A Journal of Health and Disease
“Health Shall Live Free, and Sickness Freely Die”
This issue of the Homeopathic Echo started with an autobiography of Samuel Hahnemann. He was born in 1755 in Saxony, surrounded by delightful spots of nature, and carefully brought up by his parents, his father’s maxim being: “To act and to be without pretension.”
At grammar school he succeeded exceptionally, and in his twelfth year instructed others in the rudiments of the Greek language. However he described himself as being often indisposed from over-exertion, and because of that he had the privilege to attend only those lessons which he considered important. His father however was entirely opposed to him receiving a University education and withdrew him from grammar school on a number of occasions.
Later he went to the University of Leipsic (sic), where he supported himself by giving instruction in German and French to a young Greek gentleman, and by doing translations from the English language. He read extensively, and did not neglect to strengthen himself by exercise and fresh air. Subsequently he went to the University of Vienna, but he was forced to leave when because of a trick his small earnings were sacrificed. He did however obtain sponsorship, and studied medicine under Von Quaritz, the private physician of the Emperor. Later he became the private physician and librarian to a baron, the Governor of Transylvania, and then went on to take his Doctor of Medicine at Erlangen.
He returned to Saxony to recommence his professional career but found it impossible to acquire wider intellectual or physical improvement there, and went to Dessau where he found society, and an opportunity of extending his information. His leisure hours were devoted to the study of chemistry, and to short but highly interesting trips around the neighbouring mines.
In 1781 he was appointment official physician at Gommern, a place where there was no need for a physician, but it was there that he began to experience domestic happiness, and to feel the advantage of his official duties. Shortly after his appointment he married Henriette Kuchlerin. He next went to Dresden, where his practice was limited, but in the meantime he had no want either of comfort or information. Later in 1789 he moved to Leipsic, “in full confidence that Providence would guide whatever the lot of [his] daily life might be”. And then his autobiography ends in 1791 with the Economical Society and the Academy of Sciences electing him as a member.
In a further biography, not written by Hahnemann this time, Dr Fischer traces the further development of Hahnemann’s life. He came to be dissatisfied with himself as well as his profession, began to suspect that all the principles of medical science were uncertain and imperfect, and acknowledged that many of his patients would have fared better without his interference.
He felt some new and better system was to be discovered, and devoted himself zealously to literary undertaking, meanwhile having discontinued his practice of medicine.
In 1790, he developed the first idea of Homeopathy, when after translating the Materia Medica of Cullen, he noted the efficacy of Peruvian bark against ague, and subsequently took a considerable dose of the bark, developing a violent attack of intermittent fever.
He questioned whether the property of Peruvian bark which produced fever in a healthy subject might also be efficacious in curing the same malady. He repeated some more experiments with several other imported medicines, and his experiments were attended with similar results.
From this he laid down the principle as: “That diseases are cured in the safest, easiest (ie most painless and convenient), and most convenient manner, by those medicines which produce symptoms most nearly resembling those in the healthy body.”
Hahnemann returned to the sick bed, at first acting with great caution, working in the Lunatic Asylum near Gotha. He was probably the first person to introduce the non restraint system for the treatment of the insane, and never allowed insane persons to be punished by blows, “for there can be no punishment where there is no sense of responsibility”.
During the last year of his residence at Konigslutter, he witnessed a severe epidemic of scarlet fever, for which he used Belladonna. “It happened that in the family of four children, three were attacked by the prevailing disease; while the fourth, who was taking Belladonna at the time for another complaint escaped the contagion though generally a sick and weakly child.” He started administrating Belladonna to test its prophylactic virtues, and issued advertisements to obtain subscribers for a work on the subject, promising to disclose the name of the prophylactic as soon as the number of subscribers amounted to three hundred.
He was accused by his colleagues of avarice and selfishness, and envy and selfishness revealed themselves, with the physicians and apothecaries informing against him. He we forbidden to dispense medicines and was thus compelled to leave that country.
He bought a large wagon and packed up all his property and family, and left, accompanied by a number of his patient whom he had restored or saved. However, on a hilly part of the road the wagon was overturned, the driver was thrown off his seat, his infant son was so injured that he died shortly afterwards, and the leg of one of his daughters was fractured. He was compelled to stay in the nearest village for six weeks.
