This book review is reprinted from Volume 95 Number 2 Summer 2005 edition of American Journal of Homeopathic Medicine with permission of the American Institute of Homeopathy
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Birds: Homeopathic Remedies for the Avian Realm
By Jonathan Shore, MD, Judy Schriebman, Anneke Hogeland
Reviewed by William Shevin, MD
Several new homeopathic medicines, originating from the family of the birds, are described in this valuable addition to the homeopathic bookshelf.
Two crucial factors necessary to ensure the survival and development of homeopathy are the accuracy of prescribing and the subsequent proper management of cases. To prescribe accurately, homeopaths need to better know how to apply those medicines which have been known for a long time, but we must also expand the range of available medicines. Those of my patients, who are now doing far better with remedies from the bird kingdom than they ever did with any previous prescription, can attest that expanding materia medica into this particular realm has been of tremendous benefit.
Roger Morrison, M.D., in his forward, proposes that the main purpose of this work is to make this class at remedies accessible for curative prescribing. The authors have succeeded in these tasks.
In the section named "Bird Characteristics;' the authors list symptoms which came out in many of the individual provings and which, therefore, form a "general picture" of the family. These include the following:
Conceptual organization - the bird family is differentiated from minerals (as a class) in that details (which people needing the mineral remedies tend to emphasize) are less important than is the sequence of events.
Impartial detachment - observation without involvement.
Intuition or natural knowing - related to the previous .characteristic and leading to ease,a naturalness of action, and confidence.
Sensation as if drugged/Disorientation in time and space - this characteristic is obviously not specific to the bird remedies.
Spiritual Awareness - involving a connection between air, breath, and spirit.
Empathy - the authors note two things in this regard. Birds as a group have characteristics (being relaxed on an interpersonal level, connected through feeling to each other,family oriented, etc.), which, coupled with impartial attitude and spiritual awareness, leads to involvement in the healing professions. Secondly, that "a high percentage" of patients receiving bird remedies come from the helping professions or vocations involved in the "public good". My own experience does not agree. I suspect that this impression may be an artifact of the phenomenon that many homeopathic patients already come from such vocational or professional groups. The authors' observation here, I think, runs the risk of helping practitioners to make a pre-judgment which could lead to prejudice in case taking.
Relationship - the authors differentiate those birds that live in flocks (such as Macaw and Pelican) from those that live in a more nuclear family setting (such as Falcon and Hawk). The provings from the two groups bring out, correspondingly, themes of connection/separation and role in community (in the former) and desire for aloneness, understanding from individual family members,and fear of or sense of abandonment (in the latter). Considering my own patients who have responded well to Macaw, Falcon, and Hawk, I concur in this differentiation.
Freedom and Travel - again, the sense of freedom is a strong feature of my own cases, and the individual's concept of freedom is expressed or manifested differently in the individual bird. I have found these aspects the most useful pointers to the bird family.
Perfectionism - the authors note an "urge to get it right" rather than a true fastidiousness.
Physiognomy and Physiology of birds - This is an interesting section that notes that birds (as compared to humans) have light bone structures (an adaptation for flight), high metabolic rates, and different ways of handling fluid balance. These differences are seen to give rise to some of the generalities brought out in the provings (symptoms related to vibration, restlessness, irritability, disturbance of appetite, thirst, etc.)
Particular symptoms common to the group are then described. One interesting part in this section is the observation that provings of the water birds bring out the sensation of a lump in the throat (which the authors note in conjunction with the long gullets and large size of the food bolus in these birds), while the birds with smaller gullets have more local inflammatory symptoms (soreness in the throat, for example).
Following the general picture is a discussion of the "Key Features" of the individual birds. The authors note that features of mind and spirit most easily differentiate the individual birds, and the discussions have those features as their main (but not sole) emphasis. This section includes core ideas, key aspects, prominent rubrics, natural history, mythology and symbolism, differential diagnosis, clinical conditions to consider, and a notation about the proving. The page numbers of the provings themselves and the clinical cases (presented in the subsequent sections) are given for easy reference.
