From 1779 when he obtained his MD in the Erlangen University HAHNEMANN occupied himself with the Practice of Medicine.  Soon he found that his prescriptions “according to this or that (fanciful) view of the nature of diseases, substances that only owed to mere opinion their place in the Materia Medica …. treating unknown morbid states in my suffering fellow-creatures with these unknown medicines, which, being powerful substances, may, if they were not exactly suitable (and how could the physician know whether they were suitable or not, seeing that their peculiar, special actions were not yet elucidated) easily  change life into death, or produce new affections and chronic ailments, which are often much more difficult to remove than the original disease.  To become in this way, a murderer, or aggravator of sufferings of my brethren of mankind, was to me a fearful thought – so fearful and distressing was it, that shortly after my marriage” (in 1782) “I completely abandoned Practice and scarcely treated anyone for fear of doing him harm, and – as you know – occupied myself solely with Chemistry and literary labours.”1[‡]

      Children were born to HAHNEMANN and they suffered childhood diseases.  What could he do?  The Medicine that he had learnt was hazardous.  Wherefrom could he get sure aid?  “In an eight years’ Practice, pursued with conscientious attention, I had learned the delusive nature of ordinary methods of treatment, and from sad experience I knew right well how far the methods of SYDENHAM and Frederick HOFFMAN, of BOERHAAVE and GEUKINS, of STOLL, QUARIN, CULLEN, and DE HAEN, were capable of curing.”2  So, HAHNEMANN went about to find any method, any easy, sure, trustworthy method, whereby they may interrogate medicines as to their special uses, as to what they are really, surely, and positively serviceable for?3

      HAHNEMANN argued that there must be such a method.  But why was it not discovered so far  by the great physicians?  “Doubtless because it was too easy - …. Because it was quite simple, and neither capable nor standing in need of being decked in any of the tawdry tinsel of subtle sophistries and brilliant hypotheses.”4  So HAHNEMANN sought for the sure and trustworthy Medicine “not in the thorny thicket of ontological explanations, in arbitrary opinions, ……in the authoritative declarations of celebrated men”5 – but sought it “where it lies nearest at hand, and where it has hitherto been passed over by all, because it did not seem sufficiently recondite nor sufficiently learned, and was not hung with laurels for those who displayed most talent for constructing systems, any leader of a party whatsoever.  Accordingly I have made no ostentatious parade of my simple little book (Medicine of Experience) that teaches this method … contended to having in the simple style that belongs to truth, revealed it to my brethren, as far as it was possible to do so by writing that is, without demonstration at the sick-bed in an hospital.”6

      In 1790 HAHNEMANN already had 5 children, and he couldn’t afford the expensive Leipsic; and therefore shifted to a nearby small town - Stötteritz.  About his life in this small town HAHNEMANN writes: “ . . . . I cannot reckon much on income from Practice.  This I know from fourteen years’ experience and my sensitive temperament forbids me to put myself forwards.  I am too conscientious to prolong illness, or make it appear more dangerous and important than it really is.  Pity, or love of peace, make me reticent in my claims – I am therefore constantly the loser, and I can only look upon my practice as food for the heart.”7  (Stoetteritz, 29 August 1791). Same year he writes that his expenditure tended to exceed his income.  Nevertheless, he says, that since “some years” he has completely given up his medical practice and made his living by his literary works, while he continued his researches in Chemistry.

      We must remember that as at this time – 1790 – HAHNEMANN had already experience as Government doctor and has already published his “Arsenic Poisoning” (1786), “Wine test” (1788), “Preparation of Mercury” (1789) and was currently working at the translation of CULLEN’s Materia Medica – 2 Volumes.

      HAHNEMANN’s China experiment is too well-known to everyone acquainted with Homœopathy.  “Cinchona was to HAHNEMANN what the falling apple was to NEWTON and the swinging lamp to GALILEO”. Some have compared it with the chance discovery of COPERNICUS (1473 – 1543).  History of Homœopathy begins with this.

