Homoeopathic provings are the foundation of the homoeopathic knowledge and materia medica. The founder of homoeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, saw it as essential for homoeopaths to understand proving philosophy and methodology and to participate in them.
This page has been written by a homoeopath, mainly for homoeopaths, so it reflects the homoeopathic perspective on provings. It also gives a good explanation for the non-homoeopathic reader.
- 1 From a Homoeopath’s Point of View
- 2 What are Homoeopathic Provings
- 3 Personal Experiences of Jeremy Sherr with Provings
- 4 Types of Provings
- 5 Methodology of provings
- 6 The Proving Process
- 7 Stages of a Proving
- 8 Literature:
- 9 References:
From a Homoeopath’s Point of View
Provings are a vast subject that every serious homoeopath must study in detail. Some homoeopaths may feel that understanding provings is irrelevant to them, but my experience is that participating in a proving, be it as prover, supervisor, editor or master prover, is an essential part of homoeopathic education. I have consistently observed a quantum leap in homoeopaths who have participated in a proving.
Provings are the basis of homoeopathy. We are fortunate to have inherited wonderful provings from our homoeopathic forefathers, provings which are our daily remedies. It is our duty to continue this process. At the same time, provings offer us a unique opportunity to learn the deepest aspects of homoeopathy, nature and ourselves.
What are Homoeopathic Provings
The basic principle of homoeopathy is 'like cures like'; what a medicinal substance can cause, it can also cure. In order to ascertain what a medicine can cause, it must be administered to relatively healthy people. This experiment is called a homoeopathic proving (from the old-German “preufing”, meaning experiment). During the proving all effects of the remedy, physical, mental and emotional are recorded in detail. Once the experiment is over, all the symptoms experienced by each volunteer are gathered into a collective record, which forms the basis of the material medica for this remedy. This collective totality of symptoms is used as a guide for homoeopathic prescriptions. At later stages the picture is consolidated through clinical experience, and synthesised into a more concise materia medica.
Homoeopathic provings are a scientific approach to medicine, based on a positive premise, i.e. causing symptoms in a healthy person to determine the real medicinal action of a substance. Homoeopathic remedy indications derived from these provings have remained effective and unchanged for the last 200 years. The complete set of proving symptoms represents the entire range of curative action, as opposed to diagnostic or local categories, which address only a part of the underlying disorder.
Beyond the scientific evaluation of medicinal effects offered by homoeopathic provings, they provide a method for the homoeopath to explore and confirm his healing system, a tool for the physician to experience her remedies and a means by which the healthy may cure the sick. In addition provings are the most fascinating journey into nature’s inner world, into our own deepest nature and are central to our personal development. Provings are a most wonderful gift to the sick, to the healer, and to the explorer of real knowledge.
Personal Experiences of Jeremy Sherr with Provings
Lao Tzu states in the ‘Tao Te Ching’ that the best journeys are made without ever leaving home. I have traveled to many countries, but my most memorable voyages and greatest insights have been through remedy provings. In the last twenty years I have organized 38 provings and have participated in 18. I have found that my health has been enhanced by the provings and not damaged in any way. The personal and collective journeys into these provings have enriched my own and my provers’ lives on many levels. The gentle lessons of the provings have caused us to become more dynamic and more robust. Naturally there have been occasional difficulties, but the benefits have far outweighed the inconvenience.
Through our provings, my fellow provers and I have experienced the sting of a scorpion, the cold riches of sapphire, the opulence of jade, the cycle of salmon, the monotony of rape seed, the flight of an eagle, the enlightenment of hydrogen, the gentleness of deer, the hardness of diamond, the nurturing of olive and the rigidity of germanium. We have explored these and many other secrets from nature’s treasure chest by entering into nature herself, by diving into her substances and shape-shifting our beings into her mold.
In the process of these provings we have learnt the power of the collective, experiencing the unity of a single substance influencing a large group of people. This communal undertaking has provided a window into the collective consciousness of humanity, non-local physics, morphogenic fields and epidemic medicine. It has been fascinating to compare provings done in different countries at the same time (Adamas, Helium) and to hear provers using the substance name or other relevant information about the remedy without knowing what it was (e.g. ‘I dreamt of fallow fields’ during (Dama dama- the fallow deer). It has been fascinating to hear of the women who received a sapphire ring on the first day of proving Sapphire, or of a prover uncharacteristically buying a ton of coal during the Diamond proving, or the prover who had a load of neon lights dumped in her front yard on the first day of the Neon proving. It was wonderful to hear the provers of Polaris (the north star) discussing the precise location of north and polar bears, to hear Helium provers talking of eagles flying high, Plutonium provers telling of bats in the the underworld and Krypton provers having images of Superman. It makes one wonder when the South African apartheid regime collapses two weeks into the Diamond proving. These double-blinded synchronicities are the joys of any proving, and they abound, thus verifying that they are more then mere coincidence or suggestion.
