More on the Section Meetings 

Chaired by H.T. Webster, M.D. of Oakland, California, Vice-Chairman Finley Ellingwood, M.D., Chicago, Ill., Secretary John Fearn, M.D. Oakland.

Herbert Tracy Webster, M.D. Oakland, California.

“Medicinal Plants of California.”

“California furnishes, to the medical practitioner, a large number of rare and important medicinal plants.  Some of these contain properties already known, the influence of which would be almost indispensable to me in conducting a satisfactory practice, and I have but slight acquaintance with something more than half a dozen varieties.

“A little more than seventeen years ago, Prof. J.H. Bundy introduced several of these to the profession, and some of them have since been widely used; though as a rule, eclectics have given them but little notice.  There are two reasons why so little attention had been paid to what Bundy taught with regard to these remedies.

“In the first place, Yerba Santa, the first of the series introduced, proved a disappointment to many, who expected it to accomplish more in pulmonary troubles than older agents prescribed for the same purpose; but they found it a failure.  There is no denying the fact that this remedy is second rate, and we cannot rest the reputation of Pacific Coast indigenous remedies on its merits.

“Another reason why Bundy’s remedies were not warmly received was, that many apparently believed him only an adventurer, who was seeking to rise in distinction by foisting a lot of new-fangled notions upon the profession for selfish purposes alone.  But the time has come when Bundy should be awarded his just dues, and I am honest in the conviction that he did more in his time in introducing new and valuable remedies to the medical world than any other person who has ever belonged to the eclectic school of medicine.

“But Bundy’s death seemed to have put a stop to the investigation of Pacific Coast remedies.  If Bundy was not persecuted, he was at least made to feel, by the attitude of the eclectics at home and abroad, that he was an interloper, and that his remedies were of little worth to the profession–at least he was made to feel that his efforts were not appreciated by the profession, and there is no doubt that his latest hours were embittered by reflections upon “man’s ingratitude to man.”  For sixteen years following Bundy’s death we find the progress of eclectic materia medica on the Pacific Coast standing still, eclectics here casting their eyes eastward, toward the rising sun, for therapeutic inspiration, while even the best remedies introduced by Bundy were unnoticed, in their selection of agents for everyday use.

“This has been the greatest mistake of Pacific Coast eclectics.  When we compare the investigations made by Spanish settlers in early Californian times into the medical flora of the State with the investigations of California eclectics within the past twenty-five years,–the latter portion of which has been a period of considerable activity in eclectic circles, –the results attained by the profession dwindle into insignificance beside the achievements of humble domestic practitioners.  Our country eclectics brush against and trample their feet, nearly every day, most valuable and desirable medicinal resources,–of which they are ignorant, and worse, of which they are entirely indifferent,–content to follow in the tracks of their alma mater, instead of assisting, by individual enterprise, in adding to already accumulated medical knowledge. The country practitioner, of all others, should consider it incumbent upon him to delve into his field, because the material is ever before him, and at his ready convenience.  Those who practice in cities, naturally find less opportunity for such study, though even there, there is no excuse for slighting it entirely.  And one cannot expect to accomplish all that is to be learned alone.  There should be community of labor and distribution of task, that several remedies at a time may be undergoing examination.

[pp. 65-66]

Dr. Bundy captured the attention of both regular and alterantive healers in 1877 after he gave a speech on the herbs used by the Spanish American elders of the Sonoma region where he resided.  Several of these herbs soon became highly important in the Eclectic Medical profession and when the attention of the allopathic Parke, Davis & Company directed their attention to Bundy’s writing s, they were grateful to Bundy for his discoveries according to the professional literature.   In just a few years, Parke, Davis and Company began marketing proprietary formulas made with the herbs Bundy had drawn their attention to, including Yerba Santa, Grindelia, Cascara Sagrada, Oregon Grape and and a number of other West Coast native herbs.   

Dr. Webster continues his article by noting the values of several Pacifc Coast botanical medicines, providing case studies to support his claims.  He gives an account of “Mr. A.B.C., formerly a city official” who treated his “indigestion of painful character,” first with by removing to the healthier climate of the mountains, followed by the gathering of “the leaves of a mountain shrub” from which he prepared a decoction to be drunk daily.    Webster conclude “The case had been a notoriously stubborn one, and the patient’s friends were naturally intersted in the remedy which had cured him after the doctors had failed.”  Another patient, “our friend C.” made use of the same remedy, but kept its contents secret.

