DRUG PROVING by H.A. Roberts
The eminent homeopath Herbert A. Roberts discusses the requisites for a successful proving….
**DRUGS have been used as the usual method of cure for disease since antiquity, and their derivations varied from single herbs and substances to fearsome combinations from all imaginable sources. The preparation and administration of medicines was kept as a mystery for centuries, and the medicine man was held as superior and revered as a little more than mortal for his powers. Various doctrines of healing sprang up through the years; perhaps the most interesting of these was the doctrine of signatures, founded on the belief that each member of the vegetable kingdom carried within itself the likeness of some organ or part of the human economy, as a sign that this particular plant was applicable to disturbances of that organ. That was probably the most consistent method among all the very ancient systems of applying drugs.
As medical knowledge progressed, occasional writers caught glimpses of better methods of drug application, but such light was rare and medical practice soon lapsed once more into the gloom of superstition. Paracelsus gained considerable insight into the action of drugs, and Halle, the Swedish physician, was a forerunner of Hahnemann in his deliberate experiments to discover the nature of certain remedies. These attempts were not co- ordinated, and made little impression upon the medical world. It was not until Hahnemann demanded to know the action of the drugs upon the human organism that the work was taken up in an orderly way; this demand, however, was not forthcoming until after he discovered the law of cure. The discovery of the law made it mandatory to know the action of drugs, and Hahnemann set to work to obtain that knowledge and called the work drug proving.
What is a drug? And what do we do to prove a drug?
In order to answer the question, what is a drug? we must go back and ask, What is life? Continued action of those forces, through and upon the organs of the body, which preserve it from decay, this is life; and health is that balanced action of these forces which preserves the integrity of all the parts. In this balance lies the conservation of the whole; without this balance more or less destruction of the parts is the result, and the value of this balance is determined by the importance and number of organs or functions involved.
A drug is any material agent, in however attenuated form, the ingestion of which is capable of so disturbing this balance of the vital forces that the functioning of one or more organs of the body is no longer carried out to the best of the whole; and any material substance capable of so acting on the living organism is a drug. Hence drugs are essentially destructive; therein lies the difference between drugs and foods-drugs are destructive while foods are constructive. Both drugs and foods act upon the vital force which rules in all animate beings.
To ascertain the knowledge of a drug is to discover what disturbance of this balance it is capable of producing and what organs are affected; how and what functional changes are made manifest. When we have discovered all this about a drug we can say we have a proving.
In order to be sure of the integrity of our work, we must demand three essential things:
(1) The quality of the drug must be pure; it must be free from all mixture with other drugs, and it must possess all its active properties.
(2) The prover must possess the proper balance in functions and be in a normal, healthy state, so that we can estimate and weigh the amount of the disturbance caused when we deliberately upset the balance of health.
(3) The circumstances surrounding the prover must be those of his normal surroundings, so that the drug can express its action under conditions and circumstances normal to the prover, that any deviation from normal in the prover’s condition cannot be attributed to different circumstances and conditions of his life, but directly to the action of the drug.
These three points must be maintained most carefully.
The ordinary habits of life must be observed, and his ordinary work maintained: otherwise changes from his routine might cause some deviation form his normal balance which would be attributed to the drug action.
All people do not make equally good provers. Some types are more susceptible to certain drug groups than are other types, and those who manifest susceptibility to the action of a drug to the point of developing symptoms must be secured for a satisfactory proving. Those who are peculiarly susceptible to a drug make the best provers, for it is the peculiarly susceptible who develop in the proving the peculiar, rare and characteristic symptoms of the drug; yet those who are less susceptible cannot be rejected as provers provided they develop symptoms even in a small degree, as these serve to verify the symptoms produced in the extremely susceptible, and thus establish them as true symptoms and not chance observations. Not all provers will develop or give the identical symptomatology, some recording a complete symptom while others will record but a partial symptom.
In a consideration of food and the susceptible prover, in some instances an individual will manifest an idiosyncrasy to a certain food or group of foods. To this susceptible, the food becomes a drug, and the individual having this idiosyncrasy is merely manifesting his susceptibility to the possible drug properties in this food substance; he will be the best possible prover of this drug.
The prover must be intelligent enough properly to appreciate and record the subjective symptoms as deviations from his normal conditions of life, as these subjective symptoms are of the utmost value. There is a vast difference in people in their ability both to perceive and to describe their subjective symptoms, therefore we must have a prover who has the gift of perception. We find the lack of perception in many patients who cannot describe their symptoms; such a people who do not make good provers.
Honesty is a prerequisite of a good prover, for he must be very careful to record all phenomena as fact. Remember, a proving is a record of facts-facts that can be produced repeatedly in others; therefore facts must be carefully recorded from the very beginning of the experiment; yet we must avoid equally scepticism, imaginary phenomena or the over-colouring of the real facts. Remember always to treat a fact as a fact and do not try to add to or subtract from its importance; it is not for the prover to sift the symptoms produced. Treat the facts as they are; unless one can do this, he will not make a valuable prover.
