Principles, Practice and Progress of the Eclectic School of Medicine.

(Prepared for distribution to the laity at the request of the "Committee on Pamphlet Literature" of the National.)


Who are Eclectic Physicians?

To those who may wish to be enlightened on this subject, I may be permitted to remark that the proper sources of information are not to be found in the tirades of abuse, libels and misrepresentations of its enemies, but rather in the teachings of those who are its exponents. If you wish to ascertain the truth of the Christian religion, you do not ask the infidel; so also, if you desire an explanation of the laws governing the movements of the heavenly bodies, you do not question an ignoramus or an illiterate.

Articles have been written, speeches made and arguments advanced against Eclecticism by intelligent physicians, which never touched the veriest outposts of the Eclectic doctrinal fortifications. Therefore, we can not think it strange that the public is ignorant of them. Taking the dictum of the family physician in regard to the matter, as the physician takes the assertions of his teachers in college, without question or cavil, opinions are formed which are utterly absurd and ridiculously erroneous.

The only true way to study any system of medicine is to test it practically at the bedside in treating the sick. Theorizing is an extremely poor substitute for practical work. "Why," you will exclaim, "our doctor says he is Eclectic in treating the sick; that he makes use of the best remedies taken from any and every source."

Yes, we know all about that. If you are of an investigative turn of mind, the next time you are in your doctor's office, ask him to let you see an Eclectic or Homeopathic work on the practice of medicine. Ten to one he can't do it. The writer has met a goodly number of such old school doctors, who, out of interest, profess to be Eclectic, and as yet he has failed to discover one who possessed Eclectic works in his library.

To answer the questions intelligently, "Who are Eclectic physicians, and what is it that is denominated the Eclectic school of medicine?" it will be necessary to briefly sketch from 1827 to the present time.

A Brief History of Medicine.

The Eclectic system of medicine had its birth in a popular conviction that the old school system of medicine (call it Allopathic or Regular, if you wish) was erroneous in its principles, unsuccessful, unpleasant and murderous in its practice; in fact, dangerous to the lives and health of those who were compelled to employ it.

One has but for a moment to consider the character of this "regular" practice during the early part of the last century to fully comprehend the motives which prompted the principal actors of the Eclectic school in the organization of a new school of medicine.

Disease was looked upon as an entity—a devil, as it were—to be removed by violent means; a state of over-activity, to be reduced by antiphlogistic or tearing-down treatment. Whatever the malady, especially if acute, every means employed debilitated the patient, and it was only when the extreme prostration forbade the further employment of these methods—then, and then only—that a stimulant and tonic treatment was adopted. The patient was picked up upon the point of the lancet, carried to the brink of eternity, and then every art made use of to bring him back.

After blood-letting came free purgation, mercury in its different forms, antimony to sicken the stomach and relax the system, blisters, with medicine in large doses to influence the kidneys and skin. They were used in the order named, and as rapidly as possible. The purgative followed on the heels of the lancet, mercury forming a part of it. The calomel was then given for its constitutional influences by combining it with opium; tartar emetic given to sicken the stomach and relax the system and the blister proportionate to the extent of the pain or the size of the part affected.

With such treatment the appetite for food was lost, digestion impaired, and starvation added as a part of the regimen. Mercury and water were thought to be opposed to each other, and, as the first was fully and freely given, the latter was withheld for fear of salivation.

One must need have lived in those days and have seen the sick to realize the terrible character of the regular treatment of this "regular school of medicine." The miserable patients, suffering from disease, were tormented continually by nauseant drugs, by unutterable sickness of the stomach, the torments of physic, the suffering from blisters and the terrible thirst, which, like that of Dives, cried to heaven for relief, but no Lazarus could cross the gulf and give the cup of cold water to moisten the parched tongue. The blisters were drawn, clipped and poulticed, and not infrequently the odor arising from them could be recognized as soon as the door of the house was opened. "For fear of taking cold" patients were unwashed, clothing and bed clothing allowed to become dirty; dirt and bad odors, indeed, were characteristic of the treatment "by authority."

