Ten years ago, at the Montreal convention of this association, an attempt was made to discuss psora in the light of the new advances in medicine, but since then discussions of this subject have been avoided. It is now high time that we take this problem up again and give psora a different definition than heretofore. The possibility of a clearer conception of psora and more in accordance with the recent progress in medicine has finally presented itself. We are happy to be able, at this time, to fall in line with this progress without prejudice to any of the homoeopathic principles and, if we are ever to obtain recognition for homoeopathy as an important method of therapeutics, we must fall in line.
Today psora cannot be discussed without a knowledge of the newly studied effects of foods on the human organism, therefore let us begin with a brief introduction into the science of nutrition.
The modern studies of nutrition were started seventy years ago when Voit and Pettenkofer first published their experiments on metabolism. These experiments determined the now well known chemical composition of foods and the caloric requirements of the animal organism.
These two points are of fundamental importance for the understanding of the chemistry of nutrition and were confirmed by other physiologists. This was the chemical era of nutritional research and lasted until about the end of the past century at which time food research took another direction. One then found that many problems which could not be solved with the help of purely chemical methods, had to be approached by other roads.
It had dawned already upon some clinicians that foods possess properties which are not determinable by chemistry, but which nevertheless influence development and health of individuals and races. Let us hear some of their reasons:
Modern civilization and medical science, improving the living conditions of populations, had been expected to improve their physical constitution also, but such was not the case. In Europe at least one found the opposite. One observed that, as soon as the centuries old habits of eating were affected by civilization, the decline began.
In France, for instance, with the gradual spreading of civilization from the center towards the periphery, deleterious influences spread parallel, so that today the consequence of it is that the healthiest population is found in those provinces which are the most remote from Paris, the center of the country. The same process can be seen in every other part of Europe. The more one approaches the large capital cities, the more signs of degeneration one detects in the inhabitants.
It is interesting to note that similar observations have been made on the Negroes in the French African colonies. As long as on their old diet, these Negroes are so strong that they can carry a load of eighty pounds a distance of thirty miles in one day and in addition dance all night, which shows how little it has tired them. All this on the roughest roads in a most unfavorable climate. Their strength is undoubtedly due to their diet because, as soon as they begin to eat canned French foods, they degenerate.
In Italy the same phenomenon can be seen in every little town. There the poor eat as their ancestors ate, but the rich, being ashamed of eating as the poor, eat finer civilized foods. The consequence of it is that the poor are healthy and well developed, while the rich are sick and degenerated. The poor enjoy better health as long as their poverty does not reach the point where they could not secure sufficient amounts of their traditional foods.
This process is not noticeable in America, the living conditions here being different from those in Europe.
A look into history shows the same. The proverbial strength and endurance of the soldiers of Napoleon contrasts sharply with the lack of these qualities in the French soldiers of today.
Only eighty years ago many parts of Europe could boast of men of Herculean statures, with deep chests, large lungs, broad shoulders, strong moustache and exceedingly hard teeth. No such men can be found in those countries today. With every generation their teeth get poorer, muscles weaker, moustache thinner, lungs and hearts smaller; in short, with every generation they are less well developed.
It is a well known fact–and this applies to America also– that our ancestors seldom suffered from degenerative diseases. Also childrens diseases were rarer with them. But they ate simpler foods and took them straight out of nature. By means of their instinct and experience they were able to find out what was correct in matter of foods, while we today succumb to many gastronomic temptations of our civilization and eat foods that are intended to flatter our palate, no matter how injurious they may be to our organism.
Observations of this kind, having convinced some clinicians that the cause of decline of civilized humanity lay in its foods, research other than chemical became necessary in order to discover the nature of the offending factors. These clinicians were not many and their era–called energetic era–was not long, but they deserve serious mention. For them the series of the five constituents of foods: proteins, carbohydrates, fats, mineral salts and water, as determined by the physiological chemists, was not complete. They added another constituent, namely: vital energy.
According to them this energy must animate every molecule of food materials, else we could live on coal and gasoline as well. Every type of food must contain it, else it is devitalized and cannot be assimilated. Chemical analysis cannot detect its presence, but life is proof of its existence and they hoped that some day they would be able to measure with instruments its amount and its quality. Its absolute or even relative absence in foods causes diseases either in a short time or only after years and decades and generations. Plants are builders and carriers of this energy which means that they are more than mere fuel material yielding calories.
