The experienced cook holds his hand, which he has scalded, at a certain distance from the fire, and does not heed the increase of pain that takes place at first, as he knows from experience that he can thereby in a very short time, often in a few minutes, convert the burnt part into healthy painless skin.*
* So also Fernelius (Therap., lib. vi, cap. 20) considers that the best remedy for a burnt part is to bring it near the fire, whereby the pain is removed. John Hunter (On the Blood, Inflammation, etc., p. 218) mentions the great injury that results from treating burns with cold water, and gives a decided preference to approaching them to the fire, guided in this not by the traditional medical doctrines which (contraria contrariis) prescribe cooling things for inflammation, but by experience, which teaches that the application of a similar heat (similia similibus) is the most salutary.
Other intelligent non-medical persons, as, for example, the manufacturers of lackered ware, apply to a part scalded with the hot varnish a substance that causes a similar burning sensation, such as strong heated spirits of wine,* or oil of turpentine,** and by that means cure themselves in the course of a few hours, whereas cooling salves, as they are well aware, would not effect a cure in as many months, and cold water*** would but make matters worse.
* Sydenham (Opera, p. 271 [edit. Syd. Soc., p. 601]) says the spirits of wine, repeatedly applied, is preferable to all other remedies in burns. Benjamin Bell, too (System of Surgery, 3rd edit., 1789), acknowledges that experience shows that homopathic remedies only are efficacious. He says: 'One of the best applications to every burn of this kind is strong brandy or any other ardent spirit; it seems to induce a momentary additional pain (see below, § 157), but this soon subsides, and is succeeded by an agreeable soothing sensation. It proves most effectual when the parts can be kept immersed in it; but where this cannot be done, they should be kept constantly moist with pieces of old linen soaked in spirits.' To this I may add that warm, and indeed, very warm, alcohol is much more rapidly and much more certainly efficacious, for it is much more homopathic than when not heated. And all experience confirms this in a most astonishing manner.
**Edward Kentish, having to treat the workers in coal pits, who were so often dreadfully burnt by the explosion of fire-damp, applied heated oil of turpentine or alcohol, as the best remedy in the most extensive and severest burns (Second Essay on Burns; London, 1798). No treatment can be more homopathic than this nor is any more efficacious.
The estimable and experienced Heister (Institut. Chirurg., Tom. i, p. 33) confirms this from his own observation and extols the application of turpentine oil, of alcohol and of very hot poultices for this end, as hot as ever they can be borne.
But the amazing superiority of the application to burns of these remedies, which possess the power of exciting burning sensation and heat (and are consequently homopathic), over palliative refrigerant remedies, is most incontestably shown by pure experimentation, in which the two opposite methods of treatment are employed for the sake of comparison, in burns of equal intensity in the same body.
Thus Benjamin Bell (in Kuhn's Phys. Med. Journ., Leipzic 1801, Jun., p. 428), in the case of a lady who had scalded both arms, caused one to be covered with oil of turpentine, and made her plunge the other into cold water. In half an hour the first arm was well, but the other continued to be painful for six hours longer; when it was withdrawn one instant from the water she experienced much greater pain in it, and it required a much longer time than the first for its cure.
John Anderson (Kentish, op. cit., p. 43) treated in a similar manner a lady who had scalded herself with boiling grease. 'The face which was very red and scalded and excessively painful was a few minutes after the accident, covered with oil of turpentine her arms she had, of her own accord, plunged into cold water, with which she desired to treat it for some hours. In the course of seven hours her face looked much better, and the pain was relieved. She had frequently renewed the cold water for the arm, but whenever she withdrew it she complained of much pain, and, in truth, the inflammation in it had increased. The following morning I found that she had had during the night great pain in the arm; the inflammation had extended above the elbow; several large blisters had risen, and thick eschars had formed on the arm and hand; a warm poultice was then applied. The face was completely free from pain, but emollient applications had to be used for the arm for a fortnight longer, before it was cured.
