Dr. Tim Shannon ND, DHANP, is a naturopathic physician practicing in Turnwater, WA. He has advanced training in homeopathy and specializes in cancer care, mental health, autoimmune disorders, neurological disorders, and chronic health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, and respiratory ailments. Dr. Shannon uses the Polarity Analysis as his homeopathic method of choice.
Tim first came across Polarity Analysis in 2016 when he read the Swiss ADD/ADHD double-blind study conducted by Dr. Heiner Frei. The study demonstrated an 87% success rate in clients with ADHD using the Polarity Analysis method.
“When I read this study of Frei getting an 87% success rate with ADHD, I thought can this be real?” Tim says incredulously. “An 87% success rate is unprecedented with any alternative care modality.”
Intrigued, Tim immediately purchased both of Dr. Heiner Frei’s books, Polarity Analysis: A Precise Path the Simillimum and Homeopathy and ADHD.
Impressed by what he read about Polarity Analysis’ utility and efficacy; Tim describes his own onboarding process.
“I purchased the software and started using Polarity Analysis here and there with patients. Then I got a really complex case. A man with gluten enteropathy, severe diarrhea, cachexia, including very low testosterone levels. As a naturopath in a busy insurance driven practice, I only had 30 minutes for the appointment.
I filled out the Polarity Analysis checklist with him, entered it into the software and the remedy that came up was Squilla. I thought, that’s such a small remedy yet there it was, it came up as a first choice. I gave him the remedy and he had a dramatic turnaround.
Everything got better. He started gaining weight, he put on muscle mass, his diarrhea disappeared. I thought it was amazing that this system put Squilla to the front. That case catalyzed me into using Polarity Analysis more extensively and by 2017 it was all I was using.”
What is Polarity Analysis?
Polarity Analysis is a well-researched, efficient, and reproducible system that increases the accuracy of homeopathic prescriptions. Developed by Dr. Heiner Frei, a Swiss homeopath and pediatrician, Polarity Analysis is based on Boenninghausen’s number grading of symptoms and remedy contraindications.
Clemmens von Boenninghausen (b.1785-d.1864) was a homeopath and colleague of Samual Hahnemann. He organized Hahnemann’s materia medica and used that body of work as the foundation of his Therapeutic Pocket Book, repertory that Hahnemann himself preferred to use.
In § 133 of the Organon, Hahnemann writes that in order to define a particular symptom with precision it is necessary to observe modalities; is the symptom aggravated or ameliorated by varying circumstances. Is a symptom influenced for better or worse, by time of day, temperature, movement, eating, drinking, or other bodily activities.
Modalities present that which is peculiar to and characteristic of each symptom. Combined with § 153, which states that the more characteristic the symptoms of the disease are to the homeopathic medicine the more likely that remedy is to effect cure. This indicates that the homeopathic remedy selection should be specifically based on modalities.
A polarity refers to the opposite of a symptom. Most remedies present both poles of a symptom. For example, thirst or thirstlessness; better from cold or worse from cold; desire for fresh air or an aversion to fresh air, etc. At any one time during an illness a person can only have symptoms on one side of the pole.
Boenninghaussen emphasized that the patient’s symptoms should match the genius of a remedy. To that end he assigned a number grade to each characteristic symptom. Numbers 1 and 2 indicate a low grade while the numbers 3, 4 and 5 indicate a high grade.
If the patient’s symptom was represented in the 1st or 2nd degree (low grade) and its polar opposite symptom is represented in the remedy in the 3rd , 4th or 5th degree (high grade), Boenninghausen considered it a contraindication that ruled out the remedy.
A keynote of Pulsatilla is thirstlessness (4th grade) yet some provings of Pulsatilla show an increase in thirst (1st grade). For a client who has the “thirsty” end of the pole in their symptom picture, Pulsatilla would be contraindicated. In Boenninghaussen’s experience a contraindicated remedy has never prevailed.
