(From vol. vi, 2nd edit., 1827.)
(Tin beaten out to the finest leaf by gold beaters, under the name of false or plate metal, is the purest tin. For medicinal purposes a grain of this is triturated with a hundred grains of milk-sugar for an hour in a porcelain mortar, whilst frequently scraped up with a bone spatula; this produces the first hundred-fold dilution of this metallic powder, which is then treated in a similar manner up to the million-fold (I used to carry the dilution up to the billion-fold, but in the course of time found the million-fold adequate for all medicinal purposes.)
The ancients have recorded wonderful cures of the most serious diseases with tin, some of which I will refer to in the notes. But the moderns know (or think) nothing of all this – after careful testing or from well-founded conviction? I doubt this very much. (The trashiest idea or most frivolous proposal, if it only comes from England, Italy, of France, and especially if it be brought by the very latest post, is in Germany esteemed as something incomparable, and it is considered a point of honour to accept it blindly with effusion (until, after three or six months, the usual uselessness of the foreign recommendation is discovered, when there is again a hunt for some flesh novelty from foreign countries) – whilst honest fellow-countrymen and the truth loving men if former times remain unnoticed and unread.)
The moderns only know tin as a remedy for tape-worm, and use it only in the form of tin filings, of which they theoretically (for careful testing is too much trouble for them), of which, I repeat, they theoretically declare: “that it expels the tape-worm from the bowels solely in a mechanical manner, by means of its weight and sharp points,” without thinking that were this true iron, silver, or gold filings must be able to do the same.
Now, in order to effect this theoretically inferred scouring out of the tape-worm by the sharp points of the tin filings with greater certainty, they gave to the patient these tin filings, in doses, the larger the better; as much as half or a whole ounce or even more at a time, and this dose repeated several times.
This procedure, however, is founded on caprice and a foregone conclusion, for the original receipt which ALSTON first communicated to us from the domestic practice at the beginning of last century – for it was from this source that the employment of tin for tape-worm was derived – before then no doctor knew anything about it – is quite different.
“A woman of Leith, in Scotland,” says ALSTON (Mater. Medorrhinum, I, p. 150), “had a domestic receipt against tape-worm (fluke-worm, Toenia soluium), which a publican’s wife, Maria Martin, got from her, whereby she got rid of this worm.” ALSTON procured it from her daughter. It was as follows: – “Take an ounce and a half of tin (pewter-metal (Pewter-metal is not pure tin, which, as is well known, is very soft, but the hard, brittle, so-called English tin, which is composed of soft, pure tin, with a twentieth part of alloy, generally zinc (but sometimes also copper, bismuth, &c.), melted together. This may be not only easily filed, but even triturated to a powder in a mortar (see NICHOLSON, Chemistry, Lond., 1790, p. 355.)
Here there is no question of sharp-pointed coarse tin filings, but only of a fine powder ground in a mortar or on a grindstone. It is impossible that the fine powder of the original receipt, from which alone all the curative power of tin for tape-worm was learnt, could have been efficatious, if its efficacy depended on the mechanical points of tin filings.
Here we see how stupidity the theory of the medical school was wont to spoil the good that lay in the discoveries of domestic practice.
But more accurate observation and experience show that neither tin filings nor ALSTON’s syrup prepared with tin powder really kill any species of tape-worm. For who has ever seen the former or the latter by itself expel the tape-worm dead from the intestines? Always and in every case that aid of purgatives must be had recourse to, and even then the worm was seldom seen, and even if it were thereby expelled, the tin seemed only to have acted as a stupefying agent on the tape-worm. So little is tin capable of killing the worm, that if the purgative (as usually happens) fails to expel it wholly, after frequent repetitions of the administration of tin, the tape-worm goes on increasing in the bowels to a still greater degree; indeed, it usually excites more frequent fits of suffering (these being readily induced by some little ailment of another sort). Moreover, workers in tin not unfrequently suffer from tape-worm to a very great extent. Hence tin seems rather to cause a palliative suppression of the disagreeable movements of the worm, and this in the secondary action contributes more to the unjury than the benefit of the patient.