Chronic Diseases – Hering’s overview

Chronic Diseases: Their Specific Nature and Homeopathic Treatment, by Samuel Hahnemann
chronic diseases

Hahnemann’s book on the theory and treatment of chronic diseases

Medicine cannot explain why some symptoms resolve quickly of their own accord (i.e. acute illnesses) and why others don’t resolve, therefore known as chronic diseases. Only Dr Samuel Hahnemann has postulated a theory and a practical solution to chronic diseases which he explains in great detail in this volume. 

In this volume is a preface by Dr Constantine Hering. Hering, a medical student in Leipsic, was sent to investigate Hahnemann in order to ruin his career. Instead, he returned to the medical school at Leipsic University declaring “It’s what we should all be doing.” Hering then became a student of Hahnemann’s. 

Below is DR HERING’S PREFACE to the American edition of Chronic Diseases: Their Specific Nature and Homeopathic Treatment, by Samuel Hahnemann (available at: The preface is not included in the British edition.

Hering’s Preface

(The following article has been kindly furnished by Dr Hering of Philadelphia, in German. The editor (Charles J. Hempel) is responsible for the translation.)

Hahnemann’s work on chronic diseases may be considered a continuation of his Organon; the medicines which will follow the present volume may therefore be considered a continuation of his Materia Medica Pura. As the principles and rules of general therapeutics have been developed in the Organon, so does Hahnemann develop, in the present treatise, the principles and rules which ought to prevail in the treatment of chronic diseases, whose name is “legion”. In the Materia Medica Pura Hahnemann describes to us the symptoms which the general remedies that he tried upon healthy persons, are capable of producing; the present treatise, on the contrary, will be succeeded by an account of those remedies, which Hahnemann especially employed in the treatment of chronic diseases, and which he therefore called “anti-psorics.” In the Organon Hahnemann tries to establish the fact that the principle “similia similibus curantur” is the supreme rule in every true method of cure, and he shows how this rule is to be followed in the treatment of disease ; whereas in his treatise on the chronic diseases, which is based upon the Organon and does not, in the least, modify or alter its teachings, Hahnemann shows that most chronic diseases, originating in a common source and being related amongst each other, a special class of remedies designated by Hahnemann “anti-psorics,” should be used in the treatment of those diseases. This common source of most chronic diseases, according to Hahnemann, is Psora.

The shallow opponents of Homoeopathy — and we never had any other! — pounced upon the theory of the psoric miasm with a view of attacking it with their hollow and unmeaning sarcasms. Making Psora to be identical with itch, they sneeringly pretended that according to Hahnemann’s doctrine the itch was the primitive evil, and that this doctrine was akin to the doctrine of the original sin recognised by the Christian Faith.*

Hahnemann, Pathology and Disease Names 

With the same impudence with which they had, on former occasions, asserted, that Hahnemann rejects all pathology in his Organon, they now asserted that he himself advanced a pathological hypothesis, and “that the true which it contained was not new, nor the new true.”

Constantine HERING

Constantine Hering 1800-1880

Equitable judges will not fail to recognise in this treatise on chronic diseases the same carefulness of study and observation which the great author of Homoeopathy has shown in all his other writings. Hahnemann had no other object in view except to cure. All the energies of his great soul were directed to this one end. His object was not to overthrow pathology, although the pathology of his time has been set aside as a heap of foolish speculations, and has been replaced by other systems, that may perhaps suffer the same fate in fifty years; he merely contended against the foolish and presumptuous application of pathological hypotheses to the treatment of disease. He rejected and overthrew the foolish belief which had been driven like a rusty nail, into the minds of the Profession and, by their instrumentality, into the minds of the people, that the remedies should be given against a name, against an imaginary disease, and that the name of this imaginary disease indicated the remedy. Up to this day physicians have been engaged in accrediting that superstition. Whence should otherwise spring the desire which so many patients manifest, of inquiring into the name of the disease, as if a knowledge of that name were sufficient to discover the true remedy against the disease. Many patients are disconsolate when the doctor cannot tell them what is the matter with them. Do we gain anything by being able to say that the disease is rheumatism, dyspepsia, liver-complaint? Does it avail the patient any to be able to repeat his doctor’s ipse dixit (an arbitrary and unsupported assertion) “that he is nervous, bilious,” etc.? Do these words mean anything definite?  Are there yet physicians foolish enough to believe that their speculative explanations mean anything? Does not everybody acknowledge that they are mere ignes fatui (literally; foolish fire because of its erratic movement, also; a person or thing that is elusive or allures and misleads) flitting to and fro upon the quagmire of the old decayed systems of pathology ?

