Arnica montana quickly resolves a case of Covid, using Polarity Analysis. A brief summary of the Polarity Analysis method. I am studying Dr. Heiner Frei’s Polarity Analysis with Karen Allen, CCH, and Tim Shannon, ND, DHANP.
Polarity Analysis (PA), based on Hahnemann’s and Bönninghausen’s work, including Bönninghausen’s concept of contraindications, takes a different approach to case-taking than many of us are used to. It is premised on the idea that many remedies have opposite, or polar, symptoms, and that those polar symptoms are graded differently; one pole is usually stronger than the other. For instance, Bryonia alba has the rubrics “Motion aggravates” and “Motion ameliorates.” “Motion aggravates” is graded much more strongly (higher score) than “Motion ameliorates” (lower score).
Dr. Bönninghausen grades remedies from 1 to 5. Grades 1 and 2 are symptoms that occur in provings, and grades 3-5 are symptoms that occur in provings and are also seen clinically. The higher the grade, the more often the symptom appears in clinic, and the more locations and circumstances it appears in.
The remedy Bryonia alba is classically known to be aggravated by motion, a symptom which bears up under clinical observation; thus, “aggravated by motion” gets a high polar score.
If the client has a number of symptoms common to Bryonia alba, it would probably appear in the remedy list generated by the PA program. But despite the number of matches, if the client is clearly “ameliorated by motion,” which rates a low polar score for Bryonia alba, then Bryonia alba would be contraindicated and thus eliminated as a possible remedy.
A key component of the PA system is the use of a checklist, or questionnaire. Heiner Frei and his colleagues in Switzerland have spent a couple of decades reviewing successful cases to confirm the most reliable rubrics and have conducted double-blind tests that confirm the efficacy of the method.
As it turns out, the majority of the most reliable symptoms are modalities. Frei provides one checklist for reliable symptoms and one for perception disorders, such as ADHD. With training, one can use either or both of these checklists for acute or chronic cases, and there is a slightly more complex method for dealing with multimorbid conditions. The checklists eliminate unreliable symptoms, and the computer program eliminates contraindicated remedies.
The result is greater precision in determining the correct remedy. If the client doesn’t show noticeable improvement within a relatively short time, the case is re-taken and a new remedy selected. This system saves time for practitioner and client, both in case-taking and in testing remedy effectiveness.
In PA, the hierarchy of symptom reliability places modalities and polar symptoms at the top, clinical findings next, and sensations and mental symptoms last. (Bönninghausen considers this trio to be the “genius” of the remedy, which is what we want to match to the client’s illness.)
This is different from the way many homeopaths have been trained and from what they generally use in practice. In the PA system, the knowledge of remedies and their mental/emotional symptoms are used only when differentiating the three or so likely remedies generated by the PA program from the checklist.
The only emotions listed in the checklist of reliable symptoms are sadness and irritability. They are only significant in PA case-taking if they are a departure from the client’s normal state of mind, and are considered a result, not a cause, of the illness. However, this definitely does not mean that mental/emotional symptoms cannot be treated by PA. It is just that the approach to doing so usually does not include the mental/emotional symptoms as rubrics.
For many clients, filling out the PA Checklist of Reliable Symptoms is easy, especially when they have clear sensations on the physical plane with unequivocal modalities. It can also be a relief to answer the checklist and not have to delve too far into personal feelings.
Sometimes the final remedy choice in PA is unexpected. The remedy seems unlikely, as it might not be the first remedy we would have thought of for the presenting condition. By studying some of the older materia medica, such as Hering’s Guiding Symptoms or T.F. Allen’s Encyclopedia of Pure Materia Medica, we can usually find symptoms of a generated remedy that do match the case.
Sometimes, however, we cannot find those symptoms, and yet the remedy still works brilliantly. PA uses only the 150 or so remedies available during Bönninghausen’s time, and it turns out there is a lot about these remedies that we don’t know until we spend time searching the old texts.
When first practicing PA, we need to trust the method and resist the temptation to use a contraindicated remedy that seems right in so many other ways!
April 22, 2022, evening
A 72-year-old woman, a retired nurse, who had been vaccinated with the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and boosted with the Moderna vaccine, tested positive for Covid a week before I took her case. She felt quite ill and wasn’t getting better.
She felt too unwell to describe her symptoms, other than fatigue, but over the phone, she was able to answer questions from Frei’s Polarity Analysis Checklist of Reliable Symptoms. Normally in PA, we would first learn her main symptoms before going to the checklist as in any homeopathic case-taking. During the course of the interview, she mentioned another symptom – a sore back, which made it hard to sleep.
After taking the remedy and feeling so much better, she was able to review and relate her previous symptoms. Using her words, I retroactively made the following baseline of her symptoms, in order to compare her condition before and after taking the remedy.
Baseline Before Remedy
Eyes: “My eyes were unfocused, not merging well. Things looked rather dim.”
