This essay was presented as two lectures to the Boston Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge in 1842 and was reproduced in Examining Holistic Medicine (Prometheus Books, 1985). The author achieved prominence as a physician, poet, and humorist. His son, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., became a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
It is necessary, for the sake of those to whom the whole subject may be new, to give in the smallest possible compass the substance of the Homeopathic Doctrine. Samuel Hahnemann, its founder, is a German physician, now living in Paris, at the age of eighty-seven years. In 1796 he published the first paper containing his peculiar notions; in 1805 his first work on the subject; in 1810 his somewhat famous “Organon of the Healing Art;” the next year what he called the “Pure Materia Medica;” and in 1828 his last work, the “Treatise on Chronic Diseases.” He has therefore been writing at intervals on his favorite subject for nearly half a century. [Hahnemann died in 1843.]
The one great doctrine which constitutes the basis of Homeopathy as a system is expressed by the Latin aphorism,
“SIMILIA SIMILIBUS CURANTUR,”
or like cures like, that is, diseases are cured by agents capable of producing symptoms resembling those found in the disease under treatment. A disease for Hahnemann consists essentially in a group of symptoms. The proper medicine for any disease is the one which is capable of producing a similar group of symptoms when given to a healthy person.
It is of course necessary to know what are the trains of symptoms excited by different substances, when administered to persons in health, if any such can be shown to exist. Hahnemann and his disciples give catalogues of the symptoms which they affirm were produced upon themselves or others by a large number of drugs which they submitted to experiment.
The second great fact which Hahnemann professes to have established is the efficacy of medicinal substances reduced to a wonderful degree of minuteness or dilution. The following account of his mode of preparing his medicines is from his work on Chronic Diseases, which has not, I believe, yet been translated into English. A grain of the substance, if it is solid, a drop if it is liquid, is to be added to about a third part of one hundred grains of sugar of milk in an unglazed porcelain capsule which has had the polish removed from the lower part of its cavity by rubbing it with wet sand; they are to be mingled for an instant with a bone or horn spatula, and then rubbed together for six minutes; then the mass is to be scraped together from the mortar and pestle, which is to take four minutes; then to be again rubbed for six minutes. Four minutes are then to be devoted to scraping the powder into a heap, and the second third of the hundred grains of sugar of milk to be added. Then they are to be stirred an instant and rubbed six minutes, again to be scraped together four minutes and forcibly rubbed six; once more scraped together for four minutes, when the last third of the hundred grains of sugar of milk is to be added and mingled by stirring with the spatula; six minutes of forcible rubbing, four of scraping together, and six more (positively the last six) of rubbing, finish this part of the process.
Every grain of this powder contains the hundredth of a grain of the medicinal substance mingled with the sugar of milk. If, therefore, a grain of the powder just prepared is mingled with another hundred grains of sugar of milk, and the process just described repeated, we shall have a powder of which every grain contains the hundredth of the hundredth, or the ten thousandth part of a’ grain of the medicinal substance. Repeat the same process with the same quantity of fresh sugar of milk, and every grain of your powder will contain the millionth of a grain of the medicinal substance. When the powder is of this strength, it is ready to employ in the further solutions and dilutions to be made use of in practice.
A grain of the powder is to be taken, a hundred drops of alcohol are to be poured on it, the vial is to be slowly turned for a few minutes, until the powder is dissolved, and two shakes are to be given to it. On this point I will quote Hahnemann’s own words. “A long experience and multiplied observations upon the sick lead me within the last few years to prefer giving only two shakes to medicinal liquids, whereas I formerly used to give ten.” The process of dilution is carried on in the same way as the attenuation of the powder was done; each successive dilution with alcohol reducing the medicine to a hundredth part of the quantity of that which preceded it. In this way the dilution of the original millionth of a grain of medicine contained in the grain of powder operated on is carried successively to the billionth, trillionth, quadrillionth, quintillionth, and very often much higher fractional divisions. A dose of any of these medicines is a minute fraction of a drop, obtained by moistening with them one or more little globules of sugar, of which Hahnemann says it takes about two hundred to weigh a grain.
As an instance of the strength of the medicines prescribed by Hahnemann, I will mention carbonate of lime. He does not employ common chalk, but prefers a little portion of the friable part of an oyster-shell. Of this substance, carried to the sextillionth degree, so much as one or two globules of the size mentioned can convey is a common dose. But for persons of very delicate nerves it is proper that the dilution should be carried to the decillionth degree. That is, an important medicinal effect is to be expected from the two hundredth or hundredth part of the millionth of the millionth of the millionth of the millionth of the millionth of the millionth of the millionth of the millionth of the millionth of the millionth of a grain of oyster-shell. This is only the tenth degree of potency, but some of his disciples profess to have obtained palpable effects from much higher dilutions.
The degrees of DILUTION must not be confounded with those of POTENCY. Their relations may be seen by this table:
1st dilution—One hundredth of a drop or grain.
2d dilution—One ten thousandth.
3d dilution—One millionth.—marked I.
4th dilution—One hundred millionth.
5th dilution—One ten thousand millionth.
6th dilution—One millionth millionth, or one billionth—marked II.
7th dilution—One hundred billionth.
8th dilution—One ten thousand billionth.
9th dilution—One million billionth, or one trillionth—marked III.
10th dilution—One hundred trillionth.
11th dilution—One ten thousand trillionth.
12th dilution—One million trillionth, or one quadrillionth—marked IV.—and so on indefinitedly.
The large figures denote the degrees of POTENCY.
The third great doctrine of Hahnemann is the following. Seven eighths at least of all chronic diseases are produced by the existence in the system of that infectious disorder known in the language of science by the appellation of PSORA, but to the less refined portion of the community by the name of ITCH. in the words of Hahnemann’s “Organon,” “This Psora is the sole true and fundamental cause that produces all the other countless forms of disease, which, under the names of nervous debility, hysteria, hypochondriasis, insanity, melancholy, idiocy, madness, epilepsy, and spasms of all kinds, softening of the bones, or rickets, scoliosis and cyphosis, caries, cancer, fungus haematodes, gout—yellow jaundice and cyanosis, dropsy—gastralgia, epistaxis, haemoptysis—asthma and suppuration of the lungs—megrim, deafness, cataract and amaurosis—paralysis, loss of sense, pains of every kind, etc., appear in our pathology as so many peculiar, distinct, and independent diseases.”
For the last three centuries, if the same authority may be trusted, under the influence of the more refined personal habits which have prevailed, and the application of various external remedies which repel the affection from the skin, Psora has revealed itself in these numerous forms of internal disease, instead of appearing, as in former periods, under the aspect of an external malady.
These are the three cardinal doctrines of Hahnemann, as laid down in those standard works of Homeopathy, the “Organon” and the “Treatise on Chronic Diseases.”
Several other principles may be added, upon all of which he insists with great force, and which are very generally received by his disciples.
