(This article first appeared in Townsend Letter – reprinted with permission of the author. )
Finding the Right Remedy for You: Kingdom, Family, Miasm
The sheer number of homeopathic remedies is mind-boggling: over 8000 and growing! Just think: any substance in nature can be prepared and prescribed as a homeopathic medicine! Compare this to the number of antibiotics, antifungals, or corticosteroids.
This specificity, corresponding to the uniqueness of each patient, is astounding. When a patient clearly fits a remedy, it is still exciting, after almost forty years in practice, because I feel reasonably certain that the remedy will have a profound effect on the patient as a whole.
The challenge is to find that one remedy for the individual. I have written often of the kingdoms: mineral, animal, and plant, as a way to narrow the range of possible remedies in order to find the simillium (the one best remedy, or ideal match).
There are a variety of schema that help the homeopath find that remedy. The one I continue to find most helpful is the Sensation Method of Dr. Rajan Sankaran, but I greatly respect other teachers, especially Jeremy Sherr, Massimo Mangialavori, Jan Scholten, Michal Yakir.
An invaluable complement addition to the classification of kingdoms, also invaluable is the concept of miasms. I have written occasionally about miasms, but never in the context of understanding what is going on in our world. Samuel Hahnemann, the illustrious physician who founded homeopathy, observed that, even if the correct remedy relieved a patient’s symptoms, the tendency, in some cases, was to become ill again.
Why did this occur and how could it be addressed? That is how Hahnemann’s concept of miasms came to be. A miasm, literally, is swamp air… an unhealthy vapor or atmosphere. In other words: a predisposition to a particular disease which interferes with treatment and healing. Hahnemann introduced three main miasms: psora, sycosis, and syphilis. This concept was originally introduced by Hahnemann in his book, The Chronic Diseases, published in 1928.
Originally, it was postulated that 85% of disease was due to psora (literally “the itch). The remaining 15% were said to be either syphilitic or sycotic. During my study at Bastyr University (then called John Bastyr College of Naturopathic Medicine), I never really knew much how to apply the miasms.
Bob and I once sat in with Dr. Proceso Sánchez Ortega, famous for his studies of miasms, in Mexico City. His method was to list every symptom in the case, and then to add them up to see which miasm was predominant. It wasn’t until 1993, when I studied with Dr. Rajan Sankaran in Mumbai that I began to grasp how to actually apply the concept of miasms clinically. Since that time, I have found them to be immensely helpful in finding patients’ remedies and understanding their dynamics.
In brief, the following are the miasms, and a brief explanation of each. I have referred to them often in articles and teaching, but never actually written about using them to understand our world situation. The two sources, out of countless, that I use here are Rajan Sankaran’s Schema and Miasms of the New Millennium by Nancy Herrick and Roger Morrison (quite a magnum opus on the subject). In brief, from the least serious and entrenched, to the most.
- Acute (Rabies) miasm (introduced by Hahnemann)
- Typhoid miasm (Sankaran)
- Malarial miasm (Sankaran)
- Ringworm miasm (Sankaran)
- Psoric miasm (Hahnemann)
- Sycotic miasm (Hahnemann)
- Cancer miasm (Foubister)
- Tubercular miasm (Vithoulkas)
- Leprosy miasm (Vakil)
- Syphilitic miasm (Hahnemann)
Why was it necessary to introduce more miasms? Because they were archaic and not very helpful clinically much of the time; in fact, they were often ignored, and the remedy based exclusively on materia medica. So, Dr. Sankaran and his colleagues organized nearly 250 remedies to specific miasms.
We are talking about 250 remedies, initially, out of a pool, now, of over 8000. But that work opened a door for me, and for many other homeopaths, to integrating miasms into our clinical prescribing. I have since found this to be invaluable in selecting remedies for many patients, especially adults.
Again, the reason for miasms, when originally introduced by Dr. Hahnemann, was to address deep, persistent, underlying predispositions, which, despite the prescription of a homeopathic remedy that matched the individual’s symptoms well, the person would become ill again. The tendency remained.
A Basic Description of These Miasms
- Acute– Think first of acute illnesses, especially serious or life-threatening ones such as scarlet fever or pneumonia. We are talking about being on the edge of life or death. Such a condition is often sudden and unexpected.
