Last month we started a discussion about why the remedy needs to be similar to have a curative effect. Today we will discuss what happens if the second dynamic state/disease/condition is not similar to the former.
In aphorism number 36 and 37, Hahnemann discusses what happens when two dissimilar diseases meet in a body. In aphorism 36 he says:
I. If the two dissimilar diseases meeting together in the human being be of equal strength, or still more if the older one be the stronger, the new disease will be repelled by the old one from the body and not allowed to affect it. A patient suffering from a severe chronic disease will not be infected by a moderate autumnal dysentery or other epidemic disease. The plague of the Levant, according to Larry,1 does not break out where scurvy is prevalent, and persons suffering from eczema are not infected by it. Rachitis, Jenner alleges, prevents vaccination from taking effect. Those suffering from pulmonary consumption are not liable to be attacked by epidemic fevers of a not very violent character, according to Von Hildenbrand.
1 “Memoires et Observations,” in the Description de l’ Egpte, tom. i.
So here he gives examples of the meeting of two dissimilar natural diseases in a person. He says if the disease that comes later is of the same strength or weaker than the former, it is repelled and is not allowed to affect the body. It means that two dissimilar diseases of similar strength cannot reside in a body simultaneously. Now some of you might argue that you have seen numerous cases where different dissimilar conditions have existed in a patient. You are right! This does happen and Hahnemann was well aware of it. He has discussed formation of complex diseases in later aphorisms, which we will discuss in the coming months.
Now let us come back to this aphorism. The examples Hahnemann has given here are of special interest. He says:
A patient suffering from a severe chronic disease will not be infected by a moderate autumnal dysentery or other epidemic disease.
This is often true. Vithoulkas has explained this phenomenon beautifully through his Levels of Health. He says that your susceptibility and level of health decides what kind of ailment you are going to get. A healthy person is more disposed to catch a seasonal acute and a less healthy person is more likely to develop a chronic condition (say hair fall) under similar stress. Your level of health decides what disease you can acquire. If your susceptibility lies at the mental or emotional level, you are unlikely to catch a cold at the onset of winters. But you can suffer from depression in winters. This often seen in mental asylums too where the frequency of acutes is very low.
If a disease is sufficiently dissimilar to an existing disease, it is most likely targeting a different level or different organ system. You got the first disease because it matched your level of susceptibility. But the second one being dissimilar will either not match your level of health or the underlying susceptibility and hence would not affect your body (repelled in Hahneman’s words!)
He gives another similar example:
Those suffering from pulmonary consumption are not liable to be attacked by epidemic fevers of a not very violent character, according to Von Hildenbrand.
But the other two examples he has given are of vital interest.
The plague of the Levant, according to Larry,1 does not break out where scurvy is prevalent, and persons suffering from eczema are not infected by it. Rachitis, Jenner alleges, prevents vaccination from taking effect.
To quote in modern terminology: The plague of Levant refers to Bubonic plague (an infection of the lymphatic system, usually resulting from the bite of an infected flea, Xenopsylla cheopis (the rat flea)) (the term Levant, which first appeared in English in 1497, originally meant the East in general. Levant was originally applied to the “Mediterranean lands east of Italy”, from the Middle French word levant meaning “the Orient”.). Scurvy is a disease caused by Vitamin C deficiency. Rachitis is an old term for Rickets, caused by Vitamin D deficiency.
Hahnemann had no idea that he was speaking about two conditions caused by vitamin deficiency and not true disease states caused by infections or miasms. It’s a coincidence that he put them together here. Today we know that both these vitamins are essential part of our immune response and the failure of vaccination could result from an insufficient immune response (on which the vaccination depends). But a person with severe nutritional deficiency (like Scurvy) is likely to be more susceptible to infections. To me this example of plague and scurvy looks flawed. And I’ll ignore this particular example as Hahnemann was quoting someone else to support his postulate. The quote would have been right if the observation by Larry were right.
So apart from this one example, the rest of the aphorism is perfectly alright and is supported by our more modern understanding of an individual’s underlying susceptibility and the level of health.
Now let’s move on to understand what happens when a dissimilar allopathic medicine is used for a patient.
So, also under ordinary medical treatment, an old chronic disease remains uncured and unaltered if it is treated according to the common allopathic method, that is to say, with medicines that are incapable of producing in healthy individuals a state of health similar to the disease, even though the treatment should last for years and is not of too violent character.1 This is daily witnessed in practice, it is therefore unnecessary to give any illustrative examples.
1 But if treated with violent allopathic remedies, other diseases will be formed in its place, which are more difficult and dangerous to life.
Here he is making two important observations. An organism might be able to repel a dissimilar disease but he has often willingly taken allopathic pills that are incapable of producing a similar state. So what happens when you take allopathic medicine? Hahnemann says that if the treatment is not very violent or strong, it will not affect the old chronic disease significantly. There could be temporary amelioration but in the long run, the disease continues to progress according to its natural course. People around us are continuously popping low-dose aspirin, mild antacids, laxatives, antihistamines and painkillers etc. But the cardiac diseases, allergic disorders or gastro-intestinal problems do not get resolved with these medicines, even if taken for years. There is symptomatic amelioration because of the opposite state created by these drugs but the chronic disease state remains uncured and progresses with time.
Hahnemann has also briefly referred to the suppressions caused by allopathic medicines. He says that if the allopathic treatment is very strong, it could result in formation of more serious diseases. This is also commonly witnessed in our clinics. Children in which, atopic dermatitis is suppressed with steroid ointments are very likely to develop asthma in early childhood; patients who have take anti-allergic drugs and steroid nasal drops for rhinitis for very long, often end up getting asthma; asthmatic patients taking bronchodilators for long and hyperacidity patients taken strong antacids for long often develop hypertension in a few years time. These are all common observations and are well supported by the concept of levels of health given by Vithoulkas and the theory of suppression given by Vijayakar.
We will discuss more about the case where the second dissimilar disease is stronger, next month. Till then, adieu!