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Juergen Hansel, Germany
Remedy unknown to provers
PHARMACY OF REMEDY IN PROVING
Gudjons Pharmacy, Germany
Description of the substance
A homeopathic drug proving- now termed a homeopathic pathogenetic trial- of EPHEDRA SINICA
Eine homöopathische Arzneimittelprüfung von Ephedra sinica
by Dr. Juergen Hansel
Dried stalks of Ephedra sinica Stapf acquired in a Chinese pharmacy in Singapore were triturated up to 3C according to Hahnemann’s instructions. Succussion from 3C to 30C was also done by hand. Only C30 Verum – no placebo – was used for the proving.
The proving was conducted in February/March 1997 with homeopaths participating in a seminar on the use of psychoactive drugs in hoemeopathy. An indiviudal supervisor was assigned to each prover. Neither provers nor their supervisors knew which substance was being proved. This knowledge was reserved to the conductor of the proving who was to be contacted by provers/supervisors only in case of complications during the proving.
In order to be accepted the provers had to be in a normal state of health. During the proving they were supposed to stick to their usual habits of life. In contrast to Hahnemann`s directions this also applied to the use of stimulants.
3 out of initially 19 provers were not able to take the proving substance because of illness or any other extraordinary circumstances and had to be excluded. One of the supervisors experienced unmistakable proving symptoms after just sniffing the proving substance and was therefore included into the group of provers.
The remedy was disclosed to the provers in a meeting 6 weeks after the beginning of the proving
In the homeopathic proving potentised Ephedra clearly presented itself as a drug remedy. More than half of the provers felt physically and/or mentally stimulated after taking one or several doses of Ephedra sinica 30C. One prover regretted to have this effect for just one evening others remained in this subcjectively very pleasant state for more than a week
This state is described as very relaxed and in good mood, a little euphoric, more open in contact, quick and vivacious. One feels like laughing all the time, everything seems funny, even the lamentations of the colleagues and one even laughs a lot when seeing patients although the patients are rather ill. Two female provers experience their state as a pleasant dizziness, as if lifted up, or as if tipsy - as if on a cloud. And one prover having experienced the effects of drugs in the past feels high as if she had smoked grass.
If you feel gay and exuberant like this it’s quite natural to share these feelings with others and you may communicate excessively: One becomes very loquacious and talks incessently making clever and witty remarks and cheers everyone up. High spirits and good mood are sometimes enjoyed at other people’s expense when you turn everything to ridicule or when one prover starts teasing, provoking and playing tricks on her colleagues.
If you are on drugs – even on 30 C – you may loosen your control. Depending on the individual disposition of the prover the disinhibiting effect of Ephedra shows up in different ways. One prover talks about her feelings with people to whom she would not normally reveal her feelings and another one is more open and direct in speech - thinks less about the reception of her words. A very nice and distinguished old lady swears and fumes about a neighbour as she would never have dared.
A charming young doctor is suddenly talking all day about sex, condoms etc. To her own surprise she desires to have more sexappeal and buys anunusually glaring lipstick and a miniskirt. She also tells about a constant desire to go shopping and to buy everything she can get hold of. This inclination to buy also reported by another prover as an entirely unusual symptom to her is part of the psychopathology of mania and one more sign for the hypomanic reaction on Ephedra. During the course of the proving a male prover even developped alarming signs of kleptomania.
The effect of Ephedra on some prover’s conduct in road traffic was as disturbing as the just mentioned pathological reaction .An otherwise very cautious driver approached red traffic lights to fast three times one day after taking 30C. The reaction of one of the supervisors who just sniffed the Ephedra globuli of her prover is particularly drastic. Because of the strong physical healing reaction her symptoms have been included under code no.17. Here we shall report her experience in detail:
“I just sniffed the globuli once out of curiosity (I know I tend to react in a very sensitive way). At that time I was infected with the kind of influenza just going round. I was not well at all feeling utterly dazed and benumbed, standing totally beside me and I was averse to communicate. After having sniffed the remedy my head was totally clear almost immediately (within 10 minutes). I felt allright, the flu had vanished.
