A report on the origin and therapeutic properties of cundurango,

by W.S.W. Ruschenberger, M.D., Medical Director U.S. Navy, President of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia.

Ruschenberger, W. S. W. (William Samuel Waithman), 1807-1895.

Washington: Government Printing Office, 1873.

Description: 28 p., 22 leaves of plates, ill.; 31 cm.

Photographs: 22 large mounted albumens.

Photographer: Frederick Gutekunst.

Subject: cundurango, chemotherapy.


Cordasco 70-3164: Published by order of the Navy Department.

Commissioning with the USS Peacock in 1836, William Ruschenberger sailed with Edmund Roberts to Siam with the intention of winning a more favorable treaty between the United States and "His Majesty the Magnificent King of Siam." The treaty was signed, but Roberts died on the return voyage, leaving Ruschenberger the task of chronicling the mission in a book he wrote titled, Narrative of a voyage round the world, during the years 1835, 36, and 37 (London: Richard Bentley, 1838). Ruschenberger pushed the advantage of his position as fleet naval surgeon to join many naval expeditions and to seek out the herbal pharmacopoeia of the tropics including a voyage in the 1850's to Panama. On that trip he might have learned that curandango bark was removed with a mallet, dried and used by native South Americans both as a cure for syphilis and to kill rogue dogs, but it was in 1869 when Dr. Casares of Quito, Ecuador used it to treat a case of cancer that the desperately ill imagined a curative power surpassing the touch of religious faith. The public required a government's protection from patent medicine salesmen and so the navy directed Dr. Ayers, an assistant surgeon who was stationed in Peru, to collect samples of the plant to add to the specimens that were sent by the Ecuadorian government and distributed by the Smithsonian Institute. The following quote is lifted from a fine antiquarian bookseller's catalog (Hertzmann, and Margolis & Moss: 100 Books with Original Photographs 1846—1919; 2003):

After considering the testimonials, and some attempted cures in London and Philadelphia that proved fatal, Dr. Ruschenberger states that "my investigation of the subject leads to a conviction that there is much testimony but no evidence that cundurango has a curative influence in cases of cancer.

All the oversized albumen photographs by Gutekunst are botanical images of cundurango.

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