The Study of Provings


Every drug Hahnemann proved after China, established the law of smilia more and more, and every drug that he proved added one more remedy to our Materia Medica, which we now recognize as Hahnemann’s Materia Medica Pura and the Materia Medica of the Chronic Diseases….


It may be well for you to review thoroughly the first portion of the study of the Organon, containing the doctrines in general that may be hereafter found to be useful in the application of Homoeopathy, including the oldest established rules and principles.

The first step may be called theoretical Homoeopathy, or the principles of Homoeopathy after which we take up the homoeopathic method of studying sickness. In this way we have found that the study of sickness in our school is entirely different from the study of sickness under the old school. But up to this time the doctrines have not exhibited their purpose; we only get their purpose when we come to the third step, which deals with the use of Materia Medica.

We have seen that we must study sickness by gathering the symptoms of sick patients, relying upon the symptoms as the language of nature, and that the totality of the symptoms constitutes the nature and quality and all there is that is to be known of the disease.

The subject we will now take up and consider is, now to acquire a knowledge of the instruments that we shall make use of in combating human sickness. We know very well that in the old school there is no plan laid down for acquiring a knowledge of medicines except by experimenting with them upon the sick.

This Hahnemann condemns as dangerous, because it subjects human sufferers to hardship and because of its uncertainty. Though this system has existed for many hundreds of years, it has never revealed a principle or method that one can take hold of to help in curing the sickness of the human family. His experiments in drug proving were made before he studied diseases.

In other words, Hahnemann built the Materia Medica and then took up the plan of examining the patient to see what remedy the sickness looks like. Whereas now, after Homoeopathy has been established, and the Materia Medica has been established, the examination of the patient precedes, in a particular case, the examination of the Materia Medica. But for the purpose of study they go hand in hand.

Before Hahnemann could examine the Materia Medica you may say he had to make one, for there was none to examine, there were no provings as yet; we now have the instruments before us to examine, we have the proved remedies. When the fallacy of old school medicine fully entered Hahnemann’s mind; when he became disgusted with its method at the time his children were sick; when he placed himself in the stream of Providence and affirmed his trust that the Lord had not made these little ones to suffer, and then to be made worse from violent medicines; then his mind was in an attitude for discovery.

It was a discountenancing of and disgust for the things that were useless, and this brought him to the state of acknowledgment of not knowing and that everything of man’s own opinion must be thrown away. It brought him to state of humility and the acknowledgment of Divine Providence.

The state of humility opens man’s mind. You will find so long as man is in a position to trust himself he makes himself a god; he makes himself the infallible; he looks to himself and does not see beyond himself; his mind is then closed. When a man finds out that in himself he is a failure, that is the beginning of knowledge in any circumstance; the very opposite of this closes the mind and turns man away from knowledge.

I have been teaching long enough to observe, and I will tell you some things I have observed. I have observed quite a number of young people turn away from Homoeopathy after once confessing it, and professing to practice it, and after seeming able in a certain degree to practice it. I often wondered why it was that after they had made public profession of it they turned away from it, and I found in every instance that it was due to lack of humility.

The great mistake comes from turning one’s attention into self and relying upon self, with an attention that closes the mind and deprives one of knowledge and prevents clear perception. Man takes himself out of the stream of Providence when he becomes dissatisfied with himself and thinks “now that I have done so many things I have nothing more to study.” This is a wrong attitude; for anything like self-conceit will blind a man’s eyes, will make him unable to use the means of cure and will prevent his becoming acquainted with the Materia Medica.

The homoeopathic physician, as much as the clergyman, ought to keep himself in a state of purity, a state of humility, a state of innocence. So sure as he does not do that he will fall by the wayside. There is nothing that destroys a man so fast in the scientific world as conceit. We see in old-fashioned science men who are puffed up and corpulent with conceit. The scientific men who are in the greatest degree of simplicity are the most wise and the most worthy, and you need not tell me that those who are innocent and simple have not had a tremendous struggle in order to keep self under control and to reach this state of simplicity.

