Anyone who wishes to assess the action of therapeutic substances must have an eye for the effects of forces which arise when a substance is introduced in some way into the human organism, and which shows certain activities external to the latter.
A classic example is to be found in formic acid. It occurs in the body of ants as a corrosive substance causing inflammation. Here, it appears as a product of excretion. The animal organism must produce this in order to carry out its activities appropriately. The life lies in the excretory activity. Once it has been produced, the excretion no longer has a task within the organism. It must be excreted. The Being of an organism does not lie in its substances, but in its action. The organization is not a conglomeration of matter, it is an activity. Matter carries in it the stimulus to activity. Once it has lost this stimulus, it has no further meaning for the organization.
In the human organism, too, formic acid is produced. There, however, it has its importance. It serves the ego organization. The astral body separates out parts, which tend to become lifeless, from the organic substance. The ego organization needs this transition of organic substance to the lifeless state. But it is the process of transition which it needs, not the result. Once the substance which is on the way to the lifeless state has been produced, it becomes a burden within the organism. It must either be separated out directly, or it must be dissolved in order to be eliminated indirectly.
If something which ought to be dissolved fails to be dissolved, it will accumulate within the organism and may then constitute a foundation for conditions of gout or rheumatism. There, the formic acid as it arises within the human organism can act as a solvent. If the necessary amount of formic acid is produced, the organism will remove those products tending to the lifeless state in the correct manner. If the force to create formic acid is too weak, rheumatic and gouty conditions arise. By introducing formic acid into the organism from outside, we support it, by giving what it is unable to create for itself.
We learn to recognize such modes of action by comparing one substance with another with respect to the way in which they continue working in the human organism. Take oxalic acid for example. Under certain conditions it turns into formic acid. The actions of the latter represent a metamorphosis of oxalic acid. Oxalic acid is an excretion of the plant, just as formic acid is of the animal. The creation of oxalic acid in the plant-organism is an activity analogous to that of formic acid in the animal, which means that the creation of oxalic acid corresponds to the domain of the etheric, and the creation of formic acid to the domain of the astral. The diseases which reveal themselves in rheumatic and gouty conditions are to be ascribed to a deficient action of the astral body. There are other conditions which present themselves such that the causes, which in gout and rheumatism stem from the astral organism, lie further back in the etheric organism. In which case there arise, not only congestions of forces towards the astral, which hinder and obstruct the ego organization, but also retarding effects in the etheric, which the astral organization is powerless to overcome. These reveal themselves in sluggish activity of the lower abdomen, in slowing of the liver and spleen activity, in stony deposits of gall and the like. If oxalic acid is given in such cases, the activity of the etheric organism is supported in the appropriate way. Through oxalic acid the etheric body is reinforced; for that force of the ego-organization is transformed by this acid into a force of the astral body which then has a strengthened effect on the etheric body.
Starting with such observations, we can learn to recognize the healing effects of various substances on the organism. The study can start with plant life. In the plant, the physical activity is permeated by the etheric. In studying the plant, we learn to recognize how much can be attained by means of etheric activity. In the animal-astral organism, this activity is carried over into the astral. If as etheric activity it is too weak, it can be strengthened by adding to it the etheric activity from a plant-product, introduced into the body. Animal nature forms a basis for the human organism. Hence, it can be considered the same as the animal, within certain limits, where the interplay between the human etheric and astral bodies is concerned.
By the use of therapeutic substances from the plant kingdom, we shall thus be able to remedy a disturbed relationship between the etheric and astral activities. But such medicaments will not suffice when anything in the physical, etheric and astral organization of man is disturbed, in connection with interplay with the organization of the ego. The ego-organization must direct its activity to processes which are tending to become mineral.
Therefore, in these conditions of illness, only mineral substances will be useful as remedies. In order to get to know the remedial effects of a mineral, we must discover how far the substance can be broken down, for in the organism the mineral introduced from outside must first be broken down and then built up again in a new form by the body's organic forces. The healing influence must consist in this breaking down and building up process. The outcome of it must lie in the direction that a deficient activity of the organism is taken over by the activity of the medicament given.
Take the case of menorrhagia. Here the power of the ego organization is weakened. It is expended one-sidedly in the formation of blood. Too little is left of it for the power to absorb the blood into the organism. The path, which the forces in the organism that incline towards the lifeless realm should take, is unduly shortened because these forces work too violently. They exhaust themselves half-way.
We can come to their assistance by administering calcium in some combination to the organism. Calcium cooperates in the production and formation of the blood. The ego activity is thus relieved of this sphere and can turn to the absorption of the blood.