AS TEST OF THE DOCTRINE OF DRUG DYNAMIZATION.
BY DR. J. COMPTON BURNETT.
THE theory of the dynamization of drugs was, perhaps, and arcanum, of the chemists in the middle ages, and was promulgated by Hahnemann as a doctrine, while this century was still young, ant it may be regarded as the natural outcome of his law of cure; he say: “The homoeopathic healing art develops for its purposes the dynamic virtues of medicinal substances, and, to a degree previously unheard of, by means of a peculiar and hitherto untried process (i.e. by triturating and shaking).
By this process it is that they become penetrating, operative and remedial, even those that, in a natural or cured state, did not exercise the least medicinal power upon the human system.” Organon, No. 269.
Then again, No. 275- “The appropriateness of a remedy for a given case of disease depends not alone on its being homoeopathically just the right one, but it also depends as much on the right strength or sufficient smallness of the dose.
If you give too large a dose of a remedy, even though it be fully homoeopathic to the morbid state present, and be it never so harmless in itself, it will be sure to do harm simply by its quantity, and by the unnecessary overstrong impression which it will make by acting exactly on the parts f the organism rendered tender and weak by the natural disease, and this it will do you the very reason of its like homoeopathic action.” (No.273 of 4th German edition.).
According to Hahnemann then, the strength (size) of the dose is very important, and the more homoeopathic our remedy in a given case the greater the danger of doing harm.
Many followers of Hahnemann accept his law only, and cast aside the theory of increasing the remedial power of a drug by trituration or succession as irrational and unscientific, and these are by no means the least accomplished or least scientific of them, and also by no means the least popular.
Perhaps we may go so far as to say that the more a man is prone to scientific research, the less easily can he conceive it possible to exalt the remedial energy of a drug by diminishing it quantity even though the diminished quantity be spread out over an indifferent medium; and the more popular he is, the less likely is he to tread the tortuous path. Thus Dr. Kidd tells us (Laws of Therapeutics, pp. 34, 35. London, 1878) “Twenty-seven years ago I saw the essential truth of Hahnemanns law was totally independent of his speculations about dynamization. Adopting with great delight the law of similia similibus curantur as the chief, though not the only, foundation for therapeutics,
I learnt for myself that Hahnemanns sober teaching, the use of the pure undiluted tinctures, was far better guide to heal the sick than Hahnemann drunk with mysticism, calling for the exclusive use of infinitesimal doses. The latter I cast aside in toto as untrustworthy and unjust to the sick, whose diseases too often remained stationary under treatment by globules, but were most effectually and quickly cured by tangible doses of the same medicines which failed to cure when given in infinitesimal doses.”.
Dr. Kidds position entitles his opinion to great respect,but until he published satisfactory accounts of those sick “whose diseases too often remained stationary under treatment by globules” [was the right medicine in those globules?] we take it only as his own subjective opinion, fully concurring in his own quotation from Plato that “nothing can be more repugnant to an ordinary mind than the thorough sifting of deep-seated, long- familiarized notions.”.
Dr. Kidd also states (op. cit., pp. 33, 34); “Truth is greater than Hahnemann, and of late years his speculations about Psora and infinitesimal doses have been tacitly up by all the most skillful and intelligent of his followers.” The italics are mine.
This sentence contains three propositions. Fist, that truth is greater than Hahnemann; admitted as a truism. Secondly, that of late years Psora and Dynamization have been tacitly given up; admitted as to some but not as to the vast majority.
[ Since writing this I have been honoured with a copy of an Address delivered before the Annual Assembly of the British Homoeopathic Society, June 20th, 1878, by R. Douglas Hale, M.D., etc., Vice- President of the Society, and on page 6 read, inter alia, “We emphatically deny that we have ceased to employ the infinitesimal dose].
But even suppose it were true of all, would the presence of nothing but atheists in the world do away with the Supreme Being? And thirdly, that these tacit up-givers of “Psora” and “infinitesimal doses” constitute “all the most skillful and intelligent of his followers”.
