Similia Similibus Curentur Post 5

The most well-known medicines are known to produce some hundreds of symptoms. These represent a particular selection from the total number of symptoms which can be produced by the mind/body system, which is vast. Each individual medicine, however, does not produce a completely different set of symptoms, but a distinctive selection from the common pool — and there is much overlap between the sets. To make an analogy, we could imagine that each symptom was represented by a different playing card, so that there were the usual “picture cards” as well as cards numbered one to many hundred, instead of one to ten. The significant symptoms of the Coffea patient could be represented by a Queen, an Ace (representing the most marked and unusual symptoms).

We have to match these with the most similar hand from a materia medica, which might contain a number of picture cards and several hundred number cards over and above the ones we are interested in. We would want to find the Queen and the Ace in the materia medica hand — it would be suspicious if they were not present. However a particular candidate would not be ruled out if the materia medica hand contained symptoms which were not in the patient hand, even if they were quite significant.

This is because the pool of symptoms in the materia medica hand contains all possible symptoms known to be produced in a range of individuals by the medicine concerned. Not all of these symptoms are found in every patient, or in a patient at every stage of the illness. At the time when a patient first develops symptoms they may be few in number, and confined to one sub-system of the body. As the illness develops, the number of symptoms will grow, and spread to other sub-systems.


So our analysis and consideration of the case is essentially a matter of making and matching — making a selection of the most significant symptoms present in the patient, and matching these with a selection of symptoms in a materia medica entry for a medicine. In order to ensure that there is some focus in the process we look at the incidence or non-incidence of particular symptoms, but the process is imperfect for two reasons. First, certain medicines (the so-called “polychrests”) have been studied far more than others.

This is partly because they produced a wider spectrum of symptoms than other medicines, but also may be a result of accidents of history. Therefore these medicines will always be statistically over-represented in analysis by individual symptoms. Second, the symptoms themselves are not the primary layer of the illness. They are the manifestations of illness. Because the primary equilibrium is disturbed, at a level we cannot measure or see, the body eventually, in its imbalance, brings forth symptoms. But these are not the primary phenomenon.

We can get around this problem by thinking in terms of the state or condition of the patient as well as looking at individual symptoms. Many of the symptoms of Coffea are found in other medicines. But as soon as we start thinking in terms of medicines which produce over-stimulation, then we are drawn towards medicines such as Belladonna, Chamomilla, Coffea, and a few others. We can often benefit by matching our patient symptoms against such a sub-group of candidate medicines which match the overall condition of the patient.

Thus the gifted clinicians, such as Kent, who have been writing materia medicas since the time of Hahnemann, have been able to draw out the themes in a medicine. These themes derive from the condition or state of the patient, which is at the origin of all the individual symptoms. We are really trying to find a medicine which is a perfect match for the condition of the patient, rather than a perfect match for the patient’s individual symptoms, although the individual symptoms are an invaluable guide to that match.

Whenever one first encounters a homeopathic materia medica, it can be difficult to read. This is because the indications are the mirror image of the indications in the materia medicas of other schools of medicine. All the indications in the homeopathic materia medica represent the primary symptoms of the medicines — the “negative” symptoms they can produce. However we can work from these collections of primary symptoms to find a medicine which can produce similar symptoms , and thereby initiate a secondary reaction in the patient which will restore the sick to health which, as Hahnemann reminds us, is the physician’s “high and only mission.”

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