MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,.
The subject I have chosen for my few remarks to-night is “The Challenge of Homoeopathy.”.
Homoeopathy is still, to judge by the number of practitioners who practise it openly, the “ugly duckling” of the medical profession. It is rather an old duckling now, but very much alive in spite of the rough treatment it has received. Many hard but so far ineffectual blows have been given to it, but it has survived them all, and as time passes on, its apparent ugliness is being questioned more and more by practitioners of the so-called “orthodox” school.
Eventually, for reasons which I shall attempt to put before you, a great majority, if not the whole of the profession, will acknowledge that here in Homoeopathy we have no ugly duckling but a beautiful creation, and then the chief regret will be, that its beauty, the beauty which belongs to all natural laws, did not gain universal recognition at an earlier date.
Unfortunately there is little prospect of any of us here living long enough to see this millennial transformation, but there are many indications at present, and there is every reason to believe, that in the course of time it will come. We are all striving after truth and knowledge. We are all therefore, I hope, endeavouring to keep an open mind. As the celebrated William Harvey once said many years ago:.
“True philosophers, who are only eager for truth and knowledge, never regard themselves as already so thoroughly informed but that they welcome information from any source, nor are they so narrow-minded as to imagine that any of the Arts and Sciences transmitted to us by the ancients are in such a state of forwardness and completion that nothing is left for the ingenuity and industry of others.”.
There is always this great need for the open mind or, in other words, this great need to be preserved from, and to continually struggle against, the acquisition of the bigoted mind. “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” is still as necessary an admonition to-day as it has always been.
Before I begin to delve deeply into my subject, I would like to quote and associate myself personally with the words of Thomas Scott who, also many years ago, said :.
“For myself I here publicly confess that I will, to the end of my days, acknowledge it as the greatest obligation that any person can confer upon me, if, in the spirit of meekness he will point out to me any error or enthusiastical delusion into which I have fallen and by sufficient arguments, convince me of it.”. So with apologies to you for this rather lengthy introduction I shall now “get going.”.
The first question which naturally arises is, “What is Homoeopathy ?” A clear definition must be obtained and retained, for there are many who dismiss the subject from their minds simply because they do not know and understand what Homoeopathy really is. They have preconceived ideas about it or perhaps they belong to the group of the humble who say : “So-and-so, who knows far more than I do, says Its a lot of nonsense. Why should I bother myself about it,” and so they ignore it; save themselves a lot of mental anguish; save themselves from a lot of hard work and, if there is any truth in Homoeopathy, deprive their patients of what is their natural right–the right to be cured.
Homoeopathy may be defined as : That system of therapeutics which asserts that diseased conditions are cured by agencies, which in the healthy individual, produce similar symptoms to the symptoms of the diseased condition.
Note particularly the word “similar.”.
That is a definition of Homoeopathy, or if you prefer the term, “Homoeo-therapeutics.”.
It might be enlightening at this stage to consider some of the things that Homoeopathy is not.
Homoeopathy is not the administration of drugs in small doses. Homoeopathy is not the administration of particular drugs for particular diseases. There are no specifics in Homoeopathy. Homoeopathy is not the treatment of disease by the treatment of individual symptoms, and last, and, as usual, by no means least, Homoeopathy is not, when honestly practised, an easily acquired system of therapeutics. On the contrary, and I am sorry to have to say so, it is at the present time probably the most difficult branch of the science and art of medicine in existence.
At the beginning of my paper, some of you may remember that I used the words “the so-called orthodox school.” Now by “orthodox” I wish it to be understood that I mean the treatment of disease in a way which is not homoeopathic. A convenient, by no means precise, definition of such treatment has been termed allopathic, and at one time it was the universal custom to divide physicians into two definite groups, the allopaths and the homoeopaths.
These two groups spent much of their short life on this earth in mutual recriminations. The allopaths threw stones at the homoeopaths who picked them up and threw them back again at the allopaths. This state of affairs, so long as it was confined to academical argument, was productive of much good, but unfortunately the personal element soon crept in. Mutual animosity increased, and eventually a state was reached, similar to that which prevailed when “the Jew had no dealings with the Samaritan.” I hold no brief for either school in this respect.
