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The Ranunculus is one of the oldest known drugs. Hippocrates is said to have used the Ran. creticus and grandiflor.; he is said to have designated it in his prescriptions by the term Batqaziov. Owing to the acrid principle which they contain, and which makes them poisonous, their employment has constantly been dreaded; they have been mostly employed externally. The ancient physicians employed them to destroy indurations, horny and other excrescences, in cutaneous diseases, scrofula; hence Plinius designated one variety of Ranunculus by the term Strumea (Hist. Nat XXV. 15).
It has been especially recommended in the place of Cantharides as a means of drawing blisters, for which purpose it is even now resorted to by beggars in some parts of Germany, in order to excito pity; it has even been preferred to Cantharides on account of the pernicious influence which the latter sometimes have upon the urinary organs, but has been given up again, owing to the incurable ulcers and other dangerous symptoms which it frequently produces, and which are sometimes more dangerous than the original malady.
Not knowing the proper dose of drugs, physicians have banished the most efficient remedies from the materia medica, one of which is the Ranunculus bulb., whose poisonous properties have been dreaded. Hence it is that the writings of ancient physicians contain very few cases in which it has been useful except the few cases where it was applied externally. Internally, it has scarcely ever been used, except in domestic practice.
When applied as vesicatories externally, the Ranunculus, especially the Ran. acris, sceler, bulbos., and flammula, are said to cure the most violent chronic headache, and the most violent rheumatic and arthritic pains. When applied to the bottom of the foot, the Ranunculus is said to restore podagra which had been transferred to the chest by metastasis. By applying it to the chest in the shape of a plaster, Sennert and Van Swieten are said to have prevented a paroxysm of fever and ague. Loeselius says that farmers use the juice of Ranunculus flammula, mixed with wine, against scurvy.
The farmers of Piemont, according to Villars (Plant. du Dauph., tome III., 740), use the Ranunculus, which they call Carline, or Coralline, as a diaphoretic in pleurisy and rheumatism; they use it in decoction.
According to Krapf and Gilibert, Ranunculus sceler., when diluted with much water, is said to act as a diuretic; good effects of it have been seen in some kinds of asthma, in phthisis, blennorrhoea, ulcers of the bladder, dysuria, icterus, scrofulous complaints, etc.
What a treasure of therapeutic knowledge we should now possess, if physicians had from the first trod the path which the author of homoeopathy has pointed out, "to try the therapeutic properties of drugs in large doses upon healthy persons, and in small doses upon the sick."