Dr. A. Dwight Smith was born in Monticello, Iowa, in 1885. He graduated with an M.D. degree from Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago in 1912, and in 1921 moved to Glendale, California. After spending a period in the Army Medical Corps he did a residency at Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia specializing in pediatrics. During his many years of practice he was president for one year and secretary-treasurer for thirteen years of the International Hahnemannian Association. He also served as editor of the Homeopathic Recorder, for thirteen years. Dr. Smith also held the position of editor of the Pacific Coast Homeopathic Bulletin for over forty years.
Dr. A. Dwight Smith
Duffy: Tell me about your background and education, how you got into homeopathy.
Dr. Smith: I was born September 1885, in Iowa. We had two doctors. One was a homeopath, and one was a regular. The regular attended our church, so Mother always felt kind of an obligation to him, but we had far better results from the homeopathic one. Just after I graduated high school I had to have an operation for appendicitis. They took me to Hahnemann Hospital in Chicago and I have been impressed with homeopathy ever since. I have been practicing steady since I was in the Army in the first World War Medical Corps, except for one year in Children’s Homeopathic Hospital, Philadelphia, 1925-26.
Duffy – Did you have much with tropical diseases at all?
S- Well, malaria, and things of that kind. I hadn’t been in my post a day or two and the commanding officer wanted to see me because he had just heard I was a homeopath, and he was so glad. He had always had a homeopath, had tried the other doctors, but they hadn’t helped him and would I prescribe for him. I did and cleared him right up. He insisted on all of his officers coming to me after that.
Duffy – Were you active in any of the area homeopathic organizations, the American Institute of Homeopathy.
Dr. Smith – I have been a member of that ever since. I was a member of the International Hahnemannian, which has been consolidated, for thirty years. Before, I was president of it, one year. I was secretary and treasurer of it for thirteen years. I published the Homeopathic Recorder, their official magazine for thirteen years.
The International Hahnemannian had members all over the world. The man who was president was Sir John Weir, the Queen’s physician. He couldn’t come at the time. There was trouble with the Prince of Wales having his wife trouble, and so I called him up that day in London and he came down in his big limousine and chauffeur and took my wife and I all over London one night.
Duffy – What were the circumstances that led to the merging of the two homeopathy groups?
Dr. Smith – The homeopaths were getting so small in number there wasn’t enough of them to carry on both. At one time I would go to the American Institute meetings and there were 1,000 members there in attendance. It kept dropping off. The biggest blow came to homeopathy when the A.M. A. opened up and tried to get all of our people to join their society. The A.M.A. kept trying to get them in, and then they would keep still about homeopathy. One of the biggest mistakes I think the homeopaths ever made was to let the A.M.A. grade their colleges. They would come and grade them, and they would say, “No, well, if you don’t put so-and-so in, and some they would let in, until they got enough of their men in, and then they would take them over, and they practically got all the colleges away from us. Hahnemann in Philadelphia was the last one. My son graduated from there. We had a lot of homeopathic colleges, and they gradually took them away in some form or another. They have done everything they can to kill homeopathy. They have [done that] all my years of practice, and it is ending up my fifty-sixth year of practice.
Duffy – Do you think that the rise of what we might call “scientific medicine” and that is a poor term, I realize, tended to undermine some of the power of homeopathy?
Dr. Smith – The only real scientific medicine is homeopathy. All the wonderful new drugs come out and they play them up for the money back of it. They tell you how many new drugs come out in a year, but they don’t tell you that in two to five years eighty percent of them are discarded because they have done too much harm. I’ve got [homeopathy] medical material in my library that is 150 years old. Everything in them is true today. You can add to it, but you don’t have to take anything away.
Duffy – Do you consider yourself a pure homeopath?
Dr. Smith -Yes. I use both, but mainly homeopathy. I am a strict homeopath and have been all my life.
D.- Now as a homeopath I assume that you would accept surgical intervention where necessary.
Dr. Smith – We enjoy curing a case without surgery, if we can, but if they need surgery, we have it. I have always had very good cooperation from the regular physicians.
Duffy – Well, you seem to be in remarkably good shape. You would be a good advertisement for homeopathy here.
