Materia Medica

Once Hahnemann was convinced with the new principle of like cures like, he started working on preparation of new Materia Medica. How he made provings and brought out symptom and list them in our materia medica have been discussed here Gibson Miller….

ONCE Hahnemann was convinced that it was a practical possibility to treat illness in accordance with the principle that what a drug could cause it could cure, he had to set about the preparation of a new type of materia medica.

Some information was available in books on pharmacology as to what various drugs could cause in the way of symptoms, but this was if a crude type and quite inadequate from his point of view.

Much of this information was obtained from experiments on animals, whereas Hahnemann wanted to know how human beings were affected by one or another drug, venom or other substance when it was introduced into the body.

To obtain this most necessary information he devised a procedure of so-called “planned provings”. He gave does, usually in quite small amounts or even in highly-diluted form, to members of his own family and to his friends and colleagues who were willing to participate. He experimented also on himself.

Those chosen for the proving were at the time free from symptoms. They undertook to avoid any behaviour or activity that might of itself be productive of symptoms. They were briefed to keep a careful note of any effects, whether in the physical, the mental or the emotional sphere, that appeared while undergoing the test.

Their recorded observations were then checked over and over again with meticulous care, only those effects which could be reasonably assumed to be the result of taking the doses being recorded for permanent inclusion in the materia medica.

As controls, and to eliminate as far as possible any recorded symptoms which may have been induced by auto-suggestion, not all the doses handed out were medicated. Whether the doses were medicated or not was only known to the one who was conducting the proving and who kept a careful record of medicated and unmedicated doses.

Symptoms recorded by those receiving unmedicated doses could obviously be discarded straight away. Fine judgement was required to decide whether symptoms recorded by those taking medicated doses were worthy of inclusion in the materia medica or not.

Others assisted in this Herculean task and in the course of twenty years Hahnemann had collected material for a pure materia medica embodying the results of testing 67 remedies, including some agents which were new to therapeutics.

The work has continued to this day and useful material has also been added in the form of data culled from what might be called “accidental provings”. These include symptoms experienced as the result of poisonings, therapeutic administration of drugs (side- effects) and pharmacological experiments.

While perhaps of rather crude type, such symptoms are nevertheless suggestive of what any particular drug or poison can cause and are worthy of attention and record.

Down the years both confirmatory and supplementary provings have been carried out and the findings incorporated in a number of large volumes.

Allen, for instance, produced twelve volumes containing a wealth of detail. Under PHOSPHORUS alone 93 pages are occupied with the record of 3,920 symptoms, a note being appended to each symptom stating the dose and the circumstances which apparently induced


Furthermore, clinical experience has added vastly to the known relationship between individual remedies and well-defined clinical syndromes, and also to the relationship between remedies and constitutional types, causal factors in disease and underlying toxicoses.

As a result of the industry and enterprise of a large number of contributors there is now available in relation to a great number of remedies, of plant, animal or mineral origin, a vast and awe- inspiring accumulation of data.

In relation to its materia medica a given remedy can conveniently be studied in a more condensed form by culling from the literature the more relevant features of fairly constant occurrence and grouping these under such heads as the following :

First the Pharmacognosy of the source from which the remedy is obtained. This is important. It is obviously desirable to be well acquainted with the medicine that is being prescribed, whether it is derived from the plant, animal or mineral kingdom or is a synthetic product.

Outstandingly prominent characteristics. Each remedy has an essence and a genius of its own, and this is usually manifested by persistently recurring effects more or less peculiar to itself. Examples of such prominent features are :

ACONITUM : Acuteness of onset, extreme restlessness, marked terror, intense thirst.

BELLADONNA : Blazing visage, bounding pulse, burning hot skin, staring eyes with widely dilated pupils, a bellicose type of delirium.

SULPHUR : Widespread burnings, disturbances of circulation, marked intolerance of heat.

Whilst it is of obvious interest to know the origin of the remedy, it is also helpful from the angle of treatment, for remedies fall into groups, botanical, chemical, biological, and members of a group are often complementary in action.