I was in best mood and all over a sudden very loquacious. Later this evening I went to a party and then in the middle of the night I drove home. This night there was a blizzard. At first I wanted to take the “safe route” via the federal highway which is cleared by snow-ploughs. But then I enjoyed driving in the storm on the slippery roads so much that I went for a small side road leading home more directly.
I drove pretty fast inspite of the slippery surface sliding the bends. Although it was more and more difficult to get up some hills I was quite assured to succeed and to reach home safely. The radio was on and I enjoyed the loud music. Everything went fine. Only 5 kilometers from home the euphoric feeling left me all over a sudden. So I drove more slowly and cautiously and promptly I got stuck in a snow-drift some 3 kilometers from home. I had to abandon the car and to walk the rest of the way – at 3 o’clock at night in the middle of a snow-storm. But even then I did not mind so much and somehow enjoyed it. (By the way the influenza has not returned – it had gone for good)”
As a strange coincidence another prover had a similar experience only just in dream recorded on the 11th day of her proving: “I was in a car en route with somebody else and some friends of ours were in another car. We then left the road taking a shortcut through fields and snow. When we arrived first – because of having taken the shortcut – we were riding in a tank. It was very funny.”.The parallels of these two scenes not just in outward appearance but also in subjective inner experience are obvious. Besides an enjoyment of freedom and adventure there is a feeling of power and a deep conviction that in face of danger nothing can happen. In the dream this kind of invulnerability is symbolised by the tank.
This theme shows up repeatedly throughout the proving in dreams as well as in real life. One prover desribes her reaction to a dangerous situation 3 days after Ephedra 30C: “When we were driving to Switzerland at the beginning of the journey a tyre suddenly burst amidst heavy traffic on the motorway. It happened right before a parking place and we managed to turn right in time. Inspite of the very threatening event I was not at all excited, no fear, no panic. Normally this kind of experience would have wracked my nerves and I would have cancelled the trip. But although it took us about 14 hours and some other unpleasant incidents to get from Munich to Geneva I remained absolutely calm and relaxed.”
She is not so serious about everything as usual one prover notes on day 3 of her proving. This kind of tranquillity however does not suffice to explain the unusual reactions to danger. As already mentioned there is also the feeling of the power of a tank which cannot be defeated.
This feeling is expressed most clearly by one prover: I feel free and nobody can harm me.
She gives a striking image similar to the tank: I feel like Rambo and I want to do away with everything that bars my way. These symptoms represent a typical feature of drug remedies, namely the theme of omnipotence.
The feeling of power is promoted by a thrust of physical and mental energy which was quite apparent in some provers. They felt well and energetic despite of exertion or vigorous, full of energy, very efficient and concentrated at work. Everything is done carefully, precisely, thoroughly and persistently.
The increase in efficiency and producitity is not necessarily associated with the hypomanic state of the proving. Some provers do not show any signs of euphoria but still feel a desire to execute many things, to put everything in order, to clear away trifles. Over almost 2 weeks she is incredibly active making a clean sweep of her whole house.
Similarly a hospital doctor is surprised that he executes tasks he had delayed for quite some time and works on material which should have been filed long ago. Although he does not feel particularly elated or in high spirits he is active and productive for weeks and there is much energy to get things done. Another colleague reports that after Ephedra she puts her desk in order for the first time in years. She tackles a lot of things at home and in her job that she had always put aside.
The combination of physical and mental stimulation also affected sexuality. To four female provers potentized Ephedra proved to be a veritable aphrodisiac. They experienced amorous dreams of sensual , erotic pleasures in a bubble bath or – in broad daylight - sexual fancies like pornofilms inside her head accompanied by lustful desires to love up a man making her consider all her male friends and acquaintances. Another prover simply described this kind of sexualisation as a desire for sex all day long
Psychostimulant drugs like amphetamines are also commonly used to curb the appetite. Two provers reported a marked reduction of appetite in the course of the proving. But as in most homeopathic drug provings there was a typical bipolar reaction as for many symptons.
One prover observed a significant increase in appetite though accompanied by weight loss.
And two of the provers feeling sexually aroused at one stage of the proving complained of diminished sexual desire at another stage.
In fact most of the provers suffered from a kind of setback after having experienced the bright side of Ephedra. Regretfully the reaction of some of the provers was restricted to the negative side of the power plant, namely lack of vitality, concentration or sexual energy. Those who first felt elated and omnipotent experienced the end of this positive phase in dream or in reality as a sudden fall into deep sadness - severe depression after mania; before I was great, now everything is horrible.
