The Single Remedy

Importance of The Single Remedy in homeopathic prescription and Hahnemann’s view on this that materia medica provings were carried out with single drugs and not mixtures so the prescription should be have single medicine….

ANOTHER aspect of Hahnemann’s approach to practical therapy deserves mention. This was his insistence on the giving of just one remedy at a time. In a sense this was called for by the fact that the materia medica provings were carried out with single drugs and not mixtures.

But it was also necessary on the assumption that the prescribed remedy was activating a curative response in the body. He argued that to throw in an additional drug stimulus would tend to confuse the issue and interfere with the selected remedy’s specific effect.

This seems sound reasoning but at the time it was regarded with suspicion and incredulity, and met with active and violent hostility, especially from the apothecaries. That was an age in which poly-pharmacy was the order of the day, the mixtures prescribed containing often a fantastic array of ingredients.

This sort of haphazard prescribing which was not based on any rational hypothesis, was anathema to Hahnemann’s penetrating mind. He was concerned with the body’s reaction to the stimulus of a single remedy.

The simultaneous incursion into the body of multiple medicaments could only result in metabolic confusion. Moreover it would be impossible to attribute any effects produced to the action of any particular ingredient, thus making accuracy in prescribing an impossibility.

If more than one drug is given in one prescription the possibility of synergistic action cannot be ruled out, but it cannot be argued that the effect will be the sum total of the effects of the separate drugs. Rather will the combination function as a single drug.

The ingredient drugs may supplement one another or may antagonise one another, they may even result in inter-reactions that have adverse effects in the body.

Hahnemann was quite convinced in the matter as evidenced by his statements, q.v. Organon para. 234, 235, 236.

“In no case is it necessary for cure to use more than one single simple medicinal substance at a time.”

“It is difficult to conceive how there could ever be the smallest doubt that it is more logical and reasonable to prescribe a single tested medicine for a disease than a mixture of several”.

“For the rational physician finds at once all that he can desire in quite simple medicines given singly, which by their homoeopathic strength can overcome, extinguish and radically cure natural disease. Therefore, he will always act according to the general maxim-Quod fieri potest per pauce non debet fieri per plura-and he will never use as remedies anything but single simple medicines.”

“It is wholly unknown how two or more medicines mixed together may hinder and alter one another in their actions on the human body; on the other hand a simple medicine used in diseases whose symptom-complex is exactly known will cure if it is exactly and homoeopathically adapted to the case.”

The predilection for combining more than one drug in a single prescription dies hard. Even as recently as the British Pharmaceutical Codex of 1934 a prescription known as “Warburg’s Tincture” was listed as containing no less than 19 ingredients : aloes, elecampane, rhubarb, angelica, saffron, fennel, chalk, gentian, zedoary, cubebs, myrrh, agaric, opium, black pepper, cinnamon, ginger, quinine, camphor and alcohol.

There may be music and poetry in such a list of names but as to therapeutic effects these would surely be highly unpredictable.

An interesting echo in the twentieth century of Hahnemann’s viewpoint is provided by a physician, a pharmacist and a professor of pharmacology writing in the Lancet-January 1954 :

“The historian who records the changes in medical practice during the twentieth century will, without doubt, comment on the remarkable variety and quantity of remedies prescribed. The reason for this apparent boom in drugs is not obscure; for there has been an enormous increase not only in the number of new drugs but also in the presentation of information about them.”

“But this does not mean that the therapeutic use of drugs today has reached a high peak of effectiveness or of safety. Indeed there is evidence that the simple principles which govern the action of a drug, its absorption, distribution and elimination are not appreciated as they should be.”

“Since our knowledge of the action of various drugs on man is limited, and likely to remain so for some time, it is not difficult to understand how the habit has grown of combining as many effective remedies as possible in one bottle or tablet. Many of the common expectorant mixtures are examples.”

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.