Notes From an 1884 Medical Text: Part I

Notes From an 1884 Medical Text: Part I

Read time: 9 minute read

“Madam, you cannot have health without exercise and pure air”. Robb, R.L.


A couple of weeks ago whilst cleaning out the house, my mum found a Medical textbook from 1884;

‘Robb’s Family Physician: Being a concise and comprehensive treatise on diseases, as they occur in everyday life – showing the causes, explaining the symptoms and treatment and demonstrating the cure of the various ill’s humanity is subject to. Sold by subscription only’.

Half-interested at first, thinking I’ll take a quick look over it and see if it’s worth keeping, I flicked through it. Surprised by how intuitive the content is, and also how similar it is to the concepts taught in Naturopathy, for which I am qualified, I am now reading it cover to cover and decided to share my thoughts with you here.

I also tracked down a copy for sale of the 1882 version, which is priced at $480. Wow!

So, this is Part 1 of my 1884 medical textbook adventure…

I have heard from highly experienced naturopaths that naturopathy it is not ‘alternative medicine’, but in fact the original medicine. Now I know exactly what they meant.

As of late there have been drastic moves by the government to deem natural therapies useless, so their allopathic form can take over. Given that modern medicine does not have a handle on most diseases, I believe there is a place for all kinds of medicine and that looking into the past to see where we have gone wrong is a powerful thing.



“It is a matter of great importance how far it is proper to interfere with the management of diseases”. Meaning, man is not God nor should he play God, especially in the arena for which he or she doesn’t know what is really going on.

One of the most contrasting elements of natural vs allopathic (drug-based) medicine is in the founding concept; natural medicine believes that the body is powerful and can heal itself, merely needing some steering in the right direction. That ‘steering’ is managed through the prescription of natural remedies be it plants, nutrients, emotional factors or energetics, and lifestyle change, so either the cause is removed, or the body is supported where this can’t happen.

As a contrast to that, allopathic medicine aims to find the problem, and then either remove, block, suppress, or re-direct that problem, in most cases doing not much more outside of suppressing the symptoms of that condition. The problem with this approach (in my opinion), is that we are not machines running on man made parts. The outcomes of certain actions within the body are totally unpredictable just like the onset of most diseases themselves are.

Back to the book contents… 



  1. The removal of the cause upon which the disease depends, is amongst the most important; ie, identify the cause of the disease – whether it be by climate, living conditions, previous history, constitution, electric, or caused by food or famine, etc
  2. The exact seat of the disease should be ascertained; ie, find out if the condition is in the blood and if not, where is it?
  3. It must be stated, as a general law, that diseases are rarely stationary; ie, find out if it’s coming, going, on a break, improving, or worsening.
  4. The use of remedies is also governed by the stage of the disease; ie, ensure you know what stage it is at, before you treat it.
  5. The condition of the system; ie, how was the person doing when it started? Where they strong, unhealthy, old, young? What habits did they have?
  6. Co-existing influences modify greatly the disease results of particular causes; ie, without attending to these underlying influences that modify disease – and I’ll quote the book here because it’s great – “the treatment will be liable to attend with fatal blunders.”
  7. The pointing of nature, as shown by the expression of wants by the patient should not be disregarded, but should be watched for, and cautiously gratified, even if they are opposed by the dictates of our own reason, or even to the whole course of our own reason; ie, deny the patient the typed of foods, drinks, and lifestyle demands made whilst unwell, if it is believed that it will hinder the healing process, so for example drinking alcohol or mcdonalds when unwell is not helpful to the healing process
  8. In the treatment of disease, it is a good general rule to attend to the state of the functions (secretions and excretions) and to correct any disorder there, even if they are not directly connected to the disease; ie, ensure the elimination channels are functioning properly including the kidneys/urine, bowel, skin, as without proper elimination of waste, a healthy state cannot be achieved!

Note that the italics are the beautifully constructed words from the book, and the ‘ie’ that follows is my explanation in regard to what that rule is all about.

To put these concepts into practice, let’s take for example rule 1; you need to find the cause of the disease, and remove it. Say for example your disease is caused by your lifestyle, taking a pill will merely protect you from dying sooner, from that condition. A change in lifestyle however, aka removal of the cause, will likely help you heal.

Rule 8 is one of the most important in naturopathy, for if the body can’t eliminate waste, it can’t heal either. When is the last time the doctor checked your elimination? What about rule 6, where it states that without addressing underling issues, or pre-existing conditions, you may give the wrong treatment and kill the patient? This happens in modern medicine so often that it has a name – iatrogenesis.



“Women are more susceptible to men and should be treated more delicately.”

Despite what modern feminists believe, men and women aren’t the same. Women have more fragile constitutions, and a different purpose to men, physiologically. Men thrive under stress but for women it’s considered a threat to child baring. When did we lose touch with this?

Most medicinal and nutritional protocol are tested on young, military aged men. Women are excluded because our hormones fluctuate too much, and menstrual cycles mess with data consistency. When data is inconsistent, drugs can’t be approved.

This book recommends special treatment for women, which makes sense to me. I obviously believe women are awesome, but I do accept the very real fact that our bodies aren’t as resilient as men’s. Accepting this fact is one of the primary things that brought about the success of my coaching business. I treat women like women, I don’t push them like men.

He goes on to specify that during the menstrual cycle, many treatments should be stopped as this is not a time for healing.

That concludes Part 1 of my 1884 medical textbook reflections.


Please send me any feedback or thoughts on this? And let me know if this is a topic of interest for you so I can include more like it!

Jen x







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