1899 Merck Manual Promotes "Dried Ovaries of Cow," "Cannabis Indica," and "Papaya Enzyme," To Treat Disease
At the turn of the 20th century, in NYC, for one dollar, you could have grabbed yourself what was at the time, the most comprehensive medical book ever published in a Western language -- one that clearly acknowledges the many ways foods and plants heal serious disease.
The Merck Manual, also known as the The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, is the oldest continuously published English language medical textbook, and the best-selling medical textbook worldwide. The first edition titled, “Merck’s 1899 Manual of the Materia Medica.” was produced by George Merck, founder of Merck & Co, in New York as a subsidiary of the family company established in Germany in 1668. Today, Merck & Co. has grown into a multinational corporation with an annual revenue of $43 billion dollars, and hires tens of thousands of employees throughout the world.
The 1899 manual was laid out in the following three parts:
1. “all those Simple Medicinal Substances (that is, drugs and chemicals) which are in current and well-established use in the medical practice of this country”
2. “the principal means of treatment for each form of disease, as reported to be in good use with practitioners at the present time.”
3. “the modes of action of the various medicaments [as laid out in Part 1].
The 1899 manual promised to provide the physicians of the time,
“...a complete Ready-Reference Book covering the entire eligible Materia Medica. A glance over it just before or just after seeing a patient will refresh his memory in a way that will facilitate his coming to a decision.”
Materia Medica is a Latin term for the extant body of collected knowledge about the therapeutic properties of any substance used for healing (i.e., medicines).
Perhaps what is the most striking thing about the first 1899 edition of the Merck Manual is that many of the remedies listed are entirely natural. It would not be until 1906 that Congress, with the strong support of President Theodore Roosevelt, would pass the Pure Food and Drug Act, which would usher in the era of pharmaceutical medicine, largely consisting of patented, synthetically produced medications. In 1899, the standard of care included toxic compounds like arsenic and mercury, as well as completely natural ones derived from common plants and foods, but few if any patented drugs.
The Pharmaceutical Industry Has Always Depended on Natural Medicine
While this may be counintertuivive about the origins of what has become, arguably, the world’s most powerful international pharmaceutical company, namely: natural medicine is still the basis for the vast majority of today's blockbuster pharmaceutical products. In fact, 63% (537 of 847 small molecule-based pharmaceuticals) of all drugs introduced since 1981 were derived from natural products or had a natural product-inspired design. And perhaps even more noteworthy, of the 155 anti-cancer drugs developed since the 1940's, only one would be considered de novo chemical (with absolutely no relationship to inspiration from a natural chemical compound!)1
Thanks to the Gutenberg Project, the original version was released to the public on December 24th, 2012 for free access and distribution, making it possible for millions around the world to see the humble, and surprisingly natural-medicine based origin story of today’s dominant and global pharmaceutical empire.
You can view a fully scanned and text searchable version of the 1899 Merck Manual here.
The manual contains reference to hundreds of foods and commonly used natural products, such as arnica, papain, cod liver oil, valerian, camphor and myrrh. [For our readers who have the time and inclination, please list additional natural compounds from the manual in the comments section below this article].
Cannabis, for instance, is listed as a medicine 62 different times, including for the following conditions:
Cannabis Indica: as diuretic in hematuria.
Cannabis Indica: as diuretic in acute and chronic Bright's disease with hematuria.
Cannabis Indica: sometimes useful in chronic cases.
Cannabis Indica: Bladder, Paralysis of...iin retention from spinal disease.
Cannabis Indica: in very chronic cases of Chronic, Bronchitis
Cannabis Indica: Cholera Asiatica.
Cannabis Indica: Chorea: may do good; often increases the choreic movements.
Cannabis Indica: in retention from spinal disease.
Cannabis Indica: Bright’s Disease.
Cannabis Indica: Climacteric Disorders.
Cannabis Indica: Corns
Cannabis Indica: Coughs
Cannabis Indica: in nocturnal delirium occurring in softening of the brain.
Cannabis Indica: Delirium Tremens (associated with Alcoholism)