Reading Hahnemann is often a bracing experience. When I read his thoughts, which he expresses so succinctly and sharply, I find myself looking at my practice and wondering… Hahnemann’s introduction to China offers many expressions of the bracing sort… This particular subject, relating to medications and lifestyle of the patient while in treatment , appears in Hahnemann’s notes on his proving of China.
In the modern homoeopathy clinic, especially when working with older patients with chronic conditions, our patients are almost always taking chronic medications. Rare is the patient who will challenge the doctor regarding the holy meds trinity of drugs for blood pressure / cholesterol / sugar levels. It takes a very strong mix of courage, clarity and common sense to do so, and to do so in the best way. In some cases those who refuse prescriptions may even risk problems with their insurance coverage.
In addition to the prescriptions, some for the perceived problem, and some which for elderly patients are often prescribed and then renewed without really assessing the continued need – there are the substances people take for themselves, believing “the more the merrier”. Our pure, small dose must do its curative work in an environment of conventional drugs with their demanding, confusing and often debilitating side effects, supplements, herbs, oils, and, surprisingly often, some unidentified “pills that were hanging around the house” with the reasoning “they looked like they might help so I thought – why not ..”. This cacophony of influences, each pulling in its own direction, cannot help but hinder the work of the remedy – and as a result we get patients who say “I tried homoeopathy but it didn’t work”.
How will Hahnemann’s words influence your practice? Or will they? And if not, why not?
In Hahnemann’s words (excerpted, and the bold is mine):
Here as elsewhere I insist on the sufficiency and efficiency of such small doses. And yet the vulgar herd can never understand me, for they know nothing of the pure treatment with one single simple medicinal substance to the exclusion of all other sorts of medicinal irritants, and their thoughts are enchained in the mazes of their old routine.
Even when the ordinary physicians now and then constrain themselves to give in some (acute) disease one single medicine, they never have the heart to refrain from using at the same time several other things possessing medicinal power, which, however, they regard as of no consequence, and to which they apply the trivial name of domestic remedies.
They must always use simultaneously either a poultice of so-called aromatic or solvent herbs applied to the most painful part … or they must rub in some medicinal ointment… or they must administer simultaneously a tea of mint camomile, elder-flower, so-called pectoral herbs, etc. (Just as though a handful of such herbs or flowers infused in boiling water counted for nothing!).
In such an onslaught with heterogeneous drugs, which, although ignorance looks upon them as innocuous domestic remedies, are to all intents and purposes medicines, and some of them very powerful medicines;…
… it must be ascribed to his ignorance that he considers as nothing, as not at all medicinal, such things as herb-teas and clysters, poultices and baths of herbs and salts, and the other things just mentioned, and continues to use them thoughtlessly under the name of domestic remedies during the employment of medicine internally.
Still more heedlessly in this respect is the treatment of chronic maladies conducted; for, in addition to what the patient takes from medicine chests and bottles, and the external applications and so-called domestic remedies that are usually administered to the patient, lots of superfluous hurtful things are allowed, and even prescribed, which are also regarded as indifferent matters in spite of the disturbing effects they may exercise on the patient’s health, and of the confusion they may cause in the treatment.
… the patient is allowed, for example, to take (for breakfast) mulled beer, vanilla chocolate, also (even several times a day) strong coffee or black and green tea, not unfrequently – to strengthen the stomach (?)…strong spices… especially in sauces (made of soy, cayenne pepper, mustard, etc.) …- moreover, quantities of uncooked herbs cut small and sprinkled over the soup – which are regarded as supremely wholesome, but are really medicinal…
Besides all these there are tooth-powders, tooth-tinctures, and tooth-washes – also composed of medicinal ingredients, and yet considered innocuous because for-sooth they are not swallowed; just as though medicines only taken into the mouth or their exhalations drawn into the nose did not as surely act on the whole organism through its living sensitive fibres as when they are swallowed! And then the various kinds of perfumes and washes (musk, ambergris peppermint drops, oil of bergamot and cedar, neroli, eau-de-Cologne, eau-de-luce, lavender water, etc.), besides perfumed sachets, smelling bottles, scented soaps, powders and pomades, pot-pouri, and any other noxious articles de luxe the patient may desire. In such an ocean of medicinal influences the otherwise adequate homoeopathic dose of medicine would be drowned and extinguished.
But is such a medley of medicinal luxury necessary and useful for the life and well-being or compatible with the recovery of the patient? It is injurious; and yet, perhaps, it has been invented by physicians themselves for the upper classes in order to please, to stimulate and to keep them ill. … physicians …[do] not know the medicinal noxiousness of all this luxury, and … they do not prohibit it to their chronic patients. This hotch-potch of noxious influences …is so much the rule, so universally prevalent, that the ordinary practitioner cannot think of treatment without such a simultaneous medical confusion, and hence, under these circumstances, he is unable to promise any decided effect from the internal administration of a single medicinal substance in a disease, even when it is given in a large dose, far less from a very small dose of medicine homeopathically employed!
… A pure treatment with a single homoeopathic medicine, all counter-acting medicinal contaminations being removed (for it is only of such I speak and only such I teach), never is seen or dreamt of in routine practice. But the difference is enormous and incredible.
So the glutton just risen from his luxurious meal of highly-spiced food is incapable of perceiving the taste of a grain of sugar placed upon his over-stimulated tongue; whereas a person contented with simple fare will, when fasting in the morning, experience an intense sweet taste from a much smaller quantity of the same sugar. Similarly amid the multifarious noises in the most crowded part of a large town we can often not comprehend the loudly spoken words of a friend at the distance of five or six paces, whereas in the dead of night, when all the sounds of day are hushed and perfect stillness prevails, the undisturbed ear distinctly perceives the softest tone of a distant flute, because this gentle sound is now the only one present, and therefore it exercises its full action on the undisturbed organ of hearing.
So certain is it, that when all accessory medicinal influences are withheld from the patient (as should be done in all rational treatment), even the very minute doses of a simple medicinal substance, especially of one chosen according to similarity of symptoms , can and must exercise its adequate and complete action, as a thousand-fold experience will teach any one whom prejudice does not deter from repeating the experiment accurately…