This article represents a summary of a Homeopathic Proving done in 2010 at the American Medical College of Homeopathy. A full and comprehensive report is available through the American Medical College of Homeopathy; 1951 W. Camelback, Suite 300, Phoenix, AZ 85015; info@AMCofH.org; 602-347-7950
A proving of Helix tosta was performed in Phoenix Arizona at the American Medical College of Homeopathy, in the spring of 2010. The proving was conducted by the American Medical College of Homeopathy Department of Research. This was a full Hahnemannian proving.
This proving was approved by the American Medical College of Homeopathy Institutional Review Board.
The proving consisted of fifteen subjects who began taking Helix tosta 30C on January 22, 2010. Provers were from 22-65 years of age and in good health. There were three male provers and twelve female provers. Generally those patients who were on allopathic medication or who had significant health problems were excluded from the proving.
This proving was double blinded. All the provers, proving supervisors, and proving coordinator were unaware of the remedy being proven. The homeopathic medicine was selected because of its medicinal properties, symbolic significance and lack of usage within the homeopathic community, despite being listed as a homeopathic medicine.
The proving was placebo controlled. Three of the provers received placebo and were only identified at the end of the exit group proving. The homeopathic medicine was obtained from Helios Pharmacy. As with previous provings, we found that those individuals who took the placebo generally had the same symptoms as those who took the actual homeopathic medicine. This is in keeping with findings of others conducting provings from around the world.
Each prover was assigned a proving supervisor who interviewed them prior to the onset of the proving to obtain a baseline case. Each prover then attended an introductory meeting with their fellow provers prior to the start of the proving, to go over basic policies and procedures and to obtain informed consent. Each prover had regular contact with their proving supervisor throughout the proving. The proving supervisors reported directly to the proving director.
Each prover took a single dosage of 30C of the assigned homeopathic medicine at bedtime. If they exhibited any symptoms in the next 24 hours they received no further homeopathic medicine. If they had no symptoms, then they repeated the homeopathic medicine 24 hours later. Each prover received a maximum of seven doses of the 30C potency. A dosage consisted of 10-12 pellets of the chosen homeopathic medicine.
Participants journaled the symptoms until the symptoms resolved or up to six months after the initiation of the proving. Additionally the supervisors kept a separate journal from the daily interaction with their provers. Informed consent was obtained from each participant.
Symptoms were reviewed in an exit group meeting one month later, which was videotaped. Journals (both of the provers and supervisors) were reviewed separately. Any participants who had residual symptoms or improvement following the one-month interval were followed subsequently until the symptoms resolved or were permanently cured (up to six months).
The remedy is available from the Helios Pharmacy (www.helios.co.uk). The name given to the remedy is Helix tosta (Helx). The remedy is described in the literature as being triturated. It has never been previously proven despite being listed as a homeopathic medicine.
The American Medical College of Homeopathy is a state licensed and accredited institution in Phoenix, Arizona. Its department of research conducts provings annually and has conducted 14 separate provings over the last 13 years. Each of these provings has been published separately in book form as well as published through all of the homeopathic software companies. Extracts of all of the proving discussions can be found on our web site at www.amcofh.org/Research/Provings.html. In addition, AMCH recently published a summary of its desert proving research in a work entitled The Desert World: A Homeopathic Exploration.
Helix tosta (Roman Snail) is an old remedy that was previously studied, although poorly. The remedy has never been previously proven.
Helix tosta refers to toasted snail. The species that is eaten is Helix pomatia. It is most commonly known as the Roman Snail, Edible Snail or Burgundy Snail. It is the snail that is classically used in the making of Escargot. The name was identified by Linnaeus in 1758. It is called Roman Snail because it is thought to have been introduced by the Romans to England as a food source.
Helix pomatia is a large (the largest snail in Europe), edible, air breathing, land snail (terrestrial, pulmonate, gastropod, mollusc). It is frequently farmed and called by the French name Escargot, when it is used in cooking. The snail is quite large and easily seen. They are most often seen in the early mornings when it is damp.
Its shell is spherical with a conical spire. It is very strong with thin axial lines. The aperture is round and the lip thin. The umbilicus is narrow and covered by the edge of the columella in a way that leaves only a slitlike opening visible. In some cases the umbilicus is completely covered. In old shells the periostracum is often worn away giving the surface a whitish color. Shell size is 32-50 mm wide and 30-50 mm high. The color is light yellowish brown to whitish grey, often with 3 faint mauve or dark violet bands. The shell is big enough for the snail to retract the whole body into it. It usually has 4-5 whorls which coil clockwise as the snail grows. The axis of the shell is called the columella, attached to this is a muscle which runs through to foot to the tentacles. The snail builds his shell by secretion of calcium carbonate from the mantle. A thin layer, called the periostracum, covers the outside of the shell. In adult snails this is often weathered and flaking off. Because Roman snails often crawl on walls and trees, accidents happen and they fall off. That is why you often see shells with rough patches on it. The snail is able to repair the shell very quickly.