Extensive knowledge makes a man simple, makes him gentle. Extensive knowledge makes a man realize how little he knows, and what a small concern he is. A little knowledge makes a fool of man, and makes him thin he knows it all, and the more he forgets of what h has known the bigger man he feels he is. The smaller he feels is the more he knows, you may rest assured. In order to do this, he must study and keep himself in a state of gravity and in a state of innocence.

In the scientific world we have all those horrible jealousies and feelings of hatred to those who know more than we do. A man who cannot control that and keep the down is not fit to enter the science of Homoeopathy. He must be innocent of these things; he must put that aside and be willing to learn of all sources, providing the truth, flows from these sources. In this frame of mind, and this frame of mind only, can the physician proceed to examine the Materia Medica.

We have already said that Hahnemann had no Materia Medica to start with. He could not go to books. and read, and meditate, and find remedies in the image of human sickness. He had no such remedies to study, and hence it was necessary to build up the Materia Medica. We can imagine that Hahnemann must have been almost in a state of despair, and inclined to say there is no knowledge upon the earth.

He felt in his own mind that we should never know anything about Materia Medica so long as we perceived its effects only in human sickness, but that a true and pure Materia Medica must be formed by observing the action of medicines upon the healthy human race. Hahnemann did not commence to feed these medicines to others; he took the Peruvian Bark himself, and felt its effects upon himself.

He allowed it to manifest its symptoms, and when he had thus proved Peruvian Bark (which we call China) it might be then said that the first remedy known to man was discovered, and that the first drug effect was known and that China was born! Hahnemann searched the literature of the day to to find out what other effects of China had been discovered accidentally, and accepted such as were in harmony with what he had discovered.

We have already referred to the fact that Hahnemann was able, after proving China, to see that in its action it closely resembled the intermittent fevers that had existed through all time; that there was the most abundant relation of similitude between China and intermittent fever. Do we wonder, then, that Hahnemann said to himself, can it be possible that the law of cure is the law of similars? Can it be possible that similars are cured by drugs that produce symptoms like unto the sickness?

Every drug he proved thereafter established the law more and more, made it appear more certain, and every drug that he proved added one more remedy to the instrument that we call the Materia Medica, until it came to be what we now recognize as Hahnemann’s Materia Medica Pura and the Materia Medica of the Chronic Diseases. This work was simply enormous and very thorough, but many additions have been made to it since the time of its publication, and these form the instruments we have to examine.

The best way to study a remedy is to make a proving of it. Suppose we were about to do that; suppose this class were entering upon a proving. Each member of the class would devote, say, a week, in examining carefully all the symptoms that he or she is the victim of, or believe himself or herself to be the victim of, at the present time, and for many months back. Each student then proceeds to write down carefully all these symptoms and places them by themselves. This group of symptoms is recognized as the diseased state of that individual.

A master-prover is decided upon, who will prepare for the proving a substance unknown to the class and to all the provers, known only to himself. He will begin with the first or earliest form of the drug, it may be the tincture, and potentize it to the 30th potency, putting a portion of that potency into a separate vial for each member of the class. The provers do not know what they are taking, and they are requested not to make known to each other their symptoms.

When their own original symptoms appear in the proving the effect of the remedy upon any one of these chronic symptoms is simply noted, whether cured or exaggerated, or whether or not interfered with; but when the symptom occurs in its own natural way, without being increased or diminished, it may be looked upon as one of the natural things of that particular prover, and hence all the natural things of the prover are eliminated.

Generally if a remedy takes a marked hold of a prover all the chronic symptoms will subside, but when a proving only takes a partial hold it may only create a few symptoms. These few symptoms, when added to the symptoms that the other provers have felt, will go to make up the chronic effect of the remedy, which may be said to be the effect of the remedy upon the human race. Now as to the method.

After the master prover deals out these vials, each prover takes a single dose of the medicine and waits to see if the single dose takes effect. If he is sensitive to that medicine a single dose will produce symptoms, and then those symptoms must not be interfered with; they should be allowed to go their own way. In the proving of an acute remedy, like Aconite; the instructor, who knows something about the effect of the medicine, may be able to say to the class: “If you are going to get effects from this remedy you will get those effects in the next three to four days.” It will not be necessary to wait longer than that for Aconite, Nux Vomica, or Ignatia, but longer for Sulphur or some of the antipsorics. If we were attempting to prove a remedy like Silicate of Alumina, the master-prover would advise the class not to interfere with the medicine for at least thirty days, because its prodrome may be thirty days.

