Homeopathy was founded by the German Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). It has since become one of the most used healing systems world-wide. The pivot of homeopathy is its particular remedies. They are generally non-toxic and most of them should be completely harmless. Homeopathic remedies are listed in books that are called materia medicas, which is Latin for "medical material". Materia medicas are concerned with the study of preparations used in the treatment of disease - and the properties of such preparations, how they are made, administered, and such.
So the term "materia medica" stands for "collection of remedies" - that is, "preparations resorted to for treating diseases, with descriptions of each preparation". In such works homeopaths write of diseases and symptoms that they claim match various homeopathic preparations especially. There may be added information of (non-homeopathic) concoctions too.
A remedy is associated with symptoms, which are presented under headings in a rather fixed scheme (below) that is resorted to. The order of the headings is rather fixed, although at times two of the headings are combined into one single entry, when convenient. For each remedy symptoms are given. Some or many entries of the ready-made scheme may be blank, depending on the amount and quality of findings (provings) that are recorded thus. The scheme is from the originator of homeopathy, Hahnemann.
In his Homoeopathic Materia Medica Dr. William Boericke uses a simplified Hahnemannian scheme, which may serves just as well. His book is not overloaded. Other materia medicas may appear so. Dr John Henry Clarke, for example, collected a lot of information from other materia medicas. therefore wrote in a preface to his extensive, three-volumed Dictionary of Materia Medica, "If some are inclined to object that I have included too many, I reply that my work is a Dictionary, and I have never yet found a Dictionary that explained too many words." That was his opinion. As you know, some prefer many words, other fewer words, and therefore we have dictionaries of different size too. For practical handling, a slim book of quality information should work too, and there are many such books on homeopathic remedies too - for example Dr James Hawley Stephenson's A Doctor's Guide to Helping Yourself with Homeopathic Remedies. (6th impression. Wellingbourough: Thorson's, 1983.). After all, Clarke wrote a defence against criticism for his sheer mass of words. But the fact is there is room for large dictionaries in the world, not just "all sorts of people".
In Boericke's schemes, the original term "extremities" may be changed to the far better "limbs", which is easier and quicker to grasp, and carries the same meaning. "Prefer the short word among exact synonyms" is a helpful tip.
In Boerickes Materia Medica, ailments are filled in at proper places in the repeatedly used schemes, to make searches for symptoms much easier. Such a homeopathic schemes allow for some modifications: Boericke found it convenient to merge a couple of headings at some places, where ailments seemed to make it all right to do so. So "the scheme is made to serve man, and not man made to serve the scheme." In a human world, for humans, the same applies to many a system too, and with possibly far-reaching effects.
You find links to three different editions of Dr William Boericke's Materia Medica here.
The Homeopathic Scheme
Dr. William Boericke (1849-1929) compiled a textbook of homeopathic remedies, his Homoeopathic Materia Medica in the early 1900s. Since then "Many a homeopathic professional has depended on this work for daily practice." Between 1880 and 1920 Dr. Boericke "was the physician of choice in San Francisco. Patients came from all over the world to be treated by him homeopathically" - till one Spring day in 1929 the hard working doctor died.
Dr. Boericke was born in Austria, where he studied at the Vienna Medical School for a year, and then emigrated to the Unites States. First his family settled in Ohio. He graduated from the Philadelphia Medical College in 1876. Then, in 1870, he moved to San Francisco. In 1880 he also graduated from Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia. After two years' study in Europe he started his own homeopathic practice in the States. He practiced as a homeopath in San Francisco for over fifty years.
Boericke became the first professor of Homoeopathic Materia Medica and Therapeutic at the University of California, San Francisco, and held the post for thirty years. In 1901 he authored the first edition of Boericke's Materia Medica. His brother Oscar added a repertory to the book in 1906. It is a concise guide to hundreds of remedies, and some of them appear nowhere else. A considerable number of homeopaths use this book in their daily practice.
An enlarged edition from 2000 is on-line at ◦Google Books.
A Materia medica consists of remedies resorted to for treating diseases.
Symptoms associated with a homeopathic remedy are the results of praxis, clinical use, so-called provings, and scientifical testing procedures have only resently been tried on some ailments. Sound, ample, and clear documentation that remedies work, may not be seen (for a long time to come).
