Hahnemann’s doctrine of Chronic disease

A brief outline of the famous psora-theory of Hahnemann, which was first formally given to the world in 1828, and which was given rise to much controversy among Hahnemann’s disciples….

Individualization a peculiar feature of Hahnemann’s teaching before his invention of the psora theory-His contempt for pathological hypothesis-His psora theory a vast generalization and a pathological hypothesis-His early foreshadowings of the theory-He early ascribes a large number of chronic disease to itch-His account of the discovery of the source of chronic disease-He communicates his discovery to Stapf and Gross- Necessity for a miasmatic origin of chronic diseases-Psora the grand source-Syphilis and sycosis the other sources-Itch a degeneration of the ancient leprosy-Error of considering itch a local disease-Under itch he includes many other distinct skin- diseases-Mode in which infection takes place-Itch to be met with everywhere-The most infectious chronic miasm-Mode of development of itch-disease-danger of suppressing the external eruption-Signs of latent psora-He at first thought the disease might be cured by reproducing an eruption-His Burgundy-pitch-He also believed that a fresh infection with itch would cure the chronic disease- Instances of this adduced by him-He afterwards recants these opinions-His mode of treating fresh itch-Psoric diseases require peculiar medicines, termed antipsorics-Before he thought of psora he considered coffee to be the great source of chronic diseases- Traces of this psora theory in ancient writes-Hoffmann ascribes many diseases to suppressed itch-Autenrieth’s psora theory- Hahnemann’s contempt for Autenrieth’s treatment of itch-Wenzel held a psora theory-Stapf’s laudations of the psora theory-Gross testifies to its truth-Unquestioning adhesion to it of many homoeopathists-Peterson corroborates it with cock- and bull stories-He makes out that cholera is of psoric origin-Rau admits the partial foundation in truth of the theory-Wolf considers it an unfortunate idea-Schron defends prae-antipsoric homoeopathy against Hahnemann’s disparagement of it-Hering carries the psora- theory farther than Hahnemann-He announces a prophylactic for itch-Later allopathic authorities who have held the psora-theory- Beer-Schonlein-Weitenweber- Nathan’s apology for Hahnemann.

BEFORE Hahnemann’s enunciation of his peculiar pathological doctrine of the origin of chronic diseases, commonly termed the psora-theory, the grand distinctive feature of his practical directions consisted in oft-repeated injunctions to individualize to the utmost all diseases, that is to say, to regard each morbid case as an individuality, a disease that stood per se, and might never again occur in the precise form then observed, and which demanded for its cure a remedy selected in accordance with the actual symptoms and utterly irrespective of any presumed essential cause or pathological doctrine whatsoever.

No one eve ridiculed the therapeutic maxim of the dominant school, “tolle causam, “more than Hahnemann. His essay entitled the Medicine of Experience, that On the Value of the Speculative Systems of Medicine, and even the introduction to every successive edition of the Organon, abound in passages ridiculing he notion of any inquiry into the essential nature of disease, and no maxim is more frequently or more dogmatically enunciated by our Master than this (I quote from his Medicine of Experience):-

“The internal essential nature of every malady, of every individual case of disease, as far as it is necessary for us to know it for the purpose of curing it, express itself by the symptoms, as they present themselves to the investigations of the true observer in their whole extent, connection, and succession.”


“When the physician has discovered all the observable symptoms of the disease that exist, he has discovered the disease itself, he has attained the complete conception o it requisite to enable him to effect a cure.”

Passing over his intermediate works, we find precisely the same doctrine inculcated in the opening paragraphs of the Organon, in even its last edition. Thus in Aphorism vi. we find it written:-

The unprejudiced observer, let his powers of penetration be ever so great, takes not of nothing in every individual disease except the changes in the health of the body and of the mind which can be perceived externally by means of he senses, that is to say, he notices only the deviations from the former healthy state of the now disease individual which are felt by the patient himself, remarked by those around him, and observed by the physician. All these perceptible signs represent the disease in its whole extent. that is, together they form the true and only conceivable portrait of he disease.”

And in a note to this paragraph he once more holds up to ridicule those who would seek to know anything more about the disease than the symptoms presented by the patient.

After all this we should hardly had expected to meet Hahnemann in the woman or pathological hypothesis, and actually promulgating a theory of the origin of all chronic disease. And yet such is the fact, and we shall find that his doctrine of chronic disease-and this I say without thereby implying its fallacy-is an attempt at a dogmatical explanation of the essential nature of a vast proportion of the maladies that afflict mankind; and as all Hahnemann’s views and doctrines were made subservient to his therapeutics, this pathological hypothesis of his was the foundation of a peculiar therapia, differing in some essential particulars from what he had heretofore taught.