Of course we all know that those poor psoric dilutionists have neither skill nor intelligence; and besides, Codlins the friend, not Short.
The absolute proof that the apsoric crude-druggists monopolize “all the skill and intelligence” lied in their tacit mode of doing the doughty deed. They have invented a new system of philosophy-the tacit method, and “cast aside” exclaiming, “get thee behind me, for I am more skillful and intelligent than thou art.”.
But casting the doctrine aside without adequate experimental enquiry does not become science because it is done by a scientist; we are all very apt to leave the rules of scientific investigation at the door when we involuntarily feel we will not have a thing be true.
The writer has long been cast about on a sea of doubt and perplexity with regard to this doctrine of drug dynamization: he has frequently listened to the arguments brought forward for and against it, and frequently himself joined in ridiculing it, constantly feeling himself unable to believe it possible that the remedial potentiality of a given drug could be increased by any process of subdivision whatever, in fact, by any process whatsoever.
The question is constantly presenting itself to ones mind thus: can the billionth of a grain be potentially more than a grain? and the ready answer willingly follows-impossible. It may be conceded that the doctrine of drug dynamization is a priority, absurd: so is homoeopathy. How can a drug that causes diarrhoea cure diarrhoea? Surely it must make it worse. What,castor oil for an alvine flux? Clearly it cannot cure it. Yet experiment shows that what causes diarrhoea does indeed cure diarrhoea; like does cure like whether we believe it or not; and hence, what is a priority absurd, may be a posteriorly true.
We are all very apt to lose sight of the fact that our beliefs have nothing to do with truth. Truth is truth whether it be believed or not. The born blind may not believe in the existence of the sunlight because he does not see it. Sound is absurd to the deaf.
The existence of the word paradox shows that things apparently absurd and untrue may yet be true in fact.
However, there is this to be well considered. In the drug treatment of disease we have to deal with conditions and not with entities, and it is not paradoxical to suppose that two like and equal forces may neutralize one another.
Two equal showers of rain will make the ground wetter than one, but a pair of scales weighed down with a one grain weight is restored to equilibrium by the addition of another one-grain weight on the other side; it is similar in its action, and like in its power, only it works at the other end of the beam. Here the state of equipoise is brought about by similar means that are also equal: rest results from two motions.
Those ignorant of homoeopathy laugh at it; the writer went through this laughing stage of ignorance, but did not find it very blissful, and so was constrained to put the doctrine of similars to the test of scientific experiment, and found it a true one of great practical value. Almost all homoeopaths have come that way. Hence disbelieving a things does not disprove it.
Those ignorant of the doctrine of drug dynamization in truly scientific practice, laugh at it; so did the writer, and that in very good company; but finding that Hahnemann spoke truly in regard to drug action, he though that circumstance some slight presumptive evidence in favour of his other doctrine that remedial power is developed and increased in a drug by trituration and succession.
Therefore he put theory to the test of careful clinical experiment with the result that he has passed considerably beyond the laughing stage. The results obtained from clinical experiments ought to satisfy the most critical mind, if not blinded with prejudice, for they constitute the only scientific method of settling the question at all either one way or the other.
But it is much easier to satisfy ones mind about the truth, or otherwise, of homoeopathy than about the truth of the theory of potentizing drugs.
Expediency and policy can have no weight with us; if the Hahnemannian doctrine of drug dynamization be, as it averred on competent authority, a great stumbling-block to the profession, and hindrance to the spread of the major doctrine of similars, we can only regret it, but must proceed, and also insist upon it before the whole world, in the path of truth seeking coute qui coute. What can be more beautiful than truth for its own sake?.
In casting about for the best method of carrying out these clinical experiments various plans suggested themselves, but no very satisfactory one.
In the first place, we cannot accept most acute diseases as appropriate for experimentation, because of the many objections that may reasonably be offered to the results of any treatment of them. It is said that almost all acute affections tend to recovery of themselves.
