The materia medica of remedies is central to understanding how homeopathy is practised. How the remedy pictures are developed and the different ways the pictures are expressed provide the foundation and building blocks that allow the homeopath to both understand the patient and to prescribe rationally. The many different ways the remedy pictures can be expressed informs the very way a homeopath thinks and is able to perceive a patient.
To the homeopath the remedies we use are more than just medicines. Understanding them provides a medium, through which we perceive and order the world. They provide the ideas and concepts that bring sense to a patient’s story. They are not random or unnaturally ‘manufactured’ but represent the very world the patient lives in and are drawn from the minerals, plants and animals around us. Provings are how the information held within the remedies is revealed.
The information is not secret and indeed it is expressed in many ways by the source of each remedy. However, it is the provings that rationally and minutely reveal the full picture of a remedy and as such lay the foundation to the art of case-taking and the science of case analysis. The basic principle of homeopathy is ‘like cures like’; what a medicinal substance can cause it can also cure. To ascertain what a medicine can cause, we administer it to healthy people. This experiment is called a homeopathic proving (from the German ‘preufing’, meaning experiment). During the proving all effects of the remedy (physical, mental and emotional) are recorded in detail. Once the experiment is over all the symptoms experienced by each volunteer are gathered into a collective record.
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William Boericke M.D.
William Boericke (25 October 1849 – 1 April 1929) was a prominent American physician born in Austria. He is famouly known for editing and compiling Pocket Manual of Homeopathic Materia Medica. The ninth edition has endured as his most re-published version partly because of its then final inclusion of a mini-repertory by his brother, Oscar Eugene Boericke, MD also a homeopathic physician.