TEXT BOOK OF HOMOEOPATHIC MATERIA MEDICA By OTTO LEESER
Experiences on the actions of medicinal substances in disease lie scattered over centuries among all races. A collection of these empiricisms, even if it could be made, would still be unscientific. The last centuries of occidental culture have opened and prosecuted the question of the how of an event so penetratingly that our thinking is forcibly directed to the determination of the conditions under which the event occurs. Therefore the content of scientific thinking has become the experiment, that is, the observation of natural events under selected conditions. Materia medica should be or become scientific, that is, have or obtain an experimental basis.
EXPERIMENTAL PHARMACOLOGY AND PRACTICAL THERAPEUTICS
The requirements of practical therapeutics, however, do not stand in any accord with the type and tempo of research progress. It is completely immaterial to the physician who technically intervenes into natural events, whether the use of the drug arises out of folk experience or is experimentally grounded. Indeed, the difficulty of experimentation in biologic fields, that is, the difficulty of avoiding false conclusions, always raises doubt in the mind of a physician on the accuracy of the experimental approach and makes him suspicious of laboratory science. But in reality it is only the pretension of biologic experimental science, arising out of excessive promises, which makes the great distance between practical demand and theoretic supply seem so insurmountable. In the leap into practice, most physicians leave the experimental science of materia medica of the University behind them.
Now the question is raised; Does this lie in the nature of the fact, is it true that experimental pharmacology and practical therapeutics approach each other with such difficulty or does it lie in the imperfection of the experimental method? And if it involves the last is this imperfection only temporally conditioned and is an improvement to be expected in the future with further development along present lines or is a re- arrangement of experimental work advisable? We should not forsake the basic orientation of contemporary science, the experimental method. We should not attempt to construe purely out of consideration of the nature of the medicinal substance, from its structure and its natural relationships. But we need to ask; is the plan of experimentation followed up to the present, the simplest, so to speak the economic way to the goal of practical therapeutics? We must affirm this question and indeed with good reasons. The relative clarity of drug investigation on the animal has so fascinated the laboratory investigator that he does not consider whether or not he treads on apparently uncertain grounds, as long as animal investigation seems to promise so many actual results. For a long time animal research was oriented purely toxicologically, that is, one investigated the disturbances on the threshold of ultimate damage to life. In so far as this study was preparatory for the clinic by a transference of results from animal to man one could not expect much more than a reversal, usually in the sense of a paralysis of single functions, moreover a palliative therapy (example: narcotics). Further, with the simple conditions of animal experimentation one could find additional explanations of previously known drug effects and here and there explain the limits of the field of application (example: cardiac drugs). The highly important results of experimental pharmacology on hormones, vitamins, etc. which have furnished a substitutive therapy, are omitted from the frame of this discussion. But the secret or outspoken claim of this animal experimental method has progressed far beyond these performances, to imply that out of the collected building stones the structure of an objective materia medica will be created in the future which needs only an objective application for the control of morbid processes in man. This claim was excessive: (1) because only a small part of human functions can be paralleled by those which can be represented in animal experimentation; namely, only those objectively recognizable alterations of living expressions mutual to animal and man. (2) The experimentally produced disturbances of normal animal functions do to permit a conclusion on the modification of an already disturbed (morbid) human function. (3) The supposition of constancy of the human organism, particularly the diseased organism, is a mental simplification which is entirely incompatible with actuality.