The especial branches of the Materia Medica are pharmacognosis, the knowledge of the natural history and physical property of drugs; pharmacology, the knowledge of the collection, preparation and preservation of medicines; pharmacodynamics, the knowledge of examining the virtues and effects of medicines; to which we particularly add, pathognomony, the science and art of discerning the characteristics of groups of symptoms.
We will not, at present, treat at length of the history of Materia Medica, from Hippocrates and Dioscorides down to the present day; we can learn but little by looking back at the continuous changes, giving evidence that uncertainty prevailed, that darkness was followed by darkness; we shall leave the perusal of these former changeable and irrelevant attempts at a Materia Medica to those who find it amusing to dwell on the dark pages of antiquity.
Hahnemann found while translating Cullen's Materia Medica, then one of the standard works, that China officinalis, Peruvian bark, was claimed to be a specific for intermittent fever. Hahnemann, who had always been a clear and reflecting observer of facts, knew that Peruvian bark did cure some cases of intermittent fever but not others; he also knew that it caused the patient who was subjected to repeated doses of this medicine only to suffer other pangs, which he had not before the treatment, without curing the original disease; he had noticed the symptoms of cases in which Peruvian bark had cured intermittent fever. He then first reflected on the mode which would bring light into this darkness of uncertainties, and resolved to solve the plain question, “What determines a Cinchona fever?” He then himself took a few drops of the pure alcoholic tincture of Peruvian bark while in a perfect state of health, and behold, he experienced symptoms very similar to those he had had years ago, when suffering from intermittent fever, commonly called ague. These symptoms he noted down, and on comparing them with such cases as he had cured before by Cinchona, he discovered a great similarity. The Cinchona proving was the first Hahnemann made on himself, and the results of this proving led him to draw deductions which he would never have arrived at without this experiment. He did not experience, nor did Cinchona cause intermittent fever, but it caused symptoms only resembling this form of disease, and from this observation he drew the only possible and correct conclusion, that, if medicines when taken in a state of health, were able to create symptoms similar to a form of disease which they were also known to cure at times, these symptoms so produced on the well, and the results of a voluntary proving, would in future indicate the condition under which this medicine might be administered for the cure of the disease presenting the same symptoms, with a certainty never known before.
Here Hahnemann obtained the knowledge of the dynamic actions of the various medicines, by which he was enabled to establish the only law of cure, and this accumulated knowledge enabled him to give to the world a reliable and truthful Materia Medica. This knowledge was obtained by collecting the symptoms which had occurred from involuntary provings, poisonings, and by voluntary provings; at first, proving the crude drugs in comparatively small doses on the healthy, and by further collecting the symptoms cured, so verifying the first provings; he further collected the new symptoms which appeared, and which were not present before administering a medicine, as also the symptoms which disappeared simultaneously under the curative action of medicine and not known to have been produced by it while proving it on the healthy; of this latter class, but few were incorporated in the Materia Medica, and only after repeated experiments had verified their reliability. During the progressive provings, it was discovered that some substances, as Carbo vegetabilis, Natrum muriaticum, Lycopodium and Silicea developed but few, if any, symptoms when proved in the crude state. It was known of Carbo vegetabilis, that this substance, when administered for its known chemical power in destroying putrid odors, as, for instance, when applied to old putrid ulcers or putrid breath, the relief in both cases was instantaneous, and also when taken internally in larger quantities, it at once corrected the putrid smell of the dysenteric evacuations; the effect being only a chemical one, the putrid-smelling ulcers resumed the bad odor as soon as the application ceased; the putrid-smelling breath returned, when the mouth was no longer cleansed by the charcoal powder, the dysenteric evacuations were only momentarily deprived of the offensive smell; it was, therefore, no cure. Charcoal in this form, could only act chemically, and when taken internally, in the shape of crude powder, in large quantities, it can, and does not produce any alteration in the sensations; it has no curative or medicinal effect and produces no symptoms. But if Charcoal is triturated with a non-medicinal substance, as sugar of milk, and carried to the third or a higher potency, that potency will cause a change in the sensations, and the symptoms obtained by proving these potencies now guide us in the administration of this valuable remedy. The proving of Charcoal in a potency were followed by proving of other medicines in potencies, and the symptoms so obtained were also incorporated into the Materia Medica by Hahnemann. More cures were made, more certainty was obtained of the correctness of all the provings, and all these observations were collected, and Hahnemann eventually gave us six volumes of his Materia Medica Pura and five volumes of his Chronic Diseases. Subsequent