The Role of Polychrests in Homeopathy

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Homeopathy, a 200-year-old healing system, approaches each patient as an individual.  A patient’s constitution, or personality type, is a central determining factor in the selection of a remedy.  A remedy for a chronic condition, such as eczema or depression, is called a constitutional remedy.  Certain homeopathic remedies, known as polychrests, are used as constitutional remedies because of their applicability to our most common diseases.  Polychrests, which include remedies such as Hepar-Sulph, Nux vomica, Pulsatilla, and Lycopodium, are usually the oldest known, most tested remedies.

A polychrest is prescribed constitutionally after a thorough investigation of the patient’s history.  The homeopathic practitioner takes a holistic approach, learning all she can about the patient’s physical and emotional symptoms.  The patient’s characteristics while healthy are also noted in constitutional prescribing.  If the symptoms and patient history indicate that a chronic illness is present, a single polychrest remedy may be prescribed.  The remedy may be administered in a single dose.  Although self-treatment is acceptable in acute illnesses (such as flu or muscle strain), a trained homeopath should prescribe a constitutional remedy.

A closer look at some polychrests will help clarify their use.  Nux vomica is described by some homeopaths as the greatest polychrest.  The remedy is obtained from the poisonous seeds of the Nux vomica tree.  Like all homeopathic remedies, the diluted Nux vomica relieves the symptoms which it would cause at full strength. It is applicable to many prevalent symptoms and diseases of our time, such as impatience, irritability, indigestion, drug abuse, and sleep disturbances.  Nux vomica symptoms will worsen upon waking at 4 AM, overeating, mental exertion, narcotics, and dry cold weather; symptoms improve in the evening, while lying down, and in damp, wet weather.   

Another polychrest, Hepar-Sulph (Hepar sulphurus calcareum), is obtained from the inside layer of oyster shells.  It is indicated for constitutional conditions which involve lymphatic swelling, respiratory disorders, and skin infections and eruptions.  One of its earliest uses was in the treatment of syphilis or malaria patients who had been treated with mercury.  Hepar-Sulph symptoms are aggravated by cold drafts, touch, mercury, and lying on the painful side.  Symptoms are ameliorated by damp weather, warmth, and after eating. 

New polychrests may emerge after years of testing and observation.  By definition, a remedy must be in use for many years before it can be called a polychrest.  Sufficient time is needed for homeopaths to learn of the remedy’s wide-ranging applicability.  As new illnesses emerge, certain remedies will be used with repeated success, and will be added to the list of polychrests. 


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