Homœopathic Links 2017; 30(04): 285-287
DOI: 10.1055/s-0037-1608620
Thieme Medical and Scientific Publishers Private Ltd.

Burnett Rediscovered

Clinical Strategies of the Great Homeopath for Modern Practice: Line of Action of Remedies, Organ Remedies, Pathological Simillimum, VaccinosisReviewed by
Jay Yasgur
1  United States
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

Publication Date:
20 December 2017 (online)

The title of this 146-page distillation of the great, yet controversial turn-of-the-century homeopath, James Compton Burnett (see note 1), says it all. This work presents itself in four sections: Organopathy, Homeopathy/Symptom Similarity, Medical Doctrines and Appendices.

However, not only is biographical material omitted concerning our grand ancestor but also a photo. One can understand these omissions as Tabrett's (see note 2) enthusiasm for the material which probably made him temporarily blind to the obvious. I, too, made a similar oversight when writing my dictionary several years ago: I failed to include a definition of ‘homeopathy’!

With this aspect in mind, Tabrett has introduced several new terms which Burnett coined, such as seat of action, kind of action, range of action, stop-spot, and double shots. Another synorganopathy is more complex and was coined to describe that some presenting symptoms, while appearing to be from one organ, actually originate from a different organ. In other words, the diseased organ (primary) expresses itself vicariously through another organ (secondary). The first organ is called the primary organ and the organ that expresses the symptoms is called the secondary organ. It is the primary organ which must be treated first to alleviate the symptoms expressed by the secondary organ.

One obtains a better understanding of this phenomenon by reading chapter ‘1.5 Synorganopathy’, but until then, the following may be of help. This case is one of Tabrett's:

‘I once saw a very fastidious female patient who consulted for excessive menstrual flow, which was debilitating. Initially, I gave a good uterine organ remedy: Thlaspi bursa pastoris, and then Helonias in tincture and then Fraxinus americana 6 × , but no amelioration occurred, whatsoever. A history of left ovarian cysts and a vaginal cyst, recurrent infection of sexually transmitted disease, aversion to slimy foods and desire for orange juice all pointed to Medorrhinum. I gave 200c weekly with only an amelioration of waking at 3 am, which I did not even know about! Arsenicum album and Calcium carbonicum followed based on totality of symptom indications, but to no avail. Finally, I made the connection that the excessive flow occurred 6 months after she caught an undiagnosed infection while traveling in Asia 2 years earlier. Her acute symptoms were right-sided abdominal pain, slight jaundice and pale, almost white, floating stools. She made a recovery and thought about it no more. Students of anatomy, physiology and pathology would quite correctly deduce liver involvement. A prescription of Carduus marianus twice daily for 1 month restored her cycle back to normal. Here, the primary organ was liver, which expressed symptoms via the secondary organ, the uterus. No obvious plumbing from liver to uterus caused disruption, but treating the liver ameliorated the uterus symptoms.

‘Synorganopathy is, currently, a little understood and even less so taught or discussed treatment modality (all the more reason to bring it out into the open). Granted, it is a clinical rarity, so does not deserve huge attention, but it certainly deserves further investigation’.–Dion Tabrett (Burnett Rediscovered, pp. 33, 4).

One can easily see this approach to be different from classical homeopathy. One may also imagine that it takes a great deal of clinical experience as well as theoretical knowledge to arrive at the necessary level of competence using this approach. To be sure, the classical homeopath could argue against this organopathic approach by simply citing and prescribing on presenting symptoms. Can it be shown which is the better or more appropriate approach? This is one of the difficult, perhaps unsolvable, conundrums which we as homeopaths face and one which truly allows us to proudly say that we practice an ‘art’.

Though the entire book is vibrant and useful, it is Section 3, ‘Medical Doctrines’, which impresses. In it, Tabrett assembled and succinctly organised material concerning nosodes, miasms, vaccinosis and etiology. The reader acquires a vast amount of both theoretical and clinical material. Throughout, Tabrett comments on many of Burnett's books ([Table 1]). For example, concerning delicate, backward, puny and stunted children: their developmental defects and physical, mental and moral peculiarities considered as ailments amenable to treatment by medicines (1895), he comments that it is an excellent clinical primer on the use of nosodes (10 are discussed) and understanding miasms.

