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|London Medical and Physical Journal Volume Number
X1. November 16, 1799. Pages 41-44.
A MR. E. Brande, on a poisonous Species of Agaric
To the Editors of the Medical and Physical Journal
If the following account of the deleterious effects of a very common
species of agaric, not hitherto generally suspected to be poisonous,
appears to you likel;y to prove useful or interesting to the public,
you will oblige me by its insertion; Should its length be any obstacle
to this, I beg you will omit whatever you may think superfluous. I remain,
J. S. gathered early in the morning of the third of October, in the Green Park, What he supposed to be small mushrooms; these he stewed with the common additions in a tinned iron saucepan* (* This accuracy may seem trivial, but I have met people who supposed the following symptoms might have arisen from the use of a copper vessel, Editors note). The whole did not exceed a tea saucerful, which he and four children ate the first thing, about eight o'clock in the morning, as they frequently had done without any bad consequence; they afterwards took their usual breakfast of tea & c. which was finished about nine, when Edward, one of the children, (eight years old,) who had eaten a large proportion of the mushrooms, as they thought them, was attacked with fits of immoderate laughter, nor could the threats of his father or mother refrain him.
To this succeeded vertigo, and a great deal of stupor, from which he was roused by being called or shaken, but immediately relapsed. The pupils of his eyes were, at times, dilated to nearly the circumference of the cornea, and scarcely contracted at the approach of a strong light; his breathing was quick, his pulse very variable, at times imperceptible, at others too frequent and small to be counted; latterly, very languid; his feet were cold, livid, and contracted; he sometimes pressed his hands on different parts of his abdomen, as if in pain, but when roused and interrogated as to it, he answered indifferently, yes, or no, as he did to every other question, evidently without any relation to what was asked. About the same time the father, aged forty, was attacked with vertigo, and complained that everything appeared black, then wholly disappeared; to this succeeded loss of voluntary motion and stupor; his pupils were dilated, his pulse slow, full, and soft; breathing not affected; in about ten minutes he gradually recovered, but complained of universal numbness and coldness, with great dejection, and a firm pursuasion that he was dying; in a few minutes he relapsed, but recovered as before, and had several similar fits during three or four hours, each succeeding one less violent and with longer intermissions than the former.
Harriet, twelve years old, who had eaten but a very small quantity, was attacked also at the same time with flight vertigo.
At nine o'clock I first saw them, and ordered a solution of ten grains of tartar emetic, in four ounces of water, to be immediately given to each in proportioned doses. It soon had the desired effect on the father and on Harriet, both of whom felt themselves relieved by its operation. As soon as the stomach of the former could bare it, I ordered him an ounce of castor oil, and half an ounce afterwards, vinegar and water, of each two ounces. He took three such doses, at intervals of half an hour, when he had a stool, and avoided large quantities of urine, and although not perfectly recovered, did not appear to require any thing more.
To Harriet, who had two or three attacks of flight vertigo, with some languor, I gave, (after the operation of the emetic,) on the suggestion of my friend, Dr. Burges, who happened to be present, thirty drops of sal volatile, in a table spoonful of water. This relieved her exceedingly, and by repeating the dose twice in the course of an hour, she was perfectly cured.
From the difficulty with which Edward was made to swallow any thing, and from the large quantity required, it was eleven o'clock before he had taken enough of the emetric solution to excite vomiting; by this time the poison had produced so powerful an effect upon his system, that he did not appear in the least relieved by it. I now ordered him a stimulating injection, applie a blister to his neck, and by degrees made him swallow some small quantities of sal volatile, diluted with no more water than was absolutely necessary; his feet were frequently rubbed with and wrapped up in warm flannels; in half an hour the injection was repeated; this soon produced stools, when he was sensibly relieved, knew the voice of his father and mother, and complained of coldness and insensibility about his stomach. His whole abdomen was well rubbed before a fire with some camphorated strong volatile liniment, which, at his own request, was repeated two or three times; he continued also to take the fat volatile, and some castor oil. By four o'clock every violent symptom had left him, drowsiness and occasional giddiness only remaining, both of which, with some head-ach, continued during the following day.
Charlotte, a delicate little girl, ten years old, naturally of a soft mild and tractable disposition, who also had eaten a large proportion, was suddenly attacked in the presence of Dr. Burges and myself, about half after ten, with vertigo and lots of voluntary motion; her pupils were very much dilated, and sight greatly impaired; these symptoms soon gave place to a degree of delirium, in which she refused to take anything, forcibly striking whatever was offered to her. A blister was applied to her neck; and having given her a strong dose of the emetric solution, immediately on the first attack, which, though late, operated violently, she became composed as the sickness went off; and after taking a few doses of the sal volatile, was perfectly well, and wholly unconscious of any thing that passed since the commencement of the symptoms; her pupils, which hitherto had not been much affected, was now irregular, and continued-so, though in less degree, during the whole of the day.
Martha, aged eighteen, who had eaten a small proportion, was attacked about eleven o'clock, with symptoms exactly the same as those of Harriet. She was treated in a manner with similar success.
From the evident utility of determining the species to which these agarics belonged, I desired the man who had gathered and partaken of them, to bring me some of the same; and on inquiry found he had for several years been in the habit of gathering, in the same place, what he was confident were the same sort. Part of those which he brought me, I sent to Dr. Williams, Botany Professor of Oxford, to whom I had related the cases. In a note which he had the kindness to send me, he says, "Having since passed a short time, in the company with Mr. Sowerby (Author of Colored Figures of English Fungi, see photo below which depicts liberty caps), he has compared them with the fungi and plates in his museum. Mr. S. has no doubt respecting the species; it appears to be a variety of Agaricus glutinosus of Curtis, (Flora Londinensis,) the fame with Dr. Withering's Agaricus semiglobatus, yet no notice is taken either by Curttis or Withering of its deleterious quality. This may seem singular, as its effects were so strongly marked, unless any mistake has been made by the person who collected the specimens."
I have also examined some of the same parcel with Mr. Wheeler, Demonstrator of Botany of the Apothecary's Company, whose testimony concurring with the abouve, leaves no room to doubt their authority.
As some of your readers may not readily have an opportunity of referring, to either of the authors mentioned, I shall add Curtis's description of the species Agaricus glutinosus.
"Stalks generally single, sometimes clustered, from two to four inches in height, the thickness of a goose quill, thread shaped, whitish, almost solid, the tube being very small, glutinous; ring, a little below the cap, scare perceptible. "Cap, from one to two inches in breadth, of a brown colour; in the full grown ones hemispherical, always convex, and more or less glutinous; wet with rain, it becomes browner and transparent, so that it sometimes appears striated. "Gills numerous, single, of a brownish purple colour, clouded; whole ones about twenty, horizontal, three shorter ones placed betwixed them; they throw out a powder of a brownish purple color."
With respect to the use of it, he only says "There is nothing acrimonious or disagreeable in its taste, yet its appearance will not recommend it to lovers of the mushrooms."
The variety, however, in question, (which is almost constantly to be
met on pasture land during autumn,) differs from this description chiefly
in being of a conical form [again, see the image of the P. semilanceata
below], as will be perfectly well seen in No. 19, of Mr. Sowerby's English
Fungi, to be published on the first of January next; for the useful
purpose of showing which Mr. S. has expressly added figures 1, 2, and
3, of Table 248.