After establishing the basic principles of homeopathy and whilst gaining practical experience, Hahnemann constantly worked on perfecting the application methods to avoid aggravations and to provide a rapid, gentle and permanent cure. Based on his practical experience Hahnemann argued, that:
“The suitableness of a medicine for any given case of disease does not depend on its accurate homeopathic selection alone, but likewise on the proper size, or rather smallness, of the dose.” (§275 Organon)
Aggravation means the increase of intensity or degree of suffering. Each aggravation of symptoms or the appearance of new symptoms, when nothing untoward has occurred in the mental or physical regimen, invariably proves the unsuitability of the given medicine, either the remedy itself or its potency or dose.
Modalities are circumstances that modify a particular or general symptom, either appearing artificially induced during provings, or as experienced by the patient suffering from the natural disease. Modalities can make a symptom better or worse.
Each remedy has its own mode of action and acts best under certain conditions. Thus, modalities belong to the distinguishing features that help differentiating remedies. Especially, if they are strange, rare or peculiar they highly individualize a case and assist in choosing the homeopathic remedy.
Boenninghausen attached special importance to the completeness of symptoms, for which modalities are considered the most valuable features, followed by sensation and location. Concomitant symptoms, which may constitute of modalities, also represent important differentiating factors according to Boenninghausen.
Modalities can be classified as physical, temperature, time, climate, dietary modalities, localized modalities (lateralities) and miscellaneous modalities.
Similar, homeopathic aggravation
Guided by the Law of Similars homeopaths search for the remedy that is most similar to the patient’s totality of characteristic symptoms. Applied, this remedy induces an artificial disease, which, when somewhat stronger than the natural disease, replaces the natural disease and initiates cure.
A similar aggravation occurs when the original symptoms of the patient increase temporarily at the beginning of treatment. This is a sign that the remedy is correct but that the potency was too high, or the dose too large or repeated too frequently.
The similar aggravation is caused by the primary action of the remedy and displays the artificial, medicinal disease, which exceeds the natural disease in strength. As the dose of a homeopathic remedy can scarcely ever be made so small that it shall not be able to overpower the disease it is understandable why a homeopathic aggravation may occur at the beginning of treatment. (§160 Organon) However, the smaller the dose of the accurately chosen homeopathic remedy the more salutary its gentle remedial effect and the slighter and shorter the apparent increase of the disease symptoms. (§157,159, 277 Organon)
In the sixth edition of the Organon Hahnemann limited the homeopathic aggravation to the first or first few hours in acute diseases. It usually occurs immediately after ingestion for the first hour, or for a few hours, when the dose has not been sufficiently small, and for a considerable number of hours when the dose has been somewhat too large. (§160 Organon)
In chronic diseases, however, and with the application of Hahnemann’s advanced methods as described in the sixth edition of the Organon, an intensification of the original symptoms shall only appear at the end of treatment, when cure is almost finished – provided the accurately chosen remedy was given in gradually increased potency and properly small and modified doses. (§ 161 Organon) When cure is almost finished the vital force does not need further medicine to continue its curative reaction. If further medicine is applied, the symptoms of the medicine are called into play. However, if the first dose causes a homeopathic aggravation in chronic diseases, and in the same way every repeated, modified dose, this indicates that the dose was too large. (§ 282 Organon)
An aggravation caused by the smallest possible dose will be easily overcome by the vital force and does not prevent cure. It is often not perceptible in patients unless they are oversensitive. (§156, 283 Organon)
A homeopathic aggravation is often appreciated by the homeopath, especially the forth or fifth Organon prescribers, as indicating that the chosen remedy is correct and working. However, an aggravation is neither necessary to know that the remedy works, nor for cure. Any aggravation delays or might even prevent cure if the primary action of the remedy is too strong and suppresses the secondary, curative response of the vital force. Hahnemann just wrote, that a slight homeopathic aggravation is a very good prognostic that the acute disease will most probably yield to the first dose! (§ 158 Organon)
The intensity and duration of the similar aggravation gives us a clue about the correctness of the chosen remedy, the patient’s vital force, prognosis, and for case management.
- A quick and short similar aggravation followed by improvement indicates that the remedy was chosen correctly. Improvement will be long lasting. The patient has a strong vitality and good reactive power. Organic changes are unlikely or only present in non-vital organs. The case is curable, the prognosis is very good.
- A long continued aggravation but eventual and slowly progressing improvement indicates that the patient is on the borderline of incurability. The vital force is struggling to start a secondary curative reaction. Pathology is likely to be present. Prognosis is uncertain. The patient may recover if treated properly and the vital force strong enough to initiate and maintain the healing process.
- A prolonged aggravation and slow decline either indicates the incurability of the case due to irreversible organic pathology and a too weak vital force, and/or, that the vital force has been overwhelmed by a too high potency or dose and is unable to start a healing reaction.
- Hypersensitive patients may react to and aggravate on every remedy. High potencies are to be avoided.