Homeopathy Papers

How to study Materia Medica

How to study Materia Medica

From the beginning of homeopathic practice, the first obstacle the physician encounters is the impossibility of applying knowledge acquired in materia medica to each specific clinical case.

What actually happens is that studying each medicine according to allopathic clinical criteria learnt at the orthodox school of medicine, each pathogenesis in pure materia medica, and even in known clinical materia medica, produces a profuse catalogue of symptoms which it is impossible to remember or learn by heart and much less to understand in essence.

This is the reason why the fundamental condition for undertaking the study of materia medica is that of being clearly informed of the fundamental concepts of the doctrine.

Concepts of Pathogenesis

Pathogenic illness is no more than the surfacing of a symptomatology latent in a human being, caused by a medicine to which a certain person is particularity sensitive, which implies an individual, personal manner of falling iII, conditioned by a dynamic pathological constitutional disposition.

The detailed study of the Organon reveals this fact to us: though in aphorisms 32 and 33 Hahnemann states that the medicine administered in the pathogenesis at any time and in any circumstance has an absolute and unrestricted power to modify the physiological balance of a healthy person, in 36 and 38 he adds that “No medicine proved in a healthy person can show in one and the same subject all the subjective and functional alterations which it is capable of evincing in other subjects having a different constitution and temperament” and “although the symptoms made manifest depend on the medicinal substance used, it is necessary for the subject to have a special predisposition to make such symptoms appear.”

This is the only reason why symptomatology revealed in pathogenesis is curiously similar to individual symptoms preceding and accompanying illness. Homeopathy is possible precisely thanks to this similarity, which thus reveals the universal harmony existing between a human being, his natural illness, and its medicine or pathogenic illness.


Kent in his fourth lecture states: “A physician is supposed to be an expert in an illness as a result of having seen the symptoms of many different cases and, therefore, he is in a position to call forth the image of the illness. When he is perfectly familiar with the image of those illnesses of the human race, he will be in a position to study the materia medica and all the imitations of the miasms found in the medicines. There is no miasma in the human race which does not have its own imitation in a medicine. The animal kingdom contains within itself the images of illnesses and the plant and mineral kingdoms likewise, and if man were familiar with the substances of these three kingdoms, he could treat the entire human race.”

That is to say that for Kent it is not sufficient to know the medicines even in their smallest detail; it is necessary to be familiar with humanity, in the deepest interior, that is, in the affective and emotional values, there where the most exquisite individuality resides, and only then will it be possible to recognize the sick person in the pathogenesis. Because for Kent, “Science is knowledge. The application of knowledge is the Art.”

The patho-biography

In spite of the organic roots of our medical genesis, any homeopath must be now far from considering illness purely as a material process of organic alteration. The integration of this illness in its anatomo-clinical aspect in the patient as a person enables us to discover the morbid dynamics underlying the pathological process. The “patho-biographical” case history assumes particular interest as it involves the entire psychic, emotional, affective life of the patient, his cravings, frustrations, achievements, anxiety to succeed, his perspectives. His patho-biographical past is no more than the process of psycho-physical adaptation of the individual to his circumstances and where physiopathological alterations are no more than the objective expression and the ultimate result of such adaptation.

Like many other aphorisms, 153 seems to be the key to the secret of an accurate prescription: “The most noticeable, singular, extraordinary and peculiar symptoms. Because it is precisely these symptoms which must correspond to the very similar symptoms on the list of the medicine selected.”

lt is important to remember that in the preface to the Repertory, Kent gives us precise instructions on its use. These instructions recommend that “after having completed the repertorizing, the resulting medicines must be compared with the materia medica to assess which one our patient seems most similar to.” This is what Hahnemann had in mind when he referred to one of the fundamental premises of the true physician, in his § 3: “If (a physician) also knows how to adapt in a convenient manner the most appropriate medicine, according to its modus operandi, to the case before him.” And it is quite clear that the similarity referred to by Kent, the modus operandi of Hahnemann, lies in the genius of the medicine which must be homeopathically similar to the genius or psycho-biological attitude of the patient. Now, just what is this similarity between patient and his remedy or more explicitly, what is this genius of the medicine which, notwithstanding the many times it is used, is still not fully understood? The “genius” is the way of being, the way of living, the attitude which arises from a medication at any moment, it is the vital reactivity of the ideal being which survives in the medication confronted by the circumstances in which each ideal subject is born, lives and dies. Hahnemann approaches this subject in § 5 of the Organon: “The most important points of the case history of chronic illness are useful to the physician as they place him in a capacity in which he can discover the fundamental cause, which generally is due to a chronic miasm. Moral and intellectual character, occupation, way of living, etc. must be taken into account.”