This knowledge came to Bundy and others from mountaineers, pioneers, and most importantly, from the “Spanish people who are descended from the early settlers.”  Bundy’s knowledge of the Califronia equivalent for Oregon’s Cascara Sagrada, Rhamnus californica, came to him this way, according to Webster, “Doubtless Rhamnus Californica was used by the common people for rheumatism many years before the first article with reference to it appeared in a medical journal.”

Other Far West herbal discoveries Webster discussed include the Overland Trail medicine Bear’s Foot (Polymnia uvedalia) introduced to eclectic by Dr. Pruitt, Chinanathus virginica, inreidced by Prof. Goss, echinacea angustifolia, by Dr. Meyer, Euphorbia hypercifolia, in part by Bundy, and oxydendron arboreum introduced by ?.  Many of these herbs never made it in the field beyond a few years of experimental use by practitoners.  In Webster’s point of view, “they have failed to come into general use because they entererd a field where there seemed to be more reliable competitors–the true test of the excellence of a new remedy.”  To the attentive Oregonians and visiting Eclectics, he notes “With three then outside, and two within California, we may view the ground with considerable complacency.” 

The two more important natural products Webster referred to in this quip were Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium) and Cascara Sagrada (Rhamnus californica).  Both had beocme highly accepted botanicals for use by members of the allopathic healing sect.  After winding down from the negative backgraound these allopathic healers bore as blood-letters throughout much of the nineteenth century, their introduction of the germ theory soon after the Civil War, paralleled by Parke, Davis and Company’s aggressive efforts to find new remedies borne from the newly discovered Middle American and Farwestern flora, gave the allopaths new potentially viable remedies to focus on, thereby redirecting their sect’s attention, and the attention of the general public, to these new non-mineral drugs.

In Webster’s presentation, it is noted that the Oregon Grape was valued for treating skin and mucous membrance problems suc as skin lesions and catarrh.  The Cascara he noted was then still in use for treating rhuematism, as well as thew related muscular pain borne out of a patient’s history of rheumatic fever during childhood.  Grindelia, which had a long history of use for treating Poison Ivy affections, chronic intermittent fevers and asthma, was reviewed by Webster.  Other references to medicinal herbs made note of Rafinesque’s 1828 documentation of this local history.  The medicinal cacti, the introduced medicines–pokeweed (Phytolacca decandra) and Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)–are noted.   

Webster ends this speech with his description of how he prepares medicines from the local Cactus Cactus [Cereus] grandiflorus:

“I get the flowers from my florist, and cover them with alcohol.  Time does the rest.  After they macerate for two weeks I pour off the free liquor and wring the drug out in a bit of cheesecloth.  Rather a complicated process you will say, but it answers every purpose.”

Webster’s speech was followed by discussions in which Dr. J.C. Coombs spoke or Cascara’s use as a remedy for consitaption and rheumatism.  At the time, the Rhamnus species in use for making these remedies was noted on the label to be the California-Oregon species Rhamnus purshiana,  Coombs expressed his opinion, perhaps based on the amount of wildcrafting he witnessed being performed of this plant, his feelings that R. californica was being chiefly used to make these preparations, and which in his opinion “is just as good.” 

This comment was followed by discussion of the differences beween some of the Far Western herbs.  Chionanthus virginica and Grindelia robusta were brougyht up as well, both in use as asthma remedies.  Two more notes of the Rhamnus followed, with attempts to clarify its identitiy made by Webster who descriebed the plants thusly:

“Rhamnus purshiana leaves are from two to five inches in length, and the plant is more like a tree, while the rhamnus californica the leaves are small and oval, not over two inches long and the plant itself is small and bushlike.  There is quite a difference in the two kinds.”

