How Can Small Doses of Such Very Attenuated Medicine as Homoeopathy Employs Still Possess Great Power?

By Samuel Hahnemann

(From the Reine-Arzneimitellehre, pt. Vi, 1st. Edit. 1827.)

This question is asked not only by the ordinary allopathic physician, who thinks he cannot go far enough with the huge quantities of medicines he prescribes, but the beginner in homoeopathy also ignorantly puts the same question.

To doubt, if it be possible that they can have the requisite power, seems to be of itself very foolish, because they are actually seen to act so powerfully, and manifestly to compass the object intended, and this they may be seen to do daily.

And what actually takes place must at least be possible!

But even when the hostile scoffers can no longer deny the effect that lies before their very eyes, they seek, be means of false analogies, to represent what is actually occurring, if not as impossible, at least as ridiculous.

"If a drop of such highly attenuated medicine, - so they talk,  - can still act, then the water of the lake of Geneva, into which a drop of some strong medicine has fallen, must display as much curative power in each of its separate drops, indeed much more, seeing that in the homoeopathic attenuations a much greater proportion of attenuating fluid is used."

The answer to this is, that in the preparation of the homoeopathic medicinal attenuations, a small portion of medicine is not merely added to an enormous quantity of non-medical fluid, or only slightly mingled with it, as in the above comparison. Which, has been devised in order to bring ridicule upon the affair, but, by the succussion and trituration, there ensues not only the intimate mixture, but at the same time - and this is the most important circumstance - there ensues such a great, and hitherto unknown and undreamt of change, by the developement and liberation of the dynamic powers of the medicinal substance so treated, as to excite astonishment.

In the above thoughtlessly adduced comparison, however, by the dropping of one drop of medicine into such a great lake, there can be no question of even its superficial admixture with all parts of a body of water of such extent, so as that every part shall contain an equal portion of the drop of medicine.

There is not the slightest question of an intimate mixture in such a case.

Even only a moderately large quantity of water, for instance, a hogshead of water, if we attempted to impregnate it in its entirety, in a mass, with a drop of medicine, could never, after any length of time, or by any imaginable stirring about be equally mixed - not to mention that the constant internal changes and uninterrupted chemical decomposition of the component parts of the water, would have destroyed and annihilated the medicinal power of a drop of vegetable tincture in the course of a few hours.

In like manner, a hundred weight of flour take, as one whole mass, can by no mechanical contrivance be mixed so equally with a grain of medicine as that each grain of flour shall obtain an equal portion of the medicinal powder.

In the homoeopathic pharmaceutical operations, on the contrary, (admitting they consisted merely of a common mixture, which they do not), as only a small quantity of the attenuating fluid is taken at a time (a drop of medicinal tincture shaken up along with 100 drops of alcohol), there ensues a union and equal distribution in a few seconds.

But the mode of attenuating practised in homoeopathy effects not only an equal distribution of the medicinal drop throughout a great proportional quantity of an unmedicinal fluid (which is out of the question in the above absurd comparison), but it also happens - and this is of infinitely greater importance - that by the succussion and trituration employed, a change is effected in the mixture, which is so incredibly great and so inconceivably curative, that this development of the spiritual power of medicines to such a height by means of the multipled and continued trituration and succussion of a small portion of medicinal substance with ever more and more dry or fluid unmedicinal substances, deserves incontestably to be reckoned among the greatest discoveries of this age.

The physical changes and development of power that may be produced by triturition from substances in nature, which we call matter, have hitherto only been surmised from some circumstances but the extraordinary effects in the way of developing and exciting the dynamic forces of medicines it can produce, have never been dreamt of.

Now, with respect to the development of physical forces from material substances by trituration, this is a very wonderful subject. [ What follows appeared in 1825, in the Allg. Anz. D. D., No. 194, and was intended as a reply to a correspond of the Journal, who endeavoured to show the nothingness of homoeopathy by some of those calculations respecting the minuteness of the dose, which to this day constitute the stereotyped arguments, of the opponents of the system. In the R. A. M. L. this is abridged, I have restored it to its original form.]

It is only the ignorant vulgar that still look upon matter as a dead mass, for from its interior can be elicited incredible and hitherto unsuspected powers.

All new discoveries of this sort are usually met by denial and incredulity from the great mass of mankind, who have neither adequate acquaintance with physical phenomena nor with the causes of these phenomena, nor the capacity to observe for themselves, and to reflect upon what they perceive. They see, for example, that when a piece of steel is strongly and rapidly rubbed against a hard stone (agate, flint), an operation that is termed striking fire, incandescent sparks fly off (and kindle the tinder or punk they fall on): but how few among them have carefully observed and reflected upon what really takes place there. All of them, or at least almost all, go on thoughtlessly lightning their tinder, and almost no one perceives, what a miracle, what a great natural phenomenon thereby take place.

