2418 Historical Notice. The first mention of the use of Secale Cornutum as an agent in obstetrics is in 1658, by Camerarius; the next by Dr. Bautz-manni. in 1699. The Ergot is represented by both these writers as being used in Germany to hasten labours. In 1774, on account of its reputed violence, its use was prohibited in France by legislative enactments. In 1777, Desgranges,§ a physician of Lyons, brought its beneficial effects to the notice of the profession; and in 1787 we find its virtues extolled by Pawlisky. || It, however, fell into disuse until 1807. when its merits were again brought forward by Dr Stearns, ¶ of New York; and in 1813, Dr. Prescott,** of the same city, published an essay on its safety and efficacy. Since that date, it has been in general use; but, as will be seen in the following sections, many opposite opinions have been expressed on its therapeutic power and value.
2459. The opinions of writers on the value of Ergot are very diversified LeMer-cier, Lysancourt, Beclard, Basset, Legonlais, Desmoreaux, Gardien, Capuron, Jackson, and Hall, declare the Ergot to be inefficacious; and Madame La Chapelle affirms, after long experience, that "its innocence is its great virtue!" On the other hand, Drs. Houston, Hossack, Holcome, and others object to its use, on account of its extremely active and deleterious property; whilst a third class, including Michell Church, Godwin, Desgranges, Dewees, Davies, Clarke, Mackenzie, Blundell, Jewell, Churchill, Wright, and the great body of practitioners, regard it, when properly administered, as a safe, efficaclous, and useful remedy. These differences of opinion are explicable only in the following way: - the first class either used too smalt a dose, or employed an inferior or damaged article; the second class administered it in too large or frequently repeated doses; whilst the third class bit upon the happy medium.
* Garrod, op. et loc. cit.
Actes des Curieux de la Nature, 1668, art. 6, obs. 82.
Ephem. Curios. Germanic, dec. iii. art. 3, obs. 133.
§ Gazette de Sante", 1777.
|| Lancette Francaise, t. viii. p. 164.
¶ New York Mud. Repository, vol. xi. p. 308; and vol. xii. p. "44.
** Dissertation on the Secale Cornutum, New York, 1813.
That it will induce premature labour is asserted by Gerardin, Hufeland, Rose, Guibert Ingeby.* Ramsbotham. and Merriman; its power in this character is denied by Hall Prescott, Michell, Villeneuve, Wright, and Lee; whilst Dr. De Gravina § came to the conclusion, from numerous experiments on animals, that, so far from shortening, it prolonged the period of gestation. There is a great weight of evidence in favour of the opinion that Ergot does possess the power of inducing premature labour. Dr. Ramabotham succeeded, in 26 cases, in inducing labour at the seventh and eighth month, by the administration of the Ergot alone, without interfering with the membranes. All the mothers recovered; 12 of the children were born alive, 14 were still-born, and of the first class, only 4 survived any length of time. This ratio of deaths is much greater than when labour has been induced in any other manner, and, consequently, it should not be had recourse to, excepting under extreme circumstances. The dose required to induce premature labour, when deformity of the pelvis, &c., demand such a step, is very variable. In two cases related by Dr. Patterson, || one woman took only 5vj., whilst the other required 3xxxiv. It was given in infusion (ss., Aq. fxxiv.), in does of fij. every third hour.