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Plants, Animals and Minerals: A New Way of Understanding Materia Medica

Everything from the natural world can be classed as animate or inanimate. The inanimate elements, salts and compounds can be loosely categorized as belonging to the mineral kingdom. Animate substances can can roughly divided into substances from the animal kingdom and substances from the plant kingdom.

Dive into our Hebal Materia Medica

Since homeopathic remedies come from the natural world, they can also be
categorized into the kingdoms of nature, plant, animal and mineral. People who need remedies from animal sources will have different characteristics and types of symptoms from people who need remedies from mineral or plant sources. Rajan Sankaran developed this idea in his book, The Substance of Homeopathy.

It makes immediate intuitive sense that people needing plant remedies will be like plants in some way, and people needing animal remedies will be like
animals, but until very recently homeopaths had not really considered that this idea could be helpful in prescribing. In clinical practice, the remedy picture was not considered to be related very much to the characteristics of the source material. A great body of knowlege has been collected about the symptom pictures of remedies and their similarities and differences, but not much work had been done on looking at this data from the point of view of the kingdoms. Farrington’s Comparative Materia Medica is the best of the old
homeopathic works in this area. Farrington looks at the commonalities and
individual characteristics of groups of remedies like snakes, spiders, oils,
milks and mineral salts. It may seem obvious, but it was something of a
revelation to realize just how intimately the symptoms in a remedy’s picture do correspond to the characteristics of the original substance and the common characteristics of members of its natural kingdom.

Since studying with Sankaran, we have come to believe that categorizing
according to kingdom can be a very useful, if not vital, tool in finding the
correct remedy for the patient. In figuring out the characteristics that we
might expect from remedies in the different kingdoms, it is important to look
at the characteristics of the members of each kingdom as they appear in nature. Although no one person will have all of the following characteristics, enough will often be present to identify him predominantly with one kingdom.

Think of plants. Plants vary from unicellular organisms to huge trees. The
common features of plants include photosynthesis, rootedness, spreading out, various forms of reproduction and sensitivity to environmental changes. They use sunlight, oxygen, nitrogen, water, soil and other nutrients as sources of energy and life.

According to Sankaran, the basic quality of a plant is sensitivity. Plants
grow, but do not move under their own power from place to place. They stay in one place and must be sensitive to the environment in order to adapt to the
changes around them. Your house plants don’t just get up and move when the sun moves, like your cat or dog, but they grow slowly toward the source of sunlight. Plant remedies in homeopathy are also quite sensitive, trying to
adapt to changing circumstances. People who need plant remedies are often soft, sensitive, attempting to adjust to the people and environment around them. They are passive, emotional, easily hurt, changeable, and lack structure. Just as plants can spread out into the available space, absorbing what is necessary for life, these people are more diffuse by nature, wandering in thought and speech, guided by their emotions, looking for support and nurturing. They are often creative and artistic, looking to create and surround themselves with beauty, such as art and music. They are flowing, reactive, fragile, and more random in thought and speech. Their writing may look irregular, or disorganized, with rounded letters.

During the homeopathic interview, patients needing plant remedies wander from subject to subject, seemingly disorganized, incomplete, talking about
themselves and others as well. Their dress is often flowery or connected with
plants in some way. The patterns on the clothing are random, irregular, without geometry or structure. Clothing is aesthetic, colorful, soft and flowing, even for men. The cause of their problems is often a kind of shock or hurt, which can be physical or emotional. Plant people express their sensitivity in
expressions like, “That affects me.” “It hurts me.” “I am sensitive to …” “I can’t stand it.” “I am touched by….” They seem soft, emotional and easily hurt. Relations with other people may be difficult or too much for them, because of their sensitivity and their need to adapt to those around them. People may see them as too sensitive and moody, changing too abruptly or whimsical.

Plant dreams have scenes of plants or nature, music or art.

Dreams can be vivid or beautiful, and have a lot of emotional content.

