The structural elements and their physiologic roles are the milestones for enlightening the orientation in the vast field of medicinal actions. From them we proceed with advantage when we peruse the materia medica according to the single groups of the periodic system. Thereby we will discover and ever again confirm that the natural affinities of the elements also come to expression in activity on the human organism even when the elements themselves in the medicinal substances, are followed out as independent energy carriers with definite actions. The consideration on the basis of the periodic system has proven itself very fruitful for the understanding of drug effect pictures. If it is correct that homoeopathy with its subtle method, with its inclusion of drug proving on the healthy, can actually improve our knowledge of the actions of materials on the organism so it will also be shown that such a materia medica can discover the natural order of substances better than a methodically imperfect pharmacology.
NATURAL AND FOREIGN ELEMENTS IN THE SEVEN CHIEF GROUPS
If the group members of the physiologic elements are able to suppress their chemical neighbors from their functional sites (for example bromine by chlorine, barium by calcium), then this reveals most distinctly how restricted the sphere of action of the material foreign to the organism is in comparison to the natural substances. With the narrow range within which the functions are held in equilibrium, damages from these foreign substances arise easily and more distinctly in case these substances enter into intermediary reciprocal actions. The greater the distance is from the normal structural materials and the easier such materials are able to appear in reciprocal actions with the power systems of the organisms, the more toxic they are. For individual foreign elements it is entirely individual to what extent they add or subtract to the influence of these two conditions. The ease with which they enter into reciprocal actions with the organism is, indeed, not only a qualitative matter, a chemical affinity, but is determined to a high degree by the state of form of the substance and then also by site of application. So for example mercury, Hg, and lead, Pb have a high toxicity by virtue of their capacity for penetration under ordinary conditions while gold, Au, and platinum, Pt, show their toxicity only after special preparation and a special mode of application.
From the position of the elements in the periodic system, the classification of the medicinal substance for the seven vertical groups is yielded without further discussion. It is advantageous to proceed from the structural element in each group, and then study group members themselves in their similarities and characteristics. But the group relationships do not lie so simply in the accessory groups of the periodic system.
THE RELATIONSHIPS IN THE ACCESSORY GROUPS
The accessory Groups I a to VII a with their center which is designated as VIII we may consider in a great class as heavy metals. But here the elementary affinities no longer follow the strict lawfulness of the chief groups. In the last we have seen that their affinities rest on the equality in chemical valences, that is, on the number of electrons in the outer most track of electrons. This division-grouping principle, however, fails, decidedly in the accessory group. Its elements vary markedly in their valences; one element frequently has different valences in the same direction as is true of ferrous-ferric mercuric and mercurous compounds, among others. This signifies that chemical affinity in the vertical series has less significance. For this an approximation of these elements comes into expression in their horizontal series. If we accept the progressive development of the elements from hydrogen to uranium over an infinite period of time, then the younger generations of material, once between the chief Groups IV and V in the fourth horizontal period, a sister group of elements existed. The cleft which yawns between Groups IV and V is filled out with ten elements per period. The narrower, to some extent, the distance between the elements therein included, the closer they approach each other in their physical structural properties. The chemical valence affinities are less but the physical and nuclear affinities more significant. We can call this affinity with an analogous biologic appellation, which naturally needs to serve only as an example, a sisterly relationship, and designate the chief group in this comparison with a genealogic tree as the ancestral series. In this respect if we have a still closer sister affinity in the latter inclusion of fourteen rare earths, still they stand even closer in their physical-chemical properties. The elements of this sister group have not attained medical significance, unless in the case of cerium, at least up to the present. Therefore they need not be considered in detail. Finally there is another internal physical relationship in the periodic system, namely, that of the final, radioactive elements. In these elements with highest atomic weight we can observe a fragment of change in form of material qualities in the proportionately brief time given to man. Naturally, however, of the change we perceive only the retrogressive phase of decomposition of elements of high atomic weight which convert themselves through the extrusion of nuclear charges into elements of lower weight. In this horizontal series we have at present before us to a certain extent only element variations whose change is the source of the well-known physical radiant actions. This is a field so large and independent that an extensive treatment can find no place within the limits of this materia medica. If we would designate the horizontal members of the radioactive elements also as the first order, then the rare earths would be the second order and the heavy metals which have outstanding interest for us would be the horizontal third group.
In the accessory Group VIII one finds a special compression of elements. This place which otherwise is filled by one element contains three elements in each period, Fe, Co, Ni, then Ru, Rh, Pd, and finally Os, Ir, Pt. These triads are more closely related to each other on the basis of horizontal membership than is otherwise the case with heavy metals.
