This book review is reprinted from Volume 17, Autumn 2004 edition of Homeopathic Links with permission from Homeopathic Links.
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The Materia Medica of Milk (collected articles)
Edited by C. Hiwat and H. van der Zee
ISBN 90-8071-032-6 264 pp
Reviewed Jay Yasgur, R.Ph., M.Sc., USAAnd so my review of Homeopathic link's Materia Medica of Milk begins. This book consists of cases and articles concerning fourteen milks. Well, thirteen that is, as owls do not produce milk, (Lac owleum) but rather a liquid substance which, it is suggested, possesses healing properties. Woodsmen do refer to this substance as 'owls milk' though, and with the help of their beaks, owls dab it onto wounds, especially when their young are injured:
'Since wounds treated with this substance heal very fast, it was used widely in folk medicine during the medieval times, though it was rare and expensive. Later the whole thing was disregarded as superstition, until, in the late seventies, a Hungarian biologist rediscovered the healing properties of this secretion of the owl's rump-gland.' -p. 248
I will not go into this further as it is impossible for me to relate the fascinating material in these seven pages. However, I will say that Harry van der Zee's sub-essay, 'Dances with Owls', contains an amazing case analysis.
Lac asinum, Lac caninum, Lac caprinum, Lac defloratum, Lac delphinum, Lac equinum, Lac felinum, Lac humanum, Lac leoninum, Lac lupinum, Lac mater- num, Lac ovis, Lac owleum and Lac suis are all covered, to one degree or another. The first chapter, written by Kees Dam, covers the subject in a generalised fashion via group analysis and doctrine of signature viewpoint:
'The theory of group analysis in homeopathy is developed by Ian Scholten and by now extensively applied in practice...The procedure is this: take a group of remedies with one common element (i.e., the muriaticums or the kalis) and analyse the remedy pictures: common themes in these remedies can be attributed to the common element.'
'Analysing in this way you can come to a kind of remedy picture of the common element...The deduced, (not proving based) remedy picture of these elements can then be used to "synthesise" a compound remedy (salt) of these elements and predict its remedy picture.' -p.8
Kees talks about the 'provings', which have been in our collective unconscious in the form of fairytales, myths, provers and archetypes and '...it would be a shame not to investigate this treasure to see if it can be of homeopathic use'.
Using Sankaran's feeling/compulsion model, the Lac element contains the feeling aspect while the mammal contains the compulsion aspect. These aspects are often clearcut:
'The Lac element represents the vulnerability - the child part that was hurt - and the mammal element represents its reaction to that vulnerability - the coping/survival mechanism, the compulsion. Of course the mammal part will give its own, unique colouring to the Lac vulnerability and also the (common) Lac element on its own will already produce compulsions and coping mechanism that we will find more or less in all Lacs.' -p. 9
He maintains that the compulsion is present in order to cope with the basic feeling, which is unbearable. 'If "fear of being alone" was the basic feeling, then the compulsion (which is always an action or leads to an action) would be: desire for company.'
Dr. Dam continues, in this fifteen-page introduction, to more deeply discuss these feeling/compulsion aspects, the differential diagnosis of the Lacs and the signature and signs of the Lacs. He concludes by singling out four Lacs in order to offer a bit more detail.
There is little proving data on the Lacs and much of this book is speculative in nature. There is plenty of group analysis and dream provings, i.e., 'Lac caprinum: A Dream Proving Confirmed' (p. 67, by Dr. Dam, who is probably the world's authority on this remedy) are cited. There is opposition to this way of thinking within the homeopathic community yet this book is littered with bold and controversial rationales:
'This remedy is a good example of a remedy that was understood and prescribed based on group analysis and signature before a proper proving was done. A colleague of mine (Anne Wirtz) in Amsterdam prescribed Lac felinum quite successfully over a period of six months in a dozen cases.'
'Her reasoning was this: compared with dogs, cats go their own way more and they are more independent. They decide when they want to be cuddled. They are allergic to being forced. They have a certain grace and elegance; they are quite clean (washing themselves all the time). They are also more on guard: attack and retreat, cautious and somewhat suspicious.'
'With this signature in mind (complemented with symptoms from the Lac caninum proving like 'Lack of self-confidence and self-worth') Anne managed to prescribe Lac felinum successfully. A basic pattern she recognised in her cases was (sexual) abuse in childhood. The survival pattern was: I am going to do it by myself, I don't need anybody else, surviving their own way (the independent nature of cats)."-p.18,19
Regardless of what one thinks of these 'speculative rationales' one must recognise that some benefit is produced. That being said it also needs to be mentioned that there is no substitute for provings. Period. Provings is one of the homeopathic sheet anchors. We must never lose sight of that.
