Homeopathy Papers

A Reminder About Etiology

Written by Elaine Lewis

Once again, the importance of determining the etiology (the cause) is revealed.

I was just reading the NCH Newsletter when I came across a short but perfect case that reminds us of what the phrase

“Etiology Overrules Symptomatology” really means! Here it is:


[Submitted by a member in South Carolina]

Bear is an 8-1/2 year old, 100 lb. Black Lab we’ve had in our family since he was 8 weeks old. There have been a few health issues over the years, but this one really scared us.

Literally overnight he went from being an active, busy dog to a miserable one who could barely move and cried every time he had to. He ate and drank if we offered it, but wouldn’t exert himself. We had to create a sling to get him out to the yard (not easy for 100 lbs!)

We first gave him Arnica, thinking he had hurt a muscle in a tussle with our other dog. That did nothing. We gave him one dose of Hypericum… nothing. After careful observation, we realized it had come on suddenly after he had come in from a garden romp in hot weather and then lay down in his favorite spot, right on top of the A/C vent in the kitchen.

There’s a remedy for ‘ailments from cold air’… found it in my notes… it was Aconite. It was miraculous: he could navigate outside under his own power, take care of business, beg for food, get his own water, and wanted to play again.

What would have happened if this case had been presented to us, as many are, with no etiological information??? What do we have here? We have an animal that suddenly can’t move, cries every time he has to move, will not exert himself at all! What remedy does this remind you of? Bryonia, of course! And, of course, Bryonia would not have worked! Why? Because we would have over-looked the etiology, which was: Ailments From cold dry winds! Oh sure, it’s not the way we imagine it–a brisk windy day in March…. But, what is it when you lie on top of the air conditioning vent? Ailments from cold, dry winds! We all know this to be a keynote of Aconite! Does it matter that we didn’t repertorize all the symptoms in the case? No! Does it matter that he has no other symptoms of Aconite? No!

Shana had the same thing happen to her–almost literally. I picked her up from school one day and she had a headache. She buried her forehead in her hand as she slumped over in the car. It was on the left side and was better pressure. I gave her, of course, Bryonia! Nothing happened. That’s when I realized I was stuck. So I said, “OK, tell me everything that happened today.” It turned out she was sitting in front of the air conditioning vent in math class. Aconite! Aconite 200C cured the headache right away!

I have a client who wrote me recently to tell me that he made a remedy out of his food when he got sick from something he ate! Well, that was the etiology, right? It made perfect sense to me! He put a little bit of the food into a glass of water, turned on the cold water at the sink, dumped out the glass, refilled with the running water, dumped out, refilled, did this dumping out and refilling 10 times and took a sip. All was well soon after!

I can remember when another client called me with an asthma attack which she realized was from eating gravy from a can that contained MSG! I said, “Make a remedy out of the gravy!” In similar fashion, a remedy was made from gravy and a trip to the Emergency Room was averted!

Now listen people, here is a very important point: Your patients will undoubtedly be on numerous drugs when they come to see you, and you have GOT to do a search for their sided effects because you might find your patient’s complaint right there; in which case, the remedy is the drug in homeopathic potency!

Do you know how to make your own remedy? Read my article, “How To Make Your Own Remedy”:


It reminds me of an episode of “60 Minutes” I saw many years ago. A young man had set out to live in nature, using his knowledge of herbs, surviving in nature, etc. All was going well until he ate some sort of variety of wild potato that was actually a poisonous plant! It causes the person who eats it to waste away! He was helpless to do anything other than just wait to die. If only he had known homeopathy! He could have made a remedy out of that “potato” and he’d have been saved! It’s such important knowledge–that the cause is also the cure. You’re never really without a remedy!

To be fair, EVERY case isn’t going to hinge on the etiology, but it’s always important to look for it and ask about it. We’re going to close with Miranda Castro,  and what better way for any article to close? Alan and I had the distinct honor of interviewing Miranda for this ezine a few years ago–I can’t believe it’s been that long as it seems like only a week ago! I asked Miranda about etiology and here’s how it went:


EL: I wonder if we can switch subjects at this point, because I’ve been listening to your tapes, your lectures, and I noticed you have quite a few cases where a remedy ultimately had to be chosen, not just on the etiology, but, the actual item that caused the complaint. There was the person who had asthma despite being a strong swimmer and swimming daily-she needed Chlorine! Then there was the person who was proving his psychiatric drug, he needed potentized Haldol! How important is the etiology, Miranda?

