After coming home from work, I went out into the garden last evening to find a yellow color spreading over the leaves on the lower branches of the tomato plants. The dreaded blight had made its first appearance of the season.
In the past, I would have resorted to some type of organic fungicide or other natural treatment like baking soda spray. And while I still may use them, there was also a newer mode of treatment – at least, newer to me – available that had greater appeal.
I’m not sure which is more curious – the idea of using homeopathic remedies to treat plants or the fact that, even after decades practicing homeopathy, it wasn’t until recently I had given much consideration to the agricultural applications of homeopathy. Humans and animals yes – veterinary homeopathy is a well-established profession, however plants were another matter altogether.
But a few years back, I came across some articles by a Dutchman name Valkunathanath das Kaviraj that opened my eyes to this branch of homeopathic practice. Kaviraj himself had only come up with the idea more or less by accident, and when his early experiences proved positive, he embarked on twelve years of research to develop his own understanding of treating plants with homeopathy. The fruit of his labors was then shared with the world in his book ‘Homeopathy for Farm and Garden’, the 3rd edition of which was published in 2011 (Narayana Verlag).
Kaviraj, it turns out, wasn’t alone in his pursuit. In 2010, a German homeopath by the name of Christiane Maute, first published ‘Homeopathy for Plants’ (also published by Narayana Verlag), the 2nd edition of which came out this year. The information she presents is based on a decade of personal experience applying remedies in her own garden as well as to indoors and balcony plants.
Of course, on reflection, it makes complete sense. Homeopathic remedies are highly attenuated substances – mostly mineral, plant or animal derivatives - that have characteristic resonant energies. They act curatively when the characteristic energy of the remedy corresponds with that of the ‘patient’. Another way of putting it is that the sensitivity of the patient matches the energy of the remedy.
And plants are indeed highly sensitive forms of life. They respond to any number of energetic stimuli. Quoting Michael Pollan from article in the New Yorker entitled ‘The Intelligent Plant’ (Dec. 23rd, 2013):
“Plants have evolved between fifteen and twenty distinct senses, including analogues of our five: smell and taste (they sense and respond to chemicals in the air or on their bodies); sight (they react differently to various wavelengths of light as well as to shadow); touch (a vine or a root “knows” when it encounters a solid object); and, it has been discovered, sound.”
Botanists argue whether they have what could be called ‘intelligence’, but that seems to be more of a semantic issue. They have a highly developed capacity to ascertain and respond to stimuli and information – albeit one that is not centralized in neural networks like the higher animals, but is more modular in design. So, why would they not resonate with remedies like members of the animal kingdom?
The advantages of homeopathically treating plants are multifold. It’s organic, inexpensive and relatively easy. One needs to only to mix the remedy in a water solution and spray it. Oftentimes this needs only to be done once. As a matter of fact, Kaviraj warns that certain remedies should never be given more than once in a season because the plants are susceptible to being over-stimulated by them.
A fundamental tenet in homeopathy, applied to humans, animals and this case to plants, is that the focus is on the patient not the disease per se. That is, primarily the vulnerability of the organism needs to be addressed not the virus, bacteria, fungus or pest. As Kaviraj puts it, “In reality, it is the plant that suffers from the pest or disease, therefore it is the plant that needs treatment.”
This is in alignment with one of the basic tenets of organic farming: creating a healthy environment with healthy soil will produce health, disease resistant plant. Having said that, homeopathic remedies are also used to promote healthy soil and address nutrient imbalances. These are generally remedies derived from minerals such as boron, copper, iron, potassium, etc.
Remarkably, these remedies are used to treat both deficiencies as well excesses of the nutrient in question. They possess a homeostatic quality. For example, if a plant is depleted of boron, homeopathic boron will nourish it. If a plant suffers from boron toxicity, homeopathic boron will promote secretion of the excess.
It is also possible to incorporate the principles of companion planting into the application of homeopathic remedies. For centuries, farmers have recognized that certain plants grown in proximity to each other benefit each other in terms of disease control, pollination, productivity and space utilization.
Tomatoes and basil are known companions. Thus, homeopathic basil – Ocimum basilicum – when sprayed on tomatoes acts as a powerful constitutional remedy that results in healthier plants.
