The history of medicine is lost in the remotest antiquity ; and the researches of the most acute antiquaries, to ascertain the first inventor, have hitherto proved abortive. It would be foreign to our plan, to enter into a discussion of this subject; we shall therefore confine our attention to the effects of medicines on the human body, and refer the reader to the article Physician, under which we propose to communicate a few hints, respecting the nature and practice of the healing art.
The operation of medicines on the human body has been attributed to various causes; several eminent physicians of the 17th and the l8th century ascribing their effects to mechanism. This opinion, however, has been strongly opposed, and, though the theory of chemical decomposition which now prevails among the medical philosophers of France and Germany, is more plausible, and in many instances strongly corroborated by facts, yet this, like all other conjectures tending to account for the hidden operations cf Nature, does not deserve the name of a theory.
When judiciously administered, medicines are, doubtless, very beneficial ; but, if they be given or piescrihd at random (which is but too often the case with those regular and irregular practitioners who degrade; degrade an honourable profession to a trade), they seldom fail to be productive of injury:—instead, of affording relief, they aggravate the complaint, and not unfrequently Jay the foundation of future disease.
Particular constitutions require a peculiar treatment; and, if more attention were paid to this important circumstance, there would be less occasion for employing drugs. Besides, it ought to be considered, that no substances but such as contain alimentary matter, are conducive to the welfare of the human body, in a healthy condition: hence, by analogous reasoning, no drugs whatever, if devoid of nutritious properties, can be perfectly harmless, in a diseased state. - See Quackery.