Inspired by this observation and already proficient in using Boenninghausen’s method, Heiner Frei reviewed over a decade’s worth of successful and unsuccessful cases. With the assistance of colleagues Frei identified the polar symptoms in the Therapeutic Pocket Book, as these had proven to be the most reliable in the selection of a curative remedy.
Frei developed the aptly named Polarity Analysis software program to calculate the difference between the grade of a symptom and the grade of its polarity. Using a series of symptom checklists, Polarity Analysis focuses on the stronger and weaker pole of each symptom to determine the curative probability of a remedy.
As Tim explains it, “Heiner Frei was trained in Boenninghausen’s method. He liked it and used it. He’s a pediatrician in private practice; he needs to move along to keep up with his patient load. He found ways to use the regular Pocket Book relatively quickly.
In the process he realized that there were ways to organize the Pocket Book so that it could be used even more efficiently and effectively. If you watch the way Heiner stratifies his outcomes over time just using the Boenninghaussen Pocket Book without the Polarity Analysis software, his outcomes were still very good at 65% – 68%.
Then he added Polarity Analysis and got 70%, then he added the checklists and got a 75% success rate. He tested out different adaptions observing his outcomes and eventually built out the whole system to where it is today.
“Boenninghaussen’s Pocket Book has about 3000 rubrics in it. Once Frei confirmed that the polar symptoms were the most important factor in identifying successful remedies prescriptions, he pared down the Pocket Book to a truncated version that uses only 160 rubrics.
“Then Frei designated a number cut off for what is considered a characteristic of a remedy. Each remedy can have both poles and they usually do. If there is more evidence in the provings that thirtlessness or thirstiness is more common and in addition it’s been shown in cured cases, there is high probability that it’s an essential feature or characteristic of that remedy.
Frei designated any rubric with a Boenninghaussen grade of 3, 4, or 5, as characteristic (or “genius” level), and rubrics that only have a 1 or 2 as less compelling. They are not meaningless, but they don’t turn the case one way or the other. What we are always looking for are symptoms that match the genius level of a remedy.”
For example, a woman in her 50s presents with depression, lethargy, and myalgia. She has always felt chilly but now that she is post-menopausal, she tends to overheat. In Polarity Analysis a great deal of emphasis is put on the fact that her vital force signature has completely turned to its opposite. This is a crucial piece of data. A remedy that has an opposite genius would never be a match for such a dynamic change. A remedy that is generally cold, will be contraindicated.
A lunch meeting in 2018 with Patricia Kay, MA, CCH, CSD, founder and director of the Pacific Northwest Homeopathy Association, garnered Tim an invitation to present the Polarity Analysis system as a one day seminar at Bastyr University in Seattle.
For the seminar Tim queued up and presented ten Polarity Analysis cases, including the dramatic Squilla case. In attendance that day was Karen Allen, CCH, founder and director of Trinity Health Hub, a virtual continuing education platform for homeopaths.
Karen was aware of Polarity Analysis having attended Heiner Frei’s JAHC conference presentation in 2014. Recognizing its advantages and wanting to make Polarity Analysis training more accessible to interested homeopaths, Karen invited Tim to teach Polarity Analysis on the HUB.
“The thing that really struck me,” recalls Tim. “Was that Frei had done his study in 2009 yet the homeopathic community wasn’t eventalking about it. Teaching Polarity Analysis relieved me of some severe insomnia I was having – how could the homeopathic community ignore this? This was a breakthrough in homeopathy.”
Early in his career as a licensed naturopath, Tim pursued additional homeopathic training. He studied with Paul Herscu, Henny Heudens-Mast and was drawn to study with Massimo Mangialavori for the integrity and thoroughness of his method. Tim completed Mangialavori’s four year training and for years that was the only homeopathic method he practiced.
