Much research into the effect of homeopathic preparations uses plants for testing. Such ‘bioassays’ avoid the possibility of the placebo effect to which humans subjects are prone, enable invasive testing to identify physiological and biochemical responses, and allow many replications for statistical analysis. We might extract this practice from the laboratory and take it to the fields and gardens. If we do this, we can raise our focus from getting data for some other purpose and concentrate upon the health and yield of those plants. This is increasingly referred to as ‘agrohomeopathy’. There are more and more references to this emerging discipline, because there seem to have been many positive and encouraging results and – surely – the goal is so desirable. Cheap, non-toxic, open-source interventions to grow the food we need whilst repairing the Earth we have damaged, must be high on the wish-list of most people.
I have been asked to sketch an outline for this e-zine. I propose to create a snapshot of the discipline at the moment (2008), suggest allied disciplines, and offer a way of taking this all forward. I hope it will be of sufficient interest for people to join in the discussion and, most important, to try this. Some of what I have written is a little provocative and I hope you will take the bait, because I am taking the trouble to write this in part so I can learn from others.
I studied homeopathy with Misha Norland in the 1980’s but my work with agriculture took over for many years, so I did not convert my diploma into an RSHom. I have had unambiguous positive experiences with homeopathy, so my conviction that it can work is from personal experience, rather than any statistical analysis. However, I am a great advocate of such testing because my rational scientific mind wants to understand what is going on that allows no-thing (the remedy) to affect us, and so we can improve the discipline over the full range of its potential.
I am aware of several homeopaths working in agriculture. A published one is Vaikunthanath Das Kaviraj who wrote ‘Homeopathy for Farm and Garden’[ii]. Kaviraj is a Dutch man who worked in India with Dr. Chatterjee after having his own health rescued by homoeopathy. He worked with Dr. Chatterjee and then took over his rural practice for many years. He is a committed classical homeopath who has carried over this approach to agriculture; one simple remedy, repeated only after improvement has ceased and after retaking the case etc., etc. At a friend’s house he was asked to treat fruit trees after having treated the family and animals there. Okay, he would try out of interest. The tree lost the leaves with the rust and grew new unaffected ones and set fruit which had lost the bitter taste it had had up to this point. This improvement carried over to subsequent seasons. Hmmm, interesting… Kaviraj had started with a crude kind of anthropomorphic approach: if this apple tree were a human it would need Belladonna – redness, thirst etc – and Belladonna was the effective remedy. Kaviraj went on to experiment in Europe, India and Australia and became convinced that this was a very fruitful approach. At one stage, in Western Australia, his slug preparation (helix tosta) had a large market-share until the regulatory costs[iii] became excessive and life took him on to other things.
Also in India, whilst studying homeopathy, GSR Murthy had to leave his flat for a period and was concerned that his balcony roses would not survive until he came back. Indeed, on his return, they were all dead – except one. This one had been watered with a remedy. Hmmm … interesting. Dr Murthy then began over 30 years of research with many plants such as rice, ladies fingers, various lentils, bananas etc. [iv]. He called his resulting preparations ‘Homeonutrients’ [v]. I suspect this will strike many as a misnomer, but all agricultural homeopaths have learned to dodge and weave a little in the face of the legal restraints at which footnote iii hints, and the laws concerning fertilizers are potentially more navigable than those of growth regulators etc., which are all lumped together as pesticides in the meaning of the acts. In these 30 years he has made complex remedies and undertaken trials with university guidance comparing yields between his homeonutrients, standard fertilizers, and with no additions as a control. His preparations produce ‘at par’ or yield more than the chemically fertilized plots, and the health and taste is always superior. The control plots produce much less.
Work is also ongoing in South America at the Comenius Institute [vi] and Pakistan’s Iftkhar Waris [vii] of Lahore has had ‘99% success’ with the problems which beset cotton. Also in India is the Agrocare range of Dr Abdul Lethif [viii]. Again in India a patent has been applied for by Swami Paramand [ix]. Pankaj Oudhia has been working with many growers in rural areas of South India investigating the effect of homeopathic remedies in agriculture [x]. Academic research is strong in Italy [xi], Germany, Switzerland [xii], India and Brazil. No doubt there are others in both the fields and laboratories. (Please tell me of any you know.)
