(From vol. ii, 3rd edit., 1833.)
(The semi-oxyde of metallic arsenic in diluted solution)
As I write down the word Arsenic, consideration the most momentous throng upon my mind.
When the beneficient Creator made iron he no doubt permitted the children of men to fashion it either into the murderous dagger or gentle ploughshare wherewith to kill or to feed their fellow-creatures. How much happier would they be did the employ His gifts only for the purpose of doing good! This should be aim of their life; this was His desire.
It is not to Him, the All-loving, we can impute the wickedness practised by men, who have misemployed the wonderfully powerful medicinal substances in enormous doses in diseases for which they are not suitable, guided only by frivolous ideas or some paltry authority, without having subjected them to any careful trial, and without any substantial reason for their choice.
If a careful tester of the uses of medicines and of their doses arise, they inveigh against him as an enemy to their comfort, and do not refrain from aspersing him with the vilest calumines.
The ordinary medical art has hitherto employed, in large and frequently repeated doses, the most powerful drugs, such as arsenic, nitrate of silver, corrosive sublimate, aconite, belladonna, digitalis, opium, hyoscyamus, & c. Homoeopathy can not employ stronger substances, for there are none stronger. When physicians of the ordinary stamp employ them, they evidently vie with another who shall prescribe the largest possible doses of these drugs, and make a great boast of increasing these doses to such enormous extremes. This practice they laud and recommend to their fellow practitioners. But if the homoeopathic medical art employ the same drugs, not at random, like the ordinary method, but after careful investigation, only in suitable cases and in the smallest possible doses, it is denounced as a practice of poisoning. How prejudiced, how injust, how calumnious is such a charge made by persons who make pretensions to honesty and rectitude!
If Homoeopathy now make a fuller explanation – if she condemn ( as from conviction she must) the monstrous doses of those drugs employed in ordinary practice – and if she, relying on careful trials, insist that very much less of them should be given for a dose, that where ordinary practitioners give a tenth, a half, a whole grain, and even several grains, often only a quadrillionth, a sextillointh, a decillionth of a grain is required and sufficient, then see the adherents of the ordinary school who denounce the homoeopathic healing art as a system of poisoning, see how they laugh aloud at what they call childishness, and declare themselves convinced (convinced without trial?) that such a small quantity can do nothin at all, and can have no effect whatever-is, indeed just the same as nothing. They are not ashamed thus to blow hot and cold from the same mouth, and to pronounce the very same thing to be inert and luidicrously small which they had just accused of being a system of poisoning, whilst they justify and praise their own monstrous and murderous doses of the same medicines. Is not this the grossest and most wretched inconsistency that can be imagined, perpetrated for the purpose of being shamelessly unjust towards a doctrine which they cannot deny possesses truth and consistency, which is borne out by experience, and which enjoins the most delicate cautiousness and the most unwearied circumspection in the selection and administration of its remedies?
Not very long ago a highly celebrated physician (MARCUS, of Bamberg) spoke of pounds of opium being consumed every month in his hospital, where even the nurses were allowed to give it to the patients according to their fancy. Opium, mind! A drug that has sent many thousands of persons to their graves in ordinary practice! Yet this man continued to be held in honour, for he belonged to the dominant clique to which everything is lawful, even if it be of the most enlightened cities ( To what a low depth of degradation as an art must not medicine have sunk in this quarter of the globe when such a state of things could exist in a city like Berlin, which yet in all other departments of human knowledge has scarcely an equal!) of Europe, every practitioner, from the betitled physician down to the barber’s apprentice, prescribed arsenic as a fashionable remedy in almost every disease and that in such frequent and large doses, one after the other, that the detriment to the health of the people must have been quite palpable; yet this was held to be honourable practice, though not one of them was acquainted with the peculiar effects of this metallic oxyde (and consequently knew not what cases of disease it was suited for.) And yet all prescribed it in repeated doses, a single one of which, sufficiently attenuated and potentized. Would have sufficed to cure all the diseases in the whole habitable world for which this drug is the suitable remedy. Which of these two opposite modes of employing medicines best deserves the flattering appellation of “system of poisoning”- the ordinary method just alluded to, which attacks with tenth of grains the poor patients (who often require some quite different remedy), or homoeopathy, which does not give even a droplet of tincture of the rhuburb is the most suitable, the only appropriate remedy for the case – homoeopathy, which, by unwearied multiplied experiments, discovered that it is only in rare cases that more than a decillionth of a grain of arsenic should be given, and that only in cases where careful proving shows this medicine to be the only one perfectly suitable? To which of these two modes of practice does the title of honour, “thoughtless, rash system of poisoning” best apply?