It is common practice to abbreviate the many Latin names of homeopathic remedies. On a previous page you find a list of the ones Boericke uses.
There is good reason to bear in mind that the relationships between remedies and various diseases that Dr. Boericke and other homeopaths claim exist, usually lack scientifically all right documentation. Also, there is no hard evidence that legitimates the view that some homeopathic remedies counteract one another as antidotes, inimical, and so on - contrary to such claims.
It seems to be a good rule of the thumb to leave physiological uses of the many chemicals and compounds that homeopathic remedies are derived from, to updated chemists or medical doctors unless the substances are legal and non-poisonous and not capable of doing harm. Many such substances are poisonous.
Further, be aware that today's rules of the thumb for prescribing homeopathic remedies are simpler, more unison, more standardised. But there are many opinions and different practices among homeopaths as to dosing the remedies. Boericke speaks from one system, Adolf Voegeli from another, and so on. Bear in mind, "When in doubt, win the trick (Edmund Hoyle)" - Hence, ignore Boericke's suggestions of dosages unless you truly know what you are doing, for the homeopathy of Boericke often borders on and reaches into phytotherapy (use of herbs and their tinctures) and chemistry, and may be a bit dangerous. Chemistry was cruder a hundred years ago than it should be today, alas.
In some countries such as in Norden, remedies are legally sold in parmacies only if they are 6d (ca. 6c) or higher - and there is a court verdict in Norway that for such dilutions (1 : 1 000.000) there is no physiologically actice substance left in the homeopathic remedy.
After telling that Dr. Boericke's descriptions of homeopathic remedies from the early 1900s lack scientific validation, it also needs to be said that his descriptions are hardly disproved either - definitely not all of them. And therefore it is scientifically improper to dismiss all remedy descriptions too, as conclusive evidence for doing so is also missing. Besides, it may be worth underscoring that homeopathy has survived for 200 years and is still going strong in some countries, despite severe antagonists thoughout. That homeopathy has survived could stem from something in it that works apart from the placebo effect. We find it fit to leave that possibility open. But do as you wish.
We try to hold on to what is good, and drop the rest from the large, unwieldy or cumbersome saga of homeopathy. Thus, we speak for remedies of choice.
Dr. Boericke's many fit and good remedy descriptions are not gainsaid by today's homeopathic doctors; there are hundreds of thousands of them.
Drug symtoms and guiding symptoms of the remedies
The lists of problems and troubles and so on listed under a homeopathic remedy are the guiding symptoms for such a remedy. There are sources of error in such a picture - but suffice to say that the things that are listed are troubles or repercussions (etc.) that the homeopathic remedy is said to be able to cancel (offset, remove, combat, etc.) somehow, more or less etc.
There are rules of the thumb for assessing or choosing the most appropriate remedy or remedies from the guiding symptoms. It could be good to know about such rules, because symptoms count differently: Mind symptoms, very peculiar symptoms and oddities, and strong symptoms are to be studied first of all. Most fit homeopaths try to select homeopathic remedies from such cues. That's about it.
Homeopathy is the "art of matching symptoms of clients with symptoms attached to many remedies. One is to check the main or relevant symptoms a sick persons has. Corresponding arrays of more or less "matching symptoms" of remedies make up the Materia Medica. Such listings are crucial for homeopaths that want to estimate which homeopathic remedies should be resorted to in any given case.
How far can you trust the remedy information that Dr. Boericke brings? It could be a long way in some cases (excepting the "relationships with antidotes and so on). But most of the remedies have not been accurately verified by science - not yet, at any rate.
The "corresponding symptoms" of each homeopathic remedy may be correct, even if unverified by science or the press - But for the sake of fairness let it be told that there is no hard evidence that all "guiding symptoms" of homeopathic remedies, are good hits. A remedy's description could be true, largely true, somewhat true, misleading, not correct - and there is no hard evidence of either of it, as a rule. Actually, there is much more to this subject. An analogy may illustrate many of them.
A remedy, a skerry?
I compare a remedy to a rugged, uneven skerry that rises above the surface of the sea. During high tide, when health is good, some skerry tongues (symptoms) may be visible (and drafted). And during ebb tide, when the vitality is low, more skerry tongues (troubles) may be in sight. That is possible. You get a more complex picture at ebb tide, then, at least in some cases. What is more, the true formation of the whole skerry may not be visible at high tide.