1. Very little power is allowed to the curative efforts of nature. Hahnemann goes so far as to say that no one has ever seen the simple efforts of nature effect the durable recovery of a patient from a chronic disease. In general, the Homeopathist calls every recovery which happens under his treatment a cure.
2. Every medicinal substance must be administered in a state of the most perfect purity, and uncombined with any other. The union of several remedies in a single prescription destroys its utility, and, according to the “Organon,” frequently adds a new disease.
3. A large number of substances commonly thought to be inert develop great medicinal powers when prepared in the manner already described; and a great proportion of them are ascertained to have specific antidotes in case their excessive effects require to be neutralized.
4. Diseases should be recognized, as far as possible, not by any of the common names imposed upon them, as fever or epilepsy, but as individual collections of symptoms, each of which differs from every other collection.
5. The symptoms of any complaint must be described with the most minute exactness, and so far as possible in the patient’s own words. To illustrate the kind of circumstances the patient is expected to record, I will mention one or two from the 313th page of the “Treatise on Chronic Diseases,” —being the first one at which I opened accidentally.
“After dinner, disposition to sleep; the patient winks.”
“After dinner, prostration and feeling of weakness (nine days after taking the remedy).”
This remedy was that same oyster-shell which is to be prescribed in fractions of the sextillionth or decillionth degree. According to Hahnemann, the action of a single dose of the size mentioned does not fully display itself in some cases until twenty-four or even thirty days after it is taken, and in such instances has not exhausted its good effects until towards the fortieth or fiftieth day,-before which time it would be absurd and injurious to administer a new remedy.
So much for the doctrines of Hahnemann, which have been stated without comment, or exaggeration of any of their features, very much as any adherent of his opinions might have stated them, if obliged to compress them into so narrow a space.
Does Hahnemann himself represent Homeopathy as it now exists? He certainly ought to be its best representative, after having created it, and devoted his life to it for half a century. He is spoken of as the great physician of the time, in most, if not all Homeopathic works. If he is not authority on the subject of his own doctrines, who is? So far as I am aware, not one tangible discovery in the so-called science has ever been ascribed to any other observer, at least, no general principle or law, of consequence enough to claim any prominence in Homeopathic works, has ever been pretended to have originated with any of his illustrious disciples. He is one of the only two Homeopathic writers with whom, as I shall mention, the Paris publisher will have anything to do with upon his own account. The other is Jahr, whose Manual is little more than a catalogue of symptoms and remedies. If any persons choose to reject Hahnemann as not in the main representing Homeopathy, if they strike at his authority, if they wink out of sight his deliberate and formally announced results, it is an act of suicidal rashness; for upon his sagacity and powers of observation, and experience, as embodied in his works, and especially in his Materia, Medica, repose the foundations of Homeopathy as a practical system.
So far as I can learn from the conflicting statements made upon the subject, the following is the present condition of belief:
1. All of any note agree that the law Similia similibus is the only fundamental principle in medicine. Of course if any man does not agree to this the name Homeopathist can no longer be applied to him with propriety.
2. The belief in and employment of the infinitesimal doses is general, and in some places universal, among the advocates of Homeopathy; but a distinct movement has been made in Germany to get rid of any restriction to the use of these doses, and to employ medicines with the same license as other practitioners.
3. The doctrine of the origin of most chronic diseases in Psora, notwithstanding Hahnemann says it cost him twelve years of study and research to establish the fact and its practical consequences, has met with great neglect and even opposition from very many of his own disciples.
It is true, notwithstanding, that, throughout most of their writings which I have seen, there runs a prevailing tone of great deference to Hahnemann’s opinions, a constant reference to his authority, a general agreement with the minor points of his belief, and a pretense of harmonious union in a common faith. [Those who will take the trouble to look over Hull’s Translation of Jahr’s Manual may observe how little comparative space is given to remedies resting upon any other authority than that of Hahnemann.]
* * *
The three great asserted discoveries of Hahnemann are entirely unconnected with and independent of each other. Were there any natural relation between them it would seem probable enough that the discovery of the first would have led to that of the others. But assuming it to be a fact that diseases are cured by remedies capable of producing symptoms like their own, no manifest relation exists between this fact and the next assertion, namely, the power of the infinitesimal doses. And allowing both these to be true, neither has the remotest affinity to the third new doctrine, that which declares seven eighths of an chronic diseases to be owing to Psora.
* * *
Let us look a moment at the first of his doctrines. Improbable though it may seem to some, there is no essential absurdity involved in the proposition that diseases yield to remedies capable of producing like symptoms. There are, on the other hand, some analogies which lend a degree of plausibility to the statement. There are well-ascertained facts, known from the earliest periods of medicine, showing that, under certain circumstances, the very medicine which, from its known effects, one would expect to aggravate the disease, may contribute to its relief. I may be permitted to allude, in the most general way, to the case in which the spontaneous efforts of an overtasked stomach are quieted by the agency of a drug which that organ refuses to entertain upon any terms. But that every cure ever performed by medicine should have been founded upon this principle, although without the knowledge of a physician; that the Homeopathic axiom is, as Hahnemann asserts, “the sole law of nature in therapeutics,” a law of which nothing more than a transient glimpse ever presented itself to the innumerable host of medical observers, is a dogma of such sweeping extent, and pregnant novelty, that it demands a corresponding breadth and depth of unquestionable facts to cover its vast pretensions.
So much ridicule has been thrown upon the pretended powers of the minute doses that I shall only touch upon this point for the purpose of conveying, by illustrations, some shadow of ideas far transcending the powers of the imagination to realize. It must be remembered that these comparisons are not matters susceptible of dispute, being founded on simple arithmetical computations, level to the capacity of any intelligent schoolboy. A person who once wrote a very small pamphlet made some show of objecting to calculations of this kind, on the ground that the highest dilutions could easily be made with a few ounces of alcohol. But he should have remembered that at every successive dilution he lays aside or throws away ninety-nine hundredths of the fluid on which he is operating, and that, although he begins with a drop, he only prepares a millionth, billionth, trillionth, and similar fractions of it, all of which, added together, would constitute but a vastly minute portion of the drop with which he began. But now let us suppose we take one single drop of the Tincture of Camomile, and that the whole of this were to be carried through the common series of dilutions.
A calculation nearly like the following was made by Dr. Panvini, and may be readily followed in its essential particulars by any one who chooses.
For the first dilution it would take 100 drops of alcohol.
For the second dilution it would take 10,000 drops, or about a pint.
For the third dilution it would take 100 pints.
For the fourth dilution it would take 10,000 pints, or more than 1,000 gallons, and so on to the ninth dilution, which would take ten billion gallons, which he computed would fill the basin of Lake Agnano, a body of water two miles in circumference. The twelfth dilution would of course fill a million such lakes. By the time the seventeenth degree of dilution should be reached, the alcohol required would equal in quantity the waters of ten thousand Adriatic seas. Trifling errors must be expected, but they are as likely to be on one side as the other, and any little matter like Lake Superior or the Caspian would be but a drop in the bucket.