There is yet another sect of practitioners who mey be called hypocritical purists. If they are practical physicians they, indeed, prescribe all sorts of sustanses thath are injuious when misused, but before the world they wish to pose as patterns of innocence and caution. From their professional chairs and in their writings they give the most alarming definition of poison, so that to listen to their declammations it would appear unadvisable to treat any imaginable disease with anything stronger than quick-grass, dandelion oxymal, and raspberry juice. According to their account poisons are absolutely (i. e. under all circumstances, in all doses, in all cases) prejudicial to human life, an in this category they include, as suits their humour, a lot of substances which in all ages have been extensively employed by physicians for the cure of the diseases. But the employment of these substances would be a criminal offence had not every one of them occasionally proved of use. If, however, each of them had only been of use on one single occasion – and it can not be denied that this sometimes happened – then this definition, besides being blasphemous, is a palpable absurdity. Absolutely and under all circumstances injuriuos and destructive, and at the same time beneficial, is a self-evident contradiction, utter nonsence. They seek to wriggle out of this contradictory assertion by alleging that these substances have more frequently proved injurious than useful. But, let me ask, did the injury si frequently caused by these things come of itself, or did it not come from their improper employment? In other words, was it not caused by those more physicians who made an unskilful use of them in diseases for which they were unsuitable? These medicines do not administer themselves in diseases; they must be administered by somebody, and if ever they were benificial that was because they happened to be given appropiately by somebody; it was because they might always be beneficial if nobody ever employed them otherwise than appropiately. Hence it follows that whenever these substances were hurtful and destructive, they were so only on account of having been inappropiately employed. Therefore, all the injury they did is attributable to the unskilfulness of their employer.
These narrow-minded individuals further allege, “that even when we ato tame arsenic by means of a corrective, e.g. by mixing it with an alkali, it still often does harm enough.”
Nay, I reply, the arsenic must be blamed for this; for, as I before observed, drugs do not administer themselves, somebody administers them and does harm with them. And how does the alkali act as a corrective? Does it merely make the arsenic weaker, or does it alter its nature and convert it into something else? In the latter case the neutral arsenical salt produced is no longer arsenic proper, but something different. If, however, it be merely made weaker, then a simple diminution of the dose of the pure solution of arsenic would be a much more sensible and effectual mode of making it weaker and milder than leaving the dose in its hurtful magnitude, and by the addition of another medicinal substance endeavouring to effect some, but nobody knows what, alteration in its nature, as takes place when a pretended corrective is used. If you think a tenth of a grain of arsenic too strong a dose, what is to prevent you diluting the solution and giving less, a great deal less of it?
” A thenth of a grain,” I hear some one say, “is the smallest quantity the etiquette of the profession allows us to prescribe. Who could write a prescription to be made up at the apothecary’s shop for a smaller quantity without rendering himself ridiculous?”
Oh, indeed! A tenth of a grain sometimes acts so violently as to endanger life, and the etiquette of your clique does not permit you to give less- very much less. Is it not an insult to common sense to talk in this way? Is the etipuette of the profession of the code of rules to bind a set of senseless slaves, or are you men of free will and intelligence? If the latter, what is it that hinders you to give a smaller quantity when a large quantity might be hurtful? Obstinacy? The dogmatism of a school? Or what other intellecual fetters?
” Arsenic,” they protest, “would still be hurtful, though given in much smaller quantity, even if we were to descend to the ridiculous dose of a hundredth or a thousandth of a grain, a minuteness of dose unheard of in the posological maxims of our materia medica. Even a thousandth of a grain of the arsenic must still be hurtful and destructive, for it always remains an incontrollable poison. So we affirm, maintain, conjecture, and assert.”
