Is Hahnemannian Homeopathy doomed into oblivion again?

Dr  George Vithoulkas

Will the injections of “modern” ideas into the main body of knowledge have such an effect?
The rejuvenation and renaissance of Homeopathy that we have been witnessing over the past thirty years seems lately doomed to take a downward turn toward a point of degeneration, confusion and, finally, even oblivion.
This downward trend is manifesting especially in USA and England where the so called “modern homeopathy” is prevalent.
This is obvious from the last assault on homeopathy by the media in these countries.

Doctrine of signatures
It is my strong belief that Homeopathy’s eventual downfall will be due mainly to a number of “artistic distortions” that are injected into the main body of knowledge by the “imagination” and “projections” of some “modern teachers’ of Homeopathy. Since many of our students are receptive to the myths and stories concocted by flights of wild imagination, many so-called teachers have risen to fill this gap.

The motivation for this article comes from a critic of the book of an Indian homeopath in Simillimum, Vol. 7, No.3: Perhaps the most inspired section of the book “is the exposition concerning the kingdoms of the remedies – animal, plant, and mineral…based upon easily recognisable features. He has extended the doctrine of signatures far beyond any previous scope. He has boldly stated that the imprint of the remedy is detectable in the patient. I found Sankaran has entered a realm of… intuitive science”! [my exclamation mark.] It is extremely difficult for me to understand how an arbitrary and totally imaginary translation of the symptoms of a patient into an “easily recognisable” likeness of an animal, a vegetable, a mineral or a…nosode makes for an intuitive science!

It is obvious that many interpretations can be given by a practitioner to any given symptomatology in a patient.

That would mean in a way that just because a patient is freezing and snakes are cold blooded and frozen from the cold weather we should choose a snake venom for such a patient e.g Lachesis (which is a warm remedy aggravated by heat instead of choosing arsenicum, hep-s, silica cistus , rhus-tox etc. that are really cold remedies.

It is easy for everyone then to see the confusion that will result when a doctor tries to categorise his/her patients by “whether they look like an animal or a vegetable or a…nosode, and how wrong he/she can be in his interpretations. But even if you have categorised somebody into one of these four groups, in what way will this help you to find his or her simillimum ?

What will you prescribe in a case of mental disturbance when you see the desire of the patient to bite during delirium? Dog’s milk, (Lac Caninum) tiger’s milk? cat’s milk? or a remedy that has this symptom in its provings  for instance Stramonium or Belladonna  both plant remedies?

Will you prescribe Lac-can in a patient whose coughing sounds like “barking of a dog” or you will prescribe hyosc.(a plant remedy) that has this symptom as one of its great characteristic? To claim that you can find the likeness or similarity of a patient to a vegetable, an animal, a mineral, is so subjective and allows for so many interpretations that it is totally unreliable. A serious practitioner could not possibly put at risk his patients with such nonsense.

We have had a lot of problems persuading people that Homeopathy is a Science. Now, with all this nonsense, we are once again reinforcing their arguments claiming that Homeopathy is a “non-science”. Such ideas and others, which can be discussing in the future, are signs of degeneration.

If some teachers interpret homeopathic science in such a manner and others do not question their interpretation, we may soon be witnessing the transformation of this science into a kind of “hodgepodge mythology”.

I am not opposed to experimentation, conjecture, pure imaginary projections or even theorising, as long as such things remain in the domain of research and observation and are not put forth as “facts” to the rest of the profession.

There is no doubt that we are living in a crazy world with farfetched ideas, where real knowledge is interspersed with confusion, projections and misinformation.

We must not forget, however, that our task, our mission, as homeopaths is to turn the craziness, disorder and confusion of our societies into some kind of sanity and order with the right remedy.

It is true that our science today has a “degree of uncertainty”, a gap which may be filled with what may be called “artistic or intuitive interpretations,” and everyone can supply this according to his or her own point of view or imagination.

But interpreting the sensations and feelings of a patient into something beyond their meaning and reality is a dangerous road for a homeopath to take. We must perceive the reality of human suffering as signs and symptoms expressed by the patient and try to match it with what we know to be the pathognomonic picture of the remedy from the provings. We have to be careful not to project our own little theories or fancies when the health of a human being is at stake.

There is no doubt that homeopathy is difficult in its application and short cuts are eagerly welcomed by those of our profession who are longing for the new, the easy, the miraculous and the effortless. But such shortcuts will also have their own shortcomings, and, thus will add to the gradual demise of homeopathy.