It is a thing to be deplored that the followers of any science should descend to such a level, but as a believer in the homoeopathic hypotheses I can truthfully say that I have never allowed personal feeling to enter into my criticism of orthodox medicine. I must confess, however, that before I became convinced of this truth, I was guilty, in my ignorance, of saying some very hard things about Homoeopathy and its practitioners in general and particular.
Probably many, if not all of you here to-night, are at present in this latter state, but I for one, having once as it were lived in a glass house myself, do not propose to throw stones at you. But I would venture to give you this piece of advice: See to it that the stones you throw have behind them the conviction of a sincere belief and are backed up by facts which have been proved to be true. See to it that there is no hidden or personal animosity in your criticism, in other words, let it be criticism which will tend to the advancement of our noble art of healing, Let it be as destructive as you can make it so long as it is backed up by the facts capable of being proved and re- proved if necessary.
When the average orthodox physician begins to take an interest in Homoeopathy, the first thing that usually occurs to him is the apparent absurdity of it. How can such infinitesimal doses possibly have any effect ? The whole thing must obviously be nonsense. So having reached this quick conclusion, he shuts the book, or his ears, and so far as he is concerned that is an end to Homoeopathy for him. Let us take an imaginary but by no means improbable case.
Let us suppose that our imaginary orthodox physician is also an enthusiastic horticulturist. Having shut his book on Homoeopathy he goes out in rather an irritable frame of mind to his greenhouse. It is a summer evening and because it is summer and because it is evening he has had a little time for reading. It is also raining. The air is damp, otherwise he might have been tempted to have a stroll in the garden, so instead he goes into the greenhouse.
Walking slowly round but, as a good horticulturist, refraining from touching anything,he notices a new plant, a plant called Rhus toxicodendron, kindly sent to him that very afternoon by “so-and-so” who lives at number “so-and- so” and whose interest are also horticultural. He remembers that he was told by “so-and-so” that on no account must he touch this plant with bare hands, but being a rather contrary individual, he does touch it, just once, with his forefinger. It does not seem to him to be a very interesting plant, so after a brief inspection he passes on, and there for the present we shall leave him.
Next morning let us return to our imaginary friend. Surely this cannot be the same individual. He is still bad. His face and eyes are swollen and oedematus with small vesicles showing here and there. He is very depressed, complaining bitterly about the restless night he has had. All his joints are painful and, strange symptoms this, he tells us that he has had to keep changing his position al night in order to get relief. He is quite definite about this. Moving from one position to another gave him a temporary relief from pain.
His mouth is dry, his tongue is dry and brownish with a peculiar red triangular tip. At first he has difficulty in speaking but later his voice improves and as he keeps changing his position he waxes eloquent about his friend “so-and-so” who lives at number “so-and-so” and who was such a confounded idiot as to send him a specimen of Rhus toxicodendron.
As we retreat with expressions of sympathy his language becomes more and more theological ! He knows, however, that he is suffering from Rhus poisoning, but being very obstinate he has already forgotten that he was warned not to touch the plant with bare hands.
Here we have an example of what an infinitesimal dose can do. It has been proved that the above symptoms can be caused by the one-thousandth part of a milligram of the essential principle. This is not an example of allergic reaction but a definite toxicological effect produced in all individuals by momentary contact with the plant. After hearing this would you care to try the experiment of taking the one-thousandth of a milligramme of the active principle of Rhus toxicodendron ? After hearing this are you still prepared to ridicule the power of the small or infinitesimal dose ?.
The two most wonderful physical entities presented to us in this creation are: the infinitely large and the infinitely small. We can look up into the starry sky at night, mixing our wonder with worship. We can also look through the oil immersion or study the ultra-violent photographic records of the viruses and for- getting, if we can, their terrible pathogenic power, still combine our wonder with worship. Letting our imagination go beyond our present optical powers we can wander into a world where even the particles of a virus can become, relatively speaking, immense. Each particle composed of its constituent molecules, never coming into contact with each other.
Each molecule with its constituent atoms, also likewise separated from one another. Each atom like a miniature universe, with its central relatively large proton surrounded by its variable number of rapidly moving electrons. Thinking along these lines I say again, How can we presume to be-little the infinitesimal or presume to set a limit to the potential activity of matter, be its mass ever so small.
