AS: We’re honored and delighted to have you with us today. I recently asked several homeopaths who they would seek out if they had a health problem. Each one said “Nancy Herrick”. Can you tell us what originally inspired your passion for homeopathy?
NH: It was very simple. I was attending a 5 day yoga course in Washington DC around 1970 and someone said there was going to be a talk on something called ” homeopathy” at lunch time in the adjoining room. I thought “why not” and went in there and it changed my life. I knew immediately that I was going to take on homeopathy as my life’s work. Funny isn’t it…I just knew. I had just one month prior finished my masters degree in psychology and was running a small school for autistic children at the time. I felt homeopathy can do more for autistic children than all that training and work I am doing now. One month later I returned and took a seminar on homeopathy and I have never looked back.
AS: That was quite a dramatic shift in careers. Did you bring something to homeopathy from your years of studying psychology?
NH: Definitely, yes I did bring psychology to homeopathy and was frustrated for many years by the lack of attention we paid to the mental and emotional symptoms. Of course when I began we only had Boericke, and Kent repertory and material medica. NO teachers, no cases to study, no one with experience. Imagine that! We even asked a very elderly group (mostly 90’s) of MD homeopaths in SF if we could quietly attend one of their meetings just to listen and learn and they refused! They had agreed to not teach anyone in exchange for the right to practice homeopathy and keep their medical licenses.
So we took our own cases and struggled to find the remedy and prescribed very strictly on repertory and tried to match it to Kent’s descriptions on his materia medica. The amazing thing is that we did have success. As a study group we labored over cases and we did get some correct prescriptions. This was in 1973-1975. Then we boldly decided to open a clinic and began treating hundreds of patients. We were busy beyond our wildest dreams from the very first day. We had a rule. You had to consult on every case with one other homeopath in the clinic. So we met in the back room. It was abuzz with activity. We also made little papers with remedies in them and hand fed them to our patients.
When we started seeing so many patients we could not help but pay attention to the mental and emotional states of our patients….they would not let us avoid it!! Then we heard of George Vithoulkas and Bill Gray went to study with him in Greece and suddenly emotions were a big part of the case.
AS: A real pioneering “learn as you go” introduction to homeopathy. Once you discovered the importance of mentals, did it add another dimension to case taking? Psychologist Carl Rogers taught that the relationship with the client is the healing dynamic in psychotherapy. What part does relationship play in the case taking interview?
NH: Relationship in case taking is really important. Roger and I have noted over the years that the really successful homeopaths are not necessarily the very best technical homeopaths but the people that really care about their patients as human beings. I think it helps a lot to know yourself and to do some deep inner work on yourself. Then you are more available to be there for the patient. You literally have the space inside your head to really see and hear the other.
AS: So it’s our own blind spots and projections that may keep us from “experiencing ” the patient’s remedy. Sankaran seems quite adept at creating that space to experience the patient. How has he influenced your work?
NH: Rajan Sankaran has been by far the most influential teacher in my homeopathic career. I went to sit in with him for a month in 1994 and it revolutionized my work. At that time he was working on animal, vegetable, mineral….now patently obvious to us all. But then it was a dramatic breakthrough. I had been prescribing Naja for many years but did not even know it was from a snake much less the cobra. Homeopaths all over the world were doing the same. Now, though many criticize him and his methods, the entire landscape of our work has changed and it is due to his absolute brilliance and creativity.
The latest work on sensations and hand gestures has been the icing on the cake. Going into the patient’s space with hand gestures and following sensations is something that I believe, with training, most of us can do. It gives us a very clear direction and IF we can stay with it (the most challenging part) we are often graced with the deepest simillimum. I have found remedies this way for people who have been treated for many, many years without success.
So yes, this system allows the homeopath to by-pass his or her own blocks or blind spots. Up until now we were stuck with trying to heal them first!
AS: In contrast to Sankaran’s very subjective approach, is Jan Sholten’s analysis based on periodic table. It seems to be an attempt to move toward more objectivity. Can these methods ever complement each other?
