Homeopathy Book Reviews

An Insight Into Plants, Volumes I, II and III by Dr. Rajan Sankaran – Reviewed by Vatsala Sperling.

Vatsala Sperling
Written by Vatsala Sperling

An Insight Into Plants, Volumes I, II and III by Dr. Rajan Sankaran is reviewed by Vatsala Sperling. The families Loganiaceae, Magnolinae, Malvales, Papaveraceae, Primulaceae, Ranunculaceae, Scrophuladeae, Solanaceae and Umbellieferae are among those covered in these volumes.

 Title : An Insight into plants, Volume I
Author : Rajan Sankaran
Publisher : Homeopathic Medical Publishers, Mumbai, India
Year of publication: 2002, 544 pages with index, hardcover

Title : An Insight into Plants, Volume II
Author : Rajan Sankaran
Publisher : Homeopathic Medical Publishers, Mumbai, India
Year of publication: 2002, 455 pages, hardcover

Title : An Insight into Plants, Volume III
Author : Rajan Sankaran
Publisher : Homeopathic Medical Publishers, Mumbai, India
Year of publication: 2007, 833 pages, hardcover

Reviewer: Vatsala Sperling

My encounter with volume I of An Insight into Plants, raises a few questions in my mind: Am I a botanist or a homeopath? Is it necessary for me to know hundreds of new plant taxonomy words? Is it not enough for me to know that Nux vomica is a tree, is it essential that I also know the family it comes from?

Why should I know any more than what I must that enables me to quickly choose a remedy for my patients and move on? If you are a regular person like me, you might experience a deluge of similar questions coming up as you check out the enormity of information contained in An Insight in to Plants, volumes I, II and III. But you hang in there. Do not put the book down yet.

In the foreword in volume I, Dr. Jan Scholten has said, …..Dr. Sankaran’s ‘approach is bringing Homeopathy again into the second scientific stage, the stage of classification, categorization and grouping. It gives Homeopathy the strength of prediction.’

And there is the beauty of this work by Dr. Sankaran. A before and after scenario is something like this: before Dr. Rajan Sankaran presented his work on the plant families in volume I, we studied plant remedies individually. We focused on the usual aspects of the remedy picture as described in the language of symptoms, provings  and clinical experience and we followed along the lines of mind, head, other body parts, and ended the study with generalities.

We studied all remedies in a similar manner. After Dr. Sankaran presented his work on plant families, we began studying plant remedies as a part of families they belonged to and that turned out to be so much better for us.

As homeopaths, we are quite skillful at turning just about anything into a homeopathic remedy. It is in our own interest that we allow our frontiers to expand, allow the boundaries of our awareness to stretch, our brain cells to grow and absorb knowledge.

So, we are going to pick up this set of three books and explore, but not in a random manner. We will start from volume I, then go to volume II, and then to volume III. Learning to see botany with a Homeopathy lens is not going to hurt us.

Through the earlier books, the Spirit of Homeopathy, the Substance of Homeopathy, the Soul of Remedies and the System of Homeopathy, Dr Sankaran taught us about situational materia médica and basic delusion. Now, he is teaching us about the vital sensation, and the idea of vital sensation has been swirling in his mind since 1981.

In exploring the vital sensation of plant remedies, Dr. Sankaran devised a study plan that he followed meticulously for years. The plan included the following steps:

  1. Classification of patient and remedy states – this led to miasms based on pace, rapidity and level of desperation.
  2. Classification of state into kingdoms – this led to mineral (structure), plant (sensitivity) and animal (competition, heriarchy and survival) kingdoms.
  3. Recognition of newer miasms in addition to the three described by Hahnemann, namely Psora, Sycosis and Syphilis. Dr. Sankaran’s newer miasms include Acute, Typhoid, Malaria, Ringworm, Cancer, Tuberculosis and Leprosy.

In studying plant remedies as per his plan, he ran into obstacles as he saw no common features shared by remedies belonging to a particular plant family. Example: family Ranunculaceae includes Aconitum, Pulsatilla and Staphysagria.

Aconitum has intense fear of death that is absent from the weepy Pulsatilla and Staphysagria bristling with indignation. He asked the question, ‘does botanical classification have any validity for Homeopathy?’ You mark this question in bold and hang on to it as I will come back to it while telling you about volume III.

Before giving up on botanical classification as the basis for his map for the plant kingdom, Dr. Sankaran asked himself, ‘what could be common to the remedies in the same plant family?’ The answer that emerged for him was, ‘Sensitivity as expressed in type of pain.’

