“There is no road to the practice of homeopathy – whether it is the clinical road or the symptomatic road – which does not entail close and constant study of the Materia Medica.” J.H.Clarke, The Prescriber.
Materia Medica is the reference material for our remedies and their therapeutic actions. They have been compiled originally from the provings done by our homeopathic masters. Hahnemann’s Materia Medic Pura (1827) was his recorded notes of observations of the reactions by provers. His later editions included his person observations and those of his colleagues. There have been many authors of different Materia Medica through the history of homeopathy. Some of the more notable are Boericke’s Materia Medica, Clarkes Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica, Hering’s Guiding Symptoms of Pure Materia Medica, Allen’s Encyclopedic of Pure Materia Medica. Farrington’s Clinical Materria Medica. Boger’s Synoptic Key Phatak’s Materia Medica and Vermuelen’s Prisma. There have litteraly been hundreds of other Materia Medicas written in addition to these. Each has the authors own particular view and notes about the remedies.
The most important Materia Medica you can have is one that you have created yourself from your own personal observations. This Materia Medica will be the one that you have personal experience with and in the end will guide you better than any other. During the time that you are creating your own Materia Medica we are blessed to have the benefit of all of the others. There are ways to use Materia Medica that will benefit you greatly and ease the job of remedy selection.
H.A. Roberts may have said it best in Principles and Art of Cure, “The approach to the study of the case and the approach to the study of the materia medica are essentially the same – the materia medica is the fascimile of the sickness.”
Before any Materia Medica investigation should occur you should have a very clear understanding of the case before you. Selecting the remedy is always academic once we know what is asking to be healed. If we do not have this all of the Materia Medica in the world would not help us or guide us to the correct remedy.
Those Materia Medica’s that have the word Pura in their title are mostly from the word and observations of provings. These are usually organized in text form and will require read thoroughly to find information that may be useful about a particular aspect of the remedy. But the overall picture of the energy of the remedy is probably preserved best in this form. More modern provings are usually written in a more organized form (thank you Jeremy Sherr) with themes of the remedies listed. These types of Materia Medica’s are very useful also.
The Materia Medica’s that have been written with the authors own observation with toxological and clinical observations are usually condensed and organized by body parts with an introduction in the beginning and cases and observations at the end. Reading the main introduction will give a quick overview of the remedy. The authors have usually done a very good job of presenting the main aspects of the remedies here. The remedy that is most indicated in a case will nearly always correspond with something written about it’s primary action and the general themes of the remedy. This section is very useful in getting the best overall understanding of the remedy.
Particular symptoms can be found in the mind and body parts sections. Most authors have the main symptoms or those that best describe a particular aspect of the remedy in bold. These are usually called keynote symptoms.When we look over all of the bold text of all of the sections it will usually give a very good overview of the action of the remedy. Do this with every investigation of Materia Medica. You will learn very much about the individual actions of the remedy. When there is a theme it is usually confirmed within the mind section as well. Sometimes the mental symptoms are either too few or vague. But when you have a very clear picture of the major sensations of the physical symptoms, the mind section can be expanded to include how this energy would be expressed mentally as well.
One of my favorite Materia Medica’s is by Frans Vermuellen. He has organized the Prisma and the Synoptic 2 Materia Medicas in a new and novel way. His first reference to the remedy is by a quote or poem. These form a kind of essence of the remedy. I have found them to be very accurate. His second part of the remedy has to do with the specie of the plant or animal or the chemical composition of a mineral. These descriptions tell very much about the remedy. In another, more technical way, they tell about the essence of the remedy as well. He will then talk about the features of the substance, it’s properties, uses, alchemy, mythology and lore, what it’s name means and more. This part of his Materia Medica I find the most useful information about the substance. It will shed more light on understanding the remedy than just the proving or observations alone. The next section are highlights of important themes of the remedy and examples that highlight the particulars symptoms. The clinical section is really very small by comparison. Boericke, Phatak, Farrington and Boger’s Materia Medica’s will shed much more clinical light on the remedies.
I often pick up a Materia Medica and open it to any remedy and read about it. Even remedies that I am more familiar with I will reread about. There is always something that I have not see before. This may seem like a redundant exercise but really is very useful. I find that I will have a case before me and remember about having read about a remedy with this particular symptom. I will usually not remember the remedy by name but will know it exists. Then it is like a treasure hunt where investigating all of the possible remedies will prove very useful and when I find that one passage it will usually drive the remedy into my memory. Then I have it forever.
“All diseases known to man have their likeness in Materia Medica, and the physician must become so conversant with this art that he may perceive this likeness.” J.T. Kent Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy.
Pick up your Materia Medica’s and open them. Read from them daily, if only for a few minutes. Investigate the remedies for your case from them. As Kent says the likeness is there. We simply must find it.