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On Infinitesimal Doses.
The question of the doses has been the subject of much discussion. It is quite independent, however, of the still greater features of Hahnemann's doctrine, -the principle similia similibus curantur.
It owes its origin to Hahnemann's having observed that, by strong doses, the more regular symptoms of doses were aggravated, and that many less regular, and very distressing symptoms, were excited. He, therefore, gradually diminished his doses, until he no longer observed any of the primary symptoms of the medicament, or any unnecessary aggravation. By this cautious and prudent procedure, he found that diseases were still cured, and that both more easily and speedily.
Mode of preparation.
These considerations naturally bring us to the mode of preparing the medicines, and it is to be observed, that homœopathists rather prefer to prepare their remedies themselves than to entrust this to any other person. With all mineral substances, then, the process commences with trituration, by which they are reduced to a fine powder. One grain of this powder is put into a small porcelain mortar with thirty-three grains sugar of milk, and after being mixed with a bone spatula, the mixture is pounded for a few minutes. Six is the number used by Hahnemann, and for the sake of uniformity that number is generally adopted, after which it is detached from the bottom and
sides of the mortar, and again pounded for six minutes more. Thirty-three grains of the sugar of milk are then added, and the process is repeated as in the first instance, after which another quantity of thirty-three grains of sugar of milk is again added, and the same course pursued, thus making the attenuation of 1, 100. The medicine thus obtained is preserved in a phial, securely stopped, and labelled with the name and the degree of attenuation.
In this manner the attenuation is carried to the onemillionth part of a grain; and when a greater attenuation is required, the powders are dissolved in a mixture of alcohol and water.
Vegetable juices, or extracts, are reduced to the state of a concentrated alcoholic tincture, of which a drop is mixed with ninety-nine of alcohol, and the medical properties developed by shaking. One drop of this delution being then shaken, is mixed with ninety-nine drops alcohol, and again shaken, and the same process is repeated until the required degree of dilution is obtained. In general, the dilution is carried to the decillionth part of a grain. When the tincture is diluted to the proper state, generally the thirtieth dilution, small globules of sugar of milk, or of common sugar and starch, are made to absorb it, and from forty to sixty of these are requisite for the absorption of one drop. A few of these make a common dose, but the size being so small that they might be lost, they are generally inclosed in a little powder of sugar of milk.
Effects of Attenuation and Dilution.
The means used by the homoeopathic physician in preparing his medicine,-the attenuations and dilutions by triturations and shaking,-devolop their properties in an extraordinary manner, giving to all of them a more penetrating action, and to some which before exhibited very little medical power, this communicates important properties.
It is also an interesting fact, that the third trituration of any substance is always found to be soluble in diluted alcohol, and hence, it appears, that the power of action in medicaments, is developed in proportion as their cohesion is overcome.
Charcoal, lycopodium, silex, and graphites, are amongst the substances which were considered almost inert, and which, as usually prepared, have certainly very little influence on the human organization, but they become active agents in the manner just pointed out, and show powers which they were not previously supposed to possess.
Nor does the objection receive the slightest support from physical and chemical facts; on the contrary, these sciences afford striking support to the doctrine of infinitesimal doses. Triturations may certainly be supposed to develop medicinal properties, even in substances which before seemed inert and powerless, when we know that by friction alone the properties of certain bodies are brought into action, which else had remained latent and dormant.
Caloric and electricity furnish familiar illustrations of the effect of this; and we might prové, by mathematical demonstrations, that however far the attenuations may be carried, some portion of the medicinal substances must still be present.
We might appeal to the recognized and well known fact, of the power of electricity and caloric, both imponderable substances in modifying such bodies as are submitted to their action.
There is nothing unreasonable in supposing, that long continued trituration in a mortar, or shakings in a phial, may so modify the substances thus treated, as to develop in them a power over the human economy which was before inert or latent.
From these considerations arose the doctrine of Hahnemann, that tho brute matter of medicines thus become spiritualized, or the doctrine of the development of the dynamic power of medicinal substances by friction and concussion. Hence, two or three globules imbibed with the dilution which contains only the decillionth part of a grain, will make the patient feel very sensibly the effect of the medicine, provided it is properly chosen. That is, provided the symptoms which it is capable of producing in a healthy subject are similar to those of the disease with which the patient is afflicted.
Principle of their operation.
When any part of the body is affected by disease, that H
part becomes extremely sensible to the action of the most minute quantity of medicine, if that medicine be adapted to act upon. However powerful and robust may be the individual who is laboring under either chronic or acute disease, he speedily feels the impression produced by it, whatever part or organ may be affected by the malady. The effect of the smallest homœopathic dose would, indeed, be more felt by an adult under these circumstances, than by an infant exempt from them, and in perfect health, because it then affects the seat of the complaint almost exclusively; and that, being in a state of irritation, is predisposed to be strongly affected by any substance having the property of producing a like irritation. Thus it is well known, that when the eye is in a state of inflamation, light produces the most powerful effect upon it, and that a person into ill humor will be thrown in absolute rage by some trifling additional annoyance, which, at another time, he would not have condescended to notice.
And here it is important to observe, that in the ill humored person thus easily irritated by the slightest occurrence of a similar kind, no dissimilar event—nothing of a joyful kind, however powerful, will appease his anger. Such precisely is the difference, and it is an irreconcilable one, between the practice of the homeopathic and the a llopathic method with regard to the doses of medicine a difference which depends on the aptitude or inaptitude for the impression which the organism, in a state of discase, manifests for its similar or dissimilar irritant: and it