The other methods

THE CONCEPT – By Frans Vermeulen  

Hahnemann wrote in his Organon, aphorism 119: ‘As certainly as every species of plant differs in its external form, mode of life and growth, in its taste and smell from every other species and genus of plant, as certainly as every mineral and salt differs from all others, in its external as well as its internal physical and chemical properties [which alone should have sufficed to prevent any confounding of one with another], so certainly do they all differ and diverge among themselves in their pathogenetic – consequently also in their therapeutic – effects.’

Hahnemann continues by saying in a footnote that ‘Anyone who has a thorough knowledge of, and can appreciate the remarkable difference of effects on the health of man of every single substance from those of every other, will readily perceive that among them there can be … no equivalent remedies whatever, no surrogates.’

That ‘we ought to distinguish medicines carefully’ was in Hahnemann’s view ‘undoubtedly the pure truth’. While certainly true theoretically, the reality of everyday practice was different. In order to ‘distinguish medicines carefully’ two things were required: accurate botanical knowledge to differentiate plants and astute scrutiny to observe the smallest individual differences in what plants could cause or cure. These are high demands, the realisation of which depends to a large degree upon the level of both botanical science and individual qualities. It is surely no exaggeration to say that science in general has vastly improved since the days of Hahnemann, and that huge progression has been made regarding the biology, chemical properties and systematics of plants.

Plant classification [taxonomy] and the naming of plants [nomenclature] were both in their early stages of development and still far from systematically consistent. This explains why so many of the old plant remedy names are not conform the formal system of binomial nomenclature. For instance: Belladonna instead of Atropa belladonna; Stramonium instead of Datura stramonium; Dulcamara instead of Solanum dulcamara. Having two names, the first indicating the genus, the second the species, provides great help in the opposite processes of separating and assembling. The genus name helps to congregate, the specific name to segregate. For example, knowing that Stramonium is Datura stramonium would facilitate identification of Datura metel and Datura ferox as the remedies most closely related, and thus the first options for comparison. Likewise, with potato [Solanum tuberosum], tomato [Solanum lycopersicum], eggplant [Solanum melongena] as being closest related to Dulcamara if we would recognise the latter as being a species of Solanum also. it must be concluded that traditional homeopathic prescribing took place on a generic rather than a specific level.

Then there is the issue of re-assignment of species to other genera and sometimes even to other families. The plant systematics in homeopathy follows mostly the taxonomic classification systems of either Cronquist or Dahlgren. Both systems originated in the 1960-80s and were based on the morphological, anatomical and cytological features and other external characters of plants. Particularly the Cronquist system was for many decennia widely accepted and used, until the 1990s, when detailed genetic evidence became available. New knowledge about the relationships of flowering plants [angiosperms] based upon phylogenetics, i.e. the study of evolutionary relatedness among groups of plants, arose in the late 1990s with the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group, or APG, comprising an international group of systematic botanists. The group established a new classification on the basis of molecular protein and DNA sequencing and genetic data, which confirmed or clarified some relationships in existing classification systems, but radically changed others. The first publication of the new system, APG I, appeared in 1998, with later updates to APG II in 2003 and to APG III in 2009.

The beauty and advantage of APG is that genetic underpinning of plant systematics results in pharmaceutical alignment of plant species according to their chemical constituents

Implementation of APG and the delineation of phytochemical composition greatly benefits homeopathic systematics. It must not be forgotten that nearly all traditional provings of plant remedies were carried out with tinctures, very low potencies or the crude substances, in order to elicit physiological actions and reactions [rather than ‘dynamic’ ones]. The biological effects produced in such manner obviously depended upon the chemical constituents of the plants tested. Phylogenetically closely allied plants, grouped in families, are chemically and pharmacologically very alike, and thus by definition must be very similar in the symptoms they cause or cure.

What was said of the radical changes proposed by APG can equally be said of the effects it may have on homeopathic classification: stability is ‘rudely shattered’ by re-assignments and realignments in plant families. Some examples:

  • Gelsemium has been removed from Loganiaceae [Nux vomica family] and placed in a family of its own. Because Gelsemiaceae is most closely allied to Apocynaceae, both botanically and symptomatologically, it is here included with this family.
  • Curare has been removed from the Loganiaceae and included in the Menispermaceae due to similarity of chemical composition and biological effects with the latter family.
  • Many genera of the previously large family Scrophulariaceae have been transferred to other families. Digitalis, Gratiola, and Veronica are now in Plantaginaceae; Euphrasia and Pedicularis are in Orobanchaceae; while Buddleja, Scrophularia, and Verbascum came or remained in Scrophulariaceae.
  • The genus Pulsatilla has been sunk in Anemone; former Pulsatilla species are now Anemone.
  • What used to be Ledum is now Rhododendron.

Sciences such as taxonomy, plant biology, phytochemistry, and pharmacology have changed in the course of the last century. It has taken homeopathy a bit longer to begin integrating the changes and adapting to them, but it is now well on its way. The last 20-30 years have demonstrated a definite movement towards more specific, more individualised prescribing.


