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Ch. 3: Healing Stones

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STONES OF HEALING
125
administered or used by any rational physician.14 That powdered hematite (red oxide of iron) possesses an astrin­gent quality and may really be looked upon as a medicine, he fully recognizes, more particularly its efficacy for the cure of diseases of the eye, but neither these nor similar qualities can be credited to sapphires, emeralds, or jacinths. At the same time he is not disposed to deny that these stones may have some subtle effect upon the body when worn, or when held in the mouth for a time. Thus he agrees with Avicenna (Ben Sina) that a jacinth worn over the heart may strengthen that organ, for he knows of the power inherent in jasper to check a hemorrhage. In a word his argument is principally directed against the internal use of powders made from these hard and unassimilable stones.15
Robert Boyle, writing in 1663, attempts to show that the theory of the therapeutic action of precious stones is not incompatible with observed facts. In this connection he says :16
I am not altogether of their mind, that absolutely reject the internal use of Leaf-Gold, Rubies, Saphyrs, Emeralds, and other Gems, as things that are unconquerable by the heat of the stomach. For as there are rich Patients that may, without much inconvenience, goe to the price of the dearest Medicines ; so I think the Stomach acts not on Medicines barely upon the account of ite heat, but is endowed with a subtle dissolvent (whence never it hath it) by which it may perform divers things not to be done by so languid a heat. And I have, with Liquors of differing sorts, easily drawn from Vegetable Substances, and perhaps unrectified, sometimes dissolved, and sometimes drawn Tinctures from Gems, and that in the cold . . . But that which I chiefly consider on this occasion is, that 'tis one thing to make it probable, that is, possible, Gold, Rubies, Saphyrs, etc., may be wrought upon by humane Stomach; and another thing to shew both that they are wont to be so, and that they are actually endowed with those particular
"Op. cit., p. 116. * Op. cit., pp. 118-122.
"Boyle, "On the Usefulness of Experimental Philosophy," Oxford, 1664, p. 108.
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