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Melanerpes formicivorus (Acorn Woodpecker) – Proving and Case

Homeopath Wiet van Helmond presents a trituration proving he conducted of Melanerpes formicivorus (Acorn Woodpecker) with 6 provers. He includes a case to illustrate the remedy.

Reprinted courtesy Homeopathic Links where it appeared originally.


Essence of the trituration proving of Melanerpes formicivorus (Acorn Woodpecker) illustrated by a case of high blood pressure and menopausal complaints.


Triturational proving, Melanerpes formicivorus, Bird remedy, Case, Menopausal complaints, High blood pressure

In 1998 the BBC and David Attenborough presented the world with their documentary “The Life of Birds”. An amazing study of the evolution and habits of birds, that caught my eye.

At that moment we were still six years before Jonathan Shore (together with Judy Schriebman and Anneke Hogeland) published the elementary book on homeopathic bird remedies. One of the birds in the documentary especially caught my eye: the Acorn Woodpecker, not so much for its plumage but more for its unique behaviour. But living in The Netherlands I was distant from obtaining any feathers to do a proving with because it only resides in America.

But luck would have it that in 2010, while I was in California, I discussed my wish with Dennis Belom who, a few months later, sent me some feathers that were naturally shed (so no trauma involved) by the Acorn Woodpeckers living in his garden just in time to do my yearly blind proving at the homeopathic school where I was teaching.

Melanerpes formicivorus

Before going to the proving results, I would like to present some information on the Woodpecker itself. As the name suggests it lives mainly on acorns. The uniqueness lies in the fact that it creates granaries for the collected acorns. They drill holes in dead oak trees, telephone poles, wooden buildings etc. To store the acorns they have collected, the birds create large perforated surfaces in which they store their reserves. But as the acorns dry out they become smaller making it necessary for them to be transported to smaller holes, otherwise the acorn might fall out and would be lost (Fig.1).

To arrange all these activities the woodpecker lives in communities. Sometimes these communities exist of several monogamous pairs combined with non-breeding helpers but monogamy is not a necessity, a community existing of non-monogamous breeding collectives is just as well possible. The important factor is that there must be a clear structure of who’s doing what.

Photo: Mark Gunn, free license,

Within their community the tasks are finding acorns, maintenance of the drilled holes and stored acorns (a woodpecker granary may contain up to 50.000 holes!), nesting and procreation, defending the granary from outside robbers (on average they will defend about fifteen acres around the granary) and when the storage is eaten it is possible that they will move to another area for the winter. (1)

Another unique aspect of the Acorn woodpecker is its cooperative breeding behaviour. This means that the nestlings are being taken care of by more than two birds (the parents). Also it will happen that the nestlings will remain in the nest of their parents so they can help out with the next generation. Even to the point of staying around for several years. Meaning three or more generations of acorn woodpeckers are still living in the same community and are functioning in an organised structure. The female will destroy all remaining eggs in the nest before laying her own eggs.

If one of the non-mating helpers wishes to mate he will fly up to ten miles from his granary to check other nests for vacancies.

And the structure is well organised because even with all this non-monogamous and helping birds together inbreeding is rare. You can imagine that if this much organising is going around a lot of noise is made. Which is why I was told this particular acorn is rarely a welcome guest in people’s gardens.

They do not exclusively eat acorns. They will also eat and store walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds and pinyon pine nuts and frequently they will eat insects.

Due to the fact that the main ingredient in their diet exists of acorns they are strongly dependent on the fall and winter and therefore are also nesting in the fall, which is quite unique for birds.

Perhaps due to its evolutionary advanced social structure acorn woodpeckers can live relatively very long lives. The oldest recorded acorn woodpecker was seventeen years old (to compare a European great spotted woodpecker can become up to nine years old). All in all, a very complex bird!


In mythology we frequently come across the woodpecker as a symbol of protection and security. Carl Gustav Jung (3) sees the woodpecker, living in a self-made hole in a tree, as a symbol of re-entry within the mother, a wish to go back into the nurturing environment of the womb.

After being nurtured by a she-wolf Romulus and Remus were fed and protected by a woodpecker (2). So the woodpecker was raised to the rank of parent, mother.

Picus, the companion of the god Mars, took shape of a woodpecker and was an agricultural deity who stood for fertilisation of the land.

The proving

In 2011 a small group of six participated in the trituration proving. I, as supervisor, was the only one that knew the substance which was only disclosed months after the last trituration round which was C4.

