Hahnemann’s objection to the physiological approach to the study of drug-actions seemed to lie in the fact that the moment an attempt to establish the action of the drug from its supposed physiological effects, one was entering into a mystery that would give rise to various conflicting ideas and theories.
That is why the Homoeopathic Materia Medica consists of the collective statements of perceptible reactions of the healthy human body, recorded in the words of the persons acted upon by drugs and eschews all concepts, physiological and pathological and thus admits no misinterpretations with changing medical terminology, altered biological conceptions and newer scientific attitudes.
In so far as Hahnemann’s method remains on the plane of description of observations, it attains TOTAL stability to the extent that the observations are correct. When orthodox medicine attempts to “explain”, whenever these explanations are premature, each newly discovered fact will cause a shifting of emphasis and a consequent appearance of progress that is more of change than an advance; whereas the essentially descriptive view-point tends to account for the relative stability of Hahnemanns Materia Medica and his doctrine in general. And has done so for nearly 2 centuries.
However,there are many who, while affiliating with Hahnemann in his work, accepting the law of cure and the theory of drug provings, nevertheless are inclined towards the thought that a more thorough knowledge of the effects of drugs upon the organism should be established, more so than that which comes through the perceptible signs and symptoms caused by the drug. Further they want to explain that the modus operandi of the drug action has the capability of producing certain prominent physiological effects, or in other words, pathological alterations in the tissues.
We must ask why Hahnemann practically ignored these possible changes in tissues, and instead depended entirely upon the symptoms which provers recorded. We may note that this physiological approach to the study of drug-actions necessarily leads to the pathologising of remedies. The study of pathology and pathological anatomy shows how the study of connection of symptoms in the patient may greatly facilitate the discovery of symptoms by showing their mental connection, dependence and succession just as the study of physiology enables us to grasp the phenomena of healthy persons. This study aims at integrating all the symptoms into harmonious whole. But it would have been completely successful were our present knowledge of remedial actions perfect. However as the matter stands, neither physiological concepts nor the pathological symptoms completely cover the totality of symptoms in diseased conditions of the human organism, though these methods (e.g., physiological and pathological), no doubt help us greatly to marshal the facts in an orderly manner and to retain them in memory.
These methods of study attempt to grasp the conceptual whole, which are never co-extensive with the perceptual whole,
It is a fact that as yet there is not one single remedy in the whole of materia medica whose physiological action is completely understood and this being the case it becomes at once apparent that we cannot base our knowledge of drug-action upon that which we do not know or at least know very imperfectly. Then too, the study of the physiological effects of the drug to the entire disregard of individual symptoms necessarily leads to the pathologising of our materia medica.
Thus, when one studies the action of a drug. only from the effects to which he finds or supposes that he finds it to produce upon the tissues and organs he naturally concludes that when we find those alterations of tissues present in a manner similar to that which was supposed to be accomplished by the drug under consideration, that such a drug is the remedy regardless of any individual symptoms.
This leads to adoption of specific methods, which being once established everything pertaining to the pathogenesis which does not fall within the circle of this established specific drug-action is thrown away and cannot be considered of any more account;
It may be asserted without hesitation that whenever a remedy has been received as a specific in the sense which I have just mentioned, it has proved a curse both to the remedy and the physician as well. It is simply an impossibility for the action of any one remedy to be brought into any single recognised physiological or pathological process, at least in our day and without imperfect knowledge of drug-action. The continued study of drug-action upon this basis may give us eventually so perfect a knowledge of drug patho-genesy and disease pathology, if I may use such a term, that we may be able to establish a system of therapeutics based upon physiological action of drugs. That time has not yet come and it is very probably in the far distant future.
Our present knowledge of the pathology is not and can never be a guide to the administration of remedies. Object as we may, it is an undoubted fact that is becoming more apparent that we cannot understand the action of a drug from any other standpoint than that of the individual symptomology. We may theorise to as to the conditions which give rise to the symptomology; it is perhaps eminently proper that we should do so, but when it comes to the application of the drug itself itself we should not allow any theory that we may hold to stand against the indications that may be given by pure symptomatology. As the same rule holds good here as elsewhere in the study of various branches of medicine, that is, while extremes are sometimes useful in leading us to the consideration of effects, nevertheless they are seldom a safe guide in the study of either diseases or drug-actions.
It may be pointed out in this connection, that the so-called Hahnemannians of to day who ignore physiology and pathology in their study are found to be making the most ludicrous mistakes in their treatment of diseases, mistakes that might be avoided by a very simple knowledge of the other two important sciences which they leave entirely out of the question. On the other hand there may be a class of men who claim for themselves the title of homoeopathic physicians, but who have no knowledge whatever of symptomatology and never studied their materia medica carefully, but go upon the assumption that they possess a perfect knowledge of the physiological effects of the drugs and of pathological effects in disease; and they are found to be prescribing certain drugs for certain conditions under any and all circumstances regardless of the symptomatology or indeed regardless of any specific ideas whatsoever excepting only those relating to the pathological effects of the drug itself. It is very evident that such physicians are liable to err; and that there is not one who does not make mistakes at times in his supposed knowledge of the physiological effects of drugs. He therefore stands upon an uncertain ground and is neither scientific nor safe in his methods of practice.
It may be concluded therefore that the physiological effects of a drug must ever be, so far as known, the scientific basis of our knowledge of drug-action, and we should lend every energy to increase this knowledge and at the same time, we should realise how weak and lame we are in this direction before accepting as a fact that which almost every physician has established as unsatisfactory if he has given the matter any thought at all. This is why the theory expounded by Hahnemann in the early days of drug study holds equally good today, that symtomatology is the only safe language of a drug-action, wherein we are never liable to make a mistake and upon which we can at all times depend. One who closely follows the symptomatology of the drug and the patient we shall more nearly arrive at the individuality of the drug and the patient.
We should not ignore the very important relation that exists between the homoeopathic materia medica and physiology, but at the same we should not allow the relationship to become so great as to blind us to the true and only scientific method of drug-study: symptomatology, the science of semiology.