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An account of the success of the Bark of the Willow in the Cure of Agues - Rev. Mr. Edmund Stone 1763



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An account of the success of the Bark of the Willow in the Cure of Agues. In a Letter to the Right Honourable George Earl of Macclesfield, President of R. S. from the Rev. Mr. Edmund Stone,  of Chipping-Norton in Oxfordshire - Edmund Stone  Phil. Trans 1763 53, 195-200, published 1 January 1763

My Lord,

Among the many useful discoveries which tis age hath made, there are very few which better deserve the attention of the public than what I am going to lay before your Lordship.

Thee is a bark of an English tree, which I have foud by experience to be a powerfvul astringent and very efficacious in curing agues and intermitting disorders.

About six years ago I accidentally tasted it and was surprised by its extraordinary bitterness, which immediately raised in me a suspicion of its having the properties of the Peruvian Bark.

As this tree delights in a moist or wet soil, where agues chiefly abound, the general maxim that many natural maladies carry their cures with them, or that the remedies lie not far from their causes, was so very apposite to this particular case, that I could not help applying it; and that this might be the intention of providence here, I must own had some little weight with me.

The excessive plenty of this bark furnished me, in my speculative disquisitions upon it, with an argument both for and against ……

However, I determined to make some experiments with it and for this purpose I gathered that summer near a pound weight of it, which I dried in a bag, upon the outside of a baker’s oven, for more than three months at which time it was to be reduced to a powder by pounding and sifting after the manner that other barks are pulverised.

It was not long before I had an opportunity of making a trial of it; but being an entire stranger to its nature, I gave it in very small quantities, I think it was about twenty grains of the powder at a dose and repeated it every four hours between the fits; but with great caution and the strictest attention to its effects; the fits were considerably abated, but did not entirely cease.

Not perceiving the least ill consequences I grew bolder with it and in a few days increased the dose to two scruples.

And the ague was soon removed.

It was then given to several others with the same success, but I found it better answered the intention when a dram of it was taken every four hours in the intervals of the paroxisms.

I have continued to use it as a remedy for agues and intermitting disorders for five years successively and successfully.

It hath been given I believe to fifty persons and never failed in the cure, except in a few autumnal and quartan agues with which patients had been long and severely afflicted; these it reduced in a great degree, but did not wholly take them off, the patient at the usual time for  the return of his fit felt some smattering of his distemper which the incessant repetition of these powders could not conquer;  it seemed as if their power could reach thus far and no further and I did suppose that it would not have long continued to reach so far and that the distemper would have soon returned with its pristine violence; but I did not stay to see the issue.

I added one fifth part of the Peruvian bark to it, and with this small auxiliary it totally routed its adversary……………………..

The tree from which this bark is taken is styled by ray in his Synopsis – Salix Alba vulgaris – the common white willow… I took it from the shoots of three or four years growth that sprung from pollarded trees, the diameters of which shoots at their biggest end were from one to four or five inches………………….

I have no other motives for publishing this valuable specific, than that it may have a fair and full trial in all its variety and circumstances and situations and that the world may reap the benefits accruing from it.  For these purposes I have given tis long and minute account of it and which I would not have troubled your Lordship with, was I not fully persuaded of the wonderful efficacy of this Cortex Salignus in agues and intermitting cases….

I am my Lord
with the profoundest submission and respect
your Lordship’s most obedient humble servant
Edward Stone
April 25th 1763


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