–  Hahnemann and the early provings (C. Ellithorp)

hahnem176 Hahnemann and the early provings

 An admonition from one of the most able writers is offered, not by an apologist in justification of another dry historical article to the pain of the initiated, but solely to arouse curiosity, so as to perhaps guide one toward the serious study of the fundamental without which there would be no homeopathy-the proving:
 “Unless the student understands the foundation of homeopathic principles and appreciates something of its history, its growth and development, he will remain an inadequately prepared physician, and hopelessly deficient in any qualifications for a homeopathic physician.”
 -H. A. Roberts, M.D. , The Homeopathic Recorder, 1943.
 We will find it of interest that others antedate Hahnemann with provings upon the healthy. Heraclades of Tarantum authored a treatise 500 years before Christ on the effects of serpent bites. Mithradates, King of Pontus, experimented upon himself and criminals to determine the result of poisoning, as did the king of Pergamos, Attolos Philometer, who sought the antidotal powers of Aconite, Veratrum, Hyoscyamus. Dudgeon, in his “History of Homeopathy”, informs us it was Nicander of Colophon who, in a poetic fashion, described the effects of spiders, scorpions, serpents, beetles, and plants. His work, however fanciful, was nearly authorative for some time.
 In 1524 Claudius Richard administered Aconite to a condemned criminal to determine the efficacy of the antidotal boazor stone, the calculous concretion found in the fourth stomach of the gazelle. This interesting case of acute poisoning can be found in Hempel’s Materia Medica. Peter Andrew Mattioli, Physician to Ferdinand I, experimented upon himself and criminals, in 1549, again seeking antidotes, or immunity for the use of monarchs and Popes. Conrad Gesner, the Swiss naturalist, proved Eup. aqua., and induced upon himself an acute intoxication from the newly discovered tobacco. Others such as Baglivi, Hoffman, Sennert, and Sydenham recognized the necessity of testing drugs upon the healthy, but none were to do so.
 In the period from 1761 to 1771 Baron von Stoerck of Swabia proved Cannabis, Stramonium, Aconite, Pulsatilla, Hyoscyamus, Conium, and Colchicum. Most interestingly, Boyd, in his Study of The Simile in Medicine affirms that Stoerck is the most logical predecessor to Hahnemann, for in his work on Stramonium in 1763 he states:
 “If Stramonium makes the healthy mentally sick through a confusion of the mind, why should not one determine whether it gives mental health in that it disturbs and alters the thoughts and senses in mental disease, and that it gives health to those with spasms, to try and see if, on the other hand, they get spasms.”
 A direct connection is seen by Boyd by the fact that Quarin, whom Hahnemann acknowledges by saying “All that I am as a physician, I owe to Quarin”, was Stoerck’s pupil. Boyd further suggests that by the frequency with which Hahnemann draws upon Stoerck in his bibliographies points to Stoerck as a “stimulus.” The Edinburgh School physicians Griffin, Whyte, and most notably, William Alexander, made experiments with Camphor. John Lee obtained the Harvey Prize in 1785 for studies of Opium. In 1793 Adolphus Murray of Sweden, published dissertations on the importance of knowing drug action on healthy animal and human subjects, but did not actually carry out experiments. Albrecht von Haller of Bern, is acknowledged by Hahnemann in a footnote to paragraph 108 of The Organon, as the only physician, besides himself, to see the absolute necessity of provings upon the healthy. In The Helvetic Pharmacopoeia (Basil, 1771, p. 12) he states:
 “[O]ne should take a small portion of the dose and pay attention to any effects which ensue: what are the pulse rate, the temperature, the respiration rate, the excretions. After observation of the succession of clear effects in a healthy body, one may proceed to trials on a sick one, etc.”
 Boyd further explains Haller’s suggestion of a complete record of the symptoms and different preparations of the plant.
 Despite all these directions, Haller never made a proving. As a result of Hahnemann’s experiment upon himself with Chinchona in 1790, he was to search the literature for symptoms of poisoning and overdosing which might be similar to disease states. The results, coupled with experiments on himself and family led him to publish his “Essay Upon A New Principle For Discovering The Curative Power of Drugs” in 1796, in which he was to dismantle every prior method of determining the therapeutic value of drugs.