The individual birds in the book are: Brown Pelican, Scarlet Macaw, Ring Dove (Woodpigeon), Redtailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Raven, Peregrine Falcon, Saker Falcon, Turkey Vulture, Andean Condor, Humboldt Penguin, Whooping Swan, Mute Swan, and Wandering Albatross.
Following the descriptions of the individual birds is a slightly larger section with data from the provings. This is introduced with an interesting discussion of the various proving methodologies used, and the results of two experiments regarding proving methodologies done by Jonathan Shore in 1996 and 2003, which this reviewer found to be fascinating.
I especially noted the authors' assertion that it is the duty of the proving master, rather than someone not connected to the proving, to delineate the central themes of the remedy. They state "the distant observer, who has not had the privilege of directly experiencing the energy of a substance, often cannot bring order to the mass of symptoms by mental analysis alone, and thus is left to the chance recognition of some peculiar symptom or other which has stuck in memory in bringing the remedy into practice. This opinion is in accord with the authors' concept of the meaning of provings and their willingness to accord validity to the concordance of symptomatology and the nature of substance, mythology, folklore, etc. This is a controversial stance, and arguments can be made for both sides. This reviewer is partial to the present authors' views in this regard. In any methodology of homeopathy that involves the communication of one individual's experience to another, largely through symbolic language, it seems valid to accord the same subjective structure to the proving process itself, as well as the development of the "picture" of the remedy. It is, after all, humans who have developed the traditional uses, folklore, and mythology that have made discoveries about the technical features of substances, their use in science, engineering, medicine, etc. All of this is filtered through human consciousness at every level.
The authors conducted several, but not all of the included provings. Among the differing methodologies mentioned are "Hahnemannian (Classical);' "Modern Classical" (as described, for example, by Jeremy Sherr), "Modified Classical" (as conducted, for example, by Nancy Herrick),"Seminar provings;' "Meditation provings;' and "Trituration provings:' This last method is related to the experiences of a group of individuals who share in the actual trituration of the remedy (according to the procedures laid out by Hahnemann). This methodology is one that the authors have been very involved with. For some in the homeopathic community, I suspect that the information in the book will be suspect owing to a lack of acceptance for the specified proving methodologies.
The information for the provings of each individual remedy in the book varies in nature and length. Of necessity, they are summaries. Some are very short and in some cases the reader is directed to another source (in computer databases, other books, the internet, etc.). In some instances, notably the authors' own provings, much more detailed information is given.
Cases of each of the remedies are then presented (excluding Saker Falcon, Great Horned Owl, and Great Blue Heron), with comment by the prescribers, and in some cases the authors. The authors make explicit their desire to see more cured cases of these (and other) bird remedies in order that the "images" of the individual bird remedies can be clarified, expanded, and properly focused.
Twenty-seven cases and an additional case of Tuberculinum aviare (suggested by Alize Timmerman as a "nosode for the bird family") are given. Some of the cases are prescribed for by the authors themselves, while many are not. The case taking methodologies vary, as do the quality of the analyses that explicate the choices of remedy made. The authors append comments to some of the cases. As can be expected, the cases vary in quality and case taking technique, and as with the provings, some readers may not consider the presented data sufficient to warrant the prescription. Some of the follow-ups focus exclusively on mental symptomatology (which is the reported focus of the patient complaints in these instances.)
An appendix follows, which consists of a compilation of the rubrics listed in the book. It is not considered to be exhaustive, however, either in the rubrics themselves or the remedies included in each rubric (of which there is only one for each of the rubrics.) Because of these limitations, I'm not sure how valuable this section will be as a reference.
An index forms the last section. I highly recommend this book for those who want to avail themselves of the bird remedies in patient care. Indeed, after reading the book for this review, I prescribed one of the bird remedies I'd never previously used.
About the Reviewer: William Shevin, MD, DHt has practiced classical homeopathy since 1981 in Northeastern Connecticut. He is a past-President of the NCH and currently serves on the board of directors of both the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia Convention of the United States and the Homeopathic Community Council. He is a well-known lecturer on homeopathic topics.