BEFORE discussing the question of prescribing for acute pneumonias I would like to make certain that you all understand the rudiments of what one is attempting to do when tackling cases from the homoeopathic point of view. The point is this. In homoeopathic prescribing your endeavour is to find a drug which will cover not only the actual pathological picture but also the reaction of the individual patient to that disease. Suppose you consider an acute illness, you want a drug which will cover the symptoms that are produced by the infective organism, that is to say, the ordinary symptoms on which you found your diagnosis. The patient is infected, say, with pneumococcus, and has the symptoms of pneumonias, so you want a drug which will cover the pneumonic symptom complex. Well, so far there is no difference from what is done in ordinary medicine. BUt, in addition to that, in homoeopathic prescribing you endeavour to find out in what way any one patient A infected with a pneumococcus will react differently from a patient B infected with the same strain of pneumococcus. Your first endeavour is to find the group of drugs which produces the symptom complex of a pneumococcal infection; your second is to choose from that group the individual drug which covers not only the pneumococcal symptoms but also the manner in which patient A reacts to his pneumococcal infection. The drug which covers the combined picture is the one you want for patient A, but it would not be successful for patient B who is reacting differently to the same infection. So your whole endeavour is to establish the differences between one patient with a pneumococcal infection and another. First of all you find the common ground, on which you make your diagnosis; then you look for the contrasting points in your different cases in order to make your individual prescription. The whole of your success in homoeopathic prescribing depends on your power of recognizing which symptoms are common to every case of infection by a specific organism and which are dependent on the individual reaction of the patient who is infected. It is your ability to recognize differences in identical diseases which determines your success, and that is why the experienced clinician is a far more successful homoeopathic prescriber than the inexperienced; he knows what a pneumonia should do, how it should behave, what are its constant symptoms, and he comes to a case and says, “Hello, this man is a little different.” It is on that difference that he founds his prescription, and it is because he recognizes that difference that he is successful. So do not imagine that the practice of Homoeopathy is going to make your clinical medicine of less use to you; on the contrary, it is going to take advantage of every atom of knowledge and experience that you have, and the greater your clinical experience the more successful you are going to be. We are always hearing that we homoeopaths are symptom hunters, that we prescribe on symptoms alone. We do nothing of the kind. The only successful homoeopathic prescribers I have known have been most observant clinicians. Instead of tending to neglect one’s clinical work one pays more and more attention to it and it steadily improves, and it is on that that successful homoeopathic prescribing depends.
From what I have said, you will see the significance of the statement that you must cover the totality of your symptoms, in other words, the symptoms of the disease and all the other symptoms as well. In practice you select the drugs which you know have an affinity to the symptoms of the disease you are treating- possibly a dozen or so drugs-and you can then neglect these diagnostic symptoms, as you know these drugs all have them, and concentrate on finding symptoms which from a diagnostic point of view are not normally considered at all. Suppose you take a case of pneumonia; it does not interest you that the patient has a temperature, a rapid pulse, rapid respiration, rusty sputum, because all the drugs you consider for the treatment of a pneumonia have these symptoms and you do not need to bother about them at all. But it does matter to you whether the individual patient has a generally evenly coated tongue, whether he has a dry mouth or a moist one, whether he is thirsty or thirstless, whether he is more comfortable lying on the affected side or on the opposite one, whether he is drugged and toxic or delirious and excited, whether he is more at peace with somebody by his bed or prefers to be left alone. All that sort thing you very definitely want to know; it is on that sort of thing you prescribe; but you only take it into account after you have decided that the drugs you are considering have the constant features on which you have made your diagnosis. It is not a question of neglecting your clinical side; it is a question of knowing which drugs have the clinical picture, and adding to that the point on which you are going to prescribe.