New trends in Homeopathy.
Is Hahnemann’s teaching out dated?
Samuel Hahnemann’s Organon, the book which was published 200 years ago in 1810, and into which Hahnemann distilled his philosophy and practice, is still used and followed today by homeopaths around the world.
However, many of the symptoms from back then are no longer known and new ones have emerged. Modern times have different symptoms which call for different remedies. Today, we are confronted with diseases such as cancer and aids and antibiotic-resistant superbugs. Our children are more prone to have allergies now than in any other generation before us. Does classical homeopathy respond to these needs?
Look up any number symptoms in the homeopathic repertories, these comprehensive books which list the various symptoms, and it will soon become obvious that they are lacking – both in information and accuracy. So what are the chances of finding the curative remedy in a specific case when our literature is out dated?
The characteristic symptoms of a remedy are easily found by conducting a homeopathic proving. Provings on healthy individuals serve to find out the remedy’s effect on the sick, as the symptoms produced in healthy individuals are the same symptoms the remedy cures in the sick. But this information is only general. If one wants to really prove a remedy and recognize it quickly in the patient, one has to be able to identify it in the different stages of sickness. This is not easy, because there are atypical courses or phases in which the main symptoms of a remedy suddenly do not clearly emerge, even though it is still exactly right for the patient.
Let’s have a look at the remedy Pulsatilla, for example. In the acute state, the matching symptom is “thirstless”. But when you study the repertories, the structured large symptom registers of homeopathy, contradictory symptoms with respect to thirst are found within the remedy. Now, is the Pulsatilla patient thirstless, as so often declared, or not? Often, the patient is thirstless only in the first phase of illness, but develops thirst afterward.
Therefore, extraordinary skill is required by the homeopath in the repertorization of symptoms if the curative remedy is to be found. Dr. Veronica Carstens, wife of the late President of the Federal Republic of Germany, once said that about ten years of intensive study are required before anyone can claim that they have to some extent mastered homeopathy. This medical art and science requires a high degree of skill and knowledge to consistently achieve great healing results – especially where chronic illnesses are concerned.
|The symptoms given by a patient can be looked up in a repertory in order to find the matching homeopathic remedy.|
A little Excursion into Homeopathy
All fundamental literature on homeopathic medicine was written within a century of its discovery and development by Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. These reference works still form the basis for all of homeopathy to this day, including the repertories – the comprehensive books where symptoms of homeopathic medicines are registered. As such, the repertories are must-haves for remedy prescriptions.
They are particularly useful in the determination of a remedy after the initial constitutional consultation, where a patient reports all of his or her symptoms. For example, the patient reports that he always has to sneeze as soon as he wakes up in the morning. He also talks about cramps in his feet at night in bed. The homeopath now checks the repertories for remedies listed there which include these two symptoms. This already narrows down the choice of prescription. The constitutional remedy that is finally chosen will be the one that matches the totality of symptoms best.
Another important foundation in homeopathic practice apart from Hahnemann’s own provings is the repertory of James Tyler Kent, which was published in 1897. Kent, an American, was one of the first who tested many new remedies. And he was a pioneer in using high potencies. With the recent resurgence in homeopathy and in line with modern technology, the past decades saw many of the old repertories being incorporated into homeopathic softwares and these are continuously being updated to reflect clinical experiences and new provings.
Homeopaths do impress with their results and this is directly connected to their skill in perceiving from the patient that which is essential to the case. The higher developed their intuition, the better the results. However, it is also a fact that certain illnesses could not be treated successfully so far if only the 19th century repertories of Dr. James Tyler Kent were consulted, or the other repertories which are centuries old in the meantime. Let’s take leukemia, a type of cancer of the blood or bone marrow, for example.
It is important not to forget the time period. When leukemia was discussed between 1800 and 1900, much of it was based purely on speculation. The disease was allocated to a “hydrogenoid constitution” acc. to Grauvogel (1850-1977), meaning that the person is prominently “watery” or has difficulty in processing water. Homeopaths did not know any better either and followed this thesis. This automatically meant that the two main remedies for the case had to be Natrium Sulfuricum or Thuja Occidentalis, because these are allocated to the hydrogenoid constitution. These homeopathic remedies were also listed in Kent’s Repertory under cancer of the blood. To this day, this rubric has not been corrected. However, neither of these remedies have any connection to the pathology, to cancer of the blood, and therefore, they cannot help the affected person.
There are several such examples. Due to generalizations, thousands of unconfirmed and unreliable symptoms ended up in “Kent”. From there, they ended up in all subsequent reference books without verification, and in homeopathic practice. This means that the repertories have not been updated in 130 years. That is the problem. As well, most of the homeopaths today are not scientists. Hahnemann discovered and proved a hundred remedies for patients which we cannot do without. Today, we have in excess of 3,000 homeopathic medicines. Many of these new remedies have not been tested completely. So far, only their main applications are known.
Generally, the homeopath can heal most patients, or produce marked improvements in their condition. Because disease is a process. The deciding questions for the homeopath are: At what point of this process is the patient now and what condition is he in?
A good homeopath always treats the state and not the symptoms. The symptoms simply tell us in which direction the progress is going. They must not be ignored under any circumstances. But inexperienced homeopaths or amateurs are easily misguided when looking at the symptoms alone. Therefore, the repertories in general are essential reference books, but they must be interpreted sufficiently by the professionals using them.
Hahnemann stipulated: “First, observe a patient”. Kent also said: “Observation is the most important thing in homeopathy”.
It happens all too often that homeopaths see in the patient only what they want to see. Maybe also only that, which they are able to see based on their current knowledge. It is true that apart from the great healing results of homeopaths, we sometimes also hear of bad cases, which were treated incorrectly. An important rule is that a patient must feel better after taking a remedy. The homeopath should not fool him- or herself. It is also possible for a healing reaction in the form of a worsening of symptoms, to happen.
Do people today indeed need different remedies from a hundred years ago? In fact, yes. Let’s again look at Pulsatilla, a typical women’s remedy. This plant, the windflower, is often seen in our area and therefore, one might suspect that it is prescribed often. This may have been the case in the 19th century, but nowadays, there are not so many women needing the remedy Pulsatilla. When you think about it, you will see that Pulsatilla embodies a certain consciousness, which the women of today do not live anymore. Pulsatilla has a certain subordination, but nowadays, women tend to think: We will somehow master life. Interestingly, this leads to more and more men taking the back seat in relationships for the sake of peace – and suddenly they now need more Pulsatilla!
|Human qualities change as time goes on. Homeopathy must take this into account.|
Back now to the question of whether or not Hahnemann’s teaching is out dated. The fact is that times have changed. Not only do we have different diseases nowadays, but people have changed too, in the way they think and act. Because modern medicine has relied on suppressive, mood altering drugs to combat the extremes, most patients are in a compensated state, making observation of the rare and peculiar symptoms, which are so important to homeopathic case analysis, increasingly difficult.
What is out dated in a sense are the old repertories, in that they do not include the symptoms of the newer diseases. A good homeopath must therefore pay more attention than ever to Hahnemann’s doctrine to be able to elicit from the patient even the slightest of symptoms which may turn out to be a keynote to the case. A good homeopath must be able to translate the presenting symptoms into the existing homeopathic literature, but also commit to continued learning with respect to new provings and new remedies, and their clinically verifiable symptoms, so that they may be applied successfully in today’s practice.
All things considered, using the tools and know-how Hahnemann gave us in his Organon 200 years ago, and knowing how to apply them today, safe, effective and curative homeopathic treatment can be achieved, regardless of whether we are talking about a condition that has been around for hundreds of years, a new condition or a brand new 21st century disease.