Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/168

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George Eliot, in "Middlemarch," alludes to St. John Long and bis quackeries.

Homœopathy is another form of quackery to which I must shortly allude. It originated in 1796, with Hahnemann, a German physician. Hahnemann laid down, as necessary to his system, three great foundation truths:

1. Similia similibus curantur. This means that diseases are to be cured by the administration of substances which, in healthy individuals, produce the same symptoms or group of symptoms as the disease itself manifests. This idea was not original with Hahnemann. Hippocrates distinctly enunciates it, and since then it has been held by many physicians and others, including Paracelsus, who was the inspirer of Hahnemann.

2. That it is necessary to give remedies in infinitesimal doses. Substances which are given by the regular school in doses of four to five grains, homœopaths should give in quantities of two decillionths of a grain and less. Hahnemann says, in his "Organon": "But, if the patient is very sensitive, it will be sufficient to let him smell once of a vial containing a globule of sugar the size of a mustard-seed; after the patient has smelled it, the vial is to be recorked, and will thus serve for years without its medical virtues being perceptibly impaired." This second "great truth" was, as has been lately pointed out by Dr. Holmes, adopted from Van Helmont, a physician who flourished in the early part of the seventeenth century. He denied the existence of the four elements, and held up to ridicule the practice of letting blood for the cure of disease.

Van Helmont, in his "Ortus Medicinae," describes a method of treatment made use of by one Butler, an Irishman, who was formerly physician to James I, and at that time was confined in prison in Belgium. According to Van Helmont, Butler performed wonderful cures with a pebble he had in his possession. He dipped this pebble quickly into a teaspoonful of olive-oil, poured this "magnetized oil" into a large vessel of oil, and directed the patient to take one drop occasionally. When one drop was put on the head of an old woman suffering from hemicrania, the pain instantly disappeared. An abbess was relieved of loss of power in her right arm by merely touching her tongue to the pebble. No doubt reading this book first suggested infinitesimal doses to Hahnemann.

Hahnemann's "third dogma or truth" was, that seven eighths of all chronic diseases are produced by psora, or itch. "This psora," says Hahnemann, "is the sole, true, and fundamental cause that produces all the other countless forms of disease, which go under the names of hysteria, hypochondriasis, debility, insanity, melancholy, idiocy, epilepsy, cancer, gout, paralysis," etc., etc. (I shall not complete the list). He tells the reader in a foot-note that it took him twelve years to trace out the source of all these diseases. This third dogma was original