            How did HAHNEMANN further proceed with his search for the ‘truth’?  “How, then, caust thou” – (this was the mode of reasoning by which I commenced to find my way) – “ascertain what morbid states medicines are created for?  (Can this be done by experimenta per mortes in diseases themselves?  Alas! the two thousand five hundred years during which this may alone has been followed, show that it is beset with innumerable, insurmountable illusions, and never leads to certainty).8  …… I carried my reflections farther.  “How else could medicines effect what they do in diseases than by means of this power of theirs to alter the healthy body.”  …. Certainly, in this way alone can they cure.9  … such is really the case; otherwise how was it that these violent tertian and quotidian fevers, which I completely  cured four and six weeks ago without knowing how the cure was effected, by means of a few drops of Cinchona tincture, should present almost exactly the source array of symptoms, which I observed in myself yesterday and today, after gradually taking, while in perfect health, four drachms of good Cinchona bark, by way of experiment?”  “I now commenced to make a collection of the morbid phenomenon which different observers had from time to time noticed as produced by medicines introduced into the stomach of healthy individuals and which they have casually recorded in their works.  But as the number of these was not great, I set myself.  I set myself diligently to work to test several medicinal substances on the healthy body and see the carefully observed symptoms they produced corresponded wonderfully with the symptoms of the morbid states they could cure easily and permanently.  The results I had collected four years ago will be found in my book: Fragmenta de viribus medicamentorum positivis sive in sano corpore humano observatis …”10


      While preparing the Materia Medica HAHNEMANN took into account not only the symptoms obtained from the ‘Proving’ but also authentic toxicological symptoms already recorded and verified.  He also included, as the Materia Medica ‘grew’, symptoms cured in clinical conditions though they may not have come up in the ‘Proving’ or in the toxicology.  However, symptoms produced in the Proving and verified by cures ranked the highest and considered as ‘characteristic’ of that medicine substance.

      In the Preface to his ‘Fragmenta’ HAHNEMANN insists on thorough knowledge of the proving symptoms and that you always use a proven remedy, i.e. of whose exact symptoms you know – apriori knowledge.

      The first Homoeopathic Materia Medica is ‘Fragmenta de viribus Medicamentorum positivis sive in sano corpore humano observatis’ published in Leipsic in 1805, in Latin.  This was in two parts: The first part contained the symptoms obtained by the ‘provings’; even here the first chapter contained the proving symptoms only, while the second chapter contained information from ‘other sources’ with complete information about the sources, etc.  as usual with HAHNEMANN’s works, foot-notes are given in plenty.  The first part contains 269 pages.  The second part 470 pages, is an ‘Index’ to the Materia Medica, the first part.  This index is the ‘repertory’.   Complete symptom is given with the page number in the Materia Medica and  the symptom number; all very thorough.

      Clinical, cured symptoms observed in the course of his practice were added by HAHNEMANN in his own hand in his copy of the ‘Fragmenta’ and he intended to publish these in a second edition, but a second edition was not published, but the Materia Medica Pura (Pure Materia Medica) was published during the years 1811-1821, in six volumes.  The original ‘Fragmenta’ in which HAHNEMANN had carried out his additions for a second edition, is in the Robert Bosch Institute of History of Medicine in Stuttgart. 

      HAHNEMANN made it a point to note down in the margin of his Case Register such of those cured symptoms not in Proving, which may be added to the Materia Medica.  Thus his Case Registers are genuine records.

