A discussion on the scientificity of the theory of vital principle as a relativistic phenomenon and the concept of minimum dose
How to cite this article: Lingeswaran R. A discussion on the scientificity of the theory of vital principle as a relativistic phenomenon and the concept of minimum dose. J Intgr Stand Homoeopathy 2023;6:49-52.
The cell theory, gene theory, evolution, homeostasis, and laws of thermodynamics are the five fundamental principles of biology. The vital principle collectively denotes these five basic principles. However, the energy or information on its own is insufficient to make life. Energy, information and preservation of information are necessary for the existence of life. The biological process of adaptation to environmental influences also helps the preservation process. All these provide evidence that the vital principle is relativistic. Similarly, Dr. Hahnemann advises that the smallest possible dose itself is sufficient to cure the disease. However, Hahnemann has not defined what exactly this ‘smallest possible dose’ or ‘minimum dose’ means, due to which there is ambiguity among homoeopaths. In his earlier periods of medical practice, he used mother tinctures and mother solutions to treat the patient. He encountered severe aggravations, which compelled him to dilute the medicine to avoid aggravation. However, low- and ultra-high dilutions of homoeopathic medicine have been observed to act on the five fundamental biological principles within the closed system (for example, epigenetic modification). Relating and using these well-established scientific principles help us to create better scientific homoeopathy. Thus, the vital principle is observed to have a relativistic phenomenon and the concept of minimum dose has been observed to be correlated with the principles of biology.
The homoeopathic system of medicine is constructed on the principle of similia similibus curentur. Dr. Samuel Hahnemann used the theory of vital principle and the theory of minimum dose to explain the mode of action of homoeopathic medicine.
He used the word vital force instead of vital principle up to the fifth edition of the Organon of Medicine. Hahnemann noted unwanted aggravations in patients, due to which he tried to dilute the crude drugs and minimize their doses. This review article aims to explain the relativistic nature of the vital principle and the concept of the minimum dose principle in light of modern science.[1-3]
THE THEORY OF VITAL PRINCIPLE
Historical perspective of vitalism
In the 5th century BC, Empedocles (496–430 BC) identified pneuma (spirit) with life or ‘vital breath’. Galen (130–200 AD) elaborated on this theory and applied it to his concepts related to physiology. Galen believed that the vital spirit was derived from the Universal Spirit (Divine Life) and that, at the human level, the breath acted as the vehicle for this spirit. This theory received a death blow with Harvey’s (1578–1657) discovery of the circulation of the blood, which disclosed Galen’s innocence of the structure and function of the cardiovascular system. However, vitalistic theories of 18th-century medicine dominated medical thinking for the next two centuries.
Friedrich Wöhler’s discovery of the artificial production of urea in 1828 is the first example of creating an organic substance through chemical means from inorganic materials. This discovery destroyed the till-then-accepted distinction that organic bodies originate under the influence of vitality, whereas the production of inorganic bodies is through artificial methods.
During the 19th century, the doctrine of vitalism, also known as neo-vitalism, prevailed for several decades. According to this doctrine, there is a vital force (distinct from all physical and chemical forces) inherent to all organic matter, dead or alive, that sustains life and allows organic matter to organise itself during a process of so-called spontaneous generation. In 1864, Pasteur disproved the doctrine of spontaneous generation. From the end of 1970 to the present times, the tremendous growth of knowledge in the field of biology and synthetic biology explains that the concept of the power of self-organisation inherent in macromolecules of cells is due to very subtle physical and chemical properties.[6-8] These inventions ended the belief in immaterial vital theory among the majority of the scientific community.
