INHERITED TENDENCIES It seems there is hardly a week that goes by without a report of some advance in our understanding of the genetic characteristics that predispose people toward diseases. In fact, long before the discovery of genes and DNA, Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, had already investigated inherited dispositions toward disease.
Characteristically, his research grew out of clinical observations and a lifelong calling to attain ‘the highest ideal of cure — the rapid, gentle and permanent restoration of health.” Two centuries later, it is an integral part of the daily practice of the several hundred thousand homeopaths worldwide. Through the lens of these theories, homeopaths gain insight into the cause and treatment of a wide variety conditions.
Oftentimes, the clue that a person’s illness has an inherited component comes from one or more seemingly innocuous physical or behavior characteristics. An infant with frequent upper respiratory infections and earaches is found to prefer sleeping in the “knee-chest position” facing downward with his butt in the air, has a strong preference to eat snow or suck on ice cubes, and can’t fall asleep until 10 or 11 at night.
This triad of characteristic behaviors is easily recognized by any homeopath as having a particular inherited disposition and the need for a particular remedy. Another infant brought in for similar complaints, but displaying a mischievous nature, grinds his teeth at night and prefers salted or smoke foods has a different inherited nature and most likely will benefit from treatment with a different remedy.
The impetus for Hahnemann’s exploration into inheritance was that some patients did not respond to homeopathic treatment despite his certainty about the remedy. Either they would have little effect, or the patient would get better and then relapse repeatedly. So, he concluded that some other factor must have been disrupting the healing process.
For twelve years, he delved into the records of his patients, studying their diseases, symptoms and family histories. He began to recognize certain types of problems and clusters of symptoms that repeatedly cropped up in these difficult cases. He also correlated these syndromes with particular familial traits and histories. Consequently, Hahnemann was able to distinguish several patterns of symptoms, behavior and illness that were commonly passed down from parent to offspring.
Today, homeopaths are aware that certain symptoms, especially in conjunction with particular familial histories, signify an inherited disposition toward disease. For instance, serrated teeth, multiple warts or moles, a history of alcoholism, or eczema all suggest the possibility of various inherited tendencies.
These patterns are referred to as "miasms." The word ‘miasm’ is derived from the Greek miasma meaning “taint, stain, pollution”, and its contemporary meaning is “any noxious atmosphere or influence.”
In his time, Hahnemann identified three miasms. Since then, the existence of two more miasms has been generally accepted. Contemporary homeopaths have suggested other possible miasmic patterns, though none have as yet been universally acknowledged.
It is interesting to note that miasms are all related to various diseases: one each to skin disease, tuberculosis, and cancer, and two to venereal diseases. The idea is that sometime in the past, be it one, five or a hundred generations ago, an active or latent form of the disease was present when that ancestor procreated.
The significance of this is that when diseases are inadequately treated or the symptoms are merely suppressed, the repercussions go beyond that individual, extending to future generations. What is passed on is not the disease itself, but a certain weakness of the vital force, which predisposes them to certain types of illness.
As an example, for someone to inherit the ‘tubercular miasm’, there probably was a history of tuberculosis in the family. Without suffering from TB itself, this person will typically tend toward allergies, repeated respiratory problems like bronchitis or asthma, and other more peculiar symptoms like irregular or crowded teeth, night sweats, diarrhea, and irritability.
Even though we all have miasmic influences, not everyone actively experiences them. In its latent or dormant form, the miasm may show little sign of disturbing the vital force. If the miasm is active, the state of health is impacted. A latent tendency can be activated due to any number of stressors, such as a grief, physical trauma or infection. It is also not unusual to find more complicated cases where more than one miasm is present.
Each miasm is associated with a group of remedies shown to be curative of the symptoms peculiar to that miasm. When a patient exhibits the signs indicative of one or more miasmic tendencies, the prescribing homeopath must begin to consider using an appropriate miasmic remedy sometime during the course of treatment.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the homeopathic perspective on inherited dispositions is that each miasm can be characterized not just by a group or pattern of symptoms, but also by a generalized behavioral profile. For instance, the tubercular miasm is characterized by a general sense of dissatisfaction, a need to rebel or break free of restrictions, and a restless nature that needs to move and experience new things.
The sycotic miasm (related to gonorrhea) is distinguished by, amongst other traits, an inner sense of defectiveness that needs to be carefully hidden from others. The syphilitic make up is very despairing and self destructive, while the psoric disposition (this miasm relates to skin disease) relates to the struggle for survival, wealth and poverty, effort and surrender. Lastly, the disposition of the cancer miasm is to demand perfection of oneself in order to survive while suppressing (a suppression that is either self imposed or imposed by others) one’s instinctual desires.
The miasm most representative of our current epoch is, no doubt, cancer. As the epidemic of this disease rages around us, we drive ourselves to attain ever higher levels of material well-being and technological prowess. We manipulate the physical world for our immediate convenience, finding ourselves awash in manmade objects and unceasing stimulation. The more we have, it seems the more we need to work to maintain it. The consequence of our unquenchable appetites is to suffer the environmental degradation that threatens our very existence.