This study sought to appraise homoeopathic proving methodology as a
bridge between the indigenous and rationalist-scientific understandings of
medicinal plants through a detailed exploration of the relationships existing
between data derived from respective paradigmatic explorations of a single
African traditional medicinal plant, Strychnos henningsii [Red bitterberry].
The data derived from the implementation of a triple-blind, placebo-controlled
homoeopathic proving methodology, on 32 healthy human subjects (50
percent placebo), using the bark of Strychnos henningsii in the 30CH
potency, were evaluated for internal consistency and coherence, and
subsequently compared to data derived from a phytochemical analysis of the
crude bark sample, and translated data derived from semi-structured mothertongue
interviews of eight Zulu traditional healers.
The proving data took the form of subjective journal data and the results of
four objective blood measures of erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), redand
white blood cell indices, and liver functions. The subjective data were
evaluated in terms of defined inclusion criteria and presented in standard
materia medica and repertory formats, and tabulations of objective data were
subjected to independent statistical analysis, using repeated-measures
ANOVA and profile plots. The crude bark sample was analysed in terms of
the presence of strychnine and other indole alkaloids, using highperformance
liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry, and interview data
related to the indigenous understanding and application of Strychnos
henningsii within the traditional African medical paradigm, were audiovisually
recorded, collaboratively translated, and independently verified.
Qualitative data processing and analysis was effected with the aid of NVivo®
software, and a range of comparative analyses were effected with the aid of
Radar® homoeopathic software, materia medica references and the Mappa
Mundi elemental theory model.
The proving yielded 581 subjective symptoms, covering a broad range of
physical and mental disease manifestations, and nine statistically-significant
treatment effects within the objective data set. These included elevation of
ESR and changes in two red blood cell indices, four white blood cell indices
and two liver function indices. The two proving data sets were demonstrated
to show high levels of correlation, although these correlations were not
demonstrable for all provers.
The phytochemical analysis confirmed the presence of between two and five
strychnine-related compounds (excluding strychnine itself), and the field
interview data served to confirm all except two documented traditions of use,
as well as identifying a number of novel indications and application of
Strychnos henningsii bark.
The comparative analyses demonstrated the integrity of homoeopathic
proving methodology as a mode of scientific investigation, and significant and
widespread overlaps of proving symptomatology with both the pharmacology
and toxicology of strychnine, and the physical and metaphysical
understanding and application within the traditional African medical
Homoeopathic proving methodology was discussed in terms of the evident
degree of overlap with the indigenous and rationalist-scientific paradigms,
and the incomplete nature of the homoeopathic ‘totality’. A number of
recommendations were made for future cross-paradigmatic research.||en_US