During the more than one hundred and fourteen years that have slipped into the past since the foregoing quotation was published, chemistry and physics have undergone radical revolutions. Two whole new branches of chemistry--physical chemistry and biochemistry--have come into existence. The revolution in physics has given us nuclear physics and her sister, high energy physics. Physiology and biology have grown to maturity; pathology has come of age. Physicians, biologists, chemists, pathologists, pharmacologists, clinicians and therapeutists have performed millions of experiments trying to determine how drugs act or operate. But with all the changes that have taken place, with all the advancement that has been made, with all the study and investigation that have been done, drugs remain as actionless today as they were in the middle of the last century. How they act, if they act, is still a deep, dark secret.

For a slightly longer time, the Hygienic explanation of the modus operandi of drugs has been before the world; but the men of science have been content to ignore it. It seems to the present writer that the time is ripe for the whole subject to be made public and subjected to the judgment of an enlightened community. But, it may be asked, are the modes of action of drugs not known? Has science not discovered the answer?

In the meantime, the Hygienic position and explanation have been before the world for more than a hundred years. Trall gave, in the first edition (1851) of the Hydropathic Encyclopedia, what Hygienists, from that day to this, have contended is a true explanation of the modus operandi of drugs; but the profession, recognizing in this explanation, the complete destruction of the drugging practice, has persistently and consistently rejected it.

No pen can exaggerate the importance of ascertaining the truth about this subject. For, if our position is correct, it logically follows that all drugs are absolutely poisonous and not to be introduced into nor applied upon the body. The inference from this very plainly is thakt the true mode of caring for the sick must be predicated on the employment, entirely, of some other materials.

Our position is simply this: the symptoms or phenomena which result when a drug is taken into the body are activities of the living structures in resisting and expelling the drug, and not the actions of the drug. Hygienists teach that, instead of drugs acting on the living structures, medicinally, the body acts to resist and expel the drug; hence, they are injurious nuisances and not remedies. Admit the truth of this principle, and medicine is a dead system.

Whether lifeless matter acts on living structure or living structure acts on lifeless matter is a problem in natural science. It is not a medical question. It may be considered by the biologist, the physiologist, the physicist, the chemist, even by the mathematician and the mechanic, as much as by the physician.

The digestive system acts on the food substances supplied it and, in its cooperative capacities, prepares the food proper for absorption, rejecting the residium as a foreign mass incapable of subserving organic purposes. Foods do not "act as aliments of the organism." A wholesome meal would be just as active in the stomach, the function of which is impaired, as it would be in a healthy stomach; but it would not digest. A meal is digested in proportion to the functioning power of the stomach and not in proportion to the activity of the meal. It is easy to perceive that the parts of the living organism--hands, teeth, tongue, jaws, glands of the mouth, stomach, intestines, liver, pancreas, veins, lacteals, heart, arteries, etc., always act on the food to convey it to the mouth, chew it, swallow it, digest it, absorb and circulate it and make it available for the cells to assimilate it.

If we introduce into the healthy digestive tract a ripe, mellow apple, a whole series of actions follow, by which the apple is digested and assimilated. In the mouth, the apple is chewed and mixed with saliva. It is swallowed and reaches the stomach, where its digestion proper begins. Digestion, secretion, propulsion, absorption, circulation and assimilation (processes by which the apple is made into tissue) are all work of the living system, not of the apple. Introduce into another healthy digestive tract a dose of milk of magnesia and a whole series of actions follow, by which the drug is cast out of the system. Secretion, propulsion, diarrhea (processes by which the drug is expelled), are actions of the living system, not of the drug.

Neither the apple nor the drug do anything in the digestive tract; but the organs of this tract, perceiving the relations of these two substances to the vital structures, the vital instincts recognizing in the one a food, in the other a poison, institute the appropriate actions in each instance. The one, a food, is digested and absorbed, circulated and assimilated; the other, a poison, is recognized as a foreign, unusable and injurious substance, and the whole organic community cooperates in expelling it. The living system carries it out of the body and ejects it by the bowels. This expulsion is called the cathartic action of the drug; whereas, the action is entirely that of the living organism. As well speak of the digestive action of the apple as of the cathartic action of the drug. Catharsis, like digestion, is vital action. The drug is as passive in the digestive tract as is the apple.

The vital "living" organism recognizes the presence of non-usable substances and institutes measures to expel them. The action that results is not that of the drug on the system, but of the system on the drug. This principle may explain the phenomena attendant upon the administration of all drugs which are supposed to possess remedial properties. These actions involve, not merely the use, but the expenditure of the energies of the organism, thus leaving the body exhausted of functioning power. The dynamic capacities of the human system, as these vary with the conditions and circumstances of life, are reduced by every dose of drug that is administered.

We may correctly say that whatever is taken into the domain of life that is incapable of supplying nutriment for the living tissues, is speedily ejected, without compromise or reserve, through the most convenient channel. Thus it is that, when deleterious (unusable) substances are taken into the body, either as food or drink, it becomes necessary that conservative action should interpose resistance and expel the injurious material. So long as life lasts, this is to say, so long as the power of resistance remains, active resistance to incompatible substances will be manifest when they are taken into the body. The powers of life manifest a deep interest in removing toxic substances from the body.