While organizing and editing provings for publication, we have practiced the need for exactness and attention to detail. We have learned what to retain and what to discard, what is useful and what is superfluous and how to present material in the most effective way.
In the clinic we see the living proof of our experiments, as case after case has responded positively to the new remedies, based on the indications we have gathered. Homoeopaths from all over the world are daily reporting cures and thousands of cured cases are confirming the provings we have conducted. There are few greater satisfactions then witnessing the curative action of a remedy that you have painstakingly proved.
The 27 homoeopathic provings we have done to date have been scientific experiments, shamanic journeys, inner alchemy, lessons in editing and a basis for clinical therapeutics all rolled into one. They have maintained and developed a tradition that is central to the profession of homoeopathy.
“And further, while we were preparing the so-called old medicines we never forgot our position as explorers of the unknown world of results, of effects; never forgetting the ground-work of our healing art, we prepared from time to time new medicines also; we made a regular proving at least once a year, often twice and even three times a year. These provings were the high feasts in our church, and you cannot consider yourselves true members of it without joining in these feasts. Proving is a most wonderful thing, the world has never known its like. We suffer, and we enjoy it; we sacrifice a little of our comfort, and gain abilities and power by it; we lose a part of a few days, and gain years of strength by it; we go to school to learn, and we increase the certainty of the healing art. At the same time, to prove drugs is of all other ways the very best, the nearest and the easiest to learn to master our Materia Medica. It is the way to learn; to observe the art of arts, the principal one on which all others are based.” Constantine Hering
The Necessity for New Provings
Provings are the pillars upon which homoeopathic practice stands. Without accurate provings all prescribing indications are vague guesses at best and fiction at worst. No other method is able to predict the medicinal effect of a remedy with the accuracy of a proving. The use of signatures, toxicology, clinical experience, family pictures or intellectual concepts may contribute to our understanding but they cannot approximate the precise knowledge gained by a thorough proving.
...therefore, we have only to rely on the morbid phenomena which the medicines produce in the healthy body as the sole possible revelation of their in-dwelling curative power, (Hahnemann Organon, § 21)
Why More Provings?
As we already have thousands of remedies, many of which are underused, how can more provings help homoeopathy? The answer is that there are billions of sick individuals, each with their own unique configuration of illness. The more precise the match between remedy and patient, the more profound the cure will be. To increase the accuracy of our healing science, we need many more remedies.
This becomes very apparent when a new remedy is proved. The new remedy will cure a class of cases that existing remedies could only palliate. For example, many cases needing Chocolate were previously prescribed the very similar Sepia with limited success. It is likewise for Cygnus and Ignatia or Androctonus and Anacardium. To compensate for the lack of new provings, existing remedy pictures have been inaccurately expanded beyond their natural sphere of action.
Since the first thorough and detailed provings of Hahnemann, Hering and other 19th century homoeopaths, the quality of provings has in my mind deteriorated. Of the thousands of remedies in our materia medica, only a few hundred are well proved. Many remedy pictures are based on small and incomplete provings, toxicology, traditional herbal use or speculation. As a result they provide only a partial and superficial depiction of the remedy or they consist of common symptoms, which do not reflect individual characteristics of the remedy and are of little use in prescribing.
Thus it is obvious that we need many additional provings of new substances and fuller reprovings of remedies with deficient information. In order for homeopathy to develop. I believe, the profession needs to continue creating new and high quality provings.
Learning through Provings
Participating in a proving is one of the best ways of learning the philosophy of homoeopathy as well as a practical lesson in the structure and construction of materia medica and repertory. Provings provide great insight into the power of remedies and the various responses of our defense mechanism.
Taking part in a proving opens a gateway to an experiential side of homoeopathy. During the proving one gains intimate knowledge of the remedy. Being a prover is a much more profound and direct experience then just reading materia medica. The remedy enters into our spirit and permeates every part of our being, just as a virus takes over a cell nucleus and directs the entire cell to its own purpose. We become the remedy and the remedy becomes us. This is the deepest level of materia medica knowledge.
Taking Part in a Proving
It is important to understand that provings can only induce symptoms that are pre-existent or latent in us. These symptoms may be from a long past or a distant future, but we are inherently capable of producing them. Thus a proving illuminates an intrinsic part of ourselves that is yet unexplored. Symptom seeds that have lain dormant within now germinate and flower.
On the simplest level, provings provide a particular stimulus to which our vital force reacts by producing symptoms. Similarly, any new experience which stimulates us to react is essentially a proving. Only the intentional use of potencies in an experimental setting is a homoeopathic proving.
The difference between a proving and a crude life experience lies in the potency and force. A stimulus resulting from a crude mother tincture experience (such as vexation, vaccination, a snake bite, a movie, food poisoning or a drug) may be violent and can invoke strong or permanently damaging symptoms. On the other hand, provings of homoeopathic potencies use a dynamic force that is at once gentle and profound, and unlikely to cause any lasting harm.