Slime or mucus has different functions for a snail and can be thin or thick. It is an organic hydrogel which can absorb a great quantity of water, almost 250 % of its own weight. On the body there are glands which run from the mouth to the backend. Slime helps prevent water loss, is used in locomotion by enabling it to crawl over rough surfaces or slick ones (glass). It is also used as a deterrent against enemies, although the slime itself doesn’t contain any bitter tasting chemicals.
The snail reaches adulthood in 3-4 four years. The life span is up to 10 years.
Distribution and Habitat
Helix tosta is native to the limestone areas of Central and Southeastern Europe. It has spread out to other areas gradually over time, mainly by human hands. This includes Austria, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Scandinavia, and Spain.It has been introduced to the United States (Michigan). In some areas (mainly France), over-collecting has greatly reduced the numbers and in some countries of Europe, the species has been put on the endangered list. It is illegal to collect the species in England.
Helix pomatia is found in copses, thickets, parks, gardens and vineyards. The snail prefers a chalky substrate in warm low lying country. Snails need damp, not wet, environments. Although snails need moisture, wet or waterlogged soil must be drained to make it suitable for them. Similarly, rainwater must run off promptly. Snails breathe air and may drown in overly wet surroundings. A soil moisture content of 80% of capacity is favorable. In the hours of darkness, air humidity over 80% will promote good snail activity and growth. Snails like hiding places, especially during the warm daytime.
Aestivation and Hibernation
The animal aestivates (becomes dormant in times of heat) and during this period it creates a calcareous epiphragm in order to seal the opening of its shell. During the winter, they hibernate in small holes.
There are two sets of muscle fibers, each performs a different task. When moving forward one set contracts pulling the snail from the front and pushing it off toward the back. At the same time the second set pulls the outer surface of the sole forward. They have the ability to forage as far as 150 to 300 feet (50 to 100 meters) and still find their way back. Ninety-nine percent of snail activity, including feeding, occurs in the cool, dark nighttime, with peak activity taking place 2 to 3 hours after darkness begins. The cooler temperature stimulates activity, and the nighttime dew helps the snail move easily. They hide in sheltered places during most of the day.
Diet and Digestion
Helix pomatia has thousands of teeth. On the front of the body is the head, where two pairs of tentacles are located. The upper pair bears the eyes, the lower pair is used for smelling and feeling. The mouth has a tongue called radula. In the top of the mouth is a hard ridge and food is being mashed between the radula and this ridge. The front teeth of the radula wear very fast but the radula grows from the back end.
Near the opening of the mouth salivary glands release digestive enzymes. The salivary gland secretions moisten the digested food and envelop it, thereby making easier it for the food to go into the esophagus. The esophagus ends in the stomach. The intestines release large quantities of a brown digestive juice in the stomach. The intestinal gland fills up most of the space in the visceral sac. The intestinal gland consists of smaller and bigger follicles. A steady back and forth movement of the digestive juices between stomach and intestines enhances the process of absorption of the food. The movement of the digestive juices is caused by the muscles of the intestinal gland and ciliae. The digested food flows over the liver cells which absorb the food. The smaller intestine starts at the visceral sac, follows the edge of the kidney and enters the pulmonary cavity. It ends near the pneumostome (breathing pore) in the smaller intestine on the point of exit from the visceral sac a deep groove. This groove which is coated with cilae takes over all non-absorbed solids and directs it into the small intestine. There the solids are compressed and enveloped with a layer of slime after which they leave the body.
Snails of the same species collected from different regions may have different food preferences. Some foods that snails eat are: Alyssum, fruit and leaves of apple, apricot, artichoke (a favorite), aster, barley, beans, bindweed, California boxwood, almost any cabbage variety, chamomile, carnation, carrot, cauliflower, celeriac (root celery), celery, ripe cherries, chive, citrus, clover, cress, cucumbers (a favorite snail food), dandelion, elder, henbane, hibiscus, hollyhock, kale, larkspur, leek, lettuce (liked, and makes good snails), lily, magnolia, mountain ash, mulberry, mums, nasturtium, nettle, nightshade berries, oats, onion greens, pansy, parsley, peach, ripe pears, peas, petunia, phlox, plum, potatoes (raw or cooked), pumpkins, radish, rape, rose, sorrel, spinach, sweet pea, thistle, thorn apple, tomatoes (well liked), turnip, wheat, yarrow, zinnia. They will eat sweet lupines, but will reject bitter lupines and other plants with high quinolizidine alkaloids. Snails also avoid plants that produce other defensive chemicals, defensive stem hairs, etc. Snails usually prefer juicy leaves and vegetables over dry ones.
