This section is from the book "Botanic Drugs Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics", by Thomas S. Blair. Also available from Amazon: Botanic Drugs, Their Materia Medica, Pharmacology and Therapeutics.
The introduction of specific serums and vaccines; the wonderful advances in chemical therapeutics; the various forms of exact technic in treatment -these, with surgery, hygiene and sanitation, mechano therapy, and dietetics - are solving the treatment of the more serious and definitely specific forms of disease.
But the functional diseases, the degenerative diseases, many gastro-intestinal, respiratory, cardiac, and renal diseases, as well as a host of chronic involvements, are as much of a problem as ever and keep an army of general practitioners on the go despite the hospitals, the surgeons, and the specialists.
Medical progress has not impressed itself very definitely on plain, every-day morbidity. Indeed, it must be confessed that our serums, our vaccines, our synthetics, our endocrine organ remedies, and our potent newer remedies in general, do not reduce the mortality from this class of diseases. In the pressure of modern life we, as a people, suffer more than formerly from pneumonia, arteriosclerosis, neuroses, hepatic and renal affections, and the large class of diseases incident to the "strenuous life" and what is misnamed "efficiency" and "system."
Centuries of experience have taught the world that these ordinary affections are best combated with simple and kindly-acting botanic remedies. At present we have so many new tools to try that these botanic remedies are neglected. I believe this to be a wrong policy.
Right here it is but proper to give credit to the Eclectic School, its practitioners, journalism, and pharmaceutical manufacturers, for keeping this class of remedies alive. Nevertheless, they, as a school, are fast losing out in this admirable ambition, and for these reasons: They have made little advance in pathology and diagnosis; they have tied too closely to the at-one-time modern views of Scudder and King, and they have failed to advance in this day as these leaders advanced in their day; they have practically ignored the teachings of pharmacology; they lay too little stress on assay methods and physiological standardization; they have not sufficiently eliminated inert medicaments from their literature; they adhere to symptomatic and unscientific determination of dosage, which is usually inadequate; they have laid too little emphasis upon drugs of inorganic origin, such as mercury, iodine, etc., and they have allowed the dominant school to do most of the advanced work with the more prominent and potent botanic remedies instead of doing it themselves. To sum it up: They stand, as a school, practically where they did forty years ago. I reach these conclusions regretfully from an extensive reading of their literature and a large clinical experience with their remedies. But many of their original contentions are correct, else they had died out years ago; and their pharmaceutical manufacturers have consistently maintained high standards. It is time - and it is necessary - to modernize botanic materia medica and therapeutics; to eliminate the obsolete therefrom; to push ahead even as other branches of materia medica have advanced; to drop old doctrines and theories and fit in botanic medication with modern pathology, diagnosis, and therapeutic technic; to give painstaking pharmacologic laboratory study to this class of remedies; to base the use of these drugs upon exact laboratory and clinical observation instead of upon obsession born of one-sided enthusiasm; and to do all of these things in a modern, scientific spirit absolutely freed from sectarian bias.
Some one is going to do these things; and we can all rejoice when it is well done.
I truly believe that the botanic materia medica will then come into its own; that a large class of modern and scientific practitioners will use these drugs vastly more effectively than they were ever used before; and that in so doing the incidence of ordinary morbidity will be much reduced in potency to maintain our present high mortality, and medicine be enriched by a modern gift from the ancients of our craft.