In 1855 Geadeke isolated a crystalline alkaloid from coca leaves, which he called erythroxylin. Five years later Albert Niemann further investigated this alkaloid and gave it the name cocain.
The power of cocain to produce anesthesia was first called attention to by Fronmueller in 1863, but its practical use became more fully known in 1884 through the investigation and experiments of Freud and Koller.
It was then first used in ophthalmic surgery. Cocain, like all new or rejuvenated remedies, quickly became a panacea "for all earthly woes." While it is still largely used for many external and internal lesions, the aurist, laryngologist and gynecologist probably use it with the greater satisfaction, owing to its anesthetic effect upon the mucous membrane.
Cocain hydrochlorate, when pure, is found in colorless prisms of strong alkaline reaction, giving an astringent, bitter, burning taste followed by a numbness of the mouth and lips.