One can discover a great deal by interrogation. It is frequently quite unnecessary to examine the patient. However, it is advantageous to follow up the interrogation by a physical examination of the body as a whole. The patient complaining of rheumatism is, let us say, a man aged 48. He has told the prescriber all he knows, answering the numerous questions put to him.



RHEUMATISM is widespread and is difficult to cure. We have been told that rheumatism claims an enormous and ever-increasing number of victims in England and elsewhere, and in order to combat this disorder, special clinics have been created in many localities. It is peculiar and significant that during an age of sanitation and intensified medication, rheumatism, a comparatively simple disease, should increase its ravages from year to year.

While rheumatism is almost incurable to the orthodox practitioner it is relatively easily curable by the homoeopath who understands his work. The homoeopathic student learns that Rhus tox. is excellent for rheumatism that is relieved by movement, while Bryonia is extremely helpful in those cases of rheumatism that are aggravated by movement.

The patient who needs Rhus tox. gets up feeling stiff, and on moving the pain disappears. The patient who needs Bryonia does not want to move at all, he is bad-tempered and usually his liver and stomach do not function properly, and his pain is relieved by pressure. An experienced homoeopathic practitioner can give immediate relief to the sufferer by asking the question which is neglected by the allopath: “Is your pain relieved or aggravated by movement?” and according to the answer he will either prescribe Bryonia or Rhus tox.

Homoeopathic treatment, as exemplified by the case of rheumatism, seems simplicity itself. In reality things are not as simple as they seem. There is a cause for every disease and disorder, unless there are a number of causes, and unless we deal with the causative factor or factors we can expect only to effect a temporary cure, but not a permanent one.

If a patient calls upon a homoeopathic prescriber, professional or lay, and complains that he is racked with rheumatic pain, the prescriber may be tempted to ask the usual question: “Is the pain made better or worse by movement?” hand over the indicated medicine or a prescription, and send the patient away. The enquiry and the prescription take only a few minutes, and then the next case can be handled. If, however, the prescriber wishes to treat the case seriously and fundamentally, he must proceed in a totally different manner.

He should invite the patient to tell him a great many facts. He should ask first of all: “Are your parents alive or dead? What disease did they die of? How many children did they have apart from you? What is the condition of the other children?” and if some have died, then he must enquire from what disease they have died, and then he will get a definite impression of the disease strain which runs in the patients family.

He will then enquire into the patients health history. He may discover that the patient has had a number of diseases such as the usual childrens diseases, and the enumeration of these troubles should be countered by the question: “Have any of these diseases been serious?” If they have been trivial attacks of mumps, scarlet fever, measles, etc., the health of the patient has probably not been affected, but if the patient says: “I had scarlatina seriously and nearly died,” it may be necessary to antidote scarlatina which is probably still in the system.

Now let us assume that the patient had scarlatina seriously, that he had a very bad attack of diphtheria which also in some way or other might produce rheumatism, and that he was vaccinated and vaccination badly upset him. The effects of vaccinosis can, as a rule, be seen by the fact that the left side is worse than the right side of the body, that rheumatism is chiefly on the left side.

Vaccinosis may also be seen by the fact that the patient has dreams of falling or flying. He may not be aware that he has dreams of falling, but if his body jerks when he is falling asleep, one can assume that this jerk is due to the sensation of falling or dream of falling. All these facts should be noted by the conscientious prescriber, who should also enquire whether the patient has had a sex disease. Syphilis and gonorrhoea are apt to lead to rheumatism.

The method of living frequently has something to do with the diseases and disorders that afflict us. The patient may be exposed to draughts, possibly at a time when the body is overheated, he may have to work in a damp atmosphere, he may sleep with the window open and allow a draught to strike one side of the body and his rheumatism appears. He may take too little exercise or too much, he may take cold baths which do not suit him. Like a detective the prescriber must try to get at all the causes which may be responsible for the symptoms complained of.

Although sanitation and the housing of the people have greatly improved, rheumatism has become evermore widespread. Very likely the principal cause of the evergrowing incidence of rheumatism is to be found in the modern diet which produces acidity. The prescriber should ask the patient: “Please tell me all about your diet,” and if the patient replies: “I eat what everyone eats,” the prescriber must not be satisfied but must ask for fuller details.

I usually ask: “Please tell me in the fullest detail what you eat and drink at every meal and in between.” The facts elicited should be put down on paper by the prescriber. He must ask: “What do you take before breakfast? What do you take at breakfast? Do you take anything between breakfast and luncheon? What do you have mid-day? What do you take in the afternoon? What does your evening meal consist of ?”

