It may be well to state our position in the medical world, for there seems to be a great deal of confusion or ignorance as to what Eclectics teach and practice, the idea prevailing among a large class, that Eclecticism consists in choosing the best remedies from all the other schools, and while this is true to some extent, it applies equally to all schools, for every conscientious physician has and does exercise the same prerogative, choosing what he thinks is the best remedy.
Choosing the best therefore is not characteristic of Eclectics; neither is the use of vegetable remedies the distinguishing difference, though we have been developing a materia medica for the last seventy-five years, till to-day it stands without an equal, and it is not unlikely that we do use more remedies prepared from indigenous plants, than other schools.
Modern Eclecticism's most characteristic and distinguishing tenet is "Specific Medication." Thirty-five years ago, Dr. John M. Scudder wrote "The medicine of the future will be direct or specific," and published those little masterpieces, "Specific Diagnosis" and "Specific Medication;" and Eclectics, recognizing it to be the most rational method of prescribing, began testing and proving the system, till to-day, ten thousand physicians are successfully practicing Specific Medication.
The prejudice against this system is due to the fact that it is generally misunderstood. Eclectics do not advocate or administer specific remedies for specific diseases, such as a remedy or combination of remedies for pneumonia, typhoid fever, dysentery, etc., but do prescribe specific remedies for specific pathological conditions.
Every change from the normal, or every pathological condition, gives expression to such change by symptoms, and experience has proven that the same pathological change is always expressed by the same set of symptoms, and having once learned to recognize such a condition, we have it for all time. Thus an excess of heart power as seen in sthenia, is always expressed by the full bounding pulse. Irritation and excitation of the cerebral centers in all sthenic conditions, is always evidenced by a flushed face, bright eyes, and contracted pupils. The pallid tongue with a white pasty coating always tells of acidity, while the dry, red tongue always tells of alkalinity of the blood. So, of every deviation from health, each change is expressed by definite symptoms. Now there is a direct relation between drug action and disease expression, and having once learned this relation or the affinity that a remedy has for a specific condition, we have learned it for all time. Thus, if veratrum will influence the heart's action to-day, when there is a full bounding pulse, and this is the basal lesion, it will do it under the same conditions to-morrow, next year, or a hundred years hence. It will do it in pneumonia, in cerebritis, in nephritis, or wherever it is found. If gelsemium will relieve irritation of the cerebral centers, as shown by the flushed face, bright eyes, and contracted pupils, no matter what the disease, we have found the affinity or drug relation for this condition. So of every pathological change, and the diagnosis, so far as treatment is concerned, consists in determining the pathological condition present, rather than in naming the disease. While I recognize the importance of being able to diagnose the disease in its entirety, and believe that the best diagnostician, other things being equal, will be the most successful in the treatment of his patients, at the same time it were better for the doctor if he can forget that his patient has typhoid fever, pneumonia, dysentery, or whatever he may have, and study the conditions that are present. This may be wrongs of the circulation, of the nervous system, of the secretions, of digestion, of assimilation, or wrongs of the blood, but whatever the basal lesion, it must be overcome if the patient is to be benefited by medication. I appreciate that it may not always be possible to recognize the pathological condition, but until we do, we can not hope to treat our patient in a rational manner. This, then, is Specific Medication—Specific Remedies for Specific Conditions.
We are indebted to a host of able workers, pioneers in the field of rational medication, and who builded better than they knew. Especially are we indebted to Prof. John M. Scudder, who by pen and voice directed our school in this better way; to Prof. John Uri Lloyd, whose work in giving us Specific Medicines of such superior quality as to make success possible; to my colleagues and fellow practitioners who have so largely assisted in more firmly establishing the principles of Specific Medication.
For the benefit of students and those who are not familiar with Eclectic methods, I have added a chapter on the indications of remedies, and also poisons and their antidotes, together with a table of weights and measures, and a list of incompatibles.
The Eclectic Practice of Medicine, 1907, was written by Rolla L. Thomas, M. S., M. D.