      The Materia Medica Pura first published in 1811, (1811-1821) was revised twice- 1822-27, 1830-33.  There were criticisms that HAHNEMANN did not publish in connection with his Materia Medica Pura the day books of the provers; these critics “do not know under what pecuniary circumstances these master works of the Founder of our School were published …. (these critics) did not appreciate the large pecuniary losses of the enthusiastic publisher, Arnold who became a convert to the new Healing Art as practiced on him by Samuel HAHNEMANN, and grateful for the immense benefit he received from the great Healer, he sacrified his money freely, so that others might be instructed by the great man, and enabled by means of a Materia Medica to apply the law of similars for the cure of the sick.  It is also a fatal error to suppose that the laborious work of formulating the provings of drugs into a systematized form showing plainly and comprehensively the sick-making properties of drugs could be better made today by others than by HAHNEMANN himself, who carefully and personally examined every prover before accepting his provings.  It is a fatal error to suppose any one this day is better able to clearly point out the characteristic symptoms of drugs and their strong clinical indications, than HAHNEMANN did in his prefaces to the various drugs in his valuable works.” (Ad.LIPPE, Medical Advance, June, 1885). Subsequent to the Materia Medica Pura, and HAHNEMANN’s Chronic Diseases there were other Provings data like HARTLAUB & TRINKS’ Pure Materia Medica  (1828-1831) in 3 volumes (1365 page) in the same fashion as the Materia Medica Pura; Further came Ernst STAPF’s Archiv für  die homöopathische Heilkunst  (1822-1838) known as ‘Stapf’s Archiv’. HAHNEMANN drew from HARTLAUB & TRINKS as also from STAPF’s Archiv several symptoms into his Chronic Diseases.  STAPF himself gave addition to HAHNEMANN’s Materia Medica Pura.    Many contributed to the Stapf’s, including HAHNEMANN.  (HAHNEMANN’s Psorinum appeared in the Archiv), Constantin HERING, etc.  NOACK & TRINKS also published a two volumes of Materia Medica (1010 pages).  In 1856 Constantin HERING published his Amerikanische Arzneiprüfüngen – 13 remedies Apis, Glonoin, Limulus, Achillea millefolium, Allium cepa, Hippomanes, Acidum oxalic,  Jatropha curcas, Xiphosura americana, Rumex crispus, Acidum benzoic, Kalmia, Aloe. 

      GHG JAHR compiled a two volume ‘Symptomen Codex’, consisting of 614 + 762    pages (1848) containing 239 remedies. There were no further publications on Materia Medica worth mentioning from HAHNEMANN’s Fatherland, Germany.

      Benoit MURE who was treated by Dr. Sebastian DES GUIDI of Lyon became a homoeopathic physician himself and propagated Homœopathy strongly and carried out Provings which he published in 1853.  He may be called as the father of Homœopathy in Brazil.  He published provings of 38 remedies including Crotalus cascavella, Mancinella, Elaps corallinus, Pediculus capitis, Hura brasiliencis, etc.

      With Constantine HERING laying the foundation stone of Homœopathy strongly in the USA, almost all the further progress in every field of Homoeopathy came from the USA.

      If you go through the ‘source’ Materia Medica you will see that it follows a ‘rule’, i.e. the Rule of Healing, from above downwards, Head to Skin – anatomical schema.  While the Materia Medica gives all the symptoms produced, produced and cured (which is called ‘symptoms verified by cures’), symptoms which have become characteristic of the remedy by virtue of their cures, symptoms repeatedly verified by cures, symptoms more often cured in a particular pathological condition, etc.  The subtlest of the symptoms are the ‘sensations as if’; the peculiar imprint of the remedy may be seen in its ‘general’ aggravation and ‘particular’ aggravation/amelioration. Within a short span of about two decades the pioneering homoeopaths carefully observed the curative actions and provided the material to the ‘Nestor’ of Homœopathy – Dr. HERING – who collected, segregated, analysed, synthesized, and published Clinical Materia medica, the Guiding Symptoms, (1879 -1891) in ten volumes.  It is over 110 years since these volumes had been published and there has been, and there still is, no reference work superior to, or as reliable as, it!

      As Homœopathy spread, further Materia Medicas came on.  These can be mainly divided as:

1.  Clinical Materia Medica which include ‘lectures’

2.  Comparative Materia Medica

3.  Characteristic/Key-note Materia medica

4.  Special Materia Medicas/Regional Materia Medicas/Monographs

      As examples of the I type, we may speak of the well known literature: the Materia Medica of COWPERTHWAITE (1878), DUNHAM (1878), FARRINGTON (1887), HERING Condensed Materia Medica (1877), T.F. ALLEN’s Handbook, ANSHUTZ (1900), Willard PIERCE (1911), William BOERICKE’s (1901), J.H. CLARKE’s Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica in 3 Vols. (1900), N.M. CHOUDHARI’s (1916), KENT (1905), Otto LEESER (1935), O.A. JULIAN (1971), James STEPHENSON (1963).

