Homeopathy Papers

Senega – Viewed Through Boenninghausen’s Therapeutic Pocketbook (Using P&W Synopsis Software)

Written by Vera Resnick

Homeopath Vera Resnick discusses Senega symptoms using Boenninghausen’s Therapeutic Pocketbook and Synopsis Software. She also discovers Senega’s relationship to other remedies.

There are often remedies which show up in repertorization which we overlook – remedies which we aren’t familiar with, have never used and are just not part of our prescribing “vocabulary”.

For me, Senega is such a remedy. I have not yet prescribed it, but I do see it showing up on occasion in repertorization.

Polygala Senega, or snake root is of North American origin. From Wikipedia:

 This plant had many uses among Native Americans. The Cherokee used it as an expectorant and a diuretic, and for inflammation, croup, and common cold. The Chippewa used preparations of the root to treat convulsions and bleeding wounds. The Cree chewed the root for sore throat and toothache.[5] According to Canadian botanist Frère Marie-Victorin, the  Seneca may have been inspired to use the tortuous root to treat snakebite by its resemblance to the tail of a rattlesnake.It’s still in use for treatment of pneumonia.

Senega was proved by Massie in 1803. More detailed results of the proving can be found, among other sources, in Hughes’ Cyclopaedia of Drug Pathogenesy. The following are some examples from the proving:

  1. Dr. MASSIE took 10 dr. of gum dissolved in water.In 5 minutesthere was a sensation in esophagus as if the membrane had been abraded, lasted 1 hour.

Pulse, 84 before experiment, at 15 minutes was 78, 20 minutes 73, 30 minutes 70, 35 minutes 68, thence gradually rising to 76.

He then took 20 gr.: Irritation in esophagus was again felt, with some nausea; the drug also operated slightly as a purgative. (Inaug. Thesis, Penns. Univ., 1803; from ALLEN.)

  1. Mr. L. took 20 gr. of powdered root. In 10 minutes burning sensation in esophagus with considerable discharge of mucus from trachea (still continuing in slight degree 1 1/2 hour later).Pulse, 65 before experiment, in 10 minutes was 70 and fuller; later 72, whence it fell again. (Ibid.)
  1. Mr. L – took same.Had similar feeling in esophagus, with much hawking of mucus.In 30 minutes nausea, which increased up to 40 minutes.Pulse, 65 before experiment, gradually rose in 5 – 40 minutes up to 90, and was still 80 – 86 after 1 – 2 hours.

In 1 1/2 hour skin became very hot; in 1 3/4 hour profuse perspiration set in, and disagreeable symptoms were quite removed. (Ibid.)

  1. Mr. W. took same. Same irritation in esophagus; pulse, 68, was 80 at 30 – 40 minutes, and only returned to its starting-point in 2 1/2 hours (Ibid.)So what does Senega look like in Boenninghausen’s Therapeutic Pocketbook? And why do this kind of review?

One of the greatest problems we have in homoeopathy is lack of certainty about the information available to us.  We don’t always know which are the proving symptoms and which are clinical, or whether the proving was done exactly according to Hahnemann’s instructions – i.e. reliable – or not.  Doing this kind of review through other repertories may well give us a fractured jumble of many similar rubrics with two or three remedies in each, where the remedy we’re looking at features in some and not in others.  Certain information about what remedies can do is the lifeblood of homoeopathic work, and without it, our prescribing is resting on very thin ice.

All the rubrics in the TPB and the symptoms in each rubric are the result of Boenninghausen’s extensive sifting and categorizing of information.  Anything I find on Senega, or any other remedy where a proving may be less accessible, I can be certain comes from either primary proving sources, Boenninghausen’s own clinical experience or the experience of clinicians he trusted.  This significantly ramps up the importance of such a review in getting a reliable picture of what Senega can do.

A brief note about grading in the TPB: remedies appearing in three or four points for a symptom, are those where the symptom appeared in proving and was frequently observed to be relevant in clinical use of the remedy.  Remedies in one or two points are those which were noted in provings.  The clinical experience referred to was primarily that of Boenninghausen himself and of Hahnemann.

Senega appears in four points in the following rubrics. However, it takes its place among many other remedies, and does not appear in four points in any rubric with less than 50 remedies.

The number immediately after each rubric is the rubric number in the P&W Synopsis software facsimile of the original 1846 edition of Boenninghausen’sTPB, the number in the square brackets indicates the number of remedies in the rubric.

What about rubrics with less remedies? Senega is prominent in the following, and appears in three points:

So far this gives us a picture of a remedy state where the patient has a tendency to dryness, lack of perspiration and to an increased production of mucus in the larynx and trachea. There is very clear aggravation from mortification in this remedy state, and also relaxation of the body (pathological) and very deep sleep. In its appearance in three points in “Mortification” Senega is accompanied by Chamomile and Phosphoric Acid, with Colocynthis, Ignatia, Natrum-Muriaticum and Staphysagria in four points.

Where does Senega stand in terms of relationships with other remedies? For this I’ve done a search of its position in the Concordances section in the P&W Synopsis software.

From this search we see Senega is noted as an antidote to Arnica and Bryonia, as having some connection in terms of modalities with Angustura, Crocus Sativus, Kali Carbonicum, Kali Nitricum and Rhododendron Chrysanthum. In Generalities we find it in concordance with Aurum, Caladium, Carbo Vegetabilis, Causticum and Digitalis. The only remedy where we see Senega appearing twice is in Kali Nitricum, in modalities and in body parts.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be learned about a remedy through searching through the repertory. I did one last search, to see where Senega appeared in any grade, in rubrics with 10 remedies or less, and got the following result:

Senega’s only partner in the symptom Amelioration from Chewing is Bryonia. Its only partner in the symptom of Imaginary Odors resembling Pus is Sulphur.


In the concordance symptoms and in this last search, for the most part Senega appears in one point, indicating that Boenninghausen did not have much clinical experience with the remedy for these symptoms. However, its appearance in the TPB means it has definite significance in such cases, where it matches the totality of the disease state.

About the author

Vera Resnick

Vera Resnick, DHom Med (Lic) IHM, lives and works in Jerusalem, Israel, and teaches and practices locally and internationally. She trained in Tel Aviv, did postgraduate studies with David Little, and has been specializing in Boenninghausen's TPB, provings research and study methods, and use of LMs over the last 15 years. She has been working with the Institute for Homoeopathic Medicine (IHM) since 2010, and is an official of the IHM. You can read Vera's articles on provings, cases, the Organon and on homoeopathy in general on her blogs: www.pandwisrael.wordpress.com and www.jerusalemhomeopath.wordpress.com .

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