Concept of living things in modern science
The biological structures of living things are subject to five fundamental principles of biology: The cell theory, gene theory, evolution, homeostasis, and laws of thermodynamics, for example, an organism is an open system/open loop and must rely on its environment to complete a closed system, and it follows the second law of thermodynamics through exchanges of information (negentropy) and mass and energy. In the closed loop, there is a flow of energy that is obtained through interactions with the environment, for example, the flow of energy (adenosine triphosphate [ATP], electrons and protons) along the cell membranes and within the intracellular organelles. There is a need for an energy source to maintain a continuous flow of energy.[9-12]
Food is a source of energy. This food is converted to chemical energy by the organism, after which this energy recirculates within the closed loop. The organism uses some of this energy to perform various functions (e.g., homeostasis or replication) remaining energy is stored in the form of materials such as starch and glycogen.[9-11] This thermodynamics of non-equilibrium systems results in the emergence of organised systems, such as organisms.
Energy flows along with information (genetic) and preservation of information by copying makes life possible. The biological process of adaptation to environmental influences also helps the preservation process. This has facilitated the process of evolution and avoided extinction.[9,11,12]
The vital principle is a relativistic phenomenon
Dr. Hahnemann described the concept of vital force (in the 9th–17th aphorisms) in the Organon of Medicine. In the sixth edition of the Organon of Medicine, he replaced the word vital force with vital principle (10th aphorism of the sixth edition). Vital force and vital principle have different meanings; force means energy, whereas principle means a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behaviour or a chain of reasoning. According to Hahnemann, ‘The material organism, without the vital force, is capable of no sensation, no function, no self-preservation, it derives all sensation and performs all the functions of life solely by means of the immaterial being (the vital principle) which animates the material organism in health and in disease’.
In this aphorism, he said that function, self-preservation, sensation and animation are the indicators of the presence of vital force. If they are not present, the organism is deemed dead. Functions imply different physiological functions; self-preservation implies homeostasis and immune functions; sensation implies perceiving a variety of sensations by interacting with the environment; and animation implies means different kinds of motions of the organism. All these factors are closely associated with the five fundamental principles of biology. When energy flows through a loop or network based on the five basic biological principles, it creates a living thing from non-living material. This vital principle is relativistic in nature. Without this loop or network, the organism is considered dead. The following analogy can help us to understand these concepts comprehensively.
An observer in point A observes the closed system in point B. If the five basic biological concepts are working together within this closed system, then the observer in point A observes the existence of life in point B. If any one or more fundamental biological concepts fail to function/are absent within the system, then the observer in point A observes the absence of life/dead or material things. Thus, the vital principle is relativistic in nature. We notice this principle only when the five fundamental biological concepts work together within the closed loop.[9-12,14,15]
Einstein’s theory of general relativity says that what we observe as the force of gravity arises from the curvature of space and time. Likewise, what we perceive as a vital principle or force arises from the interaction between the fundamental principles of biology in a network or loop.[12,14]
We can also understand the theory of vital principles with the help of the virus life cycle theory. The virus is lifeless when it is outside a living cell. After getting in contact with the living cell, it enters into the host cell with the help of its protein codings and hijacks the host cellular mechanism. Now, it behaves like a living thing. The viral genetic material itself is not a living thing. It acts alive when it becomes an integral part of the biological cell cycle circuit.[12,16,17]
Here, viruses make use of energy from ATP and fundamental ingredients for replication. Thus, energy itself or the information itself cannot make life. The energy flow along with information and preservation of information by copying makes life possible. The biological process of adaptation to environmental influences also helps the preservation process.[9,11,12,14]
Thus, vital force is simply the process of life. Here, the energy flow through the network/loop of fundamental principles of biology makes living possible. Macro-organisms such as humans also exist due to this principle. Atoms come together to form molecules. Different molecules, such as deoxyribonucleic acid, ribonucleic acid, and proteins interact to create organelles. These organelles then combine to form cells. Cells get together and form tissues. Tissues are united and generate organs. These organs interact with each other through complex network systems that made the existence of the multicellular organism.[12,14] Based on these facts, we can say that Hahnemann’s vital principle is a collective concept of five fundamental principles of biology and a relativistic phenomenon.
