Ellis Barker J
By AN OLD DOCTOR.
I HAD studied medicine in the orthodox way, had passed the usual examinations, and had established myself; and I treated my patients as well as I knew how to, trying honestly and conscientiously to benefit them. I worked in accordance with the methods described in the text books. I diagnosed every case which came to me as well as I could, and then applied the orthodox text book treatment.
Allopathic treatment is very easy to learn. After a little time, orthodox treatment becomes an easy routine. I had a few stock remedies and mixtures which, with slight variations, suited almost every case. If a patient came to me suffering from anaemia, he was given Iron, or Iron and Quinine, or Iron and Arsenic; if he complained about his digestion he was given Bismuth or Bicarbonate of Soda, or a mixture containing these remedies, possibly with a stomach tonic added; if he complained about sleeplessness I gave Bromide of Potassium; if he had fever I prescribed Quinine; if he had some skin trouble there were various ointments.
Treatment was ridiculously easy and I could work speedily, deal with the case in a few minutes, and I was perfectly satisfied with the financial results of my activity. However, I was less satisfied with the all-important curative results. I noticed that many patients did not get better when the remedy indicated in the text books was given. I took my failures deeply to heart and was wondering whether it was not possible to apply some different form of treatment whereby my failures would be changed into successes.
I was standing in front of an old book shop and was glancing at the titles before me. My eye caught the inscription The Prescriber. I took it up. It was quite a little volume which one could slip into ones pocket. The author was Dr. John H. Clarke. Turning over a few leaves, I discovered an alphabetical list of diseases and the commendation of various remedies of which I had never heard. My curiosity was aroused. I bought the little volume for a few shillings, took it with me, and looked up the treatment recommended for two or three of my patients whom I had tried in vain to benefit and who gave me much concern.
Their sufferings and my helplessness haunted me wherever I went. I noticed that the author of the little book was a homoeopath. In the clearest and plainest language, and without any attempt at self- advertisement, he recommended such and such treatment for apparently incurable heart disease, and for other diseases which I was unable to handle successfully. The doses recommended were ridiculously small, a millionth of a grain for this complaint, a billionth of a grain for that complaint, a trillionth of a grain for something else, a tenth of a grain or a whole grain for this and that. The man had obviously an open mind and was transparently honest. In a preface devoid of hard medical terms he told his readers why homoeopathy was better than orthodox medical treatment and how to use the various remedies.
Remembering some of my failures of the past and being very anxious about some of my patients whom I was treating in vain at the time, I resolved to give homoeopathy a trial. After all, the ridiculously small doses recommended could not possibly do any harm. If they should do good, I should bless the author of the little book and the new science of healing. I went to a homoeopathic chemist, bought a few remedies recommended by Dr. Clarke which I wished to test in some of the cases which worried me greatly, and applied them, doubting, of course, the efficacy of drugs given in infinitely small quantities.
To my amazement some of my patients whom I had treated in vain for a considerable time not only recovered completely, but they recovered in an incredibly short time. The thing was a miracle. Was it due to suggestion, coincidence, or to the power of the infinitely small? Only further experimentation could tell. I tried homoeopathy again and again and Dr. Clarkes Prescriber proved its sterling worth to me. I resolved to study homoeopathy seriously, for I was not satisfied to act mechanically, guided by a little emergency manual.
Homoeopathy is not as easy as it seems. I soon discovered that the new art of healing requires vast knowledge, constant study, great discrimination. I discovered that there were many causes for anaemia, indigestion, sleeplessness, etc., that every type of disease required special treatment, a special remedy, that the type of patient had to be considered in the selection of the remedy, whether he was dark and irascible or fair and phlegmatic, that every symptom, down to the smallest, had its importance in selecting the right homoeopathic remedy. It happened in this way. I was called to a patient suffering from pneumonia.
As I happened to come across one or two homoeopathic doctors I asked one of them to accompany me to the pneumonia case, for I wished to see how he would handle it. The homoeopath not only made the orthodox examination with a clinical thermometer, stethoscope, etc., but he pointed out to me that the breathing of the patient was very rapid but difficult and oppressed, that he had a sense of weakness in the chest, that he was worse lying on the left side, better when lying on his back, that he had a rusty expectoration, that the whole body trembled when he coughed, and that he was thirsting for ice-cold water which, as a rule, was vomited as soon as it had got warm in his stomach.
