The importance of unusual and peculiar symptoms in the selection of a remedy was first impressed upon my mind in college day by Dr. W.J. Hawkes, the author of a little book, Characteristics. Dr. Hawkes related the case of a man who was seriously ill (I have forgotten the diagnosis) and had been given up to die by several physicians. Dr. Hawkes gave a similar prognosis, but he set to work to see if he could find something in the case which would point to a remedy.
He asked the patient if he had any peculiar sensation which seemed too unimportant to mention to the doctors. “Why, yes,” was the reply, “Ever since I have been sick I have felt as though a string was hanging down my throat”. With that peculiar symptom as a lead, it was found that Valeriana covered the whole case, under which remedy he made a complete recovery.
Hahnemann pointed out the importance of the peculiar symptoms. His instructions were to be particularly and almost exclusively attentive to the symptoms which are striking, singular, extraordinary or characteristic: the symptoms which are peculiar to the patient and not to the disease. Our lamented Dr. Boger put it this way: “A peculiar symptom is prone to occur without any obvious connection with the disease itself. In chronic cases it is very apt to be a concomitant, while in acute cases it often stands our like a freshly-patented guide post”.
One of the most striking examples of peculiar symptom leading to a curative remedy was given by a precocious little girl of nine years. She had been ill for several days with an enormously swollen cervical gland and had been steadily growing worse under home treatment. When I saw her on the fourth day of her illness her temperature was 104. Although her gland was extremely sensitive to touch and she held her head in a rigid position because of the pain, the first thing she said to me and kept repeating, “I feel as if I am standing on my head; my bed feels as if it is tipped on end and I am standing on my head”. Memory plays queer tricks, but this time it served me well. Under Phos. ac. the temperature dropped to normal in twelve hours and the swollen gland quickly subsided.
A little fellow of our had a constant harassing, exhausting cough, particularly severe at night. The mother, a staunch homoeopath, has her own “kit” and I had been trying for several days to prescribe from her information given by telephone, but the cough went merrily on. I finally decided to see the child and on reaching the house was greeted with as severe a paroxysm of coughing as I ever expect to hear. But what the mother had failed to notice was that the coughing was interspersed with sneezing. A cough would run into a sneeze, which was immediately followed by another cough, and another, sneeze. Squilla 200 gave immediate relief and speedy cure.
A brother of the above, aged 14 months, was a very ill little boy-respirations 80 and over, loud and labored, temperature 104, pulse so rapid it was uncountable. The whole chest was full of moist rales, suffocating attacks wakened him from fitful sleep; the nose was clogged, which impeded and aggravated the breathing. sambucus 200 produced almost instant relief and prompt recovery.
A highly excitable, precocious lad of six was causing great concern to his parents because of his :tantrums” and an increasingly constant twitching of the face, and rapid winking of the eyelids. He was always active, resisted rest periods, was full of fears, was headstrong and irritable. He was badly constipated, the stools being so large in diameter that he would not make an effort to defecate because of the pain produced by the large calibre stool. His feet were always cold and clammy. Sanicula 10m. was followed by a transformation.
A fair-haired boy of five years was rapidly developing choreic symptoms. His nights were nearly as restless as his days. He would moan and grown and strike his head against the wall, and all the time, night and day, his feet were in constant motion. He presented a history of eczema from babyhood, which had been treated continuously but unsuccessfully until a few months before I saw him, when a skin specialist applied an ointment which promptly cured (?) the eczema-but “Godfried has been getting more and more nervous as the eczema has been getting better”.
Zincum 1200 was given at once. In one week the mother reported with the child. The eczema was coming out again beautifully. “Godfried is much better, as soon as the eczema began to return his nerves began to get better.” The family shortly returned to their home in a distant city, but several months later, in conjunction with a check for services rendered, an expression of appreciation and thanks was received, for the little fellow continued well.
A very peculiar symptom was present in child of twelve who was suffering with hay fever and asthma. She had all the cardinal symptoms of Ars. alb. as to time of aggravation, thirst, restlessness and she had a very pronounced modality, > of asthmatic attacks by assuming a crouching position or perching as a bird with her feet on a chair rather than sitting on a chair. Arsenicum album always promptly relieved the asthmatic attacks. She later required Tuberculinum. This remedy was considered chiefly because it was generally required to clear up her mothers colds as a child and also was curative in a septic temperature of six weeks following a retained fragment of placenta at the time of the childs birth.
Oliver Wendell Holmes spoke truly when he said: “we are all omnibus in which our ancestors ride.” Frequently the omnibus is overloaded with inherited dyscrasias-psora, syphilis, sycosis- and able to proceed on its way with great difficulty, in spite of the efforts of the most painstaking wheelwright; the failure may be due to inefficient tools or insufficient knowledge.
Some patients present a heterogeneous mass of generalities which lead nowhere; the symptoms due to the pathology of the disease are foremost. These cases are difficult to unravel. It is a happy moment to the prescriber when they recite symptoms of real importance.
Finding the similimum in a given case is often very difficult and sometimes impossible. If may require many hours, often following false clues, to piece together this most fascinating of jigsaw puzzles. But when the perfect whole is found it stimulates the mind to added effort to attain a fuller knowledge of the homoeopathic materia medica, and inspires a greater appreciation of the fundamental truths promulgated by Samuel Hahnemann over a century ago.