The mortality was large, ranging from 10 to 50 per cent. in the ordinary diseases of the country. So imminent was death under such treatment that many people refused to call the physicians, if it were possible to be avoided, preferring to trust nature and domestic remedies. The increased death rate might have been borne (for the dead are relieved from suffering), but the slow convalescence and the frequency of chronic diseases of the stomach, bowel and liver, following the simple diseases of the country, informed the people in language that could not be misunderstood that there was a serious wrong in the practice of the day.

The diseases following the treatment were of a character not well mistaken—the loss of teeth, decaying bones, diseases of liver and bowels, mercurial rheumatism, and other affections too numerous to mention. The frequency of these unpleasantnesses added to their already distrust in this practice. Many have witnessed all I have named; many have experienced some of it. To them it is an unpleasant reality.

This constituted the barbaric farce called "scientific medicine," given by the old school to suffering humanity during the first half of the last century.

Eclectic Organization.

The earlier Eclectics were a sturdy class of men. Seeing the wrongs of the medical practice, noting its disastrous results, and knowing the superiority of milder means, they did vigorous battle for what they deemed right and against what they believed a gross wrong. Believing that the "Regular" treatment was killing thousands and wrecking the health of millions, they said so in plain English.

On May 3, 1830, the following was adopted by the "Reform" Medical Society of the United States:

Resolved, That this society deems it expedient to establish an additional school in some town on the Ohio River, or some of its tributaries, in order that the people of the West may avail themselves of the advantages resulting from a scientific knowledge of botanic medication.

In accordance with the resolution a college was established at Worthington, Ohio, in 1832, under a university charter obtained by Bishop Chase, Prof. T. V. Morrow, being the leading spirit.

"Martyrs are the seed of the church," and the persecutions meted out to pioneers of the Eclectic practice in those early days had much to do with its wonderful growth.

In 1842, this college was removed to Cincinnati, Ohio, and, in 1845, the Eclectic Medical College was chartered in its stead by special act of the Ohio legislature. To-day it stands with few equals, and no superior, in point of wealth and the thorough training it gives its numerous students. It is the oldest Eclectic medical institution of America.

At the organization of the American Medical Association (old school) in May, 1847, quite a respectable minority of progressive, liberty-loving medical men rebelled at being bound, as it were, in medical slavery. They believed the practice of medicine of the day a wrong, and the code of medical laws that they were asked to subscribe to an infamy, and they had the manhood to say so. For doing this they were hounded by ridicule and persecution out from among their former associates.

The year following, in May, 1848, the National Medical Association (Eclectic) was organized, and immediately proclaimed to the world, and inscribed it upon their banner, that disease was an impairment of life and not an entity to be removed by violent and pernicious drugs, but rather by a conservative and supportive treatment. Dame nature should be assisted back to health.

It will be noticed that it required only a year of organized social and professional ostracism, with a concerted effort to establish an Allopathic censorship over medical reformers (as the new school was then called) to make it necessary for the assailed to organize and accept a distinctive name, Eclectic (a word of Greek origin and signifies "I select").

Allopathic Claim to Eclecticism.

There are many persons, who, while admitting of the truth of the above facts, argue that the Eclectic school of medicine has fully accomplished the objects of its organization; that the practice of the "old school" has been modified and changed, and is now altogether different, etc.; that the cause for the existence as a school is no longer present; that all schools are Eclectic in the sense that they choose the best from all sources.

While this is true of the Eclectics, and the progressive wing of the Homeopaths, our old school regular brothers have made their progress upon lines "more scientific than practical." With them the pendulum of medical treatment of the sick has swung to the other extreme, disgusted with their poverty-stricken materia medica of the past, they have adopted a policy of "watchful waiting" at the present, combined with ultra scientific laboratory work.

The following extract, taken from the editorial department of a leading "Regular" medical journal of a recent date, will illustrate to the reader how "science is worshiped" to the exclusion of the patient's interest by those who have ever claimed to be the medical salt of the earth. The article is entitled:

"Did you Earn it?

"Take that case of pneumonia. You were called immediately after the occurrence of the chill and had a splendid opportunity to study it throughout its entire course. It was a beautiful case—and the patient was so tractable, a nice young fellow, and lent himself so cheerfully to your studies. How beautifully you elicited all the classic signs—the increased vocal fremitus, the Skodaic resonance, the percussion dullness, the bronchial breathing, bronchophony and pectoriloquy. What an interesting bacterial flora you found in the sputum—the diplococcus, of course. The urinary findings, especially as regards the low percentage of chlorides, were quite interesting and you spent hours studying the blood. The leucocyte count was rather low—said to be rather a bad prognostic sign; pity nothing can be done for such a condition.