Before entering on a critical analysis and examination of Hahnemann’s doctrine of chronic disease, I think it as well for the sake of those of you who may not have had the time or the opportunity to become familiar with Hahnemann’s peculiar tenets on this point, to trace out for you the exact course of Hahnemann’s views upon the subject as far as they can be learned from his medical writings.

It is commonly stated that Hahnemann first conceived his doctrine of chronic diseases about he year 1827, when he sent for his trusty followers Stapf and Gross to one to Coethen, where he then resided, in order to hear from his own lips his explanation of the psora theory; and that the first published record of it is the first edition of his great work or Chronic Disease, published in 1828. But though it is undoubtedly true that this was the first systematic exposition of his peculiar and remarkable doctrine, we have evidence in his writings that for many years previously, indeed, certain passages in his very first medical work of any magnitude, that on Venereal Diseases, published in 1789, show, that even before his discovery of the Homoeopathic law, his mind had a certain tendency towards the theory which, when formally promulgated, seemed to come so unexpectedly upon his disciples.

In that early work just alluded to he says a great deal about the dangerous effects likely to ensue from the common practice of destroying the chancre, his notion being that the external sore was but the sign of the universal infection of he organism, and that whilst it existed the disease expended all its energy up on this external morbid process; but that if the external affection were removed the disease, which was by no means destroyed by such an act, being deprived of an external seat, preyed upon some internal organ or organs, and gave rise to that series of phenomena we denominate secondary or constitutional syphilis.

But still more marked and striking is a passage which occurs in an essay published by Hahnemann in 1816, just twelve years before the publication of the first edition of his work on Chronic Diseases. (Lesser Writings, p.731.)

Speaking of the itch, he says:-

“This disease belong to the chronic exanthematous diseases, and in it nature also produces the itch-vesicles, at first in the neighborhood of the part that was originally touched by the itch- virus e.g., betwixt the fingers and on the wrists, if the hands were first affected. As soon as the itch-vesicles have made their appearance, this is a sign that the internal itch-disease is already fully developed; for at first there is actually no morbid change observable on the affected part, no itching, no itch-vesicles.

Usually from nine to twelve or fourteen days after the application of the itch-virus there occurs, along with slight fever, which is not noticed by many persons, the eruption of the first itch-vesicle-nature requires this time in order to complete the full infection, that is to say, the development of the itch- disease in the interior, throughout the organism The itch- vesicles that now appear are hence no mere local malady, but a proof of the completion of the internal disease. The itch miasms, as soon as it has contaminated the hand, remains no longer local the instant it has caused inoculation, but proceeds to alter the interior of the organism and to develop itself into this peculiar disease until the entire infection is accomplished, and then only does the eruption produced by the internal malady appear on the skin and that at first in the vicinity of the original point of infection.

R.E. Dudgeon
Robert Ellis Dudgeon 1820 – 1904 Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh in 1839, Robert Ellis Dudgeon studied in Paris and Vienna before graduating as a doctor. Robert Ellis Dudgeon then became the editor of the British Journal of Homeopathy and he held this post for forty years.
Robert Ellis Dudgeon practiced at the London Homeopathic Hospital and specialised in Optics.
Robert Ellis Dudgeon wrote Pathogenetic Cyclopaedia 1839, Cure of Pannus by Innoculation, London and Edinburgh Journal of Medical Science 1844, Hahnemann’s Organon, 1849, Lectures on the Theory & Practice of Homeopathy, 1853, Homeopathic Treatment and Prevention of Asiatic Cholera 1847, Hahnemann’s Therapeutic Hints 1847, On Subaqueous Vision, Philosophical Magazine, 1871, The Influence of Homeopathy on General Medical Practice Since the Death of Hahnemann 1874, Repertory of the Homeopathic Materia Medica, 2 vols 1878-81, The Human Eye Its Optical Construction, 1878, Hahnemann’s Materia Medica Pura, 1880, The Sphygmograph, 1882, Materia Medica: Physiological and Applied 1884, Hahnemann the Founder of Scientific Therapeutics 1882, Hahnemann’s Organon 1893 5th Edition, Prolongation of Life 1900, Hahnemann’s Lesser Writing.