After a long and tedious discourse of these six non-natural things and their several rectifications, all which are comprehended in diet, I am come now at last to Pharmaceutice, or that kind of physic which cureth by medicines, which apothecaries most part make, mingle, or sell in their shops. Many cavil at this kind of physic, and hold it unnecessary, unprofitable to this or any other disease, because those countries which use it least, live longest, and are best in health, as Hector Boethius relates of the isles of Orcades, the people are still sound of body and mind, without any use of physic, they live commonly 120 years, and Ortelius in his itinerary of the inhabitants of the Forest of Arden, "they are very painful, long-lived, sound," &c. Martianus Capella, speaking of the Indians of his time, saith, they were (much like our western Indians now) "bigger than ordinary men, bred coarsely, very long-lived, insomuch, that he that died at a hundred years of age, went before his time," &c. Damianus A-Goes, Saxo Grammaticus, Aubanus Bohemus, say the like of them that live in Norway, Lapland, Finmark, Biarmia, Corelia, all over Scandia, and those northern countries, they are most healthful, and very long-lived, in which places there is no use at all of physic, the name of it is not once heard. Dithmarus Bleskenius in his accurate description of Iceland, 1607, makes mention, amongst other matters, of the inhabitants, and their manner of living, "which is dried fish instead of bread, butter, cheese, and salt meats, most part they drink water and whey, and yet without physic or physician, they live many of them 250 years." I find the same relation by Lerius, and some other writers, of Indians in America. Paulus Jovius in his description of Britain, and Levinus Lemnius, observe as much of this our island, that there was of old no use of physic amongst us, and but little at this day, except it be for a few nice idle citizens, surfeiting courtiers, and stall-fed gentlemen lubbers. The country people use kitchen physic, and common experience tells vis, that they live freest from all manner of infirmities, that make least use of apothecaries' physic. Many are overthrown by preposterous use of it, and thereby get their bane, that might otherwise have escaped: some think physicians kill as many as they save, and who can tell, Quot Themison ægros autumno occiderit uno? "How many murders they make in a year," quibus impune licet hominem occidere, "that may freely kill folks," and have a reward for it, and according to the Dutch proverb, a new physician must have a new churchyard; and who daily observes it not? Many that did ill under physicians' hands, have happily escaped, when they have been given over by them, left to God and nature, and themselves; 'twas Pliny's dilemma of old, "every disease is either curable or incurable, a man recovers of it or is killed by it; both ways physic is to be rejected. If it be deadly, it cannot be cured; if it may be helped, it requires no physician, nature will expel it of itself." Plato made it a great sign of an intemperate and corrupt commonwealth, where lawyers and physicians did abound; and the Romans distasted them so much that they were often banished out of their city, as Pliny and Celsus relate, for 600 years not admitted. It is no art at all, as some hold, no not worthy the name of a liberal science (nor law neither), as Pet. And. Canonherius a patrician of Rome and a great doctor himself, "one of their own tribe," proves by sixteen arguments, because it is mercenary as now used, base, and as fiddlers play for a reward. Juridicis, medicis, fisco, fas vivere rapto, 'tis a corrupt trade, no science, art, no profession; the beginning, practice, and progress of it, all is naught, full of imposture, uncertainty, and doth generally more harm than good. The devil himself was the first inventor of it: Inventum est medicina meum, said Apollo, and what was Apollo, but the devil? The Greeks first made an art of it, and they were all deluded by Apollo's sons, priests, oracles. If we may believe Varro, Pliny, Columella, most of their best medicines were derived from his oracles. Æsculapius his son had his temples erected to his deity, and did many famous cures; but, as Lactantius holds, he was a magician, a mere impostor, and as his successors, Phaon, Podalirius, Melampius, Menecrates, (another God), by charms, spells, and ministry of bad spirits, performed most of their cures. The first that ever wrote in physic to any purpose, was Hippocrates, and his disciple and commentator Galen, whom Scaliger calls Fimbriam Hippocratis; but as Cardan censures them, both immethodical and obscure, as all those old ones are, their precepts confused, their medicines obsolete, and now most part rejected. Those cures which they did, Paracelsus holds, were rather done out of their patients' confidence, and good opinion they had of them, than out of any skill of theirs, which was very small, he saith, they themselves idiots and infants, as are all their academical followers. The Arabians received it from the Greeks, and so the Latins, adding new precepts and medicines of their own, but so imperfect still, that through ignorance of professors, impostors, mountebanks, empirics, disagreeing of sectaries, (which are as many almost as there be diseases) envy, covetousness, and the like, they do much harm amongst us. They are so different in their consultations, prescriptions, mistaking many times the parties' constitution, disease, and causes of it, they give quite contrary physic; "one saith this, another that," out of singularity or opposition, as he said of Adrian, multitudo medicorum principem interfecit, "a multitude of physicians hath killed the emperor;" plus a medico quam a morbo periculi, "more danger there is from the physician, than from the disease." Besides, there is much imposture and malice amongst them. "All arts" (saith Cardan) "admit of cozening, physic, amongst the rest, doth appropriate it to herself;" and tells a story of one Curtius, a physician in Venice: because he was a stranger, and practised amongst them, the rest of the physicians did still cross him in all his precepts. If he prescribed hot medicines they would prescribe cold, miscentes pro calidis frigida, pro frigidis humida, pro purgantibus astringentia, binders for purgatives, omnia perturbabant. If the party miscarried, Curtium damnabant, Curtius killed him, that disagreed from them: if he recovered, then they cured him themselves. Much emulation, imposture, malice, there is amongst them: if they be honest and mean well, yet a knave apothecary that administers the physic, and makes the medicine, may do infinite harm, by his old obsolete doses, adulterine drugs, bad mixtures, quid pro quo, &c. See Fuchsius lib. 1. sect. 1. cap. 8. Cordus' Dispensatory, and Brassivola's Examen simpl., &c. But it is their ignorance that doth more harm than rashness, their art is wholly conjectural, if it be an art, uncertain, imperfect, and got by killing of men, they are a kind of butchers, leeches, men-slayers; chirurgeons and apothecaries especially, that are indeed the physicians' hangman, carnifices, and common executioners; though to say truth, physicians themselves come not far behind; for according to that facete epigram of Maximilianus Urentius, what's the difference?