After 4 days of living as if on a cloud, talking incessently making clever and witty remarks. she is still in high spirits and overactive when at 8 p.m. on the fifth day of the proving her mood changes abruptly and unexpectedly. Her supervisor took the following notes in her book:
“She was sitting in a pub with her friend saying nothing to her for two hours. When someone asks her about her bad mood she bursts into tears. Her friend wants to discuss this situation but she turns her down: “I don’t want to talk about this, it is not possible.” All over a sudden her problems are immensely inflated. “I do not have a place to live, no home – I am so alone”.
Another prover describes a similar situation at a birthday party where she is in high spirits initially, then suddenly stops talking, remains silent for some time and leaves abruptly. This sudden change of mood also marked the end of the joyful and carefree drive in a snowstorm and its harsh interruption in a snow-drift.
When the author, two colleagues and a pharmacist triturated the Ephedra stalks up to 3C the evening took a similar course. During the three hours of trituration at first we were energetic having a loud an animated conversation which suddenly turned into taciturnity and apathy. Noone wanted to talk any more.
This sudden fall is expressed literally in the images of two proving dreams:
“I am sitting on a camp-bed with three other persons and hovering in the air (to me apparently nothing extraordinary at all) and we are carried up very high. Then we plunge down vertically towards the sea and we say to ourselves: That will hurt. At the same time I realize that I want to remember this dream. That is why I miss the moment we hit the water. Anyhow the fear is not in due relation to the danger”.
“While ascending in an elevator the lift runs out of control. It does not go up any more but dashes downwards very rapidly. I am amazed rather than terrified, there is no panic at all. I am absolutely convinced that nothing will happen to me.”
Again the dreamers are lacking the due feeling of danger and menace although they are dashing down and have to be aware of a deadly impact any moment.
In real life the fall was not so deep and frightening as in the dreams of the proving, but the reverse of the drug-like ‘high’, the ‘low’ was experienced as very irksome and annoying in the everyday life of the provers. A feeling as if problems were towering up like an invisible mountain superseded the feeling of self-confidence and power. After being active and full of energy all day one prover feels overcharged and easily discouraged. Another one is slowing down from day to day.
The negative effect of Ephedra was most pronounced on vitality and fitness. 10 provers – among those some who had not experienced a ‘high’ phase – complained at some stage of the proving about being conspicuously tired, very sleepy, exhausted and lacking power or just being weak and feeble. Everything is tenacious as in the dream of bicycling with maximal force, partly on sand - very exhausting.
As for the mental sysmptoms there was a striking aversion to talk in apparent contradiction to the loquacity and need for communication of the euphoric phase. Some provers even developped an aversion to people and withdrew from their environment. This inclination to withdraw could also be seen in diminished sexual desire contrasting the previous erotic high already mentioned.
There is a feeling of isolation after the sudden fall expressed by one of the provers as: “I do not have a place to live, no home – I am so alone”. This feeling also appears in dreams:
“I was attending the wedding of a very good friend of mine. Everybody was dancing. I was not allowed to join in the dance and I felt alone and ostracized. I was very unhappy and and felt small.”
“In the dream there is a group of people engaged in some activitity in which I do not participate. I am left outside not belonging to the group.”
Both women imagine a situation of not belonging to the group being seperated from the others. These dreams evoke a feeling of being forsaken and isolated. In homeopathy we know this kind of feeling from drugs like Chocolate, Coffea or Coca and apparently it can also be part of the mental state of Ephedra.
Proving dreams can express a reaction of the unconscious to the homeopathic remedy and thus give us important informations complementing the conscious observations of provers and supervisors. Dreams of similar content and emotions dreamt by several provers may point to an essential theme of the remedy. The same applies to dreams relating to other symptoms of the proving. Some examples have already been quoted like the audacious car ride in the snow in the dream of one prover and in the real life of another one and – in general – the carelessness in the face of danger in dreams as well as in reality. Another example of feelings coinciding in prover’s dreams and reality is the dream of a tiresome bike ride in the sand as an equivalent to the feeling of tenacity in everyday life. Similaritis between some very unusual and peculiar dreams will be discussed later.
