This question would have more logic to it if it were asked concerning the drug rather than the body. If drugs exert their alleged remedial influences according to the known laws of chemistry, why do we not see the uniformity of action for which these laws provide? Why do substances of the same or like chemical nature produce different results? Why should they not all act alike? Morphine and quinine have analogous chemical properties, but they do not "act" alike, as remedies. On the other hand, substances that are very unlike, such as castor oil and sulphur, have analogous actions when taken internally. The varieties of actions of which the body is capable are easily accounted for. But the marked variations in alleged drug actions are not explainable by the known laws of chemistry.

The answer to this question would seem to lie in the inability of the body to deal with different substances in an identical manner. It finds it necessary to expel some substances through one channel and some through another, just as it expels its own waste through different channels-carbon dioxide through the lungs, urates through the kidneys, etc. Different modes of action are required to resist and expel substances of different character.

The important fact is not so much the variety of means the body employs in getting drugs out of its fluids and tissues, but the fact that it invariably makes the effort to do so. We can easily describe the action of the body in expelling a drug from the stomach by the act of vomiting; we find it most difficult to describe or even to imagine the action of the drug on the stomach.

But there must be a reason why certain drugs affect certain organs more than others. This is a fact that cannot be disputed. The effects that flow from taking opium differ quite largely from those that flow from taking strychnine, and those of alcohol from digitalis. Taking belladonna results in behavior that differs greatly from that that follows taking castor oil. The close observer will not miss the display of a degree of intelligence--the intelligence of instinct--in the disposal of these different drugs. From whence comes this intelligence? Certainly, it is not of the drugs. Not from the lifeless drug, but from the instincts of the living organs comes these displays of purposive activities. The actions of the body in relation to these drugs implies recognition of their presence and their relationships to the living structure-instinct, if not reason, is involved. Drugs are not supplied with either instinct or intelligence, nor with will to act.

The living organism is abundantly supplied with instruments of action and these are powered and energized for action. The drug, on the other hand, is a homogeneous substance, lacking in all the structures that serve as instruments of action, and is not energized for action. That it is the living body and not the drug that acts may be easily shown when the drug is given or administered to a dead body. Drugs of all kinds lose the properties they are supposed to exercise when administered to an organism, the tissues of which are no longer alive. If the tissues have lost their power to act, the drug fails to act; whereas, if the power of action is resident in the drug, it should possess more potency under all such circumstances.

If the drugs do not act, why does a piece of chalk and arsenic produce such different results? This question, like all others of similar import, confounds effect with action, results with the causes which produced them. Because chalk and arsenic are different, they are resisted and expelled differently. Different substances have different chemical affinities with the elements of the living structures. Were it not for the resistance of the living structures, these substances would enter into chemical combination with the structural elements and the structure would be destroyed. It is precisely to prevent chemical combinations of this kind that resistive and expulsive actions are instituted and, according to the degree of these chemical affinities, are the poisonous characters of these substances and, hence, the intensity of the vital actions will naturally, necessarily, properly and remedially be proportioned to the chemical incompatibilities.

The body does not act in the same way in relation to all kinds of food. Instead, perceiving the physiological relation of all foodstuffs to the organic community, it acts on them in a manner best designed to make good use of them. And so, too, do the organic instincts perceive the pathological relations of all kinds of incompatibles or poisons and act upon them in the manner best calculated to get rid of them.

The digestive organs in their collective capacities act on the substances supplied as food, appropriating the food proper and preparing it for absorption, rejecting the residium as a foreign and useless mass, incapable of subserving organic purposes. It may properly be said to be a law that whatever enters the precincts of life which is incapable of supplying nutriment to the organism is speedily rejected and ejected without compromise or reserve, through the most convenient channel.

It is clear enough that the living system, by means of its acting instrumentalities--hands, teeth, tongue, salivary glands, stomach, peptic glands, intestinal and pancreatic glands, liver, muscles, absorbents, blood vessels, etc.--acts on the food to digest, absorb, circulate and, finally, to assimilate the food. After the food is used and has become waste, the same living system collects, circulates, excretes and voids the waste. All the action seen is vital action.

It has been asked, why should the stomach resist anything that is perfectly inert and, therefore, harmless. The assumption that because it is inert, it is "therefore harmless," is the thing that we deny. If the stomach were inert and not living, it would not resist. Life implies growth, development and self-preservation. Let us suppose that the stomach should not resist inert substances, or should not act upon them until first acted upon by them. What then? The stomach might become filled with the accumulation of such substances, with the resulting destruction of its function by mechanical obstruction. It is to prevent just such catastrophes that all living tissues and organs are endowed with capacities to perceive the relation of the organism to everything brought into contact with it, that it may appropriate to structure that which is usable and reject and expel that which is non-usable. Non-usable matter is no less a poison because it is inert.

Although the action of the body is basically the same in relation to all drugs, its actions are different in relation to different drugs--some are expelled by vomiting, others by diarrhea, some by diuresis, etc.

The error of medical men has always been that of attributing to their medicines the actions, both physiological and pathological, of the organism. We deny that so-called medicines have any actions, "specific" or otherwise. We maintain that drugs are entirely passive in their relation to the living organism. In a remedial sense, drugs do not act at all; they may possess chemical affinities for some of the constituent elements of the tissues, and could undoubtedly combine with these elements except for the active resistance of the vital tissues. Medical men mistake the actions of resistance and expulsion for the actions of their drugs.

How much longer is it going to take men of science to learn that those vital activities that result, when poisons are taken into the living organism, are but the efforts of the living structure (efforts of the vis medicatrix naturae, if this pleases you better) to expel from the channels of life uncongenial, foreign, unassimilable and, consequently, injurious substances? If they could but grasp this important fact, they would have learned a more valuable lesson than anything taught in medicine and pharmacology, a lesson that will guide them in life, not only in their conduct in disease, but in health as well.

Misunderstanding the various actions of the body in relation to different drugs, as actions of the drugs, has led to great errors. The actions that follow administration of a drug follow because the drug is a poison and poisonous in doses of any size.