MC: Etiology, again, like nutrition, is a big topic. Etiology is a very high-level symptom. It’s right up there, one of the highest. The correct remedy HAS to have the etiology covered. We HAVE to know it. I am ruthless about this with patients and I let them know that. I will back people into a corner until I get what I need. I mean, I will chase down that etiology if I have to… and so, if I’m at a point where people start saying the same things over and over and I haven’t gotten the information I need, and I haven’t gotten the etiology, I will take charge and chase it down! You might want to include in this issue my case about “The Baby Who Screamed For A Week” as a good example of what I mean. (https://hpathy.com/clinical-cases/the-baby-who-screamed-for-nearly-a-week/)

EL: Done!

MC: Now, she didn’t just cry, she screamed her head off! This kid was eight months old, she was the daughter of a woman who had done two years of training with me in first aid and home prescribing and she was convinced that the baby was teething. She wanted to give Chamomilla 200C and I just got very stubborn about it. If it’s Chamomilla it will work in any potency, and the baby hadn’t got any teeth yet; so, if she were going to be a Chamomilla teether, we had to start with a low potency so we had something to go up to! We had already given the 6C and it hadn’t worked, we had given the 30C and it hadn’t worked, and now it is 5 days later and she wanted to give the 200C.

It took me a long time, I had to bring her appointment schedules to the phone, and I went through every minute of the day the kid started screaming-this is the etiology we’re talking about-because she maintained that nothing had happened! Misha Norland says: People are always telling the truth, and they’re always lying! We remember selectively. So, as homeopaths, we have a duty to be paying attention and when things don’t add up, I stop the case! If something doesn’t add up, I am going to go after it until it does make sense. I’m going to ask about it from every angle; so, in order to know the questions to ask, you have to understand human nature. You have to be canny about people and what they can get up to and the best advice I have for that is to just read voraciously. Read cases, read novels, watch movies, talk to people…be a sponge about human nature, and read psychology.We have to know psychological maps, that’s another area where homeopaths have been deficient. So I went through every minute of that day with her. I asked her to rewind, replay the video of her life that day, remember what she wore and what they ate, you know, for each minute, because I had a feeling that the baby wasn’t teething, and it was based on a number of things: There were no other symptoms-there were no turrets in the gums, there was no drooling, no diarrhea…just screaming. It didn’t make sense. What’s that detective called?

EL: Columbo?

MC: No, Elaine, help!

EL: Sherlock Holmes?

MC: Yes! Sherlock Holmes! Sherlock Holmes was said to be brilliant because he knew when there wasn’t a dog barking. Very clever! I think that when we are working at our best is when we perceive there isn’t a dog barking! So – to mix metaphors – if I smell a rat…

EL: …so many animals….

MC: …I have a gift in this area. I don’t have many gifts. I have to work hard for every remedy. I’m not smart about remedies and facts; if a patient comes in and I say, “Silica!” I can be absolutely sure it isn’t Silica!

EL: Wait, I’m writing this down….

MC: I’m very bad at being intuitive about remedies; but, I’m 99% accurate when I hear a dog not barking, and so I’ve learned to rely on that. So, finally, after twenty or thirty minutes of really intense questioning, she finally said, “Oh my God! That’s when my older child fell down the stairs holding the baby!” So, I had her interview the older child and promise not to punish the child if she hadn’t, in fact, fallen down the stairs.

EL: Oh my God, Miranda, you are WAY ahead of me, and Sherlock Holmes too!

MC: And it turned out that the older child had dropped the baby…

EL: No!

MC: – not far but she had banged her head on the corner of the stairs…

EL: Ouch!!!

MC: …and that’s when the crying started.

EL: Amazing!

MC: The mother gave the baby Arnica, the baby went to sleep and woke up crying and hadn’t stopped since. When I teach this case, it’s unusual for the students to actually get the pathology. The baby had been thoroughly checked out by the doctor, there was nothing wrong with her. And so, what did the Arnica do, what had gone wrong, why on earth was this baby crying?

EL: I was just going to ask that.

MC: When we are working at our best – to introduce yet another animal kingdom metaphor – we are the bee’s knees of medical detectives! Because we’re looking at the whole picture. Our ability to understand what’s going on across the board, and even in quite small areas, is very advanced, even without tests, but I knew at that point exactly what had happened! If you give Arnica immediately after an injury, there’s no swelling, right?

EL: I’m living proof of that!

MC: So there was no discoloration, there was no evidence, so, what was wrong with the baby? Do you know why she was crying? Babies cry like that when they’re in pain!

EL: I knew that!