When sparks are thus struck with sufficient force, and caught on a sheet of white paper, then we may see, either with the naked eye or by means of a lens, usually small pellets of steel lying there, which have been detached in a state of fusion from the surface of the steel by the smart collision with the flint, and have fallen in an incandescent state, like small fire balls, in the form of sparks, upon the paper, where they cooled.

How! can the violent friction of the flint and steel (in the operation of striking fire) cause such a degree of heat as to fuse steel into little balls. Does it not require a heat of at least 3000 of Fahrenheit's thermometer in order to melt steel? Whence comes this tremendous heat? Not out of the air, for this phenomenon takes place just as well in the vaccum of the air-pump! Therefore it must come from the substances that are rubbed together which is the fact.

But does the ordinary individual really believe that the cold steel which he draws thoughlessly from his pocket to light his tinder, contains hidden within it (in a latent, confined, undeveloped state) an inexhaustible store of caloric, which the blow only develops, and as it were, wakes into activity? No, he does not believe it, he has never reflected, and never will reflect, upon the phenomena of nature, Ant yet it is so. Ant yet his steel, which when at rest is cold, contains ' whether he believe it or no- an inexhaustible store of caloric, I repeat, which is not calculable by the cyphers of any of those arithmeticians who seek to limit nature and render her contemptible, by applying their multiplication table to the phenomena of her illimitable forces. The great natural philosopher, Count Rumford, (Count Rumford's treatise on caloric fills the first division of the 4th Vol of his works, which have been published by the Weimer Industrie-Comptoir.) teaches up how to heat our rooms solely by the rapid motion of two plates of metal rubbing against one another, without the employment of any ordinary combustible material whatever. No further proof is required to convince the reflective that natural bodies, and especially metals, contain an inexhaustible store of caloric concealed within them, which however can be called into life only by means of friction.

The effect of friction is so great, that not only the physical properties, such as caloric, odour, (Horn, ivory, bone, the calcareous stone impregnated with petroleum. &c., have of themselves no smell, but when filed or rubbed they not only emit an odour but an extremely fetid one, hence the last-mentioned substance has obtained the name of Stinkstone, though when not rubbed it has no smell.) &c., are thereby called into life and developed by it, but also the dynamic medicinal powers of natural substances are thereby developed to an incredible degree, a fact that has hitherto escaped observation. The founder of the homoeopathic system was the first who made this great, this extraordinary discovery, that the properties of crude medicinal substances gain, when they are fluid by repeated succusion with unmedicinal fluids, and when they are dry by frequent continued triturition with unmedicinal powders, such an increase of medicinal power, that when these processes are carried very far, oven substances in which for centuries no medicinal power has been observed in their crude state, display under this manipulation a power of acting on the health of man that is quite astonishing.

Thus pure gold, silver and platina have no action on the human health in their solid state – and the same is the case with vegetable charcoal in its crude state. Several grains of gold leaf, silver leaf or charcal may be taken by the most sensitive person without his perceiving any medicinal action from it. All these substances present themselves to us in a state of suspended animation as far as regards their medicinal action. But if a grain of gold leaf be triturated strongly for an hour in a porcelain mortar with one hundred grains of sugar of milk, the powder that results (the first trituration) possesses a considerable amount of medicinal power. If a grain of this powder be triturated as strongly and as long with another hundred grains of sugar of milk, the preparation attains a much greater medicinal power, and if this process be continued, and a grain of the previous triturition be rubbed up as strongly and for as long a time, each time with a fresh hundred grains of sugar of milk until, after fifteen such triturations, the quintillionth attenuation of the original grain of gold leaf is obtained, then the last attenuations do not display a weaker, but on the contrary, the most penetrating, the greatest medicinal power of the whole of the attenuations. A single grain of the last (quillionth) attenuation put into a small, clean, phial, will restore a morbidly desponding individual, with a constant inclination to commit suicide, in less than an hour to a peaceful state of mind, to love of life, to happiness, and horror of his contemplated act, if he perform but a single olfaction in the phial, or put on his tongue a quantity of this powder no bigger than a grain of sand. [In connexion with this subject I may be permitted to adduce a few points bearing on the question of the dose of gold. In the first place we learn from the 4th part of the R. A. M. L. and the Chr. Kr that this substance was proved upon healthy individuals in doses of from 100 to 200 grains of the first triturition (one to two grains of pure gold). Then, with respect to the doses to be administered in disease, we find it stated in the intorduction to gold in the second edition of both these works (published respectively in 1825 and 1835, probably a repetition of what appeared in the 1st edition of the R. A. M. L., published about 1820) that Hahnemann has cured several (mehre) individuals suffering from suicidal melancholia with from 3-100ths to 9 to 100ths of a grain of gold for the whole treatment. He also mentions in these places that he had found a smaller quantity, viz: 1-10000th part of a grain of gold not less powerful, especially in caries of the nasal and palatial bones, from the abuse of mercurials. In the essay of which our text is a translation (published in 1825) he states that a quintillionth (15th dilution) was the preparation he then generally use in the same essay as it appears in the 6th part of the R. A. M. L., (published in 1827), and in the introduction to gold, in the R. A. M. L.,(published in 1825), he recommends a quadrillointh of a grain (12th dilution) for a dose. In the Chr.,Kr., (published in 1835) he f course advises the decillionth (30th dilution) to be given in every case. The following, then, was the state of Hahnemann’s practice in reference to the dose of this remedy at different periods. About 1820, 1st or 2d attenuation in 1825, 12th or 15th attenuation in 1827, 12th attenuation in 1835, 30th dilution) to be given in every case. The following, then, was the state of Hahnemann’s practice in reference to the dose of this remedy at different periods. About 1820, 1st or 2nd attenuation, in 1835, 30th attenuation.]

