21 December 2017 (online)
Paul Herscu The New England School of Homeopathy Press, Amherst, MA, USA (www.NESH.com) Price: $36.00 available only as a 2 volume set, with Provings Volume I ISBN: 0-9654004-6-8
An understanding of provings—frequently cited as the basis for homeopathic prescribing—often remains confusing, and elusive at best. Many homeopathic practitioners refer to provings as one of the most important underpinnings of homeopathy, but few can trace the symptoms from a homeopathic materia medica back to a specific homeopathic drug provings; and fewer yet have actually participated in a homeopathic drug proving. This book by Paul Herscu, ND, builds on his first volume on provings and is particularly helpful because it is a compendium of articles on provings and related issues. As such it offers a historical perspective that begins with Hahnemann and continues to the present day. The issues raised in homeopathic drug provings are relevant not only to homeopathy but to all of medicine and medical research.
Herscu has assembled a series of articles, many of them originally published in the British Homeopathic Journal/Homeopathy. Beginning with Hahnemann's comments from the Organon of Medicine on provings, he follows the thread of evidence and information on homeopathic drug provings through the first hundred years of homeopathy with quotes from Dudgeon, Dunham, and Kent. Chapter 3, taken from the works of RE Dudgeon, is particularly informative and addresses questions about homeopathic drug provings and research methods that are present today. These range from issues about dosage and repetition of the dose, to blinding of the provers, to how one should select provers for a homeopathic drug proving.
As the author moves into the 20th century we discover the writings of Gibson, Templeton, Raeside and Dhawale where the same issues that confounded the early homeopaths continue to be discussed. In essence the question is ‘What constitutes a good proving’? How many subjects are needed? What potency should be used and how often should it be repeated? How are symptoms extracted from a homeopathic drug proving? A question to which he returns in Chapter 33.
As someone who has conducted more than 70 homeopathic drug provings and struggled with finding a balance between provings results that are homeopathically useful and scientifically reliable I thoroughly enjoyed the range of opinions the author has assembled. In addition to beginning with Hahnemann's comments on provings from the Organon, Herscu follows a thread of writings on the subject from Dunham and Kent to the present day. For me perhaps the most interesting chapter was an article by a non-homeopath, Ted Kaptchuk, entitled ‘When does unbiased become biased?’[ 1 ] In this article, which, like many other chapters first appeared in the British Homeopathic Journal, Kaptchuk discusses the historical and scientific issues surround the use of placebos, blind assessment, randomization, and the use of statistics in medical research and how these relate to homeopathic drug provings. A compelling argument is made for a critical evaluation of the research methods used in contemporary scientific research. If this is done homeopathic drug provings could not only contribute to the homeopathic material medica but also to medical research in general.
There are of course no final answers to ongoing questions about research methods. Nevertheless, this book is an important contribution to the field of homeopathic research in general and to homeopathic drug provings in particular. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to review some of the original source material from those who have done provings or struggled with questions related to research methodology.
- 1 Kaptchuk T.J. When does unbiased become biased?. Br Hom J 1996; 85: 237-247.