Concerning symbol and signature, Alize Timmerman puts this subject in perspective in her essay, 'A Case of Lac felinum: The Symbol in a Remedy as a Key Factor'. Timmerman makes use of the speculative method in her analysis yet is quick to remind us, in her conclusion, to not go too far:
'When following this procedure one will discover that, more often than not, characteristic symbols are more related with the self of the patient than with the form or function of the particular plant or animal the remedy is taken from. Surely the signature of the plant, animal or mineral, might be related to the complaints of the patient, but the only true homeopathic attitude is to look closely to the patient and analyse his or her symptoms in the context of the patient, not in the context of the animal or plant, from which the remedy derived.'
'Therefore proving and clinical experience of remedies remains the basis for understanding the properties of homeopathic remedies.
Only if a proving and clinical experience show related symbols with behaviour of animals or external features of plants or the chemical properties of elements, one may use signature as a tool in the prescription practise.' -p. 165.
A Wirtz concludes the Lac felinum section with four cases (p. 166-173)
Linda Johnston's case, 'Don't Tell Me What to Do!: A Case of Lac equinum' is noteworthy. She includes the verbatim case of this 78-year old woman with a chief complaint of weakness, shortness of breath, palpitations, high blood pressure, and chronic hoarseness. She was on several different remedies over an eight-year period before receiving Lac equinum.
Dr. Johnston offered this case verbatim so that the reader could '...see a case in its "natural habitat", with all the presumably unrelated and laborious details still intact. It is in the next several paragraphs that we see how her analysis proceeds. She pro- vides a five, six, nine, and ten-month follow-up discussion.
Lac defloratum (p. 108-114) by Frans Vermeulen is fascinating and happens to be the complete chapter from his materia medica, Prisma - The Arcana of Materia Medica Illuminated - Similars and Parallels Between Substance and Remedy (2002, isbn: 90-76189-07-2). Though there is little homeopathy in this chapter it just might sway you into purchasing Vermeulen's important work. He discusses the natural history of the cow, milk in general, lactose, cancer, diabetes, allergies, symbolism, etc. and references the proving which Swan conducted in 1871,2:
'Swan - 3 provers (1 male, 2 female), 1871-72; method: 15C (Fincke) in drop doses every hour; 'after nine hours there was aggravation'; the second female prover, Dr. Laura Morgan - the prover who provided most of the mind symptoms of Lac caninum took 200C, manner not stated. A graduate of the allopathic college in New York, Laura Morgan was converted to homeopathy by making this proving! Swan adds eight cured cases.' -p. 114
Lac suis or Lac suilinum K. Dam, p. 254-260) is the final essay. The author relates his experience of conducting a meditative proving among homeopaths at a lecture he gave in the fall of 1996 (at this time a swine plague had swept Holland):
'My intention was, after lunch, to let them "meditate" for 3-5 minutes, and then collect the outcome. I must confess that I didn't have too many illusions about the outcome of this little and short proving, but... one never knows. It turned out to be one of the most impressive provings that I ever encountered. Three minutes after the distribution of the remedy, while we were waiting in the queue in front of the buffet, several participants came to me with all kinds of (frightening) phenomenae...'-p.254,5
Dr. Dam offers his analysis of this meditative proving and finishes his essay with a case of peripartal pelvic pain syndrome (this syndrome is prevalent in Holland, England, and the Scandanavian countries in general) and sinusitis.
I have only a few minor complaints. There is no index, no general annotated bibliography and no separate listing of Lac provings. These three inclusions would've been helpful. Melanie Grimes, the English language editor, did a credible job considering the massive amount of editing required. One thing, which concerned me about the editing, was the allowance of so many parenthetical statements. Parentheses are generally reserved for words and phrases, which would otherwise take up too much space in proportion to an explanation. When parentheses are overused they often create a choppy feel to the narrative, slow the readers pace and may create confusion. You can get a feeling for what I mean by referring back to the quote, p. 18,19, earlier in this review. I could provide more examples and there are other aspects I could discuss but they are of relatively minor import.
This is a bold, solid, spirited work, which should be on the shelf of every homeopath's library. The editors and publisher must've realised this as they produced a book of high quality materials in all respects. It is even sewn and wrapped, a rarity in today's book production.
This is the first volume in a series from Homreopathic Links. Let's hope that future volumes will be as well done as this, which Corrie and Harry have overseen.