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[Read before the New York State Homoeopathic Medical Society.]

BY H. B. Fellows, K. D., Sennett, N. Y.

In accordance with an appointment by the Cayuga Co. Homoeopathic Society to communicate with the State Society in regard to the enlargement and improvement of our Materia Medica, and, in accordance with my own convictions of the necessity of some action in this department, I present this paper to the State Society for its consideration. It contains some of the reasons why we should be more active in proving new drugs or reproving old ones. Time will not allow a full discussion of this subject in all its bearings on the necessity of the movement, whether it should be a movement to reprove old drugs, or prove new ones, and how the proving should be conducted. In fact it naturally divides itself into several heads, each of which would make a communication of itself. I shall, therefore, attempt only a brief discussion that I may call the attention of the society to it, in the hope that some action may be taken in regard to the matter.

Impressed with the importance of as extensive and exact a Materia Medica as it is possible to have, I must urge upon the attention of the society the necessity of action in subjecting one or more drugs to careful provings. And it is of the utmost importance that this action be general and concerted. Should this be undertaken generally, the facts would accumulate with sufficient rapidity to make the value of the drug soon known; on the other hand, if there are but one or two who undertake a proving, but little can be accomplished. No one person can produce a perfect proving, even should he spend a series of years in the attempt. One thing essential to any proving before it can be considered complete, is that the effects of the drug on different constitutions, ages and sexes shall be observed. It is, therefore, necessary for a number of persons to prove a drug and that they shall act in concert. If a hundred persons in the State of New York were to begin the proving of a drug, each independent of any concerted action, it is not at all probable, it is hardly possible, that the hundred fragmentary provings would ever be collected; and until this should be accomplished the knowledge gained of the drug would be of comparatively little value to each prover, even though each proving should be carefully conducted. Should this society take hold of the matter and each member not only prove the drug chosen in his district upon himself, but induce some member of his household or some of his friends to do the same, a very complete set of provings might be the result. We have the elements in and under the control of the society, if we but use them to advance the science of medicine; and in no more important way can we serve the cause of Homoeopathy and humanity than by making our Materia Medica as perfect as possible. If, in any branch of the science of medicine, the homoeopathic physician should make greater exertion than in another, it is in this. However accurately he may diagnosticate a case and explain its pathology, if he does not know its corresponding homoeopathic remedy, his success can be but partial, and he will frequently fail where he might have succeeded. If the proving of the remedy is so incomplete that it does not point out the homoeopathic relation it holds to the disease, the result will be the same and the physician must fail, or only gain success by accident. These accidental cures are familiar to every physician, and teach us the necessity of proving the drug more thoroughly. The following case may serve as an example:

Mr. M., a young man of 21 years, had served through the Peninsular campaign and before Washington, when he was taken with a chronic diarrhea and was discharged from the army. He returned home and was then treated by both schools with no success. He was then induced to take an infusion of a plant in the vicinity (the botanical name I cannot at present give), being encouraged by the history of several cases cured that appeared similar to his own. In a very short time his improvement was marked and decided. His appetite and digestion became good, he gained in flesh and strength, a troublesome cough left him, and today he looks and feels as well as ever. Several cases similar to this have fallen within my observation, and though they were treated with rather large doses were effectually cured.

From the cases I have known I cannot tell the characteristic of the remedy, and could not use it with any more scientific precision than the quacks who advertise their “cure alls.” That the plant has a good deal of medicinal value there can be no doubt; but it must remain almost unavailable until it is properly proved. What I feel in reference to this plant, is felt by every physician in reference to some other drug.

