What is homoeopathy? The orderly mind has an notion one should begin with definition, and resorts first to various dictionaries. In this instance the result is unsatisfactory as the definitions are, for the most part, partial and even the positive statements often inaccurate, as in the case of Dorland’s Medical Dictionary. As far as derivation goes the word in the Greek, means “similarity of feeling”.
The four fundamentals of homoeopathy, as stated by Hahnemann, in his Organon, may be briefly put as follows :
I. The proving of substances to be used as medicines, on the healthy.
II. The selection and administration of so-proved medicines according to the Law of Similars.
III. The single remedy.
IV. The minimum dose.
Granting that these are the four fundamental tenets of homoeopathy, as set forth by its official sponsor and founder, Hahnemann, the question of the status of homoeopathy arises. Is it a system of medicine? Is it a purely sectarian term? Is it a therapeutic speciality? In order to be able to answer this question of status we must get down to simple facts and see, not only how homoeopathy differs from regular medicine but what they have in common. We always like to begin with a common basis. What is the object of all conscientious physicians? We would answer, categorically : To cure the sick to prevent others from becoming ill, to raise the standard of health in all people. How does modern medicine try to accomplish this? First, by finding out what normality is, through the study of anatomy, physiology, physiological chemistry, etc. Second, by finding out what the varieties of ill health are. Modern medicine emphasizes the fact that many disturbances of health are due to psychic or sociological causative factors. Aside from these it searches for anatomical or physiological changes in the sick person and classifies these changes, when, found, under some disease nomenclature. This search is called diagnosis, and it feels that the possibility of cure depends, in large measure, on the certainty of diagnosis. The organic structural changes due to ill health which it finds before or after death, it terms pathology. It finds that many “diseases” are accompanied by some variety of bacteria which it considers to be one of the causative factors. In short, modern medicine feels that it must find out all the “facts” which fit in with its concept of disease.
To all of this the homoeopath subscribes, but he feels that this is but the beginning of what he must learn about his patient. The spontaneous, characteristic things that each patient longs to tell, be they very general or minutely particular, are of special interest to the homoeopath for they individualize the case, bringing out the particular patient’s reaction to the “disease” he suffers from. These salient points the busy modern doctor feels that he dose not need to know, as to him they are not sign posts but clutter.
At this point modern medicine is ready to try to cure the disease it has diagnosed. What laws of cure does it follow? First, the common sense principle of rectifying anything mechanically wrong and instituting appropriate hygiene, diet, etc. When it comes to the giving of actual drugs, each year fewer and fewer are taught in the medical schools and-with the exception of new proprietary substances-are found in the pharmacopoeia or in common usage. Those that are given are not uniformly governed by any one law. The intent is to give them on a physiological basis, which means that they are experimented within the laboratories in crude dosage, mainly on animals.
It is more or less expected, by analogy, that what slows the heart in the frog, rabbit or dog will do so in the human. Only very occasionally, recently, are pharmacological experiments done on relatively healthy humans. In addition to the laboratory data on animals, many remedies are tried out empirically on patients and pas into general usage in accordance with their success. Some few forms of modern therapy are aimed at the individual as a whole taken as a type, for instance, endocrine therapy, but the majority of modern drugs are given for a definite physiological effect on some one organ or function of the body, and so given irrespective of the varying individualities of the patient who may have that organ or function disordered, as for instance, cholagogues, digitalis, diuretics, etc., etc. A large part of modern therapy is not even aimed at physiological alteration (the drugs being given according to the law of contraries) not at chemical antidoting (such as alkalies for acid stomach) but is frankly and only palliative (as in the various anodynes for headaches, neuralgias, etc.). Most of the modern drugging, in short, is aimed at individual annoying symptoms and makes no attempts to get back to the constitutional cause of the disease. The success of this type of therapy is necessarily uneven. More and more modern medicine has come to realize that a deal of it is suppressive. For instance, some asthma specialists hold that the removal of eczema with salves brings out asthma; some syphilologists hold that the checking of early syphilis by salvarsan and mercury treatment leads to a marked increased in the number of the tertiary neuro-syphilis cases; some medical men feel that heavy salicylate dosage drives rheumatism in on the heart and that the classical quinine does not eradicate malaria, as it often returns yearly or is frequently superseded by neuralgia. It is an interesting fact for further systematic study that many cases of apparent cure prove to be those in which the drug given on a physiological or symptomatic basis was unknown to the prescriber, a similar, in the homoeopathic sense, to the case in hand.
