The Aphorisms of Hippocrates by von Boenninghausen - Book IV

Selected Aphorisms Of Hippocrates
With Comments By Dr. von Boenninghausen

From The Homoeopathic Recorder, Vol. LVIII, No. 10, 11, 12, (April, May, June) 1943.

translated by S.W.S.


APHORISM 16. Veratrum album is dangerous to the healthy, for it produces convulsions.

COMMENT: Making the stomach contents liquid by any kind of drink increases the vomiting action of Veratrum album. Homoeopathists realize this is one of its characteristic peculiarities, and that is the opposite of Cuprum, which in many ways can be considered its sister remedy. These two offer us a long list of symptoms which run parallel, acting on the same body parts, almost in the same manner, in many serious diseases almost vie with each other. Under such conditions it would often be very difficult to choose the right one of these two grand medicaments if it were not for one characteristic symptom which removes all doubt: the drinking of a cold fluid, like cold water. If cold drinks aggravate the affliction of the stomach and abdomen: vomiting and diarrhea (and all other crampy and painful troubles), then they belong to Veratrum; but if cold drinks ameliorate, then they belong to the sphere of Cuprum, and in both instances a cure is assured by proper use of the one or the other agent. This difference in the symptoms of Veratrum and Cuprum in respect to drinking of something cold is the more important as it is found only in a small group of remedies (Calcarea carbonica: aggravation from drinking, and Causticum: amelioration from drinking, these excepted) with such clear precision. Only in Phosphorus we find just the same rare and very characteristic symptom: a drink of cold water brings immediate relief, but only till the water becomes warm in the stomach, when the former retching returns with greater fury.

APHORISM 23. Patients who have been reduced through acute or chronic sickness, or through injuries, or from any other cause, who have a discharge of black bile, or like black blood, die the next day.

COMMENT: Reference is to the "Morbus niger Hippocrates" (melaena) which often ends fatally. The proving of Arsenicum has all the important symptoms, and where indicated has always given sure aid when applied in time, except when damaged internal organs demand other remedies according to symptoms and causative factors.

APHORISM 26. It is fatal if a dysenteric patient passes flesh like pieces.

COMMENT: In true autumnal dysentery it is not unusual that instead of fecal stools they consist of bloody mucus, then membranes like intestinal scrapings, and finally flesh-like pieces with severe tenesmus. All these symptoms have their simile in Mercurius, a first class specificum. Quick-silver was not known in Hippocrates' time, but was introduced by Arabian physicians in the 11th century. However, it is not the only remedy to be thought of, for in the first stage symptoms often indicate: Apis, Cantharis or Colchicum. Hence, the absolute death sentence is not for our age, provided proper treatment is instituted early enough.

APHORISM 27. If patients have lost much blood during a fever, they will suffer from loose bowels during convalescence.

COMMENT: This experience is also confirmed in our day. China tops the long list of suitable remedies when the symptoms correspond; but while it often acts like a charm, even if not absolutely homoeopathically suitable, one is at times easily persuaded to repeat the dose, or to give a lower potency when the improvement lets up, instead of looking for a real individualized simillimum.

APHORISM 30. When fever recurs daily at the same hour, there will be a difficult crisis.

COMMENT: Among most such patients we find many who, in spite of the "never failing remedy", quinine, keep on suffering for months, even years, till quinine has made them sick in its own way, and the patient now is in worse condition than during the fever itself. Then they seek help from Homoeopathy, which can cure just such fevers safely by Antimonium crudum, China, Ignatia, and especially Sabadilla.

Our remedy provings have given us pointers about periodicity, aggravation, and amelioration at certain times of the twenty-four hours or seasons, which must well be considered in the selection of the indicated remedy; some of them have these modalities also with respect to other symptoms. Helleborus niger and Lycopodium clavatum have general aggravation from 4 p.m. till about 8 p.m., which often determines the selection of the correct remedy where many other medicines might also come in question. An allopath may give an extensive report about a typhoid fever patient, which might be practically worthless for the selection of the indicated homoeopathic remedy. We must know the moments of periodicity, aggravation, e.g., evenings, from warmth, every motion (Bryonia) or morning, from getting cold, absolute rest (Rhus), etc. Thus we also treat neuralgias (toothache and prosopalgia) which are the bete noire to the allopaths, where the entire anatomic and pathologic rubbish is useless, yet such cases are easily cured by Homoeopathy where the modalities oftime and conditions can be found to correspond to one of our remedies.