Plants has been written to aid, facilitate and exemplify the progression from generic to specific.




 In order to accomplish this the book is structured as follows:

            1) All plants are given their current accepted scientific name, in addition to possible synonyms and their homeopathic remedy name.

            2) Plants are classified and categorised in families and orders according to APG II.

            3) The morphological, biological, cultural, chemical, medicinal, and pharmacological aspects of each plant are detailed fully and in depth.    

            4) Symptoms have been extracted unchanged from the original proving texts or from the encyclopedias of Allen, Hering, and Dake & Hughes when the original manuscripts were not available.

            5) All proving symptoms, toxicological manifestations as well as clinical findings are referenced.

            6) Remedies are listed alphabetically in their correct families, orders, or groupings including their vernacular name, abbreviation and number of symptoms as of repertory versions of 2010.   

            7) Mistakes in the literature are indicated and corrections are proposed.

           8) Provings not yet found in materia medicas or repertories are marked and included.       

Facts and Figures

The Plant Kingdom is by far the largest of the five kingdoms recognised in homeopathy.

More than 2000 plant remedies are listed in the various materia medicas, repertories, encyclopedias and pharmacopoeias.

They are all discussed in Plants, but their large number requires 4 volumes to do so in detail.

All remedies are placed in the grouping to which they belong according to APG III.

            There are 139 groupings, subdivided in

  • 116 families [name ending with –ceae];
  • 17 orders [name ending with –ales];
  • 4 phylums - Ferns (alias Pterophyta); Gnetophyta; Lycophyta; Mosses (alias Bryophyta);
  • 2 behavioural groupings: Carnivorous plants and Parasitic plants.

714 [35.2%] of the 2027 plant remedies have received one or more provings; with some remedies, particularly those in large families, up to 6 different provings have been instituted. Provings are of all kinds and range from small to large assemblages of provers; from brief solo undertakings to prolonged self-experimentations; from solely male participation to exclusively female input; from no effects to virtual toxicosis; from chewing of bark and leaves to sniffing and handling of flowers; from overdosing with tinctures to occasional dosing with single drop doses; from fleeting observations to encounters drawn out over months; from flat nondescript accounts to detailed personal narratives; from unspecified proceedings to scrupulous sequence of events; from ultra short to comprehensive.

In total 1176 provings of plant remedies have been done, divided in 747 traditional [‘Hahnemannian’] provings, 380 self-experimentations, 27 meditative provings, 18 dream provings and four C-4 triturations.

166 provings are new or have been overlooked and are not yet found in materia medicas or repertories.

Large families or orders have the largest numbers of provings.

  • Apiaceae [old name Umbelliferae] 69 remedies; 40 provings - self-experimentations 16, others 24.
  • Apocynaceae 57 remedies; 42 provings - self-experimentations 17, others 25.
  • Asteraceae [old name Compositae]154 remedies; 80 provings - self-experimentations 31, others 49.
  • Brassicales 50 remedies; 18 provings - self-experimentations 6, others 12.
  • Cucurbitaceae 23 remedies; 23 provings - self-experimentations 8, others 15.
  • Euphorbiaceae 51 remedies; 25 provings - self-experimentations 8, others 17.
  • Fabaceae [old name Leguminosae]134 remedies; 64 provings - self-experimentations 13, others 51.
  • Lamiaceae [old name Labiatae] 99 remedies; 30 provings – self-experimentations 9, others 21.
  • Papaveraceae 36 remedies; 22 provings – self-experimentations 5, others 17.
  • Pinales 49 remedies; 35 provings - self-experimentations 1, others 34.
  • Poales 51 remedies; 16 provings – self-experimentations 2, others 14.
  • Ranunculaceae 59 remedies; 53 provings - self-experimentations 24, others 29.
  • Rosaceae 63 remedies; 31 provings - self-experimentations 5, others 26.
  • Rubiaceae 53 remedies; 28 provings - self-experimentations 10, others 18.
  • Rutaceae 29 remedies; 30 provings - self-experimentations 16, others 14.
  • Solanaceae 53 remedies; 45 provings - self-experimentations 19, others 26.

Nearly all proven remedies have also clinically observed symptoms.

The symptom picture of 67 remedies, about 3.3% of the total, is solely based on poisonings.

521 remedies, 25.7% of the total, have only clinically observed symptoms, without proving symptoms, ranging from empirical remedy use by eclectic physicians [often found in Boericke], herbal usage, folk-medicinal employment, or homeopathic use undefined as to how obtained. 

The remaining 725 remedies are as yet without symptoms in the materia medica. They are described nonetheless in full and useful information can be gathered also here. Their potential use as remedies can be inferred from the use of the type remedy or remedies of the family or order to which they belong. Type remedies are invariably the remedies with most symptoms in the grouping. They always pop up first in repertorisation. Commonly known as polychrests, type remedies partly denote the themes of their group and partly their individual characteristics. Part of their symptoms is generic [found in most or all members of the group] and part is specific [typical for the individual species].