Let’s understand the action of medicine, it is divided into 2 parts.
i) Primary Action ii) Secondary Action
Nature describes that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This is one of the fundamental laws of nature. The first action we can call the primary action and the reaction can be called the secondary action. Hence, an accurate observer without fail tries to observe the secondary action after the primary action. This applies to each and every science as science is nothing but an attempt to understand mother nature.
A simple example can be given from physical science to understand the nature of primary and secondary actions. If a ball is thrown against a firm surface like a concrete wall with great intensity, it bounces back to us with the same intensity at which we have thrown it towards the wall.
The first action of throwing the ball against the wall can be termed the primary action. The ball returning to us with the same intensity can be termed the secondary action. Instead, if we throw a ball very slowly, the return of the ball will also be very slow. Thus the secondary action always depends upon the nature and intensity of the primary action.
Actions of the Drugs
Accurate and rational observer, Hahnemann identified and applied the same phenomenon to different actions of drugs. Drugs are substances that possess the power of altering the state of the health of a healthy individual. The perfect observer Hahnemann, describes different actions of the drugs and the reaction of vital force to such actions of the drugs.
Two types of actions can be noticed in nature:
1. Primary action or primary effect
2. Secondary action or secondary effect.
The secondary action is again of two types:
I) Secondary counter-action ii) Secondary curative action
Primary action can be termed as the action of the drug upon the vital force. This action can last either for a shorter or longer period. In this stage, the vital force plays a passive and receptive role. This happens because of the adaptive character of the vital force.
It accepts the stimulation produced by the drug without any resistance in the first case. Based on the nature of the primary action of the drug, the vital force produces and exhibits abnormality in the form of altered sensations and functions.
The primary action is the product of the medicinal power and the receptive power of the vital force conjointly. This is a fact because the medicines cannot produce the same abnormal sensations and functions in a dead body. But still, the primary action is considered primarily because of the inimical influence of the drug substance only.
The secondary action can be termed as the defensive reaction of the vital force to the primary action of the drug. In the case of the primary action, the vital force plays a passive role and receives the influence of the drug without any resistance. But after a short period, vital force reacts to the primary action of the drug in an opposite manner. This reaction of the vital force against the primary action of the drug is called as the secondary action.
This secondary action, as a rule, is always “exactly opposite to the primary action”. In the secondary action, the vital force plays an active role. Hence the secondary action is always due to the vital force only. The main characteristics of secondary action are
1. Secondary action is the automatic reaction of the vital force to the primary action of the drug. Secondary action is the basic quality of the vital force.
2. Every living organism in the world possesses such defensive, resistant action against any primary action.
3. The secondary action, as a rule, is always opposite and equal in strength to the primary action.
Secondary action can be of 2 types:
i. Secondary counter-action
ii. Secondary curative action
i. Secondary counter-action
Just like any secondary action, this action is exactly the opposite of the primary action of the drug. When any drug is administered, it produces a set of symptoms as its primary action. In response, the vital force produces exactly the opposite symptoms to the set of symptoms of the primary action.
This reaction is always equal and proportionate to the primary action. The secondary counteraction is observed in cases of antipathic treatment. In the case of antipathy, the drugs produce opposite symptoms to the disease symptoms. In its primary action, it seems that the vital force accepts the drug’s primary action and the disease seems to get neutralized.
But this relief of symptoms lasts only for a short period. Later on, the vital force produces the secondary symptoms which are exactly opposite to the primary symptoms of the antipathic drug. Hence, Hahnemann called the antipathic secondary action as the secondary counter-action. The secondary counter-action of antipathy always results in palliation.
ii. Secondary curative action
This type of secondary action is noticed in the homeopathic method of treatment. This action proves to be curative. When the homeopathic medicine is administered, it produces primary action that is similar to the disease symptoms. Hence the vital force accepts the primary action of the drug in a passive manner.
According to nature’s law of cure, the similar stronger medicinal disease removes the already existing weaker miasmatic disease. As a result, the vital force now suffers only from the medicinal disease. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction is the nature’s law.
