Homeopathy Papers Organon & Philosophy

Drug Provings


Dr. William Boericke presents a summary of the basic rules for doing drug provings.

The proving of medicines is a distinctive feature of Homoeopathy and a logical necessity for applying the law of cure, for in order to meet morbid states with drugs corresponding to them, we must know, and therefore ascertain, what morbid states the different medicinal substances produce. It consists in the systematic testing of a drug on the healthy human body, in order to ascertain the changes which it is capable of producing in the functions and organs.

Hahnemann, after viewing the subject in every possible light, and examining every method for ascertaining the action of drugs, came to the conclusion that the only efficient way was “to test the medicines singly and alone on the healthy human body.

General Rules for Drug Proving

The medicinal substance which is to be proved must be tested singly, without any admixture of any foreign substance, except an inert vehicle when necessary for its administration. Nothing of a medicinal nature should be taken so long as it is desired to observe the effects of the proving.

Each drug should be proved, not only in its crude form and lower material dosage, but with higher attenuations as well. When the latter are used and symptoms obtained, a special susceptibility on the part of the prover probably exists and some of the most important characteristics may be elicited from him. Only actually observed facts should be recorded, free from all theories of drug action. Such purely positive observation is for all time, and possesses the same value after the lapse of centuries as it does at the time when first observed. If any deductions be drawn from the observed facts, they should not be incorporated into the text, but kept separate and distinct. For this reason, Hahnemann called his Materia Medica “Pura” (pure), because free from all theories, only a record of observed facts. Hence, in making a proving, great precaution, control experiment, accuracy, close observation, and the strictest conscientiousness are essential.

Directions for provers

The prover should not depart in any material way from any of his ordinary habits of life, because his life is based on these habits and conformed to them, and any marked change in these must result in changes more or less important, which might be put to the account of the drug. Hence, his food, drink, sleep, exercise, and habits generally must be such as he has been accustomed to. He should observe himself before beginning a proving, as everyone is liable, even in the best state of health, to slight variations in his sensations and functions. Having thus discovered what symptoms he is liable to naturally and without any drug influence, he must avoid attributing these to the drug to be proven, unless, indeed, they are more pronounced than ever.

Dosage required for proving

As a general rule, begin with a comparatively small dose and increase it gradually till distinct symptoms make their appearance. The most useful doses are those that are just sufficient to produce distinct symptoms.

Female provers

It is very important to test all drugs in regard to their effects on the female organism, hence women, married and unmarried, should contribute to provings. Before beginning the record of a proving, she should inscribe in the notebook a statement of her age, temperament, the sicknesses which she has had, and those to which she has an inherited or acquired tendency; also, whatever pains or sensations she may be habitually subject to; also, any peculiar susceptibilities she may possess to external influences of any kind, or to mental, or moral, or emotional excitements, depressions or perversions. Her constitutional peculiarities, respecting the menstrual function, should be carefully recorded; regarding frequency, quantity, character, and whatever inconveniences or sufferings precede, accompany or follow menstruation, such as headache, backache, colic, leucorrhoea, etc., with peculiar states of mind or emotion.

Repetition of doses

No special rule can be given, but it has been the custom of most provers to repeat the dose every few hours until symptoms show themselves. It is best to give a single, rather large, dose and watch its effects. This plan is chiefly useful with some vegetable medicines, whose sphere of action is small, and of which the first dose sometimes exhausts, for a time, the susceptibility of the system to the action of the substance. The continuous repetition of the dose is applicable, if we want to ascertain the special action of a drug on some organ or function by continued dosing.

Age and sex are modifying factors in drug proving, and all drugs should be tried on individuals of both sexes and different ages. Some drugs possess marked affinity for one sex, as Crocus and Platina for the female, and Nux preferably the male.


Different temperaments should be chosen, for certain medicines are especially adapted to certain temperaments, and here find the most favor able environment for developing their specific effects.


The provings should be repeated in different individuals and in the same prover. In order to avoid the admission of accidental symptoms, it is a safe rule, although not absolute, not to adopt any symptoms unless it has been found in several provers. By comparing one proving with another, and ascertaining the constancy with which the different symptoms appear, the characteristic symptoms are made manifest. It is to be remembered that all individuals are not alike susceptible to all the effects which a drug is capable of producing; therefore, the need of a large number of experiments is apparent, in order to obtain a complete view of the action of a drug.

Bering’s Rules for Provers

(1)  Make a first experimental test with a single, moderate-sized dose.

(2)  If no symptoms are produced, take it every two or three hours, or change the time of the day for taking it.

(3)  If still no symptoms, try higher potencies, to which might be added this rational, additional rule: if still no symptoms appear, go lower in the scale of attenuations and give material doses, increasing size until symptoms appear.

