Primitive Physic:
or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases
John Wesley
(Preacher, Founder of Methodism)

1747 AD
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  1. In 1747 AD, John Wesley, Preacher, Founder of Methodism, understood that insanity was caused by sin and noted a case of a young 20 year old man who went mad "by hearing a sermon of Mr. Wheatley's, fell into great uneasiness". He went to Bedlam and was treated by Monro who, "blooded him largely, confined him to a dark room, and put a strong blister on each of his arms, with another over all his head. But still he was as 'mad' as before, praying or singing, or giving thanks continually; of which having laboured to cure him for six weeks in vain, though he was now so weak he could not stand alone, his mother dismissed the doctor and apothecary, and let him be 'beside himself' in peace". Another case of madness he understood was triggered by extreme grief of a mother whose son died. Wesley stated that the mind can cause the body to get sick. "From fretting for the death of her son. And what availed medicines while that fretting continued ? Why, then, do not all physicians consider how far bodily disorders are caused or influenced by the mind". Susannah Wesley wrote her son John Wesley about a case where John Monro was treating in Bedlam. She said, "the man is not Lunatick, but rather under strong convictions of sin; and hath much more need of a spiritual, than bodily physician". Most interesting, is her comment that Monro (like most of the largest mad house keepers) believed that religious devotion was actually a sign of mental illness: "he presently condemned himself and said, Lord what sin have I been guilty of, and cry'd to God for mercy, and pardon. This probably may confirm the Dr. in the opinion of his madness but to me tis a proof of his being in a right mind". Susannah rejected this and believed just the opposite and that repentance was the way to cure his madness! But Wesley also a quack when he stated that the cure for "Lunacy" included his electric shock machine, drinking herb tea 4 times a day, rubbing the scalp with vinegar many times a day, drinking vinegar. His cure for "Raging Madness" included water boarding (fall of water pioneered by Blair in 1725 AD) and feeding them nothing but apples for a month or nothing but bread and milk for a month. He is most famous for inventing his electro-shock treatment, which continues even to this day. He believed that this machine would cure "nervous Cases of every Kind", and treated thousands of people in many different locations. He said: "how many Lives saved by this unparalleled Remedy... And yet it is absolutely certain, that in many, very many Cases, it seldom or never fails". While Wesley correctly understood that insanity was a spiritual choice, his treatment of shock therapy was simply a torture device, exactly like water boarding. Strangely, Wesley used his "electric machine" not only to cure insanity, but many other medical conditions. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) has been used since 1747 AD to cure insanity.
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    The difference is that Wesley did not run electricity through the brain as is done today, but rather up an arm or leg. Wesley's treatment only inflicted pain. Chemical Psychiatrists today use ECT to run electricity through the brain. This causes memory loss and has a stupefying effect. In 2006, psychiatrist Colin A. Ross concluded that "claims in textbooks and review articles that ECT is effective are not consistent with the published data". He also found no difference in the cure rates when he tested using placebos: "real ECT is only marginally more effective than placebo." Today, ECT is viewed as a short term (30 days) distraction from insanity until the physical brain recovers from being shocked. Running electricity through the brain is about as stupid as applying 220 volts directly to your computers CPU. ECT, applied to the brain causes temporary damage. During the repair period of the brain, cognitive functions are degraded not improved. ECT is a way to instantly drop 40 IQ for 30 days. (Primitive Physic: or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases, John Wesley, 1747 AD)
  2. "The outlines of galvanism as a therapy had existed before Galvani. Earlier in the eighteenth century, John Wesley, an Anglican minister and leader in the Methodist movement, for instance, used a machine to deliver electric shocks to his congregation. The first record of a patient with a clear mental disorder being treated with electric current applied to the head stems from John Birch, a surgeon at St. Thomas's Hospital in London in November 1787. The patient, who had many of the classic features of melancholia, had his head covered with a flannel by Birch who "rubbed the electric sparks all over the cranium; he seemed to feel it disagreeable but said nothing. On the second visit, finding no inconvenience that ensued, I passed six small shocks through the brain in different directions. As soon as he got into an adjoining room, and saw his wife, he spoke to her and in the evening was cheerful, expressing himself as if he thought he should soon go to his work again."" (Shock Therapy: A History of Electroconvulsive Treatment in Mental Illness, Edward Shorter, David Healy, 2007, p 271)