provings by the followers of Hahnemann were published and verified in separate smaller works and in the medical journals of the day; they were collected and published by Jahr and by Noak and Trinks; later they were given in translation to the English reading Homoeopathician in Jahr's Manual or Symptomen Codex, by Dr. Hempel, which might be a very valuable work, were it not that this translation is entirely unreliable, full of inaccuracies, omissions and mistranslations. Later, we had our Materia Medica augmented by a volume of American Provings, by Dr. C. Hering, and this work is preeminent on account of its thoroughness; it is the most elaborate work of its kind, and it is only much to be regretted that it has not yet been translated into the English language, the only remedy Aloes is now given to us in the Review. During the past few months, we have received new proving by Dr. Hale. He publishes in one volume forty-four remedies. This work also while enlarging our knowledge of Materia Medica, is an indispensable work to the practitioner; it still retains the originalities of the Eclectic School who have introduced most of the new remedies into the practice of medicine.
The first impression of the uninitiated, who first takes in hand our voluminous works on Materia Medica, is to perceive no difference between the recorded provings of the many medicines. He thinks on glancing over the pages of the Materia Medica, that every medicine has caused some giddiness, some headache, some fever, some cough; all and every one of them. He remains unavoidably puzzled on the subject, until he begins to compare the records more closely and accurately, he then sees clearly the differences that exist between the various medicines and the manner in which they are similar and differ. He will first try to ascertain what kind of pain a remedy generally produces, and on what part of the body, on what organ or part of an organ it is most apt to act. He will find under what conditions the changed sensations in the organism are produced, and these conditions he will subdivide first as to the time, at what time of the day, month, or year, periodically and so forth; under what change of position at rest or in motion, by what kind of food or drink, and by what mental emotions the condition is either aggravated or ameliorated, and lastly in what connection the various changes appear, and their accompanying symptoms. In this manner the progressive student will obtain the characteristic symptoms of each medicine; he will find by so studying each medicine, that various medicines have in some respects great similarities, but that in other respects they differ, in various ways, much from each other; he then makes comparisons as to similarities and differences, and he so finds out their relationship. * * By comparisons alone, can we obtain a proper and lasting knowledge of each single medicine. We compare first single symptoms with similar symptoms of other medicines, and so we proceed, until later we compare medicines belonging to the same natural class or family or groups of medicines which by their similarity of action form a relationship with other similar classes or groups of medicines. * *
When I say that I will give you the characteristic symptoms of each medicine, the first question arises; what is characteristic? Characteristics consist in such symptoms, altered sensations and effects of medicines on the human organism, by which we discern our medicine from all other medicines, and while this may be ascertained by comparisons made between the various medicines, the proof of the correctness of this discernment is obtained by the experiment; that is to say, that when, in the most varied diseases, the presence of one or more of this or these characteristic symptoms lead to the choice of a remedy, a cure follows; and that in similar diseases without the presence of this or these characteristic symptoms no cure follows the application of the same remedy. For the sake of facilitating the finding and remembering the characteristic symptoms, we divide them systematically in four different kinds, each of which kind may, in a given case, characterize the medicine. We have at first, the kind of pain or altered sensation, as, for instance, the soreness or sensation as from a bruise, under Arnica, which has few other kinds of altered sensations, or the burning-stinging pain under Apis. Many medicines have burning pain, as Arsenic, Carbo veg., Phos., and many others have stinging, pricking pains, but few have burning-stinging so characteristic as Apis, and there is only Bell, and Ignatia which have in that respect a similarity to Apis. The sensation as if the parts were made of wood, under Nitrum. We have secondly, the locality, as under Lachesis the left ovary, and under Apis the right; under Clematis erecta, the right testicle, and under Rhododendron the left testicle; we have the sides of the body, and find collectively, the left side more affected by the electro-negative remedies, while the electro-positive medicines, affect the right side more; again, have we the direction in which the pains and altered sensations attack the organism; we know, for instance, that when the rheumatic pains first attack the feet and extend upwards it is characteristic of Ledum, but that if similar pains begin on the upper part of the body and extend downwards, then it is characteristic of Rhododendron. In angina, we know that if the left side of the throat is first attacked, and the inflammation or ulceration extends to the right side, it is characteristic of Lachesis, but if the affection begins on the right side and later extends to the left side, then it is characteristic of Lycopodium.
