What does one find in the homoeopathic materia medica? Arising out of drug provings on the healthy are apparently endless accounts of symptoms. The symptom register from the Hahnemannian circle of provers and the arrangement according to that pattern, increase the impression of incoherency in that the original proving protocols are no longer reported in their sequential development. Much more the single symptoms are to a certain extent taken out of their original connection as individual pictures and are arranged and related purely from an anatomical viewpoint. From these symptom registers it is usually not determinable from what prover a given symptom arose. Because one must not assume that the name attached (perhaps Hahnemann, Stapf, or Hartlaub) refers to an individual prover. Much more this name signifies only the reporter. This is evident without further discussion in that under the same name, symptoms from men and women appear. The designated reporters are therefore conductors of provings. This is important in respect to a noteworthy objection to all these old provings of Hahnemann in general. One asks himself: Can it be possible that this dozen zealous, self-sacrificing physicians, the first stimulated students of Hahnemann, have produced such an extent of symptoms and indeed by materials which frequently yield so slight an output of symptoms for us? For the appearance of the finest symptoms we must presume a type of hypersensitivity to the and first substance proven and it is exactly these hypersensitivities which we seek. Now should these few people be especially sensitive against all these materials? Naturally, this would be nonsense. Much more it follows that the number of provers, male and female, must have been much larger but that the symptoms were compiled subsequently and divided with rigid system. The highly desirable original crude material for our materia medica is no longer available in this form but in the absence of anything better we must thankfully accept it for the present. But we also have numerous drug provings in the original form of protocols. As especially good in German are those which arise from the Austrian circle of provers. But in the last analysis they too are not only aggregates but also frequently repetitions of symptoms. The register of symptoms as it arises from drug provings is not materia medica, but they offer the lasting basis, the lasting crude material, for the homoeopathic materia medica. To shape this from the crude material, to make it suitable for the student as well as the learned, is the difficult task which must be renewed by each generation with increasing knowledge. This task seems so difficult that, were we not profoundly convinced of the importance of such a humanization of materia medica, we would surrender our arms before the imperfection of present work. Also, all sifting, as perhaps in the materia medica of Dahlke, or all subdivisions of sifted symptoms according to guiding symptoms and organ symptoms like in the clinical materia medica of Stauffer, still the neophyte always stands before a chaos of symptoms into which at first he cannot bring any sense. If he relies purely on his memory, if he notes individually as many symptoms as possible, then in the determination of the drug he encounters the danger of mere mechanical covering of symptoms. As the thing lies in current homoeopathy, there remains nothing else for the student than to gradually derive from the various elaborations of materia medica, if possible also from English-American sources, rational pictures of drugs. It is rational to place the symptoms characteristic and differentiating for the drug in full light, in the foreground of consciousness and the less characteristic more and more in the shadows. Because if one has a patient before him, one should recognize the drug in the symptoms and the recognition is based in the general not on the many mental fragments lying beside each other in a mosaic, but on single out standing striking trends. As it is in the recognition of a person, so it should also be in the recognition of a disease and likewise a dug picture. For personal variations in this psychologic act there must naturally remain differences: the one is more inclined to conceive the constitution in toto, another is more adapted for the subtle details; one sees the total conformation of the pyknic type, the other a wart on the nose. But always belonging to the correct description and therefore to a good drug picture is the differentiation of essential and nonessential, of characteristic and frequent appearance.

Now what happens if the person becoming a homeopath- and one should always remain in the becoming stage- must work out his materia medica from the several elaborations for himself? We do not possess a single text-book that would satisfy all demands of physicians of the present time. This is due to the fact that only a very few of the number of homoeopathic physicians, a number small in itself, have ventured such a work, a labor which each generation must take up again anew. But then it also lies in the special difficulties of this task. School medicine is not much better off in materia medica although there the circumstances are much more favorable. There, clinical experience have more than one hundred times as much soil and experimental pharmacology adds its objective easily provable single reports in masses. But there too is nothing uniform empiricism and experimental pharmacology, no modern materia medica develops. For one would hardly hold the compilations of encyclopedias as such. In general, empiricism and experimental data stand uncombined beside one another.


The real difficulties in a homoeopathic materia medica lie in another place. First: How shall one sift the symptom register? Here one can actually speak of the fight of manifestation. Because the numerous, mostly subjective symptoms are variable manifestations difficult to fix. Which of them should one consider and accept as effects of doses of drugs and which be blotted out as independent transient manifestations of the eternally changing events of life? A responsible beginning, enlightened only by the certainty that the original symptom register or protocol still exists for the better adaptor. What are the criteria for this sifting? Most enlightening at first seems the statistical criterium: the more frequent a symptom has appeared in the proving of a drug, so much more surely does it belong to the field of action of this drug. This numerical conception is simple, but for our task, the working out of an effect picture typical for one drug, it is too primitive. The one-sided statistical treatment of our crude material would only lead to a sad torso. The reason for this is as follows: primarily that symptom is most frequent which is designated by the most general expression, as perhaps headache. And we can use this the least on account of its generality, that is because it is common to innumerable medicinal substances. Here the certainty opposes the value. Secondly, this statistical procedure confers an unjustified preponderance upon the inexact average mass observation. It is exactly the desired individual X which is omitted in mass equations. And drug proving in the homoeopathic sense is never a mass investigation but a study in precision in single suitable persons. By the precision certainty is also obtained but it need not be secured at the cost of the individual qualities, particularly in the assemblage of properties of the drug and person. The same defect is intrinsic to symptoms obtained by force through large doses in all or almost all men. What they gain in surety through their frequency, they lose in specificity and therefore in differential therapeutic value.

The obtainment of a surety index numerically has only a very limited value in the work of sifting. An agent may provoke headache or nausea or renal inflammation with great constancy (in which one takes into consideration that a definite effect is not favored by the type of injection), still these great aims can serve with the corresponding surety index only for the classification of the required finer symptomatics. But it is not true that an effect direction of high surety index must necessarily also be especially useful therapeutically. How far it may, depends much more upon whether the specifications through characteristic, individual, leading symptoms are possible within this crudely outlined domain of action. There should be active functional early symptoms which reveal a lively defense activity: then the outlook for a stimulation therapy will be favored in the determined general direction of effect.

But what certainty have we that these fine individual symptoms belong to the picture of the drug? There is first that they have an unusual, striking character for the observer. Unfortunately, we do not always find this sufficiently stressed in the old provings so that a supplementary evaluation is difficult. Consequently, one next refers to the frequent repetition of such a symptom and if it is only in one prover who naturally must be of the type that the connection with the administration of the drug has a certain probability. From a statistical viewpoint we must be contented with assigning an essentially lower grade of surety to these symptoms.

Otto Leeser
Otto Leeser 1888 – 1964 MD, PHd was a German Jewish homeopath who had to leave Germany due to Nazi persecution during World War II, and he escaped to England via Holland.
Leeser, a Consultant Physician at the Stuttgart Homeopathic Hospital and a member of the German Central Society of Homeopathic Physicians, fled Germany in 1933 after being expelled by the German Medical Association. In England Otto Leeser joined the staff of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. He returned to Germany in the 1950s to run the Robert Bosch Homeopathic Hospital in Stuttgart, but died shortly after.
Otto Leeser wrote Textbook of Homeopathic Materia Medica, Leesers Lehrbuch der Homöopathie, Actionsand Medicinal use of Snake Venoms, Solanaceae, The Contribution of Homeopathy to the Development of Medicine, Homeopathy and chemotherapy, and many articles submitted to The British Homeopathic Journal,