  3. "John Wesley (1703-91) Primitive Physic: or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases (1747). Wesley is not commonly known for his medical work, but in fact his interest in the subject was lifelong. His reading in the field was substantial, and he freely dispensed prescriptions and advice to those who consulted him during his travels. He particularly espoused the use of electricity for a wide range of ailments, mental as well as physical. The 'Preface' to Primitive Physic is used to outline his views on the origins of disease. Like Rogers, he sees illness as a consequence of the Fall, and like Cheyne, therefore, he regards mankind as primarily responsible for its own sufferings: "When man came first out of the hands of the great Creator, clothed in body as well as in soul, with immortality and incorruption, there was no place for physic, or the art of healing. As he knew no sin, so he knew no pain, no sickness, weakness, or bodily disorder .... But since man rebelled against the Sovereign of heaven and earth, how entirely is the scene changed! ... The seeds of weakness and pain, of sickness and death, are now lodged in our inmost substance; whence a thousand disorders continually spring." The Creator, however, gave us through nature the simple means to cure these ills, and medical practice of this kind was available to all, or at least to all men, 'every father delivering down to his sons, what he had himself in like manner received'. But 'men of a philosophical turn', particularly those motivated by the search for profit, have over time contrived so to complicate the art of healing that physic has become 'an abstruse science, quite out of the reach of ordinary men'. Only one or two figures win Wesley's praise for attempting to retain physic's 'ancient standard' -'the great and good Dr. Sydenham' and 'the learned and ingenious Dr. Cheyne'. The purpose of Primitive Physic, therefore, was to restore the art of healing to simple men, for 'Who would not wish to have a Physician always in his house, and one that attends without fee or reward?' Wesley covers, alphabetically, most of the ailments common in his day. Mental illnesses are not distinguished from bodily ones: all suffering derives from man's first disobedience, and madness is therefore to be stigmatised no more than other diseases." (Patterns of Madness in the Eighteenth Century, A Reader, Allan Ingram, 1998 AD, p 98)
  4. "Wesley's dedication to the spiritual welfare of the people was supplemented by his concern for their physical health. His widely read and frequently reprinted Primitive physick (1747) provided homely remedies within the reach of all; The family physician (1769) laid down rules of health and hygiene; and The desideratum was written to popularise what he considered the cheapest, safest, and most successful treatment for 'nervous Cases of every Kind', namely electricity. On 9 November 1756 he recorded 'Having procured an apparatus on purpose, I ordered several persons to be electrified . . . some of whom found an immediate, some a gradual, cure . . . Two or three years after, our patients were so numerous that we were obliged to divide them; so part were electrified in Southwark, part at the Foundary, others near St. Paul's, and the rest near the Seven Dials . . . and to this day, while hundreds, perhaps thousands, have received unspeakable good, I have not known one man, woman, or child, who has received any hurt thereby'. Wesley's concern that electrical treatment might go 'out of Use' like so many other fashionable treatments was unfounded as modern psychiatric history shows. His journal entry for 17 September 1740 pictures a psychiatric consultation by the leading 'mad-doctor' of the day, James Monro, physician to Bethlem Hospital. After looking at the patient's tongue to ascertain the state of his bodily health and particularly whether he was suffering from a febrile delirium, a phrenzy, or mania, Monro turned him over to his apothecary or general practitioner for treatment according to his prescription. After six weeks of this when he was so weak 'he could not stand alone' the boy's mother dismissed the apothecary and decided to let him be "beside himself" in peace'. Complaint of like treatment of another patient was the subject of a letter from Wesley's mother Susannah, illustrated in FIG. 85. At this time the religious fervour induced by some prominent non-conformist preachers as the Reverend George Whitefield was widely believed to cause mental derangement and the exhibition or religious ardour 'proof of . . . a right Mind' to the faithful became a sign of 'madness' to doctors. The entry for 12 May 1759 drawing attention to the part played by psychological factors in causing persisting aches and pains might have been written today. It contains the valuable advice that in such cases the physician ought to enquire specifically for emotional upsets because frequently the patient herself is unaware of any connection and so could or 'would never have told had she never been questioned about it'. (300 years of Psychiatry, Richard Hunter, 1963, p 420)