An allopath would have disregarded some of the symptoms to which my homoeopathic friend drew my attention. He said to me that inability to lie on the left side, desire for cold drink which is vomited when it gets warm, and the rusty expectoration, indicate Phosphorus, that Phosphorus produces in large doses lung conditions similar to those observed in the patient: inability to lie on the left side, desire for cold drink, vomited when it gets warm in the stomach, etc. In fact, he said the craving for cold drink which is vomited later on is a leading symptom of Phosphorus and is so strong an indication that Phosphorus must be given.
An infinitely small quantity of Phosphorus recommended by my friend was given and in three days the patient was out of danger. I found that there were other forms of pneumonia, that each set of pneumonia symptoms required a different remedy, and that the principal thing to do was to observe certain apparently insignificant but highly characteristic symptoms which would indicate a remedy likely to produce a cure.
I resolved to study homoeopathy thoroughly. I attended lectures at the Homoeopathic Hospital given by Dr._______, who coached me and others with a kindly thoroughness for which I shall always be grateful. Wherever I went I was made welcome by homoeopathic doctors, who were only too glad to teach me all I wished to know. I was recommended to study the Materia Medica of homoeopathy and to familiarise myself with the characteristics of every drug, so that I should know at a glance what remedy might be needed. There are, for instance, the restlessness of Arsenicum, fever with a dry skin and fear of death which indicate Aconitum, fever with perspiration, throbbing arteries, a burning skin and a hot head pointing to Belladonna, and so forth and so on.
I began to study Dr. James Tyler Kents book, Lectures on Homoeopathic Philosophy, a very thoughtful volume which explains the whys and the wherefores of treatment to the student. I became fascinated by that book and by Dr. John H. Clarkes Materia Medica in three volumes, and literally studied them day and night. A busy doctor has little time for regular study. Homoeopathic books were at the side of my plate while eating, at my bedside, were in my hands when I was driving from one patient to the other, and by ardent and unremitting study I atlast, to an extent, mastered the great science of healing which has been a blessing to my patients.
When I began to treat my patients homoeopathically, a doubt arose in my mind as to the consequences. Fifty years ago patients were dosed with large quantities of medicine. They received big bottles of highly coloured, strongly tasting mixtures, boxes of pills and powders, etc. They were used to these, and the question arose whether they would turn against me if I gave them, instead of their accustomed drugs, a few tiny pilules tasting only of sugar. I took my chance and I have never regretted it.
My patients had the good sense to realise that the only important thing is to get cured. They noticed very quickly that they fared better under the new treatment than under the old, and I am glad to say that I did not lose a single patient through having taken up homoeopathy.
At first, of course, the homoeopath spends an enormous amount of time over each case. He wishes to fit the principal or all the disease symptoms of the patient with a remedy which has produced the identical symptoms in provers who have taken the drug experimentally. Instead of handing a patient a tonic, or a laxative, or a sedative, without using his brains, he has to study hard and search books until he discovers that the sick man before him needs a tiny dose of Nux vomica, or Sulphur, or Natrum muriaticum. In course of time the observant prescriber begins to know much of his Materia Medica by heart. A fair-haired, blue- eyed, pasty-skinned girl comes into ones consulting room.
She is chilly but cannot bear the heat; complains about menstrual trouble, indigestion; and she cannot digest fat, in fact loathes it. A sympathetic question or two causes her to weep. The girl is a typical Pulsatilla case. That is clear to a good homoeopath when she entered the door. A swarthy man, with dark hair, dark eyes, looking irascible and smelling of tobacco, sits down at my desk. Before he has opened his mouth I know he needs Nux vomica. A patient enters our room. He is sallow-faced, skin looks unwashed, he stoops badly, his hand is moist, and immediately we think of Sulphur. In innumerable cases the homoeopath can prescribe at sight and can therefore prescribe far more quickly than the orthodox doctor.
