Theory of the Dynamization of Medicine


It is impossible so to separate the dynamization theory from the doctrines respecting the doses as to be able to treat of the one without reference to the other….


The dynamization theory not essential to homoeopathy-Hahnemann first hint of it-Solution increases the power of the drug by bringing it to bear on more points of the living fibre-Difference between the action of a hard, dry pill and a solution of the same medicine-Medicine act dynamically not atomically-Hahnemann asserts the greater power of the smaller portion of medicine in solution-Curious piece of dynamical arithmetic-An imitation of Brown’s scale of excitability-Futility of all such calculations- Further development of the dynamization theory- Wonderful effects of succession and trituration-The homoeopathic attenuations are said not to weaken but to exalt the medicinal power-The power of the attenuation proportioned to the number of succussions they have received-His fear of over-succussing-No need for dilution- He loses his fear for hyper dynamizing-Wonderful effects of dynamizing-Frequent alteration of Hahnemann’s views-His disciples better the instruction of the master-Korsakoff’s infected globules- Hahnemann’s reply to Korsakoff-Gross gives his adhesions to Korsakoff- And goes beyond him-Plaubel is favourable to infection-Jenichen’s high potencies-Disclosure of his undivulged secret-Plumbum the beginning and the end of Jenichen’s celebrity-Gross becomes Jenichen’s trumpeter-Boenninghausen kills two dogs without a stone-Hering’s Hahnemannism-His aerial potencies-Tietze ascribes dynamization to electricity- Investigations with the microscope-Segin’s investigations- Mayrhofer’s observations- Microscopic appearance of attenuations of gold, silver, mercury, iron, lead copper, tin, zinc, arsenic- mayrhofer’s deductions-Koch’s examination of mercury-Rummel’s illusions with the 200th dilution.


IN former lectures I have already warned you that we should find that Hahnemann had aggregated round the homoeopathic principle a number of theories and doctrines which had been disputed by many of his disciples, and which might all be proved to be utterly valueless., without detracting in the slightest degree from the truth and excellence of the homoeopathic principle.

The subject of to-night’s lecture belong to those theories and doctrines which Hahnemann subsequently engrafted on his therapeutic law, but which are by no means necessary to that law, and accordingly we may, without incurring the change of high treason to homoeopathy, or without forfeiting our claims to be considered homoeopathists, freely subject it to the searching light of criticism, and accept it if we find it accords with reason and truth, or reject it under opposite circumstances.

As I have done with others of Hahnemann’s theories and peculiar views, I shall endeavour to trace historically the development of the theory of dynamization, as I find it from a close and careful study of Hahnemann’s writings from the earliest period to the latest.

It is impossible so to separate the dynamization theory from the doctrines respecting the doses as to be able to treat of the one without reference to the other; indeed, we shall find that the doses Hahnemann latterly advised owed their excessive exiguity, or this theory was devised to explain the effects of small doses.

In his first essay announcing the discovery of a new therapeutic principle, published in 1796, no allusion is made to any doses different from those in ordinary use, nor is there any mention made of any peculiarity in the mode of preparing the medicines; consequently nothing is said about dynamization. In an essay published the following year we still observe no peculiarity on these points, and in his writing up to 1801 nothing is to be found to lead us to suppose that there was anything exceptional in his made of employing drugs, save that he used them in accordance with the law he had enunciated in 1796, and advised that every medicine should only be given singly and alone.

It is in his little work on Scarlet Fever, published in 1801, that we have the first forebodings of an unusual mode of preparing the medicines, of the infinitesimal doses and of the dynamization-theory. The dose of opium there recommended for the treatment of a certain form of the scarlet fever is very small compared with the ordinary dose, and the tincture of opium is to be prepared by intimate mixture of the opium with the alcohol, by well shaking the bottle in which the solution is performed. He lays particular stress on the intimate mixture as well of the opium with the alcohol as of the tincture thus prepared with the vehicle-water or beer-in which it was to be administered. The object of the dilution in this case seems, however, to be solely to diminish the size and power of the dose; and there is no question as yet of any increase of power by the intimate mixture by means of the succussion employed.