At the beginning of this work, the prover must be in that state of mental, moral and physical equilibrium that is characteristic of a normal, healthy being. One who is subject to rapidly changing equilibrium on any one or all of these planes will not make a good prover.
Bear in mind the main and only object in conducting a proving: to discover the positive characteristics of the action of the drug on the vital energy of the human being; to obtain a full knowledge of its action so that its powers can be readily distinguished from any other drug, *for the lawful application of the remedy in states of disturbed vital energy which we call disease.
In making the record, all symptoms must be recorded, but we must not forget that many of these symptoms are held in common with many other drugs; while these symptoms possess a certain value in the final analysis, we must determine those symptoms of the greatest value, especially those which are the most peculiar and characteristic of the drug- the rare, unusual symptoms that distinguish it from all others, because these are the symptoms which will be the curative symptoms, in that they will be the guiding symptoms in selecting the remedy. The symptoms such as are held in common by many drugs are not of great value in the curative sphere. Every symptom must be recorded without bias or favour, otherwise we shall lose unwittingly some of the characteristic symptoms; after all are recorded we can then compare all these symptoms with other drug provings.
So in making a proving two things are to be accomplished: a detailed record of the order of appearance of all symptoms, and an analysis of the symptoms. In making the analysis the three major points of all symptoms should be borne in mind: Location; sensation; and the modifying character.of the symptoms, or modalities, together with the concomitant or apparently unrelated symptoms. The analysis is not complete until we have a comparison of the symptoms with those produced by other drug provings.
Having a clear view of the real objective of proving, and having complied with all the requirements to produce such a proving, how do we proceed?
First, let us consider the dose. It may be we shall use the crude drug, or a low potency, or a high potency, depending upon the nature of the drug. How do we determine which to use? There are certain considerations which are sufficiently stable for guiding rules. From an apparently inert substance, such as *Lycopodium, *Carbo veg. or *Graphites, we can obtain a good proving only from a high potency; therefore we may take as an axiom : ***ANY DRUG WHICH IN ITS NATURAL STATE AFFECTS THE VITAL ENERGY BUT LITTLE WILL DEVELOP A PROVING ONLY IN A HIGH POTENCY. Other drugs having a very strong action upon the human economy in their natural state, such as *Lobelia, *Ipecac., *Cicuta or *Tabacum, may be used in a crude form : ***ANY DRUG WHICH IN ITS NATURAL STATE DISTURBS THE VITAL ENERGY TO FUNCTIONAL MANIFESTATIONS ONLY MAY BE PROVEN IN A CRUDE FORM. Still other drugs, such as the *Mercurius group, which are actively poisonous in the crude form, can be proven only in the high potencies : ***ANY DRUG WHICH IN ITS NATURAL STATE DISTURBS THE VITAL ENERGY TO DESTRUCTIVE MANIFESTATIONS SHOULD BE PROVEN ONLY IN A POTENTIATED FORM.
In other words, we determine the plane of the drug we wish to use by a consideration of the object we desire to attain. The object of the proving is to produce the characteristics of the drug as they are manifest in diseased states.
The comparatively inert substance will produce no symptoms; at best a very few symptoms of low value in the crude state, and these are not characteristic of the drug; either no symptoms are produced, or if perchance a few symptoms are produced they are not strikingly peculiar of the drug. The inert substances are expelled from the body before they reach the dynamis of system, the vital energy.
In the proving of active or corrosive poisons in low or.crude state the same thing is true: they are valueless because the grosser irritating symptoms are the result of mechanical disturbances and the few strikingly characteristic symptoms of the drug are never observed. The corrosives are expelled very quickly in the crude state because of the violence of their action, and so do not influence the vital energy to produce characteristic symptoms; therefore the symptoms that are produced are of little value because they are common to all corrosive poisons.
The susceptibility of the patient or prover must be taken into consideration; this regulates and gives us direction as to the quantity of the drug to be taken. The greater the susceptibility, the less the quantity required to react upon the vital force, for if the organism is overwhelmed suddenly at first we may get only generic symptoms and so fail to obtain the characteristic symptoms and thus fail in our object. On the other hand, if he is only moderately susceptible, we may obtain valuable results from larger doses. Our standard should be ***TO USE THE DOSE AND QUANTITY THAT WILL THOROUGHLY PERMEATE THE ORGANISM AND MAKE ITS ESSENTIAL IMPRESS UPON THE VITAL FORCE AND THUS AFFECT THE FUNCTIONAL SPHERE OF HIS BODY. This is best accomplished when a gradual impress is made, rather than a sudden onslaught, for then we would bring into the picture alarm because of violent functional disturbances, which certainly defeats our object. So when the first dose is followed by no marked symptoms, a second dose may be given, and then a period of waiting until some symptoms appear. If after the interval of waiting there is no appearance of symptoms, another dose may be given. By this gradual introduction of the drug the system becomes pervaded by its action and tolerates it, and responds to its specific impression and we obtain its characteristics.