ELECTRICAL TREATMENT

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(The desideratum: or, electricity made plain and useful. By a lover of mankind, and of common sense, [1760] London, Flexney pp. iii-vi)

In the following Tract, I have endeavoured to comprize the Sum of what has been hitherto published, on this curious and important Subject, by Mr. Franklin, Dr. Hoadley, Mr. Wilson, Watson, Lovett, Freke, Martin, Watkins, and in the Monthly Magazines. But I am chiefly indebted to Mr. Franklin for the speculative Part, and to Mr. Lovett, for the practical : Tho' I cannot in every Thing subscribe to the Sentiments either of one or the other .. .

How much Sickness and Pain may be prevented or removed, and how many Lives saved by this unparalleled Remedy. And yet with what Vehemence has it been opposed? Sometimes by treating it with Contempt, as if it were of little or no Use : Sometimes by Arguments, such as they were; and sometimes by such Cautions against it's ill Effects, as made thousands afraid to meddle with it. But so it has fared with almost all the simple Remedies, which have been offered to the World for many Years. When Sir John Floyer published his excellent Book on Cold-bathing, many for a Time used and prosited by it. So did abundance of People by Cold Water, when it was publickly recommended by Dr. Hancock. The ingenious and benevolent Bishop of Cloyne, brought Tar-Water likewise into Credit for a season; and innumerable were the Cures wrought thereby, even in the most desperate and deplorable Cases. Nor was it a little Good which was done by the Use of Sea-water, after Dr. Russel had published his Tract concerning it. Indeed each of these did Wonders in it's turn. But alas ! their Reign was short. The vast Party which were on the other Side, soon raised the Cry, and ran them down. In a few Years they were out of Fashion, out of Use, and almost out of Memory : And the foul, hard named Exotics took Place again, to the utter Confusion of Common Sense.

Must not Electricity then, whatever Wonders it may now perform, expect soon to share the same Fate? And yet it is absolutely certain, that in many, very many Cases, it seldom or never fails . . . And yet there is something peculiarly unaccountable, with regard to its Operation. In some Cases, where there was no Hope of Help, it will succeed beyond all Expectation. In others, where we had the greatest Hope, it will have no Effect at all. Again, in some Experiments, it helps at the very first, and promises a speedy Cure : But presently the good Effect ceases, and the Patient is as he was before. On the contrary, in others it has no Effect at first : It does no good; perhaps seems to do hurt. Yet all this Time it is striking at the Root of the Disease, which in a while it totally removes. Frequent Instances of the former we have in Paralytic, of the latter, in Rheumatic Cases. But still one may upon the whole pronounce it the Desideratum, the general and rarely failing Remedy, in nervous Cases of every Kind (Palsies excepted); as well as in many others.

CONSULTATION WITH DR. MONRO

The journal of the Rev. John Wesley Edited by N. Curnock London, Kelly [1909-16] Vol. 2, pp. 385-6; vol. 4, p. 313

Wednesday, 17 September 1740. A poore woman gave me an account of what, I think, ought never to be forgotten. It was four years, she said, since her son, Peter Shaw, then nineteen or twenty years old, by hearing a sermon of Mr. Wheatley's, fell into great uneasiness. She thought he was ill, and would have sent for a physician; but he said, 'No, no. Send for Mr. Wheatley'. He was sent for, and came; and, after asking her a few questions, told her, 'The boy is mad. Get a coach, and carry him to Dr. Monro. Use my name. I have sent several such to him'. Accordingly, she got a coach, and went with him immediately to Dr. Monro's house. When the doctor came in, the young man rose and said, 'Sir, Mr. Wheatley has sent me to you'. The doctor asked, 'Is Mr. Wheatley your minister ?' and bid him put out his tongue. Then, without asking any questions, he told his mother : 'Choose your apothecary, and I will prescribe'. According to his prescriptions they, the next day, blooded him largely, confined him to a dark room, and put a strong blister on each of his arms, with another over all his head. But still he was as 'mad' as before, praying or singing, or giving thanks continually; of which having laboured to cure him for six weeks in vain, though he was now so weak he could not stand alone, his mother dismissed the doctor and apothecary, and let him be 'beside himself' in peace.

Saturday, 12 May 1759. Reflecting today on the case of a poor woman who had continual pain in her stomach, I could not but remark the inexcusable negligence of most physicians in cases of this nature. They prescribe drug upon drug, without knowing a jot of the matter concerning the root of the disorder. And without knowing this they cannot cure, though they can murder, the patient. Whence came this woman's pain (which she would never have told had she never been questioned about it) ? From fretting for the death of her son. And what availed medicines while that fretting continued ? Why, then, do not all physicians consider how far bodily disorders are caused or influenced by the mind?

