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 the foregoing pages we have seen that from the earliest period in the history of the human race to the present time, the administration of the juices and essences of Herbs and Plants, in all forms of disease, has ever been considered by judicious and philosophical minds as the most rational and natural means of relieving the economy of all abnormal obstructions and derangements, and restoring all the functions to their original or primitive vigor and healthful working. Notwithstanding the innovations of the mineral practice, I have ever held most rigidly to the Herbal System of medication; but having failed to meet with the success reasonably anticipated by pursuing the ordinary routine of Therapeutics, I was finally led to reject the many changes in medical doctrines and practice and start forth on a path of investigation of my own into the mysteries of the mineral and vegetable Kingdoms, especially as they might bear upon the health and happiness of the human being; accordingly, early in my professional career I attempted, by proper chemical analyses and practical experiment, to determine the best specific means for the healing of the maladies of mankind. The results of these researches, since confirmed by many years' successful medical experience based upon them, have but the more strongly strengthened my opposition to the use of all the mineral preparations of the modern schools of medicine, and to establish my faith all the more firmly in the employment of HERBAL elements exclusively -- whether in the materia of roots, barks, seeds, or flowers -- as the surest and safest means for the thorough eradication of every form of disease.
In saying all this, however, I do not deny the fact that many mineral substances enter into the composition of the human being, and are necessary for his full health and perfection--as chalk or lime is requisite to form bone, iron to enrich or strengthen the blood, and other mineral substances for the formation of the tissues, as phosphorus for the tissues of the brain and nerves, etc. -- but I stoutly contend that all such inorganic substances are taken up by plants and distributed to the various tissues and elements of the human being, either in the way of food or medicine, in exactly the precise quantity requisite for man's perfect health, if rightly used, neither in excess or diminution, agreeable to the laws of Nature; and their virtues are thus prepared and eliminated in a way far superior to any chemical manipulation ever conceived or known to man, with all the elements of chemical science at his command. That this is the case is demonstrated by chemical analyses of plants. Coca contains phosphorus; twinleaf, the salts of potassa, lime, iron, magnesia, silica, etc.; the houseleek, super-malate of lime; Matico, the salts of lime, iron, sulphur, etc. Spongia, usta, carbon, silica, sodium, lime, magnesium, iron, and phosphorus, either in combination or free; coffee, chlorogenate of potassa; in fact, all the chemical elements composing the organism of man are also found in plants. The reader will find these chemical elements given in the history of plants. I also refer him to page 385, where, in the article "Treatment of Chronic Diseases," will be found a full explanation of the author's specialty in curing chronic disorders by chemically prepared herbal remedies.
The herbal physician has, moreover, decided advantages over the mineral physician, with reference to the administration of mineral substances. He gives them in natural combinations--in such chemical association which, for exactness and propriety, can only occur in the great laboratory of Nature; while the dispenser of mineral drugs gives them wholly as isolated elementary principles, as furnished by the inorganic chemist, who, like all humans, is liable to err. Let us illustrate this advantage by iodine. The algae, such as the fuci and laminariae (deep-sea-water plants, growing at the depth of three hundred fathoms), furnish this principle in abundance. The mineral physician, not content to administer the alterative in the best possible combination, as it exists in the sea-weed, subjects the plants to chemical operations, releases the iodine, and then either exhibits it by itself or in association with sodium, potassium, mercury, etc. The true herbal physician acts more wisely in this respect: he administers the plant in substance, tincture, extract, etc., and has the consciousness that the iodine which Nature furnishes him is pure, and not the inferior adulterated article of commerce. In plants where its chemical nature may be concentrated into one compound principle, and the residue but inert matter, it is judicious to separate it from the plant, but radically wrong to release but one simple elementary mineral quality of the plant.
The advocate of mineral medication may retort by asking the use of administering the whole plant, when the iodine alone constitutes its therapeutical value. Why give the refuse matter with the iodine? To this sophistical argument and foolish inquiry I will reply, Why eat the whole peach, when its flavor only makes it pleaseant as an edible? Why not release the flavor and fatten on that delectable principle?
The best aragument, however, in favor of herbal medication, and one which establishes it as the correct philosophy, is the comparison of results from both systems; and with these the author became fully acquainted by practical experiment, and which led him, and not prejudice, to adopt exclusively the herbal system of medication. I may justly claim this system of practice in its most important relations as solely my own, and for which I have been the recipient of all encouragement of scientific men and societies; but the homage that I value most, and which afforded the motive and stimulated my ambition, is the gratitude of almost numberless invalids whom I have thus been enabled to cure of diseases which were pronounced, and in fact are, incurable by physicians who rely upon minerals for their agents of cure.
The true theory of disease and its cure is embodied in two chemical forces, which, like the currents of electricity, are positive and negative. Thus, if the positive force of disease is manifested upon any organ, it disturbs the harmony and functional action of that organ, and the disorganization will continue as long as the negative force of cure is not placed in antagonism with it, to neutralize the activity of the positive force. When this is done the autonomyof the organ is re-established, and its function becomes again natural and healthful.
Again, if upon discovery any organ or tissue becomes deficient in its chemical elements, it must be supplied by such plants as contain them; or if any organ or tissue becomes surcharged with its chemical constituents, negative chemical elements must be exhibited to reduce them to their normal quantities. See article on "Treating Diseases Chemically," page 385.
These forces in various ways control the whole organic world. Increase the centrifugal force, and the earth flies into space; remove the centripetal, and it rushes headlong to the sun. If they are as they exist, coequal, the earth rolls on in its orbit in grand precision and admirable harmony.
Having thus philosophized, and finally realized that the entire universe was composed of contrary elements -- of negative and positive principles -- yet that the whole worked, or acted, in the most perfect harmony, agreeably to the wisdom of a Great First Cause, when such elements were not disarranged or disturbed by any violation of the laws of pristine Nature, I was soon led to a logical deduction of the general laws which govern the virtues or medicinal properties of all the varieties of plants, with a view to employ them as remedial agents in the cure of disease. In a word, I found in the being, MAN, an epitome of all creation -- found in his organism all the elements of univeral nature--and necessarily discerned that, as there are summer and winter, night and day, in regular and systematic succession, such alternations of nature could not but have the most important influences in respect to the health and diseases of the human being -- Heaven's last, most perfect work. I realized that, in accordance with the various operations of nature, man remained in health, or became afflicted with disease. Hence it became necessary for me to fully undersand or comprehend the cause of any departure from the normal or natural condition of man, and to provide the cure, or the remedy best adapted for the restoration of the equilibrium of the functions of his entire oganism.