DISEASE CLASSIFICATION – A SUMMARY by H.A. Roberts
Discussion on Dr. Hahnemann’s classification of diseases….
*** ALL scientific advancement shows epochs of great progress. In the early seventeenth century the Swedish student Linnaeus studied the flora of the world, which was then largely unclassified, and through his prodigious endeavours he classified the vegetable kingdom as far as then known, and laid down a system of classification which would be applicable to further discoveries. This placed the study of botany on a scientific basis.
In 1817 and 1818 Cuvier studied the animal kingdom, the knowledge of that kingdom being at that time disjointed and un- classified. Through his stupendous labours he classified all animal life into four great kingdoms: the *Vertebrates, *Mollusks, *Articulates and *Radiates. Into these four great families all animal life can be classified.
A contemporary of Cuvier was Samuel Hahnemann. At that period, disease was known only by a few named diseases, with no relationship or method of classification. Medical practice was in an extremely chaotic condition, and was not yet free from the appellations of many years of superstition. It was still thought that diseases were the work of the evil one and no comprehensive study of disease conditions had been made. In order to establish a logical basis for the recognition of disease conditions, and their origin and relationship, it was necessary to make many close observations of the then known diseases, and then proceed to deductions and proper classifications. Hahnemann set himself to this task, bringing his logical, scientific mind to bear on the situation, and he made the first classification of diseases that had ever been attempted.
It is significant that in this endeavour he recognized the presence of bacteria and attributed to these animal forms, too minute for the eye to see, many forms of epidemic and acute illnesses; and this deduction he announced in 1818 more than sixty years before Koch isolated the tubercle bacillus.
As Cuvier classified zoology into four great kingdoms, so Hahnemann classified disease into four great divisions. Since the principles of classification would fail unless these classifications were all-embracive, it was the work of several years to trace the course of each disease to its origin and place it in its proper classification, with due regard to its source and development.
The first of these classifications was simple, in that it embraces all diseases that might spring from mechanical and exterior sources; this included fractures, strains, indiscretions of diet, external poisons such as fumes or noxious plants, extremes of thermic conditions such as frostbite or sunstroke, and all trade diseases. This class embraced conditions which are largely self-curative in that they may be rectified by regulating environment and habits.
While these conditions may be self-curative if the conditions are regulated, medicine may assist and hasten the recovery. Any of the conditions in this classification may be more or less mixed with more deep-seated conditions from another and deeper origin, and this may so complicate the matter that medicine will be required to alleviate the resultant distress.
Repeated claims have been made that the followers of Hahnemann treat diseases by the symptoms only, applying remedies according to the symptomatology and paying attention only to the symptomatic applicability of remedies; but it cannot be emphasized too strongly that Hahnemann made one classification of disease conditions that were dependent entirely on external causes, such as the mechanical conditions. It was Hahnemann’s teaching that the removal of the cause was the first step in the proper method of cure. This may occasion at times surgical procedure; rectification of diet; the removal of irritating substances; change of environment; anything and everything that may place the patient in the best possible relation for complete cure, which will take place of itself when the cause is removed. Hahnemann taught by precept and example the value of thinking through to the beginning, the first cause, of disease conditions, and treating them accordingly.
In his observation of cases, and in the further study of the progress of diseased conditions under the homoeopathic method of treatment, Hahnemann was especially struck with the course of non-venereal diseases. Hahnemann found himself treating seemingly acute conditions with apparent success, but, to his surprise, these cases would return with a recurrence of symptoms at intervals; sometimes these symptoms were very similar to those they had had before, while at other times there would be an aggravation of the previous condition, or other variations. Considerable study of these cases convinced Hahnemann that there was some underlying condition which was the mainspring of these recurrent manifestations and which was causing more or less gradually a retrograde condition, although the acute manifestations were apparently met and conquered by the homoeopathic remedy. It occurred to him that he was treating in these acute conditions only a part of the real disease; otherwise the disease would have become completely and permanently cured by the administration of the *simillimum.
If these exacerbated symptoms were but a fragment of the disease, then there must be a much deeper, primitive force under- lying these sporadic manifestations, which could be judged only by the force and frequency of the reappearance. It became Hahnemann’s study to take into consideration these deeper conditions from which sprang the acute diseases, as a part of the prescription necessary to cure. It was his aim to find a remedy which would meet the acute condition and the presumably hidden condition at the same time. In order to undertake this stupendous task it was necessary to study a vast number of cases and to consider and develop a number of remedies to meet his requirements, and find a remedy which was to cure both the acute symptoms and the underlying chronic sickness; to conquer the hidden primitive malady.
This involved two lines of investigation, one in natural chronic disease conditions and one in artificially produced disease conditions which should be similar in symptomatology and depth of action to the natural disease.
In his study of disease, he separated all disease conditions into the four great groups before mentioned. The mechanical conditions were easily detected and classified. To the three remaining groups Hahnemann gave the term *miasms.
The manifestations of chronic disease conditions which Hahnemann called *miasms were so designated by him for want of a better term; in fact, in the German language and in Hahnemann’s day the word *miasm properly defined the idea Hahnemann had in mind. In the development of modern diagnostic terms, and in the English language of to-day, this designation seems to be out of place and a word of explanation is needed.
According to the common definition, a miasm is defined as *polluting exhalations or malarial poisons. It is obvious that the word in English does not interpret intelligently Hahnemann’s meaning. Therefore, the residual poisons of syphilis and gonorrhoea that have become, according to Hahnemann’s classification, the *miasms of syphilis and sycosis, might better be termed the *stigmata of syphilis and *gonorrhoea. The effect of either virus affecting the primordial cell casts a stigma or blight upon the developing cell that is nearly ineffaceable. The same stigma may be laid upon the constitution of an individual by acquiring the disease, if the virus is not thoroughly eradicated from the system.
The word *sycosis, coming from the Greek word meaning *fig, has found a place in the modern medical dictionary with several definitions, one of which is as follows: *Hahnemann’s term for the constitutional effects of the gonorrhoeal virus. Thus we see that one of the accepted definitions of the word sycosis is that which Hahnemann had in mind, and which he called alternatively the *fig wart disease.
In many instances it was very easy for him to trace the venereal relationship of disease conditions, and he soon found it easy to recognize the branding of this group. At first he classed these under one head, but later divided the venereal miasms into two classifications, *syphilis and *sycosis, or *gonorrhoea.