"There is," says Dr. Williams (Principles of Medicine, p.38), "in organized beings a certain conservative power which opposes the operation of noxious agents, and labors to expel them when they are introduced. The existence of this power has long been recognized, and in former days it was impersonated. It was the archaeus of Van Helmont; the anima of Stahl; the vis medicatrix naturae of Cullen. But without supposing it to be aught distinct from the ordinary attributes of living matter, we see its frequent operation in the common performance of excretion; in the careful manner in which noxious products of the body, and offending substances in food, are ejected from the system; in the flow of tears to wash a grain of dust from the eye; in the act of coughing and sneezing to discharge irritating matters from the air-passages, and in the slower, more complicated, but not less obvious example of inflammation, effusion of lymph and suppuration, by which a thorn or other extraneous object is removed from the flesh.
"This vis conservatrix is alive to the exciting causes of disease, and in persons in full health it is generally competent to resist them. How it resists them will depend upon what they are. For instance, is cold the cause?—This throws the blood inwardly, which, by increasing the internal secretions and exciting the heart to increased action, establishes a calorific process which removes the cold. Is the cause improper food?—The preserving power operates by discharging this speedily, by vomiting or by stool. Is it a malarious or contagious poison?—It is carried off by an increase of some of the secretions. But if this resisting power be weakened, locally or generally, or if the exciting cause be too strong for it, then the cause acts, and disease begins."
It has already been stated that in many cases the natural powers of the system are sufficient for the restoration of health, and also that the physician who proposes to benefit the sick should carefully assist these efforts of nature. The question now comes up, how does nature remove disease?
In general disease we note the fact that the temperature comes back to the normal standard, the circulation of blood becomes normal, innervation becomes normal, secretion is established and effete material removed, digestion commences, good blood is made, and the tissues are rebuilded. In disease of parts it is very nearly the same. Wrongs of temperature are righted, a good circulation is established, imperfect materials are removed, and normal nutrition is established.
This seems to embrace the entire subject, and explains the method of cure in all forms of disease. For, with a right temperature, a right circulation, a right removal of waste, a right nutrition, and a right innervation, we must have health of the entire body, and of its parts. But if we examine it again and analyze it, it becomes more complex.
The temperature may be increased, diminished, or unequal, and arise from faults of food supply, respiratory wrong, wrongs of tbe skin, wrongs of innervation, or wrongs of the blood.
The circulation may be too rapid, too slow, too strong, too feeble, irregular, or changed from its normal character in a score of ways. And then these changes may be dependent upon wrongs of the blood, wrongs of the temperature, wrongs of innervation, wrongs of excretion, etc., etc.
The wrongs of innervation are multiform. Too much, too little, and perverted in a score of ways. We study these wrongs of innervation for years, and yet almost every week will show us some new phase of wrong innervation.
If we trace the course of any general disease where no treatment has been pursued, we will find that increased secretion and consequent elimination always precedes a change for the better; and the same is true where even the most opposite remedies have been used. Without this increased elimination does take place, death is inevitable. This accounts for the great success of Reformed Physicians in treating the common acute diseases of this country. Their attention has been especially drawn to the importance of due attention to these emunctories, and a large portion of the treatment is directly to stimulate elimination in this way. This will be apparent by a mere glance at the agents most used. In addition to this, the fact generally recognized by them, that in disease there is always a depression of the vital force of the system, and that this should be kept up by tonics and stimulants, has also added materially to their success.
With a return to a normal temperature, a normal circulation, a normal excretion, and a right innervation, the patient has a desire for food. Frequently the appetite is the best guide to the required food, and if not stimulated, or modified by suggestions, it may be safely followed. The food is digested as the stomach and intestinal canal gain power, good blood is made, and nutrition of tissue commences.
These are all natural processes, and even in severe and protracted disease, nature is able to accomplish it all. I have watched the case of typhoid fever go through all its phases without medicine, and on the twenty-first day terminate as above named—the restoration of a new body going on steadily until in six weks the person would be as sound and able as before infection with the poison.
As we are taught to observe and follow nature's footsteps in these things, we use our remedies to facilitate what nature might accomplish without our aid. We do the things that she does. We do them in the same order, and we endeavor to do them in the same quiet way. In so far as we work with the vital powers, we are successful; when we oppose them we had better not practice medicine.
That nature is able to cure almost all curable diseases, is clearly proved by the results of homoeopathic treatment. There are very few medical men who have any faith in the efficacy of their attenuations and dilutions, and yet we find that more favorable results are obtained under this treatment than under the old depletive system. This well-known fact is sufficient evidence that patients will get well without medicine, and that medicine said to be scientifically administered, is responsible for no small percentage of deaths under regular treatment.
As has been remarked, every part of the body and every function can be reached through the nervous system, and by small doses of remedies. Thus excess maybe reduced, defects may be increased, and perversions may be rectified. And as the practitioner gains experience, he will find that he can accomplish these things with remedies that act kindly, that are pleasant in form and small in dose; and he will, from time to time, replace his old remedies with new.
The American Eclectic Materia Medica and Therapeutics, 1898, was written by John M. Scudder, M.D.