This book review is reprinted from Volume 17, Summer editon of Homoeopathic Links with permission from Homeopathic Links.
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Homeopathic Dictionary and Holistic Health Reference
By: Jay Yasgur
Paperback 422 pages, ISBN 1-886149-04-6.
Van Hoy Publishers, PO.Box 636, Greenville, PA 16125
Reviewed by Ralf Jeutter, Ph.D. United Kingdom
Julian Winston's accolade for this book sums it up nicely: 'this book is a necessity for the homeopathic student. JayYasgur has done a great service by bringing the archaic terminology together and defining those elusive terms clearly and succinctly' .
The core of the book is what the title says: A homeopathic dictionary, defining 4500 terms. He offers this book to the homeopathic community (us!), and asks us at the same time to continue this work by sending in more terms we want to see included, by offering criticisms and comments, suggestions, whatever helps to 'improve this work'.
A book of this kind is a labour of love. Jay Yasgur sifted through important source books, like Kent's 'Repertory', Boericke's 'Materia Medica', Clarke's 'Dictionary', Hahnemann's 'Organon' (not 'Materia Medica Pura' or 'Chronic Diseases'), etc.
The book starts off with a short essay on 'What is Homeopathy?' followed by a list of prefixes and suffixes, which are commonly used in medicine: ab-, ad-, apo-, dia-, dys-, ecto-, etc. going on to compound words like -algia, -antero, poly-, etc. Then the Dictionary proper starts. Since it is obviously not a book that is read from cover to cover (although in this case some readers might well want to do it), I had the book lying on my desk for weeks in order to test its useful. ness in practice (it is still on my desk and will remain there). The benefit became quickly clear to me: Here, indeed, is a book, which allows quick access to especially archaic terms, which cannot be easily found in modern medical dictionaries. On the other hand it will not replace modern medical dictionaries, because some modern terms are defined, while others are not. Which brings us neatly to the point where the pedantic critic comes in and questions inclusions and exclusions. What follows is a list of words I was looking up over the last few weeks and could find or not:
Cuprum's morbus caeruleus is in (Clarke); apraxia is in, but not dyspraxia; intussusception is in, but bradykinesia did not make it; porrigo and plica polonica are there, but pterygium was left out, while the appropriately named horripilation (for goosebumps) is in. Even the German rinderpest found its place in the original language. Cynanche cellularis is in and tussiculation (the hacking cough) has also its place. But sibilus has to be looked up somewhere else. Despite a certain obscurity about what is included or excluded on what grounds, it has certainly made my life much easier and the old texts have now the potential to come fully alive.
But this is not a dictionary of only homeopathic or old medical terms, but also definitions of other alternative medical disciplines are offered, e.g. bioresonance, EAV, homotoxicology, etc.
There is an entry for Rufeland's Journal, and Yasgur ventures deep into homeopathic philosophy. The entry under 'symptoms' for example is a particularly rich one. The whole range of different symptoms is dealt with under this section, e.g. complete symptom, concomitant symptom, eliminative symptom, contingent symptom, local, new, incomplete symptom etc. We also find terms like 'xenocritic' - 'one who criticises other persons or concepts which one does not fully understand or know'. Those who prescribe in high potencies can be found under transcendentalist or high flyers!
Scholten and Seghal have their own entries as new concepts in homeopathy, but Sankaran (Rajan) is left out, despite his efforts to establish his own brand of homeopathy.
After the Dictionary we find two astrological charts, each relating to Rahnemann's two different times of birth as proposed by KM. Gypser and Dobereiner. Unfortunately there is no explanation as to the significance of Saturn being in Capricorn and Pluto in Sagittarius for those, who are astrologically illiterate.
Then there are two body maps, one of the abdominal region and the other of the different planes of the body (median, anterior, coronal, dorsal, etc.). Which is followed by a list of remedies and a pronunciation key.
There is an article by Benjamin C. Woodbury from the early 20th century calied 'A Dictionary of Homeopathy', in which he stresses the importance of such a work and follows it up with his own attempt, which was meant to be an 'encyclopaedia of general information relative to homeopathy as a distinctive method in practice or as a separate school of medicine', and adds some information on homeopathic medicines.
Yasgur also included a very engaging chapter on selected homeopathic obituaries, prefaced by a little moving poem by T.L. Bradford:
But we all pass off with a task undone, Sudden and silent, and one by one. But the tasks we leave unfinished here we will finish up in another sphere.
As is natural with entries like these, omissions are inevitable: Under C.M. Boger his 'General Analysis' could have been mentioned. Under ML Dhawale it would only have been right to mention him as the founder of the excellent Institute of Clinical Research (ICR) in Bombay. But some of these obituaries offer tantalising glimpses into lives, which deserve a fuller reconstruction. For example Callie Brown Charlton (1851-1934), the first woman to practice homeopathy in Oregon. 'After being widowed in 1872 she became determined to study medicine.'
Some entries stand out for what some people said, for example Arthur Brooks Green (1884-1977), a lay homeopath, who wrote: 'It .is more essential for a homeopathic physician to know thoroughly the remedies he has than to wait for new ones. In the pioneering days, the early homeopaths had something like 80 remedies all told, and did so much with them that they scared the traditionalists for their medical lives.' (p.373) And Hering, of course, whose 'If our school ever gives up the strict inductive method of Hahnemann, we are lost and deserve only to be mentioned as a caricature in the history of medicine' cannot be quoted often enough. (p.378) For those of us who think we have no time to spare for study or feel that it's too late to start anything new, we might want to take Mercy B. Jackson as a model, who became interested in medicine despite her eleven children and graduated at age 58! A little, bit of social history is written under Sarah Brooks Pettingill's entry. She was only admitted to materia medica lectures if she would sit like a 'veiled nun' behind a partition, screened from the students. And so it goes on. There are lots of gems to be discovered by the reader.
The book is concluded by a section on appellations, journals, associations etc. This is not only an extremely useful book, but also one, which oozes the comforting charm only a collector's passion can instill. He concludes his preface with the word: Be happy and smile. With this book in hand it is just this bit easier to do.