Friday, July 3, 2015

19th Century Plant Research

I found a book today (written in 1802) about the medicinal properties of Liriodendron tulipifera. It seems that some things about plant research haven't changed in the past 200 years: grinding up a plant and putting it in alcohol for a few days is still one of the most common ways to get an extract.

Other experimental methods have changed a lot. The author was guided by smell and taste in identifying many chemicals in the L. tulipifera extract; today, smelling and tasting unknown chemicals is not recommended. Here's an excerpt from the book that shows the author's true dedication to the cause of science:

"A grain of the powdered bark was ʃnuffed up the noʃe. It inʃtantly produced heat, and exquiʃite pain, in the ʃchneiderian membrane. The mucous of the part was ʃecreted in large quantity; and the pungency of the impreʃʃion, creating a ʃympathetic action in the lachrymal glands, cauʃed an abundant flow of tears."

I can only imagine that these notes were written down several minutes after the event took place.

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