He subsequently settled back in Germany, but the persecution of the official physician compelled him to abandon various towns, and he was forced to struggle in the greatest poverty, translating works for the press during the day, and helping his wife to wash the family clothes at night, using raw potatoes because they were unable to purchase soap.
The biography of Hahnemann is continued in later issues.
Hyegeine (sic) Regimen
In this section he deals with mental exercise, and the influence of mental exercise and excitement on health. He starts by saying that the brain is the organ of the mind, and that it is evident that whatever exercises or excites the mind affects the brain, and through it the health of the body. In childhood he cautions against undue exercise of any organ or system, thus depriving others of that cultivation which they require. “So children whose mental powers are too early developed seldom or never prove to be healthy persons.:
He thought that the child for the first ten years of life” ought not to be oppressed or tormented with learning ... but that play, exercise of the body, entire liberty, and good nourishment were important”. This, he claimed, leads to the advantages of good health, grace, agility, gaiety and happiness.
In this section Dr Fischer refers to the investigation of disease, talking in particular about the pulse. He gives a number of denominations of the Pulse, including frequent, slow, quick, sluggish, hard, soft, strong, feeble, large, small, full, empty, unequal and intermittent.
In this section Dr Fischer talks about asthma, describing it as periodical spasm of the respiratory organs, with paroxysmal difficulty of breathing, accomponied by a sensation of constriction in the chest, and violent exertions of all the auxilliary organs of respiration.
Contrary to current opinion, he states that the disease is more frequently met with in an advanced stage in the early part of life, and he described the paroxysms generally coming on in the evening, or between sunset and midnight.
His description of asthma includes sudden waking from sleep with a feeling of suffocation, or a feeling of stricture across the chest, or of a heavy weight on the chest. He does state that the disease can be confounded with angina pectoris, and certainly part of his description seems more typical of angina than asthma.
The remedies he recommends for asthma are Ipecac, Bryonia, Nux vomica, Pulsatilla, China, Belladonna, Lachesis, Moschus, Sambucus, Dulcamara, Stannum, Lobelia and Veratrum.
For Rheumatism and Rheumatic Fever, he talks about two classifications: acute and chronic, of which the acute is probably Rheumatic Fever and the chronic Rheumatoid Arthritis.
For constipation, he says that the costiveness that patients have is generally “sympathetic”, and that mere tardiness of evacuation should not always be regarded as a disease.
He mentions heartburn and boils, and also gives a chart for toothache, defining eleven different remedies by modalities.
Lecture on Physiology
For the Lecture on Physiology Number 5, he talks about blood, which contributes to growth and health only as it exists in a pure and healthy condition. If this precious, vital fluid itself be diseased, it cannot fail to communicate the disease to the various parts or organs which it has to supply with their appropriate nutrients.
He also warns that no one should choose a house in a crowded, confined, and sickly peopled neighbourhood, because the atmosphere of such a neighbourhood is always more or less impure.
Words to the Wise
In this he continues his dissertation on the physiologic effects of alcoholic liquors, again saying that the habitual use of alcoholic liquors, even in small quantities, is not only unnecessary, but injurious, and that their abandonment would lead to “the most beneficial results, not only to those that use them, but in a much wider sense, to the community at large”.
Dr Fischer also gives an extract from a letter in the Homeopathic Times, which I will quote:
Ye who in Hahnemann delight,
List to the praise of Aconite.
If you cannot sleep at night,
Take a dose of Aconite.
The bad effects of fear or fright
Are quickly cured by Aconite.
If your brain feels hot and tight,
Take a dose of Aconite.
If spots or mist obscure the sight,
Take a dose of Aconite.
If your tongue be dry and white.
Take a dose of Aconite.
Inflammation at its height,
Is soon allayed by Aconite.
Quenchless thirst, no appetite,
Demand a dose of Aconite.
If smarting with mosquito’s bite,
Take a dose of Aconite.
Thus every ill (almost, not quite)
Is stayed or cured by Aconite
Dr Wendy Rose Isbell