A PERIOD so full of hope for Medical Science, as this in which we live, has never dawned upon the world. The labors of our predecessors in the fields of Anatomy, Obstetrics and Surgery, have so advanced these branches of medical learning as to leave but little to be added by future observers. Chemistry and Physiology, under the guidance of such men as Davy and Dalton, Berzelius and Gay-Lussac, Liebig and Reichenbach, have made, within the last few years, enormous strides; and Pathological Anatomy is not far behind them. The natural history of the Materia Medica, the physical diagnosis of the lesions resulting from disease, and the Laws of Diet and Hygiene, are fast becoming matters of fact; and last, though not least, the whole system of Therapeutics has undergone, and is still undergoing, radical changes, even among our Allopathic brethren; while the School of Rational Medicine has transformed that which was formerly an Art, into a Positive Science, and has brought precision and certainty out of the doubts and empiricisms of former times.
Our younger practitioners are hardly able to conceive the vast difference between the allopathic practice of this age and that which preceded it. There is, for instance, in the size of the dose, a change for the better, which would have called forth charges of the grossest heresy, an hundred years ago. We hear daily of the most distinguished allopathic practitioners administering aconite from half a tumbler of water, in which a drop of the tincture of the drug has been placed, and giving this attenuation only once in two hours. They use belladonna and ipecac in the same manner. Mercury and quinine are now most frequently given in doses of divided grains. Two drops of the tincture nux vom. are diffused through two ounces of rose-water, and a teaspoonful of the mixture given every morning. Tart. ant. is dissolved in water, and administered in doses of l-50th of a grain. A grain of the sublimate of mercury is divided between an hundred pills of liquorice. Fowler's solution of arsenic, which corresponds to our first dilution, is given in one, three or five drop doses.
In the matters, also, of purging, vomiting, blistering and bleeding, a great reform has taken place. The heroic practice is no longer in vogue with the cultivated and intelligent portion of the old school. Bleeding to syncope is now as happily rare, in the practice of the best allopathic physicians, as it was formerly lamentably common. Salivation from the use of mercury is more often accidental than intentional. Purgatives are less frequently exhibited, and emetics are very seldom employed, except in cases of acute disease.
Many new remedies have also been of late introduced, or re-inserted in the pharmacopeia. Arnica, rhus, nux, pulsatilla, and several others, occupy prominent places in the list of remedies frequently used by old school physicians.
Great progress is being made, under the expectant treatment, in the study of the natural history of disease-as to its nature, course and termination. The really great minds in the old school have pronounced themselves in favor of permitting Nature alone to cure diseases, with but little or no interference from the practitioner.
The whole allopathic world is thus on the brink of Homoeopathy. This fact is perhaps not apparent to the adherents of the old school, but it cannot fail to be evident to us, who stand on higher ground and have a correspondingly wider range of vision.
By many allopathists, the law of “like cures like,” is admitted as a partial truth. The application of caustic to ulcers, and to inflamed fauces; the treatment of dysentery by rhubarb or ipecac; the administration of caustic and copper in cases of dyspepsia, as well as of nitric and muriatic acid in chronic gastritis-and hundreds of other instances-show the truth of our remark.
Mortality, for these latter reasons, has greatly diminished. Abernethy was accustomed to say, that unless a doctor had, at least, two deaths a week, he should not consider himself in good practice! A bill of mortality like this mentioned by the eccentric gentleman, would now drive a practitioner into other means of livelihood.
The progress of times and seasons has doubtless had much to do with all this. The world has always progressed, has been ever growing wiser, in many directions at once. But the influence of the system of Hahnemann, with its splendid practical results, has dome more than all else to bring Medical Science to its present improved and progressive state. To our illustrious founder belongs the honor of striking the heavy blow which scattered the confused heap of valuable facts and silly theories pertaining to the allopathic school; and to him is also due the credit of studying and carefully collecting such of the fragments as were of service to the structure erected by this skillful hands.