The value of symptoms

In other words, Hahnemann and Kent inform us – and we fully agree – that symptoms have no value in themselves but a mere relative value in that they make up a part of the characteristic, evident, and particular entirety. Like any vital phenomenon, each symptom has a meaning, an intention and an aim. lt has meaning, as an expression, a personal and singular meaning of a personal experience, the way of being of a person; an intention – inner tension – which translates a peculiar mode of action for the achievement of an aim or a singular solution to an existential conflict. But the symptom as a literary expression or written word in the repertory, has no more value than a dead letter unless it stands for the idea of an attitude, a special mode of living and acting. lt is a grave mistake to expect the symptom or algebraic sum of symptoms to be a sufficient and indispensable condition for a correct prescription. Kent pointed this out when in a similar situation he told a disciple: You have registered a whole series of symptoms, that is true, but you do not have a case. And to have a case, it is necessary for the series of symptoms for which a remedy is chosen to function in the same manner in which the remedy functions.

“The sum of all symptoms and conditions of each individual case of illness must be the only indication, the sole guide, to lead us to the selection of the remedy”, Hahnemann stated in § 18.

lt is these “conditions of each individual case” which must prevail in the selection of the medicine according to its mode of action, following the words of Hahnemann. This way of acting, that is, the “genius of the remedy”, is certainly expressed in the symptoms, but it is above them, conferring a particular value and meaning which is different for each remedy and which is what in the last instance we must investigate and understand in each patient individually, in order to attempt a correct diagnosis.

This fundamental premise, the genius of the remedy, is the basis of the clinical contributions of the great masters of homeopathy. The reason for the symptoms is given by the human being who lives with them. No doubt this experience gathered on the innumerable cases of Pulsatilla treated by the great masters is what has contributed to the “genius” of Pulsatilla

Hahnemann confirms this affirmation in section 122 of § 213 of the Organon: “Thus, Aconite rarely or never produces a quick and permanent cure when the patients humour is quiet, even-tempered and smooth, neither does Nux vomica when the character is soft or phlegmatic, nor Pulsatilla when it is happy, gay and obstinate, etc.” In other words, it is experience, based on concrete observation, which has allowed homeopathic physicians, living alongside their patients, and “feeling” as they do, to become familiar with the lauded “genius of the remedy”.

The minimum symptom of maximum value

If we leave aside this dynamic meaning of individual entirety, it may be dangerous to study a medicine through the repertory. The temptation of believing that two remedies are similar because they have a practically identical group of characteristic symptoms can lead us to confusion. For example, the resentment, aversion to company and consolation, anger with moral grief, affection and constant return to the past of Natrum muriaticum do not have the same “genius” as in Lycopodium. If frustration and consequent repression constitute the clue to resentment, a definitive symptom of Natrum muriaticum, want of self-confidence constitutes the essence of the personality of Lycopodium. Natrum muriaticum is resentful because he is not loved, Lycopodium because he is not taken into consideration. Natrum muriaticum keeps away from people out of vengeance, out of spitefulness, Lycopodium so that his weakness is not discovered. Natrum muriaticum feels aggravated by consolation in view of untimely gratification of the love asked for and denied. For Lycopodium consolation is offensive to his pride. The anger with moral grief of Natrum muriaticum suffered in silence, like his pain, explain his emotional blockage, fixed in the past in constant ruminating and a song to a long-lost love; in Lycopodium these three symptoms reflect the aggression to his self-worship and genuflectory personality in an open competitive battle. The tone of Natrum mur. is discovered in the bitterness which abounds in the depth of his vital attitude; the tone of Lycopodium is discovered in the shade of impotence which lies in the depth of his ego and which makes him cry when praised. There is no similarity between the resentment of Natrum muriaticum. and the resentment of Lycopodium as neither is there similarity between the desire for solitude of Natrum muriaticum. and that of Lycopodium. We can never state that two remedies have a similar personality because their symptoms are similar, just as we could not say that two paths lead to the same port only because they cross at some point.

About the author

Eugenio Candegabe

Eugenio Candegabe

Dr. Eugenio Federico Candegabe is Argentina"™s foremost exponent of Kentian Homeopathy. He was born on 28 July 1924, and qualified in medicine at the University of Buenos Aires in 1949. In 1954 he went on to study under Dr. Tomas Pablo Paschero, with whom he subsequently worked closely. He is a founding member of the Escuela Meodica Homeopática Argentina "Dr. Tomas Pablo Paschero" (E.M.H.A.), where he has been nominated for Professor Emeritus.

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