Swallowers of globules, one of your little pellets, moistened in the mingled waves of one million lakes of alcohol, each two miles in circumference, with which had been blended that one drop of Tincture of Camomile, would be of precisely the strength recommended for that medicine in your favorite Jahr’s Manual, against the most sudden, frightful, and fatal diseases! [In the French edition of 1834, the proper doses of the medicines are mentioned, and Camomile is marked IV. Why are the doses omitted in Hull’s Translation, except in three instances out of the whole two hundred remedies, notwithstanding the promise in the preface that -some remarks upon the doses used may be found at the head of each medicine”? Possibly because it makes no difference whether they are employed in one Homoeopathic dose or another; but then it is very singular that such precise directions were formerly given in the same work, and that Hahnemann’s “experience” should have led him to draw the nice distinctions we have seen in a former part of this Lecture.]
And proceeding on the common data, I have just made a calculation which shows that this single drop of Tincture of Camomile, given in the quantity ordered by Jahr’s Manual, would have supplied every individual of the whole human family, past and present, with more than five billion doses each, the action of each dose lasting about four days.
Yet this is given only at the quadrillionth, or fourth degree of potency, and various substances are frequently administered at the decillionth or tenth degree, and occasionally at still higher attenuations with professed medicinal results. is there not in this as great an exception to all the hitherto received laws of nature as in the miracle of the loaves and fishes? Ask this question of a Homeopathist, and he will answer by referring to the effects produced by a very minute portion of vaccine matter, or the extraordinary diffusion of odors. But the vaccine matter is one of those substances called morbid poisons, of which it is a peculiar character to multiply themselves, when introduced into the system, as a seed does in the soil. Therefore the hundredth part of a grain of the vaccine matter, if no more than this is employed, soon increases in quantity, until, in the course of about a week, it is a grain or more, and can be removed in considerable drops. And what is a very curious illustration of Homeopathy, it does not produce its most characteristic effects until it is already in sufficient quantity not merely to be visible, but to be collected for further use. The thoughtlessness which can allow an inference to be extended from a product of disease possessing this susceptibility of multiplication when conveyed into the living body, to substances of inorganic origin, such as silex or sulphur, would be capable of arguing that a pebble may produce a mountain, because an acorn can become a forest.
As to the analogy to be found between the alleged action of the infinitely attenuated doses, and the effects of some odorous substances which possess the extraordinary power of diffusing their imponderable emanations through a very wide space, however it may be abused in argument, and rapidly as it evaporates on examination, it is not like that just mentioned, wholly without meaning. The fact of the vast diffusion of some odors, as that of musk or the rose, for instance, has long been cited as the most remarkable illustration of the divisibility of matter, and the nicety of the senses. And if this were compared with the effects of a very minute dose of morphia on the whole system, or the sudden and fatal impression of a single drop of prussic acid, or, with what comes still nearer, the poisonous influence of an atmosphere impregnated with invisible malaria, we should find in each of these examples an evidence of the degree to which nature, in some few instances, concentrates powerful qualities in minute or subtile forms of matter. But if a man comes to me with a pestle and mortar in his hand, and tells me that he will take a little speck of some substance which nobody ever thought to have any smell at all, as, for instance, a grain of chalk or of charcoal, and that he will, after an hour or two of rubbing and scraping, develop in a portion of it an odor which, if the whole grain were used, would be capable of pervading an apartment, a house, a village, a province, an empire, nay, the entire atmosphere of this broad planet upon which we tread, and that from each of fifty or sixty substances he can in this way develop a distinct and hitherto unknown odor; and if he tries to show that all this is rendered quite reasonable by the analogy of musk and roses, I shall certainly be justified in considering him incapable of reasoning, and beyond the reach of my argument. what if, instead of this, he professes to develop new and wonderful medicinal powers from the same speck of chalk or charcoal, in such proportions as would impregnate every pond, lake, river, sea, and ocean of our globe, and appeals to the same analogy in favor of the probability of his assertion.
All this may be true, notwithstanding these considerations. But so extraordinary would be the fact, that a single atom of substances which a child might swallow without harm by the teaspoonful could, by an easy mechanical process, be made to develop such inconceivable powers, that nothing but the strictest agreement of the most cautious experimenters, secured by every guaranty that they were honest and faithful, appealing to repeated experiments in public, with every precaution to guard against error, and with the most plain and peremptory results, should induce us to lend any credence to such pretensions.
The third doctrine, that Psora, the other name of which you remember, is the cause of the great majority of chronic diseases, is a startling one, to say the least. That an affection always recognized as a very unpleasant personal companion, but generally regarded as a mere temporary incommodity, readily yielding to treatment in those unfortunate enough to suffer from it, and hardly known among the better classes of society, should be all at once found out by a German physician to be the great scourge of mankind, the cause of their severest bodily and mental calamities, cancer and consumption, idiocy and madness, must excite our unqualified surprise. And when the originator of this singular truth ascribes, as in this page now open before me, the declining health of a disgraced courtier, the chronic malady of a bereaved mother, even the melancholy of the love-sick and slighted maiden, to nothing more nor less than the insignificant, unseemly, and almost unmentionable ITCH, does it not seem as if the very soil upon which we stand were dissolving into chaos, over the earthquake-heaving of discovery?
And when one man claims to have established these three independent truths, which are about as remote from each other as the discovery of the law of gravitation, the invention of printing, and that of the mariner’s compass, unless the facts in their favor are overwhelming and unanimous, the question naturally arises, Is not this man deceiving himself, or trying to deceive others?
I proceed to examine the proofs of the leading ideas of Hahnemann and his school.
In order to show the axiom, similia similibus curantur (or like is cured by like), to be the basis of the healing art—”the sole law of nature in therapeutics”—it is necessary—
- That the symptoms produced by drugs in healthy persons should be faithfully studied and recorded.
- That drugs should be shown to be always capable of curing those, diseases most like their own symptoms.
- That remedies should be shown not to cure diseases when they do not produce symptoms resembling those presented in these diseases.
1. The effects of drugs upon healthy persons have been studied by Hahnemann and his associates. Their results were made known in his Materia Medica, a work in three large volumes in the French translation, published about eight years ago. The mode of experimentation appears to have been, to take the substance on trial, either in common or minute doses, and then to set down every little sensation, every little movement of mind or body, which occurred within many succeeding hours or days, as being produced solely by the substance employed. When I have enumerated some of the symptoms attributed to the power of the drugs taken, you will be able to judge how much value is to be ascribed to the assertions of such observers.
The following list was taken literally from the Materia Medica of Hahnemann, by my friend M. Vernois, for whose accuracy I am willing to be responsible. He has given seven pages of these symptoms, not selected, but taken at hazard from the French translation of the work. I shall be very brief in my citations.
