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’.