Introduction: The Debate
In recent years, there has been a fierce and exciting dialogue that has blossomed within the homeopathic community considering what had been called classical and innovation homeopathy. In many ways, the debate hinges on the manner in which the practitioner determines the nature and qualities of the remedy and the steps taken to find the client /remedy match.
Sankaran and Scholten have pioneered methods of finding a remedy that are unfamiliar and seem iconoclastic. Those who deem themselves classical are strict adherents to all remedy data coming only from provings, cured cases and known data of various poisons. The approach of some of the innovators is to conceptualize a system in which remedies we know via the classical system are seen in a systemic manner and speculation about materials as yet unproven are theoretically placed within the system. In many ways it is the old inductive deductive debate. Do we learn by observing or do we learn by organizing observations and speculating; theory building versus strict empiricism?
In this article, we will look at a method of studying remedies which incorporates both traditional classical and innovative approaches. What are all the things we know about this remedy from every perspective in order to fully appreciate its essence?
Rajan Sankaran: The Vital Sensation
Sankaran’s method, called the Vital Sensation, conceptualizes each remedy as manifesting in a sensation within the patient. When studying materia medica, it is helpful to remember that Sankaran thinks of the families of remedies found in nature as having a common baseline. Minerals manifest structure; plants manifest reactions and sensitivities; and animals manifest aggression and competition. The sensation that the remedy manifests in nature, eg. the withdrawal and speed of the cuttlefish, Sepia, will be seen within the symptom manifestation of the patient.
Jan Scholten: The Periodic Table
Scholten developed an approach to materia medica which focuses on those elements within the periodic table of elements. Many of these elements are already proven remedies. He used a method of looking at the periodic table which takes an understanding of those remedies already proven and used a predictive or speculative understanding of the remedies nearby, an approach that explores the relationship of mineral remedies to each other. He then developed a thematic which looks at stage of life using the periodic table as a prototype. Looking down the columns of the periodic table we see an Ericksonian-like developmental chart: being incarnate, individuality, connection/family, work, creativity and leadership. Looking across the Periodic table are 18 stages of life: starting out; finding space, comparing, establishing, preparing, proving, prevailing, perseverance, success, mastery, preserving, division, withdrawal, formal, loss, remembering, letting go and rest.
Traditional Classical Approach
As mentioned earlier, those who see themselves as traditional classical homeopaths, adhering to data from provings, cured cases and poison toxicology, also have varied approaches to studying materia medica. Boenninghausen, who developed the first repertory, used his background in law and his interest in botany to develop a system of taking a case: location, sensation, and modalities to organize his repertory. Kent utilized a Swedenborgian understanding of the human being, placing much more emphasis on mind and personality than Hahnneman. His study of materia medica reflects his awareness of mental/emotional symptoms and a more complex understanding of human nature. Even more recently, Vitoulkas in his teaching of materia medica has given us the word “essence” to understand the nature of the remedy. So homeopathy’s history is full of innovation, but perhaps long held traditions and familiar language produce different levels of comfort and acceptance.
An Integrative Approach
Regardless of the debate, and one’s position within it, I have found that all of us might benefit from tools which allow for the remedy information from all schools of thought to be integrated. I therefore offer this device, which I call a Remedy Profile to help those of us studying the remedies to get a fuller picture of the substance we engage with.
In studying materia medica, I have found it useful to think about the remedy as having a profile. Just as the silhouette art form of the late 1800’s gave a distinct outline of a person or object, so to a remedy profile is an outline of the remedy integrating insights into the remedy from multiple perspectives.
The remedy profile provides a holistic, inclusive picture of the remedy taking into account the substance in nature from which the remedy comes, as well as all the variety of understandings that allow us to most fully appreciate the remedy. I developed this method of studying remedies as a way of helping students integrate the many different pieces of information that emerge.
Overview: A Remedy Profile – 16 Points:
- Kingdom: structure-sensitivity-competition
- Substance in nature-qualities
- Family-with characteristics (sensations, periodic chart, themes)
- Lead remedy and keynotes
- Other remedies in family and differentials
- Mental characteristics
The Remedy: simply the name of the remedy as identified by homeopaths.
The Kingdom: In what aspect of the material world does the substance reside. There are only three kingdoms: plants, animals and minerals, although Vermeulem writes of the fungi and monera (bacteria and virus) as separate kingdoms. Recently I heard a well versed homeopath say “birds aren’t animals are they?” ; and, of course they are. Birds are animals and their subspecies, avaria, in which they reside is yet a further definer, but animal they are.
The Substance in nature: Each remedy comes from the material world with a series of characteristics which describe it within the larger web of life. Where in the material world does this remedy come from and what are the characteristics of the remedy “in the wild”, as it were? Is it a plant, animal or mineral material? Is it a benign or poisonous substance? What are its characteristics in nature and how might these give us clues to how it might be helpful. The old conceptualization of the doctrine of signatures gives us a historical footnote. The structure, shape or color of a substance was thought to be a clue as to its usefulness. Often these material characteristics give us information about how the remedy might be useful.
Sankaran has spurred on a type of research that looks to exploring the qualities of a substance using research from geology, biology, botany. The wonderful tool of the internet allows homeopaths a wide range of research to explore this domain.
The Family: what characteristics do members of the same family have in common? What are the common symptoms of snakes, solanceaes , kali’s. salts or acids ? How do we get to know the relatives of a remedy and what do these relatives tell us about the larger grouping?
