ARRANGED IN CONFORMITY WITH THE CLASSIFICATION IN THE LAST
EDITION OF PROF. H. C. WOOD'S "THERAPEUTICS" AND
FOLLOWING THE COURSE OF PHARMACY AS TAUGHT
IN THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
EDWIN A. HELLER, M.D.
QUIZ-MASTER IN MATERIA MEDICA AND PHARMACY AT THfc MEDICAL
INSTITUTE, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA
P. BLAKISTON, SON & CO
1012 WALNUT STREET
COPYRIGHT, 1897, BY P. BLAKISTON, SON & Co.
1ESS OF WM. r. FELL & CO.,
1220-24 SANSOM ST.,
By the kind permission of Prof. H. C. Wood the
author has been enabled to prepare the following
volume. The definitions are mostly those given by
the last edition of the United States Pharmacopoeia.
That part of the work relating to pharmacy has been
arranged with special reference to the course 'as
given at the University of Pennsylvania. Special
attention has been given to the metric system, here-
tofore too much neglected.
The author trusts that this little work will lighten
the labors co-existent with the entrance into the
study of materia medica, and if it accomplishes this
end he will feel amply repaid for the care and ex-
ertion required to compile it.
EDWIN A. HELLER.
934 FRAXKLIX STRKKT, PHILADELPHIA,
743 1 20
Definitions Parts of a Prescription Kinds of Prescrip-
tions, Superscription, Inscription, 8
Apothecaries' Weight and Measure Domestic Measures
Variation in Size of Drops, 17
Metric System Tables for the Conversion of Apothe-
caries' Weight and Measure into Metric and vice versa, . 23
Method of Writing Prescriptions Conversion of Prescrip-
tions Written in One System into the Other, 35
The Grammatical Construction of Prescriptions Use of
Latin : Reasons therefor, Rules thereof Parts of Speech
CHAPTER VI. PAGE
Directions to Apothecary Latin Phrases and Abbrevia-
tions Numerals, . . 61
Administration: Modes of, Rules for Doses: Rules for,
for Children Cumulative Action, 71
Combination of Medicines Incompatibles, 77
Materia Medica Pharmacy Therapeutics Officinal and
Non-officinal Preparations, 85
Average Doses Tinctures, Extracts, Fluid Extracts, etc., 117
Officinal Drugs and Preparations Important Non-officinal
Drugs Doses, .... 121
Poisons Treatment and Antidotes, 359
List of Natural Orders, 373
Page 115, first line, should read, ''Solutions of gun-cotton in
Page 131, third line from bottom, "contain " should be " con-
Page 167, tenth line from bottom, "or" should be "and."
DEFINITIONS. PARTS OF A PRESCRIPTION.
The word prescription (from the Latin prce, before,
and scrtptttm, perfect participle of scribo, to write,
meaning, written,), was at one time understood to
mean any direction whatever, either verbal or
written, given to the patient. It included direc-
tions as' to diet, ventilation, heat, light of his
apartment, etc. ; in fact, any direction whatever
relating to the care of the patient or his surround-
At present, however, a prescription is generally
understood to be a written formula containing the
names and quantities of a drug or drugs, together
with directions to the apothecary for dispensing,
and directing also the patient as to the manner,
method, and frequency of administration.
A prescription may be either (i) simple or (2)
compound ; and the formula it contains may be
10 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. II
either (i) officinal or (2) extemporaneous or magis-
A simple prescription contains but one in-
Compound prescriptions always contain more
than one ingredient.
An officinal preparation or formula is one pub-
lished and authorized by the United States Pharma-
copeia, and although it may contain numerous in-
gredients, in prescribing it is necessary to write
only the officinal name, together with the dose and
An extemporaneous or magistral formula is
one composed by the physician to suit the individual
A typical prescription consists of:
1. The superscription, heading.
2. The inscription, names and quantities of the
3. The subscription, directions to the pharma-
4. The signature, directions to patient.
5. Date, and the signature of the physician.
I. In English the superscription is always the
symbol R ; a combination of R from recipe (Latin,
imperative of recipio), take, and the zodiac sign %'.