Respiration and Circulation
The blood system in Helix pomatia is open, with blood spaces and no veins. The pigment is colorless, and is called haemocyanin, which contains copper. The relative weak heart consists of a single thick walled ventricle and a single thin walled auricle. The blood takes oxygen from the lung and transports it to the auricle, and then to the ventricle. The ventricle releases blood with oxygen in the arteries, after which the blood goes to the tissues. The so-called lung (pulmonary cavity) lies on the inside of the roof of the visceral-sac. Through the breathing-pore, the pneumostome, oxygen reaches the snail’s lung. When the pneumostome is open the roof and bottom of the pulmonary cavity are close together. When the bottom goes down the oxygen can flow into the lung. Then the pneumostome closes and the bottom goes up, pushing the oxygen in the body. It is comparable to the midriff in mammals.
In spring, when the Roman snails have been awake from hibernation for some time, it becomes time for mating. Depending on the weather and other environmental conditions, mating time may last until the end of June.
Roman snails, and with them most terrestrial snail species, are hermaphrodites. They have male as well as female organs in one collective genital apparatus. This organ system not only contains sexual organs in the narrow sense of the word, but also various auxiliary organs that have respective tasks in different periods during mating. What advantage does being a hermaphrodite give to a Roman snail? Because of its proverbial slowness the snail needs much time to move in a very small area. So the chances to meet a mating partner are too low to divide them even further by two sexes to choose from. Terrestrial pulmonate snails (Stylommatophora) such as the Roman snail, on the other hand, have double mating chances, because in principle, they can mate with any snail of the right species they encounter. During copulation, Roman snails do not act as either male or female, but simultaneously as both. Some snails may act as males one season and as females the next. Other snails play both roles at once and fertilize each other simultaneously.
A Roman snail’s mating process takes place in several phases, which go from an attraction phase over an extensive courtship until finally the copulation itself. The encounter of two Roman snails ready for mating is not purely incidental. Like many other terrestrial snails, they have a gland located at the gland that produces an olfactory sexual attractant. Those attractants are also used by other snail species such as banded snails (Cepaea). As a consequence two snails of entirely different species may feel attracted and try mating. Between snails of different species, that attempt must remain unsuccessful.
The courtship among Roman snails is a very interesting thing to witness. Both snails begin by raising their heads and putting their flat foot soles against each other. They touch each other with tentacles and lips while they are swaying gently. As a prelude to the actual copulation this courtship process may last as long as twenty hours. The copulation itself will take a much smaller fraction of time.
Application of a Love Dart
During the courtship possibly a dart may be applied, one snail stinging it into the mate’s foot. This dart has been called a love dart, as its application obviously is in direct connection with courtship or mating. The pricked snail becomes visibly more excited and active, sometimes it also returns the favor by jabbing a love dart into the mate’s body. A Roman snail’s love dart can become as long as 7 to 11 mm and consists of a four-edge blade on one and a crown on the other end. In idle state with this crown the dart sits on a papilla in the dart sac. To use the dart, the snail pushes out the interior of the dart sac, thus thrusting the dart into the mate’s body. After separation from the papilla, the dart remains stung in the body. Though called a dart, in many languages also an arrow, the Roman snail’s love dart is neither thrown nor shot, there is no distance of free flight. Instead it is thrust into the mate’s body, more like a dagger, than a dart.
Sometimes the love dart misses its target. Then it may come to rest on the mate’s body without penetrating it, but it can also happen that one of the two mates is hurt. It is not in every mating process that a love dart is applied. Roman snails mate whenever possible, but the replication of a love dart sometimes needs more time than remains between two mating encounters. Research has found that application of a love dart not at all only influences snail behavior. Using a love dart a secretion is injected that is produced by the finger shaped glands in the genital apparatus. This secretion contains hormones that influence certain parts of the genital apparatus and that way improve the reproductive chances of the snail that applied the dart.
After the long and extensive courtship there may be several attempts for copulation. It may happen that the readiness to mate between two snails is very different, so that the copulation attempts may look more like a wrestling match. When finally both snails manage to find a suitable position, they actually perform copulation. Both penises are entwined and inserted into the mate’s vagina. The union successfully completed, both snails stay as they are. At the same time, a sperm packet, a so-called spermatophore, is produced in either snail’s body and afterwards filled with sperm cells. This spermatophore is almost 10 cm long and is roughly shaped like a thread. Even after it was positioned in the mate’s genital apparatus, the tail still looks out of the snail’s genital opening. This is why the two snails remain motionless for a certain time after completing of the copulation: The spermatophore’s application in the mate’s genital apparatus must be supported; an early interruption of the union may disrupt the spermatophore and thus render useless the hours of toil involved in a standard snail courtship.