Thirdly, we have the conditions, and they form by far the most important characteristic symptoms. The time of the day when the diseased condition is aggravated or ameliorated comes first to be considered. Some medicines are known to possess this condition in an eminent degree; as for instance, Nux vom. and Sulphuric acid in the morning, Natrum mur. at ten, a. m., Argent. at noon, Lycopod. at four, p. m., Puls. at sunset, Phosph. before midnight, Ars. after midnight, Kali carb. at three, a. m., etc. The position of the body, rest or motion, standing or sitting, or rising from a seat, are very important conditions. We find an aggravation from rest, under Rhus, and aggravation by motion under Bryonia, although these two medicines are very similar in other respects. Standing aggravates under Sulphur, sitting aggravates under Lycopodium and ameliorates under Colchicum, while rising from a seat is aggravated under Rhus and Lycopodium, but the condition is ameliorated after rising from a seat and when beginning to move, by the same two medicines. Aggravation after sleep is under Lachesis and Lachesis will never be indicated if the reverse is present; amelioration after sleep is under Phos. Under the conditions also belong the effects of the various articles of food and drink. The aggravations from coffee, tobacco and spirituous drinks we find under Nux vom. Bad effects, especially headache, from small quantities of wine, are under Zinc, the bad effects from continuous over-indulgence in beer, are under Kali bichrom., the aggravations from lemonade under Selenium, of the ill effects caused upon a diseased condition by oysters, under Lycopodium, of bad results from pastry and pork under Pulsatilla. The amelioration from eating fruit we find under Lachesis, or from drinking tea under Ferrum.
Fourthly and lastly, we have the concomitant symptoms which although yet few, form strong characteristic indications. For instance, toothache with a swollen face, we find under Chamomilla and Mercurius, and while the swollen face under Chamomilla is red and hot, that under Mercurius is hard and pale. Toothache with paleness of the face we find under Pulsatilla. Fever with thirstlessness under Pulsatilla and Sabadilla, or with much unquenchable thirst, under Natrum mur.
The knowledge of the characteristic symptoms of medicines is indispensable if we wish to be successful in the practice of Homoeopathy, because it is one of our fundamental practical rules, that the characteristic symptoms of the only truly curative remedy must correspond with the characteristic symptoms of the patient. This, as one of the most important rules of our school, enters also largely into the study of the Materia Medica, and for this reason we must deprecate the arrangement of medicines according to groups of pathological conditions sought after and supposed to exist in groups of symptoms recorded in the provings. Before we seek the characteristic symptoms of the remedy, we must possess the characteristic symptoms of the patient, or what is falsely termed the disease. The truly characteristic symptoms of the patient exist exclusively outside of the pathological groups of symptoms of the discerned disease; nay more, they are symptoms which never necessarily belong to the disease or any form of it, but which appear absolutely accidental. The symptoms present and necessarily constituting and belonging to the disease, we may term essential symptoms; characteristic, we term those symptoms which are found on the diseased individual besides the essential symptoms, either on account of his constitution or from other accidental and unaccountable causes. If it is so, and if the experiment has established this rule to be correct, we would gain nothing by classifying the provings of our medicines in such a manner as to press them into pathological livery. If then the extraordinary and apparently accidental, often seemingly trifling symptoms of the patient, guide us in the selection of the sole truly curative remedy and constitute the characteristic symptoms, no preconceived notion based on the pathological classification of remedies can be of the least assistance to us in our efforts to cure, and all such garbling attempts must be rejected.
