Publisher Information: London: 1858.
Garrod, Alfred Baring (1819-1907). Autograph letter signed to Alfred Swaine Taylor (1806-80). 12pp. [London] Harley Street, Cavendish Square, 10 December 1858. 178 x 105 mm. Minor soiling to first and last pages, creased along previous folds, but very good. Docketed in Taylor’s hand.
Excellent and unusually long letter on belladonna poisoning from Alfred Baring Garrod, the foremost authority of his time on gout and rheumatoid arthritis, to Alfred Swaine Taylor, who founded the field of forensic toxicology. Garrod is best known for discovering that gout is linked to an excess of uric acid in the blood, and for giving rheumatoid arthritis its present name (see Garrison-Morton.com 4497). Taylor, the leading medical jurist in England in the mid-nineteenth century, held the professorship of medical jurisprudence at Guy’s Hospital from 1831 until 1877 and was the author of several books on forensic medicine, including Elements of Medical Jurisprudence (1836; Garrison-Morton.com 1738) and On Poisons in Relation to Medical Jurisprudence and Medicine (1858).
Belladonna, a highly toxic member of the nightshade family, has been used in medicine since ancient times as a pain reliever, either on its own or combined with opium. Alkaloids distilled from belladonna, including atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine, are used in anesthesia today to mitigate cardiac and gastric symptoms caused by the buildup of acetylcholine in anesthetized patients.
Garrod’s letter describes in detail the symptoms both he and his patient Mr. Palmer had suffered three years previously after accidentally ingesting a decoction of belladonna leaves that they believed to be ash-leaf tea.
"Mr. P took an infusion or rather decoction (boiled for a few minutes) of the dried belladonna leaves (which were sold instead of ash leaves) and the quantity of this decoction was about 10 ounces, representing a quarter of an ounce of the leaves. I took about half a wine glassful of the same decoction . . . Half an hour afterwards . . . I felt a peculiar sensation in the head, a slight swimming, intensely nervous and on feeling my pulse found it small and rapid . . . I then experienced a peculiar dryness of the mouth, extending to the throat, but certainly most marked in the former, and felt assured that I had been poisoned with belladonna, stramonium or henbane. After a short time I requested some of the infusion to be put into an eye to ascertain whether it dilated the pupil, and it was found to do so powerfully in about 15 or 20 minutes. My vision had become indistinct . . .
My symptoms may be thus summed up:
Intense feeling of nervousness and palpitation of heart
Dryness of mouth & perversion of taste
Indistinctness of vision
Dilatation of pupils
Very rapid occurrence of ideas and slight difficulty of articulation . . ."
Both Garrod and his patient recovered completely from their ordeals. Garrod published brief accounts of the case in the London medical press in 1856 and 1857 (see, for example, The Medical Times and Gazette, n.s. 12 , p. 92), and Taylor wrote about it in his classic Principles and Practice of Medical Jurisprudence (1865 and later eds.).Book Id: 44811