Homoeopathic application of strychnos henningsii bark – Dr Ashley H.A. Ross

In South Africa Strychnos henningsii enjoys a reputation as a bitter tonic, and is extensively used in the treatment of abdominal pains and colic. The plant is used in the treatment of nausea, to induce vomiting, and as an antihelmintic in children.

The bark has been used to stimulate appetite and has been described in the treatment of diabetes mellitus. The bark of Strychnos henningsii is also commonly used in the treatment of dysmenorrhoea, and other gynaecological complaints, particularly the lower back pain associated with pelvic inflammatory disease. In addition the bark has been used as a snakebite remedy, in the treatment of syphilis, and in rheumatic pains of a more general nature.


A semi-structured oral style questionnaire methodology was implemented in the field interview of eight Zulu traditional healers of two distinct types living and working within the province of KwaZulu-Natal. These vernacular interviews explored the traditional use and understanding of the medicinal plant. A collaborative translation methodology was adopted in the translation of transcribed isiZulu text derived from audiovisual recordings of the interviews. The researcher explored the data derived from the homoeopathic proving of Strychnos henningsii 30C, in the form of materia medica, and data derived from the field interviews of traditional healers through qualitative analyses. Through these processes of analysis he sought to refine the understanding of respective sets of data, and to clarify points of similarity, difference and complementarity between these two forms of information around the medicinal plant, Strychnos henningsii.


The researcher was able to identify a number of overlaps in both indications of use and language relating to a broad range of physical manifestations of disease, three mental and metaphysical associations, and sevencommonalities of sensation between Strychnos henningsii 30C and umqalothi (i.e. ‘homoeopathicity’).


Whilst the researcher’s own observation of the use of plant medicines within TAM suggests that ‘homoeopathic’ application is widespread, this has not been scientifically demonstrated. This study provides a clear demonstration of the ‘homoeopathic’ of application of a traditional medicine, through comparision to rigorously derived homoeopathic symptomatology derived from proving. To the extent that the traditional application of a medicinal plant is less ‘homoeopathic’, and increasingly based upon a direct pharmacological action, the evidence of ‘overlap’ would be less than the researcher has demonstrated in this study.

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