On The Study of Homeopathic Materia Medica

From a pathological point of view, a special study of a medicine which compares it at the same time to different forms of disease may be useful after a thorough knowledge of the symptoms of the medicine has been acquired. Experience teaches us that a number of apparently perfectly different diseases, which are far asunder in pathological works, may still be cured with the same remedy.

It would consequently be necessary to go over almost all diseases in connection with the remedy. This would be a great waste of time, and would not lead to a perfect knowledge of the remedy after all – our pathological systems are very far from being complete enough for this.

It would be well, however, to compare the description of individual forms of disease, with many classes of remedies. Thus, for instance, those catarrhs which indicate Mercury and allied medicines are very dissimilar to those in which Arsenic, and medicines of its class, are efficacious.

3. How Other Medicines Are To Be Connected To This One

After a thorough acquaintance with one or more remedies has been gained in the above manner, the student must then pass on to others. The best course will be to go on next to those most nearly allied.

The study of the second remedy is already somewhat easier. This is partly owing to the practice that has been had in acquiring knowledge of the symptoms, and partly because deviations from the character of the last studied medicine become more vividly impressed upon our mind.

We must, consequently, have a very clear perception of these differences. They must assist us to attain a distinct idea of the peculiarities of the second medicine, as well as to stamp the knowledge of the first more forcibly on our memory.

Therefore we must search for resemblances and observe differences in the more prominent symptoms – and in those that are more easily remembered, rarer, and more striking.

I have called attention above, in the examples of Bryon. and Bell., Caust. and Phosph., Arsen. and Carb. veg., to the fact, that medicines which otherwise present great similarities in their symptoms, are yet widely different in certain respects.

No regard needs to be paid to slight differences, nor even to whole groups of symptoms which one of the medicines has, and the other has not. No attention need be given to the fact that, in one case many symptoms are known, while with the other, very few are.

These factors may, however, demand our attention in cases where the different characters of the remedies are thereby marked – as in the case of Bell. compared with Bryon. regarding the moral symptoms, the effects upon the organs of the senses, the symptoms of the throat, etc.

The differences sometimes lie in the combinations of symptoms, whereby they may present resemblances to perfectly different diseases.

More frequently, and much more clearly, these differences are expressed in the conditions under which the symptoms occur. These are often exactly opposite.

Thus the very similar headaches produced by Bell. and Bry. occur in the former in the evening, in the latter in the morning.

These differences are sometimes very subtle. For instance, most of the exacerbations of Acid. nitr. occur in the evening, but those of Acid. mur. are before midnight. Those of Acid. sulph. are after midnight, and those of Acid. phosph. are seen towards the morning. But all the acids present nocturnal aggravations.

Symptoms of an opposite character are rare. But differences in nature are very frequent, as is the case in the gastric symptoms of Bell. and Bry., Bry. and Ant. crud., Ant. crud. and Ipec., etc.

Symptoms in opposite situations are more frequent. Thus, similar symptoms are often distinguished by occurring in one case on the right, in another on the left side – as happens with arn. and lach and others.

The catarrhal affections of bell. are distinguished from those of dulc. in that those of the former occur more in the mucous membranes of the head and neck – in the region of the carotids – where those of the latter occur more in the chest and abdomen – in the course of the descending aorta, etc.

Beginners are apt to attend too much to specialties when making these comparisons. This over attention becomes a very laborious task, and is apt to lead to a total abandonment of the study.

There is, however, no better way of avoiding this error, and of learning how to make one’s self quickly the master of the generalities, than to surmount undauntedly the laboriousness of the beginning.

On a second comparison, the mind is more accustomed to the work. According to the talents and previous acquirements of the student, will it be a longer or shorter time before he comes to be able to complete the comparison of two remedies in a few days.

We must caution those who pay too much attention to specialties not to be so very minute, but above all things to seek for points of crystallization. We must point out to those who are disposed to be superficial that important discoveries for practice may be made by a careful comparison.

The comparisons may be very easily made by means of Ruckert’s systematic tables. The remedies to be compared are to be sought out in each division, their symptoms carefully read, and the result committed to writing.

A separate column is assigned to each medicine. Those symptoms which both have in common should be written in the middle. When there is only similarity, the sign of similarity should be placed in the middle between them. Where opposites, or well-defined differences exist, they should be distinguished by an interposed arrow, etc.

It cannot be expected that anyone, least of all a beginner, will compare every remedy with every other. The student should select remedies for this purpose that he considers to be analogous, and which are known to possess important properties.

All remedies that are closely related by the source of their derivation, must also be srelated with respect to their symptoms. All that are chemically allied must be so medicinally. Those possessing similar odors – as are Phosph., Ars., All. sat., Asaf., and Bufo. – must possess resemblances in their symptoms, etc.

The chemical preparations may be arranged in natural families, according to one or other system. Those nearly related are thus compared, e.g., Sulph. and Phosph.; Chlor. and Iod.; the carbons and Graph.; the oxygenous acids, Nitr. ac., Sulph. ac., and Phosph. ac. are compared with each other, and with the hydrogenous acids, Mur. ac., Hydrocyan. ac.

