Page 31 - Pharmacy History 37 Nov 2009
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Australian red bellied black snake Pseudechis porphryacus 3
One day whilst roaming through the bush his horse was bitten by a red bellied black snake. The horse promptly threw its rider and then galloped off into a water-hole where it resisted all attempts to persuade it to get out.
Tiger snake Notechis scutate 4
In another incident, his dog was bitten by a tiger snake and it too made straight for water. Eichorn explained this by saying that instinctively animals bitten by snakes sought water either to escape another attack or for a long drink which may dilute the venom.
He tested his theory using rabbits and other animals and then ultimately
he allowed himself to be bitten by a venomous snake and then jumping into a pool of water. Apart from feeling a little dizzy he recovered sufficiently to proclaim that by keeping body temperature down,
the effects of the snake bite could be nullified.
Eichorn reasoned that once a victim is bitten, the venom begins to crystallise in the blood and the tiny crystals blocked the heart. By keeping a snake bite victim cool the chances of survival were much greater than if the temperature of the victim is raised by excitement or drinking stimulants.
This treatment is still recognised as an important part of treating a
venomous bite, although anti-venene injections prepared from horse serum, are available from major hospitals around the country.
Snake venoms have very large molecules and they cannot be neutralised by any known natural or synthetic product. The ability of the mongoose to kill venomous snakes is well known and many attempts have been made to find a natural antibody to the snake’s poison in this small animal, but nothing has come of this research so far.
To promote the sales of his remedy Eichorn adopted the tactics of the quacks of the old world and he drew the crowds to see him demonstrate his method of treating a snake bite.
He would allow a live snake to latch onto his arm and then he would plunge the limb into a container
of cold water. When his arm was removed from the water he showed no signs of envenomation from the bite.
In his heyday August Eichorn became quite a celebrity and he was known as the ‘snake king of Upper Adelong’.
August Eichorn and his theory cannot be dismissed as quackery altogether, as lowering body core temperature is often used during major surgery today.
Maybe his observations will open the door for medical science to further benefit mankind.
The second product will probably be more widely known even than
Goanna Salve
Eichorn’s Remedy, and that is the ‘true blue’ panacea still on pharmacy shelves today.
This product is one of the earliest examples of the use of animal fat
in an Australian ‘cure-all’. It was manufactured and marketed in Queensland around 1910, under the brand name Goanna Salve.
The base for Goanna Salve was made from the fat of the common bush reptile, the goanna, one of the many species of monitor lizards that inhabit all parts of Australia.
Blue tongued bobtail goanna Tiliqua rugosa5
The use of animal fat for medicinal purposes is not new and it was part of the materia medica of the ancient Greeks. They produced a universal panacea which contained viper flesh amongst its myriad of ingredients. There are many other examples from bygone days and two that standout are Bears Grease and Holloway’s Ointment.
The discoverer of this ‘miraculous’ remedy was JC Marconi who
worked as a puppeteer in a travelling vaudeville troupe that followed the outback country fairs in northern NSW and Queensland as had August Eichorn.
One day he chanced upon an Aboriginal man rubbing goanna fat on a snakebite wound which aroused his curiosity.
He studied the Aborigines’ process and learned how they removed the fat from the animal and mixed it with native aromatic oils to create a wonder salve to soothe their aches and pains. Marconi created his version of the Aboriginal formula and commenced manufacturing Goanna Liniment and Goanna Salve in his home laundry.
volume 5   no 37  NOVEMBER 2009
Pharmacy History Australia 31

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