Homeopathic Materia Medica: A Review

Words: Dr Deborah OLENEV

I have been practicing homeopathy for a long time. The difference between me as a prescriber now, and as a prescriber, 10, 20, or 30 years ago, is that I am more relaxed. Let’s say that I have mellowed with age. Maybe, you can even say I have developed a better sense of humour, a gentler approach towards myself and my patients/clients. I have released the pressure valve that made me feel I had to deliver a healing result in a limited time. Every time.

All good things take time. All good things take attention. You can’t propel a rose to bloom faster, or a tomato to ripen on the vine before its time, nor a house to be built before the infrastructure and foundation are erected properly. Everything in good order takes time.

This goes with the process of helping people heal as well. It takes time, it takes love, it takes patience, it takes observing the unfolding of the patient’s process, and following the lead shoot that guides us to know what needs attention next. It is such a joy to watch people unfold in their healing, to see people improving their lives, their lifestyles, their decisions, and expand their health with the assistance of the homeopathic remedy as a gentle fulcrum.

Now that I am in my elder years, I am free from the pressures of raising small children, and preparing meals for a family. I have more time to do what I feel is important. At almost the pinnacle of that list is studying homeopathic Materia Medica. I do this, every day, following my morning meditation, walk and exercise. This way I keep on learning. I keep on deepening my understanding of remedies and their therapeutic properties, so that I can be a better homeopath.

Wonderful Books

I have had the great good fortune to have studied from some wonderful books on the homeopathic Materia Medica over the last few years. Each one gives a different perspective on the remedies and on homeopathy.

The ones I have particularly enjoyed are:

Comparative Materia Medica: Integrating New and Old Remedies by Dr Richard Pitt, the noted homeopath. I love this book, because Pitt begins his Materia Media with the ‘Idea Category,’ in which he says, “My survival depends on… for each remedy. These are extremely insightful. This is followed by keynotes of the remedy, a description of the intrinsic state of the remedy, a description of the compensated state of the remedy, a description of the decompensated state of the remedy, and then the progression. He talks about the themes of the remedy, and compares the remedy to other remedies with a similar theme, but shows how it presents differently in different remedies. In studying one remedy, Pitt compares it with many other remedies, so your understanding grows exponentially. The book is a wonderful quick reference guide, as well as a deep study guide. I cannot recommend this Materia Medica highly enough. Pitt, you’ve done a fabulous job.

Essence of Materia Medica: Second Edition by Dr George Vithoulkas. This is a short material media, but it is absolutely full of gems. Vithoulkas is really the father of modern homeopathy. He definitely carries the torch of classical homeopathy and its ideals. Our debt to Vithoulkas for not compromising the ideals of classical homeopathy, and teaching the understanding of how to prescribe, how to understand remedy response, and how healing unfolds is enormous. Vithoulkas explains how people in different stages, along the way going from the healthier to deeper stages of pathology, present within a given remedy. For instance, in the earlier stages of the illness, the symptoms will appear more on the physical level. You may see more keynote symptoms of the remedy. As the illness develops further, there may be fewer physical symptoms, but more mental emotional disturbances. The keynote symptoms may not show as strongly. In the deepest stages, the mental pathology will be the strongest, and you may have fewer physical guiding symptoms to lead to the remedy. This helps the prescriber understand their patients/clients at the different stages of their illness, and it also helps them to identify the remedy with greater confidence.

Nature’s Materia Medica: Fourth Edition by Dr Robin Murphy, ND. What can be said about Dr Robin Murphy, who faded into the sunset, a couple of years ago, except what a treasure of a human being he was. This was a man with an encyclopaedic, as well as an unprejudiced mind. Dr Murphy was not only a gift to homeopathy, but also a gift to herbal medicine from all traditions. He synthesised everything. What unbelievable mental energy. It is to the credit of homeopathy that it has had the great honour of attracting people of such calibre. We have quite a few such wonderful people at work devoting their lives to developing the science of homeopathy. I have spent a lot of time the last two years studying Dr Murphy’s Nature’s Materia Medica, as well as his Herbal Wellness Guide and his Superfood Wellness Guide. The format of the Material Media presentation is the same in all three. They contain the traditional sections that you will find in Dr William Boericke’s Material Medica, and others, but he also has a pharmacy, clinical, herbal, homeopathy section, causation, constitution, and comments. This book is a necessary resource.

Children Homeopathic Materia Medica with Repertorial Symptoms by Dr Roberto Petrucci. This is a Materia Media that I fell in love with a number of years ago. This book is formatted in a unique way. Dr Petrucci gives a wonderful intro for each remedy, which is an amazing reference. From there, he has different sections, especially for the polycrest remedies as follows: history: personal and family; development; dentition; vaccination; nursing; infectious diseases; mind, relationships, school, non-verbal symptoms, physical symptoms, pathologies, and surgical symptoms.

There are many other material medicas that I love, such as:

Homeopathic Drug Pictures by Dr Margaret Tyler. This book is a must for every homeopath. What Dr Tyler does is pull together the gems about the remedies from other materia medicas that preceded hers, such as E B Nash’s Leaders, J T Kent’s Homeopathic Lectures and others. To that she adds her charm, as well as her wonderful clinical experience.

Synoptic Materia Medica Volumes 1 and 2 by Dr Frans Vermeulen. These are updated materia medicas that the good doctor developed, but I love the simplicity and quick reference format of his earlier works.


Homeopathy is beautiful medicine. People who somehow stumble upon this beautiful therapeutic science and who have the openness of mind to investigate it are few and far between. I am so blessed as a practitioner to have the joy of making friends with these wonderful open-minded people. This is the greatest blessing of my life.

Dr DEBORAH OLENEV, CCH, RSHom [NA], is a Classical Homeopath based in Mountain View, California, US. She treats people from all over the world via phone and video conferencing. Dr Olenev has had a passion for homeopathy for nearly forty years and has been in private practice since 1991. She has a vast knowledge of homeopathic Materia Medica, and integrates homeopathy with herbal medicine too. She is the owner of First Aid Cream, where she teaches about and sells homeopathic first-aid creams. She has several years of experience treating autistic children and people of all ages for all manner of health conditions.

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