There seems to exist in the minds of the people some misconception about theory and practice of homoeopathy; A few elementary facts about homoeopathy may therefore be of interest to the general public.
Homoeopathic medicines are usually derived from four sources, viz., the animal kingdom, the vegetable kingdom, the mineral kingdom and animal diseases. The drugs in the original form prepared from the above sources are mother tinctures or triturations. These are usually diluted with alcohol or sugar of milk. A more accurate name for dilution is potentization, because the peculiar process of diluting actually increases the potency of the drug. In general there are two methods of potentization, the decimal and the centesimal methods.
When the dilution is carried on in the proportion of one to nine, it is the decimal dilution and when the proportion is one to ninety – nine, it is the centesimal dilution. It is obvious that the quantity of the original drug reduces to infinitesimals after a few dilutions. But such infinitesimal doses possess medicinal properties.
On this point, reference may be made to Sir J.C. Boses lectures on “Life and its Mechanism.” in which he describes the increase of the power of assimilation of a plant by the administration of an infinitesimal dose of a poison – one part in a billion, which actually corresponds to the twelfth decimal or the sixth centesimal dilution of homoeopathy.
It was proved by Professor richet, the famous physiologist, in 1905, that Formol acts in the infinitesimal dose of one – millionth part of a milligram to 222 gallons of fluid, in the process of lactic fermentation. Gabriel Bertrand, Professor of Chemical Biology of the Faculty of Sciences of Paris and at the Institute of Pasteur, showed that a dilution of one milligram of manganese in 2220 gallons of culture medium stimulated the growth of the fungus Aspergillus niger. The dilution is equivalent to the tenth homoeopathic potency.
It can be shown by simple calculation that no quantity of the original drug exists in the twelfth or higher potencies. And here lies the main argument against the therapeutic value of homoeopathic drugs. The fact however, is that the peculiar process of obtaining the successive potencies (not merely mixing with diluting medium), the drug, before disappearing, changes the properties of the diluting fluid, in some way which we do not yet fully comprehend, and imparts to it its own characteristic therapeutic value.
This phenomenon is not altogether unthinkable. When the physical properties of a glass rod are changed by rubbing it with catskin, we do not expect a lump of catskin to remain embedded in the rod. This of course is merely an analogy. The main point is that homoeopathic dilution is not mere division and sub – division of the original quantity of the drug. It amounts to actual modification of the properties of diluting medium. Modern scientific ideas about matter and energy are not what they were fifty years ago.
The presence of matter need not necessarily be perceptible by the gross senses like lumps of brick or stone held tight in the palm of the hand. Is it altogether unthinkable that the process of potentization energises the potentising medium in a manner peculiar to the drug potentized, though lumps of the drugs may not be traceable?
The therapeutic value of homoeopathic medicines of high dilutions can be demonstrated with as much certainty and accuracy as that of any other medicines, though the subtle manner in which these drugs act and react on the different parts of the human organism is not yet fully explained in the language of modern science. The whole system is based on a different philosophy and the logical and intellectual approach is different.
It may not yet be possible to elucidate the logical and philosophical foundation of homoeopathy in a manner easily comprehensible by modern science, but it must be possible in future to bring it in line with modern scientific ideas which themselves are likely to go deeper and acquire wider significance and application. It is common knowledge that anger, joy, grief, etc., have profound influence on the alimentary, circulatory and nervous systems.
Mere thought of a sour substance activates the salivary glands. Is it reasonable, then to assume once for all, that nothing but measurable lumps of poisons and other substances can have any physiological influence on the highly complex animal organisms?
It is a very noteworthy fact, from the scientific point of view, that Dr. Boyd of glasgow has invented an instrument named emanometer, by which it has been possible to detect the difference between blank alcohol and the same potentized by a homoeopathic drug. It has been possible to show, for instance, that the action of the thirtieth potency of a drug is really different from that of blank alcohol.