Back: “Having badly pulled my back with lifting just hours or a day before the Covid symptoms came about, my whole back went into a feeling like fire. I was afraid of having a herniated disk, as had occurred maybe 35 years ago.”
“Due to slow thinking, I wasn’t able to differentiate much about the type of pain. One night I couldn’t lie down or keep walking about. I realized it was nerve pain and that maybe my nerves were a bit injured, and inflamed by Covid. Around 5:30 am, I took Ibuprofen. Boy, was that weird. Finally falling asleep, by the time I woke up, it was numb. No sensation at all, not even normal sensation.”
Sleep: It had been hard to sleep because of her back troubles.
Fatigue: “As a friend who recently had the illness described, it was like walking through mud. Take that and really feel it. I had plenty of time to do so. That was the feeling of fatigue and having to force myself to do every little thing, almost like whipping a horse (heaven forbid) to make it go.”
Cognition, sense of identity: “When you helped me with the remedy, I was in that zone that feels like one long blur, not separate things. Most of all, the cognition was very slow and dull. Similar to the vision, there seemed to be a veil over the world around me, over my mind and feelings. “
“Sure, people have a catch-all term ‘brain fog,’ but this was more like a feeling of having been hit or stunned in the head. I wondered if it would last a long time. I felt myself mentally creeping along. Not only that, but there was a sense of not being myself. That was weird, like how little it takes to not feel like the same person. But it was quite depressing or strange.”
She affirmed many more symptoms from the questionnaire than were practical for the analysis, so I removed rubrics that seemed superfluous. In PA, the symptom needs to be clear and obvious to the client. The client should feel confident in the symptom. If she needs to think about a symptom too much, it probably isn’t significant for her condition.
It is important when going through the PA checklist that a client chooses symptoms that apply only to her condition during the illness. For instance, if a person always prefers open air, it is not significant that she also prefers open air when ill. This can be a departure from case-taking systems that include a broader picture of the client’s general constitution.
In this case, I took out “Better, solitude, being alone,” because it is a yellow-shaded rubric. In PA, yellow-shaded rubrics are less reliable than green-shaded rubrics. Sometimes in PA, yellow-shaded rubrics will unravel the case, but here it didn’t affect the remedy choices, so I removed it. I experimented with several other rubrics, including or eliminating them, to see if it made any difference in the remedy palette. It didn’t, but sometimes one rubric can make a huge difference and bring up a remedy not previously shown.
Some superfluous rubrics in this client’s case were concerned with warmth, such as “Better, warmly, from wrapping up,” “Food and drink, warm things,” “Better, warmly, from wrapping up head,” and “Better, warmth in general.” I used only the last one – “Better, warmth in general.” This symptom encompassed all the others. In her case, warmth ameliorated. In some instances, though, it might be important to keep more than one of these rubrics.
It is possible that “Worse, cold, when getting cold,” wasn’t necessary, since it is somewhat the same as “Better, warmth in general,” but I kept it because she reacted to the idea of “when getting cold” so strongly, and also because, in some cases, it might be possible to feel worse when getting cold and also worse from warmth.
Another example of possibly inconsistent rubrics is her expression of feeling “Better, lying position,” Better, resting, not moving,” Movement, desire for,” and “Worse, physical effort.” She felt like she would like to move, but in reality, she was better not moving and worse from physical effort. The rubric that gets chosen is the one that is best borne out clinically. It’s not what the client thinks they want, but what actually ameliorates their symptom.
This process of choosing or eliminating rubrics is at the heart of a successful PA case. That is why it important to be well-trained in the system, in order to become proficient in the nuances of questioning clients and choosing accurate rubrics.
In addition to reading the course texts by Heiner Frei, Polarity Analysis in Homeopathy and Homeopathy in ADHD, it is invaluable to observe an experienced Polarity practitioner take cases and explain why he or she selects or eliminates each rubric. In our PA training, we watch Tim Shannon take numerous live cases; and both Tim and Karen Allen share their extensive experience with and knowledge of the PA process.
Frei recommends using a minimum of 5 rubrics. The final 10 rubrics in this Covid case, pared down from about 40 which were originally affirmed by the client, were:
Air, desire for open air
Better, weather/air, wet, damp
Worse, cold, when getting cold
Better, warmth in general
Better, lying position
Better, resting, not moving
Movement, desire for
Worse, physical effort
Worse, light, bright
(Some notes on the PA Chart – Contraindicated remedies are shaded gray, while viable remedies are prominently displayed against a white background. Green-shaded rubrics are the most reliable. Yellow-shaded rubrics are less reliable, but sometimes can help find the best remedy. Red-shaded rubrics are unreliable symptoms that are not pertinent to selecting a remedy.)
Arnica montana came up as the strongest remedy, in that it had the highest PA score, as determined by the PA computer program.
