This book review is reprinted with the permission of the National Center for Homeopathy
Rhus glabra-A Homeopathic Proving:
A Portrait of Abuse
by Peter L. Tumminello
Australia, softcover, 64 pages
Reviewed by Michael Dong
Rhus glabra, also known commonly as smooth sumac or common sumac, is a deciduous shrub and belongs to the botanical group Anacardiacae. With our ever growing materia medica, it is great to see a re-proving of an existing remedy as I believe that we have much work to do in exploring the botanical relationships between the remedies. Rhus toxicodendron and Anacardium orientale are the two best known remedies in this group and it is interesting to note the similarities with these two in the proving of Rhus glabra.
Traditionally, Rhus glabra was used in Native American Indian medicine and Thompsonian herbal medicine for its diuretic properties, as a gynecological aid and as a dermatological medicine. The remedy was first proven by VA. Marshall in a tincture form and is to be found in Allen's Encyclopedia and also in Clarke's Materia Medica.
Tumminello's proving of Rhus glabra was conducted in early May 1993 in a double-blind trial with Molybdenum. There were twelve provers involved with this remedy of which one took placebo. The symptoms are laid out as suggested by Jeremy Sherr in his book The Dynamics and Methodology of Provings and are presented in a clear and easy to follow format. What I particularly liked was how the symptoms of each prover are placed together rather than separated into themes. This makes the progression of the proving symptoms easier to follow and differentiates the primary and secondary actions of the remedy. After the proving symptoms, a case is given to illustrate the themes associated with the remedy which gives you a greater sense as to how this remedy may present. I found this very useful.
The characteristic themes which came out during the proving are: Exhaustion-a feeling of debility with profuse perspiration. This was a feature of Marshall's original proving and was confirmed by the provers here with words like heaviness, incredible tiredness and exhaustion. Tumminello suggests that it may be a useful remedy in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.
Time-there seem to be disturbances in time sense with a need to hurry (like that of Rhus tax).
Mental blankness and fear of examination-the symptoms correlate very closely with those of Anacardium. The mind goes blank and they can't think of what to say. A sensation as if they are blocking something out.
Cowardice-feelings of timidity and the inability to take a firm stand in life. Also the lack of confidence which is exhibited throughout the proving which is again like Anacardium.
Violence-manifests in feelings, thoughts, dreams and impulses. On the other side, there is a fear of violence towards them as well.
Separation of the spirit from the body and a loss of feeling-a classic indicator of abuse and a theme which ran through three of the provers involved. It is also a well-known characteristic of Anacardium.
Jeremy Sherr is always reluctant to present an "essence" of a remedy after a proving is completed, as he believes it may influence the way in which you interpret the proving. Peter Tumminello does offer his own opinion as to what the distilled essence of Rhus glabra, is based on this proving. The picture he paints is a portrait of abuse, a situation of being betrayed and used, feeling cheated and hurt. In order to compensate for these feelings, they take on the feeling of becoming superior and an authority in their profession or in their spirituality.
The book is clear and well-presented. The symptoms are laid out in an easy to follow format and have been extracted into repertory language at the back. This proving has expanded the knowledge of Rhus glabra and perhaps given us a clue into the relationships of this botanical group. I feel that this is the direction in which homeopathy should evolve; we should look again at the remedies we have and the common themes which run through the similar groups. I thank Peter Tumminello for his proving of Rhus glabra.
Michael Dong is a practicing homeopath and pharmacist. He is co-owner of Simillimum Pharmacy in Wellington, New Zealand.