“After stooping some time, sense of painful weight about the head upon resuming the erect posture.”
“An itching, tickling sensation at the outer edge of the palm of the left hand, which obliges the person to scratch.” The medicine was acetate of lime, and as the action of the globule taken is said to last twenty-eight days, you may judge how many such symptoms as the last might be supposed to happen.
Among the symptoms attributed to muriatic acid are these: a catarrh, sighing, pimples; “after having written a long time with the back a little bent over, violent pain in the back and shoulder-blades, as if from a strain,”—”dreams which are not remembered—disposition to mental dejection—wakefulness before and after midnight.”
I might extend this catalogue almost indefinitely. I have not cited these specimens with any view to exciting a sense of the ridiculous, which many others of those mentioned would not fail to do, but to show that the common accidents of sensation, the little bodily inconveniences to which all of us are subject, are seriously and systematically ascribed to whatever medicine may have been exhibited, even in the minute doses I have mentioned, whole days or weeks previously.
To these are added all the symptoms ever said by anybody, whether deserving confidence or not, as I shall hereafter illustrate, to be produced by the substance in question.
The effects of sixty-four medicinal substances, ascertained by one or both of these methods, are enumerated in the Materia Medica of Hahnemann, which May be considered as the basis of practical Homeopathy. In the Manual of Jahr, which is the common guide, so far as I know, of those who practise Homeopathy in these regions, two hundred remedies are enumerated, many Of which, however, have never been employed in practice. In at least one edition there were no means of distinguishing those which had been tried upon the sick from the others. It is true that marks have been added in the edition employed here, which serve to distinguish them; but what are we to think of a standard practical author on Materia Medica, who at one time omits to designate the proper doses of his remedies, and at another to let us have any means of knowing whether a remedy has ever been tried or not, while he is recommending its employment in the most critical and threatening diseases?
I think that, from what I have shown of the character of Hahnemann’s experiments, it would be a satisfaction to any candid inquirer to know whether other persons, to whose assertions he could look with confidence, confirm these pretended facts. Now there are many individuals, long and well known to the scientific world, who have tried these experiments upon healthy subjects, and utterly deny that their effects have at all corresponded to Hahnemann’s assertions.
I will take, for instance, the statements of Andral (and I am not referring to his well-known public experiments in his hospital) as to the result of his own trials. This distinguished physician is Professor of Medicine in the School of Paris, and one of the most widely known and valued authors upon practical and theoretical subjects the profession can claim in any country. He is a man of great kindness of character, a most liberal eclectic by nature and habit, of unquestioned integrity, and is called, in the leading article of the fast number of the “Homeopathic Examiner,” “an eminent and very enlightened allopathist.” Assisted by a number of other persons in good health, he experimented on the effects of cinchona, aconite, sulphur, arnica, and the other most highly extolled remedies. His experiments lasted a year, and he stated publicly to the Academy of Medicine that they never produced the slightest appearance of the symptoms attributed to them. The results of a man like this, so extensively known as one of the most philosophical and candid, as well as brilliant of instructors, and whose admirable abilities and signal liberality are generally conceded, ought to be of great weight in deciding the question.
M. Double, a well-known medical writer and a physician of high standing in Paris, had occasion so long ago as 1801, before he had heard of Homeopathy, to make experiments upon Cinchona, or Peruvian bark. He and several others took the drug in every kind of dose for four months, and the fever it is pretended by Hahnemann to excite never was produced.
M. Bonnet, President of the Royal Society of Medicine of Bordeaux, had occasion to observe many soldiers during the Peninsular War, who made use of Cinchona as a preservative against different diseases,-but he never found it to produce the pretended paroxysms.
If any objection were made to evidence of this kind, I would refer to the express experiments on many of the Homeopathic substances, which were given to healthy persons with every precaution as to diet and regimen, by M Louis Fleury, without being followed by the slightest of the pretended consequences. And let me mention as a curious fact, that the same quantity of arsenic given to one animal in the common form of the unprepared powder, and to another after having been rubbed up into six hundred globules, offered no particular difference of activity in the two cases. This is a strange contradiction to the doctrine of the development of what they call dynamic power, by means of friction and subdivision.
In 1835 a public challenge was offered to the best-known Homeopathic physician in Paris to select any ten substances asserted to produce the most striking effects; to prepare them himself; to choose one by lot without knowing which of them he had taken, and try it upon himself or an intelligent and devoted Homeopathist, and, waiting his own time, to come forward and tell what substance had been employed. The challenge was at first accepted, but the acceptance retracted before the time of trial arrived.
From all this I think it fair to conclude that the catalogues of symptoms attributed in Homeopathic works to the influence of various drugs upon healthy persons are not entitled to any confidence.
2. It is necessary to show, in the next place, that medicinal substances are always capable of curing diseases most like their own symptoms. For facts relating to this question we must look to two sources; the recorded experience of the medical profession in general, and the results of trials made according to Homeopathic principles, and capable of testing the truth of the doctrine.
No person, that I am aware of, has ever denied that in some cases there exists a resemblance between the effects of a remedy and the symptoms of diseases in which it is beneficial. This has been recognized, as Hahnemann himself has shown, from the time of Hippocrates. But according to the records of the Medical profession, as they have been hitherto interpreted, this is true of only a very small proportion of useful remedies. Nor has it ever been considered as an established truth that the efficacy of even these few remedies was in any definite ratio to their power of producing symptoms more or less like those they cured.
Such was the state of opinion when Hahnemann came forward with the proposition that all the cases of successful treatment found in the works of all preceding medical writers were to be ascribed solely to the operation of the Homeopathic principle, which had effected the cure, although without the physician’s knowledge that this was the real secret. And strange as it may seem he was enabled to give such a degree of plausibility to this assertion, that any Person not acquainted somewhat with medical literature, not quite familiar, I should rather say, with the relative value of medical evidence, according to the Sources whence it is derived, would be almost frightened into the belief, at seeing the pages upon pages of Latin names he has summoned as his witnesses.
It has hitherto been customary, when examining the writings of authors of Preceding ages, upon subjects as to which they were less enlightened than ourselves, and which they were very liable to misrepresent, to exercise some little discretion; to discriminate, in some measure, between writers deserving confidence and those not entitled to it. But there is not the least appearance of any such delicacy on the part of Hahnemann. A large majority of the names of old authors he cites are wholly unknown to science. With some of them I have been long acquainted, and I know that their accounts of diseases are no more to be trusted than their contemporary Ambroise Paré stories of mermen, and similar absurdities. But if my judgment is rejected, as being a prejudiced one, I can refer to Cullen, who mentioned three of Hahnemann’s authors in one sentence, as being “not necessarily bad authorities; but certainly such when they delivered very improbable events;” and as this was said more than half a century ago, it could not have had any reference to Hahnemann. But although not the slightest sign of discrimination is visible in his quotations—although for him a handful of chaff from Schenck is all the same thing as a measure of wheat from Morgagni—there is a formidable display of authorities, and an abundant proof of ingenious researches to be found in each of the great works of Hahnemann with which I am familiar.