In the nature of things, some of the symptoms take time to develop, therefore the first experiments with small doses should not be hurried. The prover should learn to wait, for some of the late appearing symptoms are frequently the most characteristic.

How to Describe Symptoms Obtained from a Proving

The greatest minuteness and accuracy should be observed. A sensation should be described by some familiar comparison. State how the symptom is affected by different circumstances, i. e., the drug’s modalities, as position of body, motion, rest, eating, fasting, day, night, indoors, open air, weather, etc. No circumstance, however trifling, should be omitted which may in any way tend to indicate the characteristic action of the drug and so precisionize it. All such conditions of aggravation and amelioration should be carefully recorded as they express the drug’s individuality most clearly and universally.

The sides of the body on which symptoms occur should always be stated, many remedies acting more markedly on one side than another.

The times of occurrence, aggravation or amelioration, are also very important, some remedies having distinctive morning aggravation of some or all of their symptoms, others at night, etc. As an illustration of a perfect description of a symptom, take the following of Hahnemann’s proving of Nux: “Headache beginning some hours before dinner, increased after eating, then violent shooting pain in left temple, with nausea and very acid vomiting, all of which symptoms disappeared on lying down.”

The three essential features of every complete symptom are, therefore,

(1) Location.

(2) Sensation.

(3) Condition of aggravation or amelioration (modality), which is the most important, and it ought to be the aim of all provers to observe symptoms with these features well in mind.

Never separate symptoms that appear in groups or with marked concomitants. Hahnemann always left together symptoms appearing in groups, if he considered them really connected. For instance, he observed, forty-five minutes after taking Pulsatilla, a cramp in the legs, in the evening, after lying down, with a chill; and at another time, in the evening, an aching, drawing pain in the legs up into the knee, with more chilliness than during the day.

Primary and Secondary Drug Effects

It is a law of drug action, according to which the administration of each medicine causes, at first, certain abnormal symptoms, the so-called primary effects of medicines, but afterwards, by reaction of the organism, a condition entirely the opposite, where this is possible, of this first effect is produced, the secondary effects. For instance, narcotic substances produce primarily insensibility and secondarily pain. In order to produce the primary effects, material doses are required.

In his essay, entitled “Suggestions for Ascertaining the Curative Powers of Drugs,” Hahnemann says:

“Most medicines have more than one action; the first a direct action, which gradually changes into the second (which I call the indirectly secondary action). The latter is generally a state exactly the opposite of the former. In this way most vegetable drugs act. But a few medicines are exceptions to this rule, i. e., metals and minerals. The thorough examination of drug provings, as in our possession at present, does not justify any division of drug symptoms into primary and secondary. There are indeed in every proving, as Dr. Hering has shown, primary and secondary symptoms, in the sense that some symptoms appear earlier and others later in the course of the proving, but although these may appear opposed to each other, they are all to be regarded as drug symptoms, and, as such, indicate the remedy.

Hahnemann’s method of conducting provings

Dr. Hering thus describes it: “After he had lectured to his fellow workers on the rules of proving, he handed them the bottles with the tincture, and when they afterwards brought him their day books, he examined every prover carefully about every particular symptom, continually calling attention to the necessary accuracy in expressing the kind of feeling, the pain or the locality, the observation and mentioning of everything that influenced their feelings, the time of day, etc. When handing their papers to him, after they had been cross examined, they had to affirm that it was the truth, and nothing but the truth, to the best of their knowledge, by offering their hands to him, the customary pledge at the universities of Germany, instead of an oath. This was the way in which our master built up his Materia Medica.”

Excerpted from: A Compendium Of The Principles Of Homoeopathy As Taught By Hahnemann, And Verified By A Century Of Clinical Application – William Boericke, M. D.

For fuller study see Organon, 105 to 145.

Dudgeon, Lectures on Homoeopathy, page 176. Lecture VII and VIII.

Sharp’s Tracts on Homoeopathy, Essay VII. Provings in Health.

Dunham, Science of Therapeutics: The Dose in Drug Proving, page 136.

Directions for Drug Provers, page 350.

About the author

William Boericke

William Boericke, M.D., was born in Austria, in 1849. He graduated from Hahnemann Medical College in 1880 and was later co-owner of the renowned homeopathic pharmaceutical firm of Boericke & Tafel, in Philadelphia. Dr. Boericke was one of the incorporators of the Hahnemann College of San Francisco, and served as professor of Materia Medica and Therapeutics. He was a member of the California State Homeopathic Society, and of the American Institute of Homeopathy. He was also the founder of the California Homeopath, which he established in 1882. Dr. Boericke was one of the board of trustees of Hahnemann Hospital College. He authored the well known Pocket Manual of Materia Medica.

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