HEAVY METAL CATALYSIS
From the accessory group, iron is the sole element which has an important physiologic role in the vertebrate organism. Therefore we will go out from it in the discussion of the accessory group and thereby also discover at the same time the drug pictures of the vertical and horizontal members of elements. Now it is significant that iron acts physiologically as a catalyzer. Catalysis means nothing else than that the presence of minimal traces of the substance is sufficient to bring into existence or accelerate a chemical reaction, and under certain conditions also to depress it. Thereby the catalyzers do not appear in the endproducts of the reaction, they are not used up, but are only intermediators. This catalytic property we will constantly encounter in other heavy metals in a highly dispersed state, in a colloidal state, and in a ionic form, and understand their medicinal actions by it. In the test tube as well as in chemical technic one employees many heavy metals as catalyzers or inorganic ferments as Bredig calls them. This capacity is known on living objects as the so_called oligodynamic action from the work of Naegeli. It is concerned with traces of metals which still in an amount of 10-7 – 10-8 (7th and 8th decimal potencies) still act damaging on lower organisms. The same catalytic properties have been used by Walbum in his experimental metal salt therapy. He sought to utilize the catalytic stimulation on living reactions so that only the defense reactions of the organism concerned were increased or accelerated, for example, antitoxin formation. Therein he succeeded with slight concentrations which actually belong to the domain of high potencies of homoeopathy.
Metal catalysis is a surface action, a so-called adsorption catalysis. It is favored through increase of the surface, also by the uttermost subdivision. And that this subdivision of the elements of the accessory group can be carried so far, without the particles losing their independence, depends upon their small atom volumes with high atomic weights. Their atoms are very small in comparison with their charges, the power of electric attraction from the nucleus out is great. They hold their several positive charges, very firmly; their tendency to dissociation, to the formation of free ions, is slight. Here they stand in strongest contrast to the alkali metals which have the largest atom volume, distended atoms, with slight attraction to the nucleus for which reason they easily give off the outer electron and dissociate free ions. Also the halogens of Group VII still have a fairly large atom volume of the heavy metals is an important expression of their nuclear structure and the common properties of this accessory group. Likewise this small atom volume has been replete with significance geochemically for the deposition of the metallogenous elements in the earth.
The strongly charged, relatively small atoms of heavy metals adapt them very well as drugs, through their catalytic properties when the necessary dispersion is given. Because medicinal actions in the sense of stimulation of reactions the exciter is not used up, has a great similarity to catalysis. But on the other side the chemical mass action of the heavy metals is less suitable for a stimulation effect. Because the firmness with which the heavy metals attract and chemically bind other atoms in their vicinity leads easily to irreversible reactions which are incompatible with the dynamic equilibrium of vital processes. So far as a chemical energy exchange with the organic structure occurs, the poison threshold for the heavy metals is low. Also with these unnatural materials it constantly depends upon the conditions (amount, state of form, local and temporal circumstances) Whether they will be poisonous or promoting to the organism.
The accessory group are indeed a special class among the elements but they show distinct transition to the chief groups. With the increase in the atomic weight, the metallic character increases also in the chief groups of the electronegative side, so that bismuth is entirely designated as a heavy metal. So horizontal membership on the basis of nuclear structure also passes over into the neighboring chief groups. This can also be followed in the drug pictures.
MODIFICATIONS AND COMPOUNDS OF THE ELEMENTS
We have up to the present looked at the elements as the ultimate carriers of material properties and have found in their natural order, the periodic system, an accessible point of departure and a good guide through the properties of the mineral materials, as must come into evidence in their action upon the organism. But our mineral medicinal substances are for the most part not simple elements, but combinations of two or more elements. And even if this is concerned only with a quality of substances, still the action on the organism is by no means unequivocally determined. Of the complicated conditions which the organism presents to the medicinal substance, nothing need be said here. But of the influence which the position of a molecule of an elementary substance has, is shown by the modification of the same substance; one need only think of the yellow and red phosphorus.
In compounds of two or more elements there is a new power system. But it is still permissible to evaluate the actions of elementary powers within the new structure through comparative consideration. So in one salt the cation, in another, the anion will be recognized as the chief carrier of medicinal effect, and in another salt the accent will be equally placed. Under the simple conditions of the test tube this is, for example, nothing else than the relation of the salt to water. Only the physiochemical analysis of elementary actions under the extremely complicated reaction conditions of the organism is more often a conjecture than an absolutely certain determination. In the following presentation, the drug picture of the compounds will be arranged where it seems best from these reflections and from didactic reasons.
An anticipation and a postponement in the discussion cannot be avoided for the reason that many elements cannot be discussed in their relation to the organism without taking other natural elements or compounds into consideration, for example, calcium not without phosphates
Finally the periodic system of elements is not a simple series but a system of groups. For this reason it is somewhat arbitrary with which group we begin. If we begin with Group I, then it would not be so suitable if we discuss schematically the groups according to the series. It is much better after discussing Groups I and II which contain the essential cation formers, to go over to Groups VII, VI and V which contain the chief anion formers. In this way we obtain more rapidly a survey of the electrolytes whose constituents have the least independence and require an opposite supplementation. We find a common basis of explanation of these compounds in the theory of ions. After the short third group, then the amphoteric Group IV follows in which the analysis of actions leads to colloidochemical considerations. A few lower carbon derivatives form an appendix to this.
Finally will the accessory groups as a composite class be discussed after the above represented mutual and arranging viewpoint is presented.