The prescriber should never be satisfied with the reply: “For breakfast I have bread and butter and an egg,” but should immediately ask: “Do you take white or wholemeal bread? Do you spread your butter thick or thin? How much salt do you take with your egg? How many cups of tea do you take? Do you take it hot, strong or weak? How much sugar and milk do you put into it? Do you use white or brown sugar? What saucepans are used in the kitchen? Are copper or aluminium saucepans used, because there may be copper poisoning or aluminium poisoning”.

When the dietetic facts have all been put down, then we may arrive at the conclusion that the patients trouble may be due partly to scarlatina, diphtheria and vaccinosis, partly to an injudicious diet, partly to constipation, partly to mistakes made in exercise, in taking baths, etc., and then we should endeavour to cure the body as a whole and not merely cure the rheumatism complained of. The patient should be told very seriously that a diet consisting largely of white bread and white sugar does not contain the elements and vitamins which the body requires to keep it healthy, that even if rheumatism should be eliminated other troubles are bound to occur from foods which lack indispensable essentials.

Then he should be warned against being chilled by unduly cold baths, or softened by unduly hot and prolonged baths which lead to softening of the skin and cold-catching at the slightest opportunity. He should be warned against taking too much alcohol and tobacco, and he should be told that the body should be flushed sufficiently with water or weak tea and other liquids. Remarks which are addressed to a patient are apt to be forgotten or waived aside by him, especially if the warnings given are unpalatable to the patient.

Therefore the warnings regarding his method of life and diet should be given to him in writing. He should be given an exact dietary more or less in harmony with his usual dietary, and all the items which are harmful to him should be dealt with. He should be warned against using white bread, white sugar, strong tea, boiling hot liquid, and so forth, and he should also be warned against using too much condiment.

When his daily life has been dealt with comprehensively and wisely, then and then only the question of medicine should be handled. One can very easily give relief to patients with rheumatism by giving them salicylates, as the orthodox doctors do, or by giving them either Bryonia or Rhus tox. as is done by homoeopaths,but a real cure will not be effected by these superficial treatments. The patient in question may need Rhus tox. but there are other factors which should not be neglected.

We have assumed that the patient had scarlatina badly, that he had diphtheria badly, and that he had been poisoned with vaccination. So he should receive occasional doses of Scarlatinum which I usually give in the 200th potency once a week, for the diphtheria attack he should have Diphtherinum perhaps in the same potency once a week, and for his vaccinosis he should be given Thuja as an antidote, also in the 200th potency.

If the patient has strong Sulphur symptoms, and they are to be found in the great majority of cases, he should, of course, be given Sulphur as well. Therefore the following prescription might be given. He should be made to take Sulphur 6x or 3x, a dose first and last thing. He should take Rhus tox. twice a day midway between meals. On Monday nights he should take a dose of Scarlatinum 200, on Thursday nights he should take a dose of Diphtherinum 200, and on Saturday nights a dose of Thuja 200, and he should be warned to look out for his reactions to the once a week medicines.

Sulphur is excellent as a blood-clearing medicine. It drives out the morbid material which is within the body and which should be driven out. So Sulphur night and morning will benefit him in all probability, unless Sulphur should be contra-indicated.

If a patient cannot stand great heat, puts his feet out of bed because they get so hot, gets a sinking in the stomach at eleven in the morning, has an impure skin, Sulphur should be prescribed because it will prove very helpful. If, on the other hand, the patient should crave heat, is tidy, restless, then he may need Arsenic, and Arsenic should be given in the 3x or 6x potency.

The giving of weekly doses of Scarlatinum will not produce scarlatina, and Diphtherinum will not produce diphtheria, but these medicines will show whether there are residues of scarlatina poisoning and of diphtheria poisoning in the system. If the patient reports that after a dose of Scarlatinum he became feverish, tossed about all night, got a rash, then we know that there is some scarlatina poison still within him, and it should, of course, be eliminated as soon as possible.

If he has no reaction at all we can assume that there is no scarlatina poison in existence. He may react to the Diphtherinum by swelling of glands at the neck, a temperature or some other symptoms which indicate that there is some diphtheria poison within him, or he may show by his reaction that there is vaccinial poisoning within his body, and then Thuja will do him much good.

The patient in question would undoubtedly have benefited if he had been given Rhus tox. alone, and he would be grateful for the benefit received, but he would not be completely cured. Only his rheumatic pain would be relieved, and he would come again and again to the prescriber with complaints about rheumatism and other troubles.