Homoeopathy, as a principle of Therapeutics, is older than Hahnemann. The master has himself proved its antiquity, from the writings of his predecessors, while demonstrating its value, by his own experiments. He claims no more than the elimination of a great truth from the mass of rubbish with which it was surrounded.
The world is indebted to him for this, but his great and everlasting fame rests upon the accuracy and scientific exactness to which he has reduced the application of remedial agents, by means of the system of “provings.“And here, it seems to us, the immense superiority of this system must be manifest, at first sight, to every unprejudiced mind. The modified practice of the best physicians of the old school brings them very near to those of us who employ crude drugs, or tinctures, on homoeopathic principles. The main difference consists in the application of this system of provings. The Allopath gives aconite in fever, because he is told to do so by his teachers, who have found it useful to lower the pulse. The Homoeopath gives aconite in fever because he knows it to be capable of producing the phenomena which he desires to relieve.
While the Homoeopath knows the true value of an hundred old drugs, and as many new ones, without the risk of experiment upon the sick, but simply from the result of proving the remedy upon the body of the healthy-provings entered upon knowingly and voluntarily, by the subject, whose strength and vigor are sufficient to overcome any deleterious action of the dose-to the Allopath, nothing can be known, from the physical properties or from the chemical constituents of a medicine, which will be of the least value in the treatment of disease, without dangerous and unjustifiable experiment.
The language of the conscientious Allopath is-as recited to us the very day of this writing, by a patient who brought a prescription from a distinguished gentleman of the old school-“This drug may do you good-I hope it will, but cannot say positively. Try it, and let me know the result.” Iod. potass., cit. mag. and comp. tinct. of gentian, were the ingredients.
In presenting an outline of the present position of Medical Science, it would be manifestly out of place to enter into the discussion of those questions in relation to which our school is divided; for, while it is generally admitted that the certainty at present attaching to reformed Therapeutics favors, or at least permits, the employment of highly attenuated doses, there is still great diversity of opinion as to the extent to which this attenuation may be carried, and as to the conditions under which the different potencies should be prescribed. We hope this Review may be instrumental, to some extent, in the discovery of that law under which we can all unite in our views of the potencies to be employed, as we already do, in our method of selecting the drug. But notwithstanding these diversities of opinion, it is certain that the discovery of the power of attenuated remedies is one of the greatest that medical science has ever witnessed. A belief in their efficacy is held by a large majority of our branch of the profession-and, indeed, in several instances, by members of the allopathic school. These latter imply their confidence in the power of the dilutions, when they impute to them the injurious effects of paralysis, neuralgias, and mental disease.
Such then, in the main, is the present position of Medical Science. Never before have we had so many facts, never such reasonable theories, never such brilliant results. In looking back upon the course of Medical History, we find, through the progress of the ages, the learning and enthusiasm, the talent and the industry, of the wisest, enlisted in our cause. The line of progress, of the leaders or soldiers, has sometimes wandered from the direct, but their course has been always upward. Even in the crudest theories there have always been gleamings of truth, and every fact, however unimportant it may seem at first sight, has proved of ultimate service. It was indeed fitting and reasonable that the science of healing should require, for its foundation, a full knowledge of the anatomy of health and disease; for its further elimination, a knowledge of the peculiar properties of the drugs employed in treatment; and, for its positive utility, the knowledge of a law under which these drugs are to be prescribed.
This, then, is the fair inheritance of the medical profession of the present day. What the past has given is ours forever. Nothing received is utterly useless. Let us not, then, in an intoxication following these deep draughts of Science, make merry, as do spendthrift heirs, over the foibles of those who heaped up our wealth. Glorying in their strength, rather than harping on their weaknesses, let us seek to imitate their honest endeavor.
|The AMERICAN HOMOEOPATHIC REVIEW Vol. 01 No. 01, 1858, pages 02-07
|Present position of Medical Science
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