Originally, prescriptions were always begun with an
invocation to Jove or Jupiter, and his blessing in-
voked on the action of the remedy, whence we derive
12 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. 13
the combination of the R and TJ. When Christianity
supplanted the heathen beliefs, the prayers were
abbreviated and changed in various ways : as, A, fi,
the beginning and end, the first and last, the alpha and
omega of everything; JJ, Juvante Jesu (Jesus help-
ing) ; JD, Juvante Deo (God helping) ; ND, Nomine
Dei (in God's name); and at one time also the
simple +, the sign of the cross. But all these have
been discarded for the old R. In France P or Ps
(prenez, take,) is employed.
II. The inscription, or body of the prescription,
contains the names and quantities of the ingredients,
and in a typical prescription includes:
1. The basis, the principal active agent.
2. The adjuvant, or auxiliary intended to aid
and increase the action of the basis.
3. The corrective or corrigent, to correct or
modify one or both of the above two.
4. The vehicle or excipient, to render palat-
able, assimilable, or easy of administration the entire
The old maxim of Asclepiades, " Curare cite tute
ct jucunde" might be applied as follows:
Curare (cure), with the Basis.
Cite (quickly), " " Adjuvant.
Tute (safely), " " Corrective.
et Jucunde (pleasantly), " " Vehicle.
The names of the ingredients are always written in
14 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. 15
Latin and are in the genitive case, governed by
The quantities, if written out in Latin, which,
however, is practically never done, are always in the
The subscription or instruction as to method of
dispensing is always in Latin. (A list of the prin-
cipal phrases will be found on pages 61-65.)
The signature, written Signa, or Sig., consists of
the directions to the patient, is always in English,
and should always be as simple and distinct as it pos-
sibly can be written. Even in cases where it is desired
to conceal from the pharmacist the purpose for which
the remedy is intended, this can be done at no sacri-
fice of meaning; e. g., in case an injection should
be ordered we may simply sign, "Use as wash;"
" Bathe affected part two or three times daily," etc.
Thus the druggist is often unable to tell if the pre-
scription is intended for eye, mouth, vagina, urethra,
or other part of the body, and the patient protected
both while procuring his prescription and at home,
should the preparation be seen by those who have
no right to do so.
I 6 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
APOTHECARIES' WEIGHT AND MEASURE.
At present, although the metric system is really
the only system founded on a definite scientific basis,
both the apothecaries' weight and measure and
the metric system are employed.
APOTHECARIES' WEIGHT. ,
20 grains (gr.) = I scruple.
60 grains or 3 scruples ( J} ) = I dram.
480 grains or 8 drams (^) = I ounce.
5760 grains or 96 drams or 12 ounces ( ) = I pound.
In Latin, respectively :
Pound, symbol ft, = libra.
Ounce, " ^ , uncia.
Dram, " , = drachma.
Scruple, " 9> scrupulum.
Grain, " gr. , = granum.
The scruple (9) is practically obsolete, because if
not carefully written it is easily confounded with the
dram (3), and thus may give rise to serious conse-
quences. Amounts less than one dram should be
expressed in grains.
The British pharmacopeia directs that the pound
should contain 16 ounces, each of them equaling
437.5 grains, or 7000 grains to the pound, being
1 8 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. . 19
considerably more than our pound. This must be
borne in mind in the use of formulae based on the
APOTHECARIES' OR WINE MEASURE.
60 minims (n\J = I fluidram.
8 fluidrams (f 3) = I fluidounce, or 8 fg, or 480 TT\^.
1 6 fluidounces (fg) = I pint, or i6fg, or 128 fj, or 76801^.
8 pints (O) = I gallon (C), or 8 O, or 128 f g , or
1024 fg, or 61,440 n\,.
In Latin, respectively:
The gallon, symbol C, = congius.
" pint, " O, = octarius.
" fluidounce, " f^, = fluiduncia.
" fluidram, " 3, = fluidrachma.
" minim, " rr\,, = minimum.
The English pint contains 20 fluidounces, and the
fluidounce equals 7 fluidrams and 2^ minims; their
minim, therefore, is equal only to .96 of ours, theirs
weighing approximately .91 of a grain, while ours is
equivalent to .95 of a grain.
As practically, all patients are unfamiliar with
apothecaries' measure, we must employ some domes-
tic measure fairly equivalent to it, and for that pur-
pose we generally consider
The drop = a minim.
" teaspoon = a fluidram.
" dessertspoon = 2 fluidrams.
" tablespoon = 4 fluidrams, or j^ of a fluidounce.
" wineglass = 2 fluidounces.
