Pliny, lib. 24. c. 1, bitterly taxeth all compound medicines, "Men's knavery, imposture, and captious wits, have invented those shops, in which every man's life is set to sale: and by and by came in those compositions and inexplicable mixtures, far-fetched out of India and Arabia; a medicine for a botch must be had as far as the Red Sea." And 'tis not without cause which he saith; for out of question they are much to blame in their compositions, whilst they make infinite variety of mixtures, as Fuchsius notes. "They think they get themselves great credit, excel others, and to be more learned than the rest, because they make many variations; but he accounts them fools, and whilst they brag of their skill, and think to get themselves a name, they become ridiculous, betray their ignorance and error." A few simples well prepared and understood, are better than such a heap of nonsense, confused compounds, which are in apothecaries' shops ordinarily sold. "In which many vain, superfluous, corrupt, exolete, things out of date are to be had" (saith Cornarius); "a company of barbarous names given to syrups, juleps, an unnecessary company of mixed medicines;" rudis indigestaque moles. Many times (as Agrippa taxeth) there is by this means "more danger from the medicine than from the disease," when they put together they know not what, or leave it to an illiterate apothecary to be made, they cause death and horror for health. Those old physicians had no such mixtures; a simple potion of hellebore in Hippocrates' time was the ordinary purge; and at this day, saith Mat. Riccius, in that flourishing commonwealth of China, "their physicians give precepts quite opposite to ours, not unhappy in their physic; they use altogether roots, herbs, and simples in their medicines, and all their physic in a manner is comprehended in a herbal: no science, no school, no art, no degree, but like a trade, every man in private is instructed of his master." Cardan cracks that he can cure all diseases with water alone, as Hippocrates of old did most infirmities with one medicine. Let the best of our rational physicians demonstrate and give a sufficient reason for those intricate mixtures, why just so many simples in mithridate or treacle, why such and such quantity; may they not be reduced to half or a quarter? Frustra fit per plura (as the saying is) quod fieri potest per pauciora; 300 simples in a julep, potion, or a little pill, to what end or purpose? I know not what Alkindus, Capivaccius, Montagna, and Simon Eitover, the best of them all and most rational, have said in this kind; but neither he, they, nor any one of them, gives his reader, to my judgment, that satisfaction which he ought; why such, so many simples? Rog. Bacon hath taxed many errors in his tract de graduationibus, explained some things, but not cleared. Mercurialis in his book de composit. medicin. gives instance in Hamech, and Philonium Romanum, which Hamech an Arabian, and Philonius a Roman, long since composed, but crasse as the rest. If they be so exact, as by him it seems they were, and those mixtures so perfect, why doth Fernelius alter the one, and why is the other obsolete? Cardan taxeth Galen for presuming out of his ambition to correct Theriachum Andromachi, and we as justly may carp at all the rest. Galen's medicines are now exploded and rejected; what Nicholas Meripsa, Mesue, Celsus, Scribanius, Actuarius, &c. writ of old, are most part contemned. Mellichius, Cordus, Wecker, Quercetan, Renodeus, the Venetian, Florentine states have their several receipts, and magistrals: they of Nuremberg have theirs, and Augustana Pharmacopoeia, peculiar medicines to the meridian of the city: London hers, every city, town, almost every private man hath his own mixtures, compositions, receipts, magistrals, precepts, as if he scorned antiquity, and all others in respect of himself. But each man must correct and alter to show his skill, every opinionative fellow must maintain his own paradox, be it what it will; Delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi: they dote, and in the meantime the poor patients pay for their new experiments, the commonalty rue it.
Thus others object, thus I may conceive out of the weakness of my apprehension; but to say truth, there is no such fault, no such ambition, no novelty, or ostentation, as some suppose; but as one answers, this of compound medicines, "is a most noble and profitable invention found out, and brought into physic with great judgment, wisdom, counsel and discretion." Mixed diseases must have mixed remedies, and such simples are commonly mixed as have reference to the part affected, some to qualify, the rest to comfort, some one part, some another. Cardan and Brassavola both hold that Nullum simplex medicamentum sine noxa, no simple medicine is without hurt or offence; and although Hippocrates, Erasistratus, Diocles of old, in the infancy of this art, were content with ordinary simples: yet now, saith Ætius, "necessity compelleth to seek for new remedies, and to make compounds of simples, as well to correct their harms if cold, dry, hot, thick, thin, insipid, noisome to smell, to make them savoury to the palate, pleasant to taste and take, and to preserve them for continuance, by admixtion of sugar, honey, to make them last months and years for several uses." In such cases, compound medicines may be approved, and Arnoldus in his 18. aphorism, doth allow of it. "If simples cannot, necessity compels us to use compounds;" so for receipts and magistrals, dies diem docet, one day teacheth another, and they are as so many words or phrases, Que nunc sunt in honore vocabula si volet usus, ebb and flow with the season, and as wits vary, so they may be infinitely varied. Quisque suum placitum quo capiatur habet. "Every man as he likes, so many men so many minds," and yet all tending to good purpose, though not the same way. As arts and sciences, so physic is still perfected amongst the rest; Horæ musarum nutrices, and experience teacheth us every day many things which our predecessors knew not of. Nature is not effete, as he saith, or so lavish, to bestow all her gifts upon an age, but hath reserved some for posterity, to show her power, that she is still the same, and not old or consumed. Birds and beasts can cure themselves by nature, naturæ usu ea plerumque cognoscunt quæ homines vix longo labore et doctrina assequuntur, but "men must use much labour and industry to find it out." But I digress.
