The Homoeopathic Materia Medica.- The Materia Medica of Hahnemann is an enduring monument to the genius of its author, original in its conception and design and unique in its form and contents. Its foundation is on the bedrock of natural law. It is constructed of the cut stones of accurately observed facts, laid up in the cement of irrefrangible logic. Over its portals are graven the words, *Similia Similibus Curantur; Simplex, Simile, Minimum.
Hahnemann, on apprehending a new general principle in therapeutics, was confronted with the problem of creating an entirely new materia medica by means of which the principle might be applied in practice. If diseases were to be treated according to the principle of symptom-similarity it was necessary to know what symptoms drugs would produce in healthy persons, since these would be the only symptoms which could possibly resemble the symptoms of sick persons.
There was no materia medica in existence which contained the facts or phenomena of the action of drugs upon the healthy. The existent materia medicas contained only the incidental observations, theories and opinions of drug action of men who gave drugs to the sick or treated cases of poisoning upon purely empirical and speculative assumptions; and these were given, not singly, but in such combination and mixtures as to render impossible any intelligent conception of what the action of a single drug might be.
Undismayed by the magnitude of the task, Hahnemann set about creating a materia medica which should embody the facts of drug action upon the healthy. He instituted “provings” of drugs upon himself, members of his family, friends, students and fellow practitioners, keeping all under the most rigid scrutiny and control, and carefully recording every fact and the conditions under which it was elicited. This work was continued for many years, parts of it being published from time to time, until the mass of material had reached enormous proportions.
Adopting the plan of arranging the drug symptoms thus derived according to the anatomical parts and regions of the body in which they occurred, as the most rational and simple method of classification for the purpose of comparison with disease symptoms, Hahnemann constructed and published, first, the Materia Medica Pura, and later, The Chronic Diseases, the greater part of which is composed of provings of drugs. Covering nearly three thousand royal octavo pages, they constitute one of the most stupendous works of original experimentation and research ever attempted and carried out by one man. To this original work of Hahnemann many and large additions have been made by later workers.
The vast collection of symptoms of which the materia medica of Homoeopathy is composed is incomprehensible without an understanding of the principles upon which it is based. In a good working homoeopathic library there are about two hundred volumes, by many authors, upon the subject of materia medica, including special collections and classifications, repertories, charts and indexes of symptoms. Confronted by such a mass of material it is no wonder that the student is at first confused and discouraged. But when the basic principle has been explained to him and he has learned the meaning of symptoms, their method of classification and interpretation, and when he has seen the means if ready reference provided, his bewilderment gives way to admiration.
The task of mastering the materia medica, vast and even impossible as it seems, is comparatively simple. The compass that points the way through the seeming wilderness of symptoms is the principle of *Similia – the remedial law of homoeopathy.
When the drug symptoms recorded in the homoeopathic materia medica are seen to be exact counterparts of the symptoms of disease, and it is explained that medicines cure disease by virtue of this similarity of symptoms, the reason for the existence of the materia medica in its characteristic form is evident. *The arrangement of symptoms according to an anatomical scheme is for the purpose of comparison – symptoms of drugs with the symptoms of disease. Given the basic principle and its corollaries, the rest is merely a matter of mastering the logical classification and interpretation of symptoms and the use of the manuals, indexes and repertories provided.
Symptomatology.- The first requisite to a correct understanding of the subject of symptomatology is to know the full meaning of the world “symptoms” and all that it involves.