All of the changes of the day and adaptations that had to be made may come out in their dreams.

Some common plant remedies include Pulsatilla, Staphysagria, Lycopodium,
Colocynthis, Ignatia, Nux Vomica, Drosera, Agaricus, Aconite, Belladonna,
China, Cannabis indica, Stramonium, Arnica, Ruta
, and Rhus toxicodendron.

Now think of animals, from protozoa to elephants. Animals move around, looking for food, water, sex, a good place to sleep, warmth, and protection from the elements. Animals are social and hierarchical by nature, often with elaborate mating rituals. According to Sankaran, the main theme of animals is
competition. They may compete for food, mates, territory, or superiority.
Animals demonstrate the principle of survival of the fittest with tooth and
claw, or by more subtle means, in humans, like making a sarcastic remark.
Animals need to draw attention to themselves. They try to be attractive,
beautiful, sexy and better than those around them. Animals have issues of
attractiveness, and even the complaints that bring them to the homeopath often have to do with their beauty, the attractiveness of their skin or hair, their
sexual functioning, weight and other issues which affect their competition with others. People who need animal remedies usually dress attractively, with
clothes that are distinctive in their color or design. Jewelry will be worn to
attract attention.

Person leaping across a chasm
Animal people are adventurous

Animal people are animated, expressive and full of life. They are alert and
quick to act and react. They make contact easily with other people. Their eyes are striking and attractive. They are aggressive, pushy and competitive, and may attack if provoked. Jealousy and envy are strong in animals. They compete for social position and will stop at nothing to be the best. The person may even move like animal or make growling, hissing, or scratching motions and sounds. Animal-like career choices are often adventurous, competitive and designed to show off their best attributes, or why their products or services are superior. Their handwriting looks striking, distinctive, sharp and aggressive.

Animals have issues of domination and being dominated. An animal who is not making it will have feelings of inferiority and worthlessness. In any
competition there are winners and losers. Animals fear loss of power, mates and territory, isolation, neglect and rejection.

Sankaran also writes of the split in people who need animal remedies between the higher human nature and the lower animal nature. These people may relate to other people as “humans”, somehow different from themselves as an animal. “I just don’t understand how humans think.” “Why are humans so inhumane?”

Or within oneself there can be a despising of the animal part by the human
part-sort of a Jekyll and Hyde phenomenon. The animal part is seen as
malicious, deceitful, aggressive, and jealous, while the human part is seen as
nurturing, loving, warm, friendly and playful. This split can lead to feelings
of antagonism with oneself, duality and confusion of identity.

Animal remedies are complex and have lots of issues going on at the same time. There are multiple modalities. Cravings are often for meat, fish and milk.

Animal remedies come from mammal’s milk, snake and spider venoms, insect venom and secretions or products of other animals. Some of the animal remedies include Sepia from squid ink, Tarentula, a venomous spider,
Lachesis, Naja, Crotalus horridus, venomous snakes, Bufo from toad secretion, Moschus, from musk, Apis, the honeybee, Lac caninum, dog milk,and Lyssin, saliva from a rabid dog.

Minerals, from salt to gold, are inanimate substances which are markedly
different from plants and animals, as reflected by the symptoms and issues in
their remedy pictures. Minerals are far more structured than animals and
plants. For this reason, chemistry is a much more exact science than biology,
giving predictable, measureable results. Biological systems are much more
variable than mineral relationships. The relationships between elements in the periodic table is fixed and predictable.

The issues of minerals are usually one-dimensional, usually having to do with
one or two issues ie. structure, organization, safety and security, specific
relationships, finances, or performance. Minerals are slower than plants and
animals, more measured and organized. People who need mineral remedies wear plain clothes, or stripes, checks and symmetric or geometric designs. Color is not as important to them. Dress is neat and functional rather than attractive.

