I began my homeopathic practice in the early 1970’s. Resources for homeopaths at that time were plentiful, but not easily accessible. There were no desktop computers, and repertorisation software was a distant dream. We had books, wonderful books to be sure, but very large books, expensive books, and books containing an immense amount of detail to be absorbed and mastered.
Homeopathy was one of a number of modalities covered in my four years of training as a Naturopath/Osteopath. There was no formal homeopathy training available where I lived at that time, and the practitioners I knew were all lay homeopaths. Medicos largely shunned the discipline. The subject was included as one of a range of choices, to which a natural therapist had access.
In his weekly lectures, our homeopathy teacher, a man with the evocative name of Mr. Puddephatt (no, not the renowned Noel Puddephatt, but undoubtedly a relative), had regaled us with anecdotes about the mystery of the elusive simillimum and the detective work one needed in order to discover it. He talked about remedies like Sulphur, Pulsatilla, Arsenicum and Calc.Carb. as though they were old friends he had known for a long time, with distinct and eccentric personalities, personalities that were embedded within the psyches of his patients, waiting to be revealed by his gentle and careful interrogation.
As a result of this rather romantic introduction to the subject, I commenced my practice enthusiastically, but with only a basic knowledge of homeopathic principles and philosophy. I had a broad understanding of some dozen or so polychrests, and a less extensive grasp of another twenty odd lesser known remedies. I was encouraged by the comment in J. H. Clarke’s Prescriber that a solid understanding of thirteen polychrests would be sufficient to begin the practice of homeopathy, and to deal with most of the cases encountered. However, I lacked the extensive practical involvement in case-taking, repertorisation, prescription and follow-up which is fundamental to a well-rounded homeopathic education. My subsequent education was derived from acquaintance with practising homeopaths, and a laboured study of Materia Medica.
Clarke’s Prescriber, along with Boenninghausen’s Pocketbook and Boericke’s Materia Medica, made up the total of my homeopathic reference library when I began my practice. I had yet to acquire the indispensable Kent’s Repertory, but added it as soon as I could afford it.
My armory of remedies consisted of the polychrests in 6th and 30th potencies, the twelve Schuessler Tissue Salts, and a set of Bach’s Flower Remedies. I did, however, have access to a reliable homeopathic chemist, so I could confidently prescribe any remedy or potency that arose out of case-taking.
I quickly discovered that patients exhibiting the classic homeopathic symptom pictures of Sulphur, Pulsatilla and the other well known remedies do not walk into your practice every day. In fact, most patients describe a bewildering array of symptoms and modalities which don’t shout the name of any particular remedy. The solution is a proper repertorisation, which takes time. I found most patients, accustomed to orthodox medical procedures, expected instant prescriptions and instant results. A thorough knowledge of Materia Medica was the best way to respond quickly enough to satisfy demands.
Over the next several years, as my practice increased. I found that osteopathic treatments became the main focus of my practice, but I never lost my fascination for homeopathy, and employed it whenever an interesting case came along, and with increasing success as my experience grew.
Fast forward to 2013, and the scene has changed by quantum leaps. There are now many schools of homeopathy, many philosophies, a vastly increased number of remedies. There are repertories galore, and repertorising software has swept the discipline into the computer age. For me, though, the science and art of homeopathy will always begin with Hahnemann, the Organon, Materia Medica, The Prescriber and Repertory. Now retired, I have turned again to the study of these timeless resources.
My first hand-held electronic reading device was a Kindle. I quickly realised, as I began to use it, that it would now be possible to carry my entire homeopathic reference library with me, and to access it easily wherever I happened to be. I immediately set about converting my library to e-book format, and adding it progressively to the Kindle library.
Now, while the Kindle is fine for reading, its navigation and search facilities are limited. For works as complicated as The Prescriber, Materia Medica and Repertory this becomes a major inconvenience. One does not pick up these publications and read them from beginning to end. They are designed to be accessed at random. Speed is the key. When the iPhone and the iPad, and Android equivalents, arrived, the ideal fusion of reference work and technology was suddenly possible.
Not surprisingly, homeopathy apps began to appear in the iTunes app catalogue. I downloaded some of them, and was invariably disappointed. For the most part, they consisted of elementary introductions to the subject, or limited lists of conditions and remedies that might apply to them.
It seemed to me that the publications which had been the mainstay of so many homeopathic practices should now find their place in the app world. I began the complicated process of learning how to create apps. I have now created several of them.
My first app was a straightforward conversion of J. H. Clarke’s “Homeopathy Explained”. This was an easy one on which to learn, requiring only a division into chapters and a clickable table of contents. For interest, I added a graphic heading for each chapter, with a brief introduction to a remedy from the plant kingdom. My next project was a bit more challenging.
Clarke’s Prescriber is a complex work, listing hundreds of medical conditions and the remedies applicable to each, with detailed selection criteria. In addition, there are multiple cross-references scattered throughout the work. The Prescriber had been my work-horse for more than forty years, so I was very familiar with it. It is designed to be a practitioner’s “ready reckoner”, and to enable a rapid selection of remedy in the field. In book format, it requires a fair amount of leafing through from reference to reference to achieve a result, but it does what Clarke intended it to do, and does it well.
I wanted the app to be everything the book was, and more. It had to have all of the navigation built in, so that a condition could be found quickly, cross-references accessed with a touch, multiple references scrolled through quickly with a swipe of the screen. In addition, I wanted to add something Clarke could never have envisaged: a dynamic place to store patient notes, editable and updateable. This would round out the process for which the original was designed: find the condition; select the remedy; record the selection.
Homeopathy Prescriber (Android version) was released in August 2012. Versions for iPhone and iPad followed in November. It has the full text of the book, easily navigable, and with a Database built in to record patient details, prescriptions and ongoing results. Both versions have been well received, and continue to be installed every day. There hasn’t been a single bad review, so I assume the app is being used and appreciated. It’s a great tribute to the man who so carefully and thoroughly designed its source material, over one hundred years ago.
With the Prescriber out of the way, I was ready to tackle the Materia Medica. Boericke’s Materia Medica contains over 1000 pages, almost 700 remedies, each listed in great detail. My well-thumbed original, with its black cover, looks remarkably like a bible, which it was for the homeopaths of my early years. I was sure the app would be well used. I wanted to make it a little more useful, particularly for students, so I included two study guides written by highly respected authorities from the 19th Century: Dunham and Hering. Since students need to take notes, I added a database facility similar to that provided in The Prescriber.
I also wanted to take advantage of the enormous resources offered by video hosting services like YouTube. I was aware that there were already some Materia Medica resources on YouTube, but it wouldn’t do to simply embed some of them in the app as a static resource. Thankfully, YouTube had already provided the answer to this problem with their “playlists” feature. I created a YouTube “materia medica” playlist and embedded the playlist in the app. An app that’s been released can’t be updated except by creating a new version, but new videos can be added to the playlist within YouTube and they will be instantly available to the app.
Homeopathy Materia Medica was released in April for iPhone, iPad and Android devices. Downloads have been increasing week by week, which seems to confirm that the marriage of old resources and new technology is a useful one.
I am now working on my next app: Kent’s Repertory. This will round out the series and fulfill my original objective: to have these most basic of all homeopathic resources available through the latest mobile devices.