It is stated by Dr. Leo-Wolf, that Professor Joerg, of Leipsic, has proved many of Hahnemann’s quotations from old authors to be adulterate and false. What particular instances he has pointed out I have no means of learning. And it is probably wholly impossible on this side of the Atlantic, and even in most of the public libraries of Europe, to find anything more than a small fraction of the innumerable obscure publications which the neglect of grocers and trunk-makers has spared to be ransacked by the all-devouring genius of Homeopathy. I have endeavored to verify such passages as my own library afforded me the means of doing. For some I have looked in vain, for want, as I am willing to believe, of more exact references. But this I am able to affirm, that, out of the very small number which I have been able to trace back to their original authors, I have found two to be wrongly quoted, one of them being a gross misrepresentation.
The first is from the ancient Roman author, Caelius Aurelianus; the second from the venerable folio of Forestus. Hahnemann uses the following expressions,-if he is not misrepresented in the English Translation of the “Organon”: “Asclepiades on one occasion cured an inflammation of the brain by administering a small quantity of wine.” After correcting the erroneous reference of the Translator, I can find no such case alluded to in the chapter. But Caelius Aurelianus, mentions two modes of treatment employed by Asclepiades, into both of which the use of wine entered, as being in the highest degree irrational and dangerous [Caelius Aurel De Morb. Acut. et Chron. lib. 1. cap. xv, not xvi. Amsterdam. Wetstein, 1755].
In speaking of the oil of anise-seed, Hahnemann says that Forestus observed violent colic caused by its administration. But, as the author tells the story, a young man took, by the counsel of a surgeon, an acrid and virulent medicine, the name of which is not given, which brought on a most cruel fit of the gripes and colic. After this another surgeon was called, who gave him oil of anise-seed and wine, which increased his suffering [Observ. et Curat. Med. lib. XXI. obs. xiii. Frankfort, 1614]. Now if this was the Homeopathic remedy, as Hahnemann pretends, it might be a fair question why the young man was not . cured by it. But it is a much graver question why a man who has shrewdness and learning enough to go so far after his facts, should think it right to treat them with such astonishing negligence or such artful unfairness.
Even if every word he had pretended to take from his old authorities were to be found in them, even if the authority of every one of these authors were beyond question, the looseness with which they are used to prove whatever Hahnemann chooses is beyond the bounds of credibility. Let me give one instance to illustrate the character of this man’s mind. Hahnemann asserts, in a note annexed to the 110th paragraph of the “Organon,” that the smell of the rose will cause certain persons to faint. And he says in the text that substances which produce peculiar effects of this nature on particular constitutions cure the same symptoms in people in general. Then in another note to the same paragraph he quotes the following fact from one of the last sources one would have looked to for medical information, the Byzantine Historians.
“It was by these means” (i.e. Homeopathically) “that the Princess Eudosia with rose-water restored a person who had fainted!”
Is it possible that a man who is guilty of such pedantic folly as this,-a man who can see a confirmation of his doctrine in such a recovery as this—a recovery which is happening every day, from a breath of air, a drop or two of water, untying a bonnet-string, loosening a stay-lace, and which can hardly help happening, whatever is done—is it possible that a man, of whose pages, not here and there one, but hundreds upon hundreds are loaded with such trivialities, is the Newton, the Columbus, the Harvey of the nineteenth century!
The whole process of demonstration he employs is this. An experiment is instituted with some drug upon one or more healthy persons. Everything that happens for a number of days or weeks is, as we have seen, set down as an effect of the medicine. Old volumes are then ransacked promiscuously, and every morbid sensation or change that anybody ever said was produced by the drug in question is added to the list of symptoms. By one or both of these methods, each of the sixty-four substances enumerated by Hahnemann is shown to produce a very large number of symptoms, the lowest in his scale being ninety-seven, and the highest fourteen hundred and ninety-one. And having made out this fist respecting any drug, a catalogue which, as you may observe in any Homeopathic manual, contains various symptoms belonging to every organ of the body, what can be easier than to find alleged cures in every medical author which can at once be attributed to the Homeopathic principle; still more if the grave of extinguished credulity is called upon to give up its dead bones as living witnesses; and worst of all, if the monuments of the past are to be mutilated in favor of “the sole law of Nature in therapeutics”?
There are a few familiar facts of which great use has been made as an entering wedge for the Homeopathic doctrine. They have been suffered to pass current so long that it is time they should be nailed to the counter, a little operation which I undertake, with perfect cheerfulness, to perform for them.
The first is a supposed illustration of the Homeopathic law found in the precept given for the treatment of parts which have been frozen, by friction with snow or similar means. But we deceive ourselves by names, if we suppose the frozen part to be treated by cold, and not by heat. The snow may even be actually warmer than the part to which it is applied. But even if it were at the same temperature when applied, it never did and never could do the least good to a frozen part, except as a mode of regulating the application of what? of heat. But the heat must be applied gradually, just as food must be given a little at a time to those perishing with hunger. If the patient were brought into a warm room, heat would be applied very rapidly, were not something interposed to prevent this, and allow its gradual admission. Snow or iced water is exactly what is wanted; it is not cold to the part; it is very possibly warm, on the contrary, for these terms are relative, and if it does not melt and let the heat in, or is not taken away, the part will remain frozen up until doomsday. Now the treatment of a frozen limb by heat, in large or small quantities, is not Homoeopathy.
The next supposed illustration of the Homoeopathic law is the alleged successful management of burns, by holding them to the fire. This is a popular mode of treating those burns which are of too little consequence to require any more efficacious remedy, and would inevitably get well of themselves, without any trouble being bestowed upon them. It produces a most acute pain in the part, which is followed by some loss of sensibility, as happens with the eye after exposure to strong light, and the ear after being subjected to very intense sounds. This is all it is capable of doing, and all further notions of its efficacy must be attributed merely to the vulgar love of paradox. If this example affords any comfort to the Homoeopathist, it seems as cruel to deprive him of it as it would be to convince the mistress of the smoke-jack or the flat-iron that the fire does not literally “draw the fire out,” which is her hypothesis.
But if it were true that frost-bites were cured by cold and bums by heat, it would be subversive, so far as it went, of the great principle of Homoeopathy. For you will remember that this principle is that Like cures Like, and not that Same cures Same; that there is resemblance and not identity between the symptoms of the disease and those produced by the drug which cures it, and none have been readier to insist upon this distinction than the Homoeopathists themselves. For if Same cures Same, then every poison must be its own antidote, which is neither a part of their theory nor their so-called experience. They have been asked often enough, why it was that arsenic could not cure the mischief which arsenic had caused, and why the infectious cause of small-pox did not remedy the disease it had produced, and then they were ready enough to see the distinction I have pointed out. O no! it was not the hair of the same dog, but only of one very much like him!
