Blog - Shilpa Bhouraskar

The whole truth about constitutional prescribing

The half truth about constitutional remedies

When we were first introducted to the Kentian constitutional approach, I realised that homeopathy was full of materia medica books for this approach with elaborate details of remedy pictures. Most of them leaned heavily towards the mental constitutional pictures and colourful descriptions of personalities. No doubt it made homeopathy appealing to me as a student.
I could spend days reading Catherine Coulter's personalities like an interesting novel in my first year. However as soon as I started the OPD with consultants using this approach for prescribing real life patients, I had a wake up call. Suddenly the pictures seemed to be a part of a fantasy character.I had imagined the characters of these books walking through the door but that seldom happened.
Suddenly I found homeopaths prescribing the same remedy for totally contrasting personalities. it seemed that everyone based their remedy understanding on their own experience.
Each expression in clinic seemed half the truth to me. Then I tried looking for some confirmations in the books again and I found the same contrasting examples.

Two sides of the same remedy

Let's look at the remedy Sulphur.
A Sulphur constitution is described in Lectures on Homoeopathic Materia Medica by Kent as follows -

Persons who lead sedentary lives, confined to their rooms in study, in meditation, in philosophical inquiry, and who take no exercise, soon find out that they must eat only the simplest foods, food not sufficient to nourish the body, and they end up by going into a philosophical mania.
The Sulphur scholar, the inventor, works day and night in threadbare clothes and battered hat; he has long, uncut hair and a dirty face; his study is uncleanly, it is untidy; books and leaves of books are piled up indiscriminately; there is no order.

You find the confirmatory rubrics in the repertories as -

Madness philosophical

Indifference about personal appearance.

This is indeed the most popular identity of a Sulphur constitution. However I found it extremely confusing as a beginner to find the exact opposite to be true in patients I observed. There were extremely successful businessmen who had done well on Sulphur. They were not just well dressed but extremely particular about themselves and their venture.

Interestingly even this facet of Sulphur is covered in the rubrics -

Fastidious appearance about personal

Fastidious work in

Ambitious money for

Business aptitude for.

I then realised that Kent has written about this contrasting picture as well -
The Sulphur patient is a lean, lank, hungry, dyspeptic fellow with stoop shoulders, yet many times it must be given to fat, rotund, well-fed people.

Finding the whole truth

So what exactly is the real constitution?

How do you get the whole picture of a remedy when descriptions can be poles apart?

I simply did not want to reinvent the wheel and wait for years before I had every personality of Sulphur walk in my clinic to know the real picture.

So I decided to find what were the experiences of other homeopaths. I went back and extracted all the old and new journals, books and every case I could find on cured cases of Sulphur using the well known constitutional approach. I wanted to find how both the traditional and contemporary homeopaths used this approach for finding the same remedy

And I had an Aha moment. I discovered that well proved remedies have always expressed these polarities in practice when you looked at the remedy superficially. But all these expressions seemed to be derived from a common center. This was underneath these superficial expressions. Some described it as a red thread running through the remedy, some called it the essence and some called it the soul. Some derived it exactly, some did not and chose to prescribe only on the expressions. But the beauty was that the common connecting center was constant for the remedy.

So I realised that the key in practice to make convincing prescriptions was to find this common connecting link between the these expressions in both the remedies and patients.

How do you derive and understand the common link in the remedies?

In well proved remedies it could be well confirmed through the provings and successful clinical cases of the remedy. This can be done by looking at the rubrics which represented the deeper feelings rather than the expressions.

In partly proved or newer remedies it can be reconfirmed through group analysis ie from other well proved remedies belonging to the same group.

No matter which way you reveal it, this underlying link or hinge remains constant.

For example one of common links around which the Sulphur personalities revolved was about having a strong sense of identity and ego. When this identity was lost at some stage (eg from being disgraced, scorned or embarrassed), it brought the strong expressions of Sulphur in a clinical situation.

This then aligned with every expression you may find ie the boastful philosopher who thought his rags were beautiful or it could be the ego centric businessman who had been scorned in the past striving to achieve that name and respect which he deserved etc.

