Installment 15 of a series on case analysis
© Will Taylor, MD 2001 (bio)
Families of Remedies
Defining Families of Remedies
Creating a Remedy-Family Database
I have expended a good deal of time and passion over the past year refining and developing a remedy families database, in order to meet the growing interest among homeopaths in investigating concordances between remedies bearing relationships to one another by way of taxonomic classification, chemical composition, source, or other forms of presumed resemblance.
I began by working with the existing "families of remedies" repertory in RADAR, bringing in other sources from our homeopathic literature, but soon determined that, in order to catch the inevitable errors and omissions, I would need to start this project from scratch.
I developed this database within the repertory structure of RADAR. It is available as the Families of Remedies Repertory vers.1.40, which is incorporated into RADAR 9 and Encyclopedia Homeopathica 2.0.
The Synthesis Repertory database lists a total of 2276 remedies, with 1632 remedies represented in 3 or more rubrics. The amount of information on each listed remedy varies tremendously, from 12,326 rubric-entries for Sulphur, to fewer than 10 rubric-entries for 1,011 of these remedies.
For this work, I limited my attention to those 1632 remedies listed in 3 or more rubrics. The 600+ remedies this eliminated are typically listed only for a gross clinical indication from eclectic or domestic medical or toxicological experience, and lack known characterizing symptoms essential for homeopathic prescribing.
In addition, I found that many of the plants among these barely-described remedies are difficult to clearly identify, with names not reconcilable with contemporary lists of named species, and insufficient information in our literature to guide identification.
Types of Families
In this article, I will confine myself largely to the consideration of taxonomic families - groupings created on the basis of presumed phylogenetic/evolutionary relationships for plants and animals, or on the basis of chemical composition for minerals. Many other forms of classification of remedies have been or could be described - e.g., groups based on habitat or bioregion ("sea remedies"), groups based on strategy ("predators," "scavengers"), groups based on external appearances ("trees*" "vines"), groups based on the part of the source used ("roots," "barks," "venoms"). Groupings of this sort have been included in the Families Database discussed in this article, but I will defer discussion of these to a future installment.
*Note that trees do not represent a taxonomically-meaningful group, but rather a growth strategy of plants that evolved autonomously in several independent lineages.
The first task I faced with the plants was identifying their contemporary Latin names. Although some of our plant remedies are easy to confidently place in botanical families, many required a search of the botanical literature for accurate placement; and for this, I needed identification of the plant in contemporary botanical nomenclature. Beyond the issue of classification within taxonomic families, I feel that an accurate description/identification of the plant species we use, in contemporary nomenclature, is in order.
Botanical nomenclature has changed and evolved since the 19th century, and the contemporary names and classifications of many of our plant remedies have changed over time. An early example of confusion around botanical names is seen with our Cimicifuga racemosa, which Hering names Actea racemosa in the print copy of his Guiding Symptoms.
Some of these name-confusions are rather obvious, and simple to reconcile by looking around within our literature.
- Our Belladonna is Atropa belladonna
- China is Cinchona officinalis
- Camphora officinalis is Cinnamonum camphora
- Nux vomica is Strychnos nux vomica
Others are more difficult. A search for contemporary information on Anacardium orientale reveals that this tree has been renamed Semecarpus anacardium.
Even our Ledum has been renamed: