THE MATERIA MEDICA
Apart from the results of homeopathic provings, the remedial picture is also formed by the knowledge of toxicology, information gained from accidental poisonings or from criminal investigations. And, naturally, from experiences gained in homeopathic clinical practice, as the effectiveness of remedies can be verified and the knowledge increased particularly through the study of patients and their reactions to the prescribed remedies.
The basic diagnostic tool is a book containing the detailed pictures of individual remedies.
The first one was Hahnemann's Materia Medica Pura. Dozens of other publications followed. The reason for the creation of more books was the increased knowledge of the remedial effects. The number of remedies that were tried out has also increased. The various authors had various views of the remedies, some stressed their psychological effects, others preferred the general symptoms, some had concentrated only on the characteristic nature of remedies, omitting the general symptoms, others tried to present a clear view of the symptoms, etc. Such a variety of views is useful, because each individual patient has to be viewed from a somewhat different angle. Therefore, every homeopath should have more Materia Medicas to his or her disposal.
Picture of the Remedy and Picture of the Patient
The comparison of a patient's specific case, with the remedies described in the Materia Medica, is most difficult, most important and momentous in homeopathic treatment. To find the similimum, the most similar remedy to suit a specific person and their pathology, is not at all a simple matter. No authentic case would ever be quite identical with any description found in the Materia Medica. The aim is to prescribe the most similar remedy, while there are always some similar remedies. The various Materia Medicas take different approaches to make the identification of similimum easier.
Idiosyncrasies of the Individual Titles
Some, at length, describe the effects of remedies or the remedial picture to the minute detail. Such is for instance Allen's Encyclopaedia of Homeopathic Materia Medica, consisting of eleven volumes, each of approximately thousand pages. More than a hundred pages are often devoted to a single remedy. The quality of such study is great indeed, with the possibility of fine differentiation. However, its disadvantage is that no one, not even the most intelligent homeopath, could remember all the symptoms and freely use them in practice. To study the remedy from this manual takes too much time.
Kent's Materia Medica (the exact title is: Lectures on the Theme of Homeopathic Materia Medica) has a thousand of pages and treats each remedy individually, stressing the particular traits of the remedy that distinguish it from others, that characterise it. Kent remains true to the convictions of the classics, that homeopathy is "an art and a science". From the wealth of material he creates an artistic, unique, easy to remember picture of the remedy, a picture of the person. This is why Kent's approach is called "the pictorial method". His book, with its almost thousand pages, is extensive among the Materia Medicas. This Materia Medica is very useful for the study of remedies. At the same time it is sufficiently detailed to enable us to differentiate, in cases where more remedies have to be taken into account and a decision has to be made about one of them. (The existence of Czech translation is its further advantage.)
The Materia Medica by Boerick, with its seven hundred pages, is relatively brief, further reducing the number of remedies, only to those significant and important in describing the nature of remedy. It is smaller, pocked sized, suited particularly to acute prescriptions, to quick decision about the case, it is the travelling companion of the homeopath called to an urgent case. It makes orientation in the case easy. The single volume also contains three hundred pages long Repertory (of which we will talk later). Boerick's Materia Medica includes a relatively large number of remedies, approximately 800. The Czech translation is also available.
Another easy way of arrangement we find in Pulford's Key to the Homeopathic Materia Medica. To assist the orientation in the case, it lists first the so called identification of the remedy - the outstanding symptoms present with most cases that require this particular remedy. For instance, under the heading Calcarea carbonica we read the following identification: "Sweating, particularly on head, feet and arms, on head with any small exertion. The head is drenched with cold sweat, even though the other parts are not sweating. Sweats even in a cold room or on cold air..." The patient of Calcarea carbonica with allergic cold, constipation or chronic exhaustion, will always sweat on the head. Sweating of head will therefore bring Calcarea carbonica into strong consideration. The column Basic Symptoms follows, which describes other characteristic traits of the remedy. Then comes the Mind, the anatomy, such as Head, Eyes, etc. and the pathology, Dizziness, Cough.