There is a popular belief that homoeopathic treatment is based on symptoms only. It is far from the actual truth. Pathology is as important to the homoeopaths as symptomatology. Suppose that there is a pain in the lower part of the back. This symptom is not sufficient for the prescription of a medicine. We must know whether the pain is in the region of the lumbar vertebrae or the sacrum or down below in the coccyx. We should try to know whether the pain is in the muscles or the nerves or the periosteum.
We should know if the kidneys are all right. We may have to examine the urine. We should ascertain whether there is any history of a fall or any other kind of injury. It may be necessary to have an X-Ray photograph. Over and above, we must also know other symptoms and general characteristics of the patient. We must know whether the patient has a rheumatic diathesis, whether the patient is particularly susceptible to cold, whether the pain is aggravated or ameliorated by heat or cold, rest or motion, during the day or during the night, and so on.
We must also know the general condition of his digestive and circulatory organs. In fact, we must know whether there is any abnormality in any part of his body. A medicine cannot be prescribed simply on the symptom of pain in the back.
When, however, diagnosis is impossible, incomplete or uncertain, homoeopathic treatment is possible by symptoms and in this respect the position of homoeopathy is unique and unrivalled. After all, symptoms are not less important and less significant than bare names of diseases, which, in most cases, are nothing but symbols for a few particular groups of symptoms.
Sir John Weir, G.C.V.O., in his presidential address to the British Homoeopathic Congress, says, Homoeopathy takes into account the individual, with its reactions to environment, physical, mental and moral; his deviations from the normal and specially from his own normal, due to sickness.
We are no longer dealing with diseased organs but a sick person. Even the British Medical Journal Feb. 24, 1934, declares: Far too little time and attention is devoted to the study of the individual, and the sick man is often forgotten in the study of the disease. For the proper understanding of the disease and its treatment there must be a thorough knowledge of patients personality and of his environment, using the latter word in the widest sense of the term.
The Medical Curriculum Committee of the British Medical Association, in its report on the training of a doctor, says: “It proposed a drastic overhaul which involves a different approach. The approach is based on the conception of disease as a disturbance in the structure and function of the organism and regards simply as a descriptive convenience the concept of disease as clinical entities.
One of the most serious defects is the failure to regard the patient as a whole. We should return to the first principles and so remodel the training of our students that they will base their future practice on the understanding of each patient as a whole.” This is exactly what Hahnemann also said.
It is a fact that bacteriology did not attain the present state of development in Hahnemanns time, though his principles are supposed to cover these grounds. Attempts are being made to reconcile the principles of homoeopathy to modern bacteriology. Dr. J. Patterson has been engaged in intensive investigation on the relation of bacteria to human organism and the correlation between the works of Hahnemann and Pasteur with reference to germs, diseases and drugs.
Science has not said its last word. Time will come when the active principles of Homoeopathic drugs will be fully appreciated. In the meantime we must not ignore their therapeutic values and their inherent superiority in their own spheres of action. There are some practical advantages also in the use of these drugs. They are cheap, easy to dispense and easy to take.
They act mildly, surely and permanently. Most of the drugs are deep constitutional remedies. They are suited to all ages, all temperaments, all tastes and all constitutions. If properly administered, they seldom do any harm. The economic condition of our country makes them almost indispensable for the majority of the people.
I may just point out one bye – product of the study of homoeopathy in this country. It is not probably generally known that about sixty – five years ago, one Dr. J.N. Ghosh compiled an English to Bengali Dictionary of medical terms containing about seven thousand words.
The Bengali medium of instruction has been adopted by the homoeopathic schools and colleges for the last thirty or forty years, long before it was even thought of in our general educational institutions. The number of medical books published in Bengali is now considerable and forms a substantial contribution to Bengali scientific literature in general and to the medical vocabulary in particular.
The theory of homoeopathy is not quite so static as it is commonly imagined. The number of medicines in the modern homoeopathic materia medica is about eight times what it was in Hahnemanns time. Homoeopathy is a progressive subject, though perhaps the progress is not quite comparable to that of other branches of knowledge.