Next he searched repertories using Reference Works, and found that the remedies from a particular family shared at least one common sensation or type of pain for example: remedies of family Compositae share the sensation of being injured or hurt. This common sensation expresses itself in all remedies of the family in different ways.

Based on this finding, Dr. Sankaran concluded that a sensation can be expressed as sensation itself, as a passive reaction, as an active reaction or also as a compensation. This understanding of common sensation led him to a deeper grasp of mental state of the plant remedies, their central issue and core symptoms.

He could also understand that different plants belonging to a family perceive the common sensation with a different depth and degree of desperation, and hence various plants of a family, despite sharing a common sensation, belong to various miasms.

As these concepts became clear for Dr. Sankaran, he committed himself to study all plant remedies in a given family with a view to ascertain if the common sensation holds and to determine miasm of each of these remedies. He explored all available materia medicas, his own successful cases, and the entire homeopathic literature to find out the following:

  1. Is the remedy known to cure the infection or disease of the miasm?
  2. Does the main pathology cured by a remedy indeed belong to the miasmatic group?
  3. Where is the focus in the mental state?
  4. Do all available dreams and delusions point in the same direction?
  5. Does the remedy have characteristics of one miasm more strongly over the others?

He found that most characteristic symptoms are a combination of sensation and miasm. Knowing the main sensation pointed him to inferring the miasm. He concluded that remedies occupy a cross-point or intersection between miasm and family. This knowledge led to development of a grid for plant families and miasms (similar to periodic table of elements).

In all these studies, Dr. Sankaran remained as homeopathically scientific, systematic, and methodical as possible. He used the then available homeopathic software to research and pull out rubrics with less than fifty remedies that contained 2, 3 or 4 remedies of a particular plant family.

Rubrics were pulled from every chapter of the repertory. In these lists of remedies, he would look for common sensation and then test these out in the materia médica to see if characteristic symptoms of a remedy contained a sensation common to the family, and to see if the mind picture of the remedies of a given family had a reflection of the general sensation of the family. After this he studied each remedy individually to see how the sensation was expressed – as active or passive reaction or as as compensation.

Such relentless, methodical and exhaustive research work led to classification of plant remedies from a homeopathic point of view and it also led to understanding of seven levels of perception : name, facts, feelings, delusions, sensation, energy and beyond energy, and how these relate to potency selection.

Along the course of his research, Dr. Sankaran came upon a few realizations, that helped him make sense of his process and his results, and along the way, the boundaries between the science and art of Homeopathy, as a form of alternative medicine, began to become less harsh.

  1. Sensation and action (miasms) are equal and opposite , like two sides of a coin
  2. The opposite is equally true of whatever is being said (fear and courage are two sides of a coin)
  3. When a person emphasizes an issue, his sensitivity lies in that area
  4. We see ourselves in others. An individual perceives only what he is sensitive to and does not perceive anything else.
  5. Victim and aggressor are two sides of the same coin.

These realizations allowed Dr. Sankaran to use rubrics creatively, artistically and interchangeably in his practice as well as research and he could see connections in areas where the majority of us were seeing blank spots. Use of rubrics with such finesse helped him unlock the mystery of plant remedies and classify them according to shared common sensations and its opposite, that is miasms.

In his new way of case-taking, he began exploring the chief complaint till a sensation emerged, and he was then able to locate the same sensation running through all aspects of the patients’s life. He named it “vital sensation” and found that often hand gestures expressed the vital sensation far better than the words could.

When you come to the chapter on Dr. Sankaran’s concept of miasms, you simply memorize the data if you do want to use his system in your practice.

Part two of the book deals with eleven plant families in as many chapters:  Anacardiaceae, Berneridaceae, Cactaceae, Compositae, Conifers, Euphorbiadeae, Hamamelidae, Labiatae, Leguminosae, Liliflorae and Rubiaceae.

Each chapter has a list of remedies found in the family, main experiences / expressions of various remedies, sensations and reactions, one or a few illustrative cases with commentary, analysis, follow up, remedy and potency selection and a final outcome.

Part three has a table of 21 plant families with sensation, passive and active reaction as well as compensation. Then there is a one page table of family, miasm and remedy.

An Insight into Plants, Volume II: 

This book essentially has similar structure and information as presented in volume I, and the families covered are: Loganiaceae, Magnolinae, Malvales, Papaveraceae, Primulaceae, Ranunculaceae, Scrophuladeae, Solanaceae, Umbellieferae, and Violales.