APHORISM 31. In fevers with great prostration there often are swelling of joints, especially of the jaws.

COMMENT: Without doubt this was the experience of Hippocrates; Galen commented on it, and Celsus repeated it, yet we do not think it generally binding. However, such fevers, especially the intermittent type, have visited us a few times during the last twenty years, with swellings of joints and glands, especially of knees and jaws, which usually were cured by Calcarea carbonica, which also prevented metastatic conditions. These fevers were peculiar in that chills and heat quickly alternated, or occurred at the same time: cold internally, heat externally, usually with palpitation, and following profuse perspiration for a longer time during convalescence; characteristic was that the perspiration was worse in open cold air and during the first period of sleep in bed, never toward morning. After these fevers had been with us for a few months, a different fever visited us about two years later, which, on account of the terrible headache during the heat spell (together with a few other symptoms) demanded Natrum muriaticum, which remedy cured totally and quickly. China was useless also in these fevers.

Meanwhile the great weakness and prostration must not be considered a criterion as proof of the title to this Hippocratic conclusion. There are many fevers where in spite of the great weakness during and after the first attacks neither the one nor the other occur, but complaints of an entirely different character appear. We have seen such prostrating fevers with severe headache and morbid drowsiness (Arsenicum); others with rheumatic pains, unquenchable thirst and frequent urination (Lycopodium); again others where stomach pain with vomiting of all food, head congestion and difficult breathing followed (Ferrum metallicum). But when those cases were carefully observed, it was soon plain that chronic (psoric) miasm was at the bottom of it all, and that in many severe cases nothing could be accomplished without Sulphur.

APHORISM 34. It is fatal if a patient, without swelling of the throat, suddenly becomes asphyxiatic.

APHORISM 35. If the neck of a fever patient suddenly becomes distorted and swallowing difficult without swelling in throat, that is fatal.

COMMENT: These two aphorisms apparently belong together and present symptoms almost exclusively found in hydrophobia; this opinion is shared also by another commentator. Perhaps because of the prevailing idea that a fully developed case of hydrophobia cannot be cured, hence must infallibly lead to demise, which is also the teaching of our allopaths, Hippocrates wrote this aphorism. But that is totally contrary to our teaching. To us this condition is the same as any other dynamic sickness and treated in harmony with our homoeopathic law. For this reason we lay particular stress upon the peculiar and characteristic symptoms, and look upon the condition of the wound as a criterion of the progress of cure, carefully avoiding obscuring these symptoms. One of my cases, a land-owner in his best years, had been bitten seven days ago by a rabid dog, and while taking his morning bath felt the first head symptom. While I elicited his symptoms his second attack of the day followed; it began with drawing from the nape of the forehead, then sparks before the eyes, then complete darkness with red face and involuntary grinding of the teeth. After five minutes the attack had passed, when patient was given one dose of Belladonna 200. He was also given two powders containing Belladonna 200 in globules, and two powders of Hyoscyamus 200, of the latter he was to take one every 24 hours. The result was complete. A week later he presented himself and related that since taking the medicine he had not felt the least sign of the trouble. The bite wound was still a little purplish, and instead of Hyoscyamus, Lachesis was given as an intercurrent remedy. In another week everything was normal and has remained so to this day. Another case of hydrophobia I also cured completely after he had been treated allopathically, internally and externally. In consequence, out of ten bitten persons of this region nine came to me.
It might be urged that we only mentioned the above four remedies, and forgot Cantharis, Cuprum, Mercurius, Phosphorus, and Sabadilla, to which perhaps also Apis, Arsenicum, Calcarea carbonica, Iodum, Ruta, and Veratrum belong, hence we append them here.

APHORISM 37. Cold sweats in high fever presage death; with milder fever they indicate protracted disease.

COMMENT: In many cases cold sweat is the precursor of death; but in many other cases it is a characteristic symptom of a chronic disease, especially when it is on the nape. Hippocrates in two of his writings mentions this location specifically. It is peculiar that our greatest polychrest, Sulphur, has this symptom almost exclusively.

APHORISM 38. Where there is sweat on the body, there is the seat of the disease.

COMMENT: This is often confirmed and finds divers applications in practice. To mention just one example, the horrible results to body and soul from masturbation. The often much differing troubles do not always point absolutely to the cause, while also here the anamnetic knowledge is of greatest import for the choice of a remedy and diet, and for suitable admonition and instruction. Perspiration on and around the genital organs is often very peculiar, e.g., it may be worse in rest after, not during exertion (Sepia) and such symptoms may point to a homoeopathic remedy which always gives the desired result.