MC: LOL! She had a headache – after a head injury. One dose of Natrum sulph. 200C and before it had fully dissolved in her mouth, she stopped screaming and smiled.

EL: Ailments after head injury: Nat-sulph. Of course! It’s the homeopathic miracle we’ve all heard about and many of us have experienced! What a great story! And good for you, Miranda, because the mother was very insistent about giving Chamomilla and I wonder how many homeopaths would have relented, not bothering to look at what wasn’t there! It’s a good lesson!

MC: I relented twice! Interestingly, Natrum sulph was the only remedy she ever needed throughout her entire childhood. Now, let’s fast-forward the video of her life and imagine how her life would look had she not gotten that remedy. It looks very bad, I mean, we all know what happens when people develop a deep Natrum Sulphuricum state, right? They wind up in psychiatric wards!

EL: I knew that!

MC: Head pain after head injury-Natrum Sulphuricum, the number-one remedy!

EL: Ailments From Head Injury. Thanks, Miranda!

About the author

Elaine Lewis

Elaine Lewis, D.Hom., C.Hom.
Elaine is a passionate homeopath, helping people offline as well as online. Contact her at [email protected]
Elaine is a graduate of Robin Murphy's Hahnemann Academy of North America and author of many articles on homeopathy including her monthly feature in the Hpathy ezine, "The Quiz". Visit her website at:
https://elainelewis.hpathy.com/ and TheSilhouettes.org


  • Can you please tell me a remedy for suppressed & fearful childhood due to a very strict, angry father ?——Lycopodium did not work

    • Dear Sir/Madam

      It wouldn’t be appropriate to suggest remedies without having more information. Visiting a homeopath is the best option, because I sense you don’t have the knowledge to self treat.. You might also try submitting your case to the Patient’s forum. Make a request and send it to : [email protected]. There’s no guarantee anyone will pick it up, but you could try.

  • Well……it could be Anacardium, or maybe….Staphysagria….Baryta carb, Carcinosin…..Anyone else have any ideas?

  • Really wonderful– a unique approach. Congrats for establishing the importance of
    aetiology over symptomatology; but one has to be a doctor oneself to do all this. A lay man cannot venture such highly professional procedure. Moreover, such procedure is possible only in sudden and acute cases. In cases that develop slowly or of chronic
    nature its application may neither be desirable nor possible. Still all praise for Elaine
    for her ingenuity and her hold on homeopathy.

  • DEAR DR,

  • Totality is needed for prescribing and no wonder, aetiology is also coming under the totality and have strong marks. Anyway, great effort!

  • From my interview with Robin Murphy:

    Advice From Robin Murphy

    What are the common mistakes we’re making, Robin?

    1. Ignoring the etiology or treating it like just another symptom. The etiology is what has to be cured.

    Concentrating on etiology would simplify a person’s practice. You’ve got all this complicated five pages of information…but ultimately, it’s a grief case! Ailments from grief, “never well since” grief! Which grief remedy fits all this information? Putting symptoms above etiology is a big mistake. When I take a case, I’m only looking for the etiology. If there is no etiology, then I do general homeopathy: mental/emotionals, generals, physical particulars…but, in 80% of the cases, there’s some cause–even if they don’t remember it! One person I was treating had insomnia. I said, “What happened?” He said, “Nothing.” So I said, “When did it begin?” He said, “About 10 years ago.” “Well, what were you doing 10 years ago?” He said, “I was in college; drinking a lot of coffee, staying up late, studying….” So, there it was! But it wasn’t a direct shock. It was an indirect cause. So etiology can have two branches–direct and indirect. The indirect is circumstances in their life that help bring out the disease, like family dynamics–a domineering father can create a lycopodium child by destroying that child’s self-confidence. So, ignoring etiology is the biggest mistake.

  • Here’s another example I want to give you. I’ve just been listening to a lecture by Andre Saine, ND on tape and he was telling about how someone came up to him after a conference saying she wasn’t well, ever since hearing about the death of someone in the family, and he said she looked every bit like Gelsemium with the weakness, dullness, trembly sensation in the legs; so he gave Gelsemium and nothing happened! He said, “Well, I don’t know what to do, I guess I’ll just give Ignatia for “ailments from” acute grief, and guess what? It worked in five mintues! What would have happened if you had repertorized? You’d have gotten Gelsemium! This is what Robin meant by:

    “Ignoring the etiology or treating it like just another symptom…” is a mistake; in other words, just adding it to the list of rubrics in the case, or, as in this case, repertorizing at all, is a mistake. This case of Andre’s didn’t need any repertorization, it was “ailments from acute grief”–Ignatia.

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