Amoebic dysentery and introduction of emetine source Carapichea ipecacuanha into Indian subcontinent

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The South-American herb Carapichea ipecacuanha was feverishly sought after in Europe, since it gained a new popularity as a material useful in treating dysentery, especially after the treatment of Dauphin Louis — the eldest son of Louis XIV of France — by Johann Schweitzer (Jean Helvétius) in Paris in 1686. With the isolation and characterization of emetine from C. ipecacuanha roots
by Magendie and Pelletier in France in 1817 and with its increasing relevance in managing amoebic dysentery, Britain, among the other European nations, was keen to introduce this plant for cultivation in India. The present article chronicles the efforts made by the British Government to bring and install C. ipecacuanha at a commercial scale in India — in Calcutta and neighbourhood and the Nilgiris and neighbourhood — in the later decades of 19th century. Because of the value attributed to C. ipecacuanha in managing amoebic dysentery — a public-health problem of high concern in the 19th century — this article also features the pioneering and fascinating trials made by senior surgeons, such as Leonard Rogers of the Calcutta Medical College in 1910s.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)54-65
Number of pages11
JournalIndian Journal of History of Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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