MINIMUM DOSE PRINCIPLE OF HOMEOPATHY
Hahnemann advises that the smallest possible dose itself is sufficient to cure the disease. It can produce the slightest homoeopathic aggravation. This is similar to the disease symptoms (Aphorisms 281–290, 241–250).
However, Hahnemann does not define this smallest possible dose or minimum dose. This has led to confusion among homoeopaths. In his earlier periods of medical practice, he used mother tinctures and mother solutions to treat the patient. When he encountered severe aggravations, this compelled him to dilute the medicine to avoid aggravation. Subsequently, he followed the decimal scales, and rarely the centesimal and LM scale potencies.[18,19] The possibility of getting a single molecule of the original drug is reduced when in higher dilution, such as above 12C potencies (e.g., 30C = 10−60).[3,20]
In the homoeopathic medical system, three ratios are used to make potentised dilutions: 1:9, 1:99, and 1:50,000. Potentisation is the process of giving a succussion/agitation (downward stroke) to the serial dilution.[3,20,21] In earlier periods of the homoeopathic system, low potencies containing original drug substances in high levels to traceable levels, alcoholic extracts of the drugs or solutions made with distilled water called mother solutions were used for drug proving.[22,23]
In those days, without any scientific instruments or methods, Hahnemann developed dynamic theories of homoeopathy on the action of homeopathic medicine, which states that homoeopathic medicine achieves dynamic curative power when diluted.[18,19,22]
In the earlier phase of homoeopathic history, physicians frequently used low potencies, which have drug molecules. The use of ultra-high dilutions such as above 30C was scarce and considered experimental.[18,19]
Some years later, homoeopaths like JT Kent recommended the application of 30C, 200C and 1M patterns of ultra-high dilutions for therapeutic purposes. Dr. Kent arrived at such an idea by comparing the dilutions with octaves (musical notes). His theory related to those potency uses does not have a scientific base. Some believers stick to this concept.[18,24,25] However, actual homoeopathy followed all kinds of potencies/dilutions from the mother tincture to ultra-high dilution.[18,19,26]
In homoeopathy, the selection of proper dosage/potencies of medicine for a patient is done by using the patient’s totality of symptoms and by his susceptibility. This susceptibility and the totality of symptoms are the reflections of the internal derangement of the vital principle[13,18] or derangements in the closed-loop system.[9-12]
Growing scientific evidence related to the action of homoeopathic medicine explains that ultra-high dilutions of homoeopathy (30C and above) have nanoparticles of the original drug particle. It acts on the molecular level as the lower potencies (mother tincture to 12C) act through the receptors and molecular pathways. Therefore, this scientific evidence shows that homoeopathic medicine also acts on the five fundamental biological principles within the closed system (for example, epigenetic modification). Studying the vital principle in light of fundamental biological principles and its interactions with homoeopathic medicine can help us to standardize minimum doses in the future (e.g., by quantifying nanoparticles of homoeopathic dilutions). Research in the future based on the above-mentioned view of vital principles will help us to understand how a homoeopathic similimum in minimum dose interacts with the different parts of the units of life, including the receptor and molecular pathways responsible for homeostasis.
In the olden days, scientific advancements were rudimentary, despite Dr. Hahnemann’s efforts to explain homoeopathy with the help of available science and philosophy of his time. In modern days, various scientific inventions have improved our intellectual vision. Relating and using these well-established scientific principles help us to create better scientific homoeopathy. Such as considering the vital principle of homoeopathy as a collective principle of five fundamental principles of biology and as a relativistic phenomenon, along with its relation to the concept of minimum dose, provides a more comprehensive framework for understanding the intricate dynamics of homoeopathy and its potential impact on health and healing.
I am sincerely thankful to Professor Dr. Rajamanickam, Vinayaka Missions Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital and Professor Dr. G. Kannan, Principal, Sivaraj Homoeopathic Medical College and Research Institute for their support.
Declaration of patient consent
Patient’s consent not required as there are no patients in this study.
Conflicts of interest
There are no conflicts of interest.
Financial support and sponsorship
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