I have come to agrohomeopathy having been much more involved in biodynamic agriculture [xiii]. Only after having begun to research biodynamics in earnest did I come back to my homeopathic roots and find all these researchers.
Biodynamic agriculture is an interesting companion to homeopathy. Both use dynamisation, but biodynamic farmers do not do this in a series of steps. Instead they dynamise their field sprays for an hour without adding or removing anything except what spills from the barrel. However, a pin head of silica dust stirred in 40 litres of water for an hour can have dramatic effects on a hectare of land. For a practically inert material to work in these doses reinforces the suspicion that, as with homeopathy, we are talking of forces rather than chemical interactions.
Biodynamics started in the 1920s with a series of lectures [xiv] by Dr. Rudolf Steiner. However, even before these agricultural lectures were given, Steiner was guiding researchers using a more standard potentisation technique. The foremost amongst these was Lilly Kolisko, whose superhuman efforts in those years and up to the second world war were recorded in ‘Agriculture of Tomorrow’ [xv]. (I think this is essential reading for those interested in homeopathy, along with Rudolf Hauschka’s ‘Basis of Potentisation Research’. These early graphs of effect against potency seem to me to be wonderful routes into the question of what potency should be applied. But I digress … )
Lilly Kolisko died in 1976 and, as it happens, it was in this year that several people independently took up the reins with work on potentised biodynamic preparations. In New Zealand Glen Atkinson [xvi] began potentising these eight preparations and making various combinations for specific agricultural purposes. What particularly interested me was that a test was made on his ‘Warmth Spray’ (now sold as ThermoMax or BdMax TM) for the Pip and Stone-fruit Growers of NZ, whose crops had been decimated by a late frost through their orchards. The government lab, HortResearch, tested Glen’s potentised mixture and it was the best available. This unsolicited testimony (the spray was sent in by an orchardist and not by Glen) from an independent laboratory of the effect of a potentised preparation upon plants, seems to me to be a world event. Since then various combinations of Glen’s potentised biodynamic preparations have been used on thousands of hectares to protect against frost, or to increase photosynthesis in dull light conditions, or to increase dry matter without splitting the maturing fruits [xvii].
In the UK, early trials in the dairy farms of the peak district, Staffordshire and Shropshire, are showing increased grass yields with Glen’s preparations. Perhaps even more remarkable, a farmer called up the suppliers [xviii] worried that his slurry pit had clarified and stopped smelling. He wondered where his nutrients had gone to and would they block his irrigation system, now that they had settled at the base of the pit. (They didn’t, and hadn’t disappeared but behaved as aerobic pits do.) Others confirm that there is dramatically reduced smell from the slurry pits and when the slurry is spread, there is greatly reduced burning of the grass on to which it is spread. Glen’s experience from other countries is that there will be less bloat and a generally improved response of the animals.
A question: if the right homeopathic remedy stimulates the body’s own healing mechanism when taken by a human subject, what is it that is stimulated when a 200,000 litre slurry pit is given a litre of E7? Do slurry pits have an immune ability?
More from the biodynamic stable
At about the same time as Glen Atkinson began his practical experimentation with biodynamic preparations in New Zealand, Enzo Nastati began his own work in Italy [xix]. He worked with these preparations pretty much as had been directed and was traditional. However, in 1986 Chernobyl changed things. He estimates that Chernobyl made these traditional agricultural preparations about 50% less effective than hitherto. However, he bought himself a Geiger counter and potentised some mushrooms (which accumulate certain radio-nucleotides) and spread them around his garden. The count went down 40% in less than a week. This is perhaps remarkable enough but it galvanized Nastati into trying to understand the potential of the discipline. Due to ruffling feathers in biodynamic circles and the ‘innovation’ of Hahnemannian potentisation of the preps, he gave the name ‘Homeodynamics’ to his work and moved on from his role as president of the Italian biodynamic certification body ‘Demeter’.