Soon students of homeopathy with good intentions and enthusiasm will be seduced by such “artistic interpretations” and become disillusioned and disheartened when they try to put these ideas into practice. Many will leave these ranks for safer ground, but others will leave homeopathy permanently in bitter disappointment. The long term damage done to homeopathy will be irreparable.

In the recent years another confusing idea was posed by Sankaran in his book The Spirit of Homeopathy.

The question is: Whether a particular “situation” could create a group of symptoms that point out to a specific remedy.

The author seems to have arrived to a positive conclusion that it was really the situation mainly responsible for creating a specific symptomatology and so a new type of homeopathic materia medica was created. The situational Materia medica!

This is considered by some homeopaths to be an innovative idea of the recent months!

It is really a wonder how this author has arrived in to such a conclusion as everybody else knew until today that it is really the miasmatic background of the patient, his susceptibility and subsequent predisposition that determines the manifestation of one or another type of symptomatology.

Theoretically at least for each situational stress we have many different syndromes -group of symptoms- pointing to different remedies. This is the whole idea in classical homeopathy, the essence of homeopathic prescribing, which lies in individualizing every case independent of the situation, whether the stress is pathological mental or emotional.

If we accept the theory that every time a situation can create a specific host of symptoms of a particular remedy then the essence of the ideas of Hahneman are gone and we are approaching again the allopathic way of thinking, where it says that for a specific pathogen we have always a specific pathology. If we accept such ideas then while our work will appear to be entering a huge easy open door our work will seem to becomes very simplified and classical homeopathy to You just need to know the situation on which you found yourself on this or on a previous life and the remedy will be apparent!!

If you found yourself in a previous life enclosed on the ruins of an earth quake then your remedy most probably is Arnica because of the memory of the bruises you received in spite of the fact that your resent symptomatology may point out to Palladium or Coralium rubrum.

If you were persecuted in one of your previous lives by enemies then this particular memory is really overwhelming you in this life and your remedy most probably is kali-bromatum.

This particular teacher warns his foollowers of course to be careful and not to take seriously and for granted all this but his followers really do in spite of the warning.

But the fact that he gives a new materia medica in his book the spirit of homeopathy shows that he himself is taking his ideas seriously and of course misguiding innocent and naive students who have just come to homeopathy.

But we al know that a situation, a grief for instance can create symptomatology of a host of remedies- we know at least sixty remedies that are indicated for this situation – which one should one prescribe according to the theory of this very good teacher?

Don’t we have to still choose according to the totality of the symptoms?

But even that a situation may really create a symptomatology it is not the real situation that is always responsible for it.

Many times an imaginary fear can create it as well. The real situation of poverty seldom if ever creates the “fear of poverty” On the contrary we see it more frequently in affluent people of the west and sometime in the very rich ones.

The examples could be unlimited as well the wrong type of ambition to excel!!.

The disputes between Homeopaths.
Disputes exist also within the ranks of the followers of Hahnemann. The disputes arise mainly between those who strictly adhere to the principles of homeopathy as enunciated by Hahnemann and prescribe only one remedy at a time, the so-called “unicists” or “classical homeopaths”, and the “eclectics’” or “polypharmacists” who prescribe more than one remedy at a time.

The first group of classical homeopaths maintain that there is only one remedy that will cure the patient at any given stage of his disease and no other will do the work. Therefore, the specific remedy has to be found each time through an elaborate and time consuming process.

The eclectics believe that this is a utopia, that the indicated remedy is very difficult to find, and that it is easier and quicker to give 3, 4 or even 20 remedies at a time if necessary with the hope that the correct one will be among them.

Apart from these differences there are also other groups who believe in giving only low potencies of 3x up to 6x, while others are firm believers in the power of high potencies, from 30C up to 100. 000C.

There are several other methods that use potentised homeopathic remedies, among them Anthroposophy, Electrohomeopathy and Radiaesthesia, but these branches have very little to do with homeopathy and the principles set down by Hahnemann.

The present situation in the world.
Homeopathy was in fashion in Europe and America at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century; it then fell into almost complete oblivion. But the last years of the twentieth century seem to be heralding a return of its popularity.

Thousands of doctors now in Europe are taking up Homeopathy as a fringe speciality. Some third world countries such as India, Pakistan and Mexico have been using homeopathy for many years on a large scale, and their governments are financing the promotion of education in Homeopathic Medicine.

In America several States recognise the practice of homeopathy, which is taught in various Naturopathic Colleges.

Medical doctors, health practitioners of all kinds, and last but not least patients throughout the world are turning to this alternative form of health care mostly because they believe that it is at least a safe form of medicine. Many medical doctors see it as a complimentary method to their medical education, considering homeopathy a safe method for dealing with chronic diseases, if not a complete alternative.