APHORISM 40. If the body gets hot or cold alternatingly, and the color changes the same, this indicates a protracted disease.

COMMENT: Also this cannot claim general application, even though Galen has repeated this aphorism. To be sure, there are many chronic conditions in which the e frequent change of cold and heat are symptoms pointing to certain remedies. And this is also true as to many acute diseases, especially in typhoid fevers, where Bryonia or Rhus tox. may come in question, in fevers with colds where Nux vomica must be remembered, as in many other fever forms, mild or severe, which may demand Ammonium muriaticum, China, Kreosotum, Sambucus, Veratrum, etc. It is therefore difficult to prognosticate from the frequent change of hot and cold the duration of the sickness, which can be cured in a few days by the use of the correctly chosen homoeopathic remedies.

APHORISM 42. Continuous hot or cold sweat indicates a disease, cold more I serious, hot less so.

COMMENT: A continual sweat is a pathological symptom as well as continued heat or cold. They are usually called perspiration fevers, which, however, is but a single symptom, which cannot lead to correct remedy choice. When, of the many medicines which have this symptom, we mention only the most important: Aconitum, Arsenicum, Bryonia, Ipecacuanha, Mercurius, Opium, Rhus, Sambucus, and Sepia, it is evident that many much differing sickness conditions have this symptom, and that the name in itself is immaterial.

APHORISM 46. If a patient is attacked by a rigor during continuous fever, that is a fatal sign.

COMMENT: Such a condition is almost hopeless. Life force seems extinct, unable to react even to our medicines. However, we have three remedies for rigors of a lesser nature which even in such desperate cases will at times bring help: Camphora, Opium, and Carbo vegetabilis, the latter, according to our experience, only in small doses of the highest potency. Camphora rescued several patients suffering from severe cholera (cholera foudroyant of the French) while in a dying condition. One example is the Austrian Field Marshall Clam Galla, who was apparently dead from cholera, but whom Dr. Lazansky brought back to life by Camphor spiritus given according to Hahnemann's directions. This case was commented on by many European periodicals.

Opium can bring back life similarly where the natural reaction is dead and where the entire body is cold and stiff, wet with perspiration and the death-like face. Like no other remedy it is able to stir up reaction of life force, and therefore we use it where other indicated medicines would be useless on account of lacking life force. Sulphur takes the place only when in true psoric diseases this condition is present by holding down, as it were, the miasmatic obstruction, which here is the causative factor of lacking reaction, and it frees the natural life forces of its fetters.

APHORISM 48. It is fatal when a patient suffers from a continual fever and has a cold skin, while internal parts are burning and there is great thirst.

COMMENT: This must not surprise us, for the two main remedies for this condition: Arsenicum and Veratrum, in the time of Hippocrates were not used in such cases. Then Veratrum was used generally for "cleaning out" especially in gastric conditions by vomiting, and for insanity (real homoeopathy) and in malignant diarrhea. In the customary large doses (only the quantity constitutes the poison!) of that time it would have hastened death, while in small, dynamic doses, corresponding to the symptoms, it would have possibly saved the patients. In such desperate cases demanding quick help, one can more than ever experience the great advantage of the higher and highest potencies, but it requires abandoning the coarse materialistic prejudices. A pity it is that this great truth, the result of reliable experience (the basis of our entire doctrine) does not always find recognition, not even in the ranks of Homoeopathy, especially not among the younger physicians, which lack this necessary experience.

APHORISM 52. It is not unusual that patients weep voluntarily in fever or other sickness, but when they weep involuntarily that is a bad sign.

COMMENT: When patients with chronic diseases alternatingly weep or laugh hysterically, that is not unusual, but difficult of cure, and in dangerous acute conditions we know only one remedy: Stramonium, which has weeping during the day, and spasmodic laughing during the night. This difference has been given little consideration.

APHORISM 54. Patients with a burning fever and a tickling cough will not suffer much from great thirst.

