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Genuine Remedies And Suggestive Exaggeration

The story of the suggestive use of drugs shows us many suggestions
employed even by distinguished physicians, men whose work is eminently
rational and has lived long after their time. In fact, very few, even
of the most distinguished physicians, have failed to extol remedies
which later proved to be quite ineffectual. Hippocrates felt quite
sure that an external application of snake skin was a cure for all
forms of that chronic skin manifestation, lichen. Pythagoras declared
that anise seed held in the hand was an excellent remedy for epilepsy.
These are only examples which serve to show how much suggestion has
been used unconsciously by the medical profession. The sensation
produced by the touch of the viper's skin was sufficient in some
patients to bring about a change in the circulation in the skin, or
perhaps a distinct modification of the nerve impulses on which trophic
conditions in the skin depend, and this may have produced some cures
on which Hippocrates founded his recommendation. We know that the skin
can be unfavorably affected directly through the nervous system, and
there is no good reason for thinking that it may not also be affected
favorably. In our own day we have seen the suggestive influence of an
operation act as a remedy in epilepsy and have lauded it for a time.
It is, therefore, not surprising that Pythagoras saw, as he thought,
the strong scent of the anise seed act favorably. Both of these
conclusions as to the causative agency at work were wrong, because it
was suggestion and not the operation in most cases, nor the anise in
any case, which caused the improvement.

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