An intelligent arrangement of drug-effects requires a knowledge of Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology and indeed, of many branches of a scientific education. Symptoms are not merely empty words, they mean something, and to determine that meaning one needs all the culture a complete education can afford….

TO deserve the title “model” a Materia Medica must be more than an abridgment restricted to a maximum of five pages to a drug. The limitation of a drug must be measured by its own capacity, not arbitrarily.

To meet all the requirements of a “model” each drug should be arranged with due regard to the following points:

1. Its officinal name, its place in natural history and its composition.

2. A concise statement of such characteristic features as are nearly or quite universal in its symptomatology.

3. A clear compact but complete arrangement of its symptoms, subjective and objective.

(a) These symptoms should comprise not only the effects of provings, but also such developments of provings and such merely clinical symptoms as are indisputably characteristics.

(b) As we depend so much upon the parts of the body affected, every attention must be paid to the localization of symptoms.

Let us dilate somewhat upon these several points:

1. That officinal names are needed is self-evident. Equally apparent is that euphony requires the adoption of a fixed pronunciation of drug names; and this can be utilized by proper syllabic marks.

The origin of a remedy is often very suggestive. So soon as it is known that Duboisia belongs to the Solanceae, our familiarity with the mydriatics of this order, enables us at once to interpret the dilated pupil and dry mouth of the new plant. When Bothrops is found to be an Ophidian, the general nature of its effects is almost pre-determinable.

Composition is often more suggestive even than origin. Two or more substances, which contain the same active principles, must, of necessity, possess similar properties.

A knowledge of the source and of the constituents of drugs, is all important, then, as it leads to an intelligent unification of the Materia Medica.

2. Before any schema of symptoms is devised, the drug should be prefaced with a concise statement, not of its vague generalities, as has been the custom, but of peculiarities which are essentials, and which, consequently, must enter the thought as qualifications of what is to follow.

3. But the chief task is that of arranging the symptoms of a drug. To render a work practical, it must be free from all verbosity, unnecessary repetitions and vague, unimportant symptoms. But condensation is so frequently effected at the sacrifice of valuable matter, that if we would avoid such loss, we must proceed cautiously and intelligently. Whenever in the provings we find two or more symptoms differing only in fulness of expression, we may select that on e which is nearest complete in phraseology. But if two symptoms, agree in the main, but offer in addition entirely different modalities, both must be employed.

In selecting symptoms which are local, those are preferable that are most characteristic, But since a drug, when fully proved, acts somewhat on nearly all parts of the body, completeness requires that all parts should be represented in the abridgment.

Clinical experience has taught us that local symptoms are of inestimable value. For instance guided by the splenic pains of Ceanothus, leucorrhoea has been cured by that remedy. Influenced by the sour stomach of Robinia, one physician learned to value that drug in ulcers on the legs. And so on indefinitely But since such indications are frequently derived from practice, we must not neglect clinical symptoms.

Our estimate of these latter symptoms should depend, it seems to us, upon their agreement with the provings, with the genius of the drug to which they are assigned, and also upon the reputation of the physician who reports them. If they disagree with the provings, they can form no part of a precise Materia Medica.

E. A. Farrington
E. A. Farrington (1847-1885) was born in Williamsburg, NY, on January 1, 1847. He began his study of medicine under the preceptorship of his brother, Harvey W. Farrington, MD. In 1866 he graduated from the Homoeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1867 he entered the Hahnemann Medical College, graduating in 1868. He entered practice immediately after his graduation, establishing himself on Mount Vernon Street. Books by Ernest Farrington: Clinical Materia Medica, Comparative Materia Medica, Lesser Writings With Therapeutic Hints.