From this we perceive that the preparation of medicinal substances of trituration , the farther the development of their powers is thereby brought and the more perfectly capable they are thereby rendered for displaying their power, become capable of answering the homoeopathic purpose in proportionately smaller quantities and doses.

Medicinal substances are not dead masses in the ordinary sense of term, on the contrary, their true essential nature is only dynamically spiritual – is pure force, which may be increased in potency by that most wonderful process of trituration (and succussion) according to the homoeopathic method almost to an infinite degree.

In the same way liquid medicines do not become by their greater and greater attenuation, weaker in power but always more potent and penetrating. For homoeopathic purposes this dilution is performed by well shaking a drop of the medicine with a hundred drops of unmedicinal fluid, and so on.

This result, so incomprehensible to the man of figures, goes so far that we must set bounds to the succusion process, in order that the degree of attenuation be not over-balanced by the increased potency of the medicine, and in that way the highest attenuations become too active. If we wish, for example, to attenuate a drop of the juice of sundew, (Drosera rotundifolia, a plant, which, along with its various species, grows on moist meadow-ground, and is very noxious to sheep.) to the decillointh, but shake each of the bottles with twenty or more succusions from a powerful arm, in the hand of which the bottle is held, in that case this medicine, which I have discovered to be the specific remedy for the frightful epidemic hooping-cough of children, will have become so powerful in the fifteenth attenuation (spiritualization) that a drop of it given in a tea-spoonful of water would endanger the life of such a child whereas if each dilution-bottle were shaken but twice (with two strokes of the arm) and prepared in this manner up to the decillionth attenuation, a sugar globule the size of a poppy seed moistened with the last attenuation cures this terrible disease with this single dose without endangering the health of the child in the slightest degree. (In the version of this passage as it stands in the R.A.M.L., the decillionth attenuation prepared with twenty succussions to each bottle is spoken of as endangering the life of the hooping-cough patient, and from this circumstance and the fact that it is not stated that such a preparation did endanger it, we are, I think, justified in inferring that Hahnemann did not actually observe any such case, but that he merely supposed that it would occur which his theory of the increase of potency in homoeopathic medicaments by the processes of triturition and succusion would lead him to do.]

But these homoeopathic medicinal attenuations (-pity there is no more appropriate word in any language to express what takes place in the process, as this phenomenon was never heard of before its discovery-) these attenuations are so far from being diminutions of the medicinal power of this grain or drop of the crude medicinal substance keeping pace with its extreme fractional diminution as expressed by figures, that, on the contrary, experience shews them to be rather an actual exaltation of the medicinal power, a real spiritualization of the dynamic property, a true, astonishing unveiling and vivifying of the medicinal spirit.

But there are various reasons why the sceptic ridicules these homoeopathic attenuations. First, because he is ignorant that by means of such triturations the internal medicinal power is wonderfully developed, and is as it were liberted from its material bonds, so as to enable it to operate more penetrating and more freely upon the human organism secondly, because his purely arithmetical mind believes that it sees here only an instance of enormous subdivision, a mere material division and diminution, wherein every part must be less than the whole as every child knows but he does not observe, that in these spiritualizations of the internal medicinal power, the material receptacle of these natural forces, the palpable ponderable matter, is not to be taken into consideration at all thirdly, because the sceptic has no experience relative to the action of preparations of such exalted medicinal power.

If, then, he who pretends to be a seeker after truth will not search for it where it is to be found, namely, in experience, he will never find it by arithmetical calculations.