Safety and Provings
Life is full of risks. If we take none, we will never experience new things and learn. The key is to maximize the benefits and minimize the damage. Gentle and well-organized provings do precisely that. By choosing relatively healthy provers, using a minimal dose and applying close supervision while the proving lasts, the damage from provings is very small.
In all the provings I have conducted, the vast majority (80-90%) of provers felt they had benefited or learnt from the experience, and most were willing and eager to do another proving. However, it is only natural to feel apprehension before a proving. After all one is about to undergo bothersome symptoms and a change of attitude that may well be unpleasant. Provings can cause painful symptoms and may affect relationships and work.
This serves to remind us that conducting a proving is no light task and should be undertaken with full care and responsibility. The safety of provers must be our main concern at all times. The proving should be discontinued if it is harmful to the subject.
While there are small risks, in most cases the advantages far outweigh them. Not only does the proving create a new remedy and offer a unique learning opportunity, the stimulation of a proving actually invigorates us and increases our health and wisdom.
The organism of the prover becomes, by these frequent attacks on his health, all the more expert in repelling all external influences inimical to his frame and all artificial and natural morbific noxious agents, and becomes more hardened to resist everything of an injurious character, . . . by means of these moderate experiments on his own person with medicines. His health becomes more unalterable; he becomes more robust, as all experience shows. (Hahnemann Organon Footnote to § 141)
Types of Provings
There are many levels of proving methodology from full Hahnemannian to informal. The full Hahnemannian, is a highly organised, accurate and thorough proving undertaken by a large number of people over a considerable period of time, the purpose of which is to fully unfold the totality of a new remedy, including physical, mental and emotional symptoms. The results are incorporated into the materia medica and repertories, making the information available for homoeopathic posterity. A project such as this must naturally be undertaken with extreme care, thoroughness and appropriate attention to objectivity and protection from bias.
Features: Highly organized, Precise, Thorough, Large number of screened provers, New or existing remedy, Defined time span, Supervised, Intention to record and publish totality of symptoms, Slow and difficult process
Results: Reliable, Accurate, Totality of symptoms, Useful to prescribers, Incorporated into Materia medica
Some provings are conducted with a study group or during a seminar by having each student take a dose at or before the class. These provings often concentrate on dreams and mental symptoms, in an endeavor to uncover the deeper meaning of the remedy. In my opinion seminar provings are dangerous and inaccurate, because they lack prover screening and long-term supervision. A longer seminar proving (over a week), with screening and supervision is acceptable.
Features: Conducted during class or seminar, Focus on dreams, mental symptoms or central theme, Large number of provers, Unscreened provers, Short time span, Unsupervised, Fast process
Results: Unreliable, Often inaccurate, Partial totality, Not incorporated into materia medica, May be harmful to provers
Dream/Meditation and Trituration Provings
Other homoeopaths conduct dream provings or meditation provings, often not actually taking the remedy but just holding it. Dreams, images and sensations are noted. Another method is for the group to prepare a remedy by extensive trituration while paying attention to the symptoms that arise during the process. While the symptoms from such provings are interesting and may be confirmative, they should not be incorporated into the materia medica and repertory. I would encourage anyone to experiment. You may be surprised by what you discover.
While the advantage of these fast track seminar, dream and meditation provings is a short cut to an inner essence, they miss many of the physical, general and long-term symptoms that constitute the whole proving. These details may seem dull in comparison to essences and dreams, but they are a necessary part of the remedy’s totality.
Features: Potency not taken, but held or triturated, Focus on dreams, images or immediate symptoms, Unscreened provers, Unsupervised, Fast process
Results: Unreliable, Not incorporated into materia medica, Personal discovery
At the far end of the methodology spectrum is the 'informal' or partial proving. It may be a proving on oneself, a patient, or with a small study group. This is often a proving of an existing remedy. Such experiments are undertaken in order to gain direct inner experience of a remedy and are not usually intended or suitable for publication.
Features: Casual, Individual or small group, Often existing remedy, Unscreened provers, Unsupervised, No intention to record or publish, Fast process
Results: Unreliable, Often partial totality, Not incorporated into Materia medica, Personal experience of inner nature of remedy
By far the most frequent proving is the one done by a patient who inadvertently receives an inaccurate prescription i.e. a dissimilar remedy. Such a prescription will produce proving symptoms in the sensitive patient. (Organon Para 156 & 256) This is an extremely common occurrence and a valuable source of symptoms. Unfortunately, these unintentional provings often go unnoticed or are mistaken for aggravations, random events, return of old symptoms or “everything coming out.” Most homoeopathic patients have experienced such a proving.
Relationship to Conventional Drug Trials
Some of the more conventionally-minded homoeopaths would like provings to emulate allopathic (Phase 2) drug trials, in a search for acceptance or total accuracy. While there are many similarities of provings to clinical drug trials, there are also large differences.