Let it e, then clearly understood that homoeopaths need the accepted scientific training, procedures of diagnosis and laboratory data, that their special technique begins at the moment of starting therapy, although they bring to this crisis of cure a broader philosophy of illness and special knowledge of each individual patient. What this philosophy behind them is, will be the subject of our lecture. What the extra knowledge of the patient must be, and how to get it, will be the subject of a subsequent lecture.
Homoeopathic therapy is based on the hypothesis, ancient as Hippocrates, that like cures likes (Similia similibus curentur). That this principle is a veridical law of nature, the persistent and enlightened practice of homoeopathy can prove. It must also be demonstrable by laboratory technique, but the systematic working out of this has not as yet been done, mainly because homoeopaths are so beguiled with the practical application of it that they have not given suitable attention to the laboratory end.
We have sketched modern medicine’s approach and attitude and have shown up to what point homoeopathy concurs. It may not be amiss to give briefly the main points of difference between the two which will be more fully developed in the rest of the course :
1. That there is a natural law of cure, like cures like.
2. That the basis of therapy is a vital rather than a physiological one, i.e. , that the vital force must be stimulated to cure the patient and that only so can he be really cured, that any other drug therapy is palliative or suppressive.
3. That the single remedy at a time is all that is needed, which follows from statement 1, because there cannot be two things most similar to another. (The single remedy has the further advantage that when one thing is given one can evaluated its action, whereas, if four are given you cannot know which helped, or in what proportion).
4. That a minimum dose is essential. This is based on the Arndt-Schultz law that small doses stimulate, medium doses paralyze and large doses kill, in other words that the action of small and very large doses of the same substance on living matter is opposite. Under this head comes in the whole potency question of which you will hear more in a later lecture and which is, by many, considered the greatest snag in homoeopathy but which together with the Law of Similars is the key to the whole matter.
5. That the materia medica must, because of the Law of Similars, be composed of the results of remedy experimentation with small doses on relatively healthy humans (so-called provings).
6. That disease is not an actual entity but a name given for classification purposes to manifestations of departures from normalcy in individuals.
7. That individualization is essential, i.e. , tat no two people are exactly alike in sickness or in health, and that although even homoeopaths must classify, they draw vastly finer distinctions. For example to ordinary medicine, there is but one disease pneumonia; though with several sub-types, broncho-, lobar, types I, II, III, and IV; to homoeopathy there are as many types as there are remedy symptom pictures (any drug in the homoeopathic materia medica may be called for in pneumonia although one will rarely need anyone outside of thirty or forty in frequent use). Theoretically there should be as many types of pneumonia as there are people who have it, but, owing to the small number of proved remedies, compared to the substances that might be proved, there can only be as many pneumonia types to date as we have remedies for. Homoeopaths, in other words classify pneumonias as Aconite, Bryonia, Gelsemium, Phosphorus, Tartar emetic; pneumonias, etc.
8. That suppression is one of the greatest dangers in medicine. This will be taken up in one of the later lectures.
9. That chronic disease is a constitutional matter and has a philosophic bearing on prescribing which is of inestimable importance. One cannot do true homoeopathy without a concept of chronic disease.
Having given the main points of contact and difference between homoeopathy and regular medicine we can now return to our previous question as to the status of homoeopathy. It is not a sectarian term, although even a slight study of its history will often although even a slight study of its history will often show how it has been necessary for it to be considered one, both by its opponents and its adherents. It is a therapeutic speciality and, as such, is more easily grasped by the modern student, but it is much more than that”. “System of medicine” is a term which conveys little to my mind; it sounds like somebody’s text book or a treatise on one of the minor “opathies”. Homoeopathy is not an “opathy”, it is the first part of the term, the homoeo, the similarity, which we must bear in mind. It is a method of cure according to law, based, as all great things are, on a far reaching philosophy. It is the central core of medicine, whether recognized or not, and is thoroughly compatible with the best of modern science!