According to this law; to the primary action of the drug (first action – sick-making property), the vital force produces opposite secondary action (secondary action – removing the sick-making property) that means restoration of health.
Examples of primary and secondary actions (§ 65)
1. When a hand is kept for a long time in hot water, at first it will be much warmer than the other hand which is not kept in the hot water. This can be termed as the primary action of water on the hand. But soon, after the hand is removed from the hot water and allowed to dry, the hand that was kept in water becomes colder than the other hand. This reaction can be called the secondary action of the human organisms to the primary action of the warm water.
2. A vigorous continued physical exercise for a long time makes a person warmer. This is the primary action of exercise on the person. But again after a short period, it produces chillness and shivering in the same person as the secondary action.
3. Drinking wine makes a person feel warmer in its primary action. After a short span, the same person feels much colder than before drinking wine. This is the secondary counteraction to drinking wine.
4. When a hand is kept in the cold water first it becomes colder than the other hand, which is not kept in the cold water. When the hand is removed from the cold water and allowed to dry, it becomes much hotter than the untreated hand.
5. After taking coffee a person feels lively and active. This is the primary action of the coffee. But in a short span of time, he becomes sluggish and drowsy for a long period, this is the secondary counter-action of the organism to the stimulative effect of coffee. In order to make him more active and joyful further, the man needs more amount of coffee.
6. Opium, in its primary action makes a person sleepier, but the following night the person becomes more sleepless. This is a secondary action of the organism to the stupefying primary action of opium.
7. In the case of tachycardia, digitalis decreases pulse rate in the person as a primary action. But sooner the pulse becomes rapid due to secondary action of the vital force.
8. But if a patient suffering from diarrhea is given a medicine that induces diarrhea (law of similia), it produces diarrhea as a primary action. Initially, the patient’s condition seems to worsen. But in a short while, the vital force produces a secondary response which is the opposite, which means recovery from diarrhea.
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The secondary action, in this case, is the curative reaction. Hence the homeopathic secondary curative action alone can bring about a natural cure. The above explanations make it clear that homeopathic medicine alone can bring upon cure. This is the rational explanation of how homeopathic medicines act upon the vital force by bringing out the secondary curative response.
Every action has an equal and opposite reaction like Newton’s third law, but only the secondary curative action has the curative power on the basis of the law of similarity. Along with the above-mentioned actions, two more drug actions can be observed.
1. Alternative action
2. Physiological action
Alternative action of drugs
Alternative action is a type of primary action, where various paroxysms of primary action are seen in alternative states. During drug proving, under certain conditions, some drugs produce certain symptoms which directly oppose each other that have previously or subsequently appeared. These various paroxysms of primary action are called alternative action.
Here two opposite phases of primary action appear and disappear alternatively. This action should not be regarded as the secondary action or the curative action of the vital force. While treating patients with such homeopathic medicines (Ignatia, Bryonia, Rhus tox and Belladonna, etc), alternative action is observed and no improvement follows, the same medicine should be repeated in a small dose.
1. Headache alternates with lumbago- Aloe socotrina.
2. Moist tongue followed by dryness of the mouth –Rhus tox.
3. Joyful mood followed by lachrymose state- Ignatia.
4. Constipation alternates with diarrhoea-Bryonia and Nux vomica.
5. Nux vomica produces dry and watery coryza alternatively.
6. Ptyalism (excess saliva) followed by dryness of the throat- Belladonna.
7. Rheumatism alternates with gastric complaints- Kali-bi.
8. Chillness alternates with heat –China.
9. Sleepiness and sleeplessness are alternatively produced by Opium.
Physiological action of the drug
The physiological action of the drug is observed when the drug is used in massive material doses. The physiological action is because of its primary action on the vital force of a man. Homeopathic medicines are never used in physiological massive doses.
The physiological doses, in most of the drug substances, are toxic in nature, therefore injurious to the patient. The physiological action cannot bring curative or therapeutic action.
1. Ipecacuanha, when administered in large doses produces vomiting in a person as physiological action.
2. Opium as its physiological action, produces profound sleep.