They are vehicles for its transport into the animal cells, in which oxidation and other metabolic processes are possible only in its presence. A metabolic process in the animal cell can be compared with miniature lightning. There is no lightning between a cloud and the nearest spot on earth, if there is not enough difference in the electric potentials of the two. Likewise there is no metabolism in the animal cell, if there is no tension of the vital energy in the food on the one hand and if there is none in the protoplasm of the animal cell on the other, in other words, if there is no difference in the electric potentials of food and protoplasm.
Light, heat and chemicals destroy these potentials, that is, neutralize them. Time has the same effect. In culinary and industrial preparations of foods this destruction is carried to different degrees so that we never know the absolute value of such foods. If the vital energies in foods are deficient, metabolism will be deficient and will result in the formation of intermediary metabolic products in the tissues. These are for the most parts acids, whose action is toxic and, if they accumulate to such an extent that they cannot be eliminated, they produce diseases of toxic nature alimentary toxicosis. Gout and scurvy are two such toxicosis known for centuries.
These concepts were not quite new. A number of physicians and biologists of the past, such as Hippocrates, Sydenham, van Helmont, Chauffard, Claude Bernard, etc., had postulated the existence of imponderable energies in foods. Also Hahnemann may be mentioned here. His experience was that decoctions of plants are much less active than fresh plant juices, and he used only fresh juices for his potencies, but he did not suspect that foods could cause systemic troubles. The earliest humanity, centuries before Hippocrates, not only surmised, but had knowledge of the existence of this force and of the morbific effects of its lack in foods, as the ancient Greek mythology attests.
On the basis of these concepts together with personal experiences some clinicians developed empirical rules of alimentary hygiene and therapeutics, but it all remained confined to small groups of men.
Cooperation of the exact science of physics had to be secured, if one was to awaken interest for it in the profession at large. Notwithstanding, their work is of great practical importance and permanent value. Their era falls into the first decade of our century and, about the beginning of the World War, was suddenly interrupted by the discovery of vitamins.
Interest for vitamins spread all over the civilized world with unusual rapidity, almost as rapidly as the radio and movies. Though originally a medical discovery, biological chemists took up this science and inaugurated a research of unprecedented extent and activity. In the course of the last twenty years it has assumed such gigantic proportions that from a homoeopath you should not expect an infallible judgement of its clinical value and scientific importance. In its practical conclusions it has a number of points in common with the teachings of the energetic era, so much so that in the beginning many believed vitamins were only an expression of the vital energy.
Yet, the present pronouncement of biochemistry is that vitamins are substances and it disregards the opinion of so many wise medical men. It must astonish us that this science has not been able to elevate itself above the concepts of material substances and to perceive the energetic origin of life. It is obvious that many qualities ascribed to vitamins are only functions of the vital force. It seems that the metabolic vitamins are nothing but the vital force itself, while the more circumscribed vitamins, as the anti- infectious, growth-promoting and reproduction vitamins are animated with it, else the integrity of their function would suffer.
An animal sick with scurvy may well be cured from scurvy with synthetic vitamin C, but, if no change in food is made, it will die just the same and in the same lapse of time. Yet, if given fresh orange juice, it will not only be cured from scurvy, but also remain alive. The explanation of this discrepancy is that there is life force in orange juice and none in cevitamic acid or vitamin C. Direct sunlight or ultra violet rays exposure cures rickets without any correction in the customary diet or administration of industrial vitamins.
In admitting the cure of rickets by sunlight, vitaminologists unconsciously recognize the existence of this energy and its operation in the intracellular metabolism. If they consciously admitted this force, vitaminologists would avoid confusion and solve many problems which to this day have remained unsolved.
In spite of these defects, vitamin science deserves great credit for having incontrovertibly established the etiological connection between some constitutional diseases and certain foods which heretofore have been considered harmless. True, this is no new fact, but new is the firmness of its foundation as it can no longer be considered a speculation. Vitaminology has proved the existence and shown the cause of a great variety of degenerative diseases of organs and tissues which previously had been considered as one of the mysteries of pathology.
