The practice of treating a disease according to its name, without minutely examining into each particular case, and adapting the appropriate remedies to the several indications which present themselves, cannot be too strongly reprobated. One instance may be quoted, by way of example; namely, Electricity in Paralysis. As a general rule, we may say that Electricity is a remedy for Paralysis; but is it consequently applicable to every form and variety of that disease? Far from it. Its use is limited to those cases in which a muscle, or a set of muscles, is affected, or in which there exists a torpid or benumbed condition of the nerves themselves; and it is further limited to these states, when they are of a purely chronic character. If it be applied under other circumstances, when organic changes have taken place in the nervous centres, or whilst inflammation exists, or when sanguineous effusion within the cerebral or spinal meninges is present, we may do actual and permanent mischief. I am more particular in insisting on the necessity and importance of this subject, as, in the body of this work, it will be seen that many remedies are recommended, on the authority of practitioners of high standing, which, if applied indiscriminately, without considering their applicability to the particular case under treatment, may prove, if not perfectly inert, perhaps injurious.

In prescribing medicines for the removal of disease, it should ever be borne in mind, that nature tends, in the majority of cases, to repair injuries inflicted upon the body, and to remove morbid or deranged conditions of the system. This instinctive healing power - the Vis Medicatrix NaturAe - is undoubtedly capable, when aided by a judicious system of hygiene, of effecting the cure of disease, particularly when it is of a mild character, without the assistance of any medicine whatever. When, consequently, a disease presents itself for treatment, in which hygienic means alone offer a fair prospect of success, they should always be employed in preference to medicines, it being the duty of the physician to restore health by the most simple means in his power.

The credit which is really due to this natural healing tendency is too often ascribed to some drug which the patient may happen to be taking at the period of improvement or recovery; and thus many medicinal substances become endowed with reputed powers, which they really do not possess. It does not necessarily follow, because a patient recovers under a certain remedy, that recovery is due to that agent. In illustration of the fallacy of any such deductions, I may mention a case which occurred in my own practice. Having seen it mentioned in a medical periodical, that Dr. Tyler Smith had succeeded in treating a case of Amen-orrha by the external application of the leaves of the Ricinus communis, I resolved to give the treatment a trial on the first opportunity. Shortly afterwards, a woman applied at the hospital, stating that, for a period of five months, she had been suffering in consequence of a suppression of the catamenia. Thinking this a fair case for a trial of the remedy, I directed my assistant to see that the measures, as advised by Dr. Tyler Smith, were properly carried out, and desired the woman to attend at the hospital on the following morning. She came, according to my instructions, and with a smiling face informed me, that on the preceding evening the discharge had returned, and that she felt much better. I was on the point of making a note in my case-book of the successful termination of the case, and of the moans employed, when my assistant informed me that the woman had quitted the hospital immediately after my departure on the preceding morning, and that, as she had not returned, the remedy had never been employed. Now, observe, had the leaves been applied, and the menstrual discharge appeared a few hours afterwards, which in this case it had done spontaneously, what would have been more natural than to have ascribed the benefit to the remedy employed? whilst, in fact, it was entirely due to the unassisted powers of nature. It is necessary that a medicine should uniformly, in a large number of cases, produce a certain amount of benefit, before we are warranted in attributing to it the power of curing or alleviating a disease; or, in other words, in endowing it with the character of a valuable remedy.

In connection with this subject, it may prove neither useless nor uninstructive to the younger of my readers, to offer a few remarks on the use and abuse of new medicines. Whenever a hitherto unknown remedy is brought prominently forward, the periodicals of the day overflow with accounts of the wonderful cures performed by its means. It would almost seem that the Grand Panacea of the old philosophers had at last been discovered; and if we are to believe it to be endowed with all the wonderful and varied powers which its advocates ascribe to it, we might, with one swoop, consign all the old articles of the Materia Medica to the sea of oblivion. Novelty is always pleasing, even in medicine; and the nervous and hysterical woman, who reads or is told of the wonders effected by some newly-discovered medicine, is seized with a desire to test its virtues. Her faith is increased by the report of the unexampled cures of cases similar to her own; and the medical man himself, not uninfluenced by the pleasure of novelty, without intentionally desiring to deceive, holds out a hope to the patient that a remedy has at last been discovered, which promises to be more successful than any which had previously been administered. Thus given by a sanguine medical man to a confiding patient, particularly when the latter is labouring under a nervous or hysterical affection (a class of maladies much more common than is usually imagined), it is not very surprising if improvement take place; and the supposed cure is, in its turn, added to swell the list of wonderful successes; not that the remedy, perhaps, is devoid of medicinal power in certain cases; indeed, it may be a very useful medicine, but its capability of curing all diseases, many of them essentially differing in character, should be received, to say the least of it, with extreme caution. The most striking illustration in modern medicine is, perhaps, Creasote. Soon after its discovery by Reichenbach, in 1830, it received extensive notice in England and on the Continent; it was reported to cure almost everything; and there were published accounts of above sixty diseases, in which it was stated to have acted almost as a specific! Amongst these, were Cancer, Phthisis, and Epilepsy. From this, it is not to be understood that I am opposed to the introduction of new remedies; on the contrary, I believe that he who discovers any new means, medicinal or otherwise, for the alleviation or cure of disease, and states the same to his fellow-labourers in the field of medicine, in an open, fair, and honourable manner, deserves the best thanks of the profession and the public. I would also urgc that every medicine which holds out a fair promise, either from its chemical composition, or from its known physiological effects, or which emanates from a respectable source, should receive a fair trial; but it should not be received with credulous simplicity, be employed in diseases of extremely diversified character, nor be expected to act in turns as a tonic, depressant, stimulant, sedative, and diuretic. Yet such is the way in which a new medicine is too often received; and when it fails to fulfil all the extravagant hopes which have been entertained of it, without further ceremony it is thrown aside as a failure. In this manner, I am convinced, many really useful medicines have been discarded. Being satisfied that the medicine in question possesses real medicinal virtues, it should be employed cautiously, noting with care its physiological effects, and the amount of benefit derived from it in each case. When it has succeeded, in a large number of instances, in producing uniform benefit, it may be classed as an established remedy. Nothing is more fallacious than to call a medicine a remedy for a disease, on the strength of one or two occasional successful terminations, which have taken place under its use - terminations, perhaps, due solely to Vis Medicatrix Naturae.