Homeopathy Papers

Use of Universal Symptoms

Written by E. A. Farrington

Use of Universal Symptoms

It is patent to all that the remedy for a given case is the one, which covers the characteristic symptoms. Hence no rule of practice is a correct sequence from the law of cure that in any way whatsoever disputes the selection from the totality of the symptoms. But theory and practice do not always agree; that is, their agreement is not always evident; so Hahnemann and his followers have all along striven to discover sub-rules that shall aid in the difficult task of curing disease. For example, the Organon instructs us how to proceed when one drug will not cover the totality, when constitutional taint obscures, when epidemic influences are at work, etc. And, further, still more in accommodation to circumstances, Hahnemann suggests as often needed as usually required, etc. Thuja in sycosis, Sulphur in psora, etc. Now, of course, it is not to be inferred here that such drugs must not be given for the respective “constitutions;” for the recommendation is ever subservient to the exacting law. Still, their suggestion is very helpful, because it represents a principle, and because it expresses the results of experience. It simply means, use such remedies as are best adapted to the removal of the underlying taint that is complicating and perpetuating the illness; generally, Thuja or Sulphur will do, because so often proved useful; but here, as always, characterizing symptoms must decide.

Agreeably to all this, physicians have, at times, when unable to fit “the totality”‘ chosen a remedy that suits those characteristics upon which the entire disease seems to depend.

In this manner we have learned to employ Collinsonia for many diseases when a congestion of the lower bowels with piles obtains. Employing such characteristics as piles bleeding, feeling of sticks in the rectum, stool in light-colored lumps, uterine affections, varices, irritable heart, etc; have yielded readily to the drug, just though they depended for their existence upon pelvic stasis.

Similarly we have seen palpitation, vertigo and dyspepsia vanish under the influence of Pareira Brava selected for its grand characteristic, “Must get down on all fours and strain to pass water; pains go down the thighs.” So, too, Berberis relieves a host of ailments when selected for its radiating renal pains, “Pains into the hips; urine with yellow, loamy sediment.” Anisum Stellatum has cured haemoptysis when selected by its key-note, “Pain at the junction of the third right rib with its cartilage”. Myrtus Communis has retarded phthisis when there was present sharp pain through the upper part of the left lung; Ceanothus has removed leucorrhoea when in addition there was sharp pain in the splenic region. And so on almost indefinitely.

Now in all such cases there is, of course, a connection between symptoms treated as central and the others that disappear along with them, though often we are not able to detect it.

In some instances, however, the symptom or group of symptoms employed plainly exhibit a universal quality of a drug; as when we select Bryonia in cases worse from motion; Thuja for nervous phenomena depending upon affections of skin and mucus membranes, or for warts; Rhus for complaints of fibrous tissues, better from continued motion; Causticum for paretic aphonia, even if of catarrhal origin and so on.

In such cases we are not prescribing for a single symptom, we are making use of a universal, characteristic property and whenever in the human body tissue like that under treatment exists, there the medicine can have an effect. And as metastases usually occur from similar part to similar part we prevent such a catastrophe by the universal scope of our drug. To explain further, suppose we examine into the application of the modality of Bryonia, worse from motion. It is universally present in all tissues that are generally affected by exercise; as in muscles, serous and synovial membranes, and inflamed joints. Bryonia depresses the sensorium, producing dullness and want of desire to use the brain; hence naturally the patient has aversion to motion. Now fibrous tissues are generally relieved by continued exercise, and, consistently, the “fibrous pains” of Bryonia are exceptions to the modality under consideration. Nervousness is a symptom that generally impels one to move; and accordingly, the Bryonia patient, when nervous, is compelled to move though thereby he intensifies other sufferings. Thuja, as is well-known, affects epithelia everywhere, first making them grow excessively and later, causing their absorption; hence, if the wart is that characteristic of the arborvitae, Thuja does not suppress it, but cures it, acting consentaneously upon the
whole “epithelial” man.

Rhus affects notably fibrous tissues; hence its modality, better from continued motion, but the purely muscular pains of the remedy, and the prostration, are worse from motion. If then, we prescribe for the modality better from motion, Rhus, we do not really depend upon one symptom if the case concerns chiefly joints, tendons, sheaths of muscles, and kindred structures.

When, therefore, we employ that we may term universals, we are not guilty of selecting a single symptom to the rejection of the rest. But when, as is, alas, too often done, we prescribe for an isolated symptom, simply because we recognize it as characteristic of a certain remedy, forgetting that what is characteristic in one connection may not be in another, and that a characteristic of a drug may not be an important symptom in a given case, we do violence to the principles of the Organon, and violate common sense. A case is published in a journal. The reader sees clearly enough what remedy should be given, and so is astonished to find that drug is claimed to have cured which has only one symptom of the case, and that a mere modality; for instance, worse after sleep, Lachesis. When we use proper discrimination, then will we have creditable clinical reports.

About the author

E. A. Farrington

E. A. Farrington (1847-1885) was born in Williamsburg, NY, on January 1, 1847. He began his study of medicine under the preceptorship of his brother, Harvey W. Farrington, MD. In 1866 he graduated from the Homoeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania. In 1867 he entered the Hahnemann Medical College, graduating in 1868. He entered practice immediately after his graduation, establishing himself on Mount Vernon Street. Books by Ernest Farrington: Clinical Materia Medica, Comparative Materia Medica, Lesser Writings With Therapeutic Hints.

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