Of course the beginner cannot spot the right remedy instantaneously. Considerable experience is required. One has to get thoroughly familiar with the peculiarities of numerous remedies. One has to learn the ropes, so to speak. The beginner has to discover the indicated remedy in a somewhat laborious roundabout fashion, which, however, must not deter him, for he will be wonderfully rewarded for the labour of half an hour or so by the most amazing cures which will give him confidence in homoeopathy, and which will gain for him the confidence of his patients. I would describe, by a practical example, the way in which one selects the remedy if one is not thoroughly familiar with the Materia Medica.
I was called to a patient, a woman, aged forty-five, who complained about the following symptoms which, in accordance with Hahnemanns teaching, I immediately wore down at the bedside: Tearing, violent, unendurable pains in the limbs; pains worse at night, especially when getting warm in bed; sour sweat when in bed; very irritable and complaining and apparently unreasonable; fever; restlessness. The obvious diagnosis was acute rheumatism. A beginner could not fail to recognise the name of the complaint, and it would immediately occur to him that the salicylates are usually given for rheumatism by orthodox practitioners. However, the name of the disease is of no particular interest to the homoeopath. His principal anxiety is not to ascertain the official name of the disease, but to find the curative remedy.
If the mental symptoms are prominently marked, as they were in the case mentioned, they should be given first place because Hahnemann has told us that the mental symptoms are most important and the experience of a century has confirmed his view.
There are large text books containing all the symptoms which are ranged under headings such as mind, head, eyes, ears, abdomen, and so forth. The best of these is probably Kents Repertory. In turning to the Repertory, I found under the heading irritability a number of drugs, among which I noted Chamomilla, which was prominently given in large print, being a very important irritability remedy.
The lady complained about her troubles being much worse at night than in the daytime. In the best repertories there is a heading showing the drugs which should be used for night aggravation. Among these I found once more Chamomilla in large type.
Under the heading “Pain” there is a collection of remedies in the Repertory in which the various pains are classified under headings such as Burning, Pressing, Stabbing, etc. The lady had complained about tearing, violent and unendurable pains. I turned to that entry and found once more Chamomilla prominently mentioned in big type.
The patient had also complained about sour sweat when in bed. The symptom repertory gave for this a number of drugs, among them Chamomilla in large type. The next symptom which I had put down was “Worse from warmth.” Under the heading “Aggravation from Warmth” a considerable number of drugs was mentioned, among them once more Chamomilla.
When the beginner, who is not yet thoroughly familiar with the character of the principal drugs, has made this analysis, he must not blindly give Chamomilla or whatever drugs he has found by studying the repertory, but he must turn to a good Materia Medica to ascertain whether his diagnosis is confirmed in the Materia Medica. Boerickes Pocket Materia Medica states under the heading “Chamomilla”:.
The chief guiding symptoms of Chamomilla belong to the mental and emotion group which lead to this remedy in many forms of disease. Chamomilla is sensitive, irritable, thirsty, hot and numb. Pains unendurable. Night sweats. Impatient, intolerant, spiteful, snappish. Mental calmness contra-indicates Chamomilla. Worse by heat and at night. A disposition that is mild, calm and gentle contra-indicates Chamomilla.
Being firmly convinced that Chamomilla was the indicated remedy, I gave the patient Chamomilla, ordinary Chamomilla, in the 30th potency, and a few doses led to a rapid recovery. I should have given any patient Chamomilla with the marked symptoms enumerated above, whatever the name of the disease. If it had been not a case of rheumatism but a case of bronchitis, violent diarrhoea, heart disease, earache, indigestion, headache, menstrual troubles, neuralgia, or anything else, Chamomilla would have been indicated and would have cured.
When I started on my career, I laboriously worked up case after case in the manner described until the principal remedies became to me like familiar friends with well-known faces. As soon as one has arrived at the necessary familiarity, one asks a few questions and then one decides at once that the patient needs Aconite, Belladonna, Bryonia, Chamomilla, etc. Very frequently one can make the decision without a single question, and one amazes the patient by the rapidity with which one decides and cures a case which has been considered absolutely incurable by excellent orthodox doctors.