Homeopathic therapeutics in surgery
The initial case entering the office of my first preceptor, Dr. Johnson, of Atchison, Kansas, as I began the study of medicine forty-one years ago, was a surgical case, an elderly man whose arm had been frightfully lacerated by being caught by a circular saw in a local saw-mill, and the skilful manner in which Dr. Johnson repaired the injured member and the excellent results which followed his careful homoeopathic prescribing for the patient made a strong and lasting impression upon my youthful mind. The dressing was Calendula, the same remedy internally after a few doses of, first, Aconite and then Arnica.
Likewise, when I attended my first course of lectures at the old Cleveland Homoeopathic College, located then on Humiston Heights, in 1870-71, the surgical staff, Professors Schneider, Beckwith and Biggar, all relied strongly upon the homoeopathic remedy in almost every surgical case. Dr. O. S. Runnels and others of that class will doubtless recall how thoroughly it was applied to every possible condition in surgery.
But going back still farther, when my father first contemplated the medical profession for me he wondered if it were not better that I should graduate from the old school first – holding that it would make me “more liberal,” “broader-minded,” “more catholic in medicine,” “more useful to the world,” but when the matter was brought to the attention of our then family physicians, who afterward became my second preceptors, it was promptly vetoed. The elder of the two, Dr. Richard Huson, of Lawrence, had been an allopath for more than thirty years, and his son had been in that profession one-third the time when both were converted to “the better way.” Both were alert, quick-thinking men, strong-minded, positive in their convictions, conscientious citizens and successful practitioners. Each had held positions of prominence in the old school, and had changed his views only after careful study, long observation, extensive comparisons of results, and at tremendous sacrifice of professional prestige and social position. But they were of sterner stuff and stood unwaveringly for what they knew to be right.
“Why load the youngster’s mind with a lot of stuff we are trying to forget?”
“Why pay in time, effort and money for chaff we have discarded.”
“Why make a blunderbuss of the lad when you can as well make him a rifle-shot?”
“If as a Methodist minister you were going to put him in your profession would you first make him a Catholic?”
These men were trying to get away from “scientific medicine,” so-called. They had tried both and were homoeopaths of choice. It was not an accepted Homoeopathy within limitations, it applied to their surgery as well as to their bedside work. The younger of the two, himself a man of middle years, had been four years an army surgeon in the Civil War. He had carried his Homoeopathy with him on the battle-field and it had served him there. It had met the exacting demands of the day of “laudable pus” and hospital gangrene. His confidence in it as a handmaid to surgery was unbounded – with him and his father the law was a law, not a mere “rule of prescribing,” as with many of us to-day, a living, tangible, dependable law, to be relied upon in the most desperate emergencies as in the simplest cases.
Doubtless it was my association with such earnest homoeopaths as these that has made my convictions upon the value of homoeopathic therapeutics in surgery so uncompromisingly positive. Those were the days when Helmuth and Franklin were startling the old school and the West with their surgical accomplishments and skill. The former’s dash and brilliancy had just called him to New York, while the latter’s combativeness was compelling a respect for homoeopathic surgery which our opponents were very slow to give.
Forty years have passed since those student days, and not alone from the impressions I then received, but also from my own rather extensive and convincing experiences, I am about as ardent a believer in Homoeopathy in surgery as were my preceptors or the renowned Helmuth and scarce less well known Franklin. Just as Dr. Huson had carried Homoeopathy on the field of battle, so had our late Dr. H. C. Allen, our President Foster and many others who might be named, and had won laurels for it and themselves in that trying test, so it has been my pleasure and profit to carry it with me into the battle-field of dynamite and black powder among almost twenty thousand men, and in the very near one thousand who have been mangled and torn I have always been able to find a useful place for the careful homoeopathic prescription. The bridge that carries us across the chasm is not to be despised nor forgotten. My bridge has a medical abutment at one end and a surgical abutment at the both. Both are strong, safe, reliable.
The first homoeopathic text-book of surgery, published in 1852, before most of us were born, under the authorship of Drs. Hill and Hunt, of the Western Homoeopathic College, of Cleveland, the second of our teaching institutions, is well-filled with excellent homoeopathic therapeutics, as is also the somewhat later work of our late and lamented Helmuth, with which the most of us are familiar. In preparing the text for their book the authors of this first homoeopathic surgery sent out a great many letters asking their colleagues to report their surgical cases and experiences for the benefit of the book, and throughout the text it is replete with information thus gained.
In discussing Inflammation, we note the following: “The great remedy with which the homoeopathic surgeon combats inflammations, the result of external violence, is Arnica montana, the specific for diseases from mechanical injuries.” How many of us rely upon Arnica to-day? I always do.
“When the inflammation is very high Aconitum napellus, that general ‘antiphlogistic’ of the homoeopath, so superior to depleting means usually employed, will be needed, and in some cases Belladonna, Bryonia, Cantharis and Mercurius.” No case of mine escapes Aconite and its corrolaries.
In haemorrhage from wounds Arnica, Diadema and Phosphorus are accounted of value.
China is prescribed where there has been great loss of blood and consequent debility, and also for syncope.
Staphysagria is recommended for the sharp, cutting, burning pains of incised wounds, and in this class Dr. Thorer, of Goblitz, Germany, is quoted as preferring Calendula to Arnica as an external dressing.