It is highly important to wait until the possible prodrome of a given remedy is surely passed. If it is a short-acting remedy, the action will come speedily. We must bear in mind the prodrome, the period of progress and the period of decline when studying the Materia Medica as well as when studying miasms. The master-prover will usually be able to indicate to the class whether they should wait a short time or a long time before taking another dose, and from this the class will only know whether the drug to be proved is acute or chronic.

If the first dose of medicine produces no effect, and enough time has been allowed to be sure that the prover is not sensitive to it, the next best thing to do is to create a sensitiveness to it. If we examine into the effects of poisons, we find those who have once been poisoned by Rhus are a dozed times more sensitive than before. Those who have been poisoned by Arsenic are extremely sensitive to Arsenic after they allow the first effects to pass off. If they continue, however, to keep on with the first effects they become less sensitive to it, so that they require larger and larger doses to take effect.

This is a rule with all poisonous substances that are capable of affecting the human system markedly. Now, when the time has passed by which the prover knows he is not sensitive to that remedy, that he has not received an action from the dose (and perhaps in the class of forty you will not get more than one or two that will make a proving from the 30th potency) to make the proving and to intensify the effect, dissolve the medicine in water and have him take every two hours for 24 to 48 hours, unless symptoms arise sooner. By this means the prodromal period is shortened. The medicine seems to be intensified by the repetition, and the patient is brought under the influence, dynamically, of that remedy. As soon as the symptoms begin to show, it is time to cease taking the remedy.

No danger comes from giving the remedy in this way; danger comes form taking it for a few days and then stopping it, and then taking it again. For instance, say you are proving Arsenicum; you find that you are not all sensitive to it, and after waiting thirty days you start out again and take it in water, for three to four days, and the symptoms arise: mow wait. So long as you discontinue it, it will not do any damage.

Now, the symptoms begin to arise; wait, and let the image-producing effect of Arsenicum wear off; let it come and spread and go away of itself; do not interfere with it; if you do interfere with it, the interference should be only by a true antidote; you should never interfere with it by a repetition of dose. That is one of the most dangerous things. If the Arsenic symptoms are coming and showing clearly, and at the end of a week or ten days you say: “Let us brighten this up a little, and do this thing more thoroughly,” and to accomplish this you take a great deal more, you will engraft upon your constitution in that way the Arsenicum diathesis, from which you will never be cured.

You are breaking right into the cycles of that remedy and it is a dangerous thing to do. At times that has been done and provers have carried the effects of their proving to the end of their days. If you leave this Arsenical state alone it will pass off entirely, and the prover is very often left much better for it. A proving properly conducted will improve the health of anybody; it will help to turn things into order. It was Hahnemann’s advice to young men to make provings.

Another portion of the class will not get symptoms, no matter how they abuse the remedy, and if it be Arsenicum they will have to take a crude dose of it to get any effect, and then the symptoms given forth are only the toxic effects, from which little can be gained. The toxicological results of poisons are provings of the grossest character: they do not give the finer details. For instance, you give Opium in such large doses that it immediately poisons; you see nothing but the grosser, overwhelming symptoms; the irregular, stertorous breathing, the unconsciousness, the contracted pupil and the mottled face and the irregular heart. The details are not there, you only have a view of the most common things.

The reproving of remedies is of great value. The Vienna Society did not fully endorse Hahnemann’s provings. This society thought it impossible that such wonderful things could be brought out upon the sensations of people. The society did not endorse the 30th potency that was recommended by Hahnemann for proving. So this society gathered itself together and resolved to prove remedies, and to test the 30th potency, and it so happened that the society was honest. Natrum mur., Thuja and other remedies were proved, and W–was honest enough to say that although his convictions were decidedly against the proving he had to admit that the symptoms gathered from the 30th potency were very strong.