Dr. Smith – I will be 83 next month. I try and hold my work down to 14 hours a day now. When I was young and first talked of studying medicine, I was sick so much when I was a boy people said I was too puny to be a doctor. But as a physician I don’t think I have lost a day for sickness for thirty years.
Duffy – What is your attitude toward antibiotics?
Dr. Smith – Well, I don’t use them but about once for every twenty five times the others do. I don’t feel that they are an absolute cure. And a lot more chance of recurrence, than if you cure it homeopathic.
Duffy – I get the impression that if any new therapeutic comes out that your group feels has value, you will use it.
Dr. Smith – We usually have both in our training, but the better you know homeopathy, the less you use the other thing. And there are all the side effects. I have a case now, terrible reaction. I think it started through antibiotics. My son was treating it, and I treated it. While I was away, she wanted an antibiotic, so he gave it to her and it turned into a terrible case of shingles. She was allergic to it.
Duffy – What are the fundamental tenets or principles of homeopathy?
Dr. Smith – Well, it is a scientific law, similar cures similar. All the drugs are proven on healthy people to find out their action, and when you find that symptom you treat the patient, not the disease. You have to take the whole patient into consideration. We will bring out symptoms in homeopathy, and bring them to the surface when they are suppressed. An example of that years ago there was a little boy nine years old. He was in the Children’s Hospital and they had operated on him for the bile obstruction, but the wound wouldn’t heal, so they sent him home and said he was hopeless. So his parents called me and in going over his case, I asked just a routine question: “Have you ever had sweaty feet?” They said, “Yes, very bad.” I said: “When did this stop?” They said it stopped just as his trouble began. I said I will probably have to bring it back. In a weeks’ time he was up and around. I think in about two weeks the visiting nurse from the Children’s Hospital came to see if he was still alive, and he was around playing.
Duffy – One of the criticisms that has been leveled against the homeopaths is that there has never been adequate clinical testing of homeopathic remedies.
Dr. Smith : I don’t know how you would have any better. They test it on every patient. We have had big epidemics and the homeopaths have gotten better results. In the big flu epidemic of 1918 we didn’t lose one in twenty-five of what the regular school did. Cholera, yellow fever, all of those things, homeopathically there has been no comparison in the mortality rate between the two. The homeopaths have been so much lower [death rates].
Duffy – The argument has been raised that there has not been enough clinical testing.
Dr. Smith – Well, I don’t know where you would have any better proving than taking the cases and treating them. Now one [homeopathic] doctor that was head of Montgomery Ward Company’s medical department gave treatment in that epidemic; he had a couple of [homeopathic] doctors helping him. They worked night and day there with the flu epidemic, and they lost two cases. They gave a flu remedy, Gelsemium. The patients of the surrounding doctors and nurses were dying, and he wasn’t losing any. Then in the epidemic the regulars were buying more Gelsemium than the homeopaths! But the allopaths soon got away from it, though. You can’t practice medicine with one remedy that way. And the flu, all those things, there is no question you have to get the remedy they need. A bunch of remedies may be indicated; you have to find the right one.
One day in Iowa I saw a woman who was about eight months pregnant and had a fever. I diagnosed it as influenza, asked to wash my hands before I left, and she gave me an old dirty rag, and I was too bashful to say anything so I used it. I came back the next morning, and she was broke out with smallpox. It was the first case I had seen, but I recognized it. Then I got to snooping around and found two of her children had been broken out for over a week, and she had kept them out of sight as they didn’t want to be quarantined. They had used that towel they gave me. So I came down with smallpox, and it was one of the most wonderful things that ever happened. That was 1913.
They wanted me to be health officer, and I asked the detention officer where he kept his smallpox [cases], and I had charge of its detention hospital. I took care of over a thousand cases in about six years. Now, all of the mortality rates I have seen were about 25 percent deaths. I never had a death. They turned them all over to me, and of course I gained experience with contagious diseases you couldn’t get today. Nine months of the year most of my work was contagious diseases.
Duffy – I would say if you had no fatality in that number of smallpox cases you were doing a good job.