Mercury given orally in material doses is practically inert. Passing through the body unchanged it produces no symptoms apart from a transient diarrhoea, but triturated with chalk in the form of grey powder it becomes exceedingly powerful.
Grey powder is a mechanical mixture. Its constituents can be recovered by mechanical means and when we administer it we are giving mercury and chalk and nothing else. (At this point the five specimens mentioned below were handed round for inspection. The similarity in appearance of specimens 1 and 2 was noticed, and the presence of metallic mercury in fine globules was apparent in specimens 3 and 4).
Specimen 1. Pulv. Hydrag. c. Creta B.P. (33 1/3 per cent.).
Specimen 2. A trituration of mercury made with lactose 33 1/3 per cent.
Specimen 3. Test tube containing a small quantity of specimen 1 + chloroform.
Specimen 4. Test tube containing a small quantity of specimen 2 + water.
Specimen 5. Test tube containing a small quantity of powdered chalk + chloroform.
Twenty grains of grey powder, prepared according to the British Pharmacopoeia, contains approximately six grains of mercury. Here we have an example of an inert substance acquiring marked toxic powers simply as a result of mechanical subdivision. Is it unreasonable to suggest that further subdivision will result in the acquirement of still more power ? But I do not wish to put ideas for experiments into your heads, experiments which were successfully carried out more than a hundred years ago by Hahnemann.
To pass from an interesting but perhaps rather gross example of the power of the small dose, let up consider the power of the snake venoms. A dilution of 1:10 to the power of 17, which is one part in a hundred thousand billions, of the venom of Russells viper still retains its power of reducing the coagulation time of haemophilic blood.
The three examples I have given should, I think, be sufficient to refute any attack which might be made against Homoeopathy on the ground that the small dose is an absurdity, but you will remember that I made the statement that Homoeopathy was not the administration of drugs in small doses. Certainly “small doses” are used but there is a lot more in Homoeopathy than that. To get the maximum effect from the small dose or potency as it is called, this has to be prepared in a definite precise way.
Instructions for the preparation of potentized drugs are given in the Homoeopathic Materia Medica and the preparatory routine, as given there, must be scrupulously carried out, I do not propose to enter into any details regarding this as it would occupy too much time, but I shall try to give you a simple outline of the material facts. If the drug or substance to be potentized is a solid, a small quantity of it, say one grain, is carefully triturated with some comparatively inert substance, such as Sac. lact., nine grains of the latter being used if we intend to make a potency according to the decimal scale, ninety- nine grains, if according to the centesimal scale.
The trituration must last at least one hour. We now have a 1x or a 1c potency according to the scale we are using. One grain of this potency is now similarly triturated with Sac. lact. and we now have the 2x or 2c potency again according to the scale we are using. In this way we ascend the “potency scale” until we reach the 6x when a strange phenomenon occurs, the solid becomes soluble. It is a phenomenon because it occurs when we are triturating or potentizing an apparently insoluble substance such as gold.
You will have to take my word for this, but it has been definitely and conclusively proved and the proofs are available. If you are doubtful I shall be pleased to tell you where these proofs may be obtained. We can now ascend the potency scale more comfortably by means of dilution and succussion for which a simple mechanical device is available. Of course, with a soluble substance we omit the preliminary and fatiguing trituration. As we continue our ascent, again a peculiar phenomenon appears.
According to our present knowledge of physics, when the eleventh centesimal dilution is reached, the triturated drug ceases to be present but again it can be demonstrated that “something” is present and proceeding upwards as far as the thirtieth centesimal, this proof of “something” being present is still possible by means of the Boyd emanometer. The higher potencies are also capable of demonstrating their power clinically, some- times in a dramatic and sometimes in an alarming way.
The Homoeopathic Materia Medica has been compiled and is still growing, by :.
Firstly. Studying and recording the effects upon healthy individuals known as provers.
Secondly. Studying and recording the effects of poisonous drugs, taken or administered accidentally or by other means, such as, cases of attempted suicide or attempted murder by poisoning, or the effects of poisoning by other means, such as poisoning by snake venoms, etc.
Thirdly. Recording any unusual clinical effect occurring while under treatment by homoeopathic preparations.