Since that start, Nastati and his team have removed diesel from subsoils with the sole use of potentised preparations. They have reduced the level of heavy metals on the roads between his native Trieste and neighbouring Slovenia by up to 75%. He has removed rats from a municipal waste tip. He has treated horse chestnut trees for their bleeding canker. He has revived the majority of a chicory crop after a -13°C frost. He has rebuffed GM pollens from a corn crop. There is much more[xx] …
You would not be alone if your response, in whole or part, is one of disbelief. These are miracles – or delusions, surely! We will not find out unless we try these things. They are publicly available to those who have studied his general approach and joined his l’Albero della Vita association. For those who I imagine will be reading this – homeopaths, Randi and Ben Goldacre perhaps – the publication which is most appropriate, (he has written over 70 of which half a dozen are currently translated into English) is called ‘Le Basi per una Nuova Omeopatia’. I have translated this as ‘Foundations for a Development of Potentisation’, because the law of similars is only briefly touched upon. However, the subject of Hahnemannian potentisation is discussed in detail and is expanded upon to outline other methods such as those that he himself uses in order to achieve the list above.
It is with a certain trepidation that I present a glimpse of this 75 page book. First of all, because I have been out of the homeopathic loop for 20 years or so, I am not sure what the state of the debate is on such questions as the mechanism of homeopathic potentisation. A brief Google seems to suggest that sub-microscopic investigation of ‘clathrates’ and ‘liquid crystals’ and other ‘nano-phase’ structures in water are sought as the means that water can have a ‘memory’. However, it is clear even from the popular press that homeopathy continues to struggle for scientific legitimacy. It is because of this that I am a little nervous, since the understanding that I have gleaned from Enzo’s work may be counter-productive to this impulse. But hey ho – let’s go!
Steiner wrote a book called ‘An Outline of Occult Science’ [xxi]. In this book a very different version of the history of the Earth is presented from that which features big bangs, replicators, DNA and so forth. However, since homeopathy cannot fit comfortably in our cultural model of life, the universe and everything, I assume we are in the market for a better one. Enzo takes this basic work of Steiner’s and applies potentisation’s enigmas to it. After a detailed analysis, an alchemical answer is offered. Alchemy is suggested to emerge from the realization that one cannot change outside of oneself what one has not transformed within oneself. Steiner says that homeopathy is the new form of alchemy and that the scientist of the future must approach the lab bench like a priest approaching the altar! In particular it is important that the process of potentisation or dynamisation is undertaken with the right attitude. For agriculture one must proceed on the understanding that Nature is a being and not a physico-chemical mechanism. Our current approach is of maximizing the output of this mechanism, which as an industrial model and all other things being equal, is all well and good. But when one realizes that Nature is a being, this monomaniacal rush for efficiency becomes exploitation or rape, and if Nature withdraws her cooperation we should not be surprised.
Whilst this could all be mystical nonsense – each must decide – I am very happy with the detail and rigorous approach which has produced this conclusion. Dr Steiner called his work Spiritual Science, an oxymoron to some, but for me, I prefer to see it as a very securely founded science, liberated from the discredited dogma that material is, in the final analysis, the one true reality. I don’t want to advocate that everyone goes and studies this, because leaving people free is much more important than having anyone agree with me. However, I will ask readers to consider from where Hahnemann first got his own epoch-forming counter-intuitive ideas. It is Enzo’s conviction that he honors Hahnemann’s undoubted genius, not by imitating him, but by going to the same springs and drawing afresh. From these springs we can receive an answer to the question above about the healing mechanism of plants and even slurry pits and understand that repelling GM pollen is not a miracle!