After showing it to Dr. M.B. Mallory, the Rhamnus discussion was dropped, followed by brief notes on the treatment of “rhus tox. poisoning” (Poison Ivy) with Grindelia robusta, cases cited of use of “echinacea angustifolia”, “internally in a case of abortion,” in abdominal operation, and to treat various skin diseases.  This session ended with a criticism of Yerba Santa, made by Dr. G.G. Gere, who as predicted by Webster’s presentation, criticized it use as a cough remedy:

“he said that it was not a cure-all, but was very good in certain kinds of cough, especially where there was a very free secretion expectoration of large quantities of mucous, which comes up easily.  Another very important feature yerba santa performs is to disguise the taste of quinine.”

The second and final presentation on materia medica was William Collins Hatch’s “Medicinal Plants of Maine.”

The Section II meeting was on “Clinical Medicine and Pathology.”  Its chair was T.W. Miles, M.D., Denver, Vice-Chairman, W.B. Church, M.D. San Francisco, and Secretary H. Michener, M.D. of Halsey, Oregon.  The first speech was “A Treatment for Consumption” by M.H. Logan of San Francisco, followed by speeches given by H. Michener’s entitled “Clinical Medicine,” and W.S. Latta’s “Pathology of the Ovaries.”  Between Michener’s and Latta’s presentations, Oregon Eclecrtic doctor, W.S. Mott, of Salem, gave a long verse entitled “Medicine in Meter,” a four-page verse given reagrding the eclectic healing profession and its local and national politics.

Oregon Obstetricians

Oregon’s participation in “Section III. Obstetrics and Diseases of Women” on June 16th, came when the Vice-Chairman of this Section , Dr. G.W. McConnell, M.D. of Newburg, presented “Mistakes of the Obstetrician.”   It begins:

“Nature may have made a mistake in the ceration of man, that hw was not so constituted and supplied with the proper organs to enable him to bear at least half the ills incident to the pregnant and lying -in woman.  A true husband should always be willing to share his wife’s suffering as far as nature ahs made it posible; and this may be done in a thousand ways.  The period of gestation is the most trying as well as the most critical period of woman’s life.  It is a time when she needs every sympathy, care and kindly attention that can be bestowed upon her; especially by him who has been instrumental in bringing about this mento-physical condition.”

McConnell continues by posing a brief criticism of accoucheurs who have erred in their methods of overseeing the child delivery process.  He criticizes the “the older practitioners” who have not been in tune with their ever-changing profession and the newer realizations concerning the importance of obtaining accurate medical histories of “previous confinements” when undergoing past deliveries.  As throughout the previous century, criticisms were laid upon the members of the alternative, this time, non-Eclectic, healing profession:

“The lives of many. mnay thousand–yea, millions–of babes have been sacrificed at the hands of the ignorant and incompetent midwives and midle-men, who might to-day, as you and I, be enjoying the luxuries and beauties of this world, as God intended they should.”

He contemplates the “deep remorse” he feels about the “ignorance and lack of judgement” which past accouchers siffered from in the past, and their ignorance of “the laws of nature at this critical period of woman’s life.”   As the replacement for these past accouchers, McConnell refelcts upon his own responsibility and expericnces following nature’s and the patients beckoning call.  He stated:

“No difference what the nature of the message, it is a mistake to allow yourself to become frightened out of your wits and rush off like a cyclone.  Be calm, cool, and collected.  If you act otherwise you may commit a dozen mistakes.

“It is a mistake not to enquire of the messenger, especially if he be the husband, of the progress of the labor.  If the pains are coming on with reagular and increasing force, no matter how pressing and important your office business, it is a mistake to make this call second to any.

“If the call should be far in the country, it is a great mistake to leave you instruments and chloroform at home.  I mention chloroform because I never use anything else.  I use chloroform frequently, and use it straight.  Never having any serious consequence with it, I shall continued invoking its aid in assisting in keeping me out of trouble.”

The use of Chloroform in labor and delivery by then was several years old.

In the next part of his presentation, McConnell reviews procudure and complications he experienced during the child deliveries he assisted in.

Although an Eclectic, McConnell wasn’t against the use of allopathic remedies previously felt to be improper for eclectic protocols.  McConnell’s main anomaly to the discipline defining this sect was his recommendation of Opium, should the patient request it.  He recommends it “especially if the pains be excruciating, and you can see no contra-indications.”  Regarding the use of opium and chloroform to appease a painful delivery, he feels the easing of pain greatly improves the delivery, concluding:

“Do it cheerfully; do it carefully, and note the increase in confidence; see that face beaming with smiles; even now you can alsmot hear her recommending you to her neighbors, and though she may not be able to pay you a moeny consideration for your services, she may soon be able to double your calls with her neighbors.”