" teacup = 4 fluidounces.
20 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. 21
Naturally, it is at once evident that as the drops
of some liquids are much larger than those of others,
and as teaspoons vary greatly in capacity, to say
nothing of the balance, the method is faulty and not
to be relied upon for accurate dosage.
In such cases it is necessary to procure an accurate
graduate at once and use only this in giving the
medicine to the patient.
If drops are ordered (as for use in eye work), we
may order a pipet. Should we desire to give only
minims in this manner, accurate minim pipets may
be used. That the size of drops varies greatly may
easily be seen by glancing at the following list of
drugs. Drops in one fluidram :
Dilute sulphuric acid 54 to 48
Aromatic sulphuric acid = 115 " 145
= 45 " 48
= 150 " 160
= 180 " 275
= I2O " 143
= 50" 58
115 " 125
= 105 " 145
22 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
The metric system now used practically exclu-
sively in France and Germany is being rapidly
adopted in the other countries of Europe, and is
making rapid progress, as it deserves to, in this
country. It is the only rational system of weights
and measures we possess, the unit of length being the
meter, which equals one forty-millionth of the
earth's circumference through the poles, or one ten-
millionth of the distance from the pole to the equator.
It equals 39.37 inches, being 3^3 inches (about)
more than our yard.
The gram, the unit of weight, is the weight of
one cubic centimeter (c. c.) of water at its greatest
density (4 C. or 39 F.).
In writing a prescription according to the metric
system, if we desire all the ingredients to be weighed,
we merely place the symbol gm. above the figures.
If, however, the liquids are to be measured, we write
gm. and c. c. (cubic centimeters).
The gram (solid) equals 15.432 grains. The
gram (of water) measures 16.231 minims.
24 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. 25
The subdivisions of the units are formed by prefix-
ing to the unit the Latin
Milli (from mille] j-^Vtf f ^- e un ^-
Centi (from centunt] T ^ of the unit.
Deci (from decent] = -^ of the unit.
Two decigrams = ^ of a gram.
Or two millimeters = ^QQ of a meter.
Or one centiliter = T ^ 5 of a liter.
, The multiples of the units are formed by prefixing
to the unit the Greek
Deca (from Af/ca) = lo times the unit.
Hecto (from 'E/carov) = 100 times the unit.
Kilo (from K/Afoc) = 1000 times the unit.
Myria (from Mty>mc) = 10,000 times the unit.
A decaliter = lo liters.
A hectometer 100 meters.
A kilogram looo grams, etc.
Thus the multiple and subdivisions would be of
' ToW millimeter, . . T oVtf .
. T o . centimeter, . . T fo .
. T L . . decimeter, . . r l ff
meter, . .
10 . . decameters, . . 10 .
. 100 . . hectometers, . . loo .
. 1000 . . kilometers, . . 1000 .
I gram, . . 15.432 grains. I meter, . . 39.37 inches.
I liter, . . 2.113 pints.
26 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. 27
Instead, however, of writing out in full the pre-
fixes of the units, we employ the decimal system
entirely; thus :
2 or 2
.025 " 025
The whole numbers always signify grams and cubic
centimeters, according to the symbol at the top ;
thus : gm. and c. c. If, however, there is no sym-
bol, then all the ingredients liquid and solid are
supposed to be weighed out in grams. Thus the
above amounts would equal 2 grams ; -$ of a
gram or 12^ centigrams; 1 g^ of a gram or 2^
centigrams or 25 milligrams.
Although it is sufficient to merely indicate the
decimals by a point, as in the first example, in writing
prescriptions it is policy to always use the line, as
shown in the second example, so as to leave no
possible room for doubt, as a spot in the paper may
be mistaken for the point, and this would, of course,
multiply or divide the result, possibly ten, possibly
a hundred, fold.
For all practical purposes, and for converting
apothecaries' weight into the metric, and vice versa,
a gram may be considered equal to 15 or 16 grains,
using that number which divides or multiplies most
easily. Except in cases of poisons, alkaloids, and
very powerful drugs, where it is well to consider that
15! grains equal i gram.