The thorough knowledge of the Materia Medica, so essentially necessary for success in practice and in curing the sick, can only be obtained by diligent study, but we may in a great degree facilitate this study by proving medicines ourselves. During a proving, we are compelled first to observe our own sensations and our alterations of them and to arrange them according to some system, thereby cultivating our faculties of observation and of systematizing these observations. Each symptom which we record as having occurred as the effect of a new medicine, will necessarily call back to our memory a similar or opposite symptom known to us as belonging to some previously proved medicine. By making these comparisons, our memory receives the new symptoms of the new medicine as having a relationship with other medicines. By provings, we learn how necessary it is to observe what are generally termed trifles, for even by these apparently small differences do we know one medicine from another or discern one symptom of one medicine from a similar symptom of another medicine, and these accurate observations of what were formerly considered and termed insignificant and unimportant symptoms, constitute the great difference between a skilful, and therefore a successful physician, and a routine practitioner.
As illustrating this proposition we will take a patient who complains of diarrhea. The Allopathist is satisfied that the disease is diarrhea, that it should be checked, and at his first prescription he orders his usual panacea, Opium, in some form or other. We seek to know more than the meager knowledge that the patient has a diarrhea, we examine him as Hahnemann has taught us and as it behooves every true Homoeopathician; we elicit at our first question, as to when his diarrhea began, that he was first attacked in the morning, or had for some days always been worse in the morning. We know one condition, that of time, and know that Bryonia, Sulphur, Podophyllum and Thuja, besides other medicines, pre-eminently produce and cure morning diarrhea. We know that Bryonia has morning diarrhea which takes place as soon as the person has risen from the bed and begins to move about; we know that the Podophyllum evacuations are generally green, that the diarrhea characteristic of Sulphur drives the patient out of bed; the call is imperative; and let me here remark, that we owe this knowledge verified by many cures to one single symptom of one prover: this symptom is on record in Hahnemann's Chronic Diseases, and we find it observed by Frederick Hahnemann, the son, under No. 868, where it reads, “the stool is discharged suddenly and almost involuntarily, he cannot rise from his bed sufficiently fast.” So much for one single, well-observed and recorded symptom. The Thuja morning diarrhea comes on after breakfast, and this symptom, although it is not often met with, we owe to Dr. Wolf who gives it in his high potency proving, of Thuja under No. 483; thus, “Diarrhea every day after breakfast ;” this observation has also been verified by experience. We now continue the examination of the patient, and he tells us that he had to rise quickly and then had a painless, watery, yellow diarrhea, which continued during the forenoon and was better in the afternoon. We need not choose long, but administer at once one dose of Sulphur, for not only the time and condition are characteristics of the remedy, but also the quality of the discharges, and if we continue our examination of the patient, we will undoubtedly obtain further symptoms all indicating Sulphur.
It is not only advisable, but absolutely necessary, that the provings of medicines should be made by ourselves on ourselves. The observations on others, although indispensable to a perfect knowledge of the effects of medicines which we seek to obtain, may leave us continually in the fear of not exactly expressing in a proper manner what has been felt; we must therefore continually remain in doubt, or at least partly so, as to whether the proving is a deception or not.
This obstacle to a knowledge of the truth, which cannot be entirely obviated when in search after the morbid symptoms excited on another person by the action of the remedy, does not exist when the trial is made on our own person. The individual who undergoes the experiment knows precisely what he feels, and every fresh attempt that he makes is an additional motive for him to extend his researches still further by directing them towards other remedies. It renders him more expert in pursuing further trials, while at the same time his zeal is redoubled, because he thereby acquires a true knowledge of the resources of the art which can be considerably increased.
The proving of medicines, first on yourselves then on others, will further give you such an insight into the Materia Medica as you could not obtain in any other manner. With every new step you take, you will learn to appreciate and admire the great works of the masters who have presented you with complete, well-arranged provings, and by following their example you will become masters yourselves, not only in the art of proving, but in obtaining a mastery over the master-provings, which you desire, to become enabled to apply for practical purposes.
|The American Homoeopathic Review Vol. 04 No. 10, 1865, pages 433-443
|The Materia Medica.
|errors only; interlinks; formatting