mani-festly are. They have been sometimes subfti-tuted, in our markets, to the true tobacco; from which they are readily distinguishable by their smaliness, their oval shape, and their being furnished with pedicles.