THERAPEUTICS, that branch of medicine which deals with the treatment of disease. Natures cures; physicians treat. This is an old dogma as true to-day as it was when uttered over 2,000 years ago by a famous Greek physi cian. Scientists have termed that power of the human body the vis medicatrix naturce, by means of which nature tends to right her own disordered organs, and it is important to recog nize this all-important function of the body, and not to interfere by overzealousness in the use of.potent agents with nature's own slowly ac quired powers of self-restoration. An innocu ous and half-hearted therapy, however, is not the logical system, even if such reconstructive Powers of nature are granted. The modern conception of disease does not admit of ready characterization. In the articles on disease and pathology (q.v.) it is attempted to define what is meant by disease, but such definitions arc far from being satisfactory because of the im mense vanety of diseased conditions, their manifold causation and their devious progres sions. In all disease certain groups of physio logical functions are altered, and in the at tempt to aid nature to bring these disturbed physiological activities to a normal condition the chief work of the therapeutist lies. It makes little or no difference what the agencies may be that are used—often, as has been said, none are necessary—yet the ideal of the thera peutic art is to restore to normal condition, as far and as quickly as possible, the disturbed bodily functions. While it is true that the physician of to-day employs many of the agents used by physicians thousands of years ago, there is a far greater precision and a much more comprehensive series of ideas concerned in their use by the well-equipped modern thera peutist than was possible to his e'arly predeces sors. The one aim of the physician throughout the centuries has been the alleviation of suffer ing and the restoration of the diseased to health or to comtort; and notwithstanding the many small cliques and divergences ot opinion, the progress toward scientific therapeutics has been steady and increasingly satisfactory. At the outset of this summary of therapeutics it may be well to consider for a moment the different classes of agents at hand by the use of which, singly or combined, the physiological functions of the body may be modified, and thus be made useful in the healing art.
Expressed categorically, the different thera peutic agents or systems are: (1) Suggestion therapy; (2) Dietotherapy; (3) Physicotherapy; (4) Mcchanotherapy; (5) Pharmacotherapy; (6) Surgicotnerapy. Each of these will be briefly discussed.
Unquestionably the oldest and yet strongest therapeutic agent is suggestion. The power to heal by faith is not the special property of any sect or class, nor the exclusive right of any sys tem. Belief in gods and goddesses, prayer to idols of wood, of stone, ot gossamer fiction, faith in the doctor, belief in ourselves engen dered from within or from without — these are all expressions of the great therapeutic value for healing that resides in the influence of mental states on bodily functions. These will not move mountains; they cannot cure consump tion; they do not influence a broken leg, nor an organic paralysis; but suggestion, in its various forms, may be and is one of the strongest aids to all therapeutic measures. Of its abuse by designing hypnotists, blackmailers, clairvoyants and a motley crew of parasites, space does not permit particularization. The human mind is credulous—it believes what it wants or wills to believe; and the use of' suggestion in thera peutics is one of great power for good and for evil.
The treatment of disease by diet constitutes another large branch of the therapeutic art. Modern chemistry has resolved all foods and drinks into their elements, and has given the physician valuable aids in the treatment of a large number of diseases. Many obscure dis orders, such as diabetes, gout, myxcedema, obes ity, etc., are closely allied with certain defects in the metabolism of certain physiological systems of the body. Many of these are best treated by a dietary regimen, combined, it may be, with other means. Many of the minor disorders of the digestive tract (see DIGESTION) are best treated by regulation of the diet.