A third instance in proof of the Homoeopathic law is sought for in the acknowledged efficacy of vaccination. And how does the law apply to this? It is granted by the advocates of Homoeopathy that there is a resemblance between the effects of the vaccine virus on a person in health and the symptoms of smallpox. Therefore, according to the rule, the vaccine virus will cure the small-pox which, as everybody knows, is entirely untrue. But it prevents small-pox, say the Homoeopathists. Yes, and so does small-pox prevent itself from ever happening again, and we know just as much of the principle involved in the one caw as in the other. For this is only one of a series of facts which we are wholly unable to explain. Small-pox, measles, scarlet-fever, hooping-cough, protect those who have them once from future attacks; but nettle-rash and catarrh and lung fever,- each of which is just as Homoeopathic to itself as any one of the others, have no such preservative power. We are obliged to accept the fact, unexplained, and we can do no more for vaccination than for the rest.
I come now to the most directly practical point connected with the subject, namely—
What is the state of the evidence as to the efficacy of the proper Homoeopathic treatment in the cure of diseases.
As the treatment adopted by the Homoeopathists has been almost universally by means of the infinitesimal doses, the question of their efficacy is thrown open, in common with that of the truth of their fundamental axiom, as both are tested in practice.
We must look for facts as to the actual working of Homoeopathy to three sources.
- The statements of the unprofessional public.
- The assertions of Homoeopathic practitioners.
- The results of trials by competent and honest physicians, not pledged to the system.
I think, after what we have seen of medical facts, as they are represented by incompetent persons, we are disposed to attribute little value to all statements of wonderful cures, coming from those who have never been accustomed to watch the caprices of disease, and have not cooled down their young enthusiasm by the habit of tranquil observation. Those who know nothing of the natural progress of a malady, of its ordinary duration, of its various modes of terminating, of its liability to accidental complications, of the signs which mark its insignificance or severity, of what is to be expected of it when left to itself, of how much or how little is to be anticipated from remedies, those who know nothing or next to nothing of all these things, and who are in a great state of excitement from benevolence, sympathy, or zeal for a new medical discovery, can hardly be expected to be sound judges of facts which have misled so many sagacious men, who have spent their lives in the daily study and observation of them. I believe that, after having drawn the portrait of defunct Perkinism, with its rive thousand printed cures, and its million and a half computed ones, its miracles blazoned about through America, Denmark, and England; after relating that forty years ago women carried the Tractors about in their pockets, and workmen could not make them fast enough for the public demand; and then showing you, as a curiosity, a single one of these instruments, an odd 6ne of a pair, which I obtained only by a lucky accident, so utterly lost is the memory of all their wonderful achievements; I believe, after all this, I need not waste time in showing that medical accuracy is not to be looked for in the florid reports of benevolent associations, the assertions of illustrious patrons, the lax effusions of daily journals, or the effervescent gossip of the tea-table.
Dr. Hering, whose name is somewhat familiar to the champions of Homoeopathy, has said that “the new healing art is not to be judged by its success in isolated cases only, but according to its success in general, its innate truth, and the incontrovertible nature of its innate principles.”
We have seen something of “the incontrovertible nature of its innate principles,” and it seems probable, on the whole, that its success in general must be made up of its success in isolated cases. Some attempts have been made, however, to finish the whole matter by sweeping statistical documents, which are intended to prove its triumphant success over the common practice.
It is well known to those who have had the good fortune to see the “Homoeopathic Examiner,” that this journal led off, in its first number, with a grand display of everything the newly imported doctrine had to show for itself. It is well remarked, on the twenty-third page of this article, that “the comparison of bills of mortality among an equal number of sick, treated by divers methods, is a most poor and lame way to get at conclusions touching principles of the healing art.” In confirmation of which, the author proceeds upon the twenty-fifth page to prove the superiority of the Homoeopathic treatment of cholera, by precisely these very bills of mortality. Now, every intelligent physician is aware that the poison of cholera differed so much in its activity at different times and places, that it was next to impossible to form any opinion as to the results of treatment, unless every precaution was taken to secure the most perfectly corresponding conditions in the patients treated, and hardly even then. Of course, then, a Russian Admiral, by the name of Mordvinow, backed by a number of so-called physicians practising in Russian villages, is singularly competent to the task of settling the whole question of the utility of this or that kind of treatment; to prove that, if not more than eight and a half per cent of those attacked with the disease perished, the rest owed their immunity to Hahnemann. I can remember when more than a hundred patients in a public institution were attacked with what, I doubt not, many Homoeopathic physicians (to say nothing of Homoeopathic admirals) would have called cholera, and not one of them died, though treated in the common way, and it is my firm belief that, if such a result had followed the administration of the omnipotent globules, it would have been in the mouth of every adept in Europe, from Quin of London to Spohr of Gandersheim. No longer ago than yesterday, in one of the most widely circulated papers of this city, there was published an assertion that the mortality in several Homoeopathic Hospitals was not quite five in a hundred, whereas, in what am called by the writer Allopathic Hospitals, it is said to be eleven in a hundred. An honest man should be ashamed of such an argumentum ad ignorandam. The mortality of a hospital depends not merely on the treatment of the patients, but on the class of diseases it is in the habit of receiving on the place where it is, on the season, and many other circumstances. For instance, them are many hospitals in the great cities of Europe that receive few diseases of a nature to endanger life, and, on the other hand, there are others where dangerous diseases are accumulated out of the common proportion. Thus, in the wards of Louis, at the Hospital of La Pitia, a vast number of patients in the last stages of consumption were constantly entering, to swell the mortality of that hospital. It was because he was known to pay particular attention to the diseases of the chest that patients laboring under those fatal affections to an incurable extent were so constantly coming in upon him. It is always a miserable appeal to the thoughtlessness of the vulgar, to allege the naked fact of the less comparative mortality in the practice of one hospital or of one physician than another, as an evidence of the superiority of their treatment. Other things being equal, it must always be expected that those institutions and individuals enjoying to the highest degree the confidence of the community will lose the largest proportion of their patients; for the simple reason that they will naturally be looked to by those suffering from the gravest class of diseases; that many, who know that they are affected with mortal disease, will choose to die under their care or shelter, while the subjects of trifling maladies, and merely troublesome symptoms, amuse themselves to any extent among the fancy practitioners. When, therefore, Dr. Muhlenbein, as stated in the “Homoeopathic Examiner,” and quoted in yesterday’s “Daily Advertiser,” asserts that the mortality among his patients is only one per cent since he has practised Homoeopathy, whereas it was six per cent when he employed the common mode of practice, I am convinced by this, his own statement, that the citizens of Brunswick, whenever they are seriously sick, take good care not to send for Dr. Muhlenbein!