What if with all this complacement asserting and conjecturing you have for once blundered upon the truth. It is evident that the virulence of the arsenic cannot oncrease, but must decrease as the dose is reduced, so that we must at length arrive at such a dilution of the solution and diminution of the dose as no longer possesses the dangerous character of your regulation dose of a tenth of a grain.
” Such a dose would, indeed, be a novelty! What kind of dose it would be?”
Novelty is, indeed, a capital crime in the eyes of orthodox school, which, settled down upon her old lees, subjects the reason to the tyranny of antiquated routine.
But why should a pitiful rule – why, indeed, should anything – hinder the physician, who ought by rights to be a learned, thinking, independent man, a controller of nature in his own domain, from rendering a dangerous does mild by diminishing its size?
What should hinder him, if experience should show him that the thousandth part of a grain is too strong a dose, from giving the hundred-thousandth part or the millionth of a grain? And should he find this last act too violently in many cases, as in medicine all depends on observation and experience (medicine being nothing but a science of experience), what should hinder him from reducing the millionth to a billionth? And if this prove too strong a dose in many cases who could prevent him diminishing it to the quadrillionth of a grain, or smaller still?
Methinks I hear vulgar stolidity croak out from the quagmire of its thousand-year-old prejudices: “Ha! ha! ha! A quadriollionth! Why, that’s nothing at all!”
How so? Can the subdivision of a substance, be it carried ever so far, bring forth anything else than portions of the whole? Must not these portions, reduced in size to the very verge of infinity, still continue to be something, something substantial, a part of the whole, be it ever so minute? What man in his senses could deny this?
And if this (quadrillionth, quintillionth, octillionth, decllionth) continue still to be really an integral portion of the divided substance, as no man in his senses can deny, why should even such a minute portion, seeing that it is really something, be incapable of acting, considering that the whole was tremendously powerful? But what and how much this small quantity can do can be determined by no speculative reasoning or unreasoning, but by experience alone, from which there is no appeal in the domain of facts. It belongs to experience alone to determine if this small portion has become too weak, to remove the disease for which this medicine is otherwise suitable, and to restore the patient to health. This is a matter to be settled not by the dogmatic assertion of the student at his desk, but by experience alone, which is the only competent arbiter in such cases.
Experience has already decided the question, and is seen to do so daily by every unprejudiced person.
But when I have finished with the wiseacre, who, never consulting experience, ridicules the small dose of homoeopathy as a nonentity, as utterly powerless, I hear on the other side the hypocritical stickler for caution still inveigh against the danger of the small doses used in homoepathic practice, without a shadow of proof for his reckless assertion.
A few words here for such persons.
If arsenic in the dose of a tenth of a grain be, in many cases, a dangerous medicine, must it not be milder in the dose of a thousandth of a grain? And, if so, must it not become still milder with every further diminution of the size of the dose?
Now, if arsenic (like every other very powerful medicinal substance) can be merely diminishing the size of the doses, be nut rendered so mild as to be no longer dangerous to life, then all we have to do is merely to find by experiment how far the size of the dose must be diminished, so that it shall be must enough to do no harm, and yet large enough to do no harm, and yet large enough to effect its full efficacy as a remedy of the diseases for which it is suitable.
Experience, and that alone, not the pedantry of the study, not the narow-minded, ignorant, unpractical dogmatism of the schools, can decide what dose of such an extremely powerful substance as arsenic is, so small as to be capable of being ingested without danger, and yet of remaining sufficiently powerful to be able to effect in diseases all that this medicine (so invaluable when sufficiently moderated in its action, and selected for suitable cases of disease) was from its nature ordained to do by benificient Creator. It must, by dilution of its solution and diminution of the dose, be rendered so mild that while the strongest man can be freed by such a dose from a disease for which it is the appropriate remedy, this same dose shall be incapable of effecting any perceptible alteration in the health of a healthy infant. (A medicine homoeopathy chosen, that is to say, a medicine capable of producing a morbid condition very similar to that of the disease to be cured, affects only the diseased part of the organism, therefore just the most irritated, extremely sensitive part of it. Therefore its dose must be so small as only to affect the diseased part just a little more than the disease itself did. For thus the smallest dose suffices, one so small as to be incapable of altering the health of a healthy person, who has naturally no points of contact sufficiently sensitive for this medicine, or of making him ill, which only large doses of medicine can do. See Organon of Medicine, § 277-279, and Spirit of the Homoeopathic Medical Doctrine, at the beginning of this volume.)This is the grand problem that can only be solved by oft-repeated experiments and trials, but not settled by the sophistical dogmatism of theschools with its guesses, its assertions, and its conjectures.