"Dear son. I hope this will find you safe at Bristol, and if you be so kind as to write as soon as conveniently may be, I thereto rejoice. The reason of my writing so soon is, I'm somewhat troubled at the case of poor Mr MacCune. I think his wife was ill advised to send for that wretched fellow [James] Monroe for by what I hear, the man is not Lunatick, but rather under strong convictions of sin; and hath much more need of a spiritual, than bodily physician. However be it, Monroe last night sent him to a madhouse at Chelsea, where he is to undergo their usual method of cure in case of real madness; notwithstanding in their treatment of him, he behaved with great calmness, and meekness, nor ever but once swore at them, for he presently condemned himself and said, Lord what sin have I been guilty of, and cry'd to God for mercy, and pardon. This probably may confirm the Dr. in the opinion of his madness but to me tis a proof of his being in a right mind.... Dear son, I desire you, and your brother pray for this poor afflicted man...." FIG. 85 Letter from Susannah Wesley to her son John about 'poor Mr. MacCune', December 13, 1746 (Methodist Church, London, Colman Collection). (300 years of Psychiatry, Richard Hunter, 1963, p423)

Primitive Physic:
or An Easy and Natural Method of Curing Most Diseases
John Wesley
1747 AD

Preface

1. When man came first out of the hands of the great Creator, clothed in body as well as in soul, with immortality and incorruption, there was no place for physic, or the art of healing. As he knew no sin, so he knew no pain, no sickness, weakness, or bodily disorder. The habitation wherein the angelic mind, the Divinæ particula Auræ abode, though originally formed out of the dust of the earth, was liable to no decay. It had no seeds of corruption of dissolution within itself. And there was nothing without to injure it: Heaven and earth and all the hosts of them were mild, benign, and friendly to human nature. The entire creation was at peace with man, so long as man was at peace with his Creator. So that well might "the morning stars sing together, and all the sons of God shout for joy."

2. But since man rebelled against the Sovereign of heaven and earth, how entirely is the scene changed! The incorruptible frame hath put on corruption, the immortal has put on mortality. The seeds of weakness and pain, of sickness and death, are now lodged in our inmost substance; whence a thousand disorders continually spring, even without the aid of external violence. And how is the number of these increased by every thing round about us! The heavens, the earth, and all things contained therein, conspire to punish the rebels against their Creator. The sun and moon shed unwholesome influences from above; the earth exhales poisonous damps from beneath; the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fishes of the sea, are in a state of hostility: yea, the food we eat, daily saps the foundation of the life which cannot be sustained without it. So has the Lord of all secured the execution of his decrees, -- "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return."

3. But can there nothing be found to lessen those inconveniences, which cannot be wholly removed? To soften the evils of life, and prevent in part the sickness and pain to which we are continually exposed? Without question there may. One grant preventative of pain and sickness of various kinds, seems intimated by the great Author of nature in the very sentence that intails death upon us: "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, 'till thou return to the ground. The power of exercise, both to preserve and restore health, is greater than can well be conceived; especially in those who add temperance thereto; who if they do not confine themselves altogether to eat either "bread or the herb of the field," (which God does not require them to do) yet steadily observe both that kind and measure of food, which experience shews to be most friendly to health and strength.

4. 'Tis probable, physic, as well as religion, was in the first ages chiefly traditional: every father delivering down to his sons, that he had himself in like manner received, concerning the manner of healing both outward hurts and the diseases incident to each climate, and the medicines which were of the greatest efficacy for the cure of each disorder. 'Tis certain, this is the method wherein the art of healing is preserved among the Americans to this day. There diseases are indeed exceeding few; nor do they often occur, by reason of their continual exercise, and (till of late) universal temperance. But if any are sick, or bit by a serpent, or torn by a wild beast, the fathers immediately tell their children what remedy to apply. And 'tis rare that the patient suffers long; those medicines being quick, as well as, generally, infallible.

5. Hence it was, perhaps, that the ancients, not only of Greece and Rome, but even of the barbarous nations, usually assigned physic a divine original. And indeed it was a natural thought, that HE who had taught it to the very beasts and birds, the Cretan stag, the Egyptian Ibis, could not be wanting to teach man, Sanctius his animal, mentisque capacius altæ Yea, sometimes even by those meaner creatures: for it was easy to infer, "If this will heal that creature, whose flesh is nearly of the same texture with mine, then in a parallel case it will heal me." The trial was made: the cure was wrought: and the experience and physic grew up together.

6. As to the manner of using the medicines here set down, I should advise, As soon as you know your distemper, (which is very easy, unless in a complication of disorders, and then you would do well to apply to a physician that fears God) First, use the first of the remedies for that disease which occurs in the ensuing collection; (unless some other of them be easier to be had, and then it may do just as well.) Secondly, After a competent time, if it takes no effect, use the second, the third, and so on. I have purposely set down (in most cases) several remedies for each disorder; not only because all are not equally easy to be procured at all times, and in all places: But likewise the medicine that cures one man, will not always cure another of the same distemper. Nor will it cure the same man at all times. Therefore it was necessary to have a variety. However, I have subjoined the letter (I) to those medicines some think to be infallible. -- Thirdly, Observe all the time the greatest exactness in your regimen or manner of living. Abstain from all mixed, all high seasoned food. Use plain diet, easy of digestion; and this as sparingly as you can, consistent with ease and strength. Drink only water, if it agrees with our stomach; if not, good, clear small beer. Use as much exercise daily in the open air, as you can without weariness. Sup at six or seven on the lightest food; go to bed early, and rise betimes. To persevere with steadiness in this course, is often more than half the cure. Above all, add to the rest, (for it is not labour lost) that old unfashionable medicine, prayer. And have faith in God who "killeth and maketh alive, who bringeth down to the grace, and bringeth up."

