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Friday, April 5, 2013

The best remedy is hope and faith

I have noted many times on this blog how I think the best cure of disease is faith and hope.  This is especially true when a physician's drugs no longer do any good.  It was especially true prior to the 1900s when modern science gave us medicines that actually help patients.  It was especially true in the days when most medicines made a person feel worse, and sometimes even killed them. 

Fielding Hudson Garrison was a historian who wrote about this in his book "An introduction to the history of medicine" in 1922.  He wrote:
 "The best inspirer of hope is the best physician," an aphorism which contains the germ of the Freudian theory of psycho-analysis—to "minister to the mind diseased" by removing the splinter of worry or misery from the brain, in order to restore the patient to a cheerful state of mental equilibrium... It is also the secret of the influence of religion upon mankind, and here the priest or pastor becomes, in the truest sense, tin Arzt der Seele. In practical medicine, the principle now has a definite footing as psychotherapy... Psychotherapy cannot knit a fractured bone, antagonize the action of poisons, or heal a specific infection, but in many bodily ills, especially of the nervous system, its use is far more efficient and respectable than that of many a drug which is claimed to be a specific in an unimaginable number of disorders. (1, page 33-34)
He also discussed a variety of ancient remedies, which included spells and charms, amulets and talismen, and he speculated that these were pobably the best remedies, as compared to recipes for medicine.  He wrote:
In surveying these different superstitions, one point becomes of especial moment. It is highly improbable that any of the remedies mentioned actually cured disease, but there is abundant evidence of the most trustworthy kind that there have been sick people who got well with the aid of nothing else. How did they get well? Short of accepting the existence of supernatural forces, we can only fall back upon such vague explanations as "the healing power of nature," the tendency of nature to throw off the materies morbi or to bring unstable chemical states to equilibrium, the latter being the most plausible. But, in many cases of a nervous nature or in neurotic individuals, there is indubitable evidence of the effect of the mind upon the body, and in such cases it is possible that a sensory impression may so influence the vasomotor centers or the internal secretions of the ductless glands as to bring about definite chemical changes in the blood, glands, or other tissues, which, in some cases, might constitute a "cure."
Every study on the subject has proven it.  But who needs studies when you have historical observations and common sense.

  1. Garrison, Fielding Hudson, "An introduction to the history of medicine," 1922, 3rd edition, Philadelphia and London, W.B. Saunders Company


Aurora said...

Thanks Rick for your interesting and varied posts. As a doctor, medical educator and fellow Catholic, I always enjoy reading them and have referred others to the Hypoxic Drive Myth post, which is a great explanation. Like you, the musings on my blog tend to be 'stream of consciousness', and you are to be commended for the time and effort you put into your postings. Best wishes and keep up the good work!

Rick Frea said...

Thank you very much. I will have to check out your blog.