This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
In presenting this work on Crude Organic Remedies
-- the Constituents of Plants, and their Officinal Preparations -- I do
not propose to "run a tilt" against any of the systems of Medical practice,
however much some of them may be opposed to common sense and reason, and
to the Divine ordinances of Nature; nor shall I treat with contempt the
teachings and practices of great and wonderful names, or oppose the pride,
interest, expectation, and conscientious convictions of a learned, honorable,
and influential profession; my object is simply to present many new and
curious, if not startling facts, not only wewll worthy of the earnest consideration
of the more intelligent portion of the community, who demand reasons the
most profound to lead them to conviction of a TRUTH, but of the great mass
of humbler people, who desire, amid all the great Reforms in human society,
above all things to secure a "sound mind in a sound body," and to
feel something of that exalted state of happiness which alone can arise
from the possession of the most robust and rubicund physical and moral
It must be palpable to every thinking mind that Therapeutical and Pharmaceutical science is the very foundation of the "HEALING ART DIVINE." In the language of Holy Writ, "The Lord has created medicines out of the earth, and he that is wise will not abhor them." (Ecclesiastes, xxxviii, 4)
"Yea, happy he that can the knowledge gain,
To know the Eternal God made naught in vain."
The use of medicine is no doubt coincident with the History of the Human Race; but writers generally agree that medicine first became a profession among the Egyptians. The priests of the earlier nations were the practitioners of the Healing Art, but it does not seem that women were excluded from the right of administering medicine for the purpose of healing the sick, since mention is made of a certain Queen Isis, who became greatly celebrated among them, and was worshipped as a "GODDESS OF HEALTH." Although the practitioners among the Egyptians, Assyrians, and Jews were in the habit of employing incantations, which, of course, produced their good and bad impressions through the medium of the imagination, yet their efficiency in curing diseases was mainly due to their knowledge of the medicinal virtues of many of the vegetable products of Nature. They seemed to look up as high as the stars to know the reason of the operation of the Herbs in the various affections of the human race.
Among the Greeks, HIPPOCRATES first caused medicine to be regarded as a science,while AESCULAPIUS was the first who made medicine an exclusive study and practice. His sons, MACHAON and PODALIRIUS, are celebrated in Homer's "Iliad" for their medical skill as surgeons in the Greek armies or during the Trojan war. Two daughters also of Aesculapius, PANAKEIA and HYGEIA, were no less distinguished than their renowned brothers; the latter being the inventor of many valuable herbal preparations, whose success in curing diseases won for her, as in the case of Queen Isis of Egypt, the proud honor and deification of the Greeks as an especial "GODDESS OF HEALTH." We have no knowledge that Aesculapius or his immediate followers, the Asclepiadae, ever conceived the idea of curing disease by drug or mineral preparations. Ablutions, bandages, fomentations, ointments, etc., were administered externally, and preparations of aromatic herbs, roots, flowers, balms, gums, etc., constituted their whole materia medica for all internal ailments. Next the Pythagorean school became famous, and these were the first to visit the sick at their homes.
The next most prominent medical practitioner after
these was HIPPOCRAES, the "Coan Sage," who, being one of the most sagacious,
observing, and industrious men that ever lived, was entitled the "Father
of Medicine." He traveled much in foreign countries, devoting
himself with untiring energy to the study and practice of medicine.
His writings were numerous, and even to this day his doctrines are extensively
recognized. His practice was consistently founded on the phenomena
of Nature as exhibited in human beings during health and disease. His materia
medica was derived almost wholly from the vegetable kingdom. His internal
remedies were purgatives, sudorifics, diuretics, and injections, while
his external were ointments, plasters,
liniments, etc. The great principle which directed all his operations was the supposed operations of Nature in superintending and regulating all the actions of the system. This mode of practice had the good effect of enabling the practitioner to make himself well acquainted with all the phenomena of disease, and thus to diagnosticate correctly, and to meet the varied indications by the administration of some herbal remedy, which would induce the crisis requisite to the removal of disease and restoration to sound or vigorous health.
About three hundred years before the Christian era, the Ptolemies founded a medical school in Alexandria, Egypt. The most famou of the professors were ERASISTRATUS and HEROPHILUS, who dissected the bodies of criminals obtained from government. They opposed bleeding and violent remedies, trusting more to nature than to art. Herophilus paid particular attention to the action of the, heart, and was the first to give anything like an accurate description of the various kinds of pulse, though Praxagoras of Cos, the last of the Asclepiadae, had before observed the relation which exists between the pulse and the general condition of the system. From that time to the present the pulse has been, as it were, the guide for determining the character, extent, and probable cause of the disease afflicting the patient and the description of treatment required to produce a change for the better. I, however, derive great assistance from the temperament, age, sex, etc.
We pass over the days of the Dogmatics and Empirics, the Pneumatics, and other sects of medical practitioners (who, though they employed herbal remedies as a general rule, were strangely given to the promulgations of theories and doctrines utterly at variance with the most ordinary ratiocinations of Philosophy and Reason, until we come to the period when GALEN first made his appearance, at the request of the Emperor AURELIUS. Galen was a native of Pergamos, born A.D. 130, having traveled much, and written largely, on subjects directly or indirectly connected with medicine before settling himself at Rome. He was entirely independent in his opinions, paid very little respect to authority, and so great was his learning and wisdom, and rare skill in medicine, that he came to be regarded by many as an "Oracle." Thoroughly educated in all the schools of philosophy, he selected from them all except the Epicurean, which he totally rejected. His treatment of disease was principally by Herbal remedies. From Galen have sprung the sect that is now generally known as eclectics, who do not confine remedies exclusively to the herbal practice, but employ many of the mineral substances upon which the Allopathic and Homeopathic systems of medicine of the present day are based.
About the middle of the seventeenth century, on the death of PAULLUS, the Greek school of medicine terminated, the Arabians having conquered a large portion of the semi-civilized world, and destroyed an immense Alexandrian library. The Arabian physicians soon adopted the opinions of Galen, but, owing to the invention of chemistry, it was speedily made subservient to medicine. They produced medical works, some of which have enjoyed great celebrity, without having really added anything substantial to medical science as previously understood. With AVERROES terminated the Arabic or Sarcacenic School of medicine, the great reputation of which is mainly owing to the circumstance, that from the eighth to the twelfth centuries, when all Europe was sunk in deep barbarism, the principal remains of a taste for literature and science existed among the Moors and Arabs. Their physicians added many vegetable products and a few metallic oxides in the catalogue of remedies. From the employment of chemical and mineral remedies by the Arabian physicians may be dated the disastrous consequences of medical science that were subsequently inaugurated by that Prince of Quacks -- PARACELSUS.