Orchid (Deactylorhiza Praetermissa)
Proving date: October 2010
Proving completed by: Misha Norland, Peter Fraser & The School of Homeopathy
Common name: Orchid
Read full proving here: Orchid (Dactylorhiza Praetermissa)
Plant Families in Homeopathy
The fact that there appears to be a connection between remedies made from plants of the same botanical family has intrigued homeopaths for as long as there have been plant remedies. The orderly-minded Dr J.H.Clarke took all the remedies in use in the late nineteenth century and put them conveniently into their natural orders (published in The Clinical Repertory), and referred to the comparisons between remedies of the same family constantly in his Dictionary of Materia Medica. However, it is only since the last decade of the twentieth century that homeopaths such as Rajan Sankaran and Jan Scholten have put forward their observations through the experience of using plant remedies and noting the similarities within each family as they appear in potentised remedies.
The Orchid family, Orchidaceae, is the largest family of flowering plants with 880 genera and well in excess of 20,000 species. They have a large number of extremely specific properties but are at the same time an inordinately diverse family of plants.
Orchids have complex pollination strategies. Many of these involve deception either deceiving the pollinator into believing that they provide nectar when they don't or deceiving the pollinator into thinking that they are another sexually available insect. Some species trap pollinators and force them to escape in a particular way that enhances the chances of pollination. These tactics have to be very specific to the pollinator and orchids are incredibly adaptable hence the great number of different species. Studies in epigenetics, the occurrence of heritable attributes that are not derived from genetic codes, have found that orchids are particularly adept at developing such traits and at passing them on to future generations. So not only are they genetically exceptionally diverse but even within genetically similar groups there is a wide diversity of specific, heritable adaptations.
A little known fact about the orchid is that as it develops it rotates up to 360 degrees depending on the species of orchid, meaning that some flowers maintain an upside down appearance whilst others fully rotate, resulting in the flower facing upwards. Some orchid species also have twisted side petals.
Orchid seeds are tiny, many are microscopic, which allows widespread distribution in a way that is similar to the spores of fungi. However, it means that they have no endosperm to sustain them through germination and early growth. It order to find nutrients for germination they have to form a symbiotic relationship with fungi.
Like the carnivorous plants, the orchids push the boundary between what is vegetable and what is animal. The carnivorous plants do this through what they consume and the way they attract prey. The orchids do it through their connection to sexuality. The deceptive pollination of many species involves what could be termed sexual behaviour with insects.
A study of the effect of an Himalayan Dactylorhiza on rats shows that the association is a valid one and that orchids have a significant effect on testosterone levels and testosterone related activity. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2206241/
Several orchid species have been proved including Vanilla and Elephant Ear Orchid which are available at: http://www.homeopathycourses.com/ and Calypso Orchid at: http://hpathy.com/homeopathy-materia-medica/c4-trituration-of-the-calypso-orchid-calypso-bulbosa/
The Lady Slipper Orchid, Cypripedium, has a history of use as a remedy for nervous excitement and particularly for sleeplessness in children.
In Vanilla there is a strong quality of sensuousness. In Phalenopsis confusion is an overwhelming issue. In Calypso the issue of seductive and deceptive sexuality predominates. These are all issues that are common to the Orchids, including Dactylorhiza, but one area seems to come to the fore in each individual species.
Dactylorhiza praetermissa, the Southern Marsh Orchid is a common European orchid. The Dactylorhizas have two to five, slightly elongated, tuberous roots that resemble fingers and the name derives from the Greek dactylos, which means finger.
This type of orchid is widely spread across the Northern hemisphere, surviving in contrasting climates. From the sub artic to the milder temperatures of Northern Europe, North Africa, North America, the Himalayas and reaching as far as Alaska.
The orchids used in this proving were located on Gaddon Down, near Ashill, Devon in 2003. This had been a domestic waste dumping site that closed down in the late seventies. The habitat includes open grassland and encroaching thistles, nettles and brambles. Since the tip was covered over with clay soil it puddles up in the winter, but then dries out in the summer. For a number of years it supported an orchid colony that collapsed as brambles created an increasingly dense cover.
Three plants were selected from different areas of the colony. Both flower spikes and leaves were put into a bottle and covered with Vodka before being sealed. This was shaken up now and again over a period of three years before providing the mother tincture used in the proving.
These orchids are geophytes of the tuberous variety and as such are able to survive harsh conditions by storing enough water to sustain them. The stem itself can become very tall, reaching heights of 70-90cm. The leaves taper to a point and are speckled in most species. The plant’s higher leaves are shorter than those further down the stem. The flowers are concentrated near to the top of the plant and there can be as many as 50 on one plant compacted into a similar locality. The main colours of this particular genus range from red to pink and are dotted with darker flecks throughout.
The ideal conditions for this species of orchid are damp soils, marshland, fields and bogs in areas populated by trees. Wild orchids have even been spotted reclaiming managed sites like abandoned pits, quarries, along railway lines and roadside verges.
This orchid hybridises very easily with other species of Dactylorhiza and this means that the boundaries become extremely blurred. In several instances, an entirely new hybrid within the genus will emerge onto a new or previously untouched habitat and will continue to prosper for many years until they are replaced by a secondary succession. This highlights the versatility and resilience of this plant