« PreviousContinue »
The inconsequence of the thinking here would be amusing if it were not painful. We then find that the celebrated castor-oil is supposed to act simply as an aperient; e.g., " not to increase excretion from the blood into the stomach and bowels, but to assist in the expulsion of the morbid secretions from the digestive canal." If this is all that medical science can do to help a patient attacked by cholera, the presence of the physician at the sick-bed is a mere form. However, in severe collapse Dr. Johnson recommends venesection to be tried. He condemns brandy and alcoholic stimulants, thinks ammonia sometimes useful, points out well the absurdity and injury of tryiug to feed a collapsed patient, has little opinion of warm or hot-air baths, and of course objects to ice or iced water, since they check the vomiting, which upon his theory is eliminative.
If, then, Dr. Johnson be right, the great bulk of cholera treatment hitherto practised in Europe has been not only not curative, but positively injurious. It has been so, because based upon a false theory of the nature of the disease; and the only chance of improvement for the future is to discover the true theory, and to base our treatment upon it. It is not surprising that we turn from such a picture to the contrast presented by our own beloved system, which needs no theory of disease, but from the symptoms themselves is guided by an infallible rule to the discovery of the specific remedies.
It is needless to recapitulate the victories gained by homoeopathy over cholera. In Russia and Germany in 1831-2, in Liverpool and Edinburgh in 1849, in the Golden Square Hospital in 1854, the disease was studied, encountered, and to a large extent vanquished. We probably formed our theories about the nature of the disease, as did our allopathic brethren; but we never allowed them to influence our treatment. We met cholera, as all other diseases, by remedies selected according to the law of similars. Hahnemann gave us Camphor, Veratrum, and Cuprum; to these later students of the Materia Medica have added Arsenicum and Secale; and these are the remedies which every one of us uses against cholera. Such unanimity is rare, even amongst homoeopaths. And what is the result? Can we honestly say, like Dr. Johnson, that "there is no remedy which has the slightest pretensions to be considered a cure for cholera; no drug or agent which, so far as we know, will neutralise the poison or lessen its virulence"? We certainly cannot. On the contrary, we can all echo Dr. Russell's confession of faith made in 1849. "It is our firm belief, from all that we have seen and heard, that Camphor is an almost infallible remedy for cholera, if given at the very outset of the attack." Later experience, as we shall see directly, has even extended this statement, and declared that there are no bounds to which we must limit the power of Camphor to rescue the cholera-patient from death. We cannot, indeed, use equally strong language about Veratrum, Arsenicum, and other medicines. But no one who has used them in suitable cases of cholera can doubt that they exert a decided modifying influence over the symptoms, and often conduct the most unpromising cases to recovery.
So far, then, we have every reason, as regards cholera, to be gratified at the success of our system in the past, and to be hopeful for the future. But we should be wrong to think that we have attained perfection in this matter. We boast of only losing our 26 per cent. of cases of cholera; but this is a frightful mortality positively, whatever it may be comparatively. It is our bounden duty, as each epidemic of cholera threatens us, to review our means of offence and defence; and while we burnish and sharpen our old weapons, to see if we cannot add yet more effective instruments of warfare to our armoury. There are two proposals now before our body which have for their object the diminution of our mortality from cholera.
It is advised that we should rely more exclusively upon Camphor in our treatment—that it should be given in full doses and frequent repetition in all forms and stages of the disease. -This proposal comes from our esteemed Italian colleague Dr. Rubini, to whom we owe the Cactus grandijlorus. It is supported by alleged success of the most unique character, some 592 cases having been treated by this method without a single death. One is of course disposed to think at the first blush that very few of these cases could have been real cholera; they must surely have been diarrhoea, more or less choleraic in character, occurring during the raging of the epidemic. No doubt many of the cases were of this kind, but it is extremely improbable that all were so. For instance, in one of the certificates appended to Dr. Rubini's pamphlet,* the colonel of a Swiss regiment states that he had 183 of his soldiers attacked with cholera; that seventeen were sent into the Military Hospital, of whom fifteen died; that the remaining cases were kept in the infirmary of the corps, and submitted to Dr. Rubini's treatment, and all recovered. If the impression we receive from this certificate be correct—that the first seventeen cases which occurred were sent to the hospital, and all subsequent ones placed under Dr. Rubini, the inference is plain that he must have had his proportion of severe cases. Another certificate seems to imply that out of 200 cases treated fifteen were in collapse. Even apart from direct statement it is incredible that out of so many cases coming before a single physician (Dr. Rubini himself treated 377 in the epidemic of 1854) a fair proportion should not have been severe; and the unqualified success is most striking and satisfactory. It will, at any rate, strengthen and extend our confidence in this great remedy, Camphor. We have always believed it the specific for the stage of invasion; but if Dr. Rubini be right, we should not leave off its use because the disease makes progress, or choose another medicine because we encounter it in a more advanced stage. Wherever cholera is, he says, there let Camphor, and Camphor only, contend with it, and the victory is sure.