While the emphasis is on ‘treating the plant and not the disease’, there are instances when remedies can also be used in a more symptomatic way. These often will be in the cases where there is damage or disease caused by a particular pest. The remedies are generally made from animal sources, usually animals that are predators of the pest. Otherwise, they can be homeopathic derivations of the actual pest itself. Again, there is an aspect of the principle of homeostasis in that the plant itself takes advantage of either form of stimulation to positive effect.
Getting back to the blight, I decided to treat it homeopathically. This is done by applying the appropriate remedy as a spray. Happily I can report that spraying the remedy Carbo vegetabilis onto the tomatoes for three successive days apparently cured it. The choice of a remedy was gleaned from the internet where I found someone writing about using it for blight.
In classical homeopathy, Carbo veg is an indispensable medicine derived from charcoal that the founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, developed and researched 200 years ago. It is known as the ‘corpse reviver’ and as ‘a desperate remedy for desperate conditions, where the vitality has been drained to the very bottom.’
While Kaviraj mentions little about its use for blight, it is a significant remedy for him that can be applied when there are signs of decay and putrefaction in the plants, and rescues plants from a near death state.1 Plants needing Carbo veg will appear wasted and wilted, lost nearly all leaves and look weak. They might produce flowers, ‘desperate flowering’ as Kaviraj puts it, in order to reproduce before they die.
The importance of this remedy – in treating patients from the animal or plant kingdoms - is due to the fact that it is created from a charcoal, which is by in large made up of carbon and that carbon is central to all organic life. By invigorating the depleted carbon metabolism of any living organism, one can restore it to life - thus the moniker ‘corpse reviver’.
He writes that Carbo vegetabilis ‘can be considered the backbone in the treatment of plants and possibly in other living entities as well’. It is applicable in cases where plants are either dying or recovering slowly after being transplanted, when they have been severely injured or mutilated after storms or other mechanical traumas, in cases of rot as well as after depletion of vital fluids.
Another invaluable remedy that has been tested and applied extensively in plant homeopathy is Silicea, derived from silicon dioxide or what we commonly call flint. We see crude silica all around us in nature – in sand, and quartz, for instance. The earth’s crust contains a high amount of this mineral and it also has many uses in a host of manufactured items ranging from glass to cement to microchips.
It also occurs widely in plants. Silica is essential for the structure of plants as it is essential for the development of stems and bark, that is, the things that keep them upright. Kaviraj writes, “Without silica, no plant can stand upright. It acts on every cell and tissue of the whole plant, giving it grit and strength, regulating all cellular processes including reproduction.”
The term ‘grit’ is essential to understanding the use of homeopathic silica – in humans, animals in general, as well as plants. Over and over again we see homeopaths describing the primary indication for using silica is the want or lack of grit’, meaning a deficiency of strength or determination.
Silica children, for instance, are stereotypically known to be weaklings with poor assimilation, highly sensitive, chilly but prone to much sweating and personality wise level, mild and yielding. They are quite sensitive to how others view them and even though they may have their own ideas or opinions, often lack the backbone to express them.
In plant homeopathy, Silica’s application is vast: ”No other remedy has a deeper action on the life of plants, and no other remedy has so wide a spectrum.” It can be used as a general tonic to keep plants strong or to invigorate weakened, straggly or puny plants and to help plants while transplanting. It stimulates seed generation and germination, as well as increasing flower growth. Silica can protect plants against various forms of infestation such as molds, mildews and mites.
Another interesting application is as an herbicide. Since it promotes flowering, by repeated dosing it can make plants flower prematurely and prevents seeds from forming. From this, it also can be seen that it is important to respect the stimulatory powers of silica and not to over use it, because it is “capable of destruction as well as healing”.
Carbo vegetabilis and Silica are just two out of hundreds of remedies that are being used on plants - albeit they two very important ones. While many of the widely used ‘constitutional’ remedies are made from minerals, there are plenty derived from plants and animals as well.
A group of remedies used more specifically against pests in fact are commonly made from animals. As an example, homeopathically prepared ladybug, or Coccinella, is protective against aphids. This of course imitates nature as living ladybugs are known to eat aphids and are introduced to gardens for that purpose. In this instance, it just the spray of the remedy made from the bus that has the same effect.
Interesting how that works…
1. Kaviraj, Valkunathanath das, ‘Homeopathy for Farm and Garden’, 3rd edition, 2011, Narayana Verlag.