For some hundred years or more, there has been a pretty uniform agreement in the statement, so frequently repeated— "there are no specifics in medicine." To have a good reputation for professional acquirements and standing, this was a fundamental article of belief. Whatever might be the certainty in Anatomy, Physiology, Chemistry, and the arts of the Obstetrician and Surgeon, it was essential to believe that the practice of medicine was a great uncertainty.
That it was a great uncertainty, as commonly followed, we are well assured. The records of disease, the mortality tables, and the resultant lesions from the mal-administration of medicines, abundantly testify to this.
This stands confessed in the writings of the most prominent men in the medical profession to-day, who unite in deprecating the use of the older treatment of disease, and the greater safety of the expectant plan—which is really diet and rest.
Must we give up medicine entirely? Are there no agencies opposed to processes of disease, that we can employ with certainty? These are the questions of the day, and in answering them, we will decide either for no medicine, or for specific medication.
To determine which of these shall he chosen, the reader will have to refer to his own experience of the action of medicines, and be guided by it. All will admit the uncertainty of medicine, as now used, but no one will be willing to confess that he really knows nothing in therapeutics. I think it will be safe to assert that every practitioner will have the knowledge of some antagonism of medicine to disease, that is clear, definite and uniform. If he has but one such, it is positive proof there are others, and the evidence that direct or specific medication is a possibility.
Specific medication requires specific diagnosis. We do not propose to teach that single remedies are opposed to diseases according to our present nosology. These consist of an association of functional and structural lesions, varying in degree and combination at different times, very rarely the same in any two cases. To prescribe remedies rationally, we are required to analyze the disease and separate it into its component elements, and for these we select the appropriate remedy.
The writer has had a sufficiently extended experience in the treatment of disease, to say that he knows absolutely that remedies have this direct antagonistic action to disease, and in many instances he is able to define it so that the reader can readily determine its truth. Still the field of investigation is a broad one, it has been but little cultivated, and there are few careful observers, so that much of the work remains for future investigation.
The tendency of medicine in all schools, however, is in the one direction. The giving up of the old uncertainty is the first step, then follows the careful study of individual remedies, and their use to accomplish certain well defined objects. One need not be a prophet to forecast the future in this respect. The medicine of the future will very certainly be direct, or as we have chosen to term it, "Specific Medication."
The object of the author has been to make the subject as plain as possible, and not to obscure it with useless verbiage. The first intention was to tell only what he knew—then this small volume would have been but a pamphlet. But on further consideration it was deemed best, to point out the lines of investigation with the larger number of our indigenous medicines, that they might he thoroughly tested.
No apology is offered for its shortcomings. It has been compiled in considerable part, from monthly articles in the Eclectic Medical Journal, and is presented to the profession as a guide in part, but especially as an incentive to the restudy of the Materia Medica.