COMMENT: While this aphorism has been repeated by Celsus, hence must have happened frequently, it has given commentators much difficulty, because, with the symptoms mentioned, the opposite is usually found: intense thirst. However, just this unusual condition is of great value for our remedy selection, because it points to a few remedies only: Arsenicum, Conium, Phosphorus, Pulsatilla, Sabadilla, and Squilla, and that makes the remedy selection easier when the associated symptoms are compared with these. These peculiarities are most desirable for the homoeopathist, but they embarrass the allopath who does not know what to do with them. If he pushes such symptoms aside, refusing to consider them, we put them at the head of the disease picture in order to add them to other symptoms to be elicited, whereupon the specific homoeopathic remedy unquestionably presents itself.
In this lies the valuable advantage of an intimate familiarity with the Materia Medica Pura to the aid of the patient.

APHORISM 55. All fevers with glandular swellings are bad, except when they last only a day.

COMMENT: Also in this chapter Hippocrates seems to aim at the pestilential and typhoid diseases, in which, to be sure, such glandular swellings are dangerous omens. These bring in addition some other remedies to the fore, especially Belladonna, Kali carbonicum, and Sepia, which are not thought of in the customary typhoid fevers. Belladonna is especially indicated immediately in the beginning where congestion and the symptoms resulting from it are present; Kali is suitable later in chest and abdominal complaints.

APHORISM 56. It is a bad sign when a fever patient perspires without the fever intermitting; it shows excessive body fluid.

COMMENT: The homoeopathic physician differentiates carefully between cases in which the fever continues or increases with beginning or during perspiration, and those which persist after sweating. In both conditions there are bad and mild fevers, but those where with perspiration the fever tapers off (Arsenicum, Lycopodium, Rhus, etc.) are often worse than where after perspiration the fever continues (Calcarea carbonica, China, Mercurius, Phosphoric acid, Sepia, Sulphur, etc.). Hence one cannot admit the general application of this aphorism. Even less does it apply to the second part of the aphorism regarding excess of body fluids, for just the last mentioned remedies belong among those which are prominent in the opposite condition: loss of body fluids, and when correctly, homoeopathically chosen and used, often bring astonishing improvement. Therefore this aphorism must be accepted with much circumspection.

APHORISM 57. Clonic and tonic convulsions are often cured when fever attacks.

COMMENT: This can only apply to such convulsions which sometimes usher in a fever, and which are in the action of: Arnica, Arsenicum, Calcarea carbonica, China, Hyoscyamus, Ignatia, and Rhus. Most other attacks of that kind are absolutely of a chronic nature, which may be silent during a fever (because a person cannot be sick in two ways), seem cured for a short period, but always return, and are only cured lastingly by suitably acting (antipsoric) remedies, unless they were caused suddenly by external agencies and are still new.

APHORISM 58. A sufferer from an ardent fever is cured by an attack of rigor.

COMMENT: Among the different complicated fevers we well know that some begin with heat and quit with chills without perspiration. Homoeopathy has several remedies with these peculiarities to which this also belongs, and it is found especially in Belladonna, Bryonia, Calcarea carbonica, Capsicum, Lycopodium, Nux vomica, and Sepia. If one of these or , some other corresponds homoeopathically to the entire symptom complex, including all the secondary symptoms, and is given in the small dose demanded, then a cure is had as well as in any other form. But without suitable medication the chills following the heat are hardly able to prevent a repetition, as one might surmise from the aphorism, which in no wise is supported by experience; rather we have seen cases where just such a fever (in spite of the "infallible" quinine) lasted for months till the carefully selected homoeopathic remedy cured quickly and lastingly.

APHORISM 60. Deafness coming during a fever is often cured when epistaxis or diarrhea occur.

COMMENT: According to the text of this aphorism one should think that through epistaxis and diarrhea in such cases not only deafness, but also the rest of the disease were cured. But parallel aphorisms and those of Celsus, together with experience, do not permit of such a conclusion. Loss of hearing can here only have head congestion as causative factor. In all other conditions like typhoid fever with sopor, and even more in chronic deafness, nothing helps. In typhoid fever there rather occurs an aggravation as direct result of diarrhea. There even are periods when this and other kinds of loss of body fluids (like blood-letting, diarrhea, sweats, etc.) in acute diseases easily create a nervous condition in the patient. Such dangers are avoided best by not creating them. Perhaps it is well to mention here briefly, that in bleeding especially epistaxis, the juice of Thlaspi bursa pastoris is of great value, even in higher dilutions, in which there can be no cause for ascribing to it an astringent quality. Sometimes it suffices when a leaf or a few seed capsules are rubbed in the hand.

APHORISM 62. It is a bad omen if jaundice occurs in fevers before the seventh day.

