(Cucumis Colocynthis, Colocynth.)
(From vol. vi, 2nd edit., 1827.)
(The dry fruit reduced to powder and digested with alcohol, in the proportion of 20 grains of the powder to 400 drops of alcohol, without heat, for a week, two successions being given every day so as to form a tincture, twenty drops of which contain one grain of colocynth-powder.)
The older physicians brought colocynth into disrepute by giving it in large dangerous doses as a purgative. Their successors, terrified by this dreadful example, either rejected it entirely, whereby the curative power it possessed was lost to mankind, or they only ventured to employ it on rare occasions, and then never without previous alteration and weakening of its properties by silly procedures, which they only ventures to employ it on rare occasions, and then never without previous alteration and weakening of its properties by silly procedures, which they called correction, whereby its pretended poisonous character was said to be tamed and restrained. With the aid of mucilage they mixed up with it other purgative drugs, or they partially destroyed its power by fermentation or by prolonged boiling with water, wine, or even urine, as had already been stupidity done by the ancients, But even after all this mutilation (their so-called correction) colocynth always physicians prescribed it.
It is really wonderful that in the medical school there has always been such an absence of reflection, and that in regard to matters like this the obvious simple thought never occurred to anyone that, if the heroic medicines acted too violently in a certain dose, this was owing less to the drug itself than to the excessive magnitude of the dose, which yet may be diminished to any extent required; and that such a diminution of the dose, whilst leaving the drug unaltered in its properties, only reduces its strength so as to make it innocuous and capable of being employed with advantage, and hence must be the most natural and appropriate corrigens of all heroic medicines. It is obvious that if a pint of alcohol drunk all at once can kill a man, this is owing not to absolute poisonousness of the alcohol but to the excessive quantity, and that a couple of drops of alcohol would have been harmless to him. It is obvious that whilst a drop of sulphuric acid immediately produces a blister and erosion on the part of the tongue to which it is applied a blister and erosion on the part of the tongue to which it is applied on the other hand, when diluted with 20 or 100,000 drops of water it becomes a mild, merely sourish fluid, and that hence the most natural, the simplest, corrigens of all heroic substances is to be found only in the dilution and the diminution of the dose until it becomes only useful and quite innocuous.
In this way, and in this way only, can the inestimable curative powers for the most incurable diseases that have hitherto lain concealed in the heroic – much less in the weaker – medicines (called poisons by those afflicted with intellectual poverty) be elicited in a perfectly sure and mild manner to the advantage of suffering humanity. By means of the knowledge so obtained we may effect results in the treatment of acute and chronic diseases such as the whole medical school has hitherto failed to effect. This method, so childishly simple, of rendering the strongest medical substances mild and useful remedies.
Guided by the following peculiar pathogenetic effects produced in the healthy by colocynth, I have been enabled by means of it to perform extraordinary cures on the homoeopathic principle by the administration of a small portion of a drop of the octillion – or decillion-fold dilution of the above tincture as a dose.