It is evidently impossible that I should attempt, within the compass of a single lecture, any detailed examination of the very numerous cases reported in the Homoeopathic Treatises and Journals. Having been in the habit of receiving the French “Archives of Homoeopathic Medicine” until the premature decease of that Journal, I have had the opportunity of becoming acquainted somewhat with the style of these documents, and experiencing whatever degree of conviction they were calculated to produce. Although of course I do not wish any value to be assumed for my opinion, such as it is, I consider that you are entitled to hear it. So far, then, as I am acquainted with the general character of the cases reported by the Homoeopathic physicians, they would for the most part be considered as wholly undeserving a place in any English, French, or America periodical of high standing if, instead of favoring the doctrine they were intended to support, they were brought forward to prove the efficacy of any common remedy administered by any common practitioner. There are occasional exceptions to this remark; but the general truth of it is rendered probable by the fact that these cases are always, or almost always, written with the single object of showing the efficacy of the medicine used, or the skill of the practitioner, and it is recognized as a general rule that such cases deserve very little confidence. Yet they may sound well enough, one at a time, to those who are not fully aware of the fallacies of medical evidence. Let me state a case in illustration. Nobody doubts that some patients recover under every form of practice. Probably all are willing to allow that a large majority, for instance, ninety in a hundred, of such cases as a physician is called to in daily practice, would recover, sooner or later, with more or less difficulty, provided nothing were done to interfere seriously with the efforts of nature.
Suppose, then, a physician who has a hundred patients prescribes to each of them pills made of some entirely inert substance, as starch, for instance. Ninety of them get well, or if he chooses to use such language, he cures ninety of them. It is evident, according to the doctrine of chances, that there must be a considerable number of coincidences between the relief of the patient and the administration of the remedy. It is altogether probable that there will happen two or three very striking coincidences out of the whole ninety cases, in which it would seem evident that the medicine produced the relief, though it had, as we assumed, nothing to do with it. Now. suppose that the physician publishes these cases, will they not have a plausible appearance of proving that which, as we granted at the outset, was entirely false? Suppose that instead of pills of starch he employs microscopic sugarplums, with the five million billion trillionth part of a suspicion of aconite or pulsatilla, and then publishes his successful cases, through the leaden lips of the press, or the living ones of his female acquaintances,-does that make the impression a less erroneous one? But so it is that in Homoeopathic works and journals and gossip one can never, or next to never, find anything but successful cases, which might do very well as a proof of superior skill, did it not prove as much for the swindling advertisers whose certificates disgrace so many of our newspapers. How long will it take mankind to learn that while they listen to “the speaking hundreds and units, who make the world ring” with the pretended triumphs they have witnessed, the “dumb millions” of deluded and injured victims are paying the daily forfeit of their misplaced confidence!
I am sorry to see, also, that a degree of ignorance as to the natural course of diseases is often shown in these published cases, which, although it may not be detected by the unprofessional reader, conveys an unpleasant impression to those who are acquainted with the subject. Thus a young woman affected with jaundice is mentioned in the German “Annals of Clinical Homoeopathy” as having been cured in twenty-nine days by pulsatilla and nux vomica. Rummel, a well-known writer of the same school, speaks of curing a case of jaundice in thirty-four days by Homoeopathic doses of pulsatilla, aconite, and cinchona. I happened to have a case in my own household, a few weeks since, which lasted about ten days, and this was longer than I have repeatedly seen it in hospital practice, so that it was nothing to boast of.
Dr. Munneche of Lichtenburg in Saxony is called to a patient with a sprained ankle who had been a fortnight under the common treatment. The patient gets well by the use of arnica in a little more than a month longer, and this extraordinary fact is published in the French “Archives of Homoeopathic Medicine.”
In the same journal is recorded the case of a patient who with nothing more, so far as any proof goes, than influenza, gets down to her shop upon the sixth day.
And again, the cool way in which everything favorable in a case is set down by these people entirely to their treatment, may be seen in a case of croup reported in the “Homoeopathic Gazette” of Leipsic, in which leeches, blistering, inhalation of hot vapor, and powerful internal medicine had been employed, and yet the merit was all attributed to one drop of some Homoeopathic fluid.
I need not multiply these quotations, which illustrate the grounds of an opinion which the time does not allow me to justify more at length; other such cases are lying open before me; there is no end to them if more were wanted; for nothing is necessary but to look into any of the numerous broken-down Journals of Homoeopathy, the volumes of which may be found on the shelves of those curious in such matters.
A number of public trials of Homoeopathy have been made in different parts of the world. Six of these are mentioned in the Manifesto of the “Homoeopathic Examiner.” Now to suppose that any trial can absolutely silence people, would be to forget the whole experience of the past. Dr. Haygarth and Dr. Alderson could not stop the sale of the five-guinea Tractors, although they proved that they could work the same miracles with pieces of wood and tobacco-pipe. It takes time for truth to operate as well as Homoeopathic globules. Many persons thought the results of these trials were decisive enough of the nullity of the treatment; those who wish to see the kind of special pleading and evasion by which it is attempted to cover results which, stated by the “Homoeopathic Examiner” itself, look exceedingly like a miserable failure, may consult the opening flourish of that Journal. I had not the intention to speak of these public trials at all, having abundant other evidence on the point. But I think it best, on the whole, to mention two of them in a few words—that instituted at Naples and that of Andral.
There have been few names in the medical profession, for the last half century, so widely known throughout the world of science as that of M. Esquirol, whose life was devoted to the treatment of insanity, and who was without a rival in that department of practical medicine. It is from an analysis communicated by him to the “Gazette Médicale de Paris” that I derive my acquaintance with the account of the trial at Naples by Dr. Panvini, physician to the Hospital della Pace. This account seems to be entirely deserving of credit. Ten patients were set apart, and not allowed to take any medicine at all,-Much against the wish of the Homoeopathic physician. All of them got well, and of course all of them would have been claimed as triumphs if they had been submitted to the treatment. Six other slight cases (each of which is specified) got well under the Homoeopathic treatment—none of its asserted specific effects being manifested. All the rest were cases of grave disease; and so far as the trial, which was interrupted about the fortieth day, extended, the patients grew worse, or received no benefit. A case is reported on the page before me of a soldier affected with acute inflammation in the chest, who took successively aconite, bryonia, nux vomica, and pulsatilla, and after thirty-eight days of treatment remained without any important change in his disease. The Homoeopathic physician who treated these patients was M. de Horatiis, who had the previous year been announcing his wonderful cures. And M. Esquirol asserted to the Academy of Medicine in 1835, that this M. de Horatiis, who is one of the prominent personages in the “Examiner’s” Manifesto published in 1840, had subsequently renounced Homoeopathy. I may remark, by the way, that this same periodical, which is so very easy in explaining away the results of these trials, makes a mistake of only six years or a little more as to the time when this at Naples was instituted.