In the preparation of the prophylactic tincture of belladonna, mentioned in the same essay, he directs that the several dilutions used-they are three in number, and prepared in the proportion of one of the drug to 400, 300, and 200 of the vehicle (diluted alcohol) and should be prepared by diligent shaking for a minute at a time. The object of this dilution was to diminish the power of the medicine chiefly, for he remarks that in patients of very tranquil disposition the dose he orders, as a general rule, is not sufficient; it must be increased and stirred for a minute longer with the fluid vehicle. Immediately after this, however, follows what we may consider the germ of the future dynamization theory. “It is scarcely credible,” he observes, ” how much this and every other medicine loses in power, if we allow it to be licked up simply and unmixed with anything in a spoon, or give it only on sugar, or though we drop it into a fluid administer it without stirring it well up with the vehicle. It is only by stirring, by brisk, long – continued stirring, that a liquid medicine obtains the largest number of points of contact for the living fibre, thereby alone does it become right powerful.” Thus the increase of power supposed to be gained by the medicine from its intimate mixture with the non-medicinal fluid is thought to be owing to the greater number of points of contact it then presents to the part to which it is applied.

This doctrine, by which the mere stirring or shaking with a non- medicinal vehicle was alleged to increase the power of the drug, naturally met with opposition from those physicians who believed that an increase of the material quantity of the drug was the sole way of increasing its activity. Accordingly we find Hufeland asking, with a sneer, ” What effect can the hundred-thousandth part of a grain of belladonna have?: To this questions Hahnemann promptly replies, in the journal of his querist, by a short article, which you will find in the Lesser Writings, entitled “On the power of small doses of medicine in general, and of belladonna in particular.” He refers to the difference observed in the effect of a hard dry pill of extract of belladonna and of a single grain of the same extract dissolved in a couple of pints of water, by being well rubbed up with it, and then strongly shaken for five minutes, and taken by the most robust labourer by teaspoonfuls within six or eight hours. He further adds, that a single drop of such a solution, mixed with six ounces of water, by being vigorously shaken, will possess enormous power; for if a few teaspoonfuls of it be given to a patient whose disease was one for which belladonna was suitable, they will bring him to the brink of the grave.

In explanation of the much greater effect of the solution thus prepared than the dry undissolved extract, he says that the latter presents few points of contact to the body, whereas the thorough solution comes in contact with many more points of the living fibre; and, he adds as the medicine does not act atomically but only dynamically, it excites much more severe symptoms than the compact pill, containing a million times more medicine, is capable of doing.

He then refers to the exalted excitability of the vital force in diseases, and illustrates this by several familiar examples, and he cites some instances of paralytic and nervous diseases, which he had cured with a hundred thousandth, and even a millionth part of a grain of belladonna.

At this period, then, we have the embryo of the dynamization – theory, though still very different from what it afterwards grew to under Hahnemann’s fostering care. He contents for an increase in the power of the drug action from its thorough admixture with a non medicinal vehicle, and he accounts for this increase of power by the greater number of points of contact it presents to the living fibre, in consequence of its minuter subdivisions. Another element also included in the doctrine, as it stands at this period, is the exalted susceptibility of the diseased organism for the appropriate medicine; this he puts forward by way of explanation of the power of the minute dose he finds to be sufficient. The allegation that the medicine acts “not atomically but only dynamically,” is that which has most bearing on his future dynamization-theory.

In the Medicine of Experience, published in 1805, the forerunner of the Organon, there is a good deal of talk about the purely dynamic action of drugs, the incredibly small quantity of them that will suffice for the cure, and the absolute superiority i n point of power of the weakest medicine over the severest disease; but all this is insisted on chiefly in relation to the exalted susceptibility present in disease, for it is stated that the same doses have no effect on the healthy or on those patients for whose disease the drug is not suitable; but there is in this essay no allusion to an increase of power by the processes of trituration and succussion, indeed no particular mention is made of any peculiarity in the homoeopathic pharmaceutical processes.

Up to this period the diminution of the dose was advised nominally for the sake of preventing the too violent action of the remedy given according to the new therapeutic principle, the sensibility being so much exalted for such medicines in the diseased state; and this doctrine is again precisely and explicitly and expressed in a short essay published in 1809.

