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Nicotiana Tabacum

Tobacco is a powerful sedative and antispasmodic

USES.—Tobacco is a powerful sedative and antispasmodic, but owing to the accidents it may give rise to, its use in therapeutics is very limited. Like all the active Solanaceæ it is effective against neuralgia and spasm of the muscular tissues and is therefore indicated in strangulated hernia and in intestinal obstruction. In these conditions the infusion of 1–5 grams of the dried leaf to 250 grams of water is given by enema. Trousseau advises non-smokers who suffer from chronic constipation to smoke a cigarette fasting, a practice which, according to him, stimulates defecation. For the same condition the people of southern India are accustomed to apply a poultice of the bruised leaves to the anal region.

Tobacco has been used by enema to combat tetanus; Dr. Lesth, of the General Hospital for Europeans, Bombay, claims to have obtained excellent results by applying a poultice over the entire length of the spinal column. Dr. Dymock has confirmed this practice.

A decoction of the leaves is used as a lotion to destroy “pediculi capitis and pubis,” and to wash gangrenous ulcers.

The daily increasing practice of smoking, like all other subjects, divides mankind into two camps, one for and one against the habit. Both parties exaggerate their arguments. The abuse of the plant without doubt sets up disturbances of the digestion, the heart and the nervous system. It is furthermore positive that persons of a certain disposition and with certain ailments are injured by even a moderate use of tobacco. The above facts serve as arms for the opponents of the habit; the robust who smoke and drink to excess and meet with an accidental death on a railroad or from an acute disease that overtakes them in the midst of perfect health, serve as arguments for the defenders, to prove the innocence of the custom. The antiseptic qualities of the smoke and of the entire plant also lend the smoker a defensive argument, as he may uphold the habit as hygienic and highly useful in preventing microbic infection. The antiseptic power of tobacco smoke is undoubted, but it is intolerable that a physician under the pretext of avoiding self infection should enter the house of his patient and continue smoking at the bedside.

Chronic nicotine poisoning is the result of a gradual intoxication by the absorption of the active principle of tobacco, the alkaloid nicotine. Excessive smoking conduces to nicotism, more common in Europe than in the tropics, because the natives of Europe smoke the pipe and being confined in closed dwellings, breathe continuously an atmosphere of smoke; in the Philippines, on the contrary, the pipe is almost unknown and owing to the nature of the dwellings the smoking is carried on practically in the open air. An injurious practice of the Filipino smokers is that of “swallowing the smoke,” and this is a fitting point to call attention to an error of Dujardin-Beaumetz, who states that “in those who habitually swallow the smoke the nicotine acts directly upon the stomach.” The expression “swallow smoke” (tragar el humo) does not mean to force it into the stomach by an act of deglutition, and I am sure no one attempts to dispose of it in that way; but to inspire or breath it into the air passages. It is evident that this latter habit does not involve the stomach, but those who practice it expose themselves more to nicotism than those who keep the smoke in the mouth or expel it through the nose.

The first cigar causes symptoms familiar to nearly everybody; dizziness, malaise, cold sweat, vomiting, diarrhoea, dilatation of the pupils and rapid heart action—an acute intoxication. Chronic intoxication or nicotism manifests itself by disturbances of digestion, vision and especially circulation. It has been assigned as one of the causes of early atheroma and of angina pectoris. It should therefore be proscribed in persons who present symptoms of gastro-intestinal or of heart disease, and in every patient who complains of slight precordial pains, commonly attributed to flatus, but in reality cardiac neuralgia, a fugitive symptom announcing the possibility of that grave accident, angina pectoris, capable of ending the life of the patient with one stroke.

Nicotine (C10H14N2) is an oleaginous liquid heavier than water, colorless, changing to dark yellow on contact with the air. Nicotianin or “camphor of tobacco” is another substance found in the leaves, crystalline, tasteless, with an odor resembling tobacco. Nicotinic acid is a product of the combustion of nicotine.

BOTANICAL DESCRIPTION.—The tobacco plant is so familiar to all Americans that its description here would be superfluous. It grows in all parts of the islands, the best qualities being cultivated in the northern provinces of Luzon, especially Cagayan and La Isabela.

Reference book: The Medicinal Plants of the Philippines

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