Assuredly, a physician of modem date, who has not remained altogether ignorant, would be ashamed of assuring his patients with the air of a deep thinker, that one has a disease of the spine, another consumption, a third a uterine affection, etc. Every tyro in pathology knows that all this means nothing definite, and that it is only to very ignorant persons that such assertions can be given as science. Every tyro (novice) knows that the question is, to find out what are the symptoms and the nature of that disease of the spine or the uterus. It is moreover known that this more precise knowledge is necessary as respects prognosis, and for the purpose of regulating the mode of life of the patient; but it is also settled that to know merely the variety, to which the disease belongs, is not sufficient to cure it. All the successful and celebrated practitioners of the old school have been such as have constantly modified and individualized the treatment of disease. This is all that Hahnemann has tried to accomplish; with this difference that he has individualized every case of disease with much more precision than any of the older physicians had done. Hahnemann had courage enough, at once to face the contradictions which constantly existed between practice and theory; he declared that the speculative knowledge of physicians was merely learned dust which they were in the habit of throwing into people’s eyes for the purpose of blinding them and inducing them to consider the ignorance of the doctors and the insufficiency of their knowledge as something respectable. Hahnemann dared to lay down this maxim: that, in treating disease, he had nothing to do with its name.

Hahnemann teaches that the remedies should be chosen according to the symptoms of the patient. The physician should be governed by what is certain and safe, not by that which is more or less uncertain and unsafe, and which is changed according to fashion. Both in the Organon and in his treatise on the Chronic Diseases, Hahnemann insists upon the remedies being chosen in accordance with the symptoms.

Treat Symptoms, Not Disease Names

It is not an easy matter to choose a remedy according to symptoms. This may be inferred from the manner in which tyros (novices) in homoeopathy and physicians of the old school who come over to us, go to work. They constantly rely upon names, giving a certain remedy in scarlet fever, because someone else had found it useful; or a certain remedy in pulmonary inflammation, because it had been successfully exhibited upon a former occasion; whereas Hahnemann teaches that, because a remedy has helped before, this is no reason why it should help again in a similar disease. The symptoms and not the name are to point out the remedy. This is also the case in chronic diseases. In the treatment of chronic diseases Hahnemann has been taught by experience to give preference to the anti-psoric remedies. This preference is not theoretical, and is constantly subordinate to the general principle.

What Hahnemann Did Not Say

Hahnemann has never said that the principal constituents of mountains, which are the most important materials in nature — the metals, for instance — are the most important remedies for the cure of the most universal diseases. However, he has pointed out the oxydes or salts of ammonium, potassium, sodium, calcium, aluminium, magnesium, as the most important anti-psoric remedies. Hahnemann has said nowhere that the most important metalloids constitute the most important remedial agents, although he has introduced sulphur, phosphorus, silicea, chlorine, and iodine, in one form or another, as anti-psoric remedies. In selecting a remedy Hahnemann has never been guided by theories, but always by experience. He chose his remedies agreeably to the symptoms which they had produced upon healthy persons, looking at the same time to their remedial virtues having been tested by practice. This is the reason why the general views which have been expressed just now did not prevent him from admitting as chief anti-psorics borax and ammonium carbonicum, anacardium and clematis.

Why Ignore Psora?

Why, it may be asked, has a great number of homoeopathic physicians, neither recognised Hahnemann’s theory of psora, nor the specific character of the anti-psoric remedies’? Why have some even gone so far as to set the theory sneeringly aside, and to decry the anti-psorics as less trustworthy than the other remedies?

Science’s Other Great Observers Like Hahnemann

For the same reason that the astronomical discoveries of our Herschel are doubted by people who have no faith in the discoverer, and are not able to verify his discoveries. To do this, knowledge, instruments, talent, care, perseverance, opportunities, and many other things are required. Not one of all these requisites can be found with those who are mere dabblers in practice, scribbling authors opposing their own opinions and imaginations to facts and observation.

Or, for the same reason that Ehrenberg’s discoveries cannot be appreciated by those who have either no microscope, or who have one which is not good, or who have a microscope without understanding the difficult art of using it; or else who know how to use it, but do not use it with the same exactness and carefulness as Ehrenberg, who discovered in the chalk-dust of visiting cards the shell of animals, by simply making the cards transparent by means of the oil of turpentine.

Or lastly, for the simple reason that physicians find it more easy to write something for print, than to observe nature; that it is more easy to impose upon people than to cure the sick, and because the greater number of physicians is affected with the delusion that things which they do not see, do not exist.

