Frustrated by his failure to find a balanced combination of sedative herbs to extend the duration of nitrous-oxide anesthesia, Urial K. Mayo, D.D.S. (1816 to 1900), sought advice from a neighboring Boston spiritualist. From Mayo’s self-described “spiritual revelation” sprang the “vegetable vapor” anesthetic that the dentist patented in 1885. Regarding both his nitrous oxide and the “spirit” (the ethyl alcohol dissolving his herbs) as stimulants, Mayo balanced their effects with herbal depressants, such as Humulus lupulus (“hops” or H on the grinning jack-o’-lantern, above) and Datura stramonium (D S or jimsonweed). Similarly, Mayo sought to offset the hypoxic jactitations, spasms, or even seizures caused by his spasmodic gas (unoxygenated nitrous oxide) with antispasmodic herbs, such as Valeriana officinalis (V or Valerian), Cypripedium sp. (C or Lady’s slipper), and/or Scutellaria lateriflora (S L or Blue scullcap). (Copyright © the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology.)

Frustrated by his failure to find a balanced combination of sedative herbs to extend the duration of nitrous-oxide anesthesia, Urial K. Mayo, D.D.S. (1816 to 1900), sought advice from a neighboring Boston spiritualist. From Mayo’s self-described “spiritual revelation” sprang the “vegetable vapor” anesthetic that the dentist patented in 1885. Regarding both his nitrous oxide and the “spirit” (the ethyl alcohol dissolving his herbs) as stimulants, Mayo balanced their effects with herbal depressants, such as Humulus lupulus (“hops” or H on the grinning jack-o’-lantern, above) and Datura stramonium (D S or jimsonweed). Similarly, Mayo sought to offset the hypoxic jactitations, spasms, or even seizures caused by his spasmodic gas (unoxygenated nitrous oxide) with antispasmodic herbs, such as Valeriana officinalis (V or Valerian), Cypripedium sp. (C or Lady’s slipper), and/or Scutellaria lateriflora (S L or Blue scullcap). (Copyright © the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology.)

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George S. Bause, M.D., M.P.H., Honorary Curator and Laureate of the History of Anesthesia, Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology, Schaumburg, Illinois, and Clinical Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. UJYC@aol.com.