The Vienna Society demonstrated by these reprovings that the polycrests of Hahnemann had been fully proved. Their provings of the 30th of Natrum mur. was a wonderful revelation of them; but W–, in spite of this result, held on to his prejudices. He acknowledged that he was wrong; but he continued to use potencies lower than the 15th. He could not get his mind elevated to the 30; his prejudice was too strong. Dunham says of some of these, that in spite of the fact that they had seen better results from the 30 and higher potencies even, when they were so prejudiced they could not bring themselves to a state of yielding. As Dunham humorously expressed it, “they are ossified in their cerebral convolutions as well as in their bony structure.” That is to say, their minds were inelastic, they could not expand. We talk from appearance when we say the eyes are closed;it is the mind that is closed, the understanding that is closed.

Read $ 107-112.–When the patient is under the poisonous influence of a drug it does not seem to flow in the direction of his life action, but when reaction comes then the lingering effects of the drug seems to flow, as it were, in the stream of the vital action. Then the symptoms that arise are of the best order, and hence it is necessary in proving a drug to take such a portion of the drug only as will disturb and not suspend, as it will flow in the stream of the vital order, in the order of the economy, establishing slightly perverted action, and causing symptoms, without suspending action, as we would, for example, with a large dose of Opium.

When a state of suspension exists in the dynamic economy, then we have a beclouding of all the activities of the economy; so giving a large dose of medicine to palliate pains and suffering is dangerous. We have a suspension of the vital order when we give a medicine that does not flow in the stream of the vital influx, Homoeopathy looks towards the administration of medicines that are given for the purpose of either creating order, and then always in the higher potencies, or fro the purpose of disturbing, and then in the lower potencies.

We should never resort to crude drugs for provings, unless for a momentary or temporary experiment. It should not be followed up, and no great should be put upon the provings that are made from the crude medicines. The only at best give a fragmentary idea. Unless the proving that has been made with strong doses becomes enlarged with the symptoms from small doses the information remains fragmentary and unless. If we had only the poisonous effects of Opium, we would be able only to use it in those conditions that simulate the poisonous effects of Opium, like apoplexy.

There are some prescribers who teach that for the primary effect one potency must be used and for the secondary effect another must be used. No such distinction need be made. I have many times been at the bedside of apoplectic patients when death would have followed had not the homoeopathic remedy been administered. I have been at the bedside of some when the pulse was flickering, when the eye was glazed, when the countenance was besotted, stertorous breathing coming on, frothing at the mouth, and in a few minutes after the administration of Opium c.m.

I have seen the patient go into a sound sleep, remain quiet and rest, wake up to consciousness, and go on to recovery. Alumina has a similar state of stupor resembling apoplexy, and hence it is that Alumina and Opium are antidotes to each other. I remember a case of apoplexy once that puzzled many physicians for some days, and I was puzzled, too. The patient was in a profound stupor. Opium was administered by the physician in charge before I arrived, and it stopped the stertorous breathing, but the patient remained unconscious. Finally it was observed that one side was moving, whilst the other side had not moved for many days, and that on the paralyzed side there was fever, while on the well side there was no fever.

That was observed after careful examination for many days. I asked the doctor if he did not consider that the natural state of a paralyzed side would be coldness; he thought so too. The whole paralyzed side of this patient had a feverish feeling to the hand, the other side was normal. That seemed to be the only strange thing in the case; no speech, no effort to do anything, no action of the bowels; a do nothing case. Upon a careful study of the Materia Medica, I came to the conclusion that Alumina was suited to the case, and in twelve hours after taking a dose of Alumina in a high potency that fever subsided on the paralyzed side and the patient returned to consciousness.

James Tyler Kent
James Tyler Kent (1849–1916) was an American physician. Prior to his involvement with homeopathy, Kent had practiced conventional medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. He discovered and "converted" to homeopathy as a result of his wife's recovery from a serious ailment using homeopathic methods.
In 1881, Kent accepted a position as professor of anatomy at the Homeopathic College of Missouri, an institution with which he remained affiliated until 1888. In 1890, Kent moved to Pennsylvania to take a position as Dean of Professors at the Post-Graduate Homeopathic Medical School of Philadelphia. In 1897 Kent published his magnum opus, Repertory of the Homœopathic Materia Medica. Kent moved to Chicago in 1903, where he taught at Hahnemann Medical College.