This book review is reprinted with the permission of the American Institute of Homeopathy
925 E. 17th Ave.
Denver, CO 80218
Stramonium: With an Introduction to Analysis
using Cycles and Segments.
By Paul Herscu, N.D
New England School of Homeopathy Press
Amherst, Massachusetts 1996
220 pages, $28
Reviewed by George Guess, M.D., D.Ht.
Limitless creative energy! Capable of exhaustive clinical research in a short span of time! Able to author materia medica that is both deeply penetrating and of vast scope! Such are but a few of the accolades that can rightfully be attributed to our local Superhero on the continent, Paul Herscu.
With Stramonium, Dr. Herscu has again penned a masterful work, full of original thought and original clinical observations. Stramonium herein is described thoroughly, from its profoundly disturbed mental picture to its vitiligo. His focus is the pediatric Stramonium image. Employing his highly original concept of remedy cycles (a concept he has been lecturing on for the past two years), he attempts to conceptualize the varied symptomatology of this remedy as manifest expressions of a recurring dynamic cycle (or spiral) of disease. The cycle represents a flow of events which is composed of a number of fundamental segments. Each segment is meant to describe the defensive reaction or perception pattern of the diseased individual or remedy. In the case of Stramonium the cycle proceeds as follows: fear of death or injury; vulnerability, clinginess leads to violent overreaction leads to the desire to close off leads to death and deadness; the shut down state leads to confusion over his dual state; half alive and half dead leads back to fear of death and injury, etc. It is an intriguing thesis, one which some readers, if not most, may well find useful in clinical practice.
Dr. Herscu asserts that in any given case each and every symptom should correlate to at least one of the fundamental materia medica segments. This reviewer has difficulty reconciling this assertion with what appears to be the sometimes confounding reality of the layered case wherein symptoms of more than one remedy are apparent. Thus, assuming the concept of remedy cycles is valid, it would appear that the practitioner, though gifted with such-new knowledge, would still have to face the quandary of which symptoms are most characteristic of the patient, and hence useful for prescribing.
Another stumbling block for this reviewer, who is admittedly given to more concrete than abstract thinking, is the sometimes poetic application of segment cycles to symptoms at hand, specifically physical symptoms. In the realm of psychopathology, however, the segments are much more easy to apply, though not necessarily easy to conceive.
Regardless of one's affinity for this concept, homeopaths should make themselves aware of this process of remedy and case analysis. No doubt many practitioners will excitedly embrace it.
Early in the book, Dr. Herscu also discusses his "Map of Hierarchy," pertaining to the homeopathic treatment of children with behavior, learning and attention difficulties. This concept has been described before in this journal in a seminar report given by Michael Glass, M.D. It pertains to the sequencing of remedies in these children, and groups remedies according to severity and quality of pathology. It is an innovative and apparently trustworthy guide. Dr. Herscu just touches upon the broad subject of the treatment of these children in this section, intending to enlarge upon this topic in a later book.
Part One of this book discusses the topics above. Part Two, some 134 pages, covers Stramonium in assiduous detail. Many are familiar with the fear and violence aspects of Stramonium; though the observations on these aspects is not new, in this work we are treated to a full-spectrum description of the behavior, from the overt panic, nightmares and violence to the far more subtle expressions of the same theme in sweet children who might well tempt us to prescribe "nicer" remedies. Also, the psychodynamics of such behavior is described as never before.
Readers will especially find Dr. Herscu's description of the introverted and autistic aspects of' Stramonium of great interest. These observations I believe to be original and solidly confirmed by repeated clinical verification. Which speaks to a fine trait of Dr. Herscu's writings, they are all so firmly footed on the soil of clinical experience. When Dr. Herscu describes so thoroughly the intricate specifics of Stramonium's physical pathology, it is clear that this is no rehashing of textbook knowledge. His observations are clinical pearls to be gathered - the chest oppression in bronchitis that mimics Phosphorus, the otitis that can resemble a combination of Arsenicum and Belladonna, the conjunctivitis which often leads to confusion with Sulphur, etc.
The book is well written and well bound (in paperback), the print attractive and easy to read.
I often found myself wishing for more differential materia medica as Dr. Herscu described the finer points of Stramonium. In fact, there is very little differential materia medica in the book; this is in the main a total body immersion in Stramonium only. The differentials will have to wait for his later work.
Obviously, I am well pleased with this book and highly recommend it. Dr. Herscu deserves our gratitude for his ceaseless efforts to share with the homeopathic community his valuable experience in the homeopathic treatment of children.
JAIH Spring 1997, Vol. 90, No. 1