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In the whole catalogue of the Materia Medica, the productions of the animal and mineral kingdom bear a small proportion to those of the vegetable. Though it must be acknowledged that, for some time past, the medicinal uses of vegetable simples have been less regarded by physicians than they were formerly, which probably may be ascribed to the successive discoveries and improvements in chemistry; it would, however, be difficult to show that this preference is supported by any conclusive reasoning, drawn from a com parative superiority of chemicals over galenicals, or that the more general use of the former has actually led to a more successful practice.
The various American works on Botany have given but very limited portions of the vegetable kingdom; yet limited as they are, "few medical practitioners have a distinct botanical knowledge of the individual plants of which they are composed, though generally well acquainted with their effects and medical uses. But the practitioner who is unable to distinguish those plants which he prescribes, is not only subjected to the impositions of the ignorant and fraudulent, but must feel a dissatisfaction which the inquisitive and philosophic mind will be anxious to remove, and to such, it is presumed, the American Flora will be found an acceptable and useful work; the professed design of which is not only to enable the reader to distinguish with precision all those plants which are directed for medical use, and to furnish him at the same time with a circumstantial detail of their respective virtues, and of the diseases in which they have been most successfully employed by different authors.
A child may walk into the field, and amuse himself with the groups of flowers which there present themselves to his notice. He may be able to distinguish between the Tulip and the Snowdrop, the Rose and the Lily, and be delighted with their external beauties and rich varieties; but it is the Botanist alone, who by an accurate knowledge of the various parts of the plant, can expatiate on its wonderful formation.
If, then, a knowledge of Botany is so necessary to men of science and general literature, it must be obvious that those plants in the vegetable kingdom which possess medicinal properties, ought certainly to attract the attention of medical men.
The Author has the satisfaction of introducing many rare and valuable plants, which have never been completely portrayed in any preceding work whatever, embracing all the Wild Flowers of America, all beautifully colored, and their drawings taken from nature; and by subjoining a botanical description, natural and medical history of each species, curiosity is more fully gratified, and a double interest is excited in the mind of the student .