This book review is reprinted with the permission of the International Foundation for Homeopathy
Desktop Companion to
By Roger Morrison, M.D.
$79.95. 605 pages, leather bound 1998
Reviewed by Asa Hershoff, N.D., D.C.
Homeopathic clinical literature comes in basically three flavors: materia medica, repertory, and clinical guides. This last category has a long and solid tradition. From Boenninghausen through Clarke, Dewey and Tyler, there are literally scores of excellent guides that outline the most useful remedies in the treatment of specific diseases. Morrison's Desktop Companion to Physical Pathology follows in this tradition, and indeed may help reverse a trend of some modern homeopaths to downplay or overlook the physical complaints of the patient.
Thus it is that Dr. Morrison, a well-respected pioneer of the modern wave of homeopathy, is obliged to state in his preface that, "in many such circumstances, the physical pathology supplies the necessary clue to the prescription." No such apology is necessary and in fact one wishes that the introduction would have described more fully the criteria, references, and methods used in creating this useful text, since all clinical guides are a reflection of the clinician's own experience and predilections.
The first thing that strikes you about the Desktop Companion is that it is a handsome book. Unlike Morrison's previous best-seller, the cloth-bound Desktop Guide, the new book is leather bound and gold stamped; the paper and binding are highest quality. The layout and typeface are extremely clear, attractive, and readable, making the book a durable and useful clinical tool. It is clearly designed to have a look consistent with its companion volume. Inside, 66 disorders or clinical syndromes are discussed. Each condition has an introductory section, followed by sections called "Management" (homeopathic, naturopathic, and allopathic), including "Therapeutic Tips" (again for these three categories), "Repertory" (rubrics for the condition), and then "Remedies" (materia medica listings).
The management and therapeutic tips section is the most personal part of the book and has exciting information, "based on my own and my colleagues I experience in a general homeopathic practice." Again, references here would be useful. In a direct way, the author shares his clinical experiences and insights, basically telling us what works and what doesn't work for each condition. Particularly useful are the prognosis and therapeutic expectations of homeopathic treatment and the effects of simultaneous treatment with typical medical drugs.
The naturopathic tips are an excellent addition, though naturally (in the short space available) by no means complete or comprehensive from a nutritional or herbal perspective. But in a refreshing way it opens up any restrictive approach to homeopathy that may overlook both Hahnemann's approach to hygiene and homeopathy's place in the context of fullspectrum holistic medicine.
The Repertory section shows the typical rubrics where one might find the symptoms of the disease. This approach is very useful, particularly Morrison's occasional comments and clinical tips on repertorizing specific conditions. Some of the rubric lists are quite brief, while others are summaries of an entire chapter (for example "Head Pain" and "Respiration"), but reorganized in innovative clinical categories. Listing the number of remedies in each rubric would have been helpful, since there are single remedy rubrics alongside 100-remedy rubrics. Additionally, the author never tells us if the repertory used is strictly Kent, or if there are additions of rubrics from the Complete Repertory or the Synthetic.
The heart of the book is the Remedies section, which is divided into main remedies, followed by an alphabetical listing of other important remedies. The number of remedies in each section is variable depending on the condition, often totaling 40 or 50. The choice of main and "other important" is based on the author's experience. Not everyone might agree, for example, that Sepia is the most common remedy for psoriasis, but these opinions are what make the book so rich and useful, pulling the practitioner out of therapeutic ruts. Naturally the descriptions are brief keynotes and essential clinical symptoms. A therapeutic guide is always a companion to more extensive materia medica, and a copy of Morrison's Desktop Guide, Vermeulen's Concordant, or Synoptic I & II, are essential companions-as is a repertory.
So far so good. As Morrison states in his preface, the book is designed to "create a concise yet thorough differential for each of the main pathologies encountered in homeopathic practice." Yet it is in this regard that the Desktop Companion seems incomplete. Though many conditions seen in daily practice are outlined (otitis media, cystitis, headache, back pain, etc.), the omissions are also significant. Of the 66 disease states discussed, 15 are skin disorders and nine are in the injury and trauma section, while in the key area of women's health, there is only uterine hemorrhage. Dysmenorrhea, PMS, menopause, vaginitis, etc., are omitted. Conditions like insomnia, fibromyalgia, exhaustion, eating disorders, and enuresis are not discussed, while more serious, rare conditions such as Parkinson's and multiple sclerosis are included, leaving out senility. One might argue that some of these are deep constitutional conditions, but the same is true for skin problems, headaches, arthritis, and so on.
The other point is that the organization of the book is highly unconventional. The conditions are not alphabetical, organized by organ systems, or according to traditional homeopathic materia medica. The book somewhat follows regional anatomy, but has a section called "Peripheral Organs" that lists musculoskeletal disorders, injury and trauma, and skin diseases. There is also a "Systemic Conditions" heading that lists vertigo, influenza, and neurological disorders.
Oddly, the conditions in any one system are not alphabetical, but arranged arbitrarily. For example, under "Skin" there is eczema, psoriasis, cracking skin, urticaria, etc., in that order. The lack of an index makes navigation difficult, and random flipping to a section is out of the question. With less than 70 conditions, however, the reader will soon get used to where things are, even if the logic of it escapes them.
Part of these problems are inherent in self-publishing. No professional editor would allow a book of over 600 pages to hit the presses without an index and cross-reference of the conditions and medicines discussed, or a more logical organization of the material.
The insights, therapeutic hints, and materia medica pointers make this book a solid hit, but if future editions (or volumes?) went further into commonly seen conditions, added an introductory section, index, and bibliography, and rearranged the conditions into a more user-friendly system, this book could be a perfect ten.
Asa Hershoff, D.C, N.D., Santa Monica, CA, has been practicing homeopathy for 25 years. He was a founder of the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in 1978 and teaches and consults internationally. He is the author of Homeopathy for Musculoskeletal Healing. (reviewed in this issue) and is writing the Homeopathy Handbook for Avery Publisbing as well as theforth coming volumes: Healing Plant Families and The Umbelliferae- Healing and Meaning in the Hemlock Plant Family.
RESONANCE - September/October 1998