Does Homeopathy Work?
Homeopathy doesn’t work, but it does work in a particular way. It doesn’t work by treating or removing symptoms just for the sake of it, neither does it seek to remove symptoms without removing the underlying cause, and nor does it suppress symptoms by treating them from the outside-in.
Symptoms serve a purpose and treating them in any of the above ways may only bring disorder. Homeopathy works in an orderly manner.
Recently, I met a client in a shop. She said her ankles and feet were bad. I was pleased! You see, the previous week I had prescribed a remedy for her. She suffered with arthritis and was reluctant to resume her prescription from her consultant in Galway as the medication damaged her eyes. Why was I pleased her feet and ankles were worse since the remedy? It was because her neck, shoulders and knees were better. If it were the other way around I wouldn’t be pleased.
Now look at the photos of the trees. What do you notice? Yes, the leaves are falling, but in what manner? You’ll notice they fall from the top-down, in an orderly way and with a direction: not in any old way.
André Saine, the Canadian homeopath, gave a conference in Holland in 1993 entitled “The Method.” Herein he traces the history of the direction of cure – incorrectly termed “Hering’s Law of Cure.”
A lot has been said about this supposed law of direction of cure, but here’s what Dr Saine found going through old archives and books by Dr Hahnemann:
1. All diseases, acute and chronic, of non-venereal origin, come from the original malady called “psora” (i.e. Hahnemann’s term).
Homeopathy and Direction of Cure
André Saine, the Canadian homeopath, gave a conference in Holland in 1993 on The Method¹. Herein he traces the history of the direction of cure – incorrectly termed “Hering’s Law of Cure.”
A lot has been said about this supposed law of direction of cure but here’s what Dr Saine found going through old archives and books by Dr Hahnemann:
1. All diseases, acute and chronic, of non-venereal origin, come from the original malady called psora.
2. As time went by, Hahnemann rearranged his presentation of drug provings in a hierarchy: from above-down; from inside-out; from generals to parts. By the time he wrote The Chronic Diseases, their Peculiar Nature and their Homœopathic Cure (or free view Archive.org) he had decided to put the mental symptoms first. He explained he did this for practical reasons, not because this is the direction of cure.
3. Suppressing skin eruptions disrupts the dynamic balance of the organism, manifesting later in deeper disease (see his introduction to the Organon of Healing).
4. An underlying disposition [non-venereal] to disease will manifest itself due to “unfavourable conditions” of life [stress]. During treatment of such disease the last symptoms are always the first to disappear. In other words, cure happens in reverse order to which it developed.
5. Old symptoms return (see The Chronic Diseases) during anti-psoric treatment of chronic disease. In such cases a skin eruption appears while all the other symptoms have improved, indicating cure is near. This is further reiterated by Hahnemann in his Chronic Diseases (p. 171, U.S. edition) developing the idea that the last symptom to come is the first to go. (Here Saine quotes aphorism 161 of the Organon to the same effect. This is a mistake as Hahnemann is now, in the sixth edition, explaining his new method of preparing remedies – which he called the fifty millesimal. It is this method which brings an aggravation at the end of treatment, Hahnemann explains here. Thus Hahnemann removed the footnote to § 161 in the sixth edition. This does not take from Saine’s recounting of cure occurring in reverse order.)
Among the signs that, in all diseases, especially in such as are of an acute nature, inform us of a slight commencement of amelioration or aggravation that is not perceptible to every one, the state of mind and the whole demeanor of the patient are the most certain and instructive. In the case of ever so slight an improvement we observe a greater degree of comfort, increased calmness and freedom of the mind, higher spirits—a kind of return of the natural state. In the case of ever so small a commencement of aggravation we have, on the contrary, the exact opposite of this: a constrained, helpless, pitiable state of the disposition, of the mind, of the whole demeanor, and of all gestures, postures and actions, which may be easily perceived on close observation, but cannot be described in words.138
Footnote138 The signs of improvement in the disposition and mind, however, may be expected only soon after the medicine has been taken when the dose has been sufficiently minute (i.e., as small as possible), an unnecessarily larger dose of even the most suitable homeopathic medicine acts too violently, and at first produces too great and too lasting a disturbance of the mind and disposition to allow us SOON to perceive the improvement in them. I must here observe that this so essential rule is chiefly transgressed by presumptuous tyros in homeopathy, and by physicians who are converted to homeopathy from the ranks of the old school. From old prejudices these persons abhor the smallest doses of the lowest dilutions of medicine in such cases, and hence they fail to experience the great advantages and blessings of that mode of proceeding which a thousandfold experience has shown to be the most salutary ; they cannot effect all that homeopathy is capable of doing, and hence they have no claim to be considered its adherents.
