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.
The great difficulty of treating disease, by those who are not physicians, is the liability to mistake the character of the affection, being unable through obscurity of the symptoms to ascertain the organ or tissue affected. Without entering minutely into diagnosis, the author will endeavor to simplify the study of morbid conditions of the human body, so that the unscientific may more readily ascertain the disease and apply the appropriate remedy or treatment.
1. General condition pertaining to:
a. Temperature and dryness of skin.
b. Condition of pulse -- full and quick, or slow and weak.
c. Appearance of tongue.
d. State of bowels and kidneys.
e. Desire for food and drink.
2. The general appearance of the patient.
a. Size -- emaciation or increase, general or local.
b. Aspect of face or expression.
c. Changes of color of skin.
3. The position or posture.
a. In bed -- the manner of lying, on the back or either side, quiet, restless, etc.
b. Out of bed -- posture, gait, stiffness, loss of power of limbs, etc.
4. The sensations of the patient.
Whenever any of these conditions are at variance with the normal state, the presumption, or rather certainty, is that some organ or tissue is assailed by disease. Some of the general indications of the patient in many cases often make known the character of the affection, when not suggested by other symptoms. For instance, the skin is remarkably moist and soft in delirium tremens; the perspiration profuse and sour in acute rheumatism; exhausting sweats in the latter stages of consumption or profuse suppuration; the crackling feeling of emphysema, and the pitting under pressure in dropsy.
The pulse is hard and wiry in abdominal inflammations; in acute hydrocephalus its frequency is very great, slow and labored in brain diseases, irregular in disease of the heart, almost imperceptible in cholera or in the latter stages of the low fevers.
The tongue covered with a thin white layer is indicative of disorder of the stomach; when patchy, the stomach is considerably irritated; when yellow, the patient is bilious; when shining, glazed, and chapped, it indicates long-continued inflammation or ulceration of the bowels; aphthous patches indicate imperfect nutrition, etc.
In cholera the stools resemble rice-water; when clay-colored, it denotes a deficiency of bile; when yeast-like, fermentation takes place instead of digestion.
The urine is dark-colored in fevers, very limpid and abundant in hysteria, scanty in dropsies, acid in rheumatism.
The aspect is often very significant. In scrofula the corners of the nose and lips are swollen, in chlorosis a waxy pallor is observed, in malignant diseases a sallow hue, in heart-diseases a blue color of the lips, in pneumonia a dusky flush, in phthisis a hectic flush. When the expression is anxious, it indicates disease of the heart and dyspnoea; when pinched and contracted, there is much suffering, as in the low forms of fever; the skin is white in anaemia, yellow in jaundice and malignant cases; it has a muddy hue in splenic diseases, blue in cholera, and livid in commencing mortification.
If the patient's head is elevated by choice in bed, it denotes heart-disease; when he is very feeble he lies on his back; in peritonitis the knees are drawn up; in cramps or pain of the abdomen, he lies on his side.
In order that the reader may not have a confused idea of what is meant by inflammation, I will describe it insomuch as to give its phenomena. These are redness, heat, swelling, and pain. When all these are present it constitutes inflammation. When a fever or disease partakes of this character, it is inflammatory. Chronic inflammation is characterized by all the essential conditions of the acute form, differing, however, in this, by being preceded through all its changes with symptoms so mild that it is only after a certain time that the patient is much inconvenienced constitutionally. Inflammation always denotes increase of activity of the vascular system. When of a localized character, the increase is noticed in the capillary circulation; when general, as in fevers, or of some important organ, the whole circulatory apparatus is abnormally active.