Rickets, scurvy, beriberi and pellagra are but the more pronounced of these diseases. Joint pathology and biochemical studies discovered also that subclinical forms of these diseases and combinations of two or more of them are exceedingly frequent. If to this we add disturbances of reproduction and increased susceptibility to infections, all recognized as caused by deficient foods, we can visualize the enormity of the scope and ambition of this new science.
Whoever compares the symptoms of psora as described in Hahnemanns Chronic Diseases with the symptoms of the different avitaminoses as given by vitaminologists, will soon notice that they belong to the same category of diseases with the only difference that Hahnemann gives many subjective and few objective symptoms, while vitaminologists describe only objective symptoms. He will also notice that the symptom picture of scabies, as we know it today, does not coincide with the symptom picture of psora nor of any of the avitaminoses.
In Hahnemanns time the acarus of scabies was unknown. So it happened that many skin diseases of unknown etiology, but exhibiting symptoms of itching, were diagnosed as scabies though they otherwise had nothing in common with it. No wonder then that Hahnemann also made the same mistake and confused this parasitic skin infestation with the pellagric form of avitaminosis.
Hahnemann, having observed that these skin troubles, wrongly diagnosed as scabies, were often accompanied by symptoms in other organs and tissues, attributed them all to one and the same cause, the toxins of scabies. So the theory of psora originated. We must admit that in those times nothing could have been more logical. Hahnemann did not suspect that these skin troubles were two different diseases; no one else did. To ridicule him for it today, would be as much as to reproach him for not having been a greater genius.
It is easy to reproduce experimentally that form of psora which Hahnemann describes. Dogs and cats living in apartments of high buildings in our large cities are frequently affected with it. The circumstances under which they live there resemble those of a physiological laboratory. They eat biscuits of meat and bread. The bread is poorly digested by these animals and ferments in their intestines causing acids. The devitalized meat starts the toxicosis and the acids of the intestinal fermentation precipitate the symptoms. If a cat is lucky enough to catch a mouse once in a while, it remains free from psora.
The dog also remains free or recovers quickly if given raw meat occasionally or a dose of Sulphur in potency. Miners in Nevada often live for long periods of time on meat, potatoes and gravy and develop a psora which responds promptly to both Sulphur and fresh vegetables. Smoked or well done meat, together with sauerkraut and whole wheat bread, are unfailing producers of it and these were the foods which Hahnemanns contemporaries ate most frequently, especially in winter time.
Another proof that Hahnemann failed to distinguish scabies from food deficiencies is the effect of the treatment. He cured skin manifestations of deficiencies with potencies of his remedies and thought he cured scabies. In the homoeopathic literature post-Hahnemann we find sufficient evidence that true scabies has never been cured with potencies of any homoeopathic remedy. Scabies is purely a local disease and can be cured only by local means.
Potentized Sulphur has never cured it, but crude sulphur, locally applied, always. For the most part potencies of our remedies do cure infestations by changing the soil in such a way that the parasitic cannot live in it, but the acarus of scabies seems to be an exception.
Some of you may object and say that Hahnemann did not mean to convey that scabies was at the basis of psora, but some other infection which penetrated through the skin into the system where it then lived indefinitely. On the contrary, Hahnemanns assertions are most emphatic in this respect and the text of his Chronic Diseases refutes any such objections most uneqivocally in two dozen places.
When Hahnemann thundered against the allopaths for treating psoric diseases locally, he was, of course, right and wrong. Right when treating avitaminoses, wrong when treating scabies. This led to arguments and conflicts. It was unavoidable, but we are sure that, were he here today, he would be the first to give up his psoric theory. He would have given it up even twenty years ago. Notwithstanding, today his description of psora is no less a valuable document in medical annals. Substitute in it the words food deficiencies for the word psora, and you have a most up-to- date clinical treaties on deficiencies.
Today, in this country, we rarely see a pure and fully developed avitaminosis, but we see many subclinical forms of hypovitaminosis. Consequently the modern term for psora would be hypovitaminosis, but–as we generally have to deal with a combination of several forms–the most correct term would be: polyhypovitaminosis or multiple alimentary deficiency.