Remedy provings: What substances have provings and of what type. Are they the traditional Hahnemannian provings, a dream or meditation proving? There has been some controversy as to the reliability of dream or meditation provings, yet some of the work being down to prove a previously proved remedy via dreams or meditations will allow for a greater clarity as to the validity of this right brained technology. Tinus Smits has done some interesting work in this direction. Recent provings of remedies by Jeremy Sherr and geographical groupings by Todd Rowe and Yolanda Grill are also significant. Richard Pitt’s recent work on tobacco, combining anthropological data, provings and clinical insights is yet another rich approach.
Lead remedy and keynotes: This is similar to the material found in families in that a specific family has a more well know “leader” with keynotes ascribed to it. The muriacitums have Natrum mur, the arsenicums have Arsenicum album. Roger Morrison has given us Vithoulkas’ keynotes which is a classic in homeopathic prescribing. This is probably one of the first places new students go when studying homeopathy. What are the specific strange rare and peculiar characteristics which are most specific to particular remedies? The talkativeness (loquacity) of the snake remedies or the sighing associated with Ignatia or the sadness with leadership and responsibility associated with Aurum-the keynotes which help us recognize a remedy picture
Other remedies in the family and differentials: What is the difference between Arsenicum Album and Arsenicum Iodatum? How do we know the other remedies in a particular group or as Massimo Mongalavori writes, of “arsenicum-like” remedies.
Mental/emotional characteristics: Emotion is just the feelings one has while operating in the world. A healthy person has a full range of feelings and may experience many of them throughout the day. When emotions are “stuck” or too repetitive we begin to see a pattern and that pattern is part of the remedy profile. Who can think of Arsenicum without thinking about worrying, or Causticum without indignation about injustice coming to mind? What are the personalities or characteristics of the remedies? We think of Coulter or Bailey’s personality types. The mental characteristics, too often erroneously thought of as emotions, are actually the person’s skill in negotiating the world: judgment, memory, clarity of thought, ability to focus all of these allow for the person to be “present” to her work, her world and her relationships.
Polarities: just as each remedy has this mental picture, there is also the polarity—the opposite. Is the Sulphur fiery and intellectual or burned out and disinterested. What is the continuum along which the remedy runs?
Never well since: What are the traditional etiologies ascribed to this remedy. The exposure to wet and cold of Aconite or Bryonia’s aliments from business are well known examples. Many remedies have a strong association with the beginning of symptoms manifesting. Never well since heartbreak and the idea of Ignatia or Nat Mur emerge; never well since injury and we might think of Arnica. In homeopathy, the idea that disturbance of the vital force brings forth symptoms, places the exciting cause of the symptoms, the never well since, as a critical focal point of remedy study.
Affinities: Which body system is this remedy most associated with. The muscles aches and injuries associated with Ruta, Bellis and Arnica or the mental characteristics of anger associated with the Solanceae family.
Acutes: What sudden problem is most associated with this remedy—Arsenicum and diarrhea, Nux Vomica and hangovers. Some of the work of Asa Hershoff , Thomas Kruzel and Dennis Chernin are especially helpful in this regard.
Chronics: What long standing illness brings this remedy to mind as one is repertorizing? The depression and loss of esteem of the Aurum or the remedies more associated with a particular system-the respiratory or digestive system.
Modalities: Better from, worse from; time of day, temperature, thirst. All are clues that help make up the jigsaw puzzle of a remedy picture. The aggravated by motion of the Bryonia, the ameliorated by continued motion of a Rhus tox. It is almost like the modalities are the borders of the remedy picture-finishing touches.
Miasms: Hahnemann introduced the idea that there was an underlying reason for reoccurrence of chronic disease, and certain remedies targeted specific causes. Whether we use Hahnemann’s triad of miasms: psora, sycotic and syphilitic; or expand it to include tubercular, malaria, ringworm, cancer, typhoid and leprosy, the idea of knowing the miasm that the remedy most rigorously targets is quite useful in practice. Many remedies are multi-miasmatic, but knowing that some remedies target certain underlying causes helps us understand the remedy more fully. Sulphur for psora, Thuja for sycosis and Aurum for syphilitic are but a few examples. Bannerjee’s  work as well as that of Van der Zee and Heusten-Mast are especially helpful in exploring these concepts, as is Sankaran in his development of a more expanded versions of miasms.
Research: Finally what research supports this remedy? It may be animal research of Nux Vomica where rats were feed sufficient “alcohol water” to allow them to develop a taste for drinking. After doses of Nux vomica there was a statistically significant preference for ordinary water. Is the research in the nature of extensive case histories as identified by Andrea Saine, animal research, or double blinded randomized controlled studies? Some of the more recent work of Iris Bell, Peter Fisher and David Reilly has given us a more contemporary form of research, but the full range of observations, case studies and provings of the remedies need to be honored as well.
Taking the remedies and creating their profiles might be a useful way to begin to the integration of the various insights into the totality of the remedy. If we think of each remedy as a jigsaw puzzle, each comes from a particular natural substance, with qualities and characteristics, with demonstrated acute and chronic uses, often associated with a specific type of insult to the vital force; each has associated mental and emotional qualities and a relationship to the underlying miasmatic state and each has an energetic presentation. The new picture, with a full profile allows a clearer picture to emerge. The new does not replace the old, rather the innovative compliments the traditional.
 Erick Erickson
 Rowe, and Grill
 Van der Zee