Viewed through proving: IGNATIA’s alternating symptoms

Alternating Ignatia

OK, you prescribed Ignatia.  You’re absolutely sure of the remedy.  You’ve looked at it, repped it, slept on it, thought about it, checked materia medica, checked your patient notes, and you know.  You just do.

You gave the remedy and it did nothing.  Or it aggravated but didn’t seem to do anything interesting, worthwhile or exciting for homoeopathy.  But you were absolutely certain!

Time to look at Hahnemann’s Organon aphorism 251, and (if you can stomach what looks like an 11 line sentence with nary a full stop but lots of commas) the introduction to the proving.  Time to examine Ignatia’s membership in the club of remedies with alternating actions.

Here’s Aphorism 251.  The bold in the text is mine.

“There are some medicines (e.g., Ignatia, also Bryonia and Rhus, and sometimes Belladonna) whose power of altering man’s health consists chiefly in alternating actions – a kind of primary-action symptoms that are in part opposed to each other.

Should the practitioner find, on prescribing one of these, selected on strict homoeopathic principles, that no improvement follows, he will in most cases soon effect his object by giving (in acute diseases, even within a few hours) a fresh and equally small dose of the same medicine.

(Hahnemann’s footnote: As I have more particularly described in the introduction to “Ignatia” (in the first volume of the Materia Medica Pura).)”

And I’ve paraphrased the introduction to the proving to make it readable – with a little literary license :

When Ignatia is used, sometimes the first dose doesn’t help as it’s acting on the disease with its opposite symptoms and not as a similar.  It could even aggravate.  Don’t give any other remedy, just give one more dose of Ignatia in the same dilution.  You’ll get the cure with the second dose. This is probably because of the alternating actions of this amazing remedy. But you won’t see this often, as usually in an acute disease (which is what Ignatia is best for), the first dose will do all it can if it was really homoeopathic to the case. (my version)

Original: (breathe deeply)
“In its employment it sometimes happens, which is seldom the case with other medicines, that where the first dose has not done what was intended, because (for some unknown cause) it first acted on the disease with its opposite symptoms and consequently soon caused an aggravation of the disease in its secondary action, like a palliative remedy, then (without any intermediate medicine having been given in alternation) a second dose of the same dilution can be given with the best curative effect, so that the cure is only obtained by the second dose. This is no doubt owing to the directly opposite symptoms (alternating actions) of this remarkable drug, of which I shall speak further on. But such cases do not often occur, for, as a rule, in an acute disease, the first dose effects all that this medicine can do in a homoeopathic way, if it has been accurately selected according to similarity of symptoms.”

So from Hahnemann’s directions here, we can use Ignatia’s alternating symptoms to understand and manage the progress of a case where we have prescribed Ignatia, are absolutely sure of our prescription, but the remedy doesn’t seem to be doing what we want it to do.

Where can these alternating symptoms be found?  Here are several examples from the proving, taken from Hahnemann’s notes referring to alternating states:

Does stooping low aggravate or ameliorate?

Symptoms  16, 17, 19, 47 and 51  describe situations where the prover must keep his head down, where raising the head will aggravate.
Symptoms 20, 21, 22 and 58  describe situations where stooping aggravates.

Do the pupils dilate or contract?

Symptom 106 describes contracted pupils.
Symptoms 107 and 108 describe pupils that are dilated, and have a tendency to dilate easily.

Is music agreeable to the Ignatia patient or not?

Symptom 120 states that “music causes an uncommon and agreeable sensation”.
Symptom 121 describes “insensibility to music”.

How about sour things or fruit?

According to symptoms 194 and 197, they really like sour things and fruit and do well on it.
But symptoms 193, 196 and 328 imply that it would be best to keep the Ignatia patient far away from the fruit bowl.

What about fears – fearful or fearless?

Symptom 762 says “fears every trifle”, whereas symptom 763 declares – “audacity”.

These are only a few of the alternating states highlighted by Hahnemann in the proving – Hahnemann notes around 25 issues in total.  If we work based on the principle that Ignatia is a remedy with alternating states – it’s very likely that we could see many situations of alternating states that won’t appear in the proving.

Homoeopathy at Wikipedia – research and pathological scepticism

wikipediaI’m often told that there is no research showing the benefits of homoeopathy and much research showing that it is nothing more than placebo at best and pure charlatanism/lunacy at worst.  Of course, those who express such learned opinions usually have no idea what homoeopathy is, and when asked parrot something vague about tiny doses and, on a good day, some garbled version of “cure by similars”.

Wikipedia, the source of information for many of the learned masses, is particularly delinquent in its treatment of homoeopathy.  The following is excerpted from an article by Dana Ullman who tried to rectify the situation in 2014.  Judging from today’s Wikipedia entry on homoeopathy, any such attempts have not yet been successful.  Continue reading

Viewed through repertory: Intellect vs Emotion

I’ve mentioned previously in this blog that I enjoy reading books  in hard copy. When looking at a page, elements and patterns jump out in a way that does not happen when searching for rubrics in software. (The software does provide better screenshots though.)

This article was prompted by casual leafing through Mind symptoms in the P&W hardcopy edition of the Therapeutic Pocketbook.  I was looking at the pages on disposition and intellect, flipping back and forth between the two sections, and noticed that while Belladonna appears frequently in four points in Intellect, it only appears in that grade in the main Mind Disposition rubric, and not in other more emotion-related rubrics. Continue reading

Homoeopathy studies in extremis

hahnemann monument at Leipzig

Hahnemann monument in Leipzig

How long to study homoeopathy?  There are four-year courses which are considered very prestigious.  There are courses of several hours in some countries offered to medical doctors who wish to add some homoeopathic letters to their names – and it might be added here that the extent of instruction is often homoeopathic in terms of the size of the dose, but not necessarily the aptness of the prescription… Continue reading

10 Tips for Homoeopathy Students

Read Primary Sources!