As far as I know, this is the only woodpecker proving, which makes it difficult to say anything general about woodpeckers with regard to homeopathy. All remarks and observations are therefore limited to the Acorn woodpecker.

The theme that came up in all provers was a lot of anger and frustration in their own living situation about who’s doing what.

From the provers  Mental/Emotionally:

During the proving there was a lot of frustration, irritation and quarrelsomeness, coming from feelings of imbalance in the relationship or household/work system. Who is doing what in the system, who’s task is it to do what within the system? And a strong feeling that there has to be mutual respect otherwise it is not working. Also a feeling that there is no “me-time”, if I have to do your job as well. Themes such as duty, respect, family, household and feelings of doing more than your share or feeling forsaken or unsupported for doing so.  

“I have a short fuse, I can become very irritated very quickly. There is no holding back and it is not a gradual process. This malicious, aggressiveness has an animalistic side and it is completely uncommon for me. The emotion felt very pure, childlike before you are taught how to behave socially desirable.”

“I’m quarrelsome with my family. Everything my husband does or my children are doing I exaggerate and blow up.”

“… If my partner remains seated at the dinner table after I’ve finished I’m ready to pick a fight.”

A dream from one of the provers: “I finally gave my sister in law a piece of my mind and told her the truth. Great! She couldn’t handle it at all and was completely broken down and sat down crying. Her vulnerability was a revelation to me and I felt great all day. (In real life she irritates me because she monopolises my brothers time and which has changed the functioning of our family).

One prover asked to postpone a trituration session because she didn’t want to have a-week- long fight with her husband after each trituration.

“No patience to count to ten, quick temper.”

“…Told my father I hated him… I never say things like that. I was ranting as if years of anger came out and we didn’t speak for weeks.”

“Every little thing that had annoyed me over the last months came out at once. Normally I just suppress these emotions. Felt relieved afterwards.”

There were strong feelings of anger and irritation about how people abuse each other in the world, instead of helping each other.

Very energetic, and doing many things, (work, household, children, study) and less irritable then normal about doing so.


  • Grinding teeth
  • Clenching teeth
  • Picking lips
  • Cracks in the corners of the mouth
  • Heat sensation in chin, redness chin
  • Heat sensation in whole body (3)
  • Frowning eyebrows
  • Sore spot on right side of tongue
  • Granuloma in the left nasal cavity (within a month a very large granuloma developed inside the nose of one of the provers), which had to be surgically removed
  • Other prover noted sharp stitching pains
  • Dry eczema all over body (2)
  • Spontaneous cracks in fingers
  • All provers had headaches and/or migraines
  • Headache at root of nose
  • Migraine attacks (3) and one prover who had periodical migraine attacks every 3 weeks up until the proving had no attacks for weeks
  • Inflamed root of right front tooth
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • A sharp stitching pain on the right side of the nose, in the maxillary sinus. As if freezing cold
  • Nerve pain behind the right ear at the Sternocleidomastoid muscle attachment
  • Stitching in right ear
  • Nausea with vomiting (2)
  • Dysuria in the evening, difficult to completely empty bladder. Burning urine


Although there were several interesting dreams I picked this one because it illustrates what I interpret to be the essence of the remedy:

“I arrive at work and as I walk towards my office, I see on my watch that I’m actually a few minutes early. But as I see this I suddenly realise I have left all my equipment at home. So I am unable to do anything all day! Panic! Quickly I call home and ask if they can jump in the car and quickly bring me my gear. I will even drive towards them to meet them halfway. But the person at the other end of the line is in no hurry at all. ‘I just started watching my television program’. They have no intention to come and are also not impressed with my stressful state. I get very angry and finally they say they will leave in about ten minutes when the commercials start. No dammit now! It has to be NOW!!! But they cannot be rushed and I’m extremely angry about not being understood. Don’t they understand that our system only works if everybody does his part!  I wake up very angry at 03:00 with clenched teeth.”

A Case:

During the last few years, I’ve prescribed the remedy several times in similar cases so I feel this case will illustrate the essence of the remedy:

A female of 56: Her main complaint is hypertension and heat flushes due to menopause.

She’s been going through the menopause for some time and the symptoms (flushes) have been bearable but in the last year they have worsened. They are more intense and more frequent.

She has about six hot flushes per night and there is a lot of perspiration with each of them, so much that she has to change clothes. The heat goes from toes to the root of her hairs.

