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Bamboo: A Homeopathic Proving by Bernd Schuster

Verlag für Homeopathie, Weilburg, Germany, paperback, 237 pages. ISBN 3-9805958-1-1

Book ReviewOf all the recent provings of new substances, the proving of the common Bamboo by Bernd Schuster is an example of a job well done.

     Schuster begins the book by giving a thorough description of the plant, its history, and its uses—both medical and non-medical. He then describes the proving itself, conducted with 20 adults (both male and female), some of whom were practicing or prospective homeopaths, others, doctors doing homeopathic training. The gender distribution was 12 women and 8 men.

     Those who question the size of the group and wonder if we could get reliable symptoms from such a small sample should recall that many of the best provings by Hahnemann and his prover's union—the symptoms of which we use regularly in daily practice—were done with only a few provers.

     Schuster did not start studying the literature on bamboo until after the start of the observation phase in order to avoid a self-fulfilling prophecy in the study or to inadvertently pass on information about the test substance.

     The study was preceded by a one-week washout phase in order to exclude any interference from medicines or stimulants such as coffee. One week before as well as during the study the following were not allowed: coffee, chamomile tea, camphor, the use of the microwave and essential oils. 

     The active drugs used were the 6th and 30th centesimal (C) potencies and the Q3 (LM3). The centesimal potencies were supplied as pillules, identical to the placebo. The Q potency was supplied as a liquid.

     In the first phase (sensitivity testing) the participants received five pills. In the second and third phases they received about 20 pills in small bags. Placebo and active pills were identical in number. The participants were told that either an active medicine or a placebo was being tested in the second or third phase but they did not know what substance they were taking. The investigator knew nothing about the substance, except the name. 

     In the first phase, all were given the remedy in various potencies. In the second phase, all were given the active remedy, some in different potencies. In the third phase, seven of the group were given placebo.

     The giving of the "active" drug in the first test phase is justified by the author, when he says: "... we are also attempting to find out whether the claim of Samuel Hahnemann in ¤ 269 Organon is correct, namely that a substance which is medicinally ineffective originally can be rendered efficacious simply by homeopathic processing. This is why we should also be guided by the kind of test which led him to make this assertion. As far as we know, Hahnemann never tested placebo versus active drug. He always gave active drug in the first test phase."

     The study started in October 1994 and lasted until February 1995 for some of the participants. The participants had to enter every symptom in a special diary and note whether it was a persistent (PS), new (NS), old (OS), altered (AS) or unusual (US) symptom. "Before the study a history was taken with all the participants, in person or by questionnaire, so that pre-existing signs of illness could be 'weeded out' or correctly assessed later. The body diagram of Harald Walach was used in order to avoid any misunderstandings when describing areas of the body. This diagram, which divides the body into 89 regions, was contained in each diary for reference. The observation period lasted two months although, in principle, it was meant to continue as long as there were symptoms to be observed. The author was available as the supervisor in the event of any problems."

     Of the 20 participants, only one dropped out. Symptoms recorded in the final diaries take up 84 pages in the book. The symptoms are then converted into repertory rubrics in the next 46 pages. The last 76 pages of the book consist of the author's commentary about the proving symptoms, and 14 cases in which Bamboo was the prescribed remedy. The cases are especially interesting because in all of them, other remedies had been prescribed previously. Bamboo was prescribed only after the symptoms were gleaned from the provings.

     This is really what homeopathy is about. The proving, alone, only gives you raw information. The real test is when the remedy is prescribed based upon the similar symptoms and a cure results. Then, and only then, has "homeopathy" been practiced.

     There have been complaints that the range of symptoms of Bamboo is so great that while looking through the Complete Repertory, "bamb-a" appears so frequently that its presence becomes distracting.

     This is an interesting problem to be solved by our repertory compilers and our medicine provers working together. Are all those symptoms reportable or recordable? 

     The question I had in looking over the listing of proving symptoms was—which ones were persistent, new, old, altered, or unusual? These categories should be usable to perhaps define a way of seeing some of the symptoms as "stronger" than others. As it is presented, all the symptoms seem to carry the same weight.

     Similarly, I was confused by the inclusion of the placebo reports. For example, prover number 10 reported: "Despair at night that death will separate me from my children. Grief and rejection when thinking about my past life." This is indicated as "C30, 37, (P17)." As I read it, this symptom was recorded 37 days after taking a C30. But was it also recorded 17 days after taking placebo? Was this a new symptom? Was it an old symptom? The nomenclature for this section was very confusing.

     When I asked the author about this, he agreed that some of the translation was not quite accurate, and will be revised in the second edition.

He says about the above question:

     "C30, 37 (P17) means: C30 was taken on 5--7 November 1994, all symptoms were reported until Phase 3. Prover 10 had a bag with placebo and took this on 19--21 November.

     "Until my second proving of Cola (Colanut—Cola nitida), it was thought that a milk sugar pill declared as a 'placebo' was without any effect on the vital force, so I thought the intake of 5--7 November was still acting during the placebo-phase even 17 days or more later. From practise we know that a C30, taken on 3 days, can act on the vital force more than 2 or 3 months, even longer. So (P17) means: Drug is still in action 37 days after the verum dose and 17 days after giving nothing.

     "But I found out in the second major proving that in a homeopathic proving there are no 'placebos.' In the Bamboo and the Ozone proving, the verum and the placebo were only separated by a thin layer of the paper bag. This leads to a copying of the dynamized information of the homeopathic remedy onto the undynamized 'placebo.' So after all (to confuse you even more), prover 10 had taken a copy of the verum, 17 days before he reported the 'despair at night'—a proving symptom that could be verified by healing."

     Schuster says he no longer sends the remedies to the provers without wrapping them in several layers of foil and giving the provers instructions to keep the packages far apart from each other. I hope he writes more about this aspect in the future!

     The Proving of Bamboo by Schuster is certainly a valuable record of a new remedy which has shown to be of clinical use. Schuster hopes that others who use the remedy with success will share their work with him and contribute to the larger picture of the remedy as reflected in its clinical use. The book should be able to give all those interested in a view into a new remedy a good look at it.