Further, Sil., Alum.; the carbonates of potash, soda, and ammonia; Bar. and Stront.; Calc. and Magn.; the muriates of soda and Am., Bar. and Magn. The acetates of Cupr., Ferr., Plumb., Mang.; the metals Aur., Plat., Stann., Arg., and Zinc.

Interesting comparisons may be made between Phos. ac. and Phos.; Sulph. ac. and Sulph.; as also Sulph. and Hep., Hep. and Calc.

Medicines From The Vegetable Kingdom

Among medicines belonging to the vegetable kingdom, those which may be compared as being nearly allied, are:

    • Anac. and Rhus.
    • Bryon. and Coloc.
    • Ind. and Tong.
    • Op. and Chelid.
    • Spig. and Menyanth.
    • Viol. od. and Jac.
    • Thuya. and Sabin.


  • Coff., Ipec., Chin.
  • Colch., Verat., Sabad.
  • Euphr., Dig., Grat.
  • Lauroc., Prun. sp., Amyg. am.
  • Led., Rhod., Nux vom., Ign., Oleand.
  • Arn., Cham., Cin., Leont.
  • Asa., Cic., Con., Aet., Phell.
  • Bell., Caps., Hyosc., Stram., Tab., Verb.


  • Acon., Clem., Hell., Puls., Staph., Ran. bulb., and Sol.

The cryptogamous plants, Agar. musc., Bov., Lycop., are too remote from each other – and yet their symptoms are much more similar than those of the more nearly related families of Solaneae and Ranunculaceae. Sec. can only be judged from from the cures it has effected – the symptoms of it derived from epidemic diseases are not to be relied on.

It is worthy of observation that the differences of those substances which are allied in their origin lie principally in the conditions of the symptoms; whereas those substances nearly connected by the similarity of their symptoms alone, agree merely in single departments of symptoms, but in others have quite a different character and seat

Families of substances that are related only in their symptom may be formed from such medicines as may be employed with advantage in succession – or which serve as antidotes to each other.

In the present state of homeopathic literature, the formation of such families is a very hazardous experiment. But they are of much greater practical value than those formed from their natural affinity.

It is perfectly evident that substances that have a similar origin must produce many similar symptoms. Our business should be to search for the differences, in order to avoid confusion.

When, however, minerals, plants, and animals, widely different from each other, produce similar groups of symptoms, there must be some deeper reason for this. It must indicate the similarity of the medicinal to the natural diseases.

Such allied medicines are in general the best antidotes of each other. However – as must happen from the rules laid down above – among the metals that form several families, there are antidotes which are never found among those that are nearly connected, but always among those that are widely separated.

Thus it follows that Sel., Ars., and Am.; Plat. and Argent.; Stan. Plumb., Zinc. and Nic.; Ferr. and Mang. do not antidote each other. But the metals Plumb. and Plat.; Ferr. and Ars.; Am. and Merc. do.

Among plants there must be antidotes in each family, and perhaps in each genus. There are, indeed separate parts in every plant and animal, which seems to have a power of neutralizing the effects of the others.

Other homeopathic writers have pointed out a close connection between the two naturally allied substances Nux. and Ign., on the one hand, and the symptomatically allied Puls. – to which may be added Cham., Coff., and Caps. We may, I think, also reckon Ambr. among these.

Another family is Ars., Verat., Ipec., Asar., to which we may add Ferr. and Chin.; perhaps also Staph., and Ac. sulph..

Sulph., Calc., and Lyc. are well known as doing well in succession ‐ to which may be joined Led., and in another point of view, Therid.

One of the most remarkable and beautiful families is Hep., Merc., bell., and Lach. Between these and those allied to Arsen., may be placed Phos. ac. and Carb. veg., and those related to them, as alsoCupr., and on another account Aur.

Anyone who has thoroughly made himself master of two or three families, and then from time to time makes a comparison between two remedies which appear to him to be related — and between which he has frequently needed to make a most accurate choice in practice, as for instance, Sulph. and Ferr.; Phos. and Caust.; Ars. and Carb. v.; Bell. and Bry.; Bry. and Rhus.; Rhus. and Dulc., etc. — this homeopathic doctor gradually obtains such an extensive basis of knowledge that all the rest of the remedies are acquired without difficulty.

If a crystal of salt is suspended in a saturated solution of the same salt, the most beautiful crystals collect upon it.

So, one who is acquainted with a large number of medicines in the above manner, can thereafter compare every medicine with every other in a very short time – and without many quires of paper.

This must happen before our materia medica, which ought to belong to the natural sciences, can be looked upon as one of them.

About the author

C. Hering

C. Hering

Hering got the degree of M. D. from the University of Wuezburg with highest honours. The theme of his thesis was "De'Medicina Futura" (The medicine of future). Hering left Germany for West Indies and finally arrived at Philadelphia in Jan, 1833. He established a homeopathic school at Allentown, Pennsylvania, commonly known as "Allentown Academy". Soon he became very popular as a physician. He is known as the 'Father of Homeopathy' in America.

Leave a Comment