Who can fail to perceive in this instance the ininite superiority of the (homopathic) treatment by means of remedies of similar action, over the wretched treatment by opposites (contraria contrariis) of the antiquated ordinary school of medicine!
** John Humter (loc. cit.) is not singular in asserting the great injury done by treating burns with cold water. W. Fabricius of Hilden, also (De Combustionibus libellus, Basil, 1607, cap. 5, p. II), alleges that cold applications in burns are highly injurious and productive of the most serious consequences; inflammation, suppuration and sometimes mortification are caused by them.
The old experienced reaper, although he may not be in the habit of drinking brandy, will not touch cold water (contraria contrariis) when he has worked himself into a violent feverish state in the heat of the sun - he knows the danger of such a proceeding - but he takes a small quantity of a heating liquor, a mouthful of brandy; experience, the teacher of truth, has convinced him of the great superiority and efficacy of this homopathic procedure, whereby his heat and fatigue are speedily removed.*
* Zimmerman (Ueber die Erfahrung, ii, p. 318) informs us that the inhabitants of hot countries act in the same manner, with the best results, and that, after being very much heated, they swallow a small quantity of some spirituous liquor.
There have occasionally been physicians who vaguely surmised that medicines cure analogous morbid states by the power they possess of producing analogous morbid symptoms.*
* I do not bring forward the following passages from authors who had a presentiment of homopath, as proofs in support of this doctrine, which is firmly established by its own intrinsic merits, but in order to avoid the imputation of having suppressed these foreshadowings with the view of claiming for myself the priority of the idea.
Thus the author of the book: peri topwn kat' anqrwpon,* which is among the writings attributed to Hippocrates, has the following remarkable words: dia ta dmoia nousos ginetai, kai dia to omoia prosferomena ek noseuntwn ugiainontai, - dia to emeein emetos pauetai.
* Basil. Froben., 1538, p. 72.
Later physicians have also felt and expressed the truth of the homopathic method of cure. Thus, for instance, Boulduc* perceived that the purgative property of rhubarb was the cause of its power to allay diarrhoea.
* Memoirs de lŐ Academie Royale, 1710.
Detharding* guessed that the infusion of senna leaves relieved colic in adults by virtue of its analogous action in causing colic in healthy persons.
* Eph. Nat. Cur., cent. x, obs. 76.
Bertholon* confesses that in diseases electricity diminishes and removes pain very similar to that which itself produces.
* Medicin. Electrisitat., ii, pp. I5 and 282.
Thoury* testifies that positive electricity possesses the power of quickening the pulse, but when that is already morbidly accelerated it diminishes its frequency.
* Memoir lu a l' Academie de Caen.
Von Stoerk* makes the following suggestion: 'If stramonium disorders the mind and produces mania in healthy persons, ought we not to try if in cases of insanity it cannot restore reason by producing a revolution in the ideas?'
* Libell. de Stram., p. 8.
But a Danish army physician, of the name of Stahl,* has expressed his conviction on this point in the most unequivocal terms. 'The rule generally acted on in medicine,' says he, 'to treat by means of oppositely acting remedies (contraria contrariis), is quite false and the reverse of what ought to be; I am, on the contrary, convinced that diseases will yield to, and be cured by, remedies that produce a similar affection (similia similibus), - burns by exposure to the fire, frost-bitten limbs by the application of snow and the coldest water, inflammation and bruises by distilled spirits; and in like manner I have treated a tendency to acidity of the stomach by a very small dose of sulphuric acid with the most successful result, in cases where a number of absorbent remedies had been fruitlessly employed.'
* In Jo. Hammelii, Commentatio de Arthritide tam tartarea, quam scorbutica, seu podagra et scorbuto, Budingae, 1738, viii, pp. 40 42.
How near was the great truth sometimes of being apprehended! But it was dismissed with a mere passing thought, and thus the indispensable change of the antiquated medical treatment of disease, of the improper therapeutic system hitherto in vogue, into a real, true, and certain healing art, remained to be accomplished in our own times.