This does not mean that they are interchangeable, for it is usually just one remedy that is eminently suited to the needs of the patient. But one member of the group may be able to aid and abet another, and it often requires more than one remedy in series to bring about the desired cure.

Next the Pharmacology of the remedy or its source is worthy of study. It reveals affinities with particular tissues, organs or systems that render the symptoms associated with the remedy more understandable. The knowledge of these tissues or organ affinities may also be of value in prescribing. Examples are the known affinity of :

IODIUM with the thyroid gland

CHELIDONIUM with the liver and gall bladder

BELLADONNA with the central nervous system

CANTHARIS with the genito-urinary system

RHUS TOXICODENDRON with the locomotor system

RUTA GRAVEOLENS with periosteum

ARNICA with injured tissue HYPERICUM with nervous tissue

SEPIA with the female pelvic organs.

Awareness of these tissue affinities may suggest the possible use of one or more remedies, which can then be studied for suitability with other features of the individual case.

Physiognomy can be inclusive of the physical features and observable signs associated with a remedy.

Both provings and clinical observations have shown a close relation between remedies and outstanding physical features- complexion, appearance, manner, colour, peculiarities of hair, skin, discharges, movements, posture, speech and odour.

Features which stand out with obtrusive prominence are at once connected by the observer who knows his materia medica with a remedy which has the same feature prominent in its drug picture.

For example :

The tense, well-groomed, fastidious ARSENICUM patient : unable to relax or stay put even at night.

The pale, podgy, phlegmatic chilly CALCAREA patient.

The tall, delicate-looking, red-haired PHOSPHORUS patient, fidgety and nervously anxious to assist and give accurate answers when questioned.

The stoop-shouldered, rather unkempt, red-faced, talkative, self- opinionated, warm-blooded SULPHUR patient.

Psychology. In the days the importance of the psychogenic aspect of disease is being realised more and more. From its inception homoeopathy has always emphasised the significance of the mental, especially the emotional, features in a case history. Many remedies are intimately related to outstanding psychological symptoms. For example.

The utter apathy and indifference of SEPIA.

The jealousy of LACHESIS.

The abyssmal suicidal gloom of AURUM METALLICUM.

The tiresomely fussy tidiness of ARSENICUM.

The nervous apprehension before an ordeal of ARGENTUM NITRICUM.

The emotional instability of IGNATIA.

The disdainful superiority of PLATINA.

The tearfulness and variability of PULSATILLA.

The intractable irritability of CHAMOMILLA.

This whole range of temperament, and mental attitudes, sensitivities and even odd sensations as recorded under different remedies afford pertinent pointers to their use.

Physiology. This group is concerned with reactions related to circulation, appetite, food preferences, dislikes and intolerances, as also to matters of thirst, sleep and perspiration.

Individual peculiarities along these lines can be compared with similar features in the materia medica picture of a remedy and provide valuable indications for remedy selection.

People vary in their thermal reactions. NUX VOMICA types are essentially excessively chilly, hug the fire in winter. PULSATILLA persons on the other hand dislike hot weather, are ill-at-ease in a hot stuffy atmosphere, crave air and want windows widely open, get overheated in bed and push off the covers, but may before long feel chilly and pull them on again.

Peculiarities of appetite are associated with many remedies. NATRUM MURIATICUM subjects are proverbially hungry, eat heartily but remain thin. Several remedies, notably PHOSPHORUS and SULPHUR show a mid-morning empty sensation which demands a snack for relief.

LYCOPODIUM subjects have very capricious appetites, they may feel quite hungry immediately after a meal or, they may feel full after only a few mouthfuls. Perversions of appetite will suggest CALCAREA CARBONICA, among other remedies.

Robert Gibson-Miller
He was born in 1862, and was educated at Blair Lodge and the University of Glasgow, where he graduated in medicine in 1884. Early in his career he was attracted to the study of Homoeopathy, and with the object of testing the claims made for this system of medicine he undertook a visit to America. As a result of his investigations there Dr. Miller was convinced of the soundness of the homoeopathic theory. Dr. Miller did not write much, but we owe him also his Synopsis of Homoeopathic Philosophy and his small book, always at hand for reference, on Relation ship of Remedies.