“When I awake in the morning” writes a genteel, consummate coffee-drinking lady, “I have the power of thinking and the activity of an oyster.”
This comparison, taken from Hahnemann’s article on coffee in his Lesser Writings, was new to me. However, in the early pre-coffee hours of the morning, I found I could relate – although I did find myself wondering where the pearls come into it.
Coffee holds pride of place in the proving of Chamomilla, showing up 14 times in the introduction and symptoms, mainly relating to its harmful nature and to the ability of this remedy to antidote coffee’s harmful effects. Amongst other symptoms, it can trigger vertigo, toothache, nausea and vomiting.
One of Hahnemann’s observations in the introduction includes a valuable prescribing note (bold is mine):
Camomile, in the smallest dose, seems to diminish in a remarkable manner over-sensitiveness to pain or the too acute sufferings of the organs of the emotions from excessive pain. Hence it alleviates many of the affections caused by coffee-drinking and by courses of treatment with narcotic palliatives. On this account it is unsuited for persons who bear pain calmly and patiently. I attach great importance to this observation.
Hahnemann made no secret of his disapproval of coffee, which seemed to include both disapproval of excessive coffee drinking as abuse of a potentially harmful medicinal substance, and a distaste for the coffee-drinking society ways of the time.
In his Lesser Writing, in “On the effects of coffee”, Hahnemann writes of the injurious effects of my favourite beverage, presenting the starting point for his thought – that coffee is a medicinal substance with no nutritional content. Although his distaste for the cultural caffee-klatsch sophisticates comes across, the main direction of the article relates to the physical, mental and emotional symptoms produced by drinking coffee.
“Medicinal things are substances that do not nourish, but alter the healthy condition of the body; any alteration, however, in the healthy state of the body constitutes a kind of abnormal, morbid condition. Coffee is a purely medicinal substance.”
“All medicines have, in strong doses, a noxious action on the sensations of the healthy individual. No one ever smoked tobacco for the first time in his life without disgust; no healthy person ever drank unsugared black coffee for the first time in his life with gusto – a hint given by nature to shun the first occasion for transgressing the laws of healthy, and not to trample so frivolously under our feet the warning instinct implanted in us for the preservation of our life.”