Punctured wounds caused by splinters are said to require Aconite, Cicuta, Nitric acid, Silicia and Hepar. But how many of the homoeopathic surgeons of to-day ever think of Nitric acid or Cicuta for wounds from splinters? Will it not repay us to study our older homoeopathic authors again?
Calendula was dwelt upon very extensively as the very best known dressing for lacerations and punctured wounds. It was made by covering the Calendula flowers with a solution of one part Alcohol to two parts rain water, allowing this to stand “until the liquid became medicated.” Doubtless it will be held now that it was Alcohol of the Calendulated dressing that did the work, and perhaps it was. But, nevertheless, it would be difficult to drive the old practitioner away from a conscientious belief in the efficacy of the marigold, so satisfactory was it in his day.
Belladonna, Arnica, Angustura, Cocculus, Opium, Hyoscyamus, Nux and Hypericum, are recommended for tetanus.
In erysipelas, then a common complication of surgery, Belladonna, Arsenicum, Rhus tox., Lachesis, Causticum, Phytolacca and Carbo vegetabilis are quoted as efficient.
To be a little more specific, the following is thought to be worth the while in illustration:
“Lycopodium, one-fourth of a drop, removed an ulcer on the leg which came after a knock in the region of the inner ankle; had callous edges; secreting a foetid impure ichor; finally occupied the whole of the tarsal joint and caused violent burning pains, especially at night.”
Another Lycopodium case is as follows:
“Lycopodium has been beneficial in malignant, inveterate ulcers of the foot, phagedenic ulcers generally occupying the legs. In one case repeated doses of the 5th attenuation were given at the commencement, afterwards one drop of the 30th.”
In still another Graphites 30 began the work, followed after a considerable interval by Sepia.
Lachesis 12th, three times a day, later followed by Arsenicum 12th after a week, produced rapid healing of an ulcer of twelve months’ standing.
Silicea 30, one dose, cured a tibial ulcer with involvement of the periosteum and bone brought on by a violent inflammation.
Cancer, fungus hematodes and other malignancies are dealt with as positively and as homoeopathically with confidence and success. Surely if these early homoeopathic surgeons could secure such excellent results in those unsurgical days how much more should we, in our better understanding of surgery’s foes, do better work than they? I have always found it worth the trial.
We too often hear the senseless and hackneyed expression. “Homoeopathy cannot saw off a leg nor set a broken bone.” But who is there so brainless among us as to intimate that it can? Yet if a bone is broken, or if a leg has to be amputated, that there is a field for homoeopathic prescribing immediately opened up is beyond cavil.
Take Surgical Shock, for example! What careful homoeopathic prescriber would have very great difficulty in finding the similimum for the following array of symptoms classified by Reed under this head?
Great physical depression.
Skin cold and clammy.
Hands and fingers shrunken.
Patient faint, lethargic.
Intolerable anguish, and all the rest that go with profound shock. Are we limited to what is known as drug stimulation? Or to this and friction and warmth? Or to this and the assistance of the bar-room? Or is there in Homoeopathy a help in the time of need?
In a large experience with shock, due to the most violent explosion injuries and railroad accidents, I have found no help without our remedies that will equal the aid of Arsenicum, Cuprum, Veratrum and Carbo vegetabilis.
The frightful anxiety and apprehension of profound shock are amenable to Aconite and Arsenicum.
The fright that so often increases the actual physical shock of injury or surgery responds more readily to Coffea than to Whiskey and Strychnia.
The terror of a dangerous accident knows no more soothing agents than Aconite, Chamomilla and Ignatia.
And so down the line. There is unquestionably a place, and a rightful and helpful place, for good Homoeopathy. Nothing that is coarse, crude, empiric or physical will so quickly and ably touch the delicate nerve centers involved in the process of shock as the indicated similimum. Dynamis is better than the sledge.
One of the greatest disappointments of my professional career was the unwillingness of our surgeons to contribute freely of homoeopathic therapeutics when the late Homoeopathic Text-Book of Surgery was in course of preparation. In a number of instances co-authors in the work declined to have Homoeopathy mentioned in connection with their text, and in a few instances the book incurred positive opposition from authors themselves because even a smattering of homoeopathic prescribing had been added to their parts. Are we not hiding a great light under a very small bushel?
A quotation from a recent and very eminent old school book will help serve to strengthen my point. Speaking of surgical shock, “restorative treatment” is stated to consist in bringing to bear every available influence upon the re-establishment of the inhibited vital functions? And as the sympathetic nervous system seems to be the primary factor in producing those phenomena which we call shock, it is imperative that its functions be re-established as speedily as possible.
Just here is where the dynamic potency excels the sledge. The inhibitory centers are already inhibited. Shall they be struck another powerful blow, by a stimulating, contracting, coercing agent. Or shall they be lightly, gently and inoffensively be coaxed, as it were, to a delicate readjustment of vital forces which we can neither see nor understand, yet which too many of us would goad as we would a steed already tired beyond further severe effort?
Aconite and Arnica are my constant helpers for pain, and they serve me well. No surgical case in my hands passes altogether beyond the realm of the homoeopathic prescription. There is hardly the chance to individualize carefully in accidents and in operative work, but very often before a case is discharged and more often before it is entered upon surgically, there is ample field for careful homoeopathic work; and the proper observance of the simple and effective rules of true homoeopathic prescribing has fully repaid me for forty years, and more especially, I may say, since my work became so almost exclusively surgical, just as it used to repay, according to their testimony, our early surgeons in very unsurgical days.
Homeopathic therapeutics in surgery