In the first edition of the Organon, published in 1810, the dynamization-theory is not yet mooted; on the contrary, Hahnemann says that while an incredible small dose suffices to overcome the disease, it must not be so small as to be inferior in strength to the disease, and hence it is impossible to fix on a standard of exiguity that shall be applicable to all medicines; “for,” says he, “the medicines themselves vary so much in power,” Further, as a proof that he considered the diminution of the drug, he adds, that in these very small doses there must still be some of the substance of the drug; no portion can be made so small as that it shall not contain something of the medicine, and this something partakes of all the properties of the whole drug. No change is here spoken of as taking place in the properties of the drug by the processes employed to procure its subdivision, such as we find he subsequently conceived to take place by his pharmaceutical manoeuvres. The diminution of the dose has for its only object the prevention of aggravation and of the development of accessory sufferings. The expressions he employs are diminution, subdivision, and attenuation, and the thorough admixture, the strong succussion of the medicine and vehicle are intended to diffuse the medicine equally in the alcohol, water, or other vehicle.

In this first edition of the Organon, Hahnemann does not mention how far he was in the habit of diluting the medicines; he does not speak about millionths or billionths of a grain. It is probable, however, that he had already begun to employ the medicines in pretty high dilutions.

Here, however, we already see the tendency of his mind towards the dynamization-theory his later days. Thus, after stating that a dose divided into several parts, and taken at intervals, produces a much greater effect than if the whole dose were to be taken at once-for example, eight drops divided into eight portions, and taken at short intervals, will produce at least four times greater action than if the whole eight drops were taken at once-he proceeds to observe that we may readily produce a great excess of action, viz., if we dilute the eight drops and give them to the patient in dilution, so that he shall take a drop every hour or two. The cause of this excessive action he states to be that by the dilution the medicine obtains a greater power of extension. He particularly insists that there is a great difference whether we give the eight drops simply divided, or uniformly and thoroughly mixed with the vehicle. He alleged that one single drop of a tincture intimately mixed by vigorous shaking with a pint of water, and given in doses of two ounces at a time, every two hours, will produce four times as much effect as eight drops of the tincture taken at one dose. He says it is a maxim of experience that the power the medicine is considerably increased by being intimately mixed with a larger volume of fluid, hence, he says, in order to make the dose of the homoeopathic remedy as small as possible, it should be administered in the smallest possible volume, in order to come in contact with the fewest nerves; and hence it is inexpedient and unnecessary to drink water after taking a small dose. Formerly he had advised the medicine to be given in water, and we shall find, when we come to the consideration of the modes of exhibiting the medicine, that in his later years he again counselled the giving of the medicine in water.

In the next paragraph he endeavours to fix by arithmetical scale the effects of diluted medicines. He says a mixture of one drop of tincture with ten drops of non-medicinal fluid, and one drop of this taken, will not produce ten times the effects of a drop ten times more diluted, but scarcely twice as great an effect, and so on. Supposing, says he, one drop of a mixture that contains one-tenth of a grain of medicine to produce an effect=a, one drop of a diluted mixture containing one-hundredth of a grain will produce an effect=a divided by two, if it contain one-ten- thousandth of a grain=a divided by four, and so on. I may remark, en passant, that he retains this ridiculous calculation throughout all the editions of the Organon, though he entirely altered his views on the subject of dilutions, and affirmed the higher dilutions to be higher strengths. Another proof of his unwillingness to cancel the litera scripta, even though its retention rendered him open to the charge of completely contradicting himself.

It is obvious that to render an arithmetical calculation of this sort in the slightest degree plausible, one of the elements in it, viz., the susceptibility of the organism, should be a fixed quantity, whereas we all know it varies not only in every different individual and in every different disease, but in the same individual and the same disease at different periods. In this absurd calculation, Hahnemann would almost appear as an imitator of John Brown with his scale of excitability, though Hahnemann, on several occasions, ridicules Brown beyond measure for this very scale. Hahnemann’s excellent critical powers and logical acumen unfortunately did not extend to his own doctrine.