Each family is handled in the same fashion as in volume I. All along there are rubrics from repertories. Nothing has been materialized magically, out of thin air, everything is based on research and hard data contained in our repertories and materia médica. There is an interesting addition in this volume: How to differentiate between plant families, say for example, Anacardiaceae, Euphorbiaceae and Primuladeae.

The table of plant families in the end includes an additional family, Piperaceae. And the volume is concluded with sensation, active and passive reaction, compensation, and keywords for each plant family.

An Insight into Plants volume III: 

So far so good. Dr. Sankaran is churning out books, teaching his system to the global homeopathic community, sharing cases, and the practitioners from around the world are testing out his ideas in the crucible of their own practice, often with unbelievable and astounding outcomes generally.

Some practitioners are also balking too, at the complexity that has now entered their otherwise routine process of mechanical repertorization and remedy selection. While in general, everything is going jolly-molly, a strange turn comes up rather unexpectedly.

Dr. Sankaran is called out because he took the liberty of using conifers, Violales, Hammamelidae, Magnolianae and Liliflorae from “outdated” sources, meaning, these groups are not supported by contemporary botanical classification and these groups contain higher taxons rather than families. Apparently, the whistleblower wanted Dr. Sankaran to place a disclaimer stating that ‘An Insight into Plants’ is a work in progress and she warned the homeopaths to better wield and refine this important new tool.

All very well, but truth be told, in both volume I and II, Dr. Sankaran had already mentioned that these books contain ‘ongoing work’. He devotes 19 pages to counteract this critique in a sensible manner. His answers are listed in pages 1021 through 1040 and I will not re-list them here.

However, I will add that as an applied specialty1 in alternative-health, Homeopathy liberally draws from basic sciences like chemistry, physics, zoology, botany, spirituality and even philosophy. We can spend our life nit-picking about absolute, minute but 100% exact details of these basic sciences.

Or, we can take them as disciplines that are continuing to evolve and are a source of our remedies, and we spend our time in understanding the way our remedies can be grouped and classified so that we may be able to choose a remedy from more than 5000 available to date.

As homeopaths, we gather detailed knowledge about basic sciences, but only with a view to what is applicable and useful for our practice. The basic science scholars can debate whether Cronquist (1988) or APGII (1998) is correct, precise, complete, and up to date.

We do have to go with what works clinically, and as Dr. Sankaran has said it very well, “a common sensation” shared by a family, or a taxon, is more useful to us for locating what works clinically.”

After this section of setting the record straight, Dr. Sankaran moves speedily on to re-educate us about plant families covered in volume I and II, and also presents about new families, Brassicaceae / Cruciferae, carnivorus plants, Dioscoraceae, fungi (kingdom), Piperceae, Rosaceae and Rutaceae.

The appendix section has an extract from all three volumes, compacted into a bite-size chart that displays the summary of 32 plant families and higher orders. A much smaller table shows miasm examples of plants from each family.

What is most amazing in volume I, II and III of An Insight into Plants is that through these books that are based on decades of hard work and research, Dr Sankaran has taught us how to demystify the plant remedies. Because of his work, we do not have to study a plant remedy as if it is a singular entity, we can now study it as a group that displays a common vital sensation, active and passive reaction and compensation and then pick a remedy that matches the miasmatic pace exhibited by the patient.

Such a simplified approach that could be followed in a clinical setting was not available before Dr Sankaran’s work on plant families and remedies. And again, because of Dr. Sankaran’s work, though we are not university-certified botanists and experts on the technical details of plant taxonomy, we will be able to choose plant remedies in our daily practice and help our patients move along on the path to their wellness.

Bibliography:

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3190445/

 

About the author

Vatsala Sperling

Vatsala Sperling

Vatsala Sperling, RSHom (NA), CCH, MS, PhD, PDHom was the Chief of Clinical Microbiology services at a children’s hospital in Chennai, India, when she published extensively and conducted research with WHO, Denmark. On moving to the USA to start a family, Vatsala pursued an education in Homeopathy with Misha Norland’s school. She is a published author of ten books including her latest, The Ayurvedic Reset Diet (www.InnerTraditions.com). Journals from US and abroad frequently publish articles and papers written by Vatsala Sperling on topics including spirituality, health and homeopathy. Vatsala continues to study with several teachers and practices classical homeopathy. She has served on the board of directors of NASH and currently she serves as a volunteer with NCH. She can be reached via her website (www.Rochesterhomeopathy.com)

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