Since it is difficult to give an accurate estimate of the number of medical doctors practising homeopathy in one form or another in Europe, an idea as to the amount of homeopathic prescriptions issued during the last years in some of the European countries can be gained from the following extracts from “Proposals for Council Directives of the Commission of the European Communities:”

“… Homeopathic remedies represent a small but not insignificant share of the pharmaceuticals market, of the order of half a billion (500 000 000) ECU… ” In 1987, the Commission asked the Belgian Consumers’ Association to carry out a study on the market for alternative medicine among European consumers. This study, written by G. Sermus, covers seven Community countries (Belgium, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, United Kingdom) as well as Finland and Switzerland. It shows that a considerable proportion of the population (from 18% to 75% depending on country) makes use of alternative therapies. Homeopathy is the principal method among them. ” 7

As one can easily see from the above figures the popularity of homeopathy seems at the moment to be on the rise.

Whereas opponents think that it is only a trend that will soon be forgotten again, contemporary homeopaths believe that the time for homeopathy has come.

However it may be, it would seem as though, homeopathy were likely to remain an open issue both with the medical world and with patients alike for quite some time.

The question whether a constitutional remedy exists for every individual was raised quite early on in the homeopathic literature by Hahnemann himself when he stated that in order to cure completely and permanently you needed to find the “deeper” indicated remedy according to his theory of the chronic miasms. 1

The meaning of such expression was never clear in the homeopathic sense and before one can talk about a constitutional remedy we should define what we -in homeopathy – really mean with this expression.

Many times in homeopathic gatherings one hears the question “what is your constitutional remedy?” or even worse when somebody asks a supposed expert “what do you think is my constitutional remedy?” Such ideas have degraded homeopathy and have given it an air of magic or superficiality that our science does not deserve.

I will not go in to the different types and descriptions of several authors defining the meaning of this word before or after Hahnemann but I will rather stick to the most practical and applicable meaning of it in everyday practice.

According to such an understanding, a remedy can be defined as constitutional when – by virtue of its symptomatology – it covers the basic chronic or acute symptomatology of the person throughout his life; in spite of the fact that such a person may suffer, in different stages of his life, from different nosological entities like otitis media, lumbago, sciatica, bronchitis, or psoriasis, the indicated remedy remains always the same.

If we accept such a definition as correct then experience, from every day practice, shows the following.

– Those such patients could be found today in almost none of these cases or at very best in very very few cases. These are the very healthy people living up to a very old age with very few problems. Today they are found practically only in rural areas and in the clean climates of the mountains, living a very quite life, away from civilisation and almost never in the crowded cities.

– Such cases could have been met more frequently in older times when people were much healthier in comparison with today’s degenerated states of health that we meet in our everyday practice.

– Another point that we have to consider is the fact that according to our theory if a person gets his right remedy-or his constitutional one- then -at least theoretically- he will be cured and therefore automatically change from the type of person he is. The question again remains is there another remedy that could help such a patient or should we expect that with the same remedy we will solve all his future problems?

To suppose that after the constitutional remedy the patient remains well for the rest of his life, again on a theoretical basis, is not correct as everyone is subject to degeneration and death, notwithstanding their excellent level of health. Even worse is if the individual already has a bad state of health by the time he approaches someone for homeopathic treatment.

– We therefore come easily to the conclusion that such a definition has no meaning in deep chronic cases, which we meet today.

What can be said then, in such cases where you need two, three, four or even more remedies before you can say that the patient is really better?

Which will be considered his “constitutional remedy” out of the three, four or five remedies that may have been prescribed during the course of three, four or five years?

What will be the constitutional remedy in such a type of case where four or five remedies have been prescribed, all with some results?

Obviously it is not possible to say with certainty whether one of them was the constitutional remedy.

But if one of those remedies helped the most, can we say that this particular remedy could be called the patient’s constitutional remedy? What is the significance of calling it “a constitutional” remedy?

The experienced homeopath knows that these types of cases are actually the most frequent in one’s practice.

So to define what we mean by “constitutional” remedy is not an easy task and perhaps a task that is not necessary for successful treatment.

However, the question could be phrased differently:

If one can find a clear-cut remedy to start treatment in a chronic case could such remedy be called constitutional?

The answer to this question is again complex because we encounter the following dilemma.

If after giving the supposedly constitutional remedy we have a relapse, there are various possibilities:

a. If the same remedy is indicated and benefits the patient in the case of a relapse, and if this happens for a third time, may we then say that this is his constitutional remedy?

b. There is a possibility that after a relapse from such a remedy the next remedy needed is different in order to complete or to complement the action of the first so that the improvement will continue even though the first remedy acted well.

