Nostrum, denotes any medicine the composition of which is supposed to be secret, and confined to the knowledge of one, or a few individuals.
The natural desire of health and longevity, has in all ages afforded a pretext to designing men, to invent medicines, with the absurd view of curing every disorder. It is true, that the confidence in panaceas, or universal remedies, is gradually declining, among the higher as well as the lower classes of society ; but innumerable elixirs, drops, pills etc. for particular complaints, are daily imposed upon the public by pretenders, whose chemical and medical knowledge is so confined, that they are generally obliged to borrow the recipes for such preparations from printed books . To aggravate the evil, their pernicious compounds for the most part contain opium, hemlock, or other narcotic drugs, which are rendered: still more deleterious by the addition of stimulating gums and aromatic substances.
The duration and extent of such base practices, it is difficult to determine ; though we conceive that, so long as the thoughtless and dissipated indulge in sensual pleasure of every description, the audacity of pretenders to the healing art will continue to increase. Expe-rienee has too often evinced, how little efficacy medicines possess in a variety of cases, without a strict adherence to a proper regimen; and-much less may be expected from any nostrum, however strongly recommended by the dignitaries of church and state. Nay, the excellence and dignity of medical science can neither be supported, nor depreciated, by the illusion of great names.- If a due regard were more generally had to the laws of temperance and sobriety ; if the cool dictates of reason were more -frequently consulted, there would be fewer diseases, and those who enrich themselves at the expence of a credulous public, would spee dily be compelled to pursue occupations less fraudulent, and more beneficial to the community.