Each flush lasts for about ten minutes, after which she changes clothes and sometimes bed linen. Because they are so intense, they really disturb her sleep and she feels very un-refreshed in the morning. During the day there are also several flushes but she can handle them more easily. She has a small business, which she runs from her home so during the day she can just step outside wearing light clothing.

Her blood pressure has been around 170/100 for the past year. It’s always been a bit high (140/90) but what she has now doesn’t feel right.

Otherwise she feels very healthy.

The cause of her aggravation over the last year according to her is stress. Due to the economy her business isn’t doing as well as hoped and she has to put in a lot of extra work to secure her income.

In the last few years she has a LAT (living apart together) relationship with a man who also runs a small business from his home. Before the crisis both their businesses were doing very well but now they both have to work hard not to come into financial stress.

She is very determined and pragmatic in solving her part of the problem. He on the other hand is not doing much. He feels victimised by his circumstances and unless she helps him out he just resigns into a passive state.

As he lives over 50 kilometres away she doesn’t have enough time to hold up his business as well as hers. But she’s also accustomed to a certain lifestyle (holidays, concerts, trips, etc.) and she doesn’t want to be the one who carries the full financial load so she feels obliged to help him.

Meanwhile her daughter has been diagnosed as borderline personality. Their relationship is very bad and they have frequent arguments. She moved out of the house last month (to move in with her boyfriend) but is still squandering money. She doesn’t want to cut her off financially because then what will she do? But she also cannot keep up with her spending.

Her feeling is that she is left alone. Nothing is functioning because nobody is doing his part and she has to pick up other people’s share. Towards her daughter she is more patient. She just has to learn to deal with her state. Her partner is another story. His behaviour has really started a growing irritation and frustration.

Previously she has had several obvious homeopathic remedies with little to no effect.

We just finished the proving and I saw a resonating state so I prescribed her Melanerpes formicivorus C200, for the first time in September 2012.

A month later she reports that after the remedy she felt more calm, centered, less responsible towards the people around her (family, partner). The feelings of duty and responsibility towards the people in her life was often the basis for the connection which was more the cause of frustration and irritation then of a loving connection. She feels a strong desire to change this because it feels as ‘a bottomless pit’. The blood pressure has gone down a bit and the flushes have decreased slightly so I repeat the Rx in the same dose in October.

After the second dose she felt strong enough to break off the relationship. She didn’t want to be maneuvered into a position where she was his coach and therapist any longer. This really took a load off.

She also talked to her daughter and has followed a program for relatives of people diagnosed with borderline personality and how to deal with them. She feels better in her situation. Her way of connecting with people has changed. Instead of going automatically into a helper mode she stays healthily selfish.

Her blood pressure keeps going down and the flushes are still decreasing, especially the nocturnal ones which is a blessing. In January 2013 I repeated the remedy again (still C200) after which her blood pressure decreased to her original level (140/90 average) and her flushes went to an acceptable amount (2-3 per day).

The relationship with her daughter has improved significantly. She helped her find a job and she is now financially independent. The daughter still lives with her boyfriend but she is now able to distance herself from her sometimes hectic behaviour. They meet for dinner twice per week which is now on a friendly mother-daughter relationship base and no longer patient caretaker.

She has continued her homeopathic treatment with me up till this moment but for other complaints on which the Melanerpes had no effect. However, in these last two years her blood pressure has remained stable and the flushes (after the last prescription of Melanerpes already minimal) are gradually subsiding to even fewer per week.

She’s been through several stressful situations in these years (due to the economic crisis her business went through a hard time) but her ability to remain true to herself and not get overwhelmed by duty and responsibility for others has held up.


3Psychology of the Unconscious, C.G. Jung, Dover Publications, ISBN-13: 978-0486424996, 2003, New York, USA

Special thanks to Dennis Belom, who provided me with a naturally shed feather and Jenna Shamat who potentised the remedy for me – as the creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn. So I hope by this feather the proving will lead to many successful prescriptions.

About the author

Wiet van Helmond

Wiet van Helmond is a Dutch homeopath practicing in the Dutch cities of Vught, Heusden and The Hague. Besides his practice he has been one of the teachers at the Hahnemann Instituut and The Academy for Natural Healing.
He is a frequent requested lecturer on national and international seminars. Since 1999 he has been studying C4 homeopathy and has participated in many triturations and provings. The last decade he has been exploring deeply the homeopathic treatment of trauma and the use of gemstone remedies.

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