The result of three thousand years experience is an advance of the science of medicine in almost every other branch greater than in this. Anatomy is almost perfect, if we except its nomenclature; physiology has advanced until the various organs of the system have had their action traced down to the primal cell; pathology now analyses almost every diseased action till it is as well known as are the functions in physiology, and for these results we are in a great measure to thank our brethren of the allopathic persuasion. These branches are based on facts which required only patient observation and study to determine, and so far they have been faithful and we have profited by their industry. But when we leave these and the other collateral branches of medicine and enter the domain of therapeutics, their experience facts avails but little, for therapeutics is not a series of observed facts merely. Therapeutics did not advance with the other branches of the science of medicine until the great governing law, announced by Hahnemann, became known and formed the ground-work of the study. Before this, facts had been loosely observed and conclusions drawn by false reasoning, as we see in the use of such enormous doses of Opium in delirium tremens, and of Mercury in syphilis. When this law of “similia similibus” became known, it was found necessary to reconstruct the entire Materia Medica that therapeutics might advance towards perfection, then for the first time possible. The Materia Medica, at that time, was a mass of rubbish, much of which could not at all be used in the new structure which was about to be erected, and nearly all the remainder was so imperfect that it would prove almost as valueless. The reconstruction of the Materia Medica to be available for the newly discovered law of cure, required that the effects of each drug should be accurately and minutely ascertained by proving it upon the healthy, and from this resulted the Materia Medica Purs. Hahnemann and his immediate followers deserve the greatest praise for the energy and perseverance with which they set about and followed up this reconstruction. But they could not accomplish the whole work, and those who have followed in their path until the present have not been able to complete this great work of reconstruction. If we would maintain success and make an advance such as is worthy of the followers of so great a master as Hahnemann, we must take up this work where our predecessors left off and continue it.

By what means can this work be carried on most successfully? Not, as we have endeavored to show by individual effort alone, but through the instrumentality of organized bodies of provers. The County and State Societies and the American Institute of Homoeopathy, if that organization still exists, furnish the organizations that should be available for this purpose.

As small bodies of men work together more earnestly than larger ones as a general rule, each County Society should constitute itself a Prover's Union, and use all its powers to ascertain the effects of the drug chosen for investigation. In those counties where there is no society organized, let those physicians who are willing to assist in this work act together by some common argument. These various results should be placed in the hands of the committee on Materia Medica sufficiently early to arrange for the meeting of the society, at which the report is to be presented. After its presentation to the county society it should be forwarded to the committee constituting the Bureau of Materia Medica of the State society, and I would suggest that the original record of the daily provings should be sent, and not any abstract of them. At least one district should be engaged in proving one drug, and each county should send its report to the member of the Bureau for that district in which the county is situated, to be arranged with other reports for presentation at the meeting of the State society, and subsequently for publication. By this method the provings of several drugs might every year be added to our Materia Medica by this State alone; and if other States would adopt a similar course of proceeding, our Materia Medica might be rapidly and reliably enlarged. Should the America Institute ever resume its meetings and several States devote some effort to proving drugs, these results could be collected and published under the superintendance of a board of editors appointed by that body, and a year book of provings furnished that every homoeopathic physician would find it difficult to get along without.

This is a brief statement of a method by which it has seemed possible that a worthy result might be accomplished. The details will readily suggest themselves to those who will give the subject a thought. For it I claim no particular originality, and I would willingly adopt and assist, as far as in my power, to carry out any other that will promise as much.

In considering this method, it has appeared that the apathy in this department, not so much from a lack of devotion to their chosen calling on the part of the homoeopathic physicians of this State, nor to the unwillingness to subject themselves to the slight inconvenience of proving a drug in the cause of Homoeopathy and suffering humanity, as to the fact that it has not generally been carried on so as to assure the aggregation of the individual result. As soon as the profession at large shall be made to feel that this work shall be taken up in earnest under the direction of earnest workers, I think there will be no lack of proving, and for one I am willing to pledge myself for, at least, one proving every year.


Source: The American Homoeopathic Review Vol. 05 No. 03, 1864, pages 148-153
Description: Enlargement of The Materia Medica
Author: Fellows, H.B.
Year: 1864
Editing: errors only; interlinks; formatting
Attribution: Legatum Homeopathicum
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