To reduce this assumed danger, they sought to regulate the vital struggle so that the circulation was kept nearly balanced. It was thought to be necessary to maintain the balance of circulation in order that the body "can perform its remedial work successfully." They sought to balance the circulation largely by means of hot and cold water applications and by passive movements or massage. The water cure was regarded as essentially valuable in febrile states; the movement cure was regarded as essentially a mode of care in chronic disease. In fevers they sought to "increase the action of the skin" by water applications, thinking that the eliminative work of the skin was most important. In point of fact, it was a process of suppression and was not remedial.
"The leading features in the management of such irregularities being those measures which are most naturally adapted to reduce the too great intensity of vital action, and at the same time preserve the capabilities of the vital powers . . ." well sums up the attitude of many Hygienists of the period. This principle actually led to the acceptance of the old medical notion of the value of "counter-irritation" and to practices based on it. It was admitted that by drawing the vital energies away from "the work of destruction" by means of "counter-irritation," the "cause of the disease has not been removed; but art has interposed her magic cunning and restrained the energetic powers of nature, causing her to work more consistent with the enduring capacity of material fibers."
Admitting the legitimacy of the principle and practice of counter-irritation, they, nevertheless, decried the medical use of counter-irritants, saying that the great fallacy of medical theory and practice "may be considered to consist in the abuse of the principle of counter-irritation. Their alternative effects are more to be deprecated than the disease itself. Their remedial agents are so positively anti-vital as to often produce an untimely and almost immediate dissolution! The patient is made to react until he is often 'so far and so fatally drained of his living principle, that there is no longer any rallying or reactive power remaining, and gives up the ghost in a few hours, to the treatment instead of the disease.' " Thus D. A. Gorton, M.D., in the Journal, April 1859, quotes Good's Study of Medicine.
Today it is quite obvious that had more attention been given to the orthopathic principle so fully developed by Jennings and also suggested in the writings of Graham and less attention to medical fallacies, Hygienists would not have fallen into the error of supposing that the danger in disease is in proportion to the intensity of the remedial action and they would not have thought it necessary to employ means to direct, control and regulate the remedial process. They would have recognized that the remedial process is regulated, directed and controlled by the laws of nature and these are more certain and accurate in their work than any man can be.
Treatments directed to the control and regulation of remedial processes are strongly in opposition to the regulations of physiology and can lay no just claim to scientific merit. This fact, together with the ill successes with which such treatment meets, should consign it to the general repository of things that are past.
In an article published in the Journal, August 1857, Dr. James C. Jackson said: "I have become so entirely convinced of the soundness of the philosophy of treating human diseases by water as a remedial agent, and of the splendid success that awaits the true water-cure physician, that I fear not in the least the most searching inquiry . . ." He referred to the "water-cure and its adjuncts," thus relegating all Hygienic means to the rank of mere adjuncts of hydropathy. Although calling their practices Hygienic, many Hygienists gave elaborate instructions for the use of the various forms of water applications and only a few general instructions about correcting the mode of living. Theoretically, but not practically, they had divorced themselves from the cure superstition.
It was stressed by Taylor and others that water applications were merely means of applying varying degrees of temperature to the body. They saw in the so-called water-cure a thermo-therapy. Writing in the Journal, December 1855, Taylor said: "By temperature applied from external sources we have a most potent means of modifying and controlling the physiology of the system." "Water applications," he added, "are common and convenient modes of adding heat to or taking it from the body."
In the beginning, this thermic meddling with the functions of life was thought to be of value in the care of the sick, but it finally came to be realized that it was a program of suppression and it was recognized by those Hygienists who continued to employ water "therapeutically" that its therapeutic use was distinct from its Hygienic use.
Temperature is certainly a normal excitant of organic functions, as is seen in everyday life; but it is certain that when the influences of temperature are out of all proportion to the capacities of the organism to constructively use them, the body does and must suffer. There will be both an irregularity and even an abatement of function. The unnatural supply or application of a normal agent will produce effects not very dissimilar from those of an unnatural agent or drug. A bread crumb in the bronchioles will occasion irritation, a flow of mucus, discomfort and violent coughing; in the nostril, a bread crumb will occasion irritation, discomfort, a flow of mucus and violent sneezing to expel it; resting on the chest it will occasion irritation and a movement of the hand to wipe it away; taken into the stomach, it will serve as food. The use of bread as food is Hygienic; its introduction into the air passages is non-Hygienic.
Writing on hydropathy in the Journal 1856, Dr. G. H. Taylor said that it "furnishes a direct means for the suppression of most of the sudden pathological straits into which the system may be thrown," thus giving voice to a recognition that water treatment was suppressive. Although looking upon cold as a "physiological stimulant," he said that "if the cold be continued too long and the body cooled too much, the physiological capabilities are lessened and the response exhibited in increased production of heat is reduced." He recognized that the use of fomentations and compresses was merely palliative. On the other hand, the water-cure advice given was often of the most harmless character, such as "a tepid ablution" each day or a tepid ablution in the morning and a sitz bath of 75° in the afternoon.
Electricity was regarded, in the words of Dr. Taylor, as "a principle or actuating cause that abounds in nature and is probably silently and mysteriously working in all her operations . . ." An electrical apparatus was thought of as "a means of focalizing" this all-pervading energy of nature. In considering the elements of Hygiene, D. A. Gorton, M.D., said: "Electricity and Magnetism are generally classed among the hygienic agents and perhaps justly so, but they cannot be considered primitive agents." She wrote this while an associate of Trall and probably presented his view as well as her own when she discounted the greater part of the claims made for electro-therapy.