I hope that wasn’t too irritating but chaffs sufficiently to evoke some constructive response. In the end it will only be useful if it gives us a chance to heal the Earth and perhaps the common arbiter of that, is what happens on the ground. To this end I would encourage you all (and all your friends and enemies) to try some of this stuff – and here we can take another lead from the genius of Homeopathy. One of the wonderful aspects of homeopathy, that really became crystal clear to me only as I was pondering this some years ago, is how to move this discipline on. Kaviraj has given the world his fledgling material medica and repertory. We are 200 years behind the human versions, but we have a much more rapid communication and data-crunching potential available to us than Hahnemann, Kent, Clarke and those great visionary pioneers. My niche in this young discipline has been to create an online version of the ‘materia medica agricultura’ [xxii] and repertory [xxiii] which can be consulted as with the human’s version. What is unusual is that your own results can be added on line, if you care to do an experiment and sit at a terminal for a little. All I ask is that people agree to ‘do my best’ and let time and peer review decide whose experiences were crucial and reliable. Anyone can access this who has a little computer competence. http://www.considera.org/hrxmatmed.html
When making this and as my Walter Mitty world took form, I imagined the same collaboration as there has been for human homeopathy creating a reliable body of work but, perhaps, gathering pace a little more swiftly because of the urgency of the issues and the technology available. This has the benefits and drawbacks of the human version. The benefits would, at least in my mind, be self-evident. The drawback that is most clear to me at the moment, is that so much research is currently done by those who are, directly or indirectly, funded by those who have exploited intellectual property in the market place and, therefore, have a certain agenda to pursue. If the homeopathic pharmacies are making preparations which are ‘open-source’, then the remuneration is unlikely to be sufficient to sponsor experts and students in this way. However, I think this is a price worth paying for self-empowered people to own the process themselves. I would prefer to call it democratic research, in the hands of anyone who wants to have a go for the benefit of all.
Summing up ..
That’s it for now. There’s a little snapshot of the work of which I am aware, a glimpse of the potential which lies therein, a few toes dipped into other ways of looking at the world which has spawned much of this work, and a way to make progress which should bridge the divide between the different schools. I’m interested in feedback on any or all of these and, if I get time, I would be happy to go deeper into these sketches should there be interest. As they say on the radio here in the UK, ‘goodbye and good gardening’.
Placebo was the Marx brother who was sacked because people only thought he was funny.
[ii] ‘Homeopathy For Farm and Garden‘ ISBN 978-0951789058
[iii] The regulators have been helpful as individuals but as organisations they are faced with an intractable problem. The gauge of their regulatory net is set to catch the next DDT so we can be thankful that issues such as active ingredients and bio-toxicity are uppermost. But if a homeopath comes along to suggest that plants are irrigated with water (as physico-chemical analysis will suggest is all that is happening) what then are we to put on the application forms? Add to this the application and testing costs of tens of thousands of pounds for each potion in each broad region and the problem ceases to be so benign. This problem has faced pioneers in many countries. In Germany there is a lovely method for such products of simply registering. It would be most helpful to spread this all over the world!
[iv] These can be downloaded in pdf format from http://www.considera.org/
[vii] http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_21-10-20 02_pg6_12
[ix] http://www.medindia.com/news/UP-Farmers-Turns-to-Homeopathy- to-Produce-Healthy-Crops-26959-1.htm
[x] http://botanical.com/site/column_poudhia/publish/journal.cgi ?folder=journal&next=outline
[xi] “Plant model systems to study the biological effects of ultrahigh dilutions. The aim of our research group is to develop in vitro model systems based on higher plants to assess the biological effects of ultra-high dilutions, with particular attention to the following features: randomisation, reproducibility, and standardizability.”
[xii] For example: ‘Baumgartner, S. M. Shah, D. Heusser, P. Thurneysen, A. Homoeopathic dilutions: is there a potential for application in organic plant production? Kollegiale Instanz für KomplementÃ¤rmedizin (KIKOM), UniversitÃ¤t Bern, c/o Insel-Spital, Imhoof-Pavillon, CH-3010 Bern, Switzerland. IFOAM 2000: the world grows organic. Proceedings 13th International IFOAM Scientific Conference, Basel, Switzerland, 28 to 31 August, 2000., 2000, pp. 97-100, 27′
[xx] Publications are available in Italian and some are available in Spanish. I have made some translations into English which are available for UK£10.00 each. Email email@example.com.
Mark Moodie lives in the Forest of Dean as a satellite / parasite of Oaklands Park Camphill Community. He is co-inventor of the ES4 and AirFlush water-saving sanitaryware. He would like to bring scientific rigor to the study of the spirit.