I remember when my husband, Bob, had scheduled a 50th birthday party just after we returned from teaching in Boulder. He awoke that Saturday morning feeling exhausted, not himself. We canceled the event, though one unfortunate friend didn’t get the message and showed up at the door, only to be given the news that Bob might be contagious.
I woke Sunday morning very early to find bright red blood in the bathroom sink. We raced off island to an ER, to be told by the on-staff doc that he had severe bacterial pneumonia and would likely not have lasted even another five hours!
But the acute miasm applies not only to those suffering such a life-or-death acute illness, but also individuals who feel as if they are. It might be a fight or flight state, mania, or a severe phobia in which one feels one’s very existence is under threat.
- Typhoid- Few of us have suffered from typhoid unless we happened to travel to Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, or Latin America. In fact, I remember it being one of the few travel vaccinations that we received prior to travel to the Amazon.
Typhoid is characterized by a high fever along with being bedridden from violent diarrhea. The situation is not as immediately life-threatening as the acute miasm, yet the situation is still urgent and death, though not imminent, is certainly possible.
The feeling of the individual is: I will do anything to get through this crisis and, once I do, I can rest. Pathologies belonging to the typhoid miasm are colitis, Crohn’s disease, and states of collapse.
- Malarial– In the malarial miasm, the patient suffers but there is no imminent threat to one’s life. One can think of malaria where the symptoms, such as fever, may recur every 72 hours. The suffering is characterized by intermittent attack leaving one feeling weak, vulnerable, and dependent.
The individual feels unfortunate, harassed, stuck, and generally miserable. Other pathologies belonging to the malarial miasm include recurring hemorrhoids, migraines, asthma, or rheumatic pain.
- Ringworm– Ringworm and other fungal conditions are not life-threatening, but they are extremely annoying and may require a constant effort to keep them at bay. The feeling of the patient is to try, try, and try again to find a solution.
Think of nail fungus, where individuals are forever trying to find something that works, resorting to one medication after another. Or patients with whatever condition who go from one practitioner to the next or one treatment after another, never giving up hope that a cure or relief will be found.
- Psoric– The feeling is one of struggle against an external problem but with a feeling of optimism. In the Sankaran system, this category is not nearly as common as the other miasms.
- Sycotic– If you think of gonorrhea, which is the primary condition in this miasm, the feeling is one of shame, embarrassment, and covering up. There is a feeling of chronicity; that the problem cannot be overcome, but, instead, must be accepted.
Genital herpes is a perfect example, where one may suffer recurrences lifelong and runs the perpetual risk of passing the condition on to one’s sexual partner. The desire to hid may be literal, such as hiding the eruption or disfigurement, or a feeling of inferiority or shame on a more inward level. Besides STDs, asthma, eczema, and cancer can belong to this miasm.
- Cancer– I dedicated an article to the cancer miasm years ago, referring to “the stain of perfectionism.” The individual feels (s)he must do everything perfectly, thoroughly, flawlessly in order to maintain control. One feels pushed to, and beyond, one’s limit to keep one’s health, family, life under control. Mistakes and chaos are intolerable. Pathologies include cancer and neurological disorders, including M.S.
- Tubercular– This miasm invokes the feeling of “run for your life,” or “burning the candle at both ends.” So much to do, so many places to go, so many people to meet… and so little time. There is a tremendous feeling of frantic hurry. Most common are respiratory conditions, classically TB, arthritis with deformation, and a psychiatric feeling of being persecuted.
- Leprosy– Individuals belonging to this miasm will use words such as “shunned” or “reviled.” They feel loathed by others, resulting in self-hatred and disgust. Think of a terribly disfiguring skin condition or mannerism. The individual may feel depressed to the point of harboring suicidal thoughts, and self-mutilation and suicidal ideation are common.
- Syphilitic– This is the final miasm in the progression, and the most desperate. Prior to antibiotics, syphilis carried a death sentence, resulting in physical or mental destruction. Pathologies involve destruction of the bones, heart, and nervous system, leading ultimately to death. Violent thoughts, suicidal ideation, and destructiveness, such as through addictions, are common, including alcoholism.
How to Use Miasms in Thinking About Our World Today
As synchroncity would have it, I had signed up to attend a virtual homeopathic webinar by some of my favorite Canadian colleagues, Sunil Anand and Roland Guenther, on “Collective Catastrophes and Transgenerational Trauma.”
