Where do Homeopathic medicines come from?
Have you ever wondered what first gave a practitioner (possibly hundreds of years ago) the idea to use a particular herb to treat an illness?
We now know from contemporary research that traditional medicines are effective for a range of ailments. A well-trained practitioner will cite trials that demonstrate the conditions a traditional medicine may be useful for and why. They will also know what dosage is safest and most effective and what administration method is most acceptable to clients.
But what originally incited interest in practitioners hundreds of years ago to explore the use of a herb?
Nature mirrors potential medicinal uses
A lot of different methods have been used to ‘birth’ a new medicine. One of the more novel approaches, shared by many traditional medicine systems, is the ‘Doctrine of Signatures’ (DoS). DoS asserts that by applying careful observation (together with a dose of intuition) the physical appearance of a plant provides hints to the potential medicinal uses. For example a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner may recommend kidney beans to strengthen the Kidneys; a nutritionist may describe how walnuts are known to support healthy brain function; or an herbalist may reach for the soothing ‘Eyebright’ plant that has long be used to assist the eyes its flowers resemble that gave it its name.
The story of Anemone
Often the DoS will also appear in stories and mythology, where different cultures have featured medicinal herbs in tales that connect to the observed healing properties. As we approach the Easter holiday period, an interesting plant to look at is Anemone Pulsatilla. Greek mythology holds that a beautiful young nymph named Anemone was wooed by the Zephyr, the god of the west wind. His jealous wife was said to have changed Anemone into the downy soft plant ensuring the end of her husband’s dalliance. A common name for the plant is ‘Windflower’ due to its soft and changeable form which is blown back and forth in Zephyr’s caress on the open fields where it grows. Another common name is ‘Pasque Flower’ derived from the Christian ‘Paschal mystery’ celebrated at Easter time, in northern hemisphere Spring when the plant flowers. The juice of the purple flowers was used to create a dye that decorated eggs a bright green colour for Easter celebrations.
How folklore and evidenced based research are linked
Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, rejected the Doctrine of Signatures method as too unreliable and prone to imagination. He preferred that all the indications for his homeopathic medicines to be derived from empirical testing and so introduced some of the first systemic trials into medicine to achieve this. Interestingly, his pathogenetic trials confirmed many of the traditional uses of Pulsatilla.
How Pulsatilla can benefit sensitive people
The homeopathic preparation is used to support soft and sensitive people, who are easily ‘blown around’ by others or may be prone weeping and emotional reactivity. It might be given when someone is broken hearted from the loss of a partner, and feels forsaken. Interestingly the Easter and Spring connections are also observed and are useful mnemonics for the student practitioner. The strong aggravation of physical conditions from excessive consumption of chocolate, sweet or fatty foods is well known, as is symptoms that improve when outdoors enjoying fresh air and gentle breezes. One of the active constituents in the plant protoanemonin is broken down in the presence of air to form anemonin, a strong antibacterial. Pulsatilla is often used internally both herbally and homeopathically to treat upper respiratory conditions such as cough, or infections of the sinuses and eyes.
When to use Pulsatilla?
The changeable weather of Spring and Autumn is an ideal time for the use of Pulsatilla homoeopathically. It may be particularly useful for assisting children who become overemotional following a sugary binge or developed an upper respiratory infection characterised by green discharges.
Despite the growth and importance of contemporary research, the wisdom of folklore and traditional usage remains of much interest to complementary medicine users and practitioners.
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This article provides general information and is not intended to constitute advice. All care is taken to ensure information is accurate and relevant. Please see your Practitioner for health treatments and advice.