[Presidential Address before the 95th Annual Meeting of the Connecticut Homoeopathic Medical Society, May 15, 1945].
BENNO LIPTON, M.D.
When you study one of the older books on homoeopathic materia medica, you will be surprised to find how much stress the old teachers laid on constitutional characteristics. You will read that one remedy supposedly fits a person with blond hair and blue eyes, another remedy one with dark complexion, and perhaps a stiff fibre. This discloses an awareness of constitutional or temperamental peculiarities which we apparently have lost. And that is no wonder. We live in an era of medical thought which maintains that the germ is the primary cause of disease. This inevitably causes the search to be made for the drug which will dependably, quickly, and completely destroy the germ.
We homoeopaths always have believed that the germs are not the cause of disease, but that they only accompany disease. There has been an important confirmation of this in a report that has come out of Russia. Speransky reports on a ten years research made on a vast scale, a major part of which was devoted to the determination of the cause of disease.
One of the significant conclusions is that germs are not the primary cause of disease. This may be the first sign of a change in attitude, away from the germ which is to be destroyed, to the patient who is to be cured. It is the realization that the clinical picture of disease is an expression of a given individuals reflex effort to deal with a special stimulus from outside. Consequently, the object of research is not a description of injurious events, but more significantly the pattern of the subjects reaction to them.
“Pattern of reaction” is nothing else but the constitution or temperament of a person. The doctrine of the constitutions is the great discovery of Hippocrates. He recognized four humours or “juices” in the human body, the equilibrium of which meant perfect health. He distinguishes the lymphatic, sanguine, bilious, and nervous temperament according to the preponderance of the lymph, blood, bile, or black bile, respectively. Inherent in the temperament are the qualities of hot and cold, dry and humid. Hot and humid corresponds to the sanguine temperament, but and dry to the bilious, cold and humid to the lymphatic, cold and dry to the nervous temperament.
What meaning does this doctrine of the temperaments have for homoeopathy? In trying to find a remedy for a chronic patient, we question him about all his reactions to his environment. We are interested in his reaction to heat and cold. This distinction is so important to us that we even divide our remedies into “hot” and “cold” remedies according to their modalities.
It is evident from the foregoing that the lymphatic and nervous temperaments are sensitive to cold and require “cold” remedies, such as Calc. carb or Nux vom. respectively. The aggravation by heat belongs to the sanguine and bilious temperaments, calling for remedies like Sulphur and Bryonia respectively. Then, there is the aggravation by humidity which effects the “humid” constitutions; namely, the sanguine and lymphatic temperaments calling again, for example, for Sulphur and Calc. carb. respectively.
The consideration of the mental make-up plays a prominent part in the homoeopathic questionnaire. The changes we look for in the mental sphere are those of the will, the emotions, and of the intellect. We may be sure to find disturbances in the realm of the will particularly in the bilious temperament; disturbances of the emotions in the sanguine temperament; and disturbances of the intellect in the nervous temperament.
Food cravings can undoubtedly be traced to the different temperaments and it should be possible to build up a system of diet on such a knowledge.
Similarly, it may be expected that the menstrual flow, its length and color, varies with the difference in temperament.
The knowledge of the temperamental reaction pattern will be a great help in prescribing for a patient. Dr. Roberts, in his “Principles and Art of Cure by Homoeopathy” has pointed out that we should not rely too much on the temperament of the patient for this is likely to lead us to keynote prescribing. We have to judge the whole symptom picture, and since the is apt to react according to his predominant temperamental makeup, the knowledge of it will be a great help in finding his remedy.
NEW HAVEN, CONN.