M. Andral, the “eminent and very enlightened allopathist” of the “Homoeopathic Examiner,” made the following statement in March, 1835, to the Academy of Medicine: “I have submitted this doctrine to experiment; I can reckon at this time from one hundred and thirty to one hundred and forty cases, recorded with perfect fairness, in a great hospital, under the eye of numerous witnesses; to avoid every objection I obtained my remedies of M. Guibourt, who keeps a Homoeopathic pharmacy, and whose strict exactness is well known; the regimen has been scrupulously observed, and I obtained from the sisters attached to the hospital a special regimen, such as Hahnemann orders. I was told, however, some months since, that I had not been faithful to all the rules of the doctrine. I therefore took the trouble to begin again; I have studied the practice of the Parisian Homoeopathists, as I had studied their books, and I became convinced that they treated their patients as I had treated mine, and I affirm that I have been as rigorously exact in the treatment as any other person.”
And he expressly asserts the entire nullity of the influence of all the Homoeopathic remedies tried by him in modifying, so far as he could observe, the progress or termination of diseases. It deserves notice that he experimented with the most boasted substances—cinchona, aconite, mercury, bryonia, belladonna. Aconite, for instance, he says he administered in more than forty cases of that collection of feverish symptoms in which it exerts so much power, according to Hahnemann, and in not one of them did it have the slightest influence, the pulse and heat remaining as before.
These statements look pretty honest, and would seem hard to be explained away, but it is calmly said that he “did not know enough of the method to select the remedies with any tolerable precision.” [Homoeopathic Examiner, vol. i. p. 22. “Nothing is left to the caprice of the physician. (‘In a word, instead of being dependent upon blind chance, that there is an infallible law, guided by which the physician must select the proper remedies.’)” Ibid., in a notice of Menzel’s paper.]
Who are they that practice Homoeopathy, and say this of a man with the Materia, Medica of Hahnemann lying before him? Who are they that send these same globules, on which he experimented, accompanied by a little book, into families, whose members are thought competent to employ them, when they deny any such capacity to a man whose life has been passed at the bedside of patients, the most prominent teacher in the first Medical Faculty in the world, the consulting physician of the King of France, and one of the most renowned practical writers, not merely of his nation, but of his age? I leave the quibbles by which such persons would try to creep out from under the crushing weight of these conclusions to the unfortunates who suppose that a reply is equivalent to an answer.
Dr. Baillie, one of the physicians in the great Hótel Dieu of Paris, invited two Homoeopathic practitioners to experiment in his wards. One of these was Curie, now of London, whose works are on the counters of some of our bookstores, and probably in the hands of some of my audience. This gentleman, whom Dr. Baillie declares to be an enlightened man, and perfectly sincere in his convictions, brought his own medicines from the pharmacy which furnished Hahnemann himself, and employed them for four or five months upon patients in his ward, and with results equally unsatisfactory, as appears from Dr. Baillie’s statement at a meeting of the Academy of Medicine. And a similar experiment was permitted by the Clinical Professor of the Hótel Dieu of Lyons, with the same complete failure.
But these are old and prejudiced practitioners. Very well, then take the statement of Dr. Fleury, a most intelligent young physician, who treated homoeopathically more than fifty patients, suffering from diseases which it was not dangerous to treat in this way, taking every kind of precaution as to regimen, removal of disturbing influences, and the state of the atmosphere, insisted upon by the most vigorous partisans of the doctrine, and found not the slightest effect produced by the medicines. And more than this, read nine of these cases, which he has published, as I have just done, and observe the absolute nullity of aconite, belladonna, and bryonia, against the symptoms over which they are pretended to exert such palpable, such obvious, such astonishing influences. In the view of these statements, it is impossible not to realize the entire futility of attempting to silence this asserted science by the flattest and most peremptory results of experiment. Were all the hospital physicians of Europe and America to devote themselves, for the requisite period, to this sole pursuit, and were their results to be unanimous as to the total worthlessness of the whole system in practice, this slippery delusion would slide through their fingers without the slightest discomposure, when, as they supposed, they had crushed every joint in its tortuous and trailing body.
3. 1 have said, that to show the truth of the Homoeopathic doctrine, as announced by Hahnemann, it would be necessary to show, in the third place, that remedies never cure diseases when they are not capable of producing similar symptoms. The burden of this somewhat comprehensive demonstration lying entirely upon the advocates of this doctrine, it may be left to their mature reflections.
It entered into my original plan to treat of the doctrine relating to Psora, or itch—an almost insane conception, which I am glad to get rid of, for this is a subject one does not care to handle without gloves. I am saved this trouble, however, by finding that many of the disciples of Hahnemann, those disciples the very gospel of whose faith stands upon his word, make very light of his authority on this point, although he himself says, “it has cost me twelve years of study and research to trace out the source of this incredible number of chronic affections, to discover this great truth, which remained concealed from all my predecessors and contemporaries, to establish the basis of its demonstration, and find out, at the same time, the curative medicines that were fit to combat this hydra in all its different forms.
But, in the face of all this, the following remarks are made by Wolff, of Dresden, whose essays, according to the editor of the “Homoeopathic Examiner,” “represent the opinions of a large majority of Hornoeopathists in Europe.”
“It cannot be unknown to any one at all familiar with Homoeopathic literature, that Hahnemann’s idea of tracing the large majority of chronic diseases to actual itch has met with the greatest opposition from Homoeopathic physicians themselves.” And again, “If the Psoric theory has led to no proper schism, the reason is to be found in the fact that it is almost without any influence in practice.”
We are told by Jahr, that Dr. Griesselich, “Surgeon to the Grand Duke of Baden,” and a “distinguished” Homoeopathist, actually asked Hahnemann for the proof that chronic diseases, such as dropsy, for instance, never arise from any other cause than itch; and that, according to common report, the venerable sage was highly incensed (forct courroucé) with Dr. Hartmann, of Leipsic, another “distinguished” Homoeopathist, for maintaining that they certainly did arise from other causes.
And Dr. Fielitz, in the “Homoeopathic: Gazette” of Leipsic, after saying, in a good-natured way, that Psora is the Devil in medicine, and that physicians are divided on this point into diabolists and exorcists, declares that, according to a remark of Hahnemann, the whole civilized world is affected with Psora. I must therefore disappoint any advocate of Hahnemann who may honor me with his presence, by not attacking a doctrine on which some of the disciples of his creed would be very happy to have its adversaries waste their time and strength. I will not meddle with this excrescence, which, though often used in time of peace, would be dropped, like the limb of a shell-fish, the moment it was assailed; time is too precious, and the harvest of living extravagances nods too heavily to my sickle, that I should blunt it upon straw and stubble.
This article was posted on March 26, 1999.