Give Credit Where it’s Due

If such physicians succeed in effecting a cure, they are at once ready to boast of their exploits, whereas the cure was due to Hahnemann’s doctrine, to the remedies which he has discovered, to the researches of other physicians, to their instructions or example, or to so-called chance. But if they do not succeed they impute their failure to anything but themselves: it is homeopathy that is deficient; this or that rule is not correct; the materia medica is at fault; or, if something in Hahnemann’s system does not suit them, they are prone to say that they have never seen this or that, that they cannot agree with it. And in talking in this way, they really imagine to have said something against the matter itself.

Upon the same ground that Hahnemann carefully distinguished from the disease the symptoms which owed their existence to dietetic transgressions, or to medicinal aggravations; upon the same grounds that he acknowledged as standing and independent diseases the acute miasms, known as purpura, measles, scarlatina, small pox, hooping cough, etc., or that he distinguished the venereal miasm into syphilis and sycosis, we may afterwards, if experience should demand it, subdivide psora into several species and varieties. This is no objection to Hahnemann’s theory. Hahnemann has taken the first great step without denying the faculty of progressive development inherent in his system. But let improvements be made in such a way as to become useful, not prejudicial, to the patients. We ought to raise our superstructure upon Hahnemann’s own ground, in the direction which he has first imparted to his doctrine.

Although it matters little what opinions the respective disciples of Hahnemann hold relatively to the theory of psora, I will nevertheless, communicate a short extract from my essay, Guide to the Progressive Development of Homoeopathy.

“As acute diseases terminate in an eruption upon the skin, which divides, dries up, and then passes off, so it is with many chronic diseases. All diseases diminish in intensity, improve, and are cured by the internal organism freeing itself from them little by little; the internal disease approaches more and more to the external tissues, until it finally arrives at the skin.

“Every homoeopathic physician must have observed that the improvement in pain takes place from above downward; and in diseases, from within outward. This is the reason why chronic diseases, if they are thoroughly cured, always terminate in some cutaneous eruption, which differs according to the different constitutions of the patients. This cutaneous eruption may be even perceived when a cure is impossible, and even when the remedies have been improperly chosen. The skin being the outermost surface of the body, it receives upon itself the extreme termination of the disease. This cutaneous eruption is not a mere morbid secretion having been chemically separated from the internal organism in the form of a gas, a liquid, or a solid ; it is the whole of the morbid action which is pressed from within outward, and it is characteristic of a thorough and really curative treatment. The morbid action of the internal organism may continue either entirely, or more or less in spite of this cutaneous eruption. Nevertheless, this eruption always is a favourable symptom; it alleviates the sufferings of the patient, and generally prevents a more dangerous affection.

“The thorough cure of a widely ramified chronic disease in the organism is indicated by the most important organs being first relieved; the affection passes off in the order in which the organs had been affected, the more important being relieved first, the less important next, and the skin last.

“Even the superficial observer will not fail in recognising this law of order. An improvement which takes place in a different order can never be relied upon. A fit of hysteria may terminate in a flow of urine; other fits may either terminate in the same way, or in haemorrhage; the next succeeding fit shows how little the affection had been cured. The disease may take a different turn, it may change its form, and, in this new form, it may be less troublesome; but the general state of the organism will suffer in consequence of this transformation.

“Hence it is that Hahnemann inculcates with so much care the important rule to attend to the moral symptoms, and to Judge of the degree of homoeopathic adaptation, existing between the remedy and the disease, by the improvement which takes place in the moral condition, and the general well-being of the patient.

“The law of order which we have pointed out above accounts for the numerous cutaneous eruptions consequent upon homeopathic treatment, even where they never had been seen before; it accounts for the obstinacy with which many kinds of herpes and ulcers remain upon the skin, whereas others are dissipated like snow. Those which remain, do remain because the internal disease is yet existing. This law of order also accounts tor the insufficiency of violent sweats, when the internal disease is not yet disposed to leave its hiding-place. It lastly accounts for one cutaneous affection being substituted for another.

“This transformation of the internal affection of such parts of the organism as are essential to important functions, to a cutaneous affection — a transformation which is entirely different from the violent change effected by means of Autenrieth’s ointment, ammonium, croton-oil, cantharides, mustard, etc. — is chiefly effected by the anti-psoric remedies.

“Other remedies may sometimes effect that transformation, even the use of water, change of climate, of occupation, etc.; but it is more safely, more mildly and more thoroughly effected by the anti-psoric remedies.”

This latter is altogether an individual opinion; others may have different opinions relative to the same subject; this needs not to prevent us from aiming – all of us at the same end, side by side, in perfect harmony.

But alas! the rules which the experienced founder of Homoeopathy lays down in the subsequent work with so much emphasis, are not always practised, and therefore, cannot be appreciated. Many oppose them; cures which otherwise might be speedy and certain, are delayed; much injury is being done by the wiseacres who intrude themselves into our literature and mix with it as chaff with the wheat. On all this we may console ourselves with the expectation that also in the history of Science there will be those great days of harvest, when the tares (a biblical reference to the bearded darnel, an injurious plant) shall be gathered in bundles and thrown into the fire.

