Dreams of Robbers
Experiments such as Hahnemann’s with conchina bark, during which a healthy person is dosed with a substance and all subsequent experiences are recorded, became known as “provings” and have since been the method by which homeopaths determine which symptoms a particular substance is supposedly appropriate to treat. The main reference of this information is the Homeopathic Materia Medica, an online version of which is available – Homœopathic Materia Medica.
Of course, because no distinction is made between reactions to the substance being “proved” and unrelated experiences, these tests are incredibly lacking in scientific rigour. To demonstrate this, here are some examples from the entry on “Natrium Muriaticum”1:
Wants to be alone to cry
Aches as if a thousand little hammers were knocking on the brain
Pain in eyes when looking down.
Vesicles and burning on tongue, as if there were a hair on it
Sweats while eating
Craving for salt
Dreams of robbers
Keep in mind that “A proving is the testing of a potentized substance to find out which symptoms that substance is capable of producing, and hence curing.”2, so apparently a homeopathic remedy of this “Natrium Muriaticum” is capable of curing these symptoms, amongst others listed in the Materia Medica.
Homeopaths seem to love using latin names for the substances used to create homeopathic remedies, presumably because it makes them sound scientific yet natural, as latin scientific names generally refer to plants and animals. It also has the convenient side effect of preventing the vast majority of people from having any idea what the substance actually is. This “Natrium Muriaticum” is most commonly known as table salt.
To demonstrate this point, I used Google to search for “Homeopathic Remedies” and found ABC Homeopathy to be the top result. On its home page, 36 homeopathic remedies are listed as the “Top Homeopathic Remedies”, each of which are “widely used in homeopathy”3.
I’ve listed some examples from that list here, first as they are listed on the site and then by a more common name, along with a few examples of the symptoms they’re supposed to treat*. Keep in mind that these symptoms were ascertained via a homeopathic proving, wherein a healthy individual is dosed with the substance in order to find out what symptoms it causes2. Reading through the lists of symptoms, it’s sometimes hilarious to read everything they thought was caused by the substance, and often sickening to read a report of the aftermath of a poisoning. Remember, by the tenets of homeopathy, the symptoms listed for each substance are those that can be cured by a homeopathic remedy of the substance.
- #6. Pulsatilla Nigricans (A highly toxic flower once used by Blackfoot Indians to induce abortions4)
- Fears in evening to be alone, dark, ghosts
- Numbness around elbow
- #8. Sepia (Cuttlefish ink)
- Indifferent to those loved best
- Hair falls out
- Pain in teeth from 6 P.M
- #9. Rhus Toxicodendron (Poison ivy)
- Thoughts of suicide
- Jaws crack when chewing
- Desire for milk
- #10. Natrum Muriaticum (Table salt, I mentioned earlier some examples of what it supposedly treats)
- #11. Mercurius Vivus (Mercury, I’ve also seen this listed as a remedy ingredient under the name Mercurius Sol – short for Mercurius Solubilis)
- Thinks he is losing his reason
- Sneezing in Sunshine
- Sweetish metallic taste
- #12. Belladonna (Deadly nightshade)
- Patient lives in a world of his own, engrossed by spectres and visions and oblivious to surrounding realities
- Loss of consciousness
- Constant moaning
- #28. Conium Maculatum (Hemlock, a poisonous plant that was historically used as a method of execution, notably for the Greek philosopher Socrates)
- Photophobia and excessive lachrymation (Fear of light and excessive crying)
- Painful spasms of the stomach
- Heavy, weary, paralyzed; trembling; hands unsteady; fingers and toes numb
- #34. Petroleum (Okay, this name is honest enough, but still worth mentioning. Petrol is one of the top homeopathic remedies?)
- Loss of eyelashes
- Strong aversion to fat food, meat; worse, eating cabbage
Hahnemann eventually realised that giving a sick person a substance that causes the symptoms they already had tended to exacerbate their illness rather than cure it. Instead of deciding that he was wrong, and realising that “fight fire with fire” actually isn’t particularly appropriate in the field of medicine, he came up with a rather odd idea… Homeopathic Dilutions.
* It’s interesting to note that this site has what’s known as a quack Miranda warning. In this case:
This site is for information only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
Nothing on this site is a recommendation as to how to treat any particular disease or health-related condition.
Not all conditions will respond to homeopathic treatment.
You’ll see a warning like this quite commonly on sites that sell unproven, untested or even disproven remedies, such as this one. It’s basically their way of covering their tracks in case a customer realises they’ve effectively been conned and decides to become litigious. It’s a good idea to treat a warning such as this one as a big red flag.
- Boericke, William. Natrium Muriaticum. Homœopathic Materia Medica [updated 23 December 2004; cited 04 April 2012]. Available from: http://homeoint.org/books/boericmm/n/nat-m.htm
- What is a Proving. New York School of Homeopathy [updated 27 August 2011; cited 04 April 2012]. Available from: http://www.nyhomeopathy.com/provings.htm
- ABC Homeopathy. ABC Homeopathy [cited 04 April 2012]. Available from: http://abchomeopathy.com/
- Pulsatilla. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [updated 24 January 2012; cited 04 April 2012]. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulsatilla