Homeopathy 101: Selecting a Remedy, The Tools
Homeopaths traditionally have used two main types of references to select remedies: repertories and materia medica.A repertory is basically a big index organized by category (namely body part or function such as Mind, Sleep, Ears, Extremities) and symptoms within those categories. Next to the relevant ailment and symptom, a list of potential remedies is given using the abbreviation for each remedy. There also typically is a means of classifying the remedies–those in capital letters or bold typeface typically are the strongest contenders, then italics, and finally normal typeface.
Numerous repertories have been published, often with older terms for ailments and symptoms. More commonly today, homeopaths use computerized repertories. Complete Dynamics offers a free download of their searchable Complete Repertory, which features more contemporary wording. The free version includes the whole repertory and only a few remedies of materia medica.
Materia Medica is a more in-depth look at the individual remedies, listing what would be in the repertory for that remedy. The materia medica typically provides the full name of the remedy, its abbreviation, and often how the remedy was made. In modern texts you’ll also find more qualitative information, giving you a feel for the remedy and who might benefit from it.
The two references often are compressed in homeopathic self-care books such that one simply searches for an ailment and finds a list of potential remedies with a bit of relevant materia medica after each remedy. Blogs and websites also offer this kind of resource. National Center for Homeopathy‘s new website has some good user-friendly information listed by ailment, too.
Combination books also are available, both for self-care and for homeopathic students and professionals. These have repertories for the more common symptoms as well as materia medica for related remedies. The National Center for Homeopathy‘s website includes several classic repertories and materia medica accessible to members [$55/year, which also gets you the Homeopathy Today magazine, which is a nice introduction to homeopathy for both acute and chronic issues].
When you start perusing homeopathic texts, you might notice two seemingly inconsistent aspects: One remedy can be helpful for many different ailments, and one ailment can be helped by many different remedies.
So, for instance, in the above photos, you’ll notice that three different remedies are listed in the repertory for coldness in the extremities with convulsions, Belladonna amongst them. One symptom, multiple possible remedies.
In the materia medica, Belladonna covers a variety of ailments [typically with a kind of hallmark imprint in both the physical and mental symptoms–in the case of Belladonna, it tends to be flushed, shiny red; violence of attack; sudden onset]. Typically, for each section of the repertory, any given remedy will have some action. So Belladonna doesn’t help only with cold extremities with convulsions. It also helps during ear infections where the ears are hot and sensitive [and guess what? shiny red and inflamed with … sudden onset and such a violence of attack that a child enduring a Belladonna-eligible ear infection might cry out during the night]. One remedy, benefits multiple possible ailments.
The goal when selecting a remedy is to use both the Repertory and the Materia Medica to find the greatest overlap between symptom[s] and remedy.
I’m going to wait to go into greater detail about how to select a remedy to give you time to familiarize yourself with the tools and absorb all of this! That will help make the remedy-selection process easier to understand.
There are a few resources that I find really user-friendly for beginners to homeopathy who simply want to use homeopathy for self-care:
Gabriel Pinto’s book, Homeopathy for Children
Panos’ book, Homeopathic Medicine at Home
Healing with Homeopathy, written by two MD’s
National Center for Homeopathy Remedy Finder [make sure you click on All at the end of the alphabet before each search]
As well as this blog, of course!
If you want some more detailed, time-honored choices, check these out:
Robin Murphy is a big favorite for a more modern repertory and materia medica. Two practitioners whom I respect have touted Murphy’s work–one as the repertory she keeps on the nightstand incase of midnight phone calls, and the other as the books from which she finally fully understood the remedies’ essences.
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