They presented, deeply and articulately, some of the same points I wanted to cover here, including the application of miasms to treating patients suffering from our societal maladies. Many of us, worldwide, are trying to make sense of what often seems to be chaos bordering on insanity.
As with individual patients, once we identify the miasm, along with the kingdom (usually animal, plant, or mineral), then we can narrow the likely remedies considerably. Here are some examples of a few of the miasmatic themes that I see at play during this time. I present them in hopes of diminishing, at least a bit, what I find to be global, confusion, bewilderment, divisiveness, separation, and despair.
“Any moment could be my last. I am just trying to survive.”
Hunger– Over 800 million adults and children worldwide go hungry. Not only Sierra Leone, Haiti, Liberia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Somalia. Ninety years ago, Joseph Stalin’s Soviet regime inflicted a devastating famine on Ukraine, killing nearly four million people. It was known as genocide by hunger, the Holodomor. This appears to be happening yet again. The USDA estimates that over 38 million people, including 12 million children, in the US are food insecure.
Homelessness– Globally over 1.5 billion people live in inadequate housing condition, and it is on the rise. Here in Seattle, one only needs to drive to the downtown REI, after passing the myriad of tents under the nearby bridge, or visit Ravenna Park, Pioneer Square, or the University District.
All of these, in the past, were safe, charming, lovely. And this tragic circumstance in the stomping grounds of Amazon, Microsoft, and Starbuck’s. Our charming town of Langley on Whidbey Island in Washington has such a severe housing crisis that providers of basic services can no longer afford to live here.
Suicide– Even in our small town of Langley, Washington, two beloved members of the community took their own lives within the past year and a half. Not to mention many more in profound despair due to the isolation of the pandemic, being trapped in homes or apartments during lockdowns, feeling far from those near and dear, or having no one.
Ongoing panic and terror associated with Covid- Be it an ongoing terror of contagion, of running the risk of catching Covid by association with friends, family, community, or the panic of being forced to be vaccinated.
Threat of injury or murder– As hunger and scarcity rise, so do theft, murder, and uncertainty about safety, possessions. livelihood. In Ukraine we are talking about not knowing when the next bomb or sniper will destroy one’s home, family, life. Of whether one’s home will still be standing, and safe, the next hour or day.
The reality of living moment to moment, not knowing whether one will see the male relatives left behind. Of grabbing a pet crate, or carrying a dog or cat in one’s arms, and of setting out on a journey to another country, leaving behind life as one knew it.
Or, in the U.S., of not knowing when your children might be the victims of another school or mall mass murder. When Bob and I wrote Rage Free Kids, just after the Columbine school shooting, we had no idea it would be only the beginning of countless, senseless mass shootings, the most recent, in Buffalo, just last week. Think about sending your kids to school, going to work or to worship yourself, or being pulled over by a law enforcement agent: for many parents this alone invokes the acute miasm.
“I will do whatever is needed to get through the crisis. Then I can rest.”
Health Care Workers During the Pandemic and in War-Torn Settings– Think of the ER and ICU workers at the height of the Covid pandemic. The photos we all saw of beyond-exhausted medical care teams catching some sleep on a bench, on the floor. Bruised faces from hours after hour of masking and protective gear. The medical personnel who faced screaming by family members who were not satisfied with their care.
Postal Service Workers– One of my long-time patients has worked for USPS for nearly forty years. Previously, she loved her job. It involved lots of walking, she finished by 3PM each day, and she counted her blessings to be paid well and have a secure retirement.
Then came Amazon deliveries through the postal service. Now, at 3PM, having delivered all the mail in her truck, she had to deliver another truckload of Amazon packages, and worked feverishly until 7PM. She was the fourth postal employee in her post office to turn in her resignation over a short period of time.
The postal clerk, beside herself, could only reply, “Oh, no, not you, too!” Pushing, pushing, pushing, in hopes of a rest that doesn’t come. We live in town of 1000 residents on Whidbey Island, and the same is true. The beleaguered postal workers are there seven days a week, rain or shine, on the verge of exhaustion, hold back tears or rage.
Other Service Workers– Our community is very eco, treasuring its recycling centers. Having returned recently from six months in Chile, where recycling is hit and miss, to say the least, I was quite happy to be back to a place where folks eagerly line up to dump their recyclables.
I happened to ask the attendant what it had been like for her during the height of the pandemic. She looked as if she would break into tears and shared how
she had been spat on, sworn at, and sprayed with vinegar by locals who were terrified that they might catch the virus from her. She was still hanging in there, out of desperation no doubt.