NH: The methods complement each other very nicely. Jan is the originator of the basic ideas on the mineral kingdom using the periodic table. This has been a powerful contribution to homeopathy and is now used all over the world. In fact I envy the new homeopaths coming into all these well developed ideas on the kingdoms and miasms. They have such a head start in their studies. Rajan, of course, also uses the periodic table. He has just completed an in-depth book on the subject called “Structure”.
I believe that we all need a combination of intuition and objective knowledge and facts to be a good homeopath. I just taught a wonderful case of an 8 year old girl with Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis who was in a lot of pain and misery. Both of her parents were orphans and adopted. Her mother said of her that she “acted like an orphan”. She also had a craving for salads which we know is unusual in a child. She had hot feet. No other symptoms. This is a simple case from a pure materia medica perspective. Salads and orphan are Magnesium and hot feet is Sulphur. Mag Sulph worked beautifully for her and she is well 10 years later. The students were a bit confused and some were trying to read more into the case. We still need to know basic information and have facts at our fingertips. Rajan, in fact, has the most access to this knowledge of basic materia medica facts than anyone I have ever met. Just try it sometime and ask him to tell you the remedies in a good rubric. He will know them by heart.
When I teach with Roger or in my clinic with a patient, I am always dancing with all the information and all ways to access it, that I have at my disposal. But I will tell you one thing for sure. My ability to get the correct remedy has been vastly improved by using the sensation method. I am stunned over and over as the patient comes to the exact sensation of the kingdom and the miasm and then, even, if you are very patient, the exact source of the remedy.
AS: Our materia medica was shaped by decisions about what substances to prove. Who would have thought club moss would be a major remedy? Your provings range from Ayahuasca and Anahalonium to rat’s blood and dinosaur bone. So how do you decide what substances to prove?
NH: I decide on what substances to prove based on what I believe has influenced mankind the most in his growth and development. What man loves and hates, what he uses ritually and what he fears. It seems that we have a passion for dinosaurs, having endless movies, books, toys and images of the subject. Yet we know them by their bones.
We mostly hate rats, yet some absolutely love them and keep them as pets. Ganesh rides them and so does the goddess. My daughter Naomi recently went to a rat temple in India where they are worshipped and given special foods and people walk around barefoot as the rats run helter-skelter. Ayahuasca is the amazing shamanic combination of two plants that provides the herbal instrument for a vast number of people in South America to reach deeper understanding of the truth of their being. This is done in the context of a church, officially recognized, called Santo Daime. “Anhalonium is the smallest of all cacti and has been a major religious and spiritual influence for Meso-American culture since pre-columbian times.” (“Sacred Plants, Human Voices” by Nancy Herrick). Its true, Lycopodium is a much used remedy but it is probably not one that I would have picked to prove. I am glad someone else did!
AS: I have occasionally met people who self medicated and experienced runaway provings, which went on a long time and were difficult to stop. Has that ever been a problem?
NH: I had an experience with the Lotus proving that was very shocking. Many people had a severe reaction and several became actively suicidal. This lasted for weeks and it became necessary to re-prescribe for each of them a constitutional remedy. Also one prover on Mandragora had a severe and disabling reaction. I always told my provers to take only one dose of the remedy and then if NOTHING happened, to take up to three then stop. I do not believe in taking multiple doses in provings as a routine practice. Each of these people got better, but if they had taken many doses, I do not know what would have happened. So the answer is yes, you can definitely have an adverse reaction to a remedy made worse by repeating it.
Ironically I have very seldom seen this in practice over 30 years. I only give one dose and let my patients take home one more dose to hold onto awaiting further instructions. If the remedy acts then I let them take 12c as a booster as they need it.
AS: The study of Homeopathy seems to be moving into deeper levels. Are we learning more about the universe through homeopathy? If a prover of eagle blood experiences feelings of flight, or a proving of deer antler leads to images of running in the forest, what does that suggest about the universe?
