Philosophy of Osteopathy
Andrew Taylor Still, D.O.




    That nature makes nothing in vain is an established truth in the minds of all persons whose observation has created such persons a desire that being my faith for many years I as d myself to try and get a reason of why nature had made and placed in a person's head so much fine machinery just to make a little ear wax.  If nothing is made in vain, what is that bitter stuff made for?  It is always there, and more being made all the time.  I have read many authors or say so's about ear wax, and about the best the wise or the unwise have said is that it would keep bugs and other insects out of our heads.  I thought if that was all that it was made for nature had done a great deal to shoo off the bugs.  The idea that it was made bitter and bad to eat just to make bugs sick was weak philosophy, if nature never did any useless work or made anything in vain.  At this time I saw the doors all open and a good chance for the loaded mind to unload and give us other uses for ear wax than bug food, and to lubricate the auditory nerves with dry wax.  At this time of my desire to know some positive use or object that nature had in forming so much fine machinery and no use for its products when made, but to pull out of the head with a hairpin, I reasoned about so, that this dry hard wax was once in the gaseous or fluid state.


    When I had about concluded to sit down with the common herd of doctors and say that wax was wax, a fat boy of two summers was reported to me to be dying with croup.  I began to think more about the dry wax that is always found in cases of croup, sore throat, tonsilitis, pneumonia, and all diseases of the lungs, nose and head.  On examination I found the ear wax dried up.  So I put a few drops of glycerine, and after a minute's time a few drops of warm water in the child's head, and kept a wet rag corked into its ear frequently for twelve hours, and gave it Osteopathic treatment, at the end of which time all signs of croup had disappeared.  I used the glycerine to soften the wax, which combining with water formed a harmless soap better qualified for washing the ear, and retaining the wax in solution than anything I have tried, for it is my opinion that the ear wax should be kept in a fluid state.  When in that state the absorbent can more readily take it up and use it in the economy of life in this condition.  The same day two ladies came to my house, sore in lungs, necks tied up, sore throats, fever and headache.  As an experiment, in addition to Osteopathic treatment, I put a few drops of glycerine in their ears, followed with water to wet and soften the wax which was dry and hard, to get it back to a fluid state.  Both got better of their sore lungs and throats in a short time, and in twenty-four hours they were about well, and lungs coughing out phlegm, easily.  From this I think that the cause of croup is simply the result of abnormality of the cerumen system.


    As a question of the uses of ear wax has been before man for ages without an answer being given that passes the line of conjecture, I think there could be no reason why a few looks through the field glass of inquiry should not be given in a limited way on that great plane of fertility, for the minds of our most profound thinkers.  As far as the writer can learn from reading and other methods of inquiry, the power and use of ear wax has never been known, looked on, or thought of as one of life's agents for good or bad health.  One asks this question: "Why are you talking about ear wax, the filthy stuff?" In answer I asked, "What do you know about ear wax?" The answer, "I don't know or care anything about the dirty stuff."


    As my spleen is my organ of mirth, I let it bounce against my side a few times at such ignorance and gave the wax subject more study than ever -- I began to read all the books I could find on Anatomy, Physiology, and Histology to get some knowledge of the machinery that the wise architect of that greatest of all temples had made to generate wax.  At this time a conviction came to me to be sure of its uses before I gave an opinion.  I find the center of nerve supply of the ears located at the base of the brain and side of the head, in front of the cerebellum, just below and near the center of the brain, a little above the foramen magnum, close to and behind the carotid arteries, deep and superficial, just above the entry of the spinal cord to the brain.  Thus it is situated directly in communication with all nerves to and from the brain to every part of the body.  Another question, and another came only to come and go without an answer -- such as how and where is this wax made?  Of what use is it?  Why so awful bitter?  Has it any living principle above dry earth?  Is it produced in the brain, lymphatics, fascia, heart, lungs, nerves or where?  How much of it would kill a man?  Would it kill at all?  What is it made for?  Is it used by nerves as food, or used by lungs, heart, or any organ as an active principle in the magnetic or electric forces?, So far all authors are silent even to offer a speculative opinion about how it is made and its uses.  So far we get nothing from the ancient or modern writers, as to its uses or anything that would cause a man to think that the Creator had any great design, when he made so wisely constructed and so much machinery and gave it such prominent place in the center of the brain.  By this time the reader be -gins to mentally ask what does this wax evangelist know about the wax and its uses?  The writer wishes to observe and respect all nature and never be too hasty.  To carefully explore all, and never leave until he finds the cause and use that nature's hand has placed in its works, never overlooking small packages as they often contain precious gems.  I am sure no man of brilliant mind can pass this milepost and not hitch his team and do some precious loading.  At this point my pen will give notice to all anatomists, histologists, chemists and physiologists that I will give "no sleep nor slumber to their eyes," until I near from them an answer, yes or no to these questions: For what purpose did God make ear-wax?  Is it food or refuse?  If food, what is nourished by it? and how do you know your position is true and undebatable?