A proving will never be 100% exact. (Not that Phase 2 trials are, but they strive for this impossibility). This inherent inaccuracy is a result of the many diverse susceptibilities of the provers, and the various occurrences of daily life. If we consider that adding an extra prover to any proving may produce a whole range of additional symptoms, while leaving out a particular prover will lose these symptoms, it becomes clear that it is impossible to have a perfect proving. The only way to resolve this would be to prove on every different type of person, but this would produce an impossible amount of information. Therefore a proving should be considered a suggestion for clinical application, rather then a final or ‘complete’ product. While the totality of symptoms is sufficient as a basis for a homoeopathic prescription, the collected symptoms can always be expanded by a further proving, providing a fuller totality.
It is sometimes impossible to eliminate random symptoms and noise or to decipher their relationship to the proving. It is often difficult to know if the prover had bad milk in their tea, or if they developed a stomach ache due to the remedy. If we eliminate the symptom we may lose important information. Historically there has been an ongoing discussion in homoeopathy regarding inclusion or non-inclusion of ambiguous symptoms. Modern research methods would use statistical significance, i.e. number of provers producing a symptom. But this is in opposition to homoeopathy, which pays special attention to unique and individual experience. If we rely on statistically significant numbers of provers to confirm a symptom, we will lose all strange, rare and characteristic symptoms, resulting in a flat proving of common symptoms. This is often the case with over-zealous editing of a proving. The result is an unusable proving.
Most modern provings are double-blind, that is, both the supervisors and provers are prevented from knowing what remedy is being proved. However, classical provings were not blinded at all, yet they have produced very reliable results over a long period of time. Double-blind tests are supposed to compensate for bias in the observer and faith in the patient, but have never been verified in either of these factors. Although in previous writings I originally suggested double-blind provings, my experience has shown that it is not an essential factor in producing high-quality provings.
I have also suggested in my prior writings the use of placebo, a unmedicated pill, which was not historically used in provings. Theoretically the placebo serves to distinguish the effects of the remedy from the effects of the proving process. According to this idea, we should eliminate symptoms similar to the placebo symptoms from the proving. However it has been the repeated experience of many modern provers that those taking placebo also produce symptoms typical of the proving. This may sound strange in conventional terms, but it is consistent with the idea of a proving being a collective infection similar to an epidemic.
I tend to use 10% placebo which serves to keep provers aware of the need to be accurate in reporting their symptoms, and to investigate the interesting effect mentioned above. Using 50% placebo serves no purpose whatsoever and is an enormous waste of good provers who are not always easy to come by. Our traditional proving process has served us well without the use of placebo.
Methodology of provings
What follows is a brief outline of the actual proving process. For a complete description of proving methodology, refer to The Organon, §§ 105 to 145; Kent, Lectures in Homeopathic Philosophy, Lecture 28 ‘The Study of Provings’; and Sherr, ‘The Dynamics and Methodology of Homoeopathic Provings’.
Producing Good Provings
Creating a full proving that aims to give the world a comprehensive new remedy picture requires time, enthusiasm, commitment and perseverance. In my experience the most important factors towards producing a thorough and useful proving are as follows:
1. Be organized. 2. Use a class that has studied together for a while. This lends a cohesion which amplifies the epidemic ‘As if One Person’ effect. 3. Ask homoeopaths to be your provers. They usually make the best provers. They know what they are looking for. 4. Avoid random provers from scattered locations. They produce poor provings, as do paid ‘volunteers’. 5. Ensure careful and close supervision. 6. Believe what the prover tells you; however strange, it may prove significant. Clinical experience will confirm or deny the symptom. 7. Hold a provers’ meeting after 6-10 weeks. 8. Edit material carefully and extensively. 9. Be tenacious.
Many homoeopaths begin provings with much good will, but fail to complete them. The most common problems are provers’ fatigue, poor supervision, and lack of tenacity of editors and coordinators. One should understand that while the proving itself takes two to three months, editing and collating a proving is a painstaking and lengthy undertaking. Consequently, only a small percent of provings begun are published, though this has improved with internet publications (For a list of modern provings and publications see www.dynamis.edu).
The Roles in a Proving:
The main roles are those of:
Master Prover / Principal Investigator
The master prover (principal investigator) is responsible for the proving, including the safety of provers, the accuracy of supervisors, the diligence of editing and final publication. This job may be shared with a co-coordinator. The master prover oversees all the supervisors and provers, ensuring that everything is functioning properly and safely. She should keep track of the dates each individual proving begins, (which preferably should be around the same time so as to keep management simple), and also of which provers are experiencing symptoms, how many doses each took etc.
The most demanding role of the master prover is the third stage of extraction, collation and editing of symptoms into the materia medica format. As the proving progresses, the master prover will get to know the symptoms and develop a feel of the remedy, which will aid in the difficult process of choosing reliable symptoms and contribute to the ‘As If One Person’ effect.