If, on the other hand, the whole body should be treated on broad lines as suggested, then he will not only find that his rheumatism disappears but his general health will be vastly improved and he will be set up for life, and will be correspondingly grateful.

Of course, constitutional treatment as outlined causes a great deal of trouble to the prescriber. It takes about an hour to investigate the case thoroughly, and it takes another half-hour to dictate directions to a good shorthand writer. But then there is the possibility of making an unsound man a sound man, of making a delicate woman a strong woman, of making an ailing child a sturdy child. So the method outlined is thoroughly worth while.

One can discover a great deal by interrogation. It is frequently quite unnecessary to examine the patient. However, it is advantageous to follow up the interrogation by a physical examination of the body as a whole. The patient complaining of rheumatism is, let us say, a man aged 48. He has told the prescriber all he knows, answering the numerous questions put to him.

But the prescriber may have omitted a number of questions which he ought to have asked, and he will regretfully remember what has been left out after the patient has gone. He will be reminded of many facts and discover many new factors if he investigates the body. The average patient who has rheumatism wants to show to the prescriber the shoulder, the ankle or knee which is painful, although there is not much to be seen.

The wise prescriber will ask the patient to undress completely. He will look at the man, and he may find that, although his face and hands are spotless, there are numerous pimples and pustules on back and chest. He may discover that a man has a poor chest with poor expansion, or a prolapsed stomach stomach and bowel, or that he has piles, or that he has an enlarged testicle or an unretractable foreskin which may lead to inflammation of the penis, called Balanitis, which may require an operation.

Or he may discover that the patient has varicose veins which need attention, or that he has very flat feet, fearful bunions, crippled toe nails, etc. All these defects are patiently borne because the individual has become used to them. The prescriber should kindly draw the patients attention to all these defects and tell him: “You have a badly swollen testicle which may lead to an operation, or serious varicose veins which may burst and cause tremendous loss of blood at a very unfortunate moment.”

I have seen a woman lying in the street in a huge pool of blood coming from a burst varicose vein. Or one may say: “You have flat feet which can be put right quite easily, or unsightly bunions which may cripple you.”.

The patient may wish to have only his rheumatism dealt with, but if he is a sensible man and can afford it he will be grateful to the prescriber and then the prescriber can embody in his directions provisional measures for dealing with all the factors discovered.

He may, for instance, give foot exercises to the individual with flat feet or weak ankles, he may prescribe Calcarea florica for the varicose veins, and there is the possibility that the absence of Calcarea florica was responsible for the rheumatism. He may prescribe deep breathing for the inadequate chest, and so forth. If he surveys the body as a whole he may be able to rebuild the patient, earn his gratitude and secure a valuable patient.

Mr. Blank, aged 48, may have gone to the homoeopath because he has been to half a dozen orthodox doctors who prescribed salicylates which relieved his rheumatism temporarily but did not cure it. He will probably remember that the orthodox doctors perfunctorily looked at the painful leg or shoulder, and perfunctorily prescribed salicylates and sent him away. Possibly, in order to demonstrate their zeal, they listened, quite unnecessarily, to his heart and lungs, or pretended to listen to his heart and lungs.

He will be amazed if, for the first time in his life, a prescriber takes a real interest in his body as a whole and points out to him all the defects and deficiencies which can be discovered by a complete physical examination and by a searching interrogation.

He will be amazed and delighted at the zeal of the homoeopath who enquires carefully into his medical history and inheritance, and he will arrive at the conclusion that the homoeopath will make a new man of him, he will feel tremendously encouraged, and it is quite likely that when he goes home he will tell his wife and his friends that he has never been so thoroughly examined, and the result may be that within a week the sufferer from rheumatism has sent several new patients to the conscientious prescriber who has treated him in a way in which he has never before been treated.

J. Ellis Barker
James Ellis Barker 1870 – 1948 was a Jewish German lay homeopath, born in Cologne in Germany. He settled in Britain to become the editor of The Homeopathic World in 1931 (which he later renamed as Heal Thyself) for sixteen years, and he wrote a great deal about homeopathy during this time.

James Ellis Barker wrote a very large number of books, both under the name James Ellis Barker and under his real German name Otto Julius Eltzbacher, The Truth about Homœopathy; Rough Notes on Remedies with William Murray; Chronic Constipation; The Story of My Eyes; Miracles Of Healing and How They are Done; Good Health and Happiness; New Lives for Old: How to Cure the Incurable; My Testament of Healing; Cancer, the Surgeon and the Researcher; Cancer, how it is Caused, how it Can be Prevented with a foreward by William Arbuthnot Lane; Cancer and the Black Man etc.