 Analysis by chemistry, animal experimentation, and study by botanical affinity were all found wanting, as were the approximate similars to be found in records of poisoning. Hahnemann found nothing left but to “test the medicines we wish to investigate on the human body itself.” He further insisted that tests on the sick were imperfect. The pathogenesis of 27 remedies appeared in the “Fragmenta di Viribus Medicamentorum Positivus” in 1805. Included were the results of his experiments, overdoses and poisonings observed in his practice, and observations by other authors. This first record of provings contained the following: acon., acris tinc.(causticum), arn., bell., camph., canth, capsic., cham.,chinch., cocc., copai. bas., cup., dig., dros., hyos., ign., ipec., melampodium (hellabore), mezer., nux vom., opium, puls., rheum.,valer., and verat. alb. For six years, Hahnemann labored and in 1811 the first volume of the “Reine Arzneimittelehre” or “Materia Medica Pura”, as it has been called appeared, the sixth volume published in 1821. In all, sixty one remedies were contained in The Materia Medica, twenty two of which were augmented provings from the Fragmenta, in addition to the provings of the magnet.
 A second edition was published in 1822-7, with further additions from Hahnemann and his provers, and again, observations from the general medical literature which included cases of poisoning and overdosing.
 At this point I would refer the reader to the masterful discussion of “The Sources of The Homeopathic Materia Medica” for a scholarly examination of Hahnemann’s provings, and those subsequent. Despite our opinions of his antagonism to Kent, et. al, his valuable contributions to the building of the materia medica must not be dismissed. The Chronic Diseases, which introduced the antipsorics, the most notable being Lyc., Nat mur., and Sepia, was published in 1828-30, a second edition appearing in 1835-9. The work contains the provings of 48 medicines, many of which were proven in the18th to 30th potencies, whereas, those previous had been of medicines prepared as tinctures and triturations. Also included are symptoms observed in the sick, treated by Hahnemann for chronic illness. It must be remembered also that he was in his ’80’s now, living in relative isolation in Coethen. Space will not allow the discussion of his proving posology, one can consult Boyd’s Simile, etc.
 In all, Hahnemann proved over 90 medicines-110 are attributed to him by Haehl, a dozen more carried out under his supervision. He was assisted by his family, students, and his disciples who formed the Group of Collaborators for The Proving of Drugs. Of this group of provers, 37 in all, including his son Friederich, the most notable were Franz, Gross, Hartmann, and Stapf, who alone proved 32 medicines upon himself. Many have pleaded for the physician to prove medicines upon himself, perhaps no one so nicely, if not intentionally, as Hartmann, speaking of the guidance of Hahnemann: “[F]rom his instructing suggestions I obtained then for the first time clear sensations which I could again express very accurately… it proved to be of very effectual use in my practical examination of patients. Had I learned nothing more than this from him I should feel compelled to be eternally grateful.”
 Provers were forbidden by Hahnemann to indulge in coffee, tea, brandy, spices, pepper, ginger. According to Hartmann, the provers were cautioned “close and continued application to study”, novels and games which continued thought, such as billiards, chess, and cards, as “observation was disturbed and rendered untrustworthy.” A very detailed account of the early proving procedures can be found in Hartmann’s accounts in Haehl’s Life of Hahnemann.
 Christopher Ellithorp has spent the past 25 years assembling a library of the homeopathic literature covering the years 1820 to the present. Chris collaborated with Julian Winston and co-authored American Homeopathic Imprints, 1825-1925, a bibliography of American homeopathic books which are not found in either the Bradford’s or Cordasco’s medical bibliographies. He compiled a series of obscure lectures, along with Jay Yasgur, by J.T.  Kent into a monograph called The Dunham Lectures.
 As a result of Hahnemann’s experiment upon himself with Chinchona in 1790, he was to search the literature for symptoms of poisoning and overdosing which might be similar to disease states. The results, coupled with experiments on himself and family led him to publish his “Essay Upon A New Principle For Discovering The Curative Power of Drugs” in 1796, in which he was to dismantle every prior method of determining the therapeutic value of drugs. 

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