Opposite to the feeling of being castaway and seperated from the world in many drugs we also find a sense of unity with everything and everybody, a feeling of bliss which of course is one of the effects that makes people take drugs. Two participants of the Ephedra proving also experienced this kind of unity:
“After a meeting of our study group I see a dreadful patient of mine whom I don’t find so nasty as usual. I can suddenly even like her and I feel great about this – something like ‘I am united in love with all human beings’. “
Two nights later the same prover has a dream in which she experiences the same kind of back pain her foster-son had described her on the phone the day before.
“I felt severe pain in my lumbar region and in the dream I was amazed because I never had had back pain before. On waking the pain had gone. I moved in order to check if the pain was still there as the sensation had been so realistic.”
In this case the feeling of unity with somebody else is very real and physical.
Another prover reports an incident which happens one day after the last dose of Ephedra:
“I meet a former lover for lunch and there is again this old romantic feeling of happiness, fascination and unity which had gone long ago. 2 weeks later when meeting the same man again no such feeling comes up – it’s just friendly and neutral as usual.”
Although the sense of unity is not as intense as in drugs like peyote (anhalonium) these two examples of the Ephedra proving clearly show a feeling opposite to the sense of isolation and forsakenness.
Altered states of consciousness
Some provers do not just feel isolated from the world – they also feel somehow seperated from themselves. It is an altered state of consciousness typical for many drug remedies that goes beyond the elated, high and tipsy feeling already described. It is a feeling of being somebody different than usual. One prover feels different from her normal self; as if something has taken possession of her.
The reaction of prover No.6 is partircularly remarkable. She gives a detailed account of her very peculiar physical and mental state immediately after the first (and only) dose of Ephedra 30 C:
“8.30 a.m. – 2 Globules. Shortly after taking these globules burning at the lateral margins of the tongue. After about half an hour a sensation as if my body from umbilicus to vertex was a clear cool column; the rest of the body feels unfamiliar and unimportant. I sat with thighs on my hand because it felt so strange, this absolutely fascinating, vivacious, clear, blue and cool feeling as if something that had stuck together had loosened. A truly refreshing state I would like to be in all the time.
After another 20 minutes or half an hour my face was suddenly covered by leathery skin. It felt as instead of my normal skin there was a pig’s rind. When I touched my face it also felt like that. The people around me did not see any change. The upper lip also felt thickened and curved down thus impairing my speech. It was awkward and funny at the same time.
All the day I was absent-minded just hanging around and observing others or just sitting and staring at the same spot for a long time. I was neither gay nor sad. I was not really able to listen, because I was diverted by looking around and I was not inclined to talk. When talking with others everything felt unreal, as if in a film. But I did not mind feeling like this.”
Only three days later she wrote down: “The sensation of being in another world slowly ceases”. Her state of consciousness and perception had been significantly altered during these days.
The state of prover is represented in the repertory Synthesis in two rubrics containing most of the drug remedies and magic plants:
MIND, delusions – strange – familiar things seem strange: bell., Cann-i., choc., hyos., op., stram.
MIND, delusions – everything seems unreal: anh., cann-i.
These delusions and the prover’s feelings of being somebody different than usual or feeling different from her normal self represent a confusion about the own identity which is characteristic for drug remedies.
A statement like something has taken possession of her may remind us of the mental state of a shaman or a medium posessed by spirits and demons after having taken magic plants. There are definitely some similarities between homeopathic provings and shamanistic practices. This applies in particular to provings of magic plants like Belladonna, Anhalonium – or Ephedra.
One proving dream apparently deals with wizards and shamanistic practice:
“I am watching young men with long hair jumping from the roof of a huge church and the roofs of other buildings nearby down to the floor about 50 to 100 meters below. A big crowd watches them as they jump again and again without getting hurt. My sons also want to go there. I hurry up to the roof as I can see one of the men wants to take hold of two boys and make them jump together with him. I want to prevent this happening. I know that these men are wizards who know how to jump down safely. But the boys don’t know this secret. My sons are on their way up to the roof when I wake up.”
The art of jumping without being hurt is some kind of flying and these young wizards or shamans know the secret of flying. Whereas the mother is afraid of her sons or the other children getting killed the wizard might just want to teach the boys the secret of flying. In this case the scene in the dream would be some sort of shamanistic initiation.