Continue to Learn and Humbly Seek the Truth

It is the duty of all of us to go farther in the theory and practice of Homoeopathy than Hahnemann has done. We ought to seek the truth which is before us and forsake the errors of the past. But wo unto him who, on that account, should personally attack the author of our doctrine; he would burden himself with infamy. Hahnemann was a great savant, inquirer, and discoverer; he was as true a man, without falsity, candid and open as a child, and inspired with pure benevolence and with a holy zeal for science.

When at last the fatal hour had struck for the sublime old man who had preserved his vigour almost to his last moments, then it was that the heart of his consort who had made his last years the brightest of his life, was on the point of breaking. Many of us, seeing those who are dearest to us engaged in the death-struggle, would exclaim: why should’st thou suffer so much! So too exclaimed Hahnemann’s consort: “Why should’st thou who hast alleviated so much suffering, suffer in thy last hour. This is unjust. Providence should have allotted to thee a painless death.”

Then he raised his voice as he had often done when he exhorted his disciples to hold fast to the great principles of Homaeopathy. “Why should I have been thus distinguished? Each of us should here attend to the duties which God has imposed upon him. Although men may distinguish a more or less, yet no one has any merit. God owes nothing to me, I to him all.”

With these words he took leave of the world, of his friends, and his foes. And here we take leave of you, reader, whether our friend or our opponent.

To him who believes that there may yet he truths which he does not know and which he desires to know, will be pointed out such paths as will lead him to the light he needs. If he who has sincere benevolence and wishes to work for the benefit of all, be considered by Providence a fit instrument for the accomplishment of the divine will, he will be called upon to fulfil his mission and will be led to truth evermore.

It is the spirit of Truth that tries to unite us all; but the father of Lies keeps us separate and divided.

C Hg. Philadelphia, April 22, 1845.

Charles Julius Hempel

Charles J Hempel 1811-1880

*Note of the Editor: I beg pardon of my distinguished and learned friend for annexing a few remarks to this passage. In doing so I merely anticipate what I intend to express more fully on this subject some other occasion. 

As it would be absurd for a philosophical Christian to reject the doctrine of original sin, so it is absurd for anyone who professes to have a clear perception of Homoeopathy, to reject the doctrine of a hereditary morbific miasm. Both these doctrines must stand and fall together; and, as truth is one and indivisible, they both hold and illustrate each other. If we admit with Rousseau that everything which leaves the hand of God is holy, then the first created man must have been perfectly pure and must have appeared in the image and likeness of its Maker. It seems to me absurd to suppose that something perfectly pure can produce of its own free and orderly development, produce things impure and evil. We do not know how far God permitted an adaptation to evil to exist in the first man together with an adaptation to goodness. But this we certainly know that evil fruits must be the result of evil forces. In a Certain moment man, or God through man, permitted the adaptation to evil to prevail in his nature; and instantaneously the forces of evil, be they called serpent, devil or otherwise, invaded man’s nature, engrafted themselves upon it, and have, up to this moment, perpetuated their existence in it. This is relatively speaking, a fall, although relatively speaking this fall, having been the first necessary phase of human development, it may, in realty be considered a progress. Man’s destiny consists in reuniting himself again with the Divine life through the universal expansion of all the faculties of his soul and the realization of all the celestial harmonics the germs of which God had deposited in his nature and towards the construction of which science and art will furnish him the means. The principle of division or dissolution which man had suffered to be introduced into his spiritual nature, must necessarily have embodied itself in a corresponding principle in the material organism. It is this principle which Hahnemann calls Psora. In proportion as man’s spiritual nature becomes developed and purified, this psoric miasm will be diminished, and will finally be completely removed from the life of humanity. This complete physical regeneration of human nature will necessarily be attended with great changes in all the external relations of man, education, mode of labouring, living, etc. etc.

The principle of division or dissolution existing in the human organ as an established and constituted fact, does not preclude the possibility of this organism being invaded by acute miasms. The psoric principle marks the general adaptation to evil, recognised and inherently received by the human organism; acute diseases are sudden and violent invasions of the human organism by the forces of evil – which I have named subversive forces in my preface. Those sudden invasions could never have taken place without man having first admitted the psoric principle to be constitutional in his organism.

Further Reading
Various U.S. editions of Hahnemann’s Chronic Diseases are available in the U.S. here and the U.K. and Ireland here

Biography of Constantine Hering also click here
 Biography of Charles J Hempel
William Herschel
 Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg

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