7. For the sake of those who desire, through the blessing of God, to retain the health which they have recovered, I have added a few plain, easy rules, chiefly transcribed from Dr. Cheyne.

I.

1. The air we breathe is of great consequence to our health. Those who have been long abroad in easterly or northerly winds should drink some warm pepper tea on going to bed, or a draught of toast and water.

2. Tender people should have those who lie with them, or are much about them, sound, sweet, and healthy.

3. Everyone that would preserve health should be as clean and sweet as possible in their houses, clothes, and furniture.

II.

1. The great rule of eating and drinking is to suit the quality and quantity of food to the strength of the digestion; to take always such a sort and such a measure of food as sits light and easy on the stomach.

2. All pickled, or smoked, or salted food, and all high seasoned, are unwholesome.

3. Nothing conduces more to health than abstinence and plain food, with due labor.

4. For studious persons, about eight ounces of animal food, and twelve of vegetable, in twenty hours, is sufficient.

5. Water is the wholesomest of all drinks; it quickens the appetite and strengthens the digestion most.

6. Strong, and more especially, spirituous liquors, are a certain, though slow poison.

7. Experience shows there is very seldom any danger in leaving them off all at once.

8. Strong liquors do not prevent the mischiefs of a surfeit, or carry it off so safely as water.

9. Malt liquors (except for clear small beer, or small ale, of a due age) are extremely hurtful to tender persons.

10. Coffee and tea are extremely hurtful to persons who have weak nerves.

III.

1. Tender persons should eat very light suppers, and that two or three hours before going to bed.

2. They ought constantly go to bed about nine, and rise at four or five.

IV.

1. A due degree of exercise is indispensably necessary to health and long life.

2. Walking is the best exercise for those who are able to bear it; riding for those who are not. The open air, when the weather is fair, contributes much to the benefit of exercise.

3. We may strengthen any weak part of the body by constant exercise. Thus, the lungs may be strengthened by loud speaking, or walking up an easy ascent; the digestion and the nerves by riding; the arms and hams by strong rubbing them daily.

4. The studious ought to have stated times for exercise, at least two or three hours a day; the one-half of this before dinner, the other before going to bed.

5. They should frequently shave, and frequently wash their feet.

6. Those who read or write much, should learn to do it standing; otherwise, it will impair their health.

7. The fewer clothes anyone uses by day or night, the hardier he will be.

8. Exercise first, should be always on an empty stomach secondly, should never be continued to weariness; thirdly, after it, we should take to cool by degrees, otherwise we shall catch cold.

9. The flesh-brush is a most useful exercise, especially to strengthen any part that is weak.

10. Cold bathing is of great advantage to health; it prevents abundance of diseases. It promotes perspiration, helps the circulation of the blood; and prevents the danger of catching cold. Tender persons should pour pure water upon the head before they go in, and walk swiftly. To jump in with the head foremost is too great a shock to nature.

V.

1. Costiveness cannot long consist with health; therefore care should be taken to remove it at the beginning, and, when it is removed, to prevent its return by soft, cool, opening diet.

2. Obstructed perspiration (vulgarly called catching cold) is one great source of diseases. Whenever there appears the least sign of this, let it be removed by gentle sweats.

VI.

1. The passions have a greater influence upon health than most people are aware of.

2. All violent and sudden passions dispose to, or actually throw people into acute diseases.

3. The slow and lasting passions, such as grief and hopeless love, bring on chronical diseases.

4. Till the passion, which caused the disease, is calmed, medicine is applied in vain.

5. The love of God, as it is the sovereign remedy of all miseries, so in particular it effectually prevents all the bodily disorders the passions introduce, by keeping the passions themselves within due bounds; and by the unspeakable joy and perfect calm serenity and tranquility it gives the mind; it becomes the most powerful of all the means of health and long life.

LONDON, June 11, 1747

44. An Hysteric Cholic.

45. A Nervous Cholic.

151. Lunacy.

152. Raging Madness.

153. The Bite of a Mad Dog.

 

 

 

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