Disease seems to have been man's natural inheritance, while curative methods and remedies are largely his adaptation and creation. From early biblical times the ills "that flesh is heir to" were recognized as a deadly menace to the human family, and whether the vain appeal was made, then or since, to either (for each in turn enjoyed a period of favor) fetichism, sorcery, religious incantations, faith, Christian science, astrology, magic-art, enchantment, witchcraft, spells, charms, hydropathy, venesection, or drugs, the same inherent hope and purpose ever has prevailed - to relieve and palliate physical suffering. Human thought, happily, is no longer so speculative and superstitious, consequently universal intelligence has allowed medical appliances and treatment to be shaped into a systematic and veritable science.

Materia Medica (L. medical material) is a treatise upon the materials, agents, or appliances used in medicine - including their name, source (origin), habitat, family (natural order - organic), physical characteristics, methods by which obtained, tests for purity and adulterations, constituents (composition), forms of administration (preparations), physiological action (properties), uses (therapeutics - therapy), normal and lethal doses, antagonists, incompatibilities, synergists (organic and inorganic), and other important features.

Pharmacology (Gr.

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a drug, medicine, +

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discourse) is a similar but more modern term, implying the sum of scientific knowledge of drugs, which is taken to include their art of preparation - pharmacy, and all that is known of their action - pharmacodynamics, at present usually being restricted to this latter meaning. The subject in its entirety is so broad and comprehensive as to justify subdivisions - some receiving distinctive names.

1. Pharmacy (Gr.

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the use of drugs): comprising the art of preparing drugs in suitable forms for dispensing, administering, or applying, and includes an acquaintance with much of materia medica, practical and theoretical chemistry, and many manipulations peculiar to itself.

2. Pharmacognosy (Gr.

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a drug, +

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knowledge): comprising the study of physical and chemical characters of drugs - the knowledge of selecting, recognizing, and identifying true and false specimens by such characteristics.

3. Pharmacodynamics (Gr.

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a drug, +

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power): comprising the knowledge of physiological action - power or strength of remedial agents on living organisms of man or lower animals during health.

4. Toxicology (Gr.

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poison, +

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discourse): comprising the effect, nature, and detection of drugs when given in poisonous doses - the treatment and antidotes for same.

5. Therapeutics (Gr.

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to cure): comprising the intelligent application or use of agents to cure disease - how they act on living organisms during sickness: (a) rational, when based upon known laws of the remedies and diseases, as gained through pathology, physiology, and pharmacodynamics, thereby giving the only scientific treatment; (b) empirical, when based solely upon clinical observation and experience - the employment of a remedy in any pronounced disease, from its valuable service in previous similar cases; (c) general, where other than drugs or medicines are used for curative purposes: 1. Hygienic agents - cleanliness, pure air, ventilation, proper food and clothing, rest, etc.; 2. Mechanical agents (semi-surgical) - bleeding, leeches, cups, scarifications, issues, setons, frictions, massage, osteopathy, aspiration, acupuncture, gastric lavage, stomach-pump, sprays, syringes, catheters, bed-pans, urinals, hot-water bags, trusses, pessaries, suspensories, bandages, rubber stockings, jackets, thermometers, etc.; 3. Physical agents - Heat: solar, artificial (dry or moist vapor), baths - tepid, 29-35° C. (85-95° F.), warm, 35-38° C. (95-100° F.), hot, 38-41° C. (100-106° F.), Turkish, 35-71° C. (95-160° F.), hip or sitz, hot wet-packy Cold: plunge or shower bath, 4-15° C. (40-60° F.), cold wet-pack, rubbing wet-pack, 4-21° C. (40-70° F.), sponging, ice-bag, compresses, douches; Light: although at times contraindi-cated, acts usually as a stimulant or tonic to the blood - correcting imperfect nutrition and imparting strength to organs; Darkness: on the other hand, acts as a sedative or tranquillizing agent; Air: pure, impure, compressed, hot, 93-149-204° C. (100-300-400° F.); Electricity: continuous (galvanic) and induced (faradic) currents, static (frictional) by electric bath, spark, Leyden-jar shock, brush.

Upon the general subject of materia medica, and each of these subdivisions, there are very many published works, but only pharmacy has what may be termed a standard code for reference.

The Pharmacopoeia, U. S. P. (Gr.

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a drug, +

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to make), is such a standard for us, and other countries each have, in a measure, their own. In this volume the most important and reliable drugs with their preparations are enumerated - the list being changed, more or less, in conformity with scientific progress, at each decennial edition.

The Dispensatories, several in number, are reference-works - in fact, materia medicas of the most liberal form, treating not only of the five departments as previously defined, but exhaustively of all other phases of the various sciences bearing upon each drug, official or non-official. Owing to their scope and reliability, they are regarded by the medical and pharmaceutic professions with scarcely less favor and authority than the Pharmacopoeia.