In carrying out the provings by the higher potencies only the very susceptible will respond; this is no reflection upon the value of the provings made from the higher potencies, because we only obtain the characteristics of the remedy from such provings. The fact that the more obtuse prover does not respond does not have any weight, for under any potency proving he will only produce generic symptoms -symptoms held in common with the whole family we are proving. This contributes nothing to the knowledge of the drug which will be of value in the cure of disease. Neither does the fact that the obtuse prover does not respond to develop a proving of the remedy influence the value of the drug in its application to the sick, for when the vital energy is disturbed, it is far more susceptible to influence from a drug than when the vital energy is in a state of equilibrium. From the very nature of the case, symptoms produced from the higher potencies are genuine and are of the highest value as a curative agent.
The repetition of the dose will be governed by the nature of the drug and the reaction of the vital energy. Some drugs, like *Silica or *Lycopodium, are slow in action and should be administered at long intervals, while others are quick to give a reaction and shorter in their duration. However, this is an absolutely dependable rule: ***NEVER REPEAT THE DOSE WHILE SYMPTOMS ARE MANIFEST FROM THE DOSE ALREADY TAKEN. This is the same rule applied to the proving as governs the administration of the remedy in the cure of sickness: ***NEVER REPEAT YOUR REMEDY SO LONG AS IT CONTINUES TO ACT. The reason is as obvious in one case as in the other. It is absolutely essential to obtain a proving of real value and integrity as showing forth the characteristics of the drug and the order of the symptoms in their development.
Symptoms are produced in sequences, and it is important to now the first effects as shown in the symptoms, the sequence of their appearance and their duration; and a repetition of the dose defeats our purpose by upsetting this sequence, and continued repetition destroys the knowledge of the latest symptoms to appear, which are always the most valuable because they are the most characteristic, and farthest removed from possible pathogenetic action.
The duty of recording the symptoms in their order of appearance is very important, and quite as important is the duty of recording the concomitant symptoms, their associates, which ***WHILE SEEMINGLY UNRELATED TO THE CASE, YET BEAR A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP IN THAT THEY APPEAR AT THE SAME TIME AND IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE OTHER SYMPTOMS.
*The value of the symptoms record is largely based upon the order of appearance of symptoms and their associated or concomitant symptoms. The farther removed the symptom appears from the dose the more important its value. Not all symptoms are of equal value, so that much valuable data is added to the proving by carefully observing the sequences.
The prover should be a faithful recorder of symptoms, not only their sequence, but he must be very explicit as to the character of all sensations: pain, dull, stinging, piercing, throbbing, etc. The exact locality of the sensations, such as pain, must be given; if it is shooting, where it starts and the direction of its course; if it is one-sided, in what direction does it move, or does it go to the other side? If so, does it remain there or return to the first side? Not the least important of the sensations are those which are difficult to describe directly, and can only be given by the introduction, “sensation as if…”. It is these which make the characteristic proving, and are identification marks of the remedy.
Remember, all symptoms have location, sensation, and the aggravations and ameliorations, plus their concomitants; these should all be recorded faithfully in every proving. Too much care cannot be exercised in recording the direction of symptoms, the times of aggravation and amelioration, the effect of atmospheric changes, and positions taken by the patient in order to obtain relief. We must record the effects of position upon the patient, both for aggravation and amelioration; the position he takes in sleep; what effects are produced from standing, walking, sitting, lying; if changes are produced while lying on the right side, the left side, or back; what effect motion or rest has upon his symptoms, and especially the changes of posture, such as rising up or lying down or from continued motion; the particular kind of motion that affects him. How do eating and drinking affect him? How does sleeping affect him? How do these things affect him at the time, and afterwards, and in relation to each other? What is the condition produced by being in the presence of associates, or in crowds, or by being alone? We must consider everything that tends to increase or diminish the patient’s equilibrium.
Too much emphasis cannot be placed upon the faithful recording of these manifestations, because it is in these aggravations and ameliorations and attending circumstances that we find the characteristics that make the drug of value as a curative agent.
One is struck with the thoroughness of Hahnemann and the earlier provers, by the great amount of detail with which the records of those provings were made in comparison with many of the newer provings, and this is the reason why the older provings are of so much value. They produce the expression of the drug, the very living elements of the proving. All the facts were recorded; and this we must remember in our own work of recording, that all facts must be recorded, for we are not to judge what is essential or what is insignificant; we do not know when some apparently insignificant symptom may become of much value in the grand total of a complete symptomatology.
In making the record of many provings of the same drug there is an inclination to omit as insignificant a symptom recorded by only one prover, yet, like the 3 a.m. cough of *Kali carb., this one symptom may be of inestimable value in prescribing. Had this symptom not been recorded because it was considered insignificant, having appeared in but one record, how much would have been lost to the record of *Kali carb.!
Objective symptoms play but a small part in the record, for they are of little value as curative symptoms. However, to be complete the record should embrace these symptoms.
The great essential to be required of the prover is to record all symptoms faithfully; then the physician can give the proper value to the finished record, remembering always that the real and only object of a proving is to record a living personality whom we still we will be able to recognize when we meet in the sick room.