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Book Review of "A Manual of Pharmacodynamics, (6th Edition)"

Reviewed by Dr J. Rozencwajg, NMD
Richard Hughes was a conventional physician who eventually practiced and taught Homeopathy, as was the path of many Masters in the 19th Century. This book is a reprint of the 6th edition of his Materia Medica, completed and published in September 1893. An historical book, useful as coffee table filler, a starter for a conversation or a doorstopper? Not really.
Hughes was first and foremost a scientist and interested in facts that can be proved, demonstrated even if not completely explained. He insisted, in accordance with homeopathic pharmacology, upon using only and exclusively provings and moreover those made with really healthy provers, not sick ones. In doing so he even discarded some of Hahnemann’s proving as they were done on unwell persons or on some who reacted the same almost pathological way to each and every remedy: he gives examples of one prover who always emitted large amounts of flatulence, no matter what the remedy, another who always had sexual dreams with every remedy. He disregarded clinical symptoms and cured cases too, claiming that those were not provings but could result in cures that were the result of the patient’s health having improved, being then able to take care of the rest of the pathology; it is important to note that he does not say that the remedy did not have a curative ability in those pathologies, but because the proving of the substance did not create the pathology, it could not be listed as one that could be cured homeopathically by it. It shows in his Materia Medica as he distinguishes clearly, when needed, between proving symptoms and clinical, cured ones. For Hughes, the only way to really know a remedy is to study the provings themselves, referring to his five volumes ‘Cyclopedia of Drug Pathogenesis’.

It is Hughes who dismissed Hahnemann’s theory of Miasms as being a demonstration of his senility (sic!). He also very much disliked the higher potencies (200C and 1M) that had just appeared in his time although he acknowledges their effectiveness, while writing (page 99) “reason must frown upon high potencies”. All this is still widely and wildly debated nowadays.
Why use or read his Materia Medica? After all, there are many more that are replete with other symptoms and signs that are used on a daily basis. The descriptions are rooted into correctly done provings, where there is no doubt about their validity, but also on physiology, pathology and pharmacology, albeit very much outdated by today’s standards of knowledge. Yet this is one of the Materia Medicas to refer to when in doubt about a remedy, as many additions have been made though clinical cures, traditional uses, re-provings that are not always accepted by every practitioner (dream or meditative provings) or other more contemporary research and classifications.
Each remedy is explained as a lecture, Kent’s style, and is not a boring catalogue of symptoms, one of the major hurdles to overcome when reading provings. When studying or revising a remedy, Hughes’ writings should be part of it, no matter what else is added to it afterwards: it is the sometimes small seed that then gives rise to an expanded knowledge and understanding. This fact by itself warrants having that book on your shelves, and not just as a decoration.

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