Still, obstetrics was not the easiest medical profession to ne licensed to practice.  Cases still went disastrous at times, due to mistakes unchanged by history and the development of new technologies.  McConnell notes a case of a mismanaged delivery in Texas in which the post-delivery mismanagement resulted damages to the newborn resulting in a lawsuit followed by a settlement of $5500 in damages.  The numerous other mistakes the obstetrician can make have changed little from those which exist today.  The most frequent complication he noted was improper tying of the umbilical cord following delivery.

Women and the Bicycle

The next discussion by an Oregonian for this Section was “Woman and the Bicycle” by James Surman, M.D., who was then residing in Portland.  His speech begins:

“Many of you no doubt, have, like myself, been often asked the question, “Is it good for a woman to ride a wheel?” and I can quite believe your opinions on that subject when expressed, were qualified by circumstances, and were not always simply yes or no, four undoubtedly there are great numbers of women, in all conditions of life, who would be greatly benefited by the exercise; and others, from certain infirmities, best understood by the physicain, who would not be benefited by its use, but on the contrary would experience some unfavorable symtpoms from it.”

He goes on toe explain how such activities lead to the development of nervous tension and muscle rigidity due to “the excitement of learning.”   He views the skills of cycling as “a wonderfully pleasant sensation of power to control the machine…unknown to any but riders of the wheel.”  He comments on the criticisms laid before women who chance the cycle, comparing it to similar pactices undertaken by the elders, including sisters, mothers and grandmothers on horseback.  The notion that the women is too frail to cycle, or that its uniqueness as a “weird machine” took center stage for a moment, followed by so-called diseases such behaviors were once thought to cause and which were “rush into print with a dismal warning cry of the terrible ills liable to befall the race through womaen who ride the wheel.”  As part of his recount of his own experience learning to ride a cycle at mid-age, he makes several suggestions to avid listeners:

“I always feel better with a good spin of an hour or two, followed by a sponge bath, with change of clothing…I believe my lung power has much increased, my heart has also gained strength, for I can now do harder work on the wheel than ever before without any feeling of discomfort.

“I believe that most owmen who desire to ride a wheel, will be benefited by its use, if the exercise is taken judiciously, and if she is clad in suitable attire, such as will perfect freedom of the body, so that the muscles are not cramped, or the lungs prevented from full expansion.”

Climopathically stated, he believed this to be the means to induce exercising in the open air.  Those who “ride the wheel” Surman judged to be “Bright intellectual medical women.”  With increasing trends for women cyclers, garment industries and cycle manufacturers had begun making the changes needed to make the cycle for comfortable and useable for them.  Medically speaking, Surman recommended the use of the bike for increasing the circulation of blood, developing the muscles and improving the nervous system.  It also was felt to improve digestion, nutrition uptake, and the various elimination processes, and to “aid in the cure of corpulence, insomnia, torpid liver and many nervous disorders.” 

He ends his presentation by stating:

“Now I think you will agree with most of my remarks about the wheel as a means of improving the physical condition of women, and if not, you cannot fail to acknowledge its usefulness as a means of easy, pleasant and rapid locomotion.  And when you meet the numerous swiftly moving, but silent forms of men, women and children, freely wheeling along on every suburban and country highway of this fair land, revelling in the fresh sunny air, made musical by songs of birds and hum of insect life; the soft summer breeze fanning the cheeks with the perfumed breath of dewy meadows, and balmy woodlands, whose mantle of ruchest green and waving foliage, resplendent with flowers of brightest hue, gladdens the eye of the merry wheelers as they speed along through it all in boundless freedom, you will admit that, as a means of pleasure and recreation to all who are enabled to enjoy it, the bicycle has no equal amongst modern inventions.”

This section closed with a speech on Puerperal Eclampsia by Dr. E.H. Mattner of San Francisco.