When Hahnemann commenced his study of drug pathogenesis, he used what would be considered to-day to be comparatively large doses, but he soon discovered that by triturating the drug with some inert substance (he used sugar of milk) better, that is more detailed, provings were obtained. From the symptoms produced in the provers, and these were all verified by subsequent repetition of the proving with occasional substitution of unmedicated sugar of milk to eliminate the psychological factor, he was able to build up a picture of the drug as it affected the healthy individual.
He had been driven to his researches by his disgust at the condition of medical practice at that time. His brilliant mind was quick to notice the resemblance between the symptomatologies of diseased conditions and drug action, and the discovery that diseases could be cured by the administration of the similar remedy soon followed.
For example, the symptoms of Belladonna poisoning are very similar to a large percentage of cases of scarlet fever, and potentized Belladonna is about the commonest homoeopathic remedy for scarlet fever to-day just as it was in the time of Hahnemann, but Belladonna will not always be the remedy. That is what I meant when I said that there were no specifics in Homoeopathic. The remedy must be similar to the totality of the symptoms.
When you prescribe for your patients small doses of Vin. Ipecac. for the vomiting of pregnancy, you are practising a crude form of Homoeopathy. You are practising Homoeopathy although you may not be aware of it. Added to your cough mixtures it also has a homoeopathic action although, admittedly, if the dose is moderately large its physiological emetic action may be beneficial to a certain extent by helping to clear the bronchial tubes.
When you add Tr. Camph. Co. to your cough mixtures you are slowing down the action of any of the more potent drugs which may be present in it, for camphor has this effect and it is a well- known fact that the presence of camphor in minute quantities antidotes the homoeopathic action of most, if not all, homoeopathic potencies.
I am firmly convinced, at present, that no drug is capable of curing a diseased condition except by its homoeopathic action. We are hearing a lot to-day about the sulphonamides, and no one can deny that spectacular results can be produced by their administration. They seem to be capable of curing almost every disease, but I can still remember the furor which greeted the appearance of mercurochrome, now almost forgotten, and I am trying to put a curb on my enthusiasm for these new drugs.
I am trying to keep “the open mind.” I admit that it is hard to do so, but so far we have had no satisfactory explanation as to how their curative action is brought about. Is it possible that the much longed-for internal bactericide has at last been discovered? A substance capable of killing pathogenic organisms living in the human body, the tissue cells of which are themselves more susceptible to attack and injury than are most of the pathogenic organism themselves.
It is possible, although to me I must admit it seems highly improbable, but again I say I am keeping “the open mind”. I have a strong suspicion, however, that the action of the sulphonamides is a homoeopathic one. Time and much hard work will, I suppose, eventually enlighten us. Certainly their discovery would appear to be one of the greatest ever achieved in the history of medicine.
Homoeopathy maintains that drugs have two actions: physiological action when given in moderately large doses, and a homoeopathic action may follow the administration of a small dose not necessarily potentized. Opium, for example, in large doses causes constipation, in small doses diarrhoea. In large doses, drowsiness, proceeding to coma. In small doses, it stimulates and causes sleeplessness. In the B.M.J. quite recently, much valuable space was given up to reports and discussions on the abdominal pain which sometimes follows the administration of morphine.
Corrosive sublimate in certain doses causes a violent enteritis. In small of doses it is almost a specific for dysentery. Our old friend Rhus toxicodendron is likewise almost a specific for rheumatism. acute or chronic, but remember its symptomatology–the pains relieved by movement, the irritability, the depression, the characteristic tongue. Bryonia is used just about as frequently as Rhus for rheumatic conditions but its symptomatology is quite different.
Pulsatilla for measles. As an orthodox practitioner you cannot go far wrong if you give the patient a few powders of this remedy for there is no other treatment for measles apart from nursing and common sense, but if you give Pulsatilla which is so often indicated, and it happens to be the right remedy, as it usually is in nine cases out of ten, you are unlikely to be troubled with any of its very troublesome complications.
Surely statements such as I have made and put before you form a definite challenge–“The challenge of Homoeopathy.” Can you afford to ignore this challenge ? Is it not worth while meeting it and giving Homoeopathy a trial ? I venture to make assertion that, should your interest in Homoeopathy be aroused sufficiently to make you give it a fair clinical trial, you will sooner or later, depending upon how long it is before you administer your first really similar remedy and see the dramatic result, become a confirmed homoeopath.