Dr. Smith – Well, we never had a death. Shortly after I left there I heard the mayor of the town got it and died. I never had a death, and I treated them all homeopathically. It was all turned over to me as soon as they were diagnosed. A lot of our cases came in with smallpox, and they claimed they had been vaccinated a short time ago, and they thought they couldn’t get it.
Duffy – I would think when you first started practicing the summer fluxes and dysenteries were still a major factor with small children.
Dr. Smith – I never had any trouble with it. I did obstetrics for fifty years. We hear about three-day measles causing deformed babies, but I am sure I took care of a lot of mothers that had three-day measles during pregnancy, and they never had any trouble.
Duffy – You say that you had practically no deformed children?
Dr. Smith – I never had any. I know when my patients go in for delivery, the nurses here at the hospital will say: “Who is your doctor?” And when gave my name they will say: “Oh, we never have any trouble with him.” They asked me how come none of my cases ever had any fever or anything after delivery, and I said: “I treat them all homeopathically during the pregnancy, and I would always give them some medicine at the time.” Arnica was a common remedy, if there was no other indicated. I didn’t fill them full of dope.
Duffy -It seems that somehow or other one needs to convince the medical schools of the need for or at least an interest in homeopathy.
Dr. Smith – There is not enough money in it for them. And the pharmaceutical houses and the drug stores, they are not in favor of homeopathy. We don’t write prescriptions, or very few prescriptions, and don’t use all of their expensive drugs. We give our own medicine, and don’t charge for it. While if you go to a regular, it is usually from five to fifty dollars for a prescription.
Duffy – How do you feel about lay practitioners, men like Mr. Green in Boston?
Dr. Smith – Some of them get very proficient at it. They would make a lot of homeopathic doctors look bad with the results they get. I had one, he was a missionary in Alaska and didn’t have any doctor in fifty miles. He had a wonderful work up there helping people when they were up against it. They had no doctors.
Duffy – There are some dangers, of course, in laymen doing prescribing.
Dr. Smith – Not as far as the homeopathic remedy is concerned. These homeopathic drugs I use, there is no danger if a kid gets a hold of the whole box or bottle of it. It won’t hurt them.
Duffy – Now the question is whether the ideas of homeopathy will survive. How do you feel about that?
Dr. Smith.- It is based on a scientific law, the most scientific law we have in medicine. I am sure it will survive. And even if it is dropped for a time it will be brought back by somebody. At one time years ago the Royal Academy of Medicine, the same as the A.M. A. here, appointed four outstanding doctors to study homeopathy, expose it once and for all, and do away with it. Three of them adopted homeopathy and the fourth one was never heard from. One of those, Constantine Hering, came to this country and was one of the outstanding men of a hundred years ago.
Many chronic conditions can be overcome by homeopathy. I had migraine headaches. My mother had them, they are hereditary. I know when I was first studying medicine I wanted to cure her headaches. She had those terrible headaches about every two weeks and they laid her up. When I got in medical college I came home at the end of my first year so enthused about homeopathy-studying it every minute–and I kept studying it. She got up one morning and put a wet rag on her face, so I knew she had one coming. I gave her the remedy I had decided on, “Pulsatilla. I had to go out to do some work and when I came back at noon she was still up. I said, “How about the headache?” She said, “It was practically gone when I took the second powder! l I think she had one slight one after that. And then I developed the headaches. I had them almost cured, but then I went into the Army and the shots brought them back, and it was hard to cure afterwards. I haven’t had one for years now.
In my early years of practice, a fellow came into the office one day, and was telling me his father in law had been ordered to the insane asylum. He had been before the mental experts of the state, and they ordered him to the insane asylum for the rest of his life. The fellow had quit farming and retired, and he just couldn’t take it. Well, I said I would be glad to take him, so they brought him out and I had him in the hospital about two weeks. He had been there two weeks, and was feeling better, and I took him to my home for a couple of weeks before I let him go back to where he lived, about 150 miles, but he picked right up. And about a year later I was in that community, so I stopped in going by the place, and he was out in the field plowing. I said, “I am a cattle-buyer. Do you have any cattle to sell?” He said, “You can’t fool me. You are Dr. Smith.” But that fellow lived a normal life for several years, and then had an accident of some kind, and died. He would have spent the rest of his life in the insane asylum if it hadn’t been for homeopathy.
