Installment 15 of a series on case analysis
© Will Taylor, MD 2001 (bio)
Families of Remedies
Names of Plant Families
As with the names of plants, the names of families have undergone and continue to undergo revision. Looking for a standardized reference, I have used two sources:
- James Reveal (University of Maryland) - position paper on
Vascular Plant Family Nomenclature
- Watson & Dallwitz
The Families of Flowering Plants.
Theses sources also were used as references for historical and contemporary synonyms, and for common English names for plant families.
I have applied common English names only when these are in common use within the homeopathic and/or botanic communities; there is no formal assignment of common English names to plant families apart from colloquial usage, and these are usually merely based on a "typical" or commonly-known member of the group. E.g., the family to which Conium maculatum and Cicuta virosa belong is termed the Umbelliferae (Umbelliferae = Apiaceae as a synonym in historical and occasional contemporary use.)
Although this has sometimes been called the "carrot family" or the "parsley family", these names are merely derived from commonly known members of this family, which are not necessarily typical of the group; these common English names hold no formal significance and are not in widespread use, and so were not included in my database.
In contrast, the common English name for the Solanaceae, the nightshade family, is more descriptive of the family as a whole and is in widespread common use both by botanists and by homeopaths; and so was included.
Placement in Plant Families
Once botanical names were defined, I used principally internet-based resources to identify placement of the species in botanical families. My principal resources were:
In the rare cases where these groups did not concur with a placement to family, I pursued a variety of alternate references to reconcile their differences. Some of the plant species - particularly the South American and Indian species - needed to be researched separately, on sites with regional plant descriptions.
Meaningful Plant Families
Many botanical taxonomic families will prove useful to our purposes of classifying remedies, and many will not. I will discuss this at length in my next installment, but for now, let it suffice to note that many of our botanical families contain only one known remedy, or a few poorly known remedies.
It is tempting in these cases to move up the taxonomic tree, to look at the remedies classified at the Ordinal level or even higher levels of the classification hierarchy, as groups that might be meaningful to our work.
In a very few places I have done this (see the non-flowering plants and fungi, further on in this installment; and the two brief examples near the end of the Botanical Families section on the next page.) But in most cases, these higher taxonomic levels are too large, or comprise remedies of diverse and unrelated action, to be useful to our purpose.
Most of the useful concordances between taxonomically-related plant remedies that have been described, have been at the level of botanical family.