In the aphorism above and the accompanying footnote, Hahnemann explains that improvement begins in the mind and general wellbeing; “better in myself” people frequently say after a homeopathic remedy has acted. This is in contrast to medicine where the part frequently improves at the expense of the whole person – the old adage “the operation was a success but the patient died” sums this up pretty well.²
Hering’s Law of Cure
In homeopathy there’s a term “Hering’s Law of Cure”. This is in fact a misnomer. Saine explains that none of the well respected homeopathic doctors used the term before about 1950. They spoke about the direction of cure but never Hering’s law of cure. Certainly Hering’s contemporaries never mentioned this law, even in a book they published in his memory, A Memorial of Constantine Hering, published after his death. His son-in-law, Calvin Knerr (not Kevin as mentioned in The Method), published a biography of Hering, in 1940. Knerr had practiced with Hering yet doesn’t mention Hering’s Law.
So where does this confusion come from? No one seems to know but Saine attributes the confusion to an article Dr James Tyler Kent wrote in 1911 in the transaction of the Society of Apothecians called Correspondence of Organs and Direction of Cure. The article appears in his Minor Writings, page 610. Here Saine blames Kent and is critical of Kent saying he “didn’t know his history and hadn’t read the books,” but Kent states in the first paragraph of this article (which Saine quotes!) the law “scarcely appears in the literature, except for the observation of symptoms going from above to the extremities, the eruption appearing on the skin and discharges from mucous membranes or ulcers appearing on the skin as internal symptoms disappear [but] is spoken of as Hering’s Law.” Saine asserts: “Somewhere between 1900 and 1911 Kent introduced the concept of ‘Hering’s Law’.”
Saine then assumes “some people of the last fifty years took this lecture from Kent and made it official dogma. It is reasonable to assume Kent officialised the term ‘Hering’s Law’.” But did he? In The Method (p. 9) Saine refers to Hering using the word “always”, like a law, Saine says.
Clarity may be at hand when Saine tells us that in 1865 Hering wrote an article in the Hahnemannian Monthly called Hahnemann’s Three Rules Concerning the Rank of Symptoms. Here we are told Hering refers to symptoms improving in reverse order from the last to the first symptom to appear as a rule rather than a law. What’s the difference? Philosophers will battle it out but a rule sounds like no more than a guide; a law unbreakable. It would seem a cure based on principles would have to be an unchanging law otherwise cure won’t happen, at least not in an orderly, well managed way as Hahnemann wanted. Further clarification is needed.
Then Saine quotes Hering’s unpublished article³, part of which is included in Hering’s preface to the first American edition of Chronic Diseases in 1845 (Theoretical Part). To summarize, Hering says the same as Hahnemann: the most important organ in chronic disease is relieved first; the affection passes off in the order in which the organs had been affected; the symptoms will go from important organs to less important organs in reverse order of their appearance; improvement in pain takes place from above-downward. In other words, the opposite to how the disease developed.
This last point that pain descends as improvement occurs is not from Hahnemann. It’s probable he is talking about non psoric cases. This happens in acutes and chronic non-psoric cases – like the lady in the shop to whom I referred at the beginning.
Dr Saine explains that in 1875 Hering wrote volume one of Analytical Therapeutics of the Mind in which he stated that “only such patients remain well and are really cured, who have been rid of their symptoms in the reverse order of their development”(24).
Hahnemann, talking about psoric diseases, emphasizes one point only in The Chronic Diseases, 1845 (pp. 171-172):
The symptoms which have been recently developed by the inherent action of the psoric miasm, without having been superadded by the mismanagement of the doctor, are the first to yield to the action of the anti-psorics; the older symptoms which have permanently existed disappear the last. Of this number are the local affections. These local symptoms only disappear after the general health has been completely restored. The general symptoms which show themselves periodically, hysteria, the different forms of epilepsy, etc., may easily be suppressed by a suitable anti-psoric; but the complete and permanent removal of those symptoms presupposes the radical cure of the whole of the internal psoric miasm.
The patient sometimes desires his physician to cure a certain troublesome symptom first of all; this cannot be done, though the ignorant patient may be excused for having made such a foolish request.
It is important to remember that the Law of Cure is not the same as Hering’s Law of Cure. the law of cure is similia similibus curentur; like cures like. Hering’s Law is better understood as the law of direction of cure.
Since patients are not machines and healing is not a hard science like physics, but is an art as well as a science, there are nuances to be respected in how cure may occur. Some examples may be illustrative.
An acute illness
A lady has suffered with backache between the shoulders since having the ‘flu’. Her employers, a doctor and a hospital where she worked at weekends, could offer no cure. A homeopathic remedy is given. A healing reaction takes place: the pain moved down her back, she urinated frequently and was promptly relived.
We can conclude the pain moved down as Hering had once commented.