The syphilitic miasm is about end-stage destruction, decay, despair, devastation, violence, murder, and death. The mere image of victims’ noses falling off, a deformity resulting from the destruction of the bony framework, makes one shudder. Think of anarchy, suicide bombers, nuclear war.
Having babies in bomb shelters or missiles being fired on a maternity hospital. The moment-to-moment life-threatening work conditions of journalists in war zones internationally, such as the Palestinian, Shireen Abu Akleh, as she shouted for aid to save the life of a colleague. The utter, senseless destruction of humans, animals, habitats for the sake of resources, power grabs, pure selfishness. The breakdown and wanton desecration of bodies, families, homes, hospitals.
War is nothing new in our lifetimes. As much as we might hope that the genocide and mass destruction of WW2 might have taught us “never again,” that is far from what has happened.
Ukraine- The world is now riveted on the current battle for Ukraine which is only too real and immediate thanks to the social media and the intimate, up-to-the-moment world wide web. Vladimir Putin, for one, seems to be the epitome of the syphilitic miasm: poisoning or imprisoning enemies, sending 19-year-old Russian soldiers to die in a foreign land for no apparent reason except for power.
I recently learned a bit about the chilling history of Putin’s family. During the Siege of Leningrad, Putin’s brother died of diphtheria and his parents only later learned where he, along with half a million other victims of the siege were buried.
Putin himself shared the story of his mother’s remarkable salvation. Returning from the hospital, Putin’s father saw corpses being carried out on stretchers to be buried in a mass grave. He recognized his wife, Putin’s mother, injured but alive, on her way to being buried in a mass grave.
Striking out with his crutches, he made them carry her back to their apartment. There he nursed her back to health, only to give birth, sometime later, to their son, Vladimir. Previous to that time, five of his six brothers had perished in battle, as well as some of his mother’s relatives. This is the ongoing generational terrain of the syphilitic miasm.
The Destruction of Sea and Land Habitat Worldwide– The Amazon rain forest is a prime example of this unconscionable selfish land rape. We had the good fortune to visit the indigenous Huaorani tribe of Ecuador some years ago. They were the victims of extraction and logging by Royal Dutch Shell, then Texaco.
The deforestation, illegal hunting, and collection of animals and their parts for food, Chinese medicine, and pet trade, have pushed many species to the brink of extinction. This is the same message of the recent films Seaspiracy and Becoming Cousteau.
Deaths Due to Covid Worldwide– The number of reported deaths worldwide are 522 million, of which over 6 million have been reported in the US, 43 million in India, and 31 million in Brazil. I have no desire to engage in a discussion of accuracy of reporting, but rather to point out the enormous destruction/loss of life during this time, not to mention of livelihood.
Decay and Despair on Individuals, Families, Social Systems During the Pandemic– Regardless of personal beliefs about CV diagnosis, mass vaccinations, lockdowns, the effect on the social fabric worldwide has been devastating, individually, culturally, societally.
How to Use This Information
Miasms are a fascinating, practical concept in homeopathy to understand patients, societies, processes, and to narrow the field of the eight thousand+ homeopathic remedies now available. We have Dr. Samuel Hahnemann to thank for adding this dimension to homeopathic philosophy and practice during his lifetime. And to Rajan Sankaran and others, mentioned above, to elaborate on, expand, and categorize remedies in this way. I hope that this material can provide yet another useful framework for homeopaths and others to make sense of what often seems to be a senseless world.
Just a day or two after finishing this article, appalled by the senseless murders at Uvalde and Buffalo, on top of the murderous war in Ukraine, I was struck yet again by the syphilitic abyss of our current world situation. I received a Clinician Alert, at the same time, from the Snohomish, Washington Health District informing me that syphilis transmission is on the rise.
“Syphilis transmission was nearly eliminated in Washington State in the miid-1990s following population-level behavioral changes elicited by the response to the human immunodeficiency virus…Rates of syphilis among cisgender women and among heterosexual men in Washington State have been rising since 2015, even more so during 2010-2021…
The 2021 rate of total syphilis among cisgender women in Washington was nearly double that observed in 2020 and more than 8 times higher than in 2012… A record 51 cases of congenital syphilis were reported in 2021 (versus 3 cases in 2019 and 10 in 2020.” A coincidence? I don’t think so.