      The ‘Special Materia Medicas: Materia medica of the Nosodes by H.C. ALLEN (1910), O.A. JULIAN (1992 II Edition), H.A. ROBERTS’ Rheumatic Remedies, etc.

      We have an interesting list in ‘Comparative Materia Medicas.’

      Homoeopathic Materia Medica should be studied in comparison and differentiation, always, and ‘individual’ arrived at.  This is the crux of our Practice.

      Of course many of the Materia Medicas like PIERCE’s Lectures, KENT’s Lectures, DUNHAM’s, etc. give some comparisons but not a deep study of comparisons.  R.H. GROSS’ Comparative Materia Medica edited by Constantine HERING (1867) with its ‘Introduction’ of GROSS and HERING’s ‘Remarks’ are gems.  By studying this we would know what to look for in the anamnesis and what are to be compared.  I have inter-leaved this work and added some from other sources – LIPPE, ALLEN, etc.  Then comes H.A. ROBERTS’ Study of Remedies by Comparisons (1941), FARRINGTON’s Comparative Materia Medica, Eugenio F. CANDEGABE’s Comparative Materia medica (1989).  These are some of the great works, in this field.  There are smaller monographs like NASH’s Sulphur which is a comparative study of Sulphur and other burners - a classic.


      We now come to the most commonly used books: the ‘secondary’ sources, of Materia Medica: We may mention H.C. ALLEN’s Key Notes, (1898) (the title itself says  “Key Notes and Characteristics with Comparisons of some of the Leading Remedies of the Materia Medica”); H.N. GUERNSEY’s (it was he who first spoke of ‘Key Notes’; however, GUERNSEY himself said that the term ‘Key note’ came from Jacob JEANES, a contemporary);  Adolph LIPPE’s Key Notes (1854), T.F. ALLEN’s A Primer of Materia Medica (1892); E.B. NASH’s Leaders (1899);  PULFORDs - Alfred and Dayton - ‘Keys’(1936) and Graphic Drug Pictures (1944); K.C. BHANJA’s ‘Master Key’ (1947), C.M. BOGER’s Synoptic Key (1915), S.R. PHATAK’s Materia Medica (1977),  I.D. JOHNSON’s Therapeutic Key, M.L. TYLER’s Drug Pictures, (1942).

      We have some ‘Regional’ Materia Medicas: E.B. NASH’s Regional Leaders (1901), Leaders in Respiratory Organs (1909); Monographs on single remedies like BURNETT’s Gold (1879), Natrum muriaticum (1878),Bacillinum (1890) NASH’s Sulphur, etc.

            After these ‘Old Masters’, we now have George VITHOULKAS’ Materia Medica – so far 7 volumes have come out – upto and including ‘C’, further volumes will keep on; Jacques JOUANNY’s ‘Essential Homœopathic Materia Medica (1984), Roger MORRISON’s ‘Desk-top Guide …’ (1993), Tinus SMITS’ Practical Materia Medica for the Consulting Room (1990), Portraits of Homœopathic Remedies by Catherine COULTER – 3 volumes (1986 – 2002), Genius of Homœopathic Remedies (1994), by GUNAVANTE, The Spirit of Homœopathic Medicines by Didier GRANDGEORGE (1998).

      So, from a string of ‘symptoms’ as in HAHNEMANN’s ‘Fragmenta ……’ – to the present day Materia Medicas – you see new ‘Provings’ in the Journals – last but not the least up to Rajan SANKARAN’s ‘The Soul of Remedies’ (1997) – the Homœopathic Materia Medica has become a big forest of Flora – large Oak trees, hard trees, many-branched canopied trees, creepers, bushes, etc. all having their own ‘characteristic’.  But the individualities are too difficult to be found, since it is a big mass.  We should learn the art of study and gaining knowledge useful in Practice.  It is said that a ‘proved’ and ‘verified’ symptom is much more valuable than a ‘clinical’ one.  But in the modern day Materia Medica we are unable to obtain these separately; it is all a jumble, and forest, but a vast one, fascinating indeed when one wanders about in it!