A FIRST MATERIA MEDICA FOR
HOMOEOPATHY - A SELF-
DIRECTED LEARNING TEXT
Reviewed by Alan Crook.
A substantial book, this: 252 A4 pages of good, solid text with attractive line drawings of the sources of the botanical and animal remedies.
The main body of the book is divided into fourteen lessons, covering 46 commonly used remedies, although it excludes the nosodes and several other remedies which I use far more commonly than Baptisia, for example. Each lesson deals with a group of remedies, chosen according to a theme, e.g. ABC remedies, Solanaceoe, Three Remedies from Animal Sources, Three Remedies of Suppressed Anger. This encourages comparison and contrast, and indeed one of the great strengths of the book is the rich content of comparison and contrast within each lesson, not restricted to that lesson's remedies. This should help to address a weakness in that area common among students of homoeopathy, fed by the practices of lecturing on individual remedies and studying them in isolation.
For each lesson the aim, objectives and headings are stated, and the lesson is structured systematically with data and different types of activity identified by standard symbols. This structure facilitates self-directed learning and establishes a pattern of thorough materia medica home study, primarily individual, although it could also be used by study groups. The approach is thorough: a wealth of information is supplied, and the plentiful exercises are structured in such a way as to reinforce the learning of it. Remedies covered previously are reviewed where appropriate, and questions are included for further study. There is an introduction on how to use the book, and the study programme is philosophically based. I like the emphasis on the different levels at which remedies work and symptoms may occur, so that students acquire a feeling for situational Materia Medica.
The style of writing ranges from the occasionally poetic to the colloquial, but on the whole is businesslike with a sprinkling of humour. There is a useful glossary of terms, a full index, and answers to the test questions. I also found a set of mini-cases at the end, for practice in repertorization, and for these too answers are supplied. It could of course be argued that there is more to case-solving than 'spotting the remedy', but these are more 'spot the remedy' exercises than full case studies, and explanation is given on how to use them. Still, bearing in mind the philosophical basis of the book, I should have liked a comment reminding students that cases are about patients first and remedies second.
I could find little else to criticise, which is a healthy sign. Talking of signs, a complete beginner might find it helpful to have "<" and ">" explained somewhere. I would take issue with the classification of potencies into low (below 200c) and high (200c upwards), finding it personally more helpful to think of 30c to 200c as 'medium'. I was also intrigued to note in the bibliography that Phatak's Materia Medica, which I have always used as my 'basic' desk reference, had been designated as 'advanced'. Inevitably a few typos have crept in, (e.g. "Crompton Burnett", "Culpepper" for Culpeper, "discretion" for indiscretion on p.67, "least" for lest on p.100, and "have lead" for have led on p.79,) but generally the proof-reading appears to have been thoroughly done. On p.77 the author has been so bold as to record the linguistic link between "hysteria" and the Greek word for "womb"; no doubt as a woman she will get away with this whereas, had the author been male, he would undoubtedly be anathematised in certain quarters these days as a sexist!
However, these are minor carpings, and my overall sense about this book is that it fulfils a long-existent need for just such a structured introductory guide to home study of the remedies. I suspect it will quickly find its way on to the recommended reading lists of several colleges of homoeopathy. I wish I had had it when I was a student. This is a 'First'. May we hope for a Second?
The Homoeopath No. 56 1995