In such a case can we say that the first remedy was his constitutional remedy?

c. There is a possibility that a second remedy could be given with some amelioration but the third remedy is the one that appears to really benefit the patient. Can we say that their constitutional remedy was the third one?

d. In today’s cases we frequently see that even when a remedy is clearly indicated at the beginning of a case but after giving such a remedy there is no improvement, then his next symptomatology changes dramatically and requires another remedy. In such a case can we say that the first or the second remedy was constitutional?

In conclusion we might say that we can define a constitutional remedy as the main remedy that will benefit the patient most.

But such a statement has no meaning apart from indicating that there is one remedy that is always indicated at a certain stage of pathology for each patient and such remedy should be found and prescribed in order to get the most benefit for the patient.

Experience shows that in every complicated case there is a precise sequence of remedies that should be discovered after studying the case and a correct evaluation of the symptomatology, and such sequence has to be prescribed at the right time and in the right potency before we can affect a cure in today’s complicated cases.

The whole explanation of this process is impossible to expound upon here and the basics can be found in my book A New Model for Health and Disease. It is not possible to give all the intricacies of the subject we are talking about in a short treatise.

In the meantime the student of classical homeopathy understands that there are some signs and symptoms that come together in order to form the unique picture of a remedy. Such descriptions usually refer again to the “pure” types or if you like, the “constitutional” types. It is the “essential picture” of the remedy in its psychopathology.

That means that every remedy has some basic characteristic symptoms in its mental emotional and physical pathology and if these characteristics are observed in the patient we tend to say that this is the constitutional remedy of such a patient. From the above it is obvious that we again use this term in a loose manner.

It is also important for us to understand that each person may show a tendency towards certain pathology but may never develop such pathology or we can say that he/she is not sick unless he/she manifests such symptomatology.

Yet the remedy can be detected from his mental-emotional make up plus a few prodromal physical symptoms, which are covered by the remedy. In such a case again we tend to talk about a constitutional remedy.

So a constitutional remedy is one that will actually prevent the pathology from manifesting. For example, the fact that somebody has an inordinate desire for sweets, is tired especially in the morning on waking, has a great thirst for water but drinks it in small quantities frequently, and also has some anxiety coming in the afternoon hours indicates the prescription of Lycopodium in spite of the fact that the actual diabetes mellitus has not yet appeared in the laboratory examinations.

But according to the theories of Hahnemann himself such an individual after ten years may eventually develop different pathology with symptoms indicating Medorrhinum as a second level of pathology, and again the question will arise whether the Lycopodium or the Medorrhinum was his constitutional remedy.

It is obvious therefore from this above short analysis that the meaning of “constitutional” remedy is rather an elusive one or better that it has eluded several generations of homeopaths so far and it is my belief that it will continue to do so in the future.


  1. George Vithoulkas. The Science of Homeopathy. Grove Press (1980).
  2. Davenas E., Poitevin B., Benveniste J. Effect on mouse peritoneal macrophages of very high dilutions of silica. Eur. J. Pharmacol. (1987. 135 : 313-319).
  3. Poitevin B., Davenas E., Beneveniste J. In vitro immunological degranulation of human basophils is modulated by Lung histamine and Apis mellifica.  Br. J. clin. Pharm. (1988, 25 : 439-444).
  4. Davenas E., Beauvais F., Amara J., Oberbaum M., Robinzon B., Miadonna A., Tedeschi A., Pomeranz B., Fortner P, Belon P., Sainte-Laudy J., Poitevin B., Benveniste J. Human basophil degranulation triggered by very dilute antiserum against IgE. Nature. 1988. 333 : 816-818).
  5. Benveniste J., Davenas E., Ducot B., Cornillet B., Poitevin B. L’agitation de solutions hautement diluees n’induit pas d’activite biologique specifique. C.R. Acad. Sci. Paris, 1991, 312 (serie II) : 461-466.
  6. David Taylor Reilly et al. Is Homoeopathy a Placebo Response? Controlled Trial of Homoeopathic Potency, with Pollen in Hayfever as Model. Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital, University Department of Bacteriology and Immunology, Western Infirmary, Glasgow; and Department of Statistics, University of Glasgow. The Lancet, October 18, 1986. pp. 881-886.
  7. Proposals for Council Directives nos. COM (90) 72 – SYN 251/252 of the Commission of the European Communities.

Courtesy : Similima team is thankful to Maria Chorianopoulou, PhD,Assistant to Professor George Vithoulkas,Lecturer of Panteion University, Greece for allowing us to reproduce this article for


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