It is a matter of notoriety how slightly regarded or little known are the medicinal properties concentrated in the plants which adorn the vegetable kingdom. Such negligence of the means of healing, by the remedies which are sent by the immediate hand of Providence, and rendered most abundant and common, and the substitution of others of a more doubtful, and often highly injurious, character, evinces a love of change, not simply to promote a greater benefit, but to render the art of healing more complicated and obscure.
It is probable that many disorders, for the relief of which medicines are sought for from the remotest parts of the globe, which act with harshness and violence, would be averted, were the same attention paid to the investigation of the properties, and the best mode of extracting the qualities, incorporated in the leaves, seeds, roots, and juices, together with the balsams, which in some cases exude from them, to be found in the soil of Nature's platform on which we traverse.
There was a time, and not very remote, in the annals of the past, when disorders of the Chest and Lungs, so alarmingly prevalent in the present day, were scarcely known; when Consumptions were seldom heard of; when obstructions of the viscera were hardly ever seen, and when chronic diseases were but rarely witnessed. The reason is obvious: the simples which adorn the pages of our ancient authors on medical science, are no longer resorted to for relief by the student or practitioner, however valuable their properties have heretofore been manifested; and other compounds, emanating from the laboratory, have been preferred, and thus the simplicity of the science has been gradually lost in its complications.
The design of the present treatise is to attempt the restoration of the good old ancient mode of cure, now obsolete; particularly as regards pulmonary complaints, which, in this our variable climate, are unhappily so abundant and fatal.