No rational physician can acknowledge any such limitations to his mode of treatment as the rusty routine of the schools – which is never guided by pure experiment combined with reflection – would dictate to him. His sphere of action is the restoration to health of the sick, and the countless potent forced of the world are freely given to him by the Sustainer of life as implements of healing; nought is with-held. To him whose calling it is to vanquish the disease that brings its victim to the verge of corporal annihilation, and effect a kind of recreation of life ( a nobler work than most other, even the most vaunted performances of mankind), to him the whole broad expanse of nature, with all her curative powers, and agents, must be available, in order to enable him to perform this creative act, if we may so call it. But he must be at liberty to employ these agents in the exact quantity, be it ever so small or ever so large, that experience and trials show him to be most adapted to the end he has in view; in any form whatever that reflection and experience has proved to be most serviceable. All this he must be able to do without any limitation whaysoever, as is the right of a free man, of a deliverer of his fellow creatures, and a life – restorer, equipped with all the knowledge pertaining to his art, and endowed with a god-like spirit and the tenderest conscience.
From this God-serving and noblest of all earthly occupation let all hold aloof who are deficient in mind, in the judicial spirit, in any of the branches of knowledge required for its exercise, or in tender regard for the weal of mankind, and a sense of his duty to humanity, in one word who are deficient in true virtue! Away with that unhallowed crew who merely assume the outward semblance of health – restorers, but whose heads are crammed full of vain deceit, whose hearts are stuffed with wicked frivolity, whose tongues make a mock of truth, and whose hands prepare disaster!
The following observations are the result of doses of various strengths on persons of various sensitiveness.
For curative purposes, according to the homeopathic method, doses of very high delution have been found, by innumerable experiments, to be amply sufficient. The dose of the smallest part of a drop containingthe decillionth of a grain of white arsenic usually suffices for the cure. In order to prepare this dose, one grain of white arsenic reduced to powder is rubbed up with thirty – three grains of powdered milk – sugar in a porcelain mortar (unglazed) with an unglazed pestle for six minutes, the triturated contents of the mortar scraped for four minutes with a porcelain spatula, then rubbed a second time, without any addition to it, for six minutes, and again scraped for four minutes. To this thirty – three grains of milk – sugar are now added, triturated for six minutes, and after another four minutes of scraping, six minutes of triturating, and again four minutes of scraping, the last thirty – three grains of milk – sugar are added, triturated for six minutes, scraped for four minutes, again triturated for six minutes, whereby, after a last scraping, a power is produced which, in every grain, contains 1/100th of a grain of uniformly potentised arsenic. A grain of this powder is, in a similar way, with three time thirty – three grains of fresh milk – sugar, in one hour (thirty – six minutes of triturating, twenty – four of scrapin (After this operation the mortar, together with the pestle and the percelain spatula, after being wiped with a dry cloth, should be rinsed three times with boiling water, between each rinsing rubbed dry with blotting paper, then gradually heated over a charcoal – fire to a red heat, in order that these articles mey be as good as new for future trituration of medicines.) ), brought into the state of a potntised pulverulent attenuation, one hundred times more diluted. Of this one grain (containing 1/10000th of a grain of arsenic) is rubbed up for a third hour in a similar manner with ninety – nine grains of milk – sigar; this represents a pulverulent arsenic dilution of yhe million – fold degree of potency. One grain of this is dissolved in 100 drops of diluted alcohol(in the proportion of equal parts of water and alcohol) and shaken with two successions of the arm ( the phial by means of twenty – six more phials (always one drop from the previous phial added to ninety – nine drops of alcohol of the next phial, and then successed twice, before taking one drop of this and dropping it into the next phial), furnishes the required potency, the decillionth (X) development of power of arsenic.