To be sure, Hahnemann might have shielded himself under the vagueness and indefinite character of this wonderful calculation, for you will notice that he offers no explanation whatever of what he means by one effect being only half, a quarter, or an eighth of another effect of a medicinal dose; he does not say whether he alludes to the effect on the healthy or on the diseased, or whether the effect he implies was a quantitative or qualitative effect, or both. Besides retaining this extraordinary attempt at calculation in the fifth edition of the Organon, published in 1833, he there darkens counsel by stating that he has very often seen a drop of the decillionth dilution of tincture of nux vomica produce pretty nearly just half as much effect as a drop of the quintillionth dilution under the same circumstances and in the same individual. This is a very curious statement, read in conjunction with the allegation that the power of the medicine is vastly increased by the processes of homoeopathic attenuation, as we shall presently see was Hahnemann’s idea. Thus it is evident that this and all similar computations of the action of homoeopathic medicines, without taking into consideration the different susceptibilities of the organisms in different individuals, in the same individual at different periods, and in the same individual even in apparently the same circumstances is perfectly inadmissible, and, in fact leads only to delusion and contradictions. Indeed, we all know that the argument of arithmetical computation is that most frequently employed by the allopathists against homoeopathy, and the counter-argument of all homoeopathists has ever been that such numerical computations have no bearing upon the subject, that the dynamism of the organism is not affectable by quantity in the same manner as physical bodies.

From what I have stated as the position of the question in the first edition of the Organon, it will be evident that Hahnemann’s notions at that time were as follow:-

1.By diminishing the size of the dose he intended to avoid aggravation, and the accessory effects of the medicine.

2. By the process employed in diminishing the dose, viz., by the intimate mixture of the medicine with a nonmedicinal vehicle by means of vigorous shaking, an increase its activity is alleged to be produced.

3.In order to diminish its power, the medicine must be taken not dissolved in water and without drinking thereafter, from which it would seem that he believed its power would be increased by mere solution, without any shaking or intimate mixture.

From the above, the natural and logical deduction would be that, in order to produce mild medicinal action, the ostensible object of Hahnemann’s diluting processes, we should, in place of diluting the medicine, rather give it undiluted and unshaken, and rather give one larger dose at once than the same dose in divided quantities.

I shall now proceed to trace out for you the further development of the dynamization- theory.

In the year 1825 Hahnemann volunteers, in a literary Journal, a reply to the question that had been publicly addressed to him in a previous number of the same journal -” How can small dose of such very attenuated medicines as Homoeopathy employs have any action on the sick?”

With some few alterations, this paper is reprinted in the second edition of the sixth volume of the Materia Medica, published in 1827. He begins by stating that question is a foolish one, “as what actually takes place must at least be possible;” not a very bright reply one might imagine, when the taking place of the thing at all was what his questioners denied. In reply to the allegation that a homoeopathic dilution is as though one were to put a drop of medicine into the Lake of Geneva, he says that the comparison does not hold good, for that the processes of succussion and trituration employed in making the homoeopathic dilution are left out consideration. By these processes, he says, there ensues not only the most intimate mixture, but at the same time such a great and hitherto unknown, undreamt-of change, by the development and liberation of the dynamic powers of the medicine, as to excite our astonishment. In the addition of a drop to a large body of water, however, there is no question of even a superficial mixture of the medicine with the water. It would even be impossible to effect a through mixture of a drop of medicine with only a hogshead of water, though our transatlantic and sometimes transcendental friend Dr.Hering, one whose transcendentalisms consists in taking up every point of Hahnemann’s doctrines where Hahnemann himself judiciously left off, and pursuing it beyond the extreme limits of probability, and for some short distance into the domain of absurdity-Dr. Hering, I say, gravely asserts that the addition of one miserable globule will make a whole trough of water medicinal. (Arch., xv.1.)

But says Hahnemann, it is not the mere thorough admixture that is effected by the homoeopathic processes-and here he lays down the rule that the centesimal scale, or 1 to 100, should be the proportion observed betwixt medicine and vehicle-but, by the succussion and trituration employed, a change is effected in the mixture, so incredibly great and so inconceivably curative, that this development of the spiritual power of medicines to such a height, by means of the multiplied and continued trituration and succussion of a small portion of medicinal substance with ever more and more dry or fluid non-medicinal substance, deserves incontestably to be ranked among the greatest discoveries of the age. As analogies to this alleged increase of dynamic power by the homoeopathic processes, he refers to the powerful effects of friction on producing heat, an analogy that would hold good at the time this essay was written, but which would scarcely be adduced in these days of wonderful ideas respecting the correlation of the physical forces. He likewise refers to the odours of certain substances, which are only elicited by friction; but here again similitudo claudicat, for it is only while they are being rubbed that bone, horn, and stinkstone display their odorous properties, whereas the powers of medicines once set free by friction are said to continue free for ever

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.