Index of All Installments

Installment 15 of a series on case analysis

© Will Taylor, MD 2001 (bio)

Families of Remedies

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Section 5

Botanical Taxonomic Schemes

Botanical taxonomists, like any other group of people I know, seem to have trouble agreeing with one another. This is compounded by the reality that plant classification is based on numerous subjective criteria.

Several different systems of plant classification exist, and three of these appear to dominate the scene at present. These are the systems of Arthur Cronquist, RMT Dahlgren, and the Angiosperm Phylogeny Group (APG). The latter incorporates data from DNA and protein analysis, to supplement the relationships implied by structural similarities that characterize the first two systems.

With a few notable exceptions, these systems recognize the same botanical families, and organize membership within these families in nearly identical manners. They differ largely in how they relate plant families one to another - the affinities between families, and the organization of plant families within higher taxonomic structure.

A Best Scheme for Homeopathy ?

Which of these systems makes the most sense for incorporation into a Homeopathic Remedies Family Database? At first glance, the "more objective" APG system may feel more compelling in its ability to assess real phylogenetic/evolutionary relationships between plants. DNA affinities seem more compelling than structural similarities. Yet for the purposes of botanists, this classification system is in its infancy, and is not universally embraced.

And for our purpose as homeopaths, we need to ask whether we are interested primarily in the phylogenetic/evolutionary relationships of plants, or in features which lead plants to bear resemblances one to another - will medicinal properties follow phylogenetic and evolutionary lines, or structural lines, or chemical and pharmacological lines?

My choice was to incorporate all three systems - separately, so that the user could choose which to use, even look at relationships from three differing perspectives in any given instance.

Cistus, Viola odorata and Viola tricolor

As example - in the APG scheme, the remedy Cistus canadensis (Helianthemum canadense, Rockrose) is placed in the family Malvaceae, of the Malvales, Eurosids II. In the Dahlgren scheme, it is in the family Cistaceae, Malvales, Malviflorae.

However Cronquist places it in the Cistaceae, Violales, adjacent to the family Violaceae (Viola odorata, Viola tricolor) - which allows us to reflect upon some fascinating concordances with these latter two remedies, helping us to appreciate the scope of action of this relatively small (657 rubric) remedy.

Conversely, in the APG scheme, Paeonia officinalis (family Paeoniaceae) and Hamamelis virginiana (Hamamelidaceae) are both classified in the order Saxifragales. Although the Dahlgren and Cronquist schemes classify these remedies in those same respective families, they do not relate these two families closely to one another; and hence fail to bring these two remedies of very similar properties together for comparison.

Next: Non-flowering Plants

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