By Dana Ullman MPH
(Excerpted from Discovering Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century, North Atlantic Books)
Clinical psychologists acknowledge the existence of varying personality types; likewise, physical therapists and sports trainers who study the body find variations of body types. Homeopaths assert that body and mind are inseparable, and they posit the necessity of looking at “bodymind” types. A homeopathic medicine is generally given not simply for a symptom or a disease but for an entire pattern or constellation of physical and psychological symptoms.
Homeopaths acknowledge certain groupings of bodymind symptom patterns which a person has and which correspond with the sensitivity of a particular homeopathic medicine. The word “symptom” here is most broadly defined as any sensation that is discomforting or that limits a person’s physical or psychological functions. Homeopaths also inquire into what factors, which they call “modalities,” seem to aggravate or ameliorate these sensations. In addition to prescribing on these factors, a homeopath may utilize information about the person’s body type, temperament and disposition, and behavioral tendencies to determine the appropriate medicine.
Dr. Francisco Eizayaga, an Argentinian urologist and internationally respected homeopath, has helped differentiate the various symptoms and characteristics of a person to find the correct medicine. Dr. Eizayaga has asserted that a “constitutional medicine” is prescribed primarily according to a person’s genetic endowment and some of the person’s deeply-seated psychological tendencies. A “fundamental medicine” is prescribed according to the functional symptoms which represent the organism’s response to the various stresses it is experiencing.* Dr. Eizayaga notes that fundamental states may change and pile up on each other like concentric skins of an onion. Dr. Eizayaga also differentiates the treatment of organic pathology from constitutional or fundamental states, though such a discussion is beyond the scope of an introductory book.
[* Many homeopaths do not make a distinction between the constitutional or fundamental medicine. They generally refer to the “constitutional medicine” as the one that fits a long-standing set of symptoms a person experiences and “acute medicine” as that which fits transitory disease states. For ease of discussion in forthcoming chapters, reference only to “constitutional medicine” will be made when discussing the treatment of the chronically ill based on their totality of symptoms.]
Homeopaths identify certain patterns of symptoms with the medicines which have cured them. There is, for instance, the “Phosphorous type,” the “Sulphur type,” the “Arsenicum (arsenic) type,” and the “Natrum mur (salt) type.” Each of these typologies refers not only to a type of headache, for instance, but also to those factors that make that headache pain better or worse, other physical symptoms which may be related to it, various past or present symptoms and diseases, food cravings or aversions, sensitivity to temperature and weather, energy levels at varying times of the day, sweating tendencies, stool and urination characteristics, menstrual patterns, emotional and mental states, and behavioral propensities.
After a homeopath completes a thorough interview, he/she seeks to find a medicine which matches the “essence” of the person’s totality of symptoms. The word “essence” is of value here since homeopathy is the science of finding the most “similar” medicine to the person. It is not necessary to match every symptom the person has with those symptoms that the substance causes. Rather, it is enough to find a substance which matches the essence of the person’s characteristics.
Once one’s constitutional or fundamental medicine is selected and administered, not only is the person’s chief complaint greatly reduced, but he or she generally feels better in many ways, physically and psychologically. Although a person may actually be cured after a single dose of the correct constitutional or fundamental medicine, more often the medicine may start the curative process, and a series of medicines will be required to complete it. As the person heals and changes, a new fundamental picture often emerges, bringing with it the requirement of a new medicine. Some homeopaths believe that one’s constitutional medicine never changes, while others feel that it can.
Some laypeople find great pleasure in looking for their own, their family’s, and their friends’ constitutional and fundamental medicines. The most popular and useful books for this endeavor are Edward C. Whitmont’s Psyche and Substance: Essays on Homeopathy in the Light of Jungian Psychology, Phillip Bailey’s Homeopathic Psychology, Peter Chappell’s Emotional Healing with Homeopathy, James Tyler Kent’s Lectures on Homoeopathic Materia Medica, and Margaret Tyler’s Drug Pictures.
The search for a constitutional medicine requires one’s intellectual and intuitive capacities, being part-detective, part-psychologist, and part-investigative reporter. Despite the challenge of this process, it is not recommended that one prescribe a constitutional or fundamental medicine for oneself for several reasons. First, it is the general consensus in the homeopathic community that laypeople can learn to treat themselves for non-emergency acute conditions, but that the complexity of treating and of providing follow-up treatment of chronic conditions requires professional supervision. Since treatment of chronic conditions usually involves a sequence of prescriptions, either repetition of the same medicine at the same or a different potency or another medicine entirely, only those with deeper knowledge of homeopathic principles and materia medica should engage in the treatment of chronic conditions.
Another reason that laypeople should not prescribe constitutional or fundamental medicines is that such medicines can sometimes create a healing crisis during which certain symptoms get worse. If the layperson doesn’t know how to deal with this situation, the person receiving treatment will not get the best benefit from the homeopathic medicine.
Although it is not recommended for laypeople to prescribe medicines for ones own or another’s chronic state, it may be still worthwhile for him or her to study the different homeopathic types and to give their opinion to the practitioner as to what medicine might be considered. Even so, there are three caveats: The first is that people who study certain medicines may create for themselves symptoms specific to a particular medicine. Secondly, some people may exaggerate certain symptoms in order to fit a medicine. And third, some people like to think of themselves as certain “nice person” medicine types such as Sulphur, Phosphorous, or Pulsatilla, and angrily deny that they are the more irritable types such as Nux vomica, Sepia, or Arsenicum. The potential for bias here is obvious.
A constitutional or fundamental homeopathic medicine may significantly reduce certain physical or psychological tendencies so that they do not limit the person’s capacity to do and be his or her best, but each of us still may have certain propensities which are distinctive to our individual nature. A homeopathic medicine may reduce the extreme symptoms which stress the bodymind and increase the overall physical and psychological strength within each of us, but it cannot change those qualities that make each of us unique.
Dr. Edward Whitmont sheds light on this phenomenon by describing a humorous pantomime called “the hair in the soup.” It depicts the reactions of four different people to finding a hair in their soup. The first flies into a rage and throws the soup at the waiter. The second expresses disgust, shrugs it off, and leaves the restaurant whistling a tune. The third begins crying because bad things always happen to him. The fourth looks at the hair, leaves it right there, goes on eating, and after finishing, he orders another bowl.
Dr. Whitmont notes that these four reactions represent four classic temperaments. Each reaction is a reflex behavior which, like a simple cough, is automatic and which each person develops as a defense response. One might submit to various therapies to become more conscious of his or her own behavioral patterns, but the attempt to change one’s nature is usually ineffective and tends to generate its own set of symptoms. The angry person who throws his soup at the waiter will, after a homeopathic medicine, still feel angry, though he might direct the fire of this emotion in a more constructive way. If, on the other hand, the person sought to ignore or suppress the passion he feels, his body and mind would pay another price for it.
Thus, the homeopathic medicines may eliminate various physical and psychological symptoms, and yet, they cannot alter innate tendencies of the person.
Treating one’s overall constitutional state is both ancient and futuristic in concept. It has been a part of medicine at least since the times of Hippocrates, and it has often been a preferred approach to simply treating a specific symptom or disease. Today, constitutional therapies are the ones that aid the immune and defense system and have special value in preventing and treating various acute and chronic conditions. The homeopathic method of individualizing a medicine based on the totality of the person’s symptoms is a sophisticated 21st century science.