With every new Materia Medica being published since the origin of Homoeopathic science, all our eminent and experienced Homoeopaths have come forth with their own understanding and clinical assessment of the original symptoms given in the sources of Homoeopathic Materia Medica.
They have provided the young and lesser experienced Homoeopaths with an easier yet often poorly understood interpretations of the original Materia Medicas.
The need of the hour is to go back to the dependable symptoms recorded by the founder of Homoeopathy Dr. Samuel Hahnemann and his followers to have a better and deeper understanding of this subject. That’s why a study based only on the original source books of Homoeopathic Materia Medica is necessary.
Dr Hering’s most valuable contribution to Homeopathic world is his “Guiding Symptoms of our Materia Medica.” Being a Homeopathic practitioner, this book should be studied and well understood to acknowledge the perfection in which Renowned Homeopaths of old times carried out the process of Proving and more.
Hering’s Guiding Symptoms was published in 10 Volumes. 1st and 2nd volumes were published in 1879 and 1880. The rest of the volumes were posthumous, I.e. published after the death of Dr Hering, by his most faithful disciples C.G. Raue, C.B. Knerr and C. Mure in 1881-1891.
Hering’s Materia Medica marked as the beginning of “Matured Materia Medica”
To quote Dr Jugal Kishore, “For Hering, a symptom does not acquire the status of a guiding symptom unless apart from its appearance in a prover or provers, it has been verified on the bedside a number of times.” Dr Hering made sure that Materia Medica was formed with dependable symptoms were proved and reproved, and that’s the basis of how he has graded the symptoms in his Materia Medica. Before him, symptoms were simply put together without any analysis and practical testing.
He reformed the way in which grading of symptoms was done. Dr Hahnemann and Dr T. F. Allen in their Materia Medicas also graded symptoms but it was based on frequency of occurrence of symptoms during proving. Dr Hering’s methods of Gradation was based on Reproving and verification of symptoms on patients. These were –
| – Symptoms occasionally confirmed
|| – Symptoms repeatedly confirmed
| – Symptoms verified by cure
|| – Symptoms repeated verified by cure
He used some other abbreviations in his Materia Medica, which are worth noting and carry great value in study of remedies.
“Hand Sign” – Indicates Approved Characteristic
“Theta” – Present between cured symptom and the pathological condition, or Physiological General State eg pregnancy or climacteric.
“t” – Toxicological symptoms
“Pi” – Symptom observed only on the sick
Importance of Guiding Symptoms of Our Materia Medica
- It incorporates cured pathological symptoms.
- Allen’s keynotes is entirely based on this book.
- Kent’s lectures of Homeopathic Materia Medica are based on this book.
- Farrington looked upto this book for his Comparative Materia Medica.
- Clarke’s dictionary of Practical Materia Medica was also based on this book.
Dr. Hering started believing in the science of Homoeopathy when going through Dr. Hahnemann’s works for the sake of making quotations against it, he came across the famous ‘nota bene for my reviewers’ in the preface to the third volume of ‘Materia Medica Pura’, which said, “This doctrine appeals not only chiefly, but solely to the verdict of experience repeat the experiments,” it cries aloud, repeat them carefully and accurately, and you will find the doctrine confirmed at every step and it does what no medical doctrine, no system of physic, no so-called therapeutics ever did or could do, it insists upon being “judged by the result.” 
Talking about Materia Medica and its importance is never complete without mentioning the contributions by Dr Hahnemann and other important works. A short overview on all these are mentioned below :
- MATERIA MEDICA PURA (1811- 1833) by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, Translated by R.E. Dudgeon
Third edition (1830-1833) – 64 drugs ( + 3 Magnets) Translator’s copy (by R.E. Dudgeon) – 67drugs
- It was the first Materia Medica prepared by Dr. Hahnemann himself. Most of drugs were proved by Dr. Hahnemann and his colleagues. The proving contains symptoms in the form of altered sensations and functions felt by the prover after taking a drug. The symptoms are collected as they appeared according to the time factor and according to the schema of Dr. Hahnemann.
- Every care was taken to secure the true and full action of the medicines. Proving were made upon persons in perfect health, and living in contentment and comparative ease.