About fifteen years ago I noticed my vision was failing. I went to Dr. Welchhe. He was one I had worked with for thirty years at that time on eye cases, and I had a thorough examination. He said I had a hole in my macula lutea of the left eye and nothing could be done for it. He said: “I will send you to some of the best eye men in Los Angeles if you want to go.” I said: “I have worked with you for thirty years. 1 have faith in you.” And he didn’t do a thing, and told me to come back in two months. I got busy homeopathically, and I didn’t go back for about nine months. He said: “What have you been doing?” I said: “Nothing but homeopathic medicine, why?” He said: “The hole is closed and the vision has come back.” “Remarkable!” I said: “What is the difference between today and eight or nine months ago?” Eight months before it had been 20-80, or one-fourth vision. That day it was 20-20 normal vision. He didn’t know anything about homeopathy, but he knew we got the results. And he said: “I can’t help them, but you can.” I had cleared up so many cases that he felt couldn’t be helped.
Duffy- Do you have any particular cases you feel that are significant.
Dr. Smith – I would like to tell you about one I had in Philadelphia. I was chief resident there, and during the night a colored man was shot through the lung and was brought in. The surgeon on service was called in and he said, “He is going to die.” So every time I went into the ward I thought he would be gone, but he was still there, and I got to thinking: “I will give him a homeopathic remedy.” Well, it was in the winter time, and he wanted nothing but a sheet over him and the window open at the foot of his bed. He was a warm patient. He knew he was going to die, and he was afraid to die, and all excited. All of his symptoms pointed to Arsenicum, fear, and everything, except that the Arsenicum is a cold patient. I had read material about this Secale cornutum which is really a warm patient. I put [Secale] in a glass of water. It was about ten or eleven o’clock and I ordered two teaspoons every hour.
Just then I was called to maternity to deliver a baby. His pulse was up, his chest was full of blood, pulse was about 150, and I was sure he would be dead when I returned. But the chart showed a marked improvement on the second dose of the medicine. It cleared up, and he left the hospital in good health in two weeks. Some of the doctors said, “Oh, that remedy couldn’t do that.” I asked Dr. Griggs: “What do you think about it?” Well, he said- “It certainly did. It saved his life, no question about it.”
Duffy – I wonder if you have any comments you would like to make.
Dr. Smith – Well, when I started practicing homeopathy fifty-six years ago, I thought it was the greatest system of medicine the world has ever known, and I still think so, after fifty-six years of practice. We have cases you can’t find the right remedy. And some cases are incurable. But we cure a lot of cases considered incurable.
I had a case a few years ago, a banker who had psoriasis nearly all over his body. He had had the three best dermatologists in Iowa. He had had all kinds of treatments, even x-rays. I said: “I doubt if I can help you.” In two years time I had cleared him up. Now psoriasis is supposed to be incurable. I have had good results with it. I haven’t cured near all of them, but as a rule it takes several years to do it.
Duffy – Aspirin is considered to be the safest, practically, of all modern drugs, isn’t it?
Dr. Smith – Well, I don’t know. It does a lot of harm. Every big city in the United States where there are small children, there are more of them killed with aspirin than anything.
Duffy- Would you say that none of the homeopathic drugs could kill if taken in excess?
Dr. Smith – No, not if they are taken the way we use them. I was in the 56th year of practice, and I had never seen any poisoning from homeopathic medicine. After the 1918 flu epidemic there was a high-up commission appointed to study the flu and report on it. They came back, and they said there were more people died from aspirin than they did from the flu.
Duffy – Do the homeopathic remedies relieve pain as such? You do accept codeine as a homeopathic remedy?
Dr. Smith – I remember one case back in Iowa. A woman had a terrible headache. I think it was her menstrual period if I remember right. A former doctor gave her a shot of morphine, and it didn’t help. Well, I figured I would use Arsenicum album, 10M, as a remedy. So I gave it to her and said let me know if you’re getting better. After about fifteen minutes she phoned and couldn’t understand it. The pain was gone already.
I hope you know more about homeopathy now.
Duffy – Well, I know a little more. I think each one of these talks gives me a little better understanding.