NH: We are moving into deeper levels and yes, I believe that I am learning a great deal more about it through my work and studies. It suggests that we are one with all. All is in each of us and a remedy is a stimulus to that remembering.
AS: In England, homeopathy is under attack and there have been calls to defund the homeopathic hospitals. Some opponents have agendas, but much is due to plain misunderstanding of homeopathy. Is there some way to bridge that gap with the allopathic community? Also, how can we best promote and protect homeopathy?
NH: We have always felt that the best way is to work with the allopathic community is with them; not against them. So we refer to them and they to us. We are finding that more and more of them especially the young newly trained are more open to alternatives. We also have many “alternative medicine” conferences in the US now and docs get continuing medical education credits for them so they are inspired to learn. Also we are trained allopathically ourselves which has it’s positive and negative sides but we do understand each other a bit more that way. The personal connection is always the best way. Our daughter is a medical doctor now in her second year of residency in Emergency medicine so she is a big promoter out there in allopathic land.
I have always felt the best way to promote homeopathy is to treat patients successfully and kindly. This way they sing your praises to all they know and the word gets around. I also encourage them to tell their allopathic doctors. Of course if you can’t be successful, at least you can be kind. Research is great and important but no matter how much research we do, the allopaths continue to quote that we don’t have any. Very frustrating for sure. But they can’t contradict patient after patient coming in and telling them that homeopathy worked for them, especially if they diagnosed the condition and have seen it’s cure.
AS: In our November interview with Jeremy Sherr, he said:
“Kingdom is… not the highest form of homeopathy, it reduces us back to signature”. He said he prefers to give a remedy from a different kingdom than what the patient looks like. You and other homeopaths make good use of kingdom in remedy selection. Is there a misunderstanding about how this approach is used? What is the most appropriate way to use it?
(Editor’s note: This is an abbreviated version of his comment.)
NH: Like cures like!! We don’t have a choice to “prefer….to give ….different than what the patient looks like”. I can’t really give what I prefer only what the case is calling for. This quote is amazing. Are you sure it is accurate? I and many, many others around the world have had astounding success using kingdom. It represents the biggest leap in our prescribing since Kent.
You have to use it with depth and understanding and a deep commitment to the truth not just a flippant or cursory assessment based on clothing, appearance or a few choice words. In case after case in our practice and teaching we show that the kingdom runs deeply thru the entire case on every level-mental, emotional and physical and what a delight to see it all come together this way. Then we have clarity and truth and healing.
AS: What advice would you give a young homeopath, just starting in practice?
NH: Study each case in depth and use case consultation with someone you trust. Video your cases so you can study them with the consultant. Charge a good size fee. Our work is diminished by people not valuing their training and time and charging too little for what they do. Keep studying your whole life. Then it lives in you. Finally teach. Nothing trains you as well as teaching your own material!
AS: You and Roger are one of the most celebrated couples in homeopathy. How would you describe the collaboration between you (a plant) and Roger( a mineral)?
NH: I couldn’t teach without my Roger-mineral doing so much of the incredible computer editing work that is required now to give a good seminar. Only a mineral has the patience and fortitude to deal with professional video editing programs! That said I do believe we complement each other, in that my approach is so much more feeling tone and non-technical while his is very point by point analyzed. We do all the power point things, but we also give the students the in-depth feeling of the interviews and remedies in the cases. Mostly, if you put the two of us together we have 60+ years of experience and lots of great cases. We also have a lot of fun with teaching
AS: What accomplishment are you most proud of?
NH: Our beautiful and very conscious daughter, Naomi, who is the kindest person I know.
AS: Thank you so much for sharing with us today.
Nancy Herrick was involved in the creation of the Hahnemann Medical Clinic and the Hahnemann College of Homeopathy. She studied with many people including George Vithoulkas and Rajan Sankaran. Nancy is one of the world’s most sought after homeopaths and lectures in Europe, America, Australia, New Zealand and India. She has taken part in developing a number of new plant and animal remedies. Her publications include Animal Mind, Human Voices and Sacred Plants, Human Voices.
# # #