Human history has consistently used different forms of anesthetics. In fact, the use of anesthetics are even shown to have come before written communication for humans.
Herbs As Anesthetics In History
During the pre-history period, herbs were the typical source of anesthetics. Even in 4200 BC, opium poppies were planted and harvested throughout Sumeria. The first time in history that they were recorded to be used were in 1500 BC. By the year 1100 BC the process of opium poppies being farmed has spread to Cyprus and throughout the land.
By 330 BC India was using opium poppy. By 600 to 1200 AD, China was using them as well. China had a number of other herbs that were being used for anesthetic purposes too. During the second century, one doctor in particular, Hua Tuo was shown to have used a cannabis derived medicine for one particular surgical procedure.
A number of other Solanum plants were used on a regular basis as anesthetics throughout Europe, Asia, and the America’s. Some of these plants included mandrake, henbane, and a few other from the datura species. You can find a tropane alkaloid in each of these plants. During the Roman and Greek times, there were a number of popular names discussing the use of solanum plants and opium (Pliny the Elder, Hippocrates.) The America’s had a method of using the coca leaves for anesthetic purposes. That’s the same plant that cocain is created from. It was originally used by Incan shamans that would chew on the leaves and spit it onto the wounds to reduce pain in that area.
These herbal forms of anesthetics had their uses for hundreds of years but they had their own set of problems. One of the most common problems was the dosage of each herb. Giving too little of the herb would do nothing for the patient. Giving too much of the herb could kill them. The process needed to be improved through standardization of the dosage. It was completed, to some extent, by the 19th century. They were typically organized based on where they were grown.
Morphine – A Breakthrough
Friedrich Wilhelm was a German pharmacist that first removed morphine from opium poppies. That extract was eventually named after the Greek god of sleeping and dreaming, Morphium. Morphine didn’t take off in popularity for almost 50 years. With the development of the hypodermic needle, morphine was now much easier to administer. Around 1853 Morphine came into it’s popularity and as an anesthetic.
Diacetylmorphine was discovered in 1874. You might recognize it by the name heroin. Heroin had almost double the effect that morphine had. Heroin began to be marketed by Bayer around 1898. By the year 1914 the United States criminalized the possession of these substances based on how addictive they turned out to be.
Inhalant Anesthetics Developed
History showed that the most common use of oral anesthetics was done by Muslim communities. They were a common treatment throughout the Islamic lands. There were hundreds of different procedures that begun with the use of a sponge dipped into the narcotic before being placed over the face of the patient.
The progress of oral anesthetics was a little bit slower in the rest of the world. Joseph Lister, the man that’s responsible for sterile surgical procedures, also helped develop oral anesthetics that improved surgical success in that time significantly.
Nitrous oxide and Carbon dioxide were both tried for surgical procedures throughout the 19th century. Using carbon dioxide never came into popularity of the mainstream but the use of nitrous oxide exploded in popularity as an anesthetic.
Humphry Davy was a chemist from Britain that first published a paper suggesting that nitrous oxide might work as an anesthetic in 1800. It was 1840 before it started to become a trusted form of anesthetic. 1846 had one of the first successful pain free tooth removals done by William Thomas Green Morton. He was an American dentist that first used nitrous oxide for that.
Diethyl was also used as an inhalation anesthetic during the same period of time for tooth removal. It was originally created by a physician named Valerius Cordus around 1540 but it had never been used by the public until the 1840’s. A little bit before that period Chloroform had been created. There were a number of dangers with each option but they were very popular throughout Britain.
There are two major kinds anesthetics being used today from agricultural chemicals and pharmaceutical chemicals. Lidocain and procaine are two common local anesthetics. Local Anesthetics work to reduce the nerve functioning around where it’s used to prevent pain in that single area. General anesthetic is something that is like the inhalation anesthetics used in the past. In fact, oral anesthetics are still common today. The most common are fluorochemicals like sevoflurane, desflurane, and isoflurane. These substances are much safer based on the flammability of diethyl ether.