Dr. Mott of Salem served as Vice-Chairman of “Section IV. Pediatrics,” which began wuith a lecture on “Therapeutics of Disease in Bottle-Fed Infants” by B. Stetson, an M.D. from Oakland, California.  The second part of this two-lecture section was Dr. Mott’s lecture on “Etiology and Treatment of Disease of Bones and Joints in Children.”  In his speech, Mott notes such diseases to erupt mostly during childhood, and included problems not only in the skeleton, but also in “the eruption and development of the permanent teeth” during the adolescent years.   He attributed many of these problems, which he went on to describe, to possible malnutrition beginning during early childhood, inadequate salt and mineral uptake, activity and too much exercise, and perhaps “hot weather and fermentation of its food.”   He closes with the simple conclusion:  “the food of all children should be that which contains the elements, in a form to be ready assimilated, of bone creating materials, and in the absence of such, supply the deficiency by giving daily triturations of the required elements.”   

The next several sections lacked Oregon chair members or speakers.  The California influence was most important in the rpesentations made by these Sections.  In Section VII, Mrs. Mary Bell Mallory of Los Gatos, California, gave an interesting presentation entitled “Perfecting the Human Race; Heredity and Environment.”  Section IX attempted to tackle the questions then being asked by many in the United States about health care, the education of doctors, and licensure requirements.  It began with H.G. Gabel of Aurora, Illinois, lecturing on “The Therapeutic Requirements for a Successful Practitioner,” followed by a lecture by George Covert of Clinton, Wisconsin, entitled “The All-Around Physician of A.D. 1896.”  


Herbert Tracy Webster, M.D. Oakland, California. “Medicinal Plants of California.” Given as a speech on at the Portland National Eclectic Medical Association meeting, “Part III.  Meetings of the Sections.  Section I.  Materia Medica.”

p. 66-67.

p. 68.

Ibid. p. 68.

For nearly a century, the general public had been against the strong emphasis for using mineral drugs on behalf of the allopaths.  Their return to an interest in botanicals, and, according to Dr. Webster Dr. Bundy’s death, halted the research being done on Far Western and Northwestern botanical medicines.

Grindelia squarrosa and G. robusta were covered.  Bundy found G. squarrosa to be “far superior” to Polymnia for use as a spleen and chronic intermittent fever remedy.  In Colusa, just off the Sacramento River, he discovered this plant growing in the area’s marshlands. 

Of the Phytolacca decandra, he wrote: “Phytolacca decadra flourishes in almost heroic size in Napa and Sonoma counties–clearly a case of immigration, as it is only in certain localities that it is found. I told a prominent botanist a few months ago of its existence here, and he seemed surprised.  Probably some home-sick tender-foot sent back for the seeds of this plant from the old home pasture, or possibly it came in a package of seed–wheat or corn.  At least I came, and the birds did the rest, sowing it far and wide, for the fondness of birds for pokeberries is well known.” [p. 71]

p. 72.

Ibid. p. 72.

William Collins Hatch, M.D., New Sharon, Maine.  “Medicinal Plants of Maine.”  pp. 73-80.  Presented perhaps with underlying humor and symbolism due to the selection of the naem for Portland, Oregon.  

Section III. Obstetrics and  Diseases of Women was Chaired by D. Maclean, M.D., of San Francisco; R. C. Wintermute, M.D. of Cincinatti was this section’s Secretary. The date of this section: June 16, 1896.

G.W. McConnell, M.D., Newburg, Ore.  “Mistakes of the Obstetrician. pp. 125-131.

pp. 126-127.

p. 127.

James Surman, M.D.  “Woman and the Bicycle.” p. 145-147. p. 145.

With W.F. Curryer, M.D. of Indianapolis serving as Chairman, and W.N. Mundy, M.D. of Cincinatti as Secretary.

W.S. Mott.  “Etiology and Treatment of Disease of Bones and Joints in Children.” pp. 156-160.

Sections “V. Surgery,” pp. 161-174, “VI. Operative Gynecology,” pp. 174-197, “VII. Preventative Medicine and Sanitary Science,” pp. 197-224, “VIII. Ophthalomology, Otology and Laryngology,” pp. 225-241, and “IX. Medical Education,”  pp. 242-262.  Each had one California participant in the Committee serving as Vice-Chair or Secretary. 

H. Mattner of San Francisco.