Mineral people describe their complaints in an orderly way, using lists, with
facts and figures, percentages and chronological order. They are likely to say,
“My arthritis started on August 15th, 1982 with in a pain in the little finger
of my left hand.” They go through their list of symptoms in order, making sure
they haven’t missed anything. They say they are 35% better after taking the
remedy for 10 days. “My blood glucose was 212, but now it has come down to

Organized person
Mineral people are very organized

Minerals can often be found in jobs like accountant, engineer, scientist,
computer programmer, mathematician, manager and quality control or time
management consultant where a structured, ordered mind is need for success. These people are steady, reliable and conscientious. Minerals often have a high need for performance and achievement, but the idea of competition is not as strong. More likely will be feelings of responsibility and duty to perform.

Problems come for minerals when they fail to perform or maintain the area of
life which is necessary for their security. If they lose their homes, health,
relationships, jobs or money. If they are unable to maintain order and function
in their lives, they may go to pieces. Mineral people tend to be concerned with what they have and what they could lose, and their relationships with those around them.

Whenever structure begins to break down in their lives, minerals are likely to
suffer. Minerals have issues with the structure of their body breaking down as
in arthritis, skin disease or dental decay, neurological problems or
difficulties with the functions of a particular area of the body like the liver
or heart. Problems with the minerals in the body, like electrolyte balance, ie.
cramps or osteoporosis from calcium/magnesium balance or heart or kidney
problems from sodium/potassium ratios can also occur.

Mineral remedies can be single elements like Phosphorus, Iodum, Alumina,
or Sulphur, or salts like Natrum muriaticum, Calcarea carbonicum, or Kali sulphuricum. Minerals are related by the periodic table of elements. Different groups of elements have a relationship. The issues in a particular group, like the anion halogens, Fl, Br, I, Cl all have the same themes of broken relationships, disappointment, guilt and betrayal. The cations also have specific themes. The Natrums have a theme of relationship, the Kalis of family or group, the Calcareas of security, the Magnesias of early development, the Barytas of incapacity. The metals have themes of performance and attack and defense. Aurum has the theme of failed duty, Argentum, the need for performance, Ferrum, the theme of battle, Platinum, the need for respect, Cuprum, the need to be a great person.

In prescribing, if you can understand whether the patient has more animal,
plant or mineral qualities it can help you eliminate a lot of potential remedies from consideration and narrow your focus toward the correct remedy.

Since there is danger of picking the wrong kingdom, do not use it as the only
way of getting to the remedy. It is just one tool, but a very powerful one.
Once you know it is a mineral remedy, you can think of the groups of minerals
and their issues, whether it is a mineral salt with a combination issue or a
single element. You can look a groups of similar remedies on the periodic
table. If you know it is a plant, you can look for characteristics that might
tell you what kind of plant it might be and think about the plant remedies that have the theme of your patient. When you see the characteristics of an animal, think about animal natures and which kind of animal your patient is most like: a dog, a snake, a spider, a lion? By getting the feeling of the patient, and even what size animal they seem to be, it can help you determine what animal remedy fits the best.

These are preliminary distinctions, however, so don’t bet the farm on your
remedy having to come from a particular kingdom. Use it as a tool but don’t be bound by your initial impression if it doesn’t pan out. Some remedies are on the boundary between two kingdoms.

Drosera, Anacardium, Stramonium and Hyoscyamus are plants with some animal issues. Natrum muriaticum and Phosphorus can sometimes seem like plants because of their sensitivity. Sulphur has some animal issues like being scorned. Sometimes animals may be mistaken for plants, like Lac caninum for Thuja, or Lyssin for Stramonium.

Pay attention, as you take cases and prescribe successfully, to whether your
animal, plant and mineral perceptions are correct. With time you will easily
recognize the differences and it will be very valuable in difficult cases.

Drs. Robert Ullman and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman are board-certified
diplomates of the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians. They are instructors in the Professional Course of the International Foundation for
Homeopathy, of which Judyth is President and Robert is Vice President. They
have just released their new book,
The Patient’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicine. 

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Written by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW

Explore Wellness in 2021