What is an anthroposophic medicine and how is it chosen?

December 2012 Three Paragraph Newsletter
The medicines that are used in anthroposophic medicine (also often referred to as “remedies”) come from the natural world. Most are prepared from plants and minerals, a select few from the animal world, with very special attention given to the purity and quality of the substances. While most conventional pharmaceutical drugs are made synthetically, usually from petroleum, anthroposophic medicines are sourced from nature, and handled thoughtfully and carefully to protect the living qualities of the substance. This is important, because the chemical composition of a substance is an important “footprint” of the particular plant, but it is not the whole thing. In a way it is at most a marker of what happens when the process of a plant comes to rest. There is a chemical pattern which is representative of a process, but it is not the whole process. Anthroposophic medicines are trying to incorporate the whole process of a mineral, plant, or animal.

To understand this a little better, it's useful to think about a physicist and musician of the 1800's, Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladni, who did research with vibrating plates, which are best known today as “Chladni” plates. He found that different frequencies of vibration (which can be created, for instance, by striking the edge of the plate with a bow) create unique and predictible patterns and forms. A particular tone, or vibration, carries within it a form, but one which is not normally visible. But through sounding the tone, and using very fine sand on a metal plate, we can see the dancing of the form. It is a dynamic, and surprisingly beautiful process (you can see an excellent demonstration of it on youtube by clicking http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qf0t4qIVWF4, it's worth the full two minutes of viewing). Within the world of tone there are many different forms that we can see physically manifest, but which are usually not visible. An anthroposophic medicine is chosen because there exist similar correlations between the archetypes of our own inner human physiology and the forms and qualities of the natural world around us. In a many ways, an human organ and a related plant should both be viewed as expressions, or patterns of a common process.

As an example, take the honeybee. Honeybees are exceptional not only for their organization and communication, but also for their relationship to warmth. Bees carefully control the temperature range deep within a hive. In summer they beat their wings to create ventilation so that the temperature does not exceed 104ºF (40ºC), the same temperature at which a human being will experience life-threatening hyperthermia. In winter, the bees heat the hive through their activity, so that the temperature does not drop below 95ºF (35ºC), the temperature at which a human being begins to experience hypothermia. When an extract of honey bee (Apis) is collected and homeopathically diluted (a very vigorous stirring process, that seeks to the lift the substance away from only being only a footprint and brought back to the dynamic state it originated from), it functions as a very helpful preparation for balancing warmth. Apis is one of the major components of the most commonly used anthroposophic fever remedies, which helps to moderate and keep healthy a warmth process created by the immune system. Using these kinds of medicines helps to balance a process, without totally suppressing it. It is these living relationships between the inner processes of a human being, and the plant, mineral and animal kingdoms, that stand behind the prescribing of anthroposophic medicines.

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