The PioneersThe MilitaryReferences

The Age of Discovery

Hanaoka Seihu 1760-1835

In 1804, the Japanese surgeon Hanaoka Seishu (1760-1835) performed general anaesthesia for a mastectomy for breast cancer. He did this by combining traditional Chinese herbal medicine western surgery techniques learned through Rangaku or Dutch studies.

Hanaoka performed his first surgery on a 60-year-old woman with breast cancer. Although she survived the operation, she died six months after her surgery. However, he continued to perform complex surgery, which was often successful. He also trained more than two thousand students throughout his career. 171 His patient was a 60 year old woman called KanAiya. He used a compound he called Tsusensan, based on the plants Daturametel and Aconitum and others. 


The recipe for Hanaoka’s anaesthetic (‘Tsusensan’) is as follows: one takes 8 parts of Datura Alba (white angel trumpet or thorn apple , 2 parts of Aconitum japonicum (Japanese aconite), 2 parts of Angelica dahurica (Chinese angelica), 2 parts Angelica decursiva (Norwegian angelica), 2 parts of Ligusticum Walachia and 2 parts Arisaemajaponicum.

The mixture is ground to a paste, boiled in water, and drunk warm. After 2 to 4 hours one will become impervious to pain and subsequently fall unconscious. Depending on the dosage, this effect will last 6 – 24 hours.

The active ingredients in this concoction are scopolamine, hyoscyamine/atropine, aconitine and angelic toxin. When combined, these give rise to anaesthesia, sleep and paralysis, most important of these substances being the tropane alkaloids atropine (named after Atropa belladonna and still currently used by ophthalmologists to dilate pupils), and the powerful scopolamine, both of which are substances which act to inhibit the transmission of stimuli between neurons (as acetylcholine antagonists). 172


Quote 67


“Blood is just red sweat.” 173


Previous Page      Next Page