The means of Hygiene are common in their nature and prevalence and are as generally adapted to the uses of life under all conditions and circumstances, as the air we breathe. They are adapted both to the man of robust health and to the invalid; they are just as appropriate for the week-old child as for the adult. They are not remedies; they are not medicines; they are not specifics; they are not cures; they are not miracle workers. It would be a violent misuse of language to speak of the elements of Hygiene as Hygienic medicines. From the origin of the Hygienic System it has been understood by Hygienists that there are no Hygienic medicines. But there are things that are overflowing with good for the healthy and are "mighty to save" the sick. We term them Hygienic materials and influences. When grouped, classified and systematized, they constitute our Materia Hygienica. It is only within their range that we draw for use in our care of the sick, as it is only within their range that we draw for use in caring for the healthy.
Instead of resorting to drugs to "drive out the disease," the Hygienist seeks to adapt the supply of what are known and universally admitted to be essentials of life to the altered requirements and capacities of the sick organism. Not only are the Hygienic materials and influences sufficient to the restoration of health; but they are the only materials and influences that the body can make use of in disease, as they alone can be used in health.
Such are the intrinsic natures of Hygienic materials that their appropriation by the body affords an actual remuneration in exchange for the expenditure their use entails. On the other hand, the intensity of the action required to expel drugs may result in death from exhaustion. Hygienic materials and conditions compensate the body for the expenditures they occasion; non-Hygienic materials and conditions merely prick, goad and irritate and compensate in no way for the excited action they occasion.
If our theory is true, that disease is vital action abnormally expressed, then to our minds it follows, irresistibly, that such means as the organism needs and must have to keep itself in health are the means, and the only means, which it needs and must have to restore lost ground. What are these means? To settle this question, we have merely to provide a satisfactory answer to the question: what are Hygienic materials? By Hygienic agents, said Trall, the Hygienist means "things normal." Briefly, they are food, water, air, light, heat, activity, rest and sleep, cleanliness and wholesome emotional influences. Our knowledge of food, water, air, sunshine, warmth, activity, rest and sleep etc., has greatly increased since the days of the early Hygienists; but we have found no way in which one of these can be made to substitute for another in the work of keeping the body well or in restoring it to health.
After reflecting upon the truths that have been presented in the foregoing paragraphs, what can we think of the elements of nature's Hygiene? Is there a drug in the whole materia medica that can compare with a single one of these basic elements of Hygiene? Is there a possible combination of drugs that can compare with even one of these elemental needs of life, much less to compare with the proper combination of these elemental constituents of the Hygienic System? Will any one dare to place beside this grand combination of life-sustaining elements all the poisonous, nauseous prescriptions of the pharmacopeias of the world? To all organic nature, these few simple elements of Hygiene constitute the fountain of life. They are the sources of an abounding health-adequate, not alone to its maintenance, but also to its restoration. We can only wish for a more familiar intimacy with nature and her sources of an abounding energy.
It may be assumed as, indeed, some have assumed, that the use of these materials and influences for Hygienic purposes implies that the subject is already in the enjoyment of good health and requires nothing more than the conditions which are essential to its preservation. It is assumed that, either disease is an entity having a life of its own and properties peculiar to itself that requires to be resisted or driven out and that, unaided by non-Hygienic materials, the body is incapable of meeting the emergency, else disease is regarded as a wild and disorderly behavior of the body that calls for drastic measures to whip it back into line.
A physician said: "Desperate diseases require desperate remedies, you know." "Yes," replied the other, "but only where there is vigor to bear them." Vigor to bear a remedy! That is good. At first thought one would suppose that a remedy was such simply because it possesses qualities that enable it to impart vigor--not to use up the powers of life. If, then, the sick would get well, they should use such means as were they well, would insure that they remain in health. For, no substance of any kind, whether fluid or solid or gaseous, whether material or spiritual, ever did a sick man good or assisted him back to health or beneficially affected him, which is of such quality as to do injury to the well. What will destroy health will not restore it; what will prostrate the strong will not strengthen the weak; what will produce disease in the well man, will not, cannot and never did cure a sick man. And what will aid in restoring a sick man to health will not and never did make a well man sick, nor tend to make him sick.
Hygienic materials have nothing in common, in the body, with the "remedies" of the physician. Throughout the whole realm of nature we find nothing provided for the repair of injury, except that which is consistent with the health of the body when uninjured. We know that physicians employ such inconsistent means, but nature does not. Their means interfere with the processes of healing, retarding, when they do not wholly suspend the healing process. It is clear that they are wrong.
Look with us at the relations of life to which the sick are subjected. One may be constitutionally feeble and it may be that he has been sick all his life. Yet physicians do to him, steadily and persistently, what no argument could induce them to do for the plants in their garden. Instead of caring for the sick as they would a valuable rose bush, nursing him or her, watching over the patient, waiting upon him and giving the forces of life a chance; instead of keeping things away that exhaust and providing things that nourish, all the "dregs and scum of earth and sea" are employed in a vain effort to restore health without any consideration being given to the causes of the disease.
As the living organism, well or sick, is the same organism and as there is no radical change in its structures or its functions and no radical change in its elemental needs in the two states of existence, we need a system of care that is equally applicable to both the well and the sick. The laws of being are the same in the most vigorous state of health and in the lowest depth of disease; the constitution of being does not change with the varying states of being. Hence, we need a system of care that does not do violence to this constitution merely because the organism is sick. None of these essential requirements are met by any of the systems of so-called healing, whether it existed in the past or is contemporaneous.