Table 1

Publications by J.C. Burnett

Burnett wrote over 25 books/booklets. Fifty Reasons for Being a Homoeopath (1888) was perhaps his most popular. Other titles include Natrum Muriaticum as a Test of the Doctrine of Drug Dynamization (1878*); Gold as a Remedy in Disease (1879*); Diseases of the Veins: More Especially of Venosity, Varicocele, Haemorroids and Varicose Veins (1880,* 2nd and 3rd—1889, 4th—1894); Curability of Cataract with Medicines (1880*); On the Prevention of Hare-Lip, Cleft Palate, and Other Congenital Defects (1880); Ecce Medicus, or Hahnemann as a Physician (1881*); The Medicinal Treatment of Diseases of the Veins (1881); Supersalinity of the Blood: An Accelerator of Senility and a Cause of Cataract (1882*); Valvular Disease of the Heart from a New Standpoint (1885); Diseases of the Skin (1886; 2nd—1893, with a new title, Diseases of the Skin: Their Constitutional Nature and Cure); Diseases of the Spleen and Their Remedies Clinically Illustrated (1887); Fevers and Blood Poisoning and Their Treatment with Special Reference to the Use of Pyrogenium (1888); Tumours of the Breast and Their Cure (1888); Cataract, Its Nature and Cure (1889*); On Fistula and Its Radical Cure by Medicines (1889); On Neuralgia: Its Causes and Remedies (1889); Consumption and Its Cure by Its Own Virus (1890; in 1894 it was reprinted as Eight Years' Experience in the New Cure of Consumption); The New Cure for Consumption (1890); The Greater Diseases of the Liver (1891); Ringworm: Its Constitutional Nature and Cure (1892); Curability of Tumours (1893); Delicate, Backward, Puny, and Stunted Children: Their Developmental Defects and Physical, Mental and Moral Peculiarities Considered as Ailments Amenable to Treatment by Medicines (1895); Gout and Its Cure (1895, 2nd—1900), Organ Diseases of Women (1896); Vaccinosis and Its Cure by Thuja (1897); Change of Life in Women (1898) and Enlarged Tonsils Cured by Medicine (1901)

Another work, Doctor Burnett's Essays (1882), consists of seven essays/booklets (*contains these essays) which he assembled: it is ∼300 pages in length

For an enjoyable and succinct biographical account, see J. H. Clarke's tribute Life and Work of James Compton Burnett (1904; 145pp). Other works of similar interest include H. L. Chitkara's useful compilation, Best of Burnett (2002) and the chapter concerning Burnett in Hilary Spurling's Ivy When Young: The Early Life of Ivy Compton Burnett, 1884–1919 (1974; actually much of the book is peppered with ‘spicy’ references to her father). The second half of Ivy's life is covered in Spurling's Secrets of a Woman's Heart: The Later Life of Ivy Compton-Burnett, 1920–1969 (1984; Ivy lived from 1884 to 1969). Finally, the volume by J. Bhagyalakshmi, Ivy Compton-Burnett and Her Art (1986), may also be of interest

One of the sub-chapters in this section consists of a useful nosode/zoic remedy materia medica. The five major miasms and associated remedies are lucidly presented before the vaccinosis topic receives attention.

Burnett was the first to publish cases and cures of vaccine damage. He considered vaccinosis to be a ‘sub-division’ of the sycotic miasm and Thuja became a regularly prescribed remedy:

‘… Vaccinosis will easily block the miasm prescription also. This means that, clinically, he would often prescribe for the vaccinosis first, then the miasm and then finally for the symptom state characterised by the Totality of Symptoms’. –Tabrett, p. 101.

Understanding etiology was important to Burnett and Tabrett presents that subject before finishing Section 3 with a discussion and presentation of hybrid and constellation-of-symptoms cases. This nicely laid-out and beautifully produced hardback is sewn and wrapped for longevity. It contains a brief glossary, remedy and general indices, short bibliography and an appendix entitled ‘A–Z Burnett's Therapeutics.’ The gold-ribbon place marker is a welcome embellishment.

Burnett Rediscovered will without a doubt prove to be a valuable addition to one's library. Since it is so well produced, upon your retirement (homeopaths never retire, do they?), pass it on to ‘…my son/daughter the homeopath’!

