Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Dosis Sola Facit Venenum

That's Latin for "The dose alone makes the poison". That quote is attributed to a man who lived in Europe from 1493 to 1541. His name was Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim. He is better known by a name that he took later in life (can you blame him?). Paracelsus. The above line isn’t a direct quote, actually what he said was "All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities...it is only the dose which makes a thing poison." That concept is the very basis for modern pharmacology and the other side of the same coin, toxicology. Paracelsus studied metallurgy, alchemy, and medicine and got most of his education nomadically. He never stayed in one place too long mainly because he had a (well earned) reputation for being bad tempered and hot headed. He challenged the established scientific and medical beliefs of the day and quarreled with the wrong people which caused him to hastily leave a place in the middle of the night on more than one occasion.

He was the person to name the metal “zinc”. He discovered the ill health effects that miners and metal workers suffered from when exposed to metals and metal fumes. He learned about that new “French Disease”, syphilis, and figured out how to cure it with mercury (I’m not sure which is worse). While treating wounded soldiers he discovered that treating the surgical instrument rather than the wound before an amputation resulted in no infection which lead him to conclude "If you prevent infection… nature will heal the wound all by herself."

Paracelsus was a breathing contradiction. He believed in God and the devil, angels and demons. He also believed in natural spirits and Astrology. He believed in science and advancing “modern” healing techniques. He believed in natural medicine and using plants, herbs, minerals, and elements in healing. He admonished alchemists to “stop making gold” and “instead find medicines”. He observed similarities between the workings of the body and the workings of nature as a whole and believed that the health of the body depended on the harmony between man and nature. He was a man who was lousy at making friends and influencing people but he never compromised his ideas. His life ended at the age of forty-eight. There are a couple of accounts that say he died as a result of a bar fight. I don’t know if that’s true but on some level I hope that it is. It somehow seems…right.

This guy from the 1500’s like most freethinkers, was somewhat ahead of his time. He challenged authority and the prevailing beliefs of the day and made significant contributions to medical science. The one he’s most remembered for is “dosis sola facit venenum”. What that really means in English is BALANCE. Finding the right dose. The right balance between too little and too much. This scientific concept has been proven over and over again in recent years. Two cups of coffee a day is beneficial, four is harmful. Two glasses of beer or wine is healthy, four or more causes a whole host of problems. Seven hours of sleep a night is juuuuust right but any more or less can lead to double the risk of heart disease. Not enough exercise, too much? The total absence of stress in your life is, well, basically death. Too much stress keeps you (chemically at least) in a heightened, constant state of fight or flight without ever coming down and will lead to…the total absence of stress in your life.

I think you see where I’m heading with this. Paracelsus believed in natural healing. He was focusing on using natural elements to make medicinal cures. But as I said he also noted the importance of balance between man (woman too) and nature. His life wasn’t filled with most of the life invading things that we’re dealing with, nor was it moving at it’s current nitro-fueled pace. If it had been I think he would have extended his dose makes the poison premise beyond medicinal cures and into every facet of living. Too much internet, email, television, video games, cell phone, pager, multitasking, consumerism, self-indulgence, intolerance, credit debt, religious extremism, super-sizing, pop culture, etc, etc, etc. Not enough down time, quiet, thought, reflection, personal interaction, physical activity, compassion, reading, spirituality, understanding, modesty, courtesy, reason, laughter, vegetables (you know you don’t eat enough), etc, etc, etc.

You get my point. Balance is more than important, it’s essential to a physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually healthy life. The key is finding the right balance for each of the ingredients then balancing them within the whole. But it’s made even harder by the fact that what’s balance for me isn’t balance for you. Not for the individual things nor the whole mess combined. Then of course you’re barraged with people trying to force their brand of balance on you through legislation, proselytizing, advertising, coercion, immersion, subversion, perversion, moral authority, superiority, and who know’s what else. Finding balance in life these days is a life’s work. The only advice I can offer is to repeat the words of Paracelsus.

"All things are poisons, for there is nothing without poisonous qualities...it is only the dose which makes a thing poison."


Crashdummie said...

In the end, it’s all connected. Balance in all aspects is what we should be aiming for, but it doesn’t mean that we once in a while can rattle the scale. I think people at Far Side are very familiar with that thinking, since we have our beloved word “Lagom” that we use for everything. You can’t really translate the word without it loosing its true essence, but I suppose literal it can be translated as “enough, sufficient, adequate”. Or simply being “just about right”….

Bruce, a work in progress said...

Hi Crashdummie, thanks for coming by. "Just about right" sounds pretty good to me. I wasn't familiar with the term, thanks for introducing me. Please don't take this the wrong way, I don't mean to trivialize it by any means but for some reason it reminds me of a line from Disney's Mary Poppins when she says "enough is as good as a feast". Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Lordy be, did you stay up all night writing that?

Long worded weren't you?! LOL

Bruce, a work in progress said...

PrePon, That's pretty much what my wife said when she looked over and saw that I was still writing. I do go on sometimes.

Leslie Kelly said...

But it was very nicely said.

Godwhacker said...

Thanks for a beautifully written and informative post. I learned quite a bit and it also touched on a lot of what's going on in my life. Balance is an elusive but necessary part of life. Thankfully, I'm partnered with a Libra, not that I believe in that sort of thing ;)

Bruce, a work in progress said...

GW, thank you, I'm glad you enjoyed it. Libras certainly should know about balance. I'm a Pisces myself. I'm actually working up a post about Astrology. My take on it anyway.

Gledwood said...

Wasn't Paracelsus the "Father of 'modern' Alchemy"??!?
His name always calls to mind Alka-Seltzer... I dunno quite why...
What an entertaining blog you got here! Boy I coasted in like a piece of driftwood from the Japanese shores of the Pacific... from a LONG WAY AWAY!! HAHA!
OK my friend, all the best to you!


"Vol 2"...

Gledwood said...

PS I like your stone pic

it reminds me of where I grew up for a time in Wales, there was a nearby house with ancient druid standing-stones in their FRONT GARDEN how cool is THAT?!?

Bruce, a work in progress said...

Gledwood, I'm so glad you drifted your way over here. Welcome.

Yep, that's the guy. I'm happy you've heard of him. If Alka-seltzer had been around in his day I'm sure he would've experimented with that too.

That picture was taken during our family trip to Ireland about two and a half years ago. I'm standing in the middle of a stone circle. It helps to reset your perception to think that there are pubs in Ireland older than my country and that there were people touching the stone I'm standing in front of before the Pyramids were built. I can't wait to go back.


Psychic Phone Readings said...

In multiformi caome venena.
Psychic Phone Readings