    Life means existence; existence means subsistence; subsistence means something to subsist on, and of the degree of refinement to suit the being or principle whose function is to do the skilled work which is found marked on the tressle-board of the wisest of all builders, whose work is absolutely correct in form and action, and beautiful to behold.  It calls out the admiration of man and God himself, who did say of man, "Not only good, but very good."


    I consider ear wax one of the most important questions before the minds of our physiologists.  The first and only knowledge of which substance begins with the observer's eye when he beholds the dry wax as it is excreted and dropped into the cavities of the ears.  A question arises -- and stands without an answer -- is this substance which is commonly called ear wax, technically called cerumen, is it dead or is it alive while in this form and visible?  If dead, why, and how did it lose its life?  Why has it not been consumed if once a living substance?  When alive, is it in the gaseous or fluid state? and when alive, and consumed as nutriment by the system what does it nourish? is the question for the philosopher's attention, not superficial, but his deepest thought?  Why is it deposited in the center of the brain if not to impart its vital principle to all nerves interested in life and nutrition -- both physical and spiritual.  Its location, itself, would indicate its importance.  Another thought is that no better place could be selected to establish and locate a universal supply office for the laborers of all parts of the whole superstructure.  Another question arises: When we examine a person paralyzed on one side, why do we find this bread of life in such great quantities on the table and not consumed?  Has not one-half of the brain and the nerves of that whole side, limbs and all, lost their power of digestion?  Is hemiplegia a dyspepsia of the nerves of nutriment of the brain and organs of that side?  If so we have some foundation on which to build an answer why this wax is not consumed and is dried up in the ears of the parylytic.  The answer would be that nutrition is suspended.


    Let us take croup, diphtheria, scarlet fever, lagrippe, and all classes of colds -- on to pneumonia.  They present about the same symptoms, differing more in degrees of severity than of place.  All affect the tonsils, nostrils, membraneous air passages, and lungs about the same way.  Croup exceeds by contracting the trachea enough to impede the passing of air to the lungs; diphtheria has more swelling of the tonsils, throat and glands of the neck, but all depend upon the same blood and nerve supply, or a general law of blood beginning with arteries to and from veins, lymphatics, glands and ducts to supply and take away all fluids that are of no farther use to the vital and material support.  As all authors have agreed that the brain furnishes the propelling forces to the. nerves, it would be proper to inquire how the brain is nourished.  If so, we will begin and say the great cerebral system of arteries supply the brain of which it gives quality of all fluids and electric and magnetic forces, which must be generated in the brain.  Then a question arises, if the heart, lungs, liver, pancreas, lymphatics, kidneys and all parts of the body depend upon the brain for power, what do they give in return?  If they give back anything it must be of the kind of the organ from whence it comes; thus a kidney cannot give liver nor spleen.  Each must help to keep up the universal harmony by furnishing its mite of its own kind.  Suppose lung fever is the effect of lack of renal salts, where would be a better place to dispatch from to renal organs than the ears to reach the brain and touch the nerve that connects with the sympathetic ganglion.


    Suppose we take the cerumen in its fluid state, by the secretions to the lungs from the ears and see the action of air and other substances on it, and it on them.  We may safely look for a general action of some kind.  If it be magnetic food, we will see the magnetic power shown in the lungs, and through the whole system, vitalizing all organs and functions of life.  Thus the lymphatics will move to wash out impurities, and the nutritive nerves will rebuild lost energy.  As but little is known or said of how or where the cerumen is formed, we will guess it is formed under the skin in the glands of the fascia and conveyed to the ears by the secretory ducts.  Its place and how it is manufactured is not the question of the greatest importance, but its uses in
disease and health.


    The writer has much reason to believe he has found a reliable pointer for the cause of croup, diphtheria, and pneumonia; also a rational and easy cure that any mother can administer and save the babe from choking to death in her arms.  Having witnessed croup in all its deadly work for fifty years, and seen the best skill of each year and generation fail to save, or even give relief, I lost all hope and grew to believe there was no help and the doctor was only one more witness to the scene of death and carnage found along the mysterious road that croup travels to slay the babes of the whole earth.  Of later days we have new and different names for the disease, but alas, it kills the babe just as it did before it was called diphtheria, la grippe and so on.