Good supervision is the key to a high quality proving. Often symptoms are produced, but due to poor supervision they go unnoticed. It is important to remember that Hahnemann tells us, 'Every real medicine…. acts at all times, under all circumstances, on every living human being, and produces in him its peculiar symptoms'. (Organon Paragraph 32).
It is the supervisor’s role to identify and clarify symptoms, to separate real from random, and to encourage the prover to be diligent. The supervisor must also be alert to the prover’s well being. Consequently supervisors should have some homoeopathic experience. This is a good learning opportunity for students nearing graduation. Each supervisor should have no more than two provers, as there is quite some effort involved. The prover's case should be taken by the supervisor prior to the proving. This is essential in order to create a baseline to compare symptoms from before and after the proving. At this stage the supervisor also screens the prover’s state of health to confirm they are able to participate.
During the proving the supervisor takes the prover’s case every day, until symptoms begin to subside and communication can be less frequent. This contact may be by phone but not by email, as this would lose the dynamic personal contact, which is vital. Daily interrogation is important as provers often do not notice their symptoms or realise that they are experiencing a proving. It is often difficult to distinguish the delicate proving symptoms from daily events and life fluctuations. Furthermore the prover becomes the proving, and cannot perceive that she is changing. She imagines that she is acting in a perfectly normal manner even when her behaviour is radically different from usual.
The supervisor's role is extremely important in providing a stable point of reference that does not change with the prover. The supervisor should question the prover carefully, bringing out the full nature of the symptoms and deciding if symptoms are relevant. She will be well-acquainted with the prover's case so that she can compare what is new, old, cured and altered in the person.
The prover should be in a reasonable state of dynamic health, meaning she should be able to “bounce back” from negative situations and recuperate quickly and completely from the symptoms caused by the proving. When the prover possesses adaptability or flexibility, she can react to the proving and later return to her natural state. One should not do a proving on persons who have pathology, serious obstacles to cure, difficult mental and emotional states or low vitality, because they lack the dynamic force to recover. Likewise provings on people taking drugs of any kind are not recommended since the drugs may be imposing their own medicinal symptoms on the individual, as well as being a greater health risk. I believe that children, pregnant women and animals should not prove remedies.
The Proving Process
Choosing and Preparing the Remedy
The choice of proving remedy is personal. Any substance, natural or artificial, may be used, as long as the same source is used in conjunction with this proving forever after. The master prover may choose a substance according to medical potential, personal interest, toxicological or chemical properties, fields of investigation, omens or dreams. If the proving is to be triple-blind, a third party will choose the substance and the master prover will not be informed.
It is essential to record and verify the exact details of the original substance, such as species, gender, time when gathered, location, quantity by volume or weight, percentage and volume of alcohol, age and part of specimen, etc. In the case of a nosode or sarcode precise details regarding the donor should be recorded.
For plants one should investigate the herbal and botanical literature to discover the most potent part of the plant and the best time of gathering. It is preferable that the plant is collected from its natural environment. All substances should be as pure and free from pollution as possible. The exact mode of pharmaceutical preparation should be recorded.
Reactions to a proving depend mainly on the relationship between the susceptibility of the prover and the nature of the remedy proved. Other factors are potency, sensitivity, dose, repetition and timing. As the proved remedy has a random relationship to the prover, there are many possible reactions. These can be broadly divided into three main categories; homoeopathic, antipathic and dissimilar (allopathic). It is the variety of the different effects on a large number of provers that creates a full and meaningful totality. In my experience the best group size for a proving is 5-20 provers.
Since no one can be completely healthy, in any proving there is a statistical possibility that some provers will receive a similar remedy. If a prover with the Plumbum disease takes Plumbum, she will be cured. In fact most provings I have conducted have produced a few cures. A typical reaction is that of aggravation first, followed by amelioration or cure. From this it is apparent that a simillimum cannot create a proving, just a curing. Conversely a remedy which produces a proving can never cure.
When there is a simillimum, the cured symptoms are added to the proving as such. It is essential that the exact nature of the symptom prior to the cure be recorded.
In the case of the antipathic remedy (opposite action) the reaction will be amelioration first, followed by aggravation. This means that the primary action in the proving will be a sense of well-being or improvement of current symptoms, followed by a worsening or aggravation of the prover’s situation. In a clinical setting this would be an unfortunate result, often indicating organic pathology. However, as the prover is relatively healthy, she should be able to return to her former state once the remedy effect is over.
The third possible reaction, and the most common, is the dissimilar reaction, which occurs when the remedy sustains no logical (homoeopathic or antipathic) relationship to the prover’s susceptibility. The characteristics of a dissimilar reaction are symptoms that the prover never experienced before, i.e. new symptoms. These are the most significant and reliable symptoms of a proving.
While a mild dissimilarity will produce the best proving, a greater dissimilarity will produce fewer symptoms. The more unrelated the remedy is to the prover’s susceptibility, the more allopathic it will be. To achieve results and generate proving symptoms the remedy will need to be repeated more frequently, and the effects will usually be of a local and common nature.