" 'Whats that? Oh, he died. You know we really can do very little in a case of this kind. Of course, I provided a good nurse and give him oxygen at the last. But it was an extremely interesting case from a scientific point of view. Yes, I made—let me see—about thirty calls; got about $60.00 out of it—enough for a new Abbe condenser."

"Did you earn it?

"And that case of typhoid? Sad case wasn't it? Mother in her prime—left three little children. Rather tough on her husband. If ever a case was studied with the utmost scientific precision that one was. Widal reaction positive on the eighth day. Diazo showed the changing colors in the urine beautifully. You incised a rose spot and found the bacilli typhosi in large numbers—also in the general circulation a little later. The splenic enlargement was most painstakingly mapped out. Your study of the sulpho-conjugate acids was an exceedingly careful one and served as a basis for your paper in the Journal.

" 'Treatment—let me see. Well, you see, the Widal was not positive until the eighth day, and there being some uncertainty regarding the diagnosis, I thought it unwise to administer any medicaments. Dieted carefully, of course. You know it is a self-limited disease. After that we gave the Brand baths. Yes, she was rather nervous about them—made too much fuss I thought. Can't say that they did much good; nevertheless, all the authorities now indorse this method. Stools? They were very offensive and there seemed to be an unusual amount of tympanites. Possibly this explains the large amount of the sulpho-conjugate acids—I shall look into it further. I took in about $150 on the case—bought the wife a new diamond ring.'

"Did you earn it? God forgive the scientific do-nothing—we can't."

This outburst of truth coming from a medical editor who stands high in the "councils of their faith," whose membership is numbered by many thousands, is very significant and full of serious meaning. What he so aptly said of pneumonia and typhoid fever applies with equal force to all others. For be it known, they diagnose for a name to tag the malady with, while we diagnose for a curative treatment, believing that the patient and friends are more interested in a cure than the results of an extended laboratory analysis of the case, which takes valuable time, better devoted to medical treatment of the patient.

Specific Medication founded upon Specific Diagnosis

As taught and practiced by the Eclectic school is a great advance and improvement over their practice of fifty years ago, and is as much ahead of the old school now as it was then. The early Eclectics were content in their efforts to abate the evil practices of the old school physic, and accomplished this. They trusted to their successors the developments that have since been made.

Eclectics give a remedy because it is indicated by certain well-known symptoms. They have studied the remedies of each school with reference to this matter—all that has been written for the past two hundred years, and they have carefully noted the cases where the remedy acted well, and where the symptoms were named. These experiments have been made to determine the "specific" or positive relationship of symptoms with the curative action of medicine, until at last the indications for its uses during the treatment of any given case of disease were defined. The entirety of specific medication has been built upon this. Chosen in this way, the action of a given remedy can be predicted and is entirely satisfactory in practice.

The Difference.

A remedy selected by this law becomes a powerful help to nature in her work of restoration and never reacts against the patient. The sick organ or part is simply helped back into a condition of health—medicine doesn't overshoot and hit the patient.

Close Work.

The Eclectic practice of medicine is no child's play. There is no routine about it. We treat diseases not according to their names, but according to their nature. The study of specific medication (based upon the law of choosing) for well-defined pathological or diseased conditions requires continual work, investigation and study. A man with a thimbleful of brains and no education may disgrace Eclecticism, but he can never practice it. Thus guided in the selection of his remedies, the Eclectic is not obliged to resort to "shotgun" practice in combining six to a dozen nauseous drugs in one prescription, but rather applies his remedies singly or in simple combination direct to the diseased part.

Quality, not Quantity.

The quantity of any medicine determines merely the intensity of the quality. The great thing is to get the right medicine in the right place. If we have not the right medicine, an increase of quantity will only make matters worse.

Some people will take a few doses of medicine from an Eclectic, and if it don't cure at once, they think there is nothing in it. But they will take large doses of strong, poisonous drugs and serums, week after week, and, though they do not improve, they think it is all right because the medicine has a big bulk and a powerful taste. They think it is doing something. Well, so do we. It oftentimes gives the undertaker a job. Sudden deaths from so-called heart failures are entirely too common; there is a cause.

