(This juice of the whole plant, Matricaria chamomilla, freshly expressed, and mixed with equal parts of alcohol.)
It will be seen from the following symptoms of camomile, though they are far from being exhaustive, that this plant must evidently be reckoned among the medicines of many uses (polychrests). Hence in their domestic practice the common people have employed it in all kinds of maladies, especially those of an acute character. On this account physicians in their ludicrous pride have not deigned to regard it as a medicine, but, giving it the contemptuous name of “domestic remedy,” they permitted their patients to use it by handfuls in infusion as a tea or as a clyster along with the medicines they prescribed, (In order to avoid the degradation of admitting into their elegant prescriptions a vulgar folk’s-remedy like the ordinary camomile, when it was desired to give a medicine of this sort, they preferred to order the dearer and more aristocratic chamomilla romana off, without considering that this, being quit a different plant, belonging, indeed, to a totally different genus t of plants (Anthemis nobilis, l.), must possess different properties and actions. But what does a man who only wants a name in his prescriptions care about the peculiar actions of medicines?) just as if camomile, being but a vulgar domestic remedy, was of no account. In like manner they allowed their patients to apply bagfuls of the warmed flowers in any quantity they pleased to painful parts, whilst they themselves directed quite different medicines to be taken internally. Obstetric practitioners permitted the midwives and mothers to mix camomile tea in almost all the drinks and food of children at the breast and wet-nurses, as though it were a purely wholesome, non-injurious, or at least a perfectly unimportant and indifferent matter.
To such an extent did the blindness of physicians go with respect to a plant which belongs to the category of powerful medicines, whose exact power and importance it was their duty to ascertain, in order not only to learn how to make a rational and wholesome employment of it, but also to prevent its misuse by the common people, and to teach them in what particular cases camomile could only be employed beneficially, and in what cases its use was to be avoided.
But hitherto physicians have neglected their duty in all these respects; on the contrary, they vied with the common people in the thoughtless recommendation or permission to use this powerful medicinal plant in all cases of disease, without any distinction, in any quantity or dose the patients chose.
But it does not require much sense to perceive that no medicine in the world can be useful in all diseases, and that every one possesses an accurately defined curative sphere of action, beyond which every powerful medicinal substance, like camomile, (Every medicine that is capable of curing serious ailments must naturally be a powerful medicine.) must act in a thoroughly injurious manner, and so much the more injuriously the greater its powers are. Hence the physician who does not desire to act like a charlatan ought to be able to tell beforehand, not only the cases in which camomile must be beneficial, but also those in which its use must be injurious. Finally, he should be able also to determine the exact dose, which shall be neither too large nor too small for the disease. By the administration of the appropriate dose the cure of the disease by this plant may be anticipated with the greatest certainty.
Did we not know by thousands of other instances in what a meloncholy state, in what incomprehensible blindness, so-called practical medicine has groped through so many centuries, and how it has done every thing to emulate the common herd in their folly, it would only be necessary to direct the attention of an unprejudiced person to the proceedings of physicians in regard to this powerful medicinal plant, camomile.
For as it is impossible that any one medicine, be it ever so useful, can be serviceable and curative in one tenth part of the enormous number of different morbid states that exist in nature, so neither can camomile.
But let us suppose the impossible case, that camomile is curative in a tenth of all known diseases, must it not, if employed as hitherto, in almost all cases of disease without distinction, do harm in the other nine tenths? Is it wise to purchase a single benefit (It would be sufficiently stupid if one should purchase all the tickets of a classlottery in order to obtain the several prizes in it, without considering that he thereby incurs a palpable loss of ten per cent. But what could possibly be more foolish than, supposing there was a lottery which obviously brought a loss of nine whilst he could only win one? And yet the ordinary practitioner who employs camomile in every case is far more foolish; he does a much greater proportion of injury only with this difference, that the injury does not touch himself, but only his wretched patient.) by a ninefold injury? “What! injury?” retorts the ordinary practitioner;” I never saw any injury from camomile.” Yes, as long as you are ignorant of the morbid symptoms and ailments that camomile as a powerful medicine is capable of developing per se and in a peculiar manner in the healthy human body, you cannot recognize the ailments due to its employment in diseases, as the injurious effects of camomile; and in your ignorance you often attribute them to the course of the disease itself, to the malignity of the disease, and thus you deceive yourself and the poor tortured patient.