A more detailed information is not necessary at the moment, as later we will learn more about the importance and evaluation of symptoms. This Materia Medica was also translated into Czech, as well as Kent's, Boerick's and Allen's, mentioned later. The same basic system is used in the more sizeable Materia Medica by Indian doctor Phatak, who also divides the remedial symptoms into the columns. Boerick's Materia Medica has a similar lay out.
Particularly important in diagnoses are the so called key symptoms, the keynotes, symptoms that do not occur with other remedies. Some authors of Materia Medicas only search for these keynotes, such as Adolph von Lippe in his Keynotes and Red Line Symptoms. The author puts beyond the red line, leading to correct diagnoses, the chains of more symptoms, in a particular characteristic combination. Another well known Materia Medica of this kind is Allen's Keynotes. The only problem with this system is the fact that not all specific cases have such keynotes. Every homeopath rejoices on finding any keynotes.
Besides the serious and sizeable Materia Medicas (we may also add those by Clark, Farrington, Dunham, the modern work by French homeopath Lathoud, and many others) there are also various compilations, which sometimes may recommend non-homeopathic and suppressive methods of treatment, or only concentrate on the simple homeopathic first aid, after which the expert treatment should follow, etc.
It is necessary to study the Materia Medica, to spend a lot of time over it, and to memorise the basic characteristics of the remedy. It is essential to gain at least so much knowledge, to be able to compare one remedy with another, and particularly the real patient with the Materia Medica. No one has managed to learn the entire Materia Medica by heart, and this is not the aim. No one expects that a barrister would know all the law books by heart either. Important is to have the orientation, and to know where to look things up.
To simplify the matters and to add precision to the diagnoses, there are the Repertories, the charts of signs, symptoms and remedies, which belong to the symptoms. The first handy list of symptoms was already used by Hahnemann, the first book edition was Boninghausen's Repertory. In today's practice often used is Boerick's Repertory, combined with the Materia Medica, and particularly the Repertory by Kent, which is most detailed, most extensive, and with the best developed system. It is an absolutely essential diagnostic tool, the elementary part of any homeopathic library. It is so widely used that it forms a kind of international basis of reference, when homeopathic cases are described and published in speciality press. Any symptom mentioned usually includes the number of page in Kent's Repertory, where it is listed. Repertorium in Latin means a finding place or a list. Kent's Repertory is divided into chapters according to anatomy (Head, Abdomen, etc.), functions (Mind, Sweating, Sight, etc.), pathology (Fever, Chilliness, Dizziness, etc.). A special part forms the chapter General Symptoms. It includes all the signs and symptoms that concern the whole person. For instance: worse after sleep, improves through movement, predominance of symptoms on one side of the body, tiredness. Each symptom is further specified in its detailed manifestations. Each symptom is followed by the list of abbreviated remedies that can cure the symptom. If the homeopath moves through the whole person from head to heal, beginning with the mind and the just mentioned general symptoms, and ending with the pathology, he finds out which particular remedies are most often repeated. The one that occurs most often, becomes a serious candidate for selection as the similimum. The final decision is however made when the synthetic picture of the remedy is compared with the Materia Medica. The Repertory is now the most common diagnostic tool, and there also exist various computer programmes, based on the Repertory, which substantially quicken the process of diagnosis, and add more precision.
Lately, some extensive Repertories were created, compiled on the computer from the older Repertories and Materia Medicas. All are based on the system and the Repertory of Kent. I mention the Medical Repertory by Robin Murphy (1600 pages) and the Synthesis - Repertorium Homeopathicum by Frederik Schroyens (1700 pages).
Some remedies may be called the constitutional remedies, because they have been so well tried out and described in the literature, to cover the whole human pathology, with many different diseases, from the psychology to the physical organs, thus actually representing the similimum for the whole person. For his or her entire constitution. They are capable of curing any disease, naturally depending on the overall state of the organism. They protect it against any future disease. Above all, we will talk about them.
© Jiri Cehovsky, 1994
poslední aktualizace: 30.08.2006