If an experiment result in apparently shortening the course of any such affection, it is objected that the vis medicatrix nature did it; or, the disease being one that runs a definite course if treated expectantly, the diagnosis is called in question.
Apropos of the expectant or do-nothing method. If one of our learned fraternity declare his non-belief in medicine and give only a placebo without prayer, we think him very scientific, a great pathologist, and a fine kenner of the natural course of disease; he watches natures ways purely and simply, desiring to be neither her minister nor her master, but only her observer, and the law protects him and the faculty honour him.
But let one of the unlettered Shaker community do the same thing with prayer, and the law and the faculty unite to punish him. So if there be not one law for the poor and another for the rich, there are one for the doctor and another for the Shaker-and all the worse for the Shaker.
But to return, the writer believes that he sometimes succeeds in breaking up measles with the aid of Gelsemium and Sulphur, but it might be a very difficult matter to satisfy another that he really does.
Hence, acute affections of fixed nosology are mostly eliminated as offering too many difficulties, in private practice especially.
Of chronic affections a great number are also not appropriate; thus a chronic ulcer of the leg may suddenly take on a healing action independently of the treatment a chronic bronchitis or other congestion may be suddenly made better by change of temperature or the veering round of the wind. Still there remain some chronic complaints that are eminently fitted for experimentation more particularly certain symptoms or groups of symptoms.
Of course no alterations are to be made either in diet or hygiene, or place of abode.
Having determined on the kind of case best adapted for proving or disproving the doctrine of drug dynamization, another serious difficult presents itself, viz.: whether the drug that supposedly proved itself curative of a given ailment, for instance, in the billionth dilution, did so simply because it contained some of the right medicine.
Thus if a headache disappear in three days,under the use of Gelsemium 6, and granted that it disappeared proper hoc, how are we to know that there was any dynamic effect there since probably it may have yielded to five drops of the fresh juice of the plant perhaps even more promptly. Therefore it should be shown that the crude substance in various quantities and in a soluble condition failed to effect the cure.
Here, again, another difficulty crops up. You must give the remedy in substance first, for the dilution might cure, and whether it did or not the experiment would fail; if the dilution cured there would be no opportunity of trying the crude substance, and if it failed to cure the experiment would of curse fail altogether in the present sense.
Therefore you give the drug in substance first of all. Then comes this other question: how long does the substance given continue to influence the economy or the disease in it? Suppose we were to assume a fortnight as the duration of its action, say of Bryonia O, might not the objection for three weeks, and therefore the cure supposedly effected by Bryonia 6 in the third week might in reality have been due to the Bryonia O.
Again, this would have to be determined for every single drug, since the duration of their action is held to be different.
So the thing bristles with almost insuperable difficulties. Still the matter calls for elucidation and, if possible, settlement.
For it has been affirmed by many able practitioners, by Hahnemann himself, and it is being daily and hourly re-affirmed by men of sound science that drugs do act differently and better when dynamized. In fact, many affirm, as did Hahnemann, that the doctrine is of transcendental importance, as many serious diseases can only be cured with dynamized drugs, being entirely incurable with the same drug in substantial doses, and so often altogether incurable unless with a highly potentized remedy.
Yet we cannot accept any mans dictum, and faith can have no place in science. In verba magistri jurare does not advance science on whit, but neither does mere sceptical negation.
Any experiments on the subjection, to be satisfactory, must be of such a nature that they may be repeated by others, proper circumstances and material being given.
It seems to the writer that there is one drug above all others in the materia medica which may greatly help in the elucidation of this important subject, viz. Natrum muriaticum. He has not the pretention to settle the question one way or the other, except for himself, but he thinks his ideas on the subject, together with a few clinical experiments, may prove suggestive to his professional brethren, and possibly advance the cause of truth a little.
He will advance it historically, that is as the thing arose and grew in his own mind stimulated by observation.