The Antique Four-Elements Doctrine and its Significance in the Healing Arts of Herbs
Table 3: Plants with air character
|Leaves, stem; taste changes, bitter and sweet; infections, allergies, rheumatism|
|Leaves, seeds; cool, somewhat bitter; universal remedy against allergies, skin diseases and rheumatism|
|Leaves; like mustard, sulphoric; against dysbiosis, as diet much more fiery|
|Leaves; like mustard; antibiotic|
|Root; cabbage, also some fire; stimulation of the digestion glands|
|Root; sharp; therefore not be used against acute inflammation|
|Entire plant; chronic diseases, cancer, hypertension|
|Root; slightly bitter, sour; chronic skin diseases|
|Cabbage, root; sharp, slightly bitter; gall stimulating|
|Blossoms; vein diseases; use it potentised against nervous headaches|
Picture a: Mistletoe belongs to the plants of the element air with its idiosyncratic botanic characteristics, its mucous consistence, and its immuno-stimulatory effects. (Picture by Olaf Rippe)
Picture b: The high mineral contents, the blossomless, strongly structured shape as well as the mild taste indicate the earth element in the horsetail (here Equisetum hyemale). (Picture by Olaf Rippe)
Table 4: Plants with earth character
|Root; cooling with some bitterness; sedative|
|Bone and skin remedy|
|Cabbage; earthy, slightly sweet; is effective against inflammation and colitis|
|Rind; adstringent, against inflammation|
|Leaves, slightly adstringent; blackberry with similar effects|
|Lichen; geriatric medication; against lung diseases, cooling|
|Blossoms; mild fire; slightly bitter and pungent, cooling; universal remedy|
|Cooling; universal remedy, cabbage; generally anti-inflammatory|
|Root; sweet; generally anti-inflammatory|
|Leaves; slightly sweet, salty, somewhat bitter; drying and cooling|
The Doctrine of Elements as a therapeutic model
“Soon everything becomes One through love, soon the singular elements are separated through the hatred of strife.”
Empedokles v. Agrigent
Through the specific quality of the elements, polarities (antipathy) and unity result. Basically always all elements work together, however in different intensities.
1. Antipathy = Control and Inhibition (Cross)
Due to its primary qualities, fire (warm) and water (cold) as well as earth (dry) and air (humid) form contrasts. From this results the law of mutual control and inhibition.
Diseases result from an excess of one element and the lack of control through the opposite pole. If the element of fire controls a person then the therapy should aim at the increase of water.
The therapy with the help of contrary elements is called “Antipathic Healing”. It leads to a balance of the elements according to the principle of a scale (regulation therapy).
Healing is achieved by energizing the weaker elements as well as by eventual derivation of the stronger.
For example hypertension = overabundance of fire: Derivation of fire by bloodletting and giving of remedies of the elements water and earth such as valeria, meadowsweet, mistletoe, passion flower at the same time, which are to cool, humidify, and calm the patient. If we give remedies of the element fire instead the process would worsen, the same would happen when giving air remedies which are also warm.
Remedies of the element air could be used if they are clearly moister than warm as the mistletoe (connection to water = moist, as counter pole to fire).
If we work antipathic, a big stimulation with a big effect has to be given – if there is an excess of fire so much water is needed that fires can be extinguished. This is the reason why this method can only work with the help of large and frequent doses.
It should be taken into consideration that fire is the most active element, followed by air, then water, and finally earth as the most passive element. Therefore, there are less quantities from fire or air needed than from earth and water. If said in another way: remedies from air and fire in larger quantities quickly lead to intolerances, or have a toxic effect.
Antipathic Therapy using the example psoriasis – neurodermatitis
- Chronic dry skin diseases such as psoriasis are caused by an excess of earth element meaning they are cold and dry. First of all, we need the remedies of the element air (warm – moist). Also, plants which taste like mustard and sour or such of a slim shape with slim-feathered leaves and a hollow stem, eventually with milk juice, generally the plants should be juicy. From the classification especially umbellifer because they are very airy in their form. Furthermore, some remedies of the element fire are suitable as long as they are not too dry.
From the air you need larger quantities (polarity), from fire less (relationship to earth = dryness; also see chapter sympathy).
Example: Air – stinging nettle, watercress, fumitory, dandelion, masterwort, mistletoe, sarsaparilla, tetterwort. Fire: barberry, archangel, mahonia. Give the fire remedies in a small dosage or in deep potencies.
- Skin diseases such as neurodermatitis show symptoms of the element air (nervousness, itching, wetting), but also of the element fire (red and inflammatory). The disease can be called warm in its entirety.
As healing remedy according to the rules of antipathy first of all remedies of the element water are suitable, partially also with the transition to the element air (humidity should be emphasized) as well as in combination remedies of the element earth (cold should be emphasized).
Examples: Water – Bishopwort, birch, bittersweet (also a bit of air), stinging nettle (also some air), robin-run-in the-hedge, rose, pansy, willow. Earth – leaves of raspberry and black berry, oak (also some fire), veronica, marigold, horsetail, plantain (also some water).
2. Sympathie = Mutual preservation (circle clockwise)
The sympathetic relationship between the elements results from their similarities: Earth – Water (heavy – passive = cold, chronic) in contrast to fire – air (light – active = warm acute); Water – Air (humidity) in contrast to Fire – Earth (dryness). A therapy according to the rules of sympathy is first of all carried out by applying remedies, which show through their qualities similarity to the disease. In such cases only small dosages are necessary.
Example: Treatment of hypertension (fire) with mistletoe (air) in low dosage. Another possibility is the application of homoeopathic remedies. Remedies with water character in potentised form heal for example the conditions of too much water. So the remedy in potentised form changes into a contrary quality.
Example: Cow lily (Nuphar luteum) which we allocate to the element water has a dampening effect on the libido (fortifies cold and water). In potentised form it is sexually stimulating (increases warmth).
This therapy becomes possible by the homoeopathic reversing effect which usually appears from D4/6. Similar rules are effective for spagyric preparations which with its quality can be compared with homoeopathic remedies. Therefore, it is self-explanatory why spagyric remedies are given in small doses only.
When applying therapy according to the rules of sympathy one should consider the following points:
- The remedy corresponds in explicit form the allocation of the elements of the disease. It is applied in a potentised form.
Example 1: Treatment of a choleric person (fire) with Strychnos nux vomica, an extremely warm and somewhat dry remedy (bitter, fruits) in higher potencies.
Example 2: We treat an arthrosis with inflammatory episodes = an excess of earth and a tendency to fire. We use roots (=earth) which however have fiery qualities in themselves, for example, bitter taste, a sting signature of the entire plant, yellow root. These criteria are fulfilled by the barberry. It is not necessary to apply a big dosis. A few drops daily are sufficient or the potency D4 (sympathetic relationship from fire to earth via dry).
- We augment the recipe by the similar element: Earth / Water, Fire / Air.
Example: Arthrosis (Earth): Water remedies in larger quantities as birch, willow or meadowsweet complement the recipe because the element water is closes to earth.
- If we link the sympathetic and with the antipathetic method then add to the recipe of an arthrosis (earth) air remedies in big doses for regulation, for example stinging nettle. The simultaneous application of antipathetic remedies reduces the danger of initial worsening of a homoeopathic therapy. But this does not reduce in any way the effect of potentised remedies. Together the three points indicate a therapy where you apply all elements in different intensities. By this it is more complex than the antipathetic method but at the same time also more effective and elegant.
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