10 Tips for Homoeopathy Students

1.  Read the Organon yourself.  Read Chronic Diseases.  Read Hahnemann and Boenninghausen’s Lesser Writings.  You are not a baby, don’t stick to the pureed version.

2. Never let anything go unchallenged.  Ask why, and if you don’t get answers from your teachers look for them yourself.  This includes everything from the law of similars, to plastic cups, dosing methods, antidotes, choices of remedies, concepts of miasms. Continue reading

Where to study homoeopathy – a dilemma

booksPeople often ask “where’s the best place to study homoeopathy in ……. (fill in town of choice).” I no longer know how to answer. Or more precisely, I know how to answer, but it’s usually not the answer they are looking for.

In the past, I used to be able to give a breakdown of schools in my area which offer a qualification that will be acceptable to the local associations. I myself studied at a “recognized school”. With the world’s direction towards uninformed regulation, it is the associations, the boards, and the schools connected with them that have the best chances of survival.

Qualifications are important. Society shows them respect. They offer some form of validation for what you do. Oh, so you’re a homoeopath? What qualifications do you have? Well yes, I have a …… (fill in string of letters after the name), and I studied with…. (fill in names of many homoeopaths both living and late). So you must be good, right? (at which point, homoeopath gracefully inclines head in modest acknowledgement…)

So here is the difficult question: do you want good qualifications, or do you want to be the best homoeopath you can be? Unfortunately, these goals often don’t overlap.

The underlying principles of homoeopathy are simple and straightforward. When you identify the core principle of “like cures like” and separate it from the doctrine of signatures, for example, when you learn it correctly, it becomes clear that whatever happens to homoeopathic methodology this principle is unchanging, and the nature of the sources of information which enable us to make use of this principle also don’t change.

If someone is open and desires to learn, it would take about a day to teach this – if not less. Here, let’s do it in 5 minutes:

Me: Homoeopathy is based on the principle of like cures like
Fred: What does that mean?
Me: If a substance causes symptoms in a healthy person, it can, and by default will heal similar symptoms in the sick, if nothing is holding it back
Fred: So you give substances to healthy people to find out what symptoms they can cause?
Me: Yes, exactly. What do you think the prescription should be based on?
Fred: Well, I guess they should be based on the symptoms you got from giving substances to healthy people, at least first of all…

QED. I have had this conversation so many times with people who have no idea about homoeopathy, and follow simple logic. It is that central and basic, and unchanging. It is also based on the most boring reading material in the homoeopathic bookcase – provings. Grocery lists of symptoms, many of which you really don’t want anyone reading over your shoulder in a crowded cafe.

How do people practice homoeopathy without ever accessing this basic material? By studying regurgitated material provided by teachers and gurus. Without anchoring the material in the primary proving sources, we are now in the land of hit-and-miss, and have moved very far from ideas of certainty and unchanging principles.

So you can do a fine qualifying course without ever reading a proving. Many such courses are available. “But we give our students a solid foundation in Kent and Phatak,” declare those schools which have not chosen to follow the route to the far more exciting pastures of Sankaran’s sensations and Scholten’s magic minerals and elements. Students emerge from such training equipped to hunt the snark of the Kentian constitutional remedy through endless hours of case-taking, rather than to hone in on prescribing symptoms and exploit the default in nature, the cure by means of similars. (with apologies to Lewis Carroll).

It is possible to find qualifying courses which do not rest on Sankaran and Scholten. But to the best of my knowledge, it is almost impossible to find qualifying courses which are not based on Kent and Phatak.

How about the nature of the work, the “how-to” of homoeopathy? Those who are familiar with my writing know well what’s coming here. The primary “how-to” of homoeopathy is Hahnemann’s Organon, preferably in 6th edition. This is the work where the building bricks of homoeopathy are presented, each logically built on the previous, tracing back to the principle of like cures like.

Many qualifying courses give minimal attention to the Organon, dismissing it to dusty shelves as a philosophical work. I am told that there are courses where the Organon is not taught at all. That’s the same as trying to replicate a scientific experiment while refusing to follow the method set down by the scientist who devised it.

It is the nature of man to look for ways to improve what he is doing. When this is done to principle it is an excellent thing. But when it’s done to avoid the boring work of studying provings, to shrug off the somewhat archaic language of the Organon, to take shortcuts which distort the work or to gain personal fame by providing something new and so much more interesting – none of this leads to courses which will ensure better practice of homoeopathy.

You can learn more about actual practice of homoeopathy in one week with the IHM, such as in the intensive course currently offered by Gary in Spain which will also be available in Israel and in other countries, than you would learn in many of the qualifying courses available today.

But… the study of how to practice focused, practical, uncompromising homoeopathy in a brief period of time will not bring you the qualifications you may think you need. And the courses which grant the qualifications you may be seeking , in addition to being time consuming and probably expensive, will ingrain information which you will need to painfully unlearn in order to practice homoeopathy the way it should be practiced.

Hahnemann and Boenninghausen – or Kent and Phatak….a dilemma indeed.

Hahnemann, fees, respect and self-respect

thalerHahnemann, fees, respect and self-respect

The letters brought in volume 2 of Richard Haehl’s Samuel Hahnemann: His Life and Work shed much light on Hahnemann’s views and the circumstances of his practice.  Many of his letters show that little has changed, that today we are still addressing the same issues which often impact negatively on our work.  A particularly raw subject is that of fees, incorporating as it does both respect for the homoeopath and the art, and our own self-respect as practitioners. Continue reading