“I was steeped in Massimo’s work,” recalls Tim. “I practiced using his model. I got good outcomes but it’s a complex system. I was working 70-80 hours per week and taking cases home with me on the weekends. Now with Polarity Analysis I’m getting day-to-day routine high end outcomes that I don’t have to struggle for.
I never take cases home anymore and I’m getting much more frequent good outcomes. In my practice I can take care of most of my clients using this system. It’s like nothing I have ever seen before.”
Using the Polarity Analysis System
The Polarity Analysis system has two checklists. The Checklist of Reliable Symptoms is used for most complaints, and the Checklist for Perception Disorders is used for ADHD and conditions with cognitive deficits. Both checklists cover symptoms and modalities regarding temperature, movement, position, sleep etc.
Each symptom is shaded with a color. Green indicates high reliability, yellow, intermediate reliability, and red, low reliability. Symptoms of high reliability should be the focus of the repertorization. The client is questioned as to whether their symptoms are aggravated or ameliorated by varying conditions.
Once the information is gathered from the client and entered into the software, the algorithm calculates the polarity scores and offers up the most likely remedies while eliminating contraindicated remedies. Then it is up to the homeopath to do a thorough differential and select the best remedy.
Using Polarity Analysis for an acute case take 20-30 minutes. For a single morbid case it typically takes 30-45 minutes. Multi-morbid cases take an hour. In more complex cases the practitioner might schedule the patient for two appointments. The first appointment will focus on collecting history and data. The second appointment focuses on completing the checklist with the patient.
In chronic complaints, Tim generally uses low potency prescribing coupled with frequent follow-ups. This way he can do assessments more often, adjust potency or change the remedy as needed. Generally, within two months the patient is doing much better.
Once a patient reports that they are feeling better and 90% of their symptoms have been resolved for at least three months, it is rare that a they will come back with a return of old symptoms. In the event that a client does return, it is usually for a new health concern with a completely different set of symptoms. In which case Tim fills outs a new Polarity Analysis checklist with the patient and prescribes a remedy that matches their current disease pattern.
Taking a Polarity Analysis Case
In Tim’s words, “The thing that is most unique to Polarity Analysis is that you don’t need every single data point of a person’s past history that a typical homeopathic intake would cover.
“Beyond getting the general case, the issues, and the sensations; is it a burning or penetrating pain that helps you confirm Secale or Arsenicum, the amount of information you need in Polarity Analysis is much less. Consequently, the time you need to take a case is much less.
I don’t ever have cases with Polarity Analysis, even those with the most complex chronic diseases, that I need more than 45 minutes or an hour to get the history that I’m going to need find a good solution for the client.
“You do need details so that you understand the case. If someone says they have headaches you need to know the location and the sensation etcetera, so that when you go to do the differential and read the materia medica, you know how the patient is suffering.
“I see many clients with PTSD, because of course, it’s ubiquitous in today’s society. When taking their case, they don’t have to go into all the details of their trauma. All I need to know is “what’s here now” for them. What existing symptoms are extant from their PTSD. “When they hear a door slam do they startle? Do they have trouble sleeping at night? With Polarity Analysis I never have to know the details of their trauma, nor do they have to retell it in the intake for the system to come up with a good remedy for them.
“As the provider you depend on getting a good capture or signature from the patient. That is a variable phenomenon, it depends on your rapport and communication with the patient. Sometimes they just need a little prompting or guidance from you on how to observe accurately. Thankfully, most people are totally capable of doing that.
“They need your supervision when they say something that doesn’t make sense. You have to come back as a provider and tell them “I just want to double check for accuracy. What is it exactly that you’re experiencing?” If you open it that way, most people can choose the right rubric.”
As Heiner Frei writes in Polarity Analysis: A Precise Path the Simillimum, “The real art is to make sure that the patient describes their symptoms accurately.”