Every constitution will bring out a different aspect of the remedy. One will bring out the throat, one will bring out the feet and one will bring out the mind. The more varied the susceptibilities, the more varied the symptoms. The symptoms that are produced by a dissimilar relationship in a proving result from the overlap of the constitutional symptoms and the remedy symptoms. The symptoms of a Calcarea carbonica person proving Neon will represent the Neon aspect of Calcarea carbonica.
Other than the susceptibility of the prover to the remedy, the main factor dictating the quality of reaction is sensitivity. This will range from extreme sensitivity to total lack of reaction. There are two types of sensitive provers, those who are sensitive to the particular remedy and those sensitive in general. The latter can be divided into pathologically sensitive provers, who are extremely useful provers but often difficult patients to cure, and healthy provers who are very aware.
This awareness consists of a capacity to ‘listen’ to the gentlest changes in body and mind. Rather then pushing a proving to the extremes of suffering and pathology, provers and supervisors should become proficient at listening to these ‘whispers’. According to Hahnemann (Par 141 footnote), this capacity of self-awareness is one of the gifts of provings, and a gateway to wisdom and self- knowledge, which will surely benefit practice.
Often the most important proving symptoms are brought about by one or two of the most sensitive provers, the others serving to fill out the bulk of common symptoms. Many well-known remedy keynotes and “pictures” arose from only one or two sensitive provers. Though conventional research methodology may discount these occurances as statistically insignificant, homoeopathy considers them to be highly characteristic and extremely valuable.
Arbitrary Symptoms or Random Symptoms?
During the proving particular attention should be paid to random external factors that may affect the prover, giving rise to false symptoms. These include infections, epidemics, colds, exposure to noxious influences and poisons including various forms of pollution. In addition, external physical injuries or external emotional factors such as grief, shock, fright, etc. may affect the prover giving rise to symptoms that are unrelated to the proving. In all cases of strong external forces, or stronger dissimilar disease, it is prudent to eliminate the resulting symptoms, or even to terminate the particular proving. (However one should keep an eye open for external events which reoccur in many provers, and are actually a response to the proving. This is a matter of the finest discrimination.)
Dose and Posology
There are many diverse opinions concerning dose in provings. A study of the dose and potencies used in the history of provings reveals complete inconsistency. Provings have been done with any potency from the mother tincture to the 50M, and with any dose ranging from single to daily repetition over a long period of time.
Hahnemann’s and Kent’s recommendations on this subject are clear and I have followed and confirmed them with my own experience. The remedy is to be repeated until first symptoms appear and then stopped. The reasoning is that some people, who have greater susceptibility or sensitivity, show symptoms easily, while others, who have an allopathic relationship to the remedy or less sensitivity, need to be pushed. This caution will generally produce a clearer proving and safe-guard the prover. Supervisors should keep close contact with their prover on the first day and help them to decide if symptoms have appeared.
The formula I follow is a maximum of six doses over 2 days. If any symptom occurs, no further doses should be taken. If nothing has happened after two days, then no more doses are to be taken. Proving symptoms are often very mild, like a delicate cobweb over one's normal consciousness. I found that at least 80% of the people developed distinct symptoms before taking all 6 doses, many after the first dose. The single dose produces a purer experiment and often a more intense proving. In homoeopathy, less is more.
As regarding potency, there was a time in Hahnemann's life when he sought to standardise the 30C potency for provings, but this idea was never taken up. In each of my provings I have used a wide range of potencies - 6C, 15C, 30C, 200C. I would recommend using two mid-range protencies such as 12C and 30C. After completing a proving in the lower potencies, a sensitive individual can repeat the proving with a single dose of higher potency. This will produce finer and more characteristic symptoms.
Stages of a Proving
Stage One: Preparation
Choice of roles: provers, supervisors, master prover/principal investigator (or co-orcodinators), editors.
The master prover decides on protocol, remedy, prover numbers, remedy codes and starting date. The master prover allocates supervisors to provers. Remedy is obtained and potentised. Orientation meeting is assembled. Provers sign informed-consent forms. Remedy and notebooks distributed. Alternatively, symptoms/data can be input directly on computer. Supervisors take provers’ cases. Provers keep notes 1-2 weeks before commencing proving. This is an important baseline, but any longer will induce prover fatigue.
Stage Two: Proving
Proving begins. Prover notifies supervisor; supervisor notifies master prover. Prover begins taking remedy, a maximum of six doses over two days. As soon as symptoms arise, no more doses are taken. Prover and supervisor are in daily contact, each keeps a full notebook. Supervisor and master prover remain in contact. As symptoms abate, contact frequency between supervisor and prover lessens to every 2, 3 and then 7 days. Once no symptoms have occurred for three to four weeks, the proving is finished. Notebooks are returned to master prover.