An equally strange dream about a rather unconventional operation is also related to the realm of shamanism and magic:
“Both my legs are bound to be amputated. A doctor in casual wear performs the operation not in a proper operation theatre but in a dimly lit hut. I am without any pain and full of confidence although I don not know why this operation is bound to take place. All I know is that the legs will be sewed on again.
In a second sequence of the dream the operation is over and I have really got my legs back. I am waiting for a team of doctors bacause of a second operation. When I ask why I was operated on at all I am told that the operation was done because of pneumonia. After the delayed arrival of the operation team I wake up and I am relieved. My feelings in the dream are confidence, amazement and painlessness”
A short passage of another prover’s dream shows a similar event:
“A glazier -someone who cuts glass- can cut off the head of a child and put on a new one. In the dream I look at a picture in a newspaper showing the deformed face of a child.”
There are more dreams about amputation but without the dismembered parts oft the body being replaced.:
“My whole vagina with clitoris has been dissected and I am holding it in my hand. Realizing what that is and wondering whether there is also the uterus I am puzzled and confused, also sad, but without any strong emotions.”
Yet another dream is about a man wearing a penis prothesis. More down to earth but still related to the subject of dismemberment are two dreams of teeth breaking off or falling out.
Without attempting any interpretation I would like to put the specific theme of these dreams into the context of shamanism. Dreams and visions of dismemberment are common to many shamanistic traditions and cultures. They are part of the process of initiation representing the inner experience of death and reincarnation. Elements of this kind of experience can be identified in the first two dreams in particular. In the first dream loosing and regaining the (life of the)legs is part of a shamanistic treatment meant to heal a severe illness, in this case pneumonia. Even more drastically the second dream of the glazier-shaman is about losing your old life (head) and regaining a new one.
One of the most striking features of these dreams is painlessness and the absence of emotions. Traditionally magic plants have been widely used in various cultures to suppress pain and to make operations possible. Mainly because of their painkilling effect they have been regarded as cure-alls in traditional medicine all over the world. The relation between Ephedra and pain is clearly reflected in the proving. 40% of all the physical symptoms deal with pain in various locations. One third of all these pain symptoms is related to the head. In one case a prover got rid of a headache she had suffered from for many weeks.
We already referred to the case of the supervisor who out of curiosity just sniffed the globuli and was unintentionally and very rapidly cured of a flu. The main symptom – headache – eased off within some ten minutes. In traditional Chinese medicine Ma Huang is commonly known as an influenza remedy and it is used in the first stage of flu characterized by headaches, sore limbs and chills. Exactly this picture of symptoms emerges from the Ephedra proving. 6 out of 17 provers complained about sore muscles and bruised feeling all over a common symptom of influenza. 5 provers reported a striking chilliness. There were also sore throats, coughs, coryza and burning eyes in accordance with the indications for Herba Ephedrae in Chinese medicine. The diaphoretic effect of Ma Hunag was only noted in one prover.
Just about everything we know from the traditional use of Ephedra as a medicinal plant and Ephedrine as a drug about its way of action could be seen as a proving symptom of the potentized plant in one or several provers. This also applies to the sympathomimetic action of Ephedrine. This effect is demonstrated very impressively by one prover who suffered from a Raynaud symptomatology on several successive days for the first time of her life after having taken Ephedra C30
She wrote in her notebook: “ I could clearly feel a narrowing of the blood vessels” and on the next day: “I realise that my blood vessels are constricting”. At this point it must be stressed again that neither prover nor supervisor had any idea about the substance being proved let alone about any specific action to be expected of the proving substance.
In physical as well as in mental and dream symptoms we can see a clear relation to the area of female genitalia and sexuality. An increased sexual drive and erotic dreams and phantasies have already been described. The dream of a dissected vagina also belongs to this complex. There were also dreams of fetusses and babies and there was physical pain commonly associated with the process of birth, such as devastating colicky labour-like pain in the entire abdomen, hardly bearable, with cold sweat and sensation as if fainting and pain in rectum as if the head was pressing down during parturition. In 4 cases the menstrual bleeding changed, in one case containing clots of tissue resembling liver and reminding of an abortion.