A case of chronic pain
The case presented earlier of the lady with arthritic pains found the pain moved down until until she had totally improved.
Suppressing disease, whether psoriasis, gout etc. will drive the symptoms upwards. It is therefore (and based on empirical observation) reasonable to conclude pains move down as cure occurs. None of these two cases were what are known as psoric.
A case of weakness
A surgeon had been complaining of severe weakness and weight loss. Colleagues thought it was laziness! He was of course genuine and in fact suffered from an unusual familial illness. A remedy quickly improved his overall wellbeing followed a couple of weeks later by an illness he had suffered as a child: asthma. He subsequently fully recovered from the asthma and has been in good health for fifteen plus years.
Here improvement was followed by the return of an old symptom. He had not suffered from pains of any kind and symptoms did not descend. This is a mixed miasmatic case, not psoric.
A case of psora
Many years ago a young lady had been suffering with pompholyx of the palms and soles, worse with the heat of summer. Homeopathy successfully improved the pompholyx to be followed by eczema which she had as a child.
This is a case of psora and shows the return of an old symptom but also the eruption as predicted by Hahnemann and Hering.
Do the more vital organs improve first? This needs to be understood on an individual case basis but wouldn’t the most serious problem be the one a patient presents with anyway? Won’t the most serious symptom be the last symptom to appear, therefore being the first to go? A life-threatening symptom will improve immediately.
From inside-outwards is vague. Did the lady who passed more urine when improving from back pain develop the disease outside-in? No! But she eliminated the infection thus since discharges often occur for cure to take place. A skin eruption is a way the body can be liberated from an internal disorder. This makes more sense than “inside-out”.
“Top-down”. Medical researcher Viera Schreibner has commented in her book Vaccination: 100 Years of Orthodox Research that measles naturally improves from the top-down.
It’s a neglected fact, only espoused by Dr Edmund Carleton (see below), that since disease improves in reverse order from the last symptom to appear to the first, it demands that the last symptom the patient experienced is the first symptom to prescribe on – irrespective of the importance of the organ affected and/or the seriousness of the symptom! Perhaps this will clear up some confusion..?
Cases of psora – “non-venereal” cases – are cured differently; in reverse order but with a skin eruption eventually appearing.
Referring to Hahnemann, Saine tells us that “all acute diseases are caused by psora.” This refers to non-epidemics but acute flare-ups in the individual of “latent psora” such as a cold sore or sore throat. Saine has done an important job enlightening us and making us rethink Hering’s law.
The corollary of the direction of cure is that not having a patient improve accordingly is a useful indication the patient isn’t and won’t be cured thoroughly, from within and entirely in an orderly manner with no unwelcome side-effect. As Kent said, “If symptoms don’t follow the law, then the homeopath has had little to do with the future course of things.”
When homeopathy works according to Hahnemann’s and Hering’s observations and teaching, we can expect cure to take place in an orderly manner with a direction. From the beginning the patient generally, as a whole, will feel better -“in myself”. Then the parts improve. Treating the part is one reason medicine will never cure, relief yes, cure, no.
No, homeopathy doesn’t work but it does work with order and direction.
Hering’s preface to the American edition of Hahnemann’s Chronic Diseases can be read in full here
More articles on Hering’s Law of Cure
• Hering’s law of cure, by Dr Roger Schmidt
• Hering’s Law: Law, Rule or Dogma?, by Dr. André Saine, D.C., N.D., F.C.A.H.
Examples of books with cases showing the direction of cure
• Medicine in Homeopathy and Surgery, by Dr E. Carleton
• Homeopathic Reminiscences, by Dr Sarabhai (is good on miasmatic treatment too)
• Chronic Disease: it’s Cause and Cure, by Dr N. Ghatak (mentioned below)
To understand Psora and its treatment, plenty has been written. One might wonder what such an idea has to do with disease, but at least Hahnemann has been scientific enough to postulate a theory as to why some symptoms should persist as a chronic illness and others resolve quickly as an acute. Medicine has not addressed this essential distinction. A good place to start on the subject:
• The Chronic Diseases – Their Peculiar Nature and Their Homoeopathic Cure, (Theoretical Part) by Samuel Hahnemann
• A Treatise on Organon of Medicine, by Dr Asok Kumar Das.
• Chronic Disease: it’s Cause and Cure, by Dr N. Ghatak (trans. by P.N. Banerjee)
1. The book, The Method, based on the conference, is available from Minerva Books
2. As an example, patients with psoriasis soon find after beginning a course (life-long?) of Methotrexate that they feel worse generally. Overall they feel tired and not enough energy for daily work they did with ease before the drug.
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 hemorrhage ; 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 for 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 is the end of his quote but he continues:
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 shall be gathered in bundles and thrown into the fire.
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 burthen 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.