When a patient dies under our treatment—for the windowless chamber of death is the destiny of all—it is never because he didn't have medicine enough, but because the recuperative powers of nature were not sufficient to repair the damage done the system by disease. Medicines can only assist in a cure.

Improved Medicines.

The early Eclectics administered the various remedies principally in the form of infusions (i. e., teas and powders), but with the constant investigation and progress of the Eclectic school came an improvement in the quality of the remedies used. With them the dirty, trashy, unreliable black tinctures and so-called fluid extracts that are in such common use by the old school at the present time to us are memories of the very distant past. They may be good enough for the "regular" doctor but to an Eclectic, who only appreciates the best, they are worthless. We use not only the granules, alkaloids, tablets, serums and vaccines, etc., manufactured by the leading chemists with established reputations in these lines, but also those peculiar to the Eclectic school.

A class of remedies termed "specific medicines," made from the fresh prime drug gathered in its proper season, free from dirt, and as entirely free from coloring matter as possible, prepared with thet greatest care by carefully established processes regardless of expense, are the preparations Being pure, their actions are positive, being concentrated, the dose is small and not so unpleasant to the patient.

Dispensing Medicine.

The Eclectic holds that it is much better practice for the physician to largely dispense his own remedies at the time when they are needed. There is greater certainty that the remedies are good, less liability to mistakes, less trouble to the person or family, besides the saving of valuable time.


The extravagant use of this poison was one of the great evils that the Eclectics turned their attention to and opposed so bitterly. It is the abuse that Eclectics object to rather than the use of the drug.

Mercury, in its various forms, is used by all schools at the present day, although, through the untiring efforts of Eclectics, the method of its administration has been so modified that the harm resulting from its use is not so great as in former years.

Eclectic Treatment.

Our treatment is seldom unpleasant. It is not a fight with the little folks to compel them to take it, and a wry mouth with the big ones. Ours is safe, never followed by bad results. As the Irishman said, our medicines don't "keep the patient sick four weeks after he has got well." Old school treatment is unsafe, and frequently followed by painful and otherwise distressing consequences. Ours cures more quickly, because we relieve the diseased part direct, without affecting other organs. Theirs cures less quickly, because, owing to drug complications, it many times takes their patients as long to recover from their treatment as it does from the disease. Ours cures more surely, because, by treating the sick part directly without assaulting the physiological integrity of the healthy parts, "we husband all the life forces." Theirs cures less surely, because of the mass of medicine given having indirect action, resulting many times in the establishment of "drug diseases" in healthy parts, for a drug disease uses up as much life force as any other of the same extent.

One of our recent writers very aptly remarked: "It may be unkind, though it is just, to remark that the Allopathic school has been fifty years in reaching some of the vantage points taken up by the founders of the Eclectic school of medicine, and at the present pace they will yet be many years in reaching others.

"It is no uncommon occurrence for 'Regular' medical journals at the present time to herald the discovery of a drug as possessing superior powers over certain conditions, while the same drug has been used for like conditions by the Eclectic school for a quarter or half a century.

"Eclectics have ever been progressive in their methods, and, as a result, there are as great differences between the schools now as fifty years ago.

"As a school we do not profess to be superior in all departments of medicine, but in the domain of medical treatment we do profess to stand supreme. All are agreed that this is the most important and the one to which all others are subservient. We do not refuse to accept whatever all others have discovered that is valuable, and in this way we enjoy an advantage which the old school waive by their refusal to accept the results of our observation."

Present Status of Eclecticism—Hospital Statistics.

When it comes to a comparison of the records of hospitals and treatment of epidemic diseases, the Eclectic school of medicine makes a very favorable showing. It cures more cases than the old school. Eclectics have proportionate control in some hospitals of the North and East, and their students have equal advantages with all others. The results of their treatment in curable cases has been entirely satisfactory; throughout it shows a lower death rate for the Eclectic practice.

Eclectic Institutions of Learning.

There are at the present time eight colleges and universities regularly chartered by the States wherein they are situated, and recognized by the National Eclectic Medical Association as being of good standing. The advantages possessed by these colleges for thorough medical training are fully equal to any in the land.

Good Company.