It must be confessed that this has not been the experience of British homoeopathists hitherto. Dr. Rubini says, however, that we do not give our Camphor in sufficiently strong doses. If we are to test his method, it seems we must redistil our spirits of wine until they are so much over proof as to dissolve their own weight of Camphor. Of this solution, which is five or six times the strength of our ordinary tincture, we are to give from four to twenty drops every five, ten, or fifteen minutes.
* We take the account of it given by Dr. Hayes in the Jane number of the Monthly Homoeopathic Seview.
If this prove to be the most satisfactory treatment of cholera, we must of course adopt it at all hazards. But that there are hazards cannot be denied. We mean that practice of this kind does not seem homoeopathic. We ourselves know very well that the application of the homoeopathic law is altogether independent of dose; and we see in the provings of Camphor a pretty faithful picture of at least the early stage of cholera. But there is no doubt that our use of the material doses of Camphor which seem indispensable looks like a loss of faith in our wonted infinitesimals when real danger confronts us. And, moreover, the general impression prevalent in the old school about Camphor, that it is a "stimulant," to be ranked with Alcohol and Ether, makes it impossible for them to see that its success in the treatment of cholera is a triumph of the law of similars. So that a set of cases cured by Arsenicum or Veratrum would do much more good to the cause of homoeopathy, and so to suffering humanity, than another set in which Camphor was the curative agent.
There is, moreover, one condition met with in cholera epidemics in which Camphor could hardly be of any service; it is that in which collapse comes on very rapidly, with little or no premonitory illness, and unattended by copious evacuations. Arsenicum is the medicine generally prescribed in such cases, but again we must say that a mortality of 26 per cent. means that we should seek for better remedies still. We would suggest that Aconite is the right medicine here. The spheres of Aconite and Arsenic, though so widely .different, intersect and overlap each other in one spot; and the picture here presented closely corresponds with that of simple choleraic collapse. Let a few cases of acute poisoning by Aconite be read with this thought in the mind, and the resemblance will seem striking. We have the intense chill, even the cold tongue; the blueness; the difficult respiration; the almost imperceptible pulse; the cramps and tendency to tetanus. After death the arterial system is found empty and the venous full. And if, as far as homoeopathicity goes, our choice between Aconite and Arsenic is balanced, the greater rapidity of the action of the former medicine must turn the scale.
This is not the first time that Aconite has been recommended for cholera. A French physician has lately communicated twelve severe cases cured by this remedy alone, in drop doses of the mother tincture. But we desire to call attention to its claims to our notice as one of the most hopeful directions in which to look for the perfecting of our treatment of this deadly malady.
Transactions of the North-Western Provers' Association of Hahnemann College, Chicago, Vol. I. Halsey, Chicago.
The most infallible sign of life in the homoeopathic body must always be the putting forth of new provings. To prove a medicine on your own person is a plain testimony of your belief in the doctrines you profess, and of your willingness to make sacrifices on their behalf. At the same time there are conditions under which provings can hardly be expected, and where their absence implies no dormant vitality. Such conditions exist at present in our own country, where the demand for practitioners so far exceeds the supply, that we are all of us hard at work at actual practice, and have no leisure in which to make ourselves ill and note our abnormal sensations. England has nevertheless added two medicines at least—Kali Bichromicum and Naja Tripudians—to the list of thoroughly proved drugs.
In America, on the other hand, the conditions are reversed, and we have a right to look for new provings. Nor have we been disappointed. The volume given us by the American Institute, the numerous provings carried on under the auspices of Dr. Hering, and those collected in Dr. Hale's New Remedies, are goodly contributions to the Materia Medica; and now, in the Association whose first year's Transactions head this notice, wc have a new vein