Homeopathy Papers

The Dependence of Homoeopathy Upon its Materia Medica

Dr. Guernsey exhorts us to study and improve our Materia Medica, a cornerstone of homeopathic practice.

The foundation upon which Homoeopathy was established; the rock upon which it was built; it’s very dependence, both now and for the future, is the Homoeopathic Materia Medica. Hygiene and dietics, pathology and physiology, besides other collateral branches, are as necessary to it’s existence as a system of medical practice as are beams, bricks and mortar to an edifice; but of that edifice, the Materia Medica is the corner-stone. Or, if instead of an edifice, we regard Homoeopathy as the arch of cure spanning all the diseases flesh is heir to, then the Materia Medica is its keystone. But in spite of this, the tendency at the present day seems to be to make Homoeopathy depend upon everything else except the Materia Medica. It therefore will be well for us to look at this matter and try to realize what it means.

Homoeopathy – by this we mean the curing of disease according to the law of similars, that like cures like. By this we also mean that life work which each of us has chosen as the best means of aiding and curing the sick. This curing of disease we can effect; this life-work we can carry on, only by the proper use of our Materia Medica. I may be asked, “Why do you lay so much stress upon the Materia Medica ? How about the Organon ?” “The Organon”, I reply, “when rightly and thoroughly understood, directs the proper application of the Materia Medica.”

The early triumphs of Homoeopathy were owing, not to talking about and explaining the Organon, but to the successful application of the Materia Medica, to the mitigation of suffering thereby, and to the brilliant cures wrought.

Hahnemann and his immediate successors established Homoeopathy, and they gave it the reputation and proud distinction which it enjoys today, through the wonder and admiration they excited at the cures accomplished with the Homoeopathic Materia Medica. Moreover, I assert that Homoeopathy could never have been generated, born and brought into existence without it’s Materia Medica; and I further declare that Homoeopathy has not made any progress whatever since the day of it’s birth, nor can it ever make any progress in all time to come, excepting by and through it’s Materia Medica. There are many collateral branches, which, when taken as a whole, may be termed the science of medicine, i.e., of medicine in general. But the science of Homoeopathic medicine, per se, stands alone.

Homoeopathy has a Materia Medica of it’s own, and a method of prescribing peculiarly its own.

  1. We prescribe according to the law of similars.

  2. We give the least possible dose (or quantity) that will cure.

  3. We require that all repetition of the dose shall cease while improvement continues.

This is the way true Homoeopathy was established; this gave it the great name and vast powers it enjoys today. Now, from the practice of medicine in general, drop out our provings, our clinical observations and confirmations, our method of administering drugs – for the Homoeopathic Materia medica predicates and requires all these – and where would be Homoeopathy? It would be like the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out; it would cease to exist. Observe, that I do not bring up any question of potency; I only ask for the smallest possible dose that will cure, and that it be prescribed as nearly as possible in accordance with the totality of symptoms. Nor do I attack or defend the question whether, if Homoeopathy should cease to be practiced, there is or is not, or whether there will not arise a simpler or more successful method of cure. I only desire that we shall ever bear in mind the dependence of Homoeopathy for its very existence upon its Materia Medica.

It seems to me that at the present day our Materia Medica receives much less attention from us than any other branch. On the contrary, all sorts of make-shifts and palliatives are employed. I greatly fear that many of our numbers are as ready to tamper with phenacetine, anti-febrine, sulphonal, and the numberless other passing illusions which are hailed as wonderful “new discoveries”, as are our opponents Koch, who discovered (?) the Tuberculosis cure; as Brown-Sequard with his elixir of life; or as Bergeon with his positive cure of consumption by rectal inflation with sulphuretted hydrogen. But while our school is chasing such phantoms, Homoeopathy is standing still. The provings of the grand old polychrests remain, and are still used, and almost exclusively depended upon.

Let us have a change. Let us determine to boom Homoeopathy in the right way, that we may keep her abreast with the progress of this justly styled progressive era! To do this, let every physician professing to practice Homoeopathy determine within himself never to administer a drug empirically; never to prescribe with a view to palliate only; let him never administer a remedy unless it be in full accord with the presenting symptoms – like cures like. Away with the giving of anti-febrine to reduce the temperature; with acetanilide to destroy pain! This is only a waste of time; it is only treating an effect without seeking to remove the cause of that effect. Also, we must have new remedies, carefully and accurately proved, and then administered, not empirically, as is too much the present tendency, but Homoeopathicity. We also need still more confirmations of the old remedies, with careful weeding out of their possibly still remaining errors, coupled at all times with earnest and continuous study of the remedies we now have.

In conclusion, we must not forget that we are Homoeopathic physicians by virtue of our graduations and diplomas. For the sake of consistency, and in honor bound, we ought to feel ourselves committed to uphold and preserve our system of medicine in all its purity, and to develop it to its fullest strength.

Joseph C. Guernsey, M.D., Philadelphia

@ The article was first published in The Homeopathic Recorder, 1893

About the author

Joseph Guernsey

Joseph C. Guernsey was a physician and the son of famous homeopath
Henry N. Guernsey. Born in Frankford, Philadelphia, 1849, he was educated & graduated from Princeton College in 1870; received degree of A. M. 1873; became a medical student in his father’s office and was graduated from Hahnemann Medical College, Philadelphia. In 1872 he was quiz master of Materia Medica at Hahnemann Medical College; Provisional Secretary of the American Institute of Homeopathy 1876 and 1881. In 1893 President of the Homeopathic Medical Society of the State of Pennsylvania. He was Vice President of the Philadelphia County Homeopathic Medical Society, and served on the Bureaus of Materia Medica, Obstetrics and Sanitary Science. In 1872 he established the North Eastern Homeopathic Free Dispensary at Kensington. He edited "Transactions of the Homeopathic Medical Society of Pennsylvania," 1874 to 1879, and the “Transactions of the American Institute of Homeopathy," of 1879 and "Guernsey's Obstetrics and Diseases of Women and Children." From notes taken upon his father's lectures on Materia Medica, he compiled and published "Guernsey's Keynotes," and was co-editor of the "Repertory to Hering's Guiding Symptoms of our Materia Medica."

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