Drug Provings Homeopathy Papers

Drug Proving

Written by H.A. Roberts

The eminent homeopath Herbert A. Roberts discusses the requisites for a successful proving.

A drug is any material agent, in however attenuated form, the ingestion of which is capable of so disturbing this balance of the vital forces that the functioning of one or more organs of the body is no longer carried out to the best of the whole; and any material substance capable of so acting on the living organism is a drug. Hence drugs are essentially destructive; therein lies the difference between drugs and foods  –  drugs are destructive while foods are constructive. Both drugs and foods act upon the vital force which rules in all animate beings.

To ascertain the knowledge of a drug is to discover what disturbance of this balance it is capable of producing and what organs are affected; how and what functional changes are made manifest. When we have discovered all this about a drug we can say we have a proving.

In order to be sure of the integrity of our work, we must demand three essential things:

(1) The quality of the drug must be pure; it must be free from all mixture with other drugs; and it must possess all its active properties.

(2) The prover must possess the proper balance in functions and be in a normal, healthy state, so that we can estimate and weigh the amount of the disturbance caused when we deliberately upset the balance of health.

(3) The circumstances surrounding the prover must be those of his normal surroundings, so that the drug can express its action under conditions and circumstances normal to the prover, that any deviation from normal in the prover’s condition cannot be attributed to different circumstances and conditions of his life, but directly to the action of the drug.

These three points must be maintained most carefully.  The ordinary habits of life must be observed, and his ordinary work maintained; otherwise changes from his routine might cause some deviation from his normal balance which would be attributed to the drug action.

All people do not make equally good provers. Some types are more susceptible to certain drug groups than are other types, and those who manifest susceptibility to the action of a drug to the point of developing symptoms must be secured for a satisfactory proving. Those who are peculiarly susceptible to a drug make the best provers, for it is the peculiarly susceptible who develop in the proving the peculiar, rare and characteristic symptoms of the drug; yet those who are less susceptible cannot be rejected as provers provided they develop symptoms even in a small degree, as these serve to verify the symptoms produced in the extremely susceptible, and thus establish them as true symptoms and not chance observation. Not all provers will develop or give the identical symptomatology, some recording a complete symptom while others will record but a partial symptom.

In a consideration of food and the susceptible prover, in some instances an individual will manifest an idiosyncrasy to a certain food or group of foods. To this susceptible, the food becomes a drug, and the individual having this idiosyncrasy is merely manifesting his susceptibility to the possible drug properties in this food substance; he will be the best possible prover to this drug.

The prover must be intelligent enough properly to appreciate and record the subjective symptoms as deviations from his normal conditions of life, as these subjective symptoms are of the utmost value. There is a vast difference in people in their ability both to perceive and to describe their subjective symptoms, therefore we must have a prover who has the gift of perception. We find the lack of perception in many patients who cannot describe their symptoms; such people do not make good provers.

Honesty is a prerequisite of a good prover, for he must be very careful to record all phenomena as fact. Remember, a proving is a record of facts-facts that can be produced repeatedly in others; therefore facts must be carefully recorded from the very beginning of the experiment; yet we must avoid equally skepticism, imaginary phenomena or the over-coloring of the real facts. Remember always to treat a fact as a fact and do not try to add to or subtract from its importance; it is not for the prover to sift the symptoms produced. Treat the facts as they are; unless one can do this, he will not make a valuable prover.


At the beginning of this work, the prover must be in that state of mental, moral and physical equilibrium that is characteristic of a normal, healthy being. One who is subject to rapidly changing equilibrium on any one or all of these planes will not make a good prover.

Bear in mind the main and only object in conducting a proving: to discover the positive characteristic of the action of the drug on the vital energy of the human being; to obtain a full knowledge of its action so that its power can be readily distinguished from any other drug, for the lawful application of the remedy in states of disturbed vital energy which we call disease.

In making the record, all symptoms must be recorded, but we must not forget that many of these symptoms are held in common with many other drugs; while these symptoms possess a certain value in the final analysis, we must determine those symptoms of the greatest value, especially those which are the most peculiar and characteristic of the drug-the rare, unusual symptoms that distinguish it from all others, because these are the symptoms which will be curative symptoms, in that they will be the guiding symptoms in selecting the remedy. The symptoms such as are held in common by many drugs are not of great value in the curative sphere. Every symptom must be recorded without bias or favor, otherwise we shall lose unwittingly some of the characteristic symptoms; after all are recorded we can then compare all these symptoms with other drug provings.

So in making a proving two things are to be accomplished: a detailed record of the order of appearance of all symptoms, and an analysis of the symptoms. In making the analysis the three major points of all symptoms should be borne in mind: Location; sensation; and the modifying character of the symptoms, or modalities, together with the concomitant or apparently unrelated symptoms. The analysis is not complete until we have a comparison of the symptoms with those produced by other drug provings.


Having a clear view of the real objective of a proving, and having complied with all the requirements to produce such a proving, how do we proceed? First, let us consider the dose. It may be we shall use the crude drug, or a low potency, or a high potency, depending upon the nature of the drug. How do we determine which to use? There are certain considerations which are sufficiently stable for guiding rules. From an apparently inert substance, such as Lycopodium, Carbo veg. or Graphites, we can obtain a good proving only from a high potency; therefore we may take as an axiom:

Any drug which in its natural state affects the vital energy but little will develop a proving only in a high potency.

Other drugs having a very strong action upon the human economy in their natural state, such as Lobelia, Ipecac., Cicuta or Tabacum, may be used in a crude form:

Any drug which in its natural state disturbs the vital energy to functional manifestations only may be proven in a crude form.

Still other drugs, such as the Mercurius group, which are actively poisonous in the crude form, can be proven only in the high potencies.

Any drug which in its natural state disturbs the vital energy to destructive manifestations should be proven only in a potentiated form.

In other words, we determine the plane of the drug we wish to use by a consideration of the object we desire to attain. The object of the proving is to produce the characteristics of the drug as they are manifest in diseased states.

The comparatively inert substances will produce no symptoms, at best a very few symptoms of low value in the crude state, and these are not characteristic of the drug; either no symptoms are produced, or if perchance a few symptoms are produced, they are not expelled from the body before they reach the dynamis of the system, the vital energy.

In the provings of active or corrosive poisons in low or crude state, the same thing is true: they are valueless because the grosser irritating symptoms are the result of mechanical disturbances and the few strikingly characteristic symptoms of the drug are never observed. The corrosives are expelled very quickly in the crude state because of the violence of their action, and so do not influence the vital energy to produce characteristic symptoms; therefore the symptoms that are produced are of little value because they are common to all corrosive poisons.

The susceptibility of the patient on prover must be taken into consideration; this regulates and gives us direction as to the quantity of the drug to be taken. The greater the susceptibility, the less the quantity required to react upon the vital force, for if the organism is overwhelmed suddenly at first we may get only generic symptoms and so fail to obtain the characteristic symptoms and thus fail in our object. On the other hand, if he is only moderately susceptible, we may obtain valuable results from larger doses. Our standard should be:

About the author

H.A. Roberts

Dr. H.A.Roberts (1868-1950) attended New York Homoeopathic Medical College and set up practrice in Brattleboro of Vermont (U.S.). He eventually moved to Connecticut where he practiced almost 50 years. Elected president of the Connecticut Homoeopathic Medical Society and subsequently President of The International Hahnemannian Association. His writings include Sensation As If and The Principles and Art of Cure by Homoeopathy.

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