This section is from the book "Smith's Family Physician", by William Henry Smith. See also: Natural Physician's Healing Therapies: Proven Remedies that Medical Doctors Don't Know.
"Mens sana in corpore sano"
In preparing a new work, as a "guide to health," I have been influenced mainly by the conviction that such a work was very much required. Having travelled considerably during the last two years, and mixed much with the agricultural population, I have been concerned to see that in a large proportion of cases, the health of the inhabitants was not what it should be. Some of this deficiency may doubtless be ascribed to the vicissitudes of climate; some to hardships necessarily attendant on the labours and privations of first settlers; but still more to a careless neglect of those "rules of health," attention to pure air, cleanliness, exercise and food, that are absolutely necessary if we would enjoy life. Some of this arises from ignorance, some from carelessness, and some from stinginess. Many men will allow disease to accumulate in their families for months, depending occasionally upon quack medicines, rather than send for a medical man. In many cases the medical man does not live conveniently, and they grudge the expense of the visits. Of course, in a thinly settled country, like Canada, a professional man has a much smaller community to make a living out of than if he lived in an old, thickly settled country. If a physician has to live on a population of five hundred families, of course his charges must be higher than if his practice comprised a community of five thousand; that is, if he is to live at all. Another thing, in Canada, few persons have more than a moderate income, and there is, as yet, no class that can afford to pay medical men such remuneration as will enable them to do a great deal of work for nothing, as is the case with medical men in England. When Lady Anne Coke (wife of the celebrated "Coke of Holkam," afterwards Earl of Leicester,) was confined with her first child, the surgeon who attended her received a fee of five hundred pounds sterling, ($2,500.) The late Sir Astley Cooper received one year in fees thirty-two thousand pounds sterling, and I believe the late Sir Henry Halford has received as much, while hundreds realize incomes ranging from. 2000 to 5000 pounds sterling. Of course, under such circumstances, a professional man can afford to devote, and many do, a considerable time to gratuitous attendance on the sick.
"A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," was a maxim of the great Dr. Samuel Johnson; and certainly we occasionally see the truth of the adage exemplified by people who, knowing a little, and thinking they know more than they do, act upon their knowledge either to their own or their neighbour's injury. Not long since a dentist having occasion to plug some teeth for a farmer, found one of them so sensitive that he considered it necessary to insert a small quantity of morphia into the tooth, to deaden it, before introducing the filling. "I suppose," remarked the patient, "there's morphia enough in that bottle to kill a man." "Yes," was the reply, "enough to kill ten men." The farmer, speaking of the matter afterwards said, "enough morphia was put in his tooth, if he had swallowed it, to kill ten men." A few weeks afterwards the same dentist had to fill some teeth for a young woman living at an adjoining farm. One of these was also sensitive, and morphia, (about a sixth of a grain,) was inserted. Some time after the dentist left, the morphia swallowed by the patient began to make her sleepy. The family she was living with, having heard the neighbour's story, of the "quantity enough to kill ten men," immediately concluded that the girl was poisoned, and that, "if they let her go to sleep, she'd never wake again." Therefore, the first thing they did was to make her swallow some mustard, by way of emetic; and then they kept her awake all. night. Of course the girl was tired and sleepy, and they had considerable difficulty in keeping her awake, but the greater the difficulty the more they persevered. Twenty-four hours after the morphia was taken they sent for a young medical practitioner in the neighbourhood, who, having to ride three or four miles, of course "must do something" so he clapped a blister on the back of her neck. Now the girl could not by any possibility have swallowed more than the eighth or the tenth of a grain of morphia, and as she was grown-up, strong and healthy, beyond making her sleepy, it could have had no injurious effect; and yet here was the poor girl, first vomited, then kept awake all night, and finally blistered, when a good nap of two or three hours, in the first place, would have set everything to rights.
In compiling this work, I have drawn upon all the best authorities, adding thereto my own experience. I have endeavoured to clothe everything, as far as possible, in plain language. The various prescriptions given are those that have stood the test of experience; but I need scarcely remind my readers that the efficacy of medicines depends a great deal on their quality and purity.
A copious index will be attached to the work, and a sufficient glossary of scientific terms, with explanations of their meaning.