The Eclectic practice is patronized mostly by that class of people who read, observe and think for themselves. In the north, east and west, where Eclectics are numerous and long established, a majority of the educated and most prominent people employ Eclectic physicians. The lower classes of society generally employ that class of doctors who give something so strong that two or three doses turn the patient inside out, or they will think "nothing is being done." The greater the ignorance of the patient, the louder his demand for "strong" medicine when sick.

Schools of Medicine.

There are three regular schools of medicine, the Allopathic, Eclectic and Homeopathic. They all study the same anatomy, physiology, chemistry, pathological anatomy, and microscopy, pursuing a regular course in each. In obstetrics and surgery they differ only in medical treatment. Let this fact be placed prominently before you—that in all the departments of medicine the three schools are alike, save in the important branch of medical treatment. One school is just as regular as the other. The absurd position taken by the members of the Allopathic or old school of medicine, that they are the only 'Simon pure' and regular article in the market; that all outside their camps are ignoramuses, is too ridiculous to receive a moment's consideration from an intelligent person.


Eclecticism extends the right hand of friendship to Homeopathy, and accepts all it has positively shown to have proven of value in the treatment of the sick, giving the credit where it belongs. Eclectics have reaped a valued harvest from the investigations of this medical school, which they have added to their own therapeutic wealth. In return, Homeopathy is indebted to the Eclectic school for the discovery and proving of many new and important remedies, chiefly from the indigenous medical plants of this country.

Homeopathy is a divided household. One-fourth of its followers give medicine in doses so small it would be very difficult to convince anyone as to its having an effect at all. The remaining portion buy Eclectic literature, patronize Eclectic chemists, and give their remedies in appreciable doses, studying the relationship of drug action to diseased conditions and with the exception of name and the minor details of theory as to "the why" of curative action of medicines, are, to all intents and purposes, Eclectic physicians.

And, again, the Eclectic school of medicine is non-sectarian in the fullest sense of the word. None more so "prove all things and hold fast that which is good" has been a cardinal principle with it from the very first, and "physician" (unlimited) applies with equal truth and force at the present time to each and every member. No educated medical gentleman is barred from a respectful hearing either at the bedside, in consultation or upon convention floor, in the free expression of his views. We are liberal and are willing "to give and take." Eclectics and Homeopaths are oftentimes found thus working together for the general good of their patients, for they both hold many views in common, both treating disease not by name, but specific conditions as they find them in each separate and distinct case, and their excellent success in the cure of the sick fully justifies their well-founded belief.

No two human beings are exactly alike, and the exception emphatically proves the rule. The idea that disease and man are subject to the exact laws that govern in chemistry is not true, nor never can be, from the very nature of things, at least not in this world. If, then, every human being is a distinct entity, it follows that each one when ill must be treated in all respects according to his individuality. To attempt to lump them and their disorders under any given disease name for treatment, as our "Regular"' old school friends do, is not only unscientific but absolutely confusing, thereby leading to an unsuccessful treatment.

Progress of Eclecticism.

Born less than a century ago, by a growth before unparalleled in the history of medicine, it has from its infant state developed into its present proportions. Never before has there occurred in the medical world so radical a change in the method of combating disease. Based upon demonstrated facts and not experimental theories, it has advanced and spread wherever education and intelligence predominate over illiteracy and dogmatism. Founded as it is, upon a law of nature and organic life, it will continue to make progress over all opposition. Being indigenous to American soil, it recognizes no monarchs and no serfs in the realm of intellect. Desiring the common good of humanity as its highest aim, it builds no barriers through which afflicted mankind may not profit by the combined resources of all the medical world.

The code of medical laws by which it is governed is as broad and kind as philanthropy itself. With its regularly organized and chartered colleges, its numerous journals and other periodic literature, its 10,000 practitioners and millions of patrons, its national association, its State societies all over this union and its medical works upon practice, teaching the most innermost points concerning a medical system which is exerting a liberalizing influence upon the whole medical world to-day—a system that is too broad for the partisan, too generous for the bigot, the Eclectic school of medicine will continue, as it has in the past, its efforts in this field.

"While the grass grows and the rivers run to the sea, Eclecticism, or The American Practice of Medicine, will be perpetuated."

National Eclectic Medical Association Quarterly, Vol. 7, 1915-16, was edited by William Nelson Mundy, M.D.