In recent years orthodox medicine has treated this category of ailments with correction of diet or administration of industrial vitamins. As this method of treatment is much easier to learn than homoeopathy, some of you may well ask the question: “Why then slave ones life away with the study of homoeopathy?” To this the following experiment gives the answer. If a number of rats are fed on deficient foods, they will become sick.
If after about a week their diet is corrected, they will get well again. If, however, they are fed deficient foods for a much longer period, e.g., six months, they will not recover again, however correct their new diet. Long exposure to the damaging effects of deficient foods makes the lesions irreversible. The recuperating mechanism of the cells has suffered so much that even with the most proper foods or vitamins the cells cannot be aroused to proper functioning again.
This can be accomplished only with the indicated potentized homoeopathic remedy. Human ailments being of old standing for the most part or exacerbations of such, homoeopathy, with the easily available specific energies in its remedies, is by far the most efficient treatment. When the diet is not excessively faulty, the homoeopathic potencies may repair the damage even without any correction of diet. The cure then may be only temporary, that is of a few months or a few years, but it will always be permanent, if along with the remedy a proper diet is followed. Whether the remedy passes its vital force over to the cells which have not received enough of it from the foods or ionizes the protoplasm in the proper way, who knows?.
Deficiencies of foods, as explained before, are the primary causative agents of psoric maladies, but under certain conditions wholesome foods also may become such agents. Hippocrates had already given us an explanation of this fact. He says in substance: if man eats when his physical condition does not permit of good metabolism, that is, if he eats when indisposed, fatigued or weakened in any other way he will get sick. Therefore agents other than foods may contribute to the development of psora and must be counteracted by general hygienic prescription given together with the remedy and diet, all of which is in harmony with Hahnemanns teaching.
Here the term psoric has been used in the sense of avitaminotic. I think we should consider our great friend psora dead. We have every reason to give it a most solemn funeral. Let us be grateful for it! It has been a wonderful working hypothesis just as ether in astronomy and the molecule and atom in chemistry. Hahnemann never did call it a fact, he called it a theory. Let us admire his wisdom and modesty.
In the light, then, of our new insight into nutrition, psora cannot be an outcrop of some ancient miasmatic disease, but a constitution caused by devitaminized or, better to say, devitalized foods. Such foods are more or less toxic. Even the freshest foods may produce food toxins, if the digestive system or the intracellular metabolism are at fault. They thus contribute to the development of symptoms erroneously called psoric.
This makes the terms psora and miasm obsolete and if we should still use them in our writings, we would have to annex a glossary in which the terms would be given the new definitions. In so doing we shall avoid misunderstanding and derision. We must keep abreast with the times and use the language of the times. But if, conceited by the enormous superiority of our therapeutics, we should ignore the progress of the other medical branches, we would commit a serious mistake. No branch of medicine is so superior that it would not occasionally need help from another branch.
Now a few words about sycosis. According to Hahnemann sycosis is a figwart gonorrhoea. Others have defined it as a constitution in which the gonorrhoea toxins are especially injurious. Some think that sycosis is a gonorrhoea coupled with psora. Still others think that cowpox toxins may cause it too. For the most part reporters of sycotic cases seem to convey the impression that they believe sycosis to be suppressed gonorrhoea. Recently, French homoeopaths defined it as a precancerous constitution which is exact, but does not tell anything about its origin and which has been known in America for over fifty years.
Considering the fact that many sycotic patients have never suffered from gonorrhoea nor have their ascendants, sycosis cannot be gonorrhoea of any form. It can only be a constitution whose characteristic is that it is aggravated by gonorrhoea or made manifest by it when latent. Its etiology is that of psora. In reality it is a subspecies of psora caused by some special food toxins or by faults in digestion or metabolism. Its right to homoeopathic citizenship comes from facilities for grouping symptoms and remedies which it affords.
Industrial vitamins are useful only in animal experiments or in early stages of human avitaminoses, but being merely extracts of foods, they cannot do more than natural foods themselves, and much less when synthetic. In cases of old standing they are useless because such ailments are irreversible except by homoeopathy. In cases with low vitality or high sensitiveness they have often been found harmful. After an initial false stimulation they have caused irreparable damage.
Nevertheless, vitamin science has been of some value from the practical standpoint also. It has shown the necessity of nutritional studies and has propagated better eating habits. Homoeopathy is helped by correct eating and we are grateful for all help no matter what its source.