Using Polarity Analysis in Multi-Morbid Complaints
A case that includes three or more chronic issues is divided between complaints that are more troublesome for the client and those complaints that are minor or peripheral. When using Polarity Analysis, the focus will initially be on the major complaints. Once those are resolved the minor issues will be addressed.
In this way, Polarity Analysis is conspicuously different than other methods of homeopathy. Instead of seeking the one remedy that will cover the entire case, Polarity Analysis focuses on complaints that have a temporal correlation.
If a woman has dysphoria, PPMD, and a conspicuous menstrual pattern, these symptoms are considered one disease entity and all the symptoms are taken together. For a woman presenting with significant menstrual issues and anxiety that is not related to her hormonal fluctuations, each complaint is treated separately.
As Tim describes it. “Polarity Analysis uses a sequential healing process. In a case with multi chronic symptoms you take the case of the symptoms that are allied. If the patient notices that when their anxiety gets higher, they are more likely to get tension headaches, you take those symptoms as a grouping.
You go for where the heat is. The goal is to address one or more issues that if resolved would improve multiple downstream issues. For instance, they say I never told you about my poor sleep but now that the headaches and anxiety are gone, I’m sleeping like a baby.
If you can find a remedy that produces a significant amelioration of the nervous system, you’ll often see downstream issues such as sleep, improve as well. Once their anxiety or migraines are gone the patient is excited to get to peripheral issues such as their seasonal allergies.”
Choosing a Remedy
Even though Polarity Analysis is a more mechanized and more algorithmic system than other methods of homeopathy, it still requires the skills of the homeopath. Critical observation and knowledge of materia medica are crucial in determining which remedy best fits the pattern of the client’s pathology.
“This piece is a little more advanced,” explains Tim. “Most of the time one of the first three remedies in the palette will be the curative remedy – but not always. Sometimes you finish your capture from the patient, and you look at the suite of remedies; you know the pathology and you know the remedies well enough to know there really isn’t a match there.
Your hunch tells you “I’m missing something”. So, you look through the rubrics and find the ones that the patient was equivocal about and you re-ask about those rubrics in an open ended way. That is how you can confirm or eliminate a rubric and that will change the remedy palette. If you get a good capture, you will get a good remedy.”
“You have to be able to both trust the system and to also circumambulate and look at it from different vantage points. It’s not a passive exercise. It requires engagement from the homeopath. It is not an A+B=C system, even though it looks that way.”
Critiques of the Polarity Analysis System
A critique of Polarity Analysis is that the system is limited by using only 133 remedies. Remedies commonly used in practice are noticeably absent.
“Yes,” Tim concurs. “The medicines are much more limited with Polarity Analysis because the Pocket Book was frozen in time to the remedies that were known then. If you apply the heuristic and guidelines that Frei states, the right medicine is usually one of the first three to show up in the remedy palette.
“It’s not a perfect system. Sometimes the client is not a good observer, so it takes a lot of work on our part to veer them to the right modality. But it seems to me, if you learn the system and you have enough opportunity to use it, you can master Polarity Analysis and get regular routine good outcomes.
I can help most of my patients in a significant way. Chronic complaints are routinely resolved with basic remedies like Lycopodium or Sepia. Simple medicines can get the patient simple sustained relief.
“The bigger question is what is the minimum number of remedies an average homeopath needs to get consistent good results? If you have a good system, how many remedies do you need to produce good outcomes? Frei’s ADHD research study had 65 participants. He was able to show an 87% success rate using only eighteen remedies. That seems like an important data point.
“The limitation of that reality is that the outcome study was done by the developer of the method. We don’t know for sure if the average homeopath can get the same numbers that Frei is showing. I would welcome the opportunity for homeopaths, well trained in Polarity Analysis, to take part in an outcome study. Then we would see if we were getting similar results.”
Another variance with Polarity Analysis is that sometimes the remedy with the highest polarity seems like a surprising choice for the presenting condition.
“Sometimes there are odd duck remedies that come up,” Tim agrees. “Then I research and learn new applications for that particular remedy.