COMMENT: Even though jaundice has its cause in the liver and gallbladder, the main causative factors and accompanying symptoms suggest divers remedies which cure in time. But that jaundice occurring before the seventh day in fevers should indicate a greater danger is not borne out by experience. In many cases a mental emotion produces icterus the next day, which is cured the next day by Aconite, Chamomilla, Nux vomica, etc. We consider a cure here, if not more difficult, at least slower, when a liver trouble is at the base of it, and the icteric manifestations come later, as is often the case. The same applies to icterus in the pregnant, because the pressure of the pregnant uterus cannot be removed.

APHORISM 65. In fevers great heat about the bowels and heartburn are bad symptoms.

COMMENT: Burning pains in the stomach region are found in many remedies suitable as well for acute as chronic sickness, and therefore do not always present an isolated symptom suitable for a proper indication. In typhoid fevers, e.g., they are always undesirable symptoms, which however do not limit the number of suitable remedies much (Arsenicum, Bryonia, Nux vomica, Phosphorus, Rhus, Sulphur, etc.) and are not of much aid in the detailed search for other accompanying symptoms. Also contraction of the cardiac part of stomach often begins with such burning pains, and at that time when the trouble is not yet chronic, and passage of food into the stomach not yet seriously interfered with, Nux vomica or Ranunculus bulbosus promise speedy help. But in severe cases a cure, if not impossible, is much more difficult and uncertain, and aside from Carbo vegetabilis, Phosphorus, and especially Zincum often many other remedies may be indicated. Other symptomatic and accompanying burning stomach pains usually are easily overcome by properly chosen homoeopathic remedies. However, real acute gastritis is a very serious disease, and can quickly prove fatal, can easily be mistaken for typhus abdominalis, and fortunately does not occur frequently, but must immediately be treated by our strong antiphlogistic remedies like: Aconitum, Bryonia, Nux vomica, Phosphorus, etc. If these are properly chosen and given in high potency, danger to life is usually soon overcome.

APHORISM 72. It is bad when the urine is very clear and pale in encephalitis.

COMMENT: A well known experience, and a symptom which we hardly meet in our remedies for such phrenitic brain affections (Belladonna, Hyoscyamus, Lachesis, Phosphorus), but prominently in our antiphlogisticum Aconitum. This proves that the stage of the disease where Aconitum is promising, has passed as soon as the urine becomes light and watery. Therefore, when in this dangerous disease such a sign appears, a homoeopathist will hardly use Aconitum, except where it alone has the predominant accompanying symptoms, for it might, if not absolutely indicated, lose irrevocable time.

APHORISM 77. If the urine contains thick, bran-like particles, it means an exanthem of the bladder.

COMMENT: This should hardly be accepted generally, because this symptom is found, aside from Antimonium tartaricum, Mercurius, and Phosphorus, especially in Valeriana, where it seems to be connected with hysterical pelvic symptoms, which it will cure quickly, as we have experienced.

APHORISM 78. Sudden blood with urine indicates rupture of a blood vessel in the kidneys.

COMMENT: It is questionable whether or not this is correct in all cases because we are not able to apply styptics directly to the kidneys. Furthermore this symptom is present in several exanthematic fevers (measles, scarlatina, small-pox) as well as from external injuries (Arnica) and from the abuse of alcohol (Nux vomica). Very common is this condition in cattle, especially when first turned into pasture, and in the fall, possibly due to noxious feed. Here Ipecacuanha always helps within a few hours when given in the 200th centesimal potency, dissolved in water and poured in, usually in a single dose, provided the choice was correct; and we also mention this in order to induce colleagues who have theoretical doubts, and who often, without experience, gainsay, to make a trial. (Hering says: A doctor who considers it beneath his dignity to treat animals occasionally is a most miserable snob, and certainly not a real physician.)

APHORISM 83. Frequent nocturnal urination indicates scanty bowel discharge.

COMMENT: Extraordinarily frequent nocturnal urination we find prominently in: Alumina, Bryonia, Causticum, Graphites, Hepar, Kali carbonicum, Kreosotum, Lycopodium, Natrum carbonicum, Nux vomica, Rhus toxicodendron, Sabina, Squilla, Spigelia, Sepia, and Sulphur; and even these are the very ones which have scanty, difficult, and insufficient stool in the proving. This again proves that in Homoeopathy harmony prevails, and that everywhere the results are the same when one compares the action of nature with the homoeopathic teaching. Hence we believe from experience, which is the best teacher, such concord to be the strongest proof of the inner truth of the homoeopathic healing art.