2 8 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. 29
Likewise, with the liquid preparations, either 15
or 1 6 minims may be considered equivalent to one
The fluidram may be said to equal 4 c. c. The
dram to equal 4 grams. The fluidounce may be
considered as equivalent to 30 or 32 c. c. ; and the
ounce, 30 or 32 grams. The liter is equal to 2.113
< It will be seen that the table for liquids is com-
puted for water at 4 C. ; and, consequently, to be
strictly accurate, allowance would have to be made
for the weight of all the liquid preparations compared
to that of water. Thus, the dose of all liquids lighter
than water: e. g., alcohol, ether, the tinctures, etc.,
would be slightly less ; the dose of heavier liquids :
e. -., the syrups, glycerites, decoctions, etc., would be
larger in order to be absolutely correct. But prac-
tically the difference is so small that in most, if not
all, cases it may be discarded.
TABLE TO CONVERT METRIC INTO APOTHECARIES' WEIGHT,
AND Vice Versa.
i grain = .06 gram.
J^j = 20 grains = 1.2 grams.
apj= 60 = 4 .
3j = 480 " =30. or 32 grams.
I rr\, = .06 c. c.
f3j = 60 n\, =4.
f 3 j = 480 TTL = 30. or 32 c. c.
It will be seen that the figures do not accord ex-
30 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. 31
actly with the results of multiplication, but we even
them up in order to obviate the fractions.
I. gram = 15. or 16 grains.
.1 " : 1.5 grains.
.01 " .15 grain.
i. c. c. = 16. TT\,.
.1 c. c. - 1.6 n\,.
.01 c. c. - .16 TT.
3 2 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING.
TABLE FOR CONVERTING APOTHECARIES' WEIGHT INTO THE
METRIC SYSTEM, AND Vice Versa.
(f 3 )6o
O) 20 1.3
(f 3 ) 480 30.
(5) 60 ! 3-75
34 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
METHOD OF WRITING PRESCRIPTIONS.
CONVERSION OF APOTHECARIES' WEIGHT
AND MEASURE INTO THE METRIC SYSTEM,
AND VICE VERSA.
The proper, as well as the quickest and safest, way
to write a prescription is to put down the names of the
ingredients intended to be used ; then determine the
number of doses to be given in toto ; and, finally,
after multiplying the individual dose of each ingre-
dient by the number of doses, put the corresponding
amount opposite each drug.
Example : If we wish to write for the compound
cathartic pill of the United States Pharmacopeia :
Extract! colocynthidis compositi,
Hydrargyri chloridi mitis, . . .
Aquae, quantum sufficiat.
M. Ft. pilulse No. x.
Having decided to give 10 pills, and deciding the
single dose of colocynth to be 8 centigrams, we
multiply 8 centigrams by 10, equaling 8 decigrams,
which we put opposite the colocynth.
The single dose of calomel we are going to give
36 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. 37
being 6 centigrams, we multiply this by 10, equaling
6 decigrams, which we then place opposite its line,
and so on.
The quantities of the drugs in metric prescriptions
are expressed always in the Arabic numerals; while
in the apothecaries' weight we use the Roman numer-
als, except in the case of fractions, where, for greater
accuracy, we use ordinary figures; or in cases where
a large or ordinarily poisonous dose is intended we
may place the Arabic numeral in parenthesis along-
side the Roman, in order to assure the druggist that
a large amount is intended ; thus f giij (3).
For converting apothecaries' weight into the metric,
or vice versa, reference to the table at the end
of chapter in will obviate the necessity of multi-
plication and division. It is, however, advisable,
for the sake of practice, that the student convert
several prescriptions without the table, in order to be
familiar with the method and able at any time to
convert one table into the other. For example,
to convert the following into the metric system :
For JOHN SMITH.
U . Pulveris extract! glycyrrhizae,
" acaciae, aa gr. viij.
" sacchari, gr. x.
" kino, gr. ij.
Spiritus aromatic!, TT^v.
Mellis despumati, q. s.
M. Ft. raassa, in pilulas numero triginta dividenda.
SK;NA. One after meals.
601 LANCET AVE., Nov. 75, i8g6. JOHN MEDICUS, M.D.
38 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. 39
Considering i gram to equal 16 grains (see chap,
in) we find the first and second ingredients to equal
y of a gram, which we would write | 5. The third
equals If f or 62 5 grams or 62^ centigrams.
The fourth equals T 2 g- = -J- or | 125 grams or 12^
centigrams. The last quantity, 5 KI, would be ex-
pressed in cubic centimeters, and as we may count
either 15 or 16 minims as equaling i c. c., we will
take 15 ; therefore, we would have -f^ or -^ of acubic
centimeter or 3^- cubic decometers, written | 33.