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Fig. 1 James Compton Burnett (10 July 1840 to 2 April 1901). ‘Burnett often compared the practice of homoeopathy to gardening and chess, both favourite pastimes of his; both calculated to ‘appeal to a temperament which derived peculiar satisfaction from protracted, crafty and crabwise manoeuvres’. –Julian Winston (Faces of Homoeopathy, p. 179).
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Fig. 2 Dr Margery Grace Blackie and Queen Elizabeth II.


1. James Compton Burnett ([Fig. 1]) was a noted British homeopath, author and clinician of the first order who graduated from the Vienna Medical School in 1865 where his expertise in anatomy was recognised. He studied at the medical school in Glasgow and received his medical degree in 1876. Like Hahnemann, he despaired the allopathic model and at one point considered forgetting medicine all together to become a farmer. However, in 1872, under the influence of Alfred Edward Hawkes (1849–1919), a British homeopathic physician, Burnett was introduced into homeopathy and eventually became a fervent devotee.

Burnett first read Richard Hughes' treatises on therapeutics and pharmacodynamics and decided to put homeopathy to trial. Hughes had suggested Aconite as a remedy for simple fever; so, in the ward in which Burnett was in-charge, he dosed half the population with Aconite allowing the other half to serve as the control: ‘I would try the thing at the bedside, prove it to be a lying sham, and expose it to an admiring profession’. This, too, is what Hering attempted. Those half of patients who received Aconite were soon discharged and the nurse-in-charge, overcome with guilt, gave the remedy to the rest. Burnett was “… ‘simply dumbfounded’. He spent his nights reading homeopathic literature and, having suffered a conversion which he afterwards compared to St. Paul's on the road to Damascus, instantly resolved ‘to fight the good fight of homeopathy with all the power I possess; were I to do less I should be afraid to die’.” –Julian Winston (Faces of Homoeopathy, p. 180).

Burnett was the great uncle of Margery Blackie, who was a famous homeopathic physician and, for several years, was personal physician to Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family ([Fig. 2]).

Along with Dr. Robert Thomas Cooper (1844–1903) and John Henry Clarke (1853–1931), he was a member of the small and intimate group, The Cooper Club. These gentlemen gathered regularly to enjoy dinner and banter of a homeopathic nature. Many of Burnett's insights found their way into Clarke's important work Dictionary of Materia Medica (Vol. I—1900; Vols. II and III—1902). Clarke admired Burnett's directness and ability to quickly arrive at the essence of the situation. Despite Burnett's zealotry, he possessed a constant, good sense of humour. Thomas Skinner joined the club at a later date and when Burnett and Cooper passed away, C. E. Wheeler, Margaret Tyler and John Weir joined. The Cooper Club ended in 1914.

The Burnett family lived in the countryside outside London, but a bit later in his career, he stayed in London to be close to his busy practice. He used to return home mid-week and on the weekends. Though he read and appreciated Hughes' books and scholarship, the two did not get along. Burnett had two wives and fathered 13 children (Ivy Compton-Burnett became a novelist).

Burnett was one of the earliest homeopaths to examine vaccinosis as a phenomenon and etiology of disease. He published his thought in Vaccinosis (1884) and introduced Bacillinum as well as several other nosodes.

2. Dion Tabrett (1968) studied at the London College of Homoeopathy, graduating in 1992 with the Licentiate of the College of Homoeopathy (LCH). This was followed by post-graduate study and the award ‘Member of the College of Homoeopathy (MCH)’ in 1994. He pursued further studies at the Open University graduating with a BSc in Natural Sciences (2003) and an MSc in Molecular Biology (2007). Both of these degrees focused on human anatomy, physiology and pathology. Dion has conducted clinics in Berkshire, Cornwall, Devon, London and now practises in Bristol.

He was introduced to homeopathy by a fellow musical band member Lynn Forte, who cured him of asthma and also introduced him to Burnett.

Editor's Note

Dr. Richard Moskowitz, MD, North American homeopath, recently wrote Vaccines: a Reappraisal (2017; Skyhorse Publishing). This 300-page volume contains a comprehensive assemblage of clinical and basic science research, news reports from the media and actual cases from his practice to present a systematic review of the entire subject. Mr. Yasgur plans to review this important book in a future issue of Homoeopathic Links.