"Chirurgicus medico quo differt? scilicet isto,
Enecat hic succis, enecat ille manu:
Carnifice hoc ambo tantum differre videntur,
Tardius hi faciunt, quod facit ille cito."
("How does the surgeon differ from the doctor? In this respect: one kills by drugs, the other by the hand; both only differ from the hangman in this way, they do slowly what he does in an instant.")
But I return to their skill; many diseases they cannot cure at all, as apoplexy, epilepsy, stone, strangury, gout, Tollere nodosam nescit medicina Podagram; ("Medicine cannot cure the knotty gout.") quartan agues, a common ague sometimes stumbles them all, they cannot so much as ease, they know not how to judge of it. If by pulses, that doctrine, some hold, is wholly superstitious, and I dare boldly say with Andrew Dudeth, "that variety of pulses described by Galen, is neither observed nor understood of any." And for urine, that is meretrix medicorum, the most deceitful thing of all, as Forestus and some other physicians have proved at large: I say nothing of critic days, errors in indications, &c. The most rational of them, and skilful, are so often deceived, that as Tholosanus infers, "I had rather believe and commit myself to a mere empiric, than to a mere doctor, and I cannot sufficiently commend that custom of the Babylonians, that have no professed physicians, but bring all their patients to the market to be cured:" which Herodotus relates of the Egyptians: Strabo, Sardus, and Aubanus Bohemus of many other nations. And those that prescribed physic, amongst them, did not so arrogantly take upon them to cure all diseases, as our professors do, but some one, some another, as their skill and experience did serve; "One cured the eyes, a second the teeth, a third the head, another the lower parts," &c., not for gain, but in charity, to do good, they made neither art, profession, nor trade of it, which in other places was accustomed: and therefore Cambyses in Xenophon told Cyrus, that to his thinking, physicians "were like tailors and cobblers, the one mended our sick bodies, as the other did our clothes." But I will urge these cavilling and contumelious arguments no farther, lest some physician should mistake me, and deny me physic when I am sick: for my part, I am well persuaded of physic: I can distinguish the abuse from the use, in this and many other arts and sciences: Alliud vinum, aliud ebrietas, wine and drunkenness are two distinct things. I acknowledge it a most noble and divine science, in so much that Apollo, Æsculapius, and the first founders of it, merito pro diis habiti, were worthily counted gods by succeeding ages, for the excellency of their invention. And whereas Apollo at Delos, Venus at Cyprus, Diana at Ephesus, and those other gods were confined and adored alone in some peculiar places: Æsculapius and his temple and altars everywhere, in Corinth, Lacedaemon, Athens, Thebes, Epidaurus, &c. Pausanius records, for the latitude of his art, deity, worth, and necessity. With all virtuous and wise men therefore I honour the name and calling, as I am enjoined "to honour the physician for necessity's sake. The knowledge of the physician lifteth up his head, and in the sight of great men he shall be admired. The Lord hath created medicines of the earth, and he that is wise will not abhor them," Eccles. lviii 1. But of this noble subject, how many panegyrics are worthily written? For my part, as Sallust said of Carthage, præstat silere, quam pauca dicere; I have said, yet one thing I will add, that this kind of physic is very moderately and advisedly to be used, upon good occasion, when the former of diet will not take place. And 'tis no other which I say, than that which Arnoldus prescribes in his 8. Aphoris. "A discreet and goodly physician doth first endeavour to expel a disease by medicinal diet, than by pure medicine:" and in his ninth, "he that may be cured by diet, must not meddle with physic." So in 11. Aphoris. "A modest and wise physician will never hasten to use medicines, but upon urgent necessity, and that sparingly too:" because (as he adds in his 13. Aphoris.) "Whosoever takes much physic in his youth, shall soon bewail it in his old age:" purgative physic especially, which doth much debilitate nature. For which causes some physicians refrain from the use of purgatives, or else sparingly use them. Henricus Ayrerus in a consultation for a melancholy person, would have him take as few purges as he could, "because there be no such medicines, which do not steal away some of our strength, and rob the parts of our body, weaken nature, and cause that cacochymia," which Celsus and others observe, or ill digestion, and bad juice through all the parts of it. Galen himself confesseth, "that purgative physic is contrary to nature, takes away some of our best spirits, and consumes the very substance of our bodies:" But this, without question, is to be understood of such purges as are unseasonably or immoderately taken: they have their excellent use in this, as well as most other infirmities. Of alteratives and cordials no man doubts, be they simples or compounds. I will amongst that infinite variety of medicines, which I find in every pharmacop?ia, every physician, herbalist, &c., single out some of the chiefest.