The body of the prescription then would read :
gm. c. c.
& . Pulveris extracti glycyrrhizae,
Mellis despumati, q. s.
Or, vice versa, to convert the following into apothe-
caries' weight :
For SAM SMALL.
&. Potassii bromidi, 15
M. Fiant pulveres numero viginti.
SIGN A. One at bedtime.
1428 EDGELY ST., Nov. /j, 1896. THOS. JONES, M.D.
Now, i gram equals 15 or 16 grains; 15 (grams) X
1 6 (grains) = 240 ; 240 grains -f- 60 (the number of
grains in a dram) = 4 ; consequently the total is ^iv.
40 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. 41
The second ingredient calls for 7.5 grams : 7^ (grams)
X 1 6 (grains) = 120; 120 (grains) -j- 60 (grains in
a dram) = 2, hence gij. The third quantity: .06
grams or 6 centigrams^yl-g- grams X 16 (the num-
ber of grains in a gram) y 9 ^ ; practically, i grain.
Of course, there is a difference of y^ grains, but as
there are 20 doses, the difference in each dose would
be but Tj-iftnj- of a grain, which is insignificant and may
be disregarded. In fact, it is the rule in transposing
from one system to another, to always even up the
amounts: unless the drug is extremely potent, it will
be found that the difference one way or the other will
be too small to be of practical import. Ar.d the
prescription then would read :
For SAM SMALL.
U . Potassii bromidi, % iv.
Acidi arsenosi, gr. j.
M. Fiant pulveres numero viginti.
SIGNA. One at bedtime.
1428 EDGELY ST., Nov. 75, 1896. THOS. JONKS, M.I).
42 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
THE GRAMMATICAL CONSTRUCTION OF
Latin is the language par excellence for prescrip-
tions. Although the physician may use English or
any other language if he sees fit, the arguments in
favor of Latin far outweigh any which may be
brought against it.
First, it is a "dead" language, does not undergo
any change, and words expressed in Latin are under-
stood all over the civilized world, whereas if we
wrote prescriptions only in the current tongue, spe-
cial knowledge of that language would be necessary
to translate it into any other language. The com-
prehension, however, of even a very moderate
amount of Latin enables us to understand a pre-
scription written in any of the civilized countries.
Latin is the universal language of science, the
botanic and chemic names of all our remedies are
When we express the name of a drug in Latin it
refers distinctly and positively to only one drug,
whereas the English word may include a number
of drugs entirely different from one another. Thus,
44 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WR1TINC. 45
cimicifuga means only the cimicifuga racemosa,
whereas the English name "snakeroot" is applied
to numerous plants, each differing according to its
habitat. If we write Indian hemp, eifher apocynum
cannabinum or cannabis indica may be dispensed.
Wintergreen may mean either chimaphila or gaul-
Checkerberry may mean either uva ursi or gaul-
In any or all such cases the drug dispensed may
have directly opposite effect on the patient from that
desired, and not alone may it be inert, but it may
be positively harmful, if not disastrous.
Again, there is a certain prejudice against the use of
certain drugs, as mercury and iodid of potassium,
and should the prescription be in English the patient
may refuse to take -it.
Again, it is sometimes desirable that a patient
should not know the exact nature of the drugs he
is taking, or he may wish to take our prescription to
a foreign country. In either case Latin fulfils all
The directions to the patient, however, should
invariably be written in English. There is abso-
lutely no valid reason why he should not read them ;
if they be written in Latin, should the patient forget
the instructions and patients are often singularly
negligent in this respect he would be at a loss how
to take the remedy, and at what times.
46 FOR THERAPEUTIC NOTES.
ESSENTIALS OF PRESCRIPTION WRITING. 47
A certain rudimentary knowledge of Latin is
necessary in order to write a proper prescription.
The following few simple rules are indispensable :
1. The names of the drugs are always in the
genitive if the quantity is expressed (governed by
the R (take) amount of}.
2. If no quantity is expressed, but a numeral ad-
jective follows, the noun is always in the accusative.
3. The quantities are always in the accusative,
governed by the imperative recipe (take).
4. Adjectives agree with their nouns in number,
gender, and case.
Verbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and ad-
verbs undergo no change, the principal ones