Recording Proving Symptoms
The prover keeps careful notes regarding all symptoms, modalities, times and concomitants, using their natural language. They ask for comments and observations from friends and family. Each symptom is written on a new line, leaving space for remarks. Each day a new page is started, marking the day and date clearly. The time should only be included within the symptom text if it is definitely significant. Accidents and coincidences should be noted.
All symptoms should be marked as New Symptoms (NS), Old Symptoms (OS), Altered Symptoms (AS) or Cured Symptoms (CS).
The group meeting is an essential part of the proving. It is a demanding but wonderful experience. It should be held 6-10 weeks after the proving. Each prover tells of their experience in detail, and supervisors comment on this. During this meeting the totality of all provers experiences are woven together into a cohesive whole. Discovering the numerous ways in which a single entity expresses itself through many provers, diverse and at the same time unified, is an amazing and mind-expanding experience. The remedy picture is midwifed into the world, and we see its face and features for the first time. It is only an infant at this stage, and will require years of nursing and clinical use to mature.
The provers’ stories may well trigger awareness of many symptoms that have gone unnoticed or were attributed to ‘life’. These symptoms can be extremely important, but supervisors and the master prover must exercise great care and discrimination when adding them. They may of course be results of suggestibility, but my experience has shown that this is by no means always the case.
The proving meeting also serves as an important opportunity for the prover to ‘discharge’ the proving in a safe and supporting environment, which often feels very good to provers and allows them to come to a completion of the proving.
It is useful to video the group meetings (providing provers give their consent). After 6 months the provers should be contacted to check if anything else of significance has occurred.
Stage Three: Extraction
In this stage the prover's and supervisor's accounts are amalgamated into a single cohesive document. It is helpful if they work with a third homoeopath or the master prover, who can help vet the symptoms. The final product should include valid symptoms only, and omit all superfluous, highly doubtful or irrelevant information.
When the extractions are finished and handed in, the remedy is announced.
During this stage it is essential to be precise, censorious, forgiving and sensitive simultaneously. It may be helpful to remember that many symptoms from Hahnemann's provings that seemed dubious at the time were later clinically confirmed.
Filtering symptoms for a proving is a delicate and difficult task, which should be undertaken with the utmost care. Symptoms should be discarded whenever there is grave doubt. However, one should be careful not to be over-cautious and reject potentially useful symptoms. In mild doubt it is better to leave the symptom in, so that it can be confirmed or denied with clinical experience. An annotation as to the nature of the doubt would be useful.
It is also interesting to note that many of our famous keynotes, now considered leading symptoms, originated from a single occurrence in one prover- for example, the isolation of Camphor and the enlarged sensation of Platina. It is at this stage that the master prover discovers that good supervision, as in good case-taking, constitutes 80% of the work.
Criteria for Including Symptoms
The following guidelines should aid in the process of selecting valid symptoms. They are to be used together as a whole, rather than individually:
1) If in serious doubt, leave it out. If in minor doubt, leave it in.
2) If the prover is under the influence of the remedy (as can be observed by their general state and symptoms), then all new symptoms belong to the proving.
3) Any symptom that is usual or current for the prover should be excluded unless intensified to a marked degree, in which case it should be noted as such.
4) Recent Symptoms (RS) should be excluded if they have occurred in recent history i.e. one year or less. How recent depends on the particular symptoms and case. We should discard any symptom that may have appeared naturally or spontaneously during the proving. For instance if a prover was suffering from migrains over the last few months, any similar migraine during the proving should be discarded.
5) A symptom that is current but that has been modified or altered (AS) should be included, while clearly describing the current and modified components.
6) Any symptom that has occurred a long time previously, especially longer than five years, and that would seem to have no reason to occur spontaneously during the proving, should be included. For this reason old symptoms should be marked OS with time of last appearance.
7) If a current symptom has disappeared during the proving, it should be noted as a cured symptom (CS). The precise nature of the symptom previous to the proving (curing) should be adequately explained. This should include sensation and function, modalities etc. It is not adequate to say, 'My headache was much vanished during the proving,' but rather, 'My usual left-sided, piercing, pre-menstrual headache, has vanished.'
8) An important factor for verifying a symptom is confirmation from other provers. If a marked or significant symptom appears in one or more provers, it will serve as validation. If a symptom is in doubt, it can be included in brackets. During the collation we may find that another prover experienced the same symptom, thus lending it reliability. If no other prover shared the same symptom, it is excluded. The difference between this and the single prover characteristic symptoms mentioned earlier, is that in this instance I am referring to common symptoms (headache, anxiety) that are doubtful, rather then to a definite, unique occurrence. In choosing symptoms a balance must be found between the unique symptoms and the larger totality.
9) Another deciding factor is the intensity and frequency, i.e. an intense or intensified sinusitis is likely to be a proving symptom.
10) The next factor is the perceived meaning of the totality. Once an understanding of the nature of the remedy emerges, it may serve to verify or exclude questionable symptoms. This factor should be used with extreme care and only as a final confirmation, so as to avoid speculation and prejudice.
