Discovering Hahnemann’s materia medica.

Although I was very lucky to study homeopathy with very good teachers, I must say that the only one that encouraged me to methodically and continuously study Hahnemann’s works is Andre Saine(1). He did this through his books, articles, interviews, and lectures. He also attributed his study of Hahnemann as one of the main reasons of his  phenomenal success with homoeopathy. When teaching  homoeopathic philosophy he always refers to the Organon and he asks his students not to just  read and accept what is written in it as a kind of dogma. He asks his students to read it with an inquiring and critical mind, in order to discover its usefulness or not in the  practice and development of homeopathy. He keeps repeating that the great homeopath Adolph Lippe(2) used to say that every homeopath for the first 10 years of his/her practice should study the Organon twice  a year and once a year for ten more years. When Andre teaches materia medica or he differentiates  between remedies after taking a case, he frequently refers to Hahnemann’s materia medica(3). He insists that if we really want to know a remedy well we must start from Hahnemann and only then to move to more recent authors.

 

So following his advice I decided  to study Hahnemann.   For the last two years, whether I want to differentiate between remedies or when I just want to study a remedy, I use his materia medica. The beginning was difficult as there is a tremendous amount of information and the language itself is a bit peculiar. But with Andre’s help I started to become familiar with his work. As a result of this study I started to feel that I am discovering a hidden treasure!

 

To start with I found that the introduction that Hahnemann writes before the presentation of the proving of a remedy gives really useful information which derives from his clinical experience with the remedy.

For example in his introduction to the Aconite in Materia Medica Pura he writes:

 

Although aconite, on account of the short duration of its action (which in such small doses does not exceed forty-eight hours), might seem to be useful only in acute diseases, yet it is an indispensable accessory remedy in even the most obstinate chronic affections, when the system requires a diminution of the so-called tension of the blood-vessels (the strictum of the ancients).

 

The ‘strictum’ is the stress. So he is advising us to use aconite not just for acutes but also for ‘the most obstinate chronic affections’ that are the result of a kind of stress.

 

He continues by expressing the mental- emotional state and sensitivity of Aconite in a beautiful way:

 

Aconite is also the first and main remedy, in the minute dose indicated above, in inflammation of the windpipe (croup, membranous laryngitis), in various kinds of inflammation of the throat and fauces, as also in the local acute inflammations of all other parts, particularly where, in addition to thirst and quick pulse, there are present anxious impatience, an unappeasable mental agitation, and agonizing tossing about.

 It produces all the morbid states similar to those seen in persons who have had a fright combined with vexation, and is also the surest and quickest remedy for them.

 

 

I found that his work is full of clearly described, characteristic symptoms on the mental, emotional and physical level.  Many times my patients are describing their problems by using almost the exact words of the prover. I would like to familiarize my readers with the clarity and depth of those symptoms by giving some examples.

 

Here are some symptoms of Aurum metallicum from the Chronic Diseases:

 

Restless and undecided, without perceptible ebullition of the blood; he always thinks he is neglecting something for which the will be reproached; he seems to carry with him this internal restlessness, and it took from him all perseverance and energy.

 

Melancholy; the imagines that he is not fitted for the world, he therefore longs for death, of which the thinks with the most intense delight.

 

“Great anguish, mounting even to suicide with spasmodic contraction in the abdomen”

I remember a young girl with severe depression that I used to treat with acupuncture, while I was studying homoeopathy, that had the exact same symptom.

 

Here are some symptoms of Natrum Muriaticum from the Chronic Diseases that describe beautifully the emotional state of a person that might need this remedy.

 

Melancholy mood; he cannot remove from his thoughts injuries he has inflicted on others, or which have been inflicted on him, which depressed him so much that he had no pleasure in anything.

 

He sorrowfully torments himself, by continually looking for disagreeable ideas, which weakens him.

 

From the looks of everyone, he concludes that people pity him for his misfortune, and he weeps.

 

He was only the more agitated, when any one tried to console him.

 

Hatred against persons, who had formerly offended him.

 

Or a symptom describing the sensitivity of the remedy to the sun:

 

Sensation of exhaustion in the chest, from walking in the open air (in the sun), compelling him to talk low.

 

Here is a small symptom which expresses a time modality that through the clinical experience of the following generations of homeopaths has become a important keynote of Lycopodium:

 

From four to eight o’clock in the evening, she has to cough and to drink much.

 

 Here is a local symptom of Sepia that helped C. Dunham(5) to cure a case of lip cancer(6):

 

Sore pain on the right side of the lower lip, toward the corner of the mouth.

 

I also found that many peculiar symptoms found in Hahnemann’s provings have not found their way to the repertory! For example here is a nice symptom of Zincum Metallicum from the Chronic diseases:

 

Every least mental excitement causes an internal tremor.

 

This symptom does not exist in the repertory I use (Synthesis Treasure Edition). But I am lucky because I use a computer repertory and I can easily add symptoms!

 

The above examples are just a small sample from the treasure that is waiting to be discovered and used in the clinic! Although there is a tremendous amount of symptoms I find them worth studying because by reading through  I learn to discriminate between peculiar and common ones. It is like having a patient telling many symptoms and me having to decide which ones are peculiar and which ones are common. Of course if I want to learn more about a remedy I read about it in newer materia medicas. T.F. Allen’s, The Encyclopaedia of Pure Materia Medica is enriched with more provings, toxicological reports and more remedies. Herring’s, The Guiding Symptoms of our Materia Medica is enriched with more clinical experience. I also explore some modern works and last but not least, I read as many cured cases as I can find.

 

Hahnemann’s quantitative  offer to materia medica is of course limited, many more remedies have been proved since and many remedies will be proved. But by studying him we could become  connoisseurs  in recognising and appreciating a good proving. Appreciating a good proving means finding good characteristic symptoms in it, symptoms which when found in our patients will help us to accomplish our  main task, the task that Hahnemann describes in the first paragraph of the Organon (4):

 

The physician’ highest calling, his only calling, is to make sick people healthy—to heal as it termed.

 

By studying Hahnemann’s  we can really see what characterises a good materia medica, something which is clearly described in paragraph 144 of the Organon.

 

All conjecture, everything merely asserted or entirely fabricated, must be completely excluded from such a materia medica: everything must be the pure language of nature carefully and honestly interrogated.

 

Hahnemann still points the right direction for the creation of a reliable materia medica. One that does not fill our minds with crystallized pictures of a  remedy, but only expresses the “pure language of nature” and it is enriched with the clinical experience of the homoeopathic community.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Andre Saine (1953-) Canadian homoeopath and naturopathic doctor. One of the main points of his clinical work is the treatment of patients suffering from serious chronic disease. He is teaching homoeopathy since 1985.
  2. Adolph Lippe (1812-1888)  One of the important homoeopaths of the 19th century. He was born in Prussia but studied and practiced homeopathy in America.
  3. Hahnemann’s contribution to materia medica is found in Materia Medica Pura and in Chronic Diseases.
  4. Organon of Medicine, translation of the sixth edition by Jost Kunzli.
  5. Carroll Dunham (1828-1877) American homoeopath.
  6. C. Dunham, Lectures on Materia Medica, Jain Publishers 1999, p.146-147
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