Historical background

The Eclectic medical books are filled with innovative uses of Native American herbal remedies.
Because the Eclectics were practicing in places where they had no access to the long used
remedies of their European heritage, they had to make due with the drugs that could be found in
their immediate midst. Indeed, the frontier environment demanded innovation from all people,
be they farmers, ranchers or doctors.
As a researcher looking for drugs worthy of study, a single mention of a drug by one Eclectic
physician is not that significant. The physician’s success could have been based on the water he
used to make the medicine or some other extraneous fact. However, when ten Eclectics come to
the same conclusion about the same drug, then there is a significant piece of information. This
medical movement was so much about discovery that the notable drugs are the ones many
doctors found useful.
Clearly, the historical setting of the Eclectic movement informs the use of their texts. This is but
one example of the importance of knowing the history of the defunct medical tradition and how
it facilitates the research process and reading of texts.