    I write this more for the mothers than for the critics.  We say to mothers, as you are not Osteopaths, you are perfectly safe in putting glycerine in a child's ears.  It is made from oils and fats.  I believe when the wax is not consumed it clogs up the excretories with dead matter, thus the irritation of the nerves of throat, neck, lungs and lymphatics which give cause for the swelling of the tonsils and glands of the neck.  In this book can be found why I see wisdom in treating for croup from the nerve centers of the brain.  So far the uses and importance of healthy ear wax as a cure for disease has had no attention that I can find by any author on disease or physiology.  I hope time and attention may lead us to a better knowledge of the cure of diphtheria, croup, scarlet fever and all diseases of the throat and lungs of children, and how to cure a greater per cent than has been up to this writing.  My experience up to date with such diseases, when treated as indicated, has been very encouraging.  Though it is but a short time since I began to treat by this method, it has proven good with the young and old.

    As all authors so far seem silent even as to how or when the wax is formed, we must resort to much careful dissection to find the relation of the cerumen system to health.  To intelligently acquaint the mother with this treatment who does not understand anatomy so as to give Osteopathic treatment for croup, diphtheria, and so on, I will say; take a soft wet cloth and wash the child's neck and rub gently down from ears to breast and shoulders; keep ears wet, often dropping in the glycerine.  Use glycerine because it will mix with the water and dissolve the wax, while sweet oil and other oils will not do so.


    At 2 o'clock p. m. I called to see a babe having malignant croup in its worst form, and examined its ears to see condition of wax.  I had noticed in consumptives that some cases had great quantities of dry wax in one or both ears, but to this time had not thought of such deposits being an evidence of lost or suspended action of the nerves that manufactured cerumen.  In this case I found wax dry and very hard, with much swelling and hardness in region of ears, eustachian tubes and tonsils.  I reasoned that the excretory duct had become clogged, and that by the wax being retained in ducts and glands an irritation of the nerves of the cervical lymphatics had caused contraction near head, and produced congestion of the lymphatics, of the pneumogastric, and cutting off nerves supply from lungs.  Believing this to be very likely I concluded to act on the above line of reasoning and see if I could give some relief.  I did not stop to debate why the wax was hard and dry, but how to soften the wax was the question of interest to me then.  So I proceeded.  I reasoned that soap and water would be the best treatment to clean the ears, and soften the wax.  At this point to select the best make of soap in the ears was to be desired, so I took pure glycerine and water, dropped in a few drops and took a small roll of cloth, made it wet in warm water and pushed it in ears to keep them wet.  In a few minutes I wet and inserted a soft cloth cork in the child's ears.  I twisted the corks around in the ears, each time to mix the water and the wax to a softened condition, for to keep the wax wet was the object.  In a few minutes I got the wax wet and the child coughed up phlegm easily, and when the dreaded hour, ten o'clock at night came, all danger had passed.


    If digestion is the effect of organs, fluids and forces, then the student of nature's law must be governed by well known truths, such as the location of the brain, connection of the nerves to other organs, bringing all parts interested in digestion in mental view.  Thus you have a chance to know if one organ has an assisting relation to any other organ or system or if its products are of general or of special use.  A few questions at this point of inquiry would be in place.  Does the brain give assistance in digestion, and why may we reasonably suppose so, when digestion does its work normally and has a full, rich supply of blood?  Yet disease enters the system, and begins its work with general weakness, swelling, wastings, and pain with some, or all the glands congested and sore, and a plenty of rich blood all the time.  Then are we justified to go to the brain and examine the electric and magnetic batteries?  We know such forces exist but as their location in the brain is not known farther than the fact of their existence, we do not know how they are fed, nor from where, so we are fully warranted in seeking a use for both powers -- magnetic and electric.  One says the power of electricity belongs more to the motor nerves and the magnetic to the nutrient system; if not they are happily blended and give the results.  Without such forces life and motion could not be sustained.  As it is not my object to write a treatise on general physiology, I will turn at once to the subject of the relation of life and health as affected by the abnormal supply and action of ear wax. [* "The secretion of the external auditory meatus, mixed with the secretion of the neighboring glands or ceruminous glands, forms the well known ear wax or cerumen.  The secretion in this place contains a reddish pigment of a bitterish sweet taste, the composition of which has not been investigated." -- American Text-Book of Physiology.]


    As our investigations are without the assistance of ancient or modern writers we will have to reason that man is a machine of form and power, forming its own parts and generating its own powers as it has use for them.  At this time we begin to reason thus, that all powers are invisible and we see effect only.  We know such forces to be abundant in nature, and life is sustained by them.  To find the substances in the body that causes them to act and how to act, has been the object of my journey as an explorer.  If they give us health when normal action prevails and disease only when abnormal, then we are admonished to form a more intimate acquaintance with the qualities, and with all the products, when formed in this great laboratory which compounds and qualifies each substance to fill its mission of force, construction, purity and action.