Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine

Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine


Idiosyncrasies may be congenital, hereditary, or acquired, and, if acquired, may be only temporary. Some, purely of mental origin, are often readily cured. One individual may synchronously possess an idiosyncrasy of the digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems. Striking examples of transitory or temporary idiosyncrasies are seen in pregnant women.

There are certain so-called antipathies that in reality are idiosyncrasies, and which are due to peculiarities of the ideal and emotional centers. The organ of sense in question and the center that takes cognizance of the image brought to it are in no way disordered. In some cases the antipathy or the idiosyncrasy develops to such an extent as to be in itself a species of monomania. The fear-maladies, or "phobias," as they are called, are examples of this class, and, belonging properly under temporary mental derangements, the same as hallucinations or delusions, will be spoken of in another chapter.

Possibly the most satisfactory divisions under which to group the material on this subject collected from literature are into examples of idiosyncrasies in which, although the effect is a mystery, the sense is perceptible and the cause distinctly defined and known, and those in which sensibility is latent. The former class includes all the peculiar antipathies which are brought about through the special senses, while the latter groups all those strange instances in which, without the slightest antipathy on the part of the subject, a certain food or drug, after ingestion, produces an untoward effect.

The first examples of idiosyncrasies to be noticed will be those manifested through the sense of smell. On the authority of Spigelius, whose name still survives in the nomenclature of the anatomy of the liver, Mackeuzie quotes an extraordinary case in a Roman Cardinal, Oliver Caraffa, who could not endure the smell of a rose. This is confirmed from personal observation by another writer, Pierius, who adds that the Cardinal was obliged every year to shut himself up during the rose season, and guards were stationed at the gates of his palace to stop any visitors who might be wearing the dreadful flower. It is, of course, possible that in this case the rose may not have caused the disturbance, and as it is distinctly stated that it was the smell to which the Cardinal objected, we may fairly conclude that what annoyed him was simply a manifestation of rose-fever excited by the pollen.

There is also an instance of a noble Venetian who was always confined to his palace during the rose season. However, in this connection Sir Kenelm Digby relates that so obnoxious was a rose to Lady Heneage, that she blistered her cheek while accidentally lying on one while she slept. Ledelius records the description of a woman who fainted before a red rose, although she was accustomed to wear white ones in her hair. Cremer describes a Bishop who died of the smell of a rose from what might be called "aromatic pain."The organ of smell is in intimate relation with the brain and the organs of taste and sight; and its action may thus disturb that of the esophagus, the stomach, the diaphragm, the intestines, the organs of generation, etc. Odorous substances have occasioned syncope, stupor, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes death. It is said that the Hindoos, and some classes who eat nothing but vegetables, are intensely nauseated by the odors of European tables, and for this reason they are incapable of serving as dining-room servants.

Fabricius Hildanus mentions a person who fainted from the odor of vinegar. The Ephemerides contains an instance of a soldier who fell insensible from the odor of a peony. Wagner knew a man who was made ill by the odor of bouillon of crabs. The odors of blood, meat, and fat are repugnant to herbivorous animals. It is a well-known fact that horses detest the odor of blood.

Schneider, the father of rhinology, mentions a woman in whom the odor of orange-flowers produced syncope. Odier has known a woman who was affected with aphonia whenever exposed to the odor of musk, but who immediately recovered after taking a cold bath.

Dejean has mentioned a man who could not tolerate an atmosphere of cherries. Highmore knew a man in whom the slightest smell of musk caused headache followed by epistaxis. Lanzonius gives an account of a valiant soldier who could neither bear the sight nor smell of an ordinary pink. There is an instance on record in which the odor coming from a walnut tree excited epilepsy. It is said that one of the secretaries of Francis I was forced to stop his nostrils with bread if apples were on the table. He would faint if one was held near his nose Schenck says that the noble family of Fystates in Aquitaine had a similar peculiarity--an innate hatred of apples. Bruyerinus knew a girl of sixteen who could not bear the smell of bread, the slightest particle of which she would detect by its odor. She lived almost entirely on milk. Bierling mentions an antipathy to the smell of musk, and there is a case on record in which it caused convulsions.

Boerhaave bears witness that the odor of cheese caused nasal hemorrhage. Whytt mentions an instance in which tobacco became repugnant to a woman each time she conceived, but after delivery this aversion changed to almost an appetite for tobacco fumes.