This process opened up for me a whole new understanding of remedies.

How do you elicit the common link in case taking?

Although one may find a remedy based only on expressions they have known before, the key to remove the subjectivity when using the Constitutional approach is to take the case taking to confirm the common link.
Imagine the patient's core to be the center of four concentric circles. You are travelling from the outermost circle to the center during the whole case taking process.
There are various approaches in homeopathy which lead you to different circles at different depths
The constitutional approach takes you to the third circle which I consider at Stage 3.

Through years I have realised that when a patient is ready to go to Stage 3 and beyond, there is a specific step by step process which can subtely lead your patient to reveal these deeper common links no matter what specific approach you choose to use.

Its interesting how every step you take to the center improves the accuracy of understanding your case as well as the remedy and suddenly the success rate of your prescribtions increases remarkably.

Coming back to the constitutional approach, let me share with you an interesting clinical case which I had seen around 10 years back. This case is edited for brevity, however I want to share with you how the two expressions of a common remedy became clear once I understood the common hinge.
Your patients are your best teachers after all.

The whole idea for today's blog was to inspire you to look beyond the expressions in your own cases where your patient is ready to travel with you.

However I promise to share my experiences of using this integrated approach in much more detail and elaborate the exact steps to travel through the stages in my future communications so you can apply it in your own patients too and share the experiences.


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Thanks so much for this Shilpa - such clarity in seeing how the expressions or personalities can confuse you if we hold onto the physical/mental symptoms just as they are represented rather than looking deeper at what they mean for example with the child so outgoing and lively because her deeper need was to ensure that she secured those relationships as she depended on them so much. I wonder how the mother responded to the Nat Carb, did this release her from her mental/emotional sypmtoms which were much more impacted whereas the child has the physical manifestations of that deeper disturbance. Maybe you could comment on the mother's progress? Many thanks for your blog and the succinctness of your presentations. jane

Thanks Jane,
I do not have the Mum's progress because for her it was the daughter's treatment which was her main priority. I think most patients do not followup with us long enough for us to see changes in their whole state after the chief complaint disappears.

Thank you. What a lot we have to learn, Jean

Very insightful, Shilpa. Thank you so much. Michelle

Thank you so much for sharing your insights Shilpa, I found this very helpful and I hope to be able to integrate this approach in my practice.
Kind regards

Thanks Shilpa, just wrote a comment and I don't know where it went! The polarity thing is really interesting it. It seems to be a layer and then underneath there is another layer where the thing that is polarised is actually the issue. As in desire or aversion to chocolate. The issue underneath is chocolate, and then of course under that is why chocolate?

Exactly Sally. Its all about understanding the experience of chocolate for the patient.

Thank you Shilpa for that video. So interesting! We are lucky to have the opportunity to learn new ideas from you. Will have to look at this in my practice.

Fiona Wright

Thank You, Shilpa. Amazing insight. So easy to get stuck with remedy pictures that we constantly read about in our books. Rgs. Nirmala Kumaresh

Thanks Shilpa,

This video really helps to understand the polarity of homeopathic remedies,


This is very interesting work!I did learn more,thanks for sharing dear Shilpa

It's really great! Just for my own clarification, Would it be wise to consider rubrics like Audacity and high spirited (in lieu of Courageous)as mom of little girl said that irrespective of risk she can jump from anywhere kind of negative boldness.


I like this video very much because it helps in the process of understanding why the novel type of reading that can be so appealing and start looking for the common ground between several authors.
Sometimes getting too attached to an author doesn't help in this and the process of reading more authors can be quite frustrating in the begining as you can get the feeling that you don't get why different authors have different pictures.
Also there are some remedies that are quite charicaturised not for homeopaths own good, and I remember when my teacher started talking about veratrum for example I always thought it was not the most correct way to learn something.
I think it helps to recognise patterns even when studying materia medica, and sometimes go beyond prejudices of a specific author or a culture.

Thank you.