11) The inner knowledge and conviction of a prover that these symptoms do not belong to her are a definite and dependable consideration. Re-examining the symptoms with the prover at intervals of 3 and 6 months will provide a further filter for verification of results.
All the above factors will still never give us 100% certainty, until the final proof - repeated clinical experience and verification.
Stage Four: Collation and editing
The aim of this stage is to convert written diaries into materia medica format. Symptoms are scrutinised, validated or rejected, and then edited into a proving that is coherent, logical, useful and non repetitive. The end result should be neatly presented, easily comprehensible and grammatically correct.
This is the most lengthy, delicate and exacting process of the proving, and where many fail to complete the task. However, editing a proving is a very educational process and will give great insight into the whole homoeopathic process, so it is highly recommended for the serious homoeopath. There are many intricacies to editing a proving well, so I will only give a very rough outline. More details can be found in ‘The Dynamics and Methodoglogy of Homoeopathic Provings’.
The amalgamated notes of provers and supervisors should by now be on computer (this can happen at any stage). I usually divide the editing between three editors, one each for Mind, Dreams, and Body parts.)
The lowest standard of proving presentation is the provers' unedited daily journals. This arrangement does not allow for careful editing and does not make the totality easily apparent. Fully-edited provings should be presented ‘As If One Person’, as recommended by Hahnemann and his followers. Provings that are presented as lists of repertory rubrics are also deficient, as they lose the dynamic nature of the provers’ language.
The first stage of editing is to divide each prover’s notes into different files according to the Hahemannian schema i.e. the different body parts and sections. Each section is then arranged according to context, and within that section sorted according to prover and chronology. Mental symptoms and dreams may be arranged in themes to make it easier for the reader to digest. Physical symptoms should be arranged in a similar sequence to Kent’s repertory, i.e. main location, modality, sensation and sub-location. This allows for easy perception of the totality. There is no right way to sort the sequence of symptoms, and ultimately it is up to the editor's perception of the remedy.
During the editing, careful attention should be given to retaining the original language of the prover. A delicate balance must be found between leaving in the essential and removing the superfluous. My practice during this stage is to imagine a homoeopath in 100 years time who is studying the proving. They would not want too much superfluous detail, but they would want to understand the exact sensations, functions and symptoms of the prover. Cumbersome sentences and unnecessary detail should be edited for the sake of clarity. Cross-references are inserted where appropriate.
Toxicological and clinical data for the substance is then collected and added to proving. A pharmaceutical report and a substance report should be added. I tend to present placebo symptoms and anecdotal events in a separate section, so that the reader can decide for themselves if they are relevant or not.
Many master provers strive to arrive at an essence of a remedy during the proving. To my mind it is premature to constrict the proving totality into a simple idea before having some years of clinical experience with it. It is preferable to present the proving as a full and simple document for the unprejudiced study of the profession.
Stage Five: Repertorisation
Repertorisation is a very complex science and art, which requires expert knowledge. Many editors are over conscientious when repertorising their first proving and tend to flood the repertory with minute or repetitive symptoms, which cause an imbalance in repertorisations. The repertory is not a materia medica; it is an index to materia medica. Thus not every minor aspect of a symptom needs to be repertorised. It is also advisable to wait for a few years of clinical experience of the remedy before repertorising.
The homoeopathic software companies are knowledgeable about the repertory and skilled at repertorising provings. However it is difficult for the repertory experts to repertorise the proving correctly if they do not have a very good understanding of the proving, which is inevitably difficult for someone who has not been involved. For this reason I have recently begun to present repertory experts with an annotated copy of my provings, in which I emphasise the important point.
Stage Six: Publish
New provings should be registered on the internet at www.provings.info or www.provings.com. Publishing provings is a costly process and not always financially viable, however it is very satisfying for the provers and readers to have the proving available in book form, and these provings will tend to be used more. If publishing in books is not possible, provings can be published on the web at the above internet addresses.
Database of Provings
During the two centuries of conducting homeopathic provings, there have been several attempts to collect all the provings as references. Allen’s Encyclopedia of Pure Materia Medica is an outstanding example, as are the books of Bradford and others.
Today the online database Provings.info has nearly reached completeness, covering direct links to or literature references of all homoeopathic provings published since Hahnemann, with more than 6000 entries related to 2400 proved remedies.
Another proving website is Provings.com by Jeremy Sherr and Radar with more the 1200 entries.
Hahnemann, Samuel. Organon of Medicine, 6th Edition. Translated by R E Dudgeon. B Jain 1984.
Sherr, Jeremy. The Dynamics and Methodology of Homoeopathic Provings. Dynamis Books 1994.
Wichmann, Jörg. Online Database Provings.info
- The following text was written as an article by Jeremy Sherr and edited and adapted for a Wiki by himself, Tina Quirk and Jörg Wichmann.