“There was the case of a young woman with severe rheumatoid arthritis that was helped significantly with Rheum. As far as I know Rheum is directed toward the alimentary canal. It was delightful and surprising what a deep healing response she got.
“Many of the remedies in the Polarity Analysis system rarely come up. I suspect that those remedies could probably help more patients, but we just don’t have data on them. The remedy Rheum I bet you has a lot more utility. Remedies such as Valerian and Lilium tigrinum aren’t put forth very often. Bismuth only has three rubrics, so it hardly ever comes up. I just treated a man with chronic pain that was really helped by Verbascum. I was very surprised.
“In a perfect world we would be using big data sets to get more relevant reliable data on some of the smaller remedies so that they have more of a likelihood of showing up in the repertorization. I think that is a weak point. I think that is something that could be built out.
“One thing I want to leave you with is that I think that Polarity Analysis is a good homeopathic approach for any homeopath. There are two reasons I decided to use Polarity Analysis exclusively. One, is that I get better outcomes and it’s easier on me.
The other reason is that around the time that I started getting really good outcomes was the time I also started teaching it. In my mind, if I used Polarity Analysis exclusively, I would have to milk every bit of efficacy I could from the system. Then I could say OK, I have really mastered it. That doesn’t mean that I get to solve every case, but I’ve run though a couple of thousand cases, and have consistent good outcomes.”
Increasing public awareness and access to homeopathy is a collective goal. The challenge has been how to incorporate homeopathy into existing healthcare models
“We’re saying we want to grow homeopathy,” says Tim, recognizing the practical reality. “We’re saying we want doctors and other professionals to come on board, but if you want to become a homeopath you need to spend 3-5 years of study. I think that’s an incredibly high bar.
I think that’s where Polarity Analysis has its strength. Helping functional medicine and integrative practitioners incorporate homeopathy into their practices. You can bring practitioners to moderate competency in six months to a year of good training.
If they use the system consistently for a couple of years, they could become really good homeopathic prescribers. Polarity Analysis is a system that has already been developed. Frei has shown in multiple outcome studies that the method really works. This is my vision of where Polarity Analysis can make a real difference.”
- Heiner Frei, MD, https://www.heinerfrei.ch/polarity-analysis
- Boenninghausen, von, C. M. F., & Allen, T. F. (1891). Bœnninghausen’s therapeutic pocketbook: For homœopathic physicians, to use at the bedside and in the study of the Materia Medica. Hahnemann Publishing House.
- Hahnemann, S. (2003). Organon of Medicine (6th ed.) (Trans. Kunzli, J. Naude, A. and Pendleton, P.) The Hahnemann Foundation, publisher, Orion House.
- Frei H, Everts R, von Ammon K et al: Homeopathic treatment of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial. European Journal of Pediatrics 2005, 164/12: 758-767
- Frei, H. (2019). Polarity Analysis in homeopathy: A precise path to the simillimum. NARAYANA Verlag GMBH.
- Frei, H., & Constable, A. (2015). Homeopathy and ADHD: A new treatment concept with polarity analysis. Narayana Verlag.
Polarity Analysis training is now available at https://polarityanalysis.com The software used in this approach offers a free trial at Polarity-Analysis.com
Dr. Heiner Frei, MD’s website for Polarity Analysis, including his research studies is: https://www.heinerfrei.ch
Rooksie David lives in Seattle, WA, maintaining a virtual practice seeing clients in the US and abroad. ( See her bio below this article) You can learn more about Rooksie at https://columbiacityhomeopathy.com
Karen Allen, CCH, directs the Trinity Health Hub, a virtual resource for homeopaths around the world. You can learn more about her at: www.trinityhealthhub.com
Patricia Kay, MA, CCH, CSD is the founder and director of the Pacific Northwest Homeopathy Association. You can learn more about her at: www.patricia-kay.com