- The Chronic diseases – Their peculiar nature and their Homoeopathic cure by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, translated by Prof. Louis H. Tafel
(Second edition – 1835-1839, 5 volumes, 47 drugs)
- Proving symptoms, clinical symptoms & few toxicological symptoms are recorded in this book in a modified way.
- Dr. Hughes followed the references given by Dr. Hahnemann and found many of them were made upon the sick for assessing the real value of symptoms. So Hughes writes, “I am compelled to draw the conclusion that the great bulk of the pathogenesis of the Chronischen Krankheiten (Chronic Diseases) are not to be relied upon as genuine physiological effects of the drug”.
- The Encyclopedia of Pure MM edited by Timothy F. Allen (1874-79, 10 volumes, 715 medicines)
- The sources from which this compilation has been made are:
- Experiments made upon healthy individuals for the purpose of noting the effects of the drug.
- Effects observed after poisonous doses (accidentally or maliciously administered).
- Symptoms (cautiously admitted) observed in the sick after the administration of the drug.
- Under the heading of each drug, are collected all the symptoms obtained from it by every prover who has tested it, from Dr. Hahnemann down to the latest student of the American colleges.
- A CYCLOPAEDIA OF DRUG PATHOGENESY issued under the auspices of the British homoeopathic Society and the American Institute of Homoeopathy edited by Dr. Richard Hughes, MD and J.P. Dake, MD
(1886-91, 4 volumes, 304 medicines)
- American ‘Hahnemannian Monthly‘ described the Cyclopaedia of Drug Pathogenesy as “a work without parallel in all medical literature”
- This book was a unique attempt to present a truly critical collection of the materia medica and demanded a high degree of dedication from its readers.
- The British Homoeopathic Society held a meeting regarding the need of such a work and appointed Dr. Hughes for it, who, with the help of other dedicated homeopaths completed this book in 1886.
- It gives the narratives of all the provings, the known cases of poisonings and also the results of experiments on the lower animals.
The Remedies studied from the source books will be useful to understand them in totality. Even better if they are studied with comparisons. The comparison of the source books will assess the differences and similarities in gradations of the symptoms providing a better insight into the respective experiences of the authors.
The source of the characteristic symptoms will help in understanding the relative significance of various symptoms in a prescription based on characteristics, providing an analysis regarding the type of symptoms which should be given higher priority in drug picture formation.
Further, a Repertorial assessment of the identified symptoms can give an authentic data regarding the conversion of symptoms into rubrics and the differences between the gradations in them. This will provide a better understanding about the formation and usefulness of repertory as well.
Since studying Materia Medica can be very confusing and a tedious process through the source books, it is always good to understand the remedies and its themes through the insight of Modern Homeopaths as well. The Homeopathic Academy provides great Online courses for studying Materia Medica with audio-visual aid, making the earning very interesting and easily comprehensible.
One can consider learning the psychological theme of remedies from Dr Philip Bailey himself through his online course on Comparative Homeopathic Psychology available at Comparative Homeopathic Psychology
Or if you want to learn the clinical value and applicable symptoms of some polychrests, enroll in Dr Ronak Shah’s online course on Clinical Materia Medica available at Clinical Materia Medica
- Nanda L.K.,The fundamentals of Homeopathic Materia Medica, Volume 1, Indian Books and Periodicals publishers, New Delhi, 2015
- Hahnemann S., Materia MEDICA PURA, Volume I, Third edition, translator’s copy by R.E. Dudgeon, b. Jain publishers pvt. Ltd., new delhi, 1999
- Hughes R., A Manual of Pharmacodynamics, sixth edition, b. Jain publishers pvt. Ltd., new delhi, 1999
- Hahnemann S., The Chronic diseases – Their peculiar nature and their Homoeopathic cure, Volume I, Second edition, translation by prof. Loius h. Tafel, b. Jain publishers pvt. Ltd., new delhi, 2001
- Allen Timothy F., The Encyclopedia of Pure materia Medica, Volume I, b. Jain publishers, pvt. ltd., new delhi, 2000
- Hughes R., Dake J.P., A CYCLOPAEDIA OF DRUG PATHOGENESY, volume I, boericke and tafel, new york, 1886. available on https://bit.ly/3MUPaY9