Proving of Drugs – When a healthy person takes a medicine for experimental reasons, certain effects are produced – changes in body functions, secretions, and sensations – which collective phenomena are spoken of as a drug proving. When arranged schematically and written down, it is known as a drug’s Pathogenesis. These Pathogenic effects evaluated, interpreted, and abbreviated, form the Homoeopathic Materia Medica which we study, the sources of which appear at the end of their chapter. This study of pure, single, drug effects is a distinctive feature and the foundation on Homoeopathy and also an original contribution by Hahnemann to medical research – for which he deserves the greatest credit.
The fact stands that those drugs which are the greatest poisons become, if used according to Homoeopathic concepts, the greatest medicines. Indeed, Hahnemann pointed out the general rule that the possible good effect of any drug was directly proportional to its power to derange the healthy human mechanism.
This does not account for the effects of so-called inactive drugs like Silicea, Carbo veg., Sepia, Graphites, etc.These drugs have no power to affect the human body in material dosage, but if their powers are developed by the special processes of Homoeopathic pharmacy they are capable of profoundly affecting the organism. It is simply a case of some drugs being naturally active in their crude state, and others needing artificial development (dynamization).
Thus, Aconite, Arsenic, Gelsemium, have pronounced effects on the healthy body and, hence, are correspondingly useful on a sick body. Such drugs are known as Polychrests.
As drug proving is the very basis of our Materia Medica – it is not surprising that this activity has been the main contribution to medical research which the school of Homoeopathy has made.
All the important drugs have been most carefully proved, first by Hahnemann, and, subsequently, by numerous societies and individual experimenters. A tremendous volume of symptoms are the result of such observation. But, of course, it follows that the value of any one symptom depends on the faithfulness and integrity of the observer.
So it is, that not all symptoms recorded in the provings are true effects of the drug due to this element of human frailty. All this is well recognized by Homoeopathic students and often exaggerated. The whole point of the matter is this – for the great bulk of our Polychrests, the Pathogenesis has so often been put to test clinically that only reliable symptoms have remained.
The chaff has been discarded. This is especially true at this time when Homoeopathy has been in existence for one hundred and twenty-five years. The question is often asked as to the reason Hahnemann recorded his drug effects in non-medical language and also why his first book of drug effects was called, ” Materia Medica Pura.”
Hahnemann called this ” Pure” not because it was free from error but free from Speculation – it being a record of observed facts alone, independent of any theories of their action. Hahnemann appreciated the necessity for a scientific concept of the action of a drug on the body but, at the same time, was mindful of such a concept’s short-coming. Thus, in his essay on, “Power of Small Doses” in Hufeland’s Journal, he describes the knowledge of Materia Medica which a physician requires as follows:
“What organs a drug deranges functionally, what it modifies in other ways, what nerves it principally benumbs or excites, what alterations it effects in the circulation and digestive operations, what influence it exerts over secretions, what modifications the muscular fibre receive from it, how long its action lasts, and by what means it is rendered powerless, etc.”
Why then, did Hahnemann not construct his Materia Medica on this model? Unquestionably, because with a wonderful sagacity Hahnemann clearly perceived the following truths : That the positive facts with which a physician has to deal in constructing a Materia Medica are the observations of the prover recorded in plain, unfigurative, non-hypothetical language.
Their interpretation must be the result of the application of the sciences of Physiology and Pathology to these facts. That the facts of the proving being of the nature of positive observation are enduring and unchangeable. But, that the science of Physiology and Pathology, being incomplete and progressive, are continually undergoing change, and that their terms must, therefore, be ever varying in significance, as the theories on which the sciences are based, vary.