Normally in PA, as in other systems of homeopathy, we would do a differential comparison with the next few remedies before settling on the prescribed remedy. However, it was late in the evening, and the client was exhausted and wanted to get off the phone.
Since her sore back was the only symptom other than fatigue that she had mentioned, I thought that Arnica montana was a good choice and that, at the least, it might help her sleep. I thought I could do the differential the next morning. As it turned out, this was never necessary.
I recommended she take Arnica montana 30C in water, a sip every so often before going to bed. She found Arnica montana 30X in her remedy stash, so that’s what she took. At some point on the first or second day, she switched to Arnica montana 30C.
Follow-up 1 – 11 am, April 23, 2022
“Can I take more of the Arnica 30X water remedy? I’m definitely feeling better. Not looking to crawl into a hole right an hour after waking up. I’ve been up for a few good hours after a so restorative sleep. If I take it real slow today again, I might last for a good while in the land of the living.”
Follow-up 2 – 12 noon, April 23, 2022
“And the improvement is holding.”
Follow-up 3 – 8:00 pm, April 23, 20022
“Now at day’s end I’m continuing to feel more human, with a body. Also feeling less sad. My low back isn’t hurting or twinging either. Maybe upper a bit stiff now, having done evening chores. I’ll see how it is in the morning. I’m not even falling asleep yet!”
Follow-up 4 – 9:00 pm, April 24, 2022
“We went to the Center, last-minute after people said they’re OK with it. Masks, of course. Came home, ate, vacuumed, and so on. My energy level is quickening up for sure. That’s most of what’s new. I’ll keep taking the 30C water remedy.”
During this time (before and after taking the remedy), a family reunion was taking place. She had had to miss most of it because of Covid, but when she began to feel better, she was able to spend some time with her family. One day when she felt herself flagging from the social visit, she took some Arnica 200x, which she happened to have on hand.
She later said, “Once, I took Arnica 200x in a hurry. I guess it was some symptom(s) returning, probably the dropping-down sense of fatigue that was inconvenient when time was so very limited for visiting. I decided to stay home on the couch while L and S went around on last-minute shopping errands which seemed too fast for me. Then I was able to drag myself over to the Chinese restaurant to meet them all. Enjoyed it very much! Just like a regular fun time with family.”
Follow-up 5 – 6:30 pm, April 28, 2022
“Took S to plane. Came home and slept so hard that it’s hard to wake up.”
Follow-up 6, April 30, 2022
She sent me a description of how she had felt before and after taking the Arnica. The Before picture is described under Baseline Before Remedy (above), and the After picture in Baseline After Remedy (below).
Follow-up a month later, May 26, 2022
In a phone call a month later, she said that her cognition and emotional state were back to normal, and that her degree of tiredness was also back to what it had been before Covid.
Baseline After Remedy
Eyes: “After taking the Arnica, the world appeared crisper or more distinct. It may have had something to do with color, too; maybe it had been somewhat greyed out or misty.”
Back: “After taking the Arnica, my back felt strong again, normal, and with circulation or normal sensation.” Also, as mentioned in Follow-up 3, her back wasn’t “hurting or twinging” anymore.
Sleep: The very first night that she took Arnica montana, she had a “so restorative sleep.” In Follow-up 5, she “came home and slept so hard that it’s hard to wake up.”
Fatigue: Two weeks later, she was still sleeping soundly, still tired, but not fatigued as she was during the illness. A month after taking the remedy, she has the same amount of energy that she had before Covid.
Cognition, sense of identity: “That got better after taking the Arnica. Like my spirit had clicked back into my body. I wasn’t a zombie any more. That better sense of rightness has persisted for the most part.” A month later, she says her cognition is completely normal.
After taking Arnica montana, the client’s symptoms were almost immediately better. During the next day or two, her back was better, her eyes were better, her brain fog had cleared away, her emotions were better, she was sleeping better, and her fatigue began to dissipate. She was more energetic and able to take part in more and more activities. I didn’t even know about most of her symptoms until they improved, which I feel shows how elegant the Polarity Analysis system can be. It can work dramatically even when we don’t know the actual symptoms of the illness, as long as we know the modalities.
She says, “That better sense of rightness has persisted for the most part,” which is one of the goals of homeopathy. This was a successful resolution of the case.
Thanks to Karen Allen, CCH, Tim Shannon, ND, DHANP, Heiner Frei, MD, Clemens Von Bönninghausen, and Samuel Hahnemann for the work, genius, and generosity that have gone into making homeopathy and the PA technique available to us. Thanks also to Rooksie David, Gwen Khanna, CHom, CCH, and Margery Stearns, CCH, for their help and clarity in reviewing this paper.
- For information about Polarity Analysis training, please visit comEnrollment for Aug 2022 is now open.
- Heiner Frei MD‘s website for Polarity Analysis, including his research studies, is: http://www.heinerfrei.ch/