There are current disagreements among many homeopaths as to which guiding symptoms weigh the most. Well, a skerry may look quite different at high tide, at average tide, and at low tide. Such skerry observations could explain away some of the differences among homeopaths who tell what a remedy looks like - what symptoms that it supposedly helps against more or less, since any comparison halts.
Faith, trust, and incompetence are also factors to take into account in sorting remedy symptoms listed by different homeopaths. Also, maybe new symptoms have been added to some of the remedies as the years have gone by and symptoms from more patients with "ebb tide" vitality have been recorded. Many new remedies have been introduced too, and perhaps some weigh or grade symptoms a bit differently. One should be aware of that.
Further, neither Boericke's book nor any other homeopath's book contains all the remedies that are used today, and some thousand times more are possible to make, since most plants, plant parts, animals, animal parts, and chemical compounds are not tested at all homeopathically.
It could do well to take into account the things above before you get sucked into the technicality of homeopathy.
Perhaps You Thought This Was Easy and not Dangerous
On administering doses. Noel Puddephatt (1976) shows in a homeopathic primer how treatments are typically adjusted to the kinds of problems, troubles, functional disorders or bodily diseases at hand, "In acute disorders the indicated remedy can be given two or three times daily . . . In chronic ailments . . . the dose is given sometimes once a week, once a month or even at longer intervals. (p 18)." It touches on how typical treatments are carried out.
Lead and other heavy metals. The more frequently doses are administered, the less poisonous, harmful or potentially lethal substances they had better contain. Several heavy metals, like lead, accumulate in the body, for example. There is homeopathic lead also, Plumbum met. A belief is that through diluting and shaking small metal chips in a liquid, the resulting homeopathic remedy counteracts the symptoms of lead poisoning. That is not so sure, for lead accumulates in the body. The brain is most sensitive to it. Some of the effects are permanent, so we should be very cautious about getting it into your system.
Also, if we dilute lead in a liquid over and over, we think we have got rid of the lead, and only a remedy remains. It is a belief, and may not be unfounded for that matter.
Homeopathic nosode remedies, like Rubella (German measles). Another old problem is that homeopaths make preparations from matter from a sick animal or person. Respiratory discharges or diseased tissues can be used. The substances are often said to become harmless in the processing. That is not so sure. In Denmark, the health ministry got a homeopathic nosode remedy in the D30 potency of examined. It was said the homeopathic potency told there was nothing contagious matter left in the remedy, but bacteriologists found it anyway. (Private communication).
Explanation so far: clustering (lumping) against Avogadro's constant (See Wikipedia, "Avogadro constant").
By calculations that uses Avogadros' constant a beginner may think that homeopathic dilitions above c30 or similar (D30), have nothing left of the matter that the dilution process started with. But with nosodes and bacteria and virus it is also needed to allow for "lumping" in the dilution process. If biological tissue is into the process, results do not necessarily follow general formulas. Now compare Boericke's use of low potency remedies: It may not be wholly safe always.
Boericke, William and Oscar. Homoeopathic Materia Medica. 9th ed. Philadelphia: Boericke and Runyon, 1927.
Clarke, John Henry. A Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica. 3 Vols. London: The Homeopathic Publishing Co., 1900 (Vol 1), and 1902 (vols 2 and 3).
Kayne, Steven B., and Lee Kayne. Homeopathic Prescribing: Pocket Companion. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 2007.
Puddephatt, Noel. Puddephatt's Primers: First Steps to Homoeopathy; How to Find the Correct Remedy; Homoeopathic Materia Medica. Ed and rev by Phyllis Speight. Saffron Walden, Essex: Health Science Press, 1976.
Vithoulkas, George. Homeopathy: Medicine for the New Millennium. 26th ed. Alonissos: IACH (The International Academy of Classical Homeopathy), 2000. ⍽▢⍽ In 1995, Vitoulkas (born 1932) established the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy (IACH) in Alonissos, Greece. He won the Alternative Nobel Prize in 1996. 9.000 medical doctors and homeopathic practitioners from 32 countries have been trained in the Academy he founded. His books have been translated into 23 languages. In this one he presents basics for practice.
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