Compound medicines are inwardly taken, or outwardly applied. Inwardly taken, be either liquid or solid: liquid, are fluid or consisting. Fluid, as wines and syrups. The wines ordinarily used to this disease are wormwood wine, tamarisk, and buglossatum, wine made of borage and bugloss, the composition of which is specified in Arnoldus Villanovanus, lib. de vinis, of borage, balm, bugloss, cinnamon, &c. and highly commended for its virtues: "it drives away leprosy, scabs, clears the blood, recreates the spirits, exhilarates the mind, purgeth the brain of those anxious black melancholy fumes, and cleanseth the whole body of that black humour by urine. To which I add," saith Villanovanus, "that it will bring madmen, and such raging bedlamites as are tied in chains, to the use of their reason again. My conscience bears me witness, that I do not lie, I saw a grave matron helped by this means; she was so choleric, and so furious sometimes, that she was almost mad, and beside herself; she said, and did she knew not what, scolded, beat her maids, and was now ready to be bound till she drank of this borage wine, and by this excellent remedy was cured, which a poor foreigner, a silly beggar, taught her by chance, that came to crave an alms from door to door." The juice of borage, if it be clarified, and drunk in wine, will do as much, the roots sliced and steeped, &c. saith Ant. Mizaldus, art. med. who cities this story verbatim out of Villanovanus, and so doth Magninus a physician of Milan, in his regimen of health. Such another excellent compound water I find in Rubeus de distill. sect. 3. which he highly magnifies out of Savanarola, "for such as are solitary, dull, heavy or sad without a cause, or be troubled with trembling of heart." Other excellent compound waters for melancholy, he cites in the same place. "If their melancholy be not inflamed, or their temperature over-hot." Evonimus hath a precious aquavitæ to this purpose, for such as are cold. But he and most commend aurum potabile, and every writer prescribes clarified whey, with borage, bugloss, endive, succory, &c. of goat's milk especially, some indefinitely at all times, some thirty days together in the spring, every morning fasting, a good draught. Syrups are very good, and often used to digest this humour in the heart, spleen, liver, &c. As syrup of borage (there is a famous syrup of borage highly commended by Laurentius to this purpose in his tract of melancholy), de pomis of king Sabor, now obsolete, of thyme and epithyme, hops, scolopendria, fumitory, maidenhair, bizantine, &c. These are most used for preparatives to other physic, mixed with distilled waters of like nature, or in juleps otherwise.
Consisting, are conserves or confections; conserves of borage, bugloss, balm, fumitory, succory, maidenhair, violets, roses, wormwood, &c. Confections, treacle, mithridate, eclegms, or linctures, &c. Solid, as aromatical confections: hot, diambra, diamargaritum calidum, dianthus, diamoschum dulce, electuarium de gemmis, lætificans Galeni et Rhasis, diagalanga, diaciminum, dianisum, diatrion piperion, diazinziber, diacapers, diacinnamonum: Cold, as diamargaritum frigidum, diacorolli, diarrhodon abbatis, diacodion, &c. as every pharmacop?ia will show you, with their tables or losings that are made out of them: with condites and the like.
Outwardly used as occasion serves, as amulets, oils hot and cold, as of camomile, staechados, violets, roses, almonds, poppy, nymphea, mandrake, &c. to be used after bathing, or to procure sleep.
Ointments composed of the said species, oils and wax, &c., as Alablastritum Populeum, some hot, some cold, to moisten, procure sleep, and correct other accidents.
Liniments are made of the same matter to the like purpose: emplasters of herbs, flowers, roots, &c., with oils, and other liquors mixed and boiled together.
Cataplasms, salves, or poultices made of green herbs, pounded, or sod in water till they be soft, which are applied to the hypochondries, and other parts, when the body is empty.
Cerotes are applied to several parts and frontals, to take away pain, grief, heat, procure sleep. Fomentations or sponges, wet in some decoctions, &c., epithemata, or those moist medicines, laid on linen, to bathe and cool several parts misaffected.
Sacculi, or little bags of herbs, flowers, seeds, roots, and the like, applied to the head, heart, stomach, &c., odoraments, balls, perfumes, posies to smell to, all which have their several uses in melancholy, as shall be shown, when I treat of the cure of the distinct species by themselves.