Of the Propriety or Operation of Medicines
Of Emolient Medicines
The various mixtures of heat, cold, dryness, and moisture in simples, must of necessity produce variety of faculties, and operations in them, which now we come to treat of, beginning first at emolients.
What is hard, and what is soft, most men know, but few are able to express. Phylosophers define that to be hard which yields not to touching, and soft to be the contrary. An emolient, or softening medicine is one which reduceth a hard substance to its proper temperature.
But to leave phylosophy, and keep to what the physicians describe hardness to be two-fold.
1. A distention or stretching of a part by too much fulness.
2. Thick humours which are destitute of heat, growing hard in that part of the body into which they flow.
So many properties then ought emolient medicines to have, viz. to moisten what is dry, to discuss what is stretched, to warm what is congealed by cold; yet properly, that only is said to mollify which reduceth a hard substance to its proper temperature.
Dryness and thickness of humours being the cause of hardness, emolient medicines must of necessity be hot and moist; and although you may peradventure find some of them dry in the second or third degrees, yet must this dryness be tempered and qualified with heat and moisture, for reason will tell you that dry medicines make hard parts harder.
Mollifying medicines are known, (1) by their taste, (2) by their feeling.
1. In taste, they are near unto sweat, but fat and oily; they are neither sharp, nor austere, nor sour, nor salt, neither do they manifest either binding, or vehement heat, or cold to be in them.
2. In feeling you can perceive no roughness, neither do they stick to your fingers like Birdlime, for they ought to penetrate the parts to be mollified, and therefore many times if occasion be, are cutting medicines mixed with them.
Of hardening Medicines
Galen in Lib. 5 de Simple, Med. Facult., Cap. 10 determines hardening medicines to be cold and moist, and he brings some arguments to prove it, against which other physicians contest.
I shall not here stand to quote the dispute, only take notice, that if softening medicines be hot and moist (as we shewed even now) then hardening medicines must needs be cold and dry, because they are contrary to them.
The universal course of nature will prove it, for dryness and moisture are passive qualities, neither can extremeties consist in moisture as you may know, if you do but consider that dryness is not attributed to the air, nor water, but to the fire, and earth.
2. The thing to be congealed must needs be moist, therefore the medicine congealing must of necessity be dry, for if cold be joined with dryness, it contracts the pores, that so the humours cannot be scattered.
Yet you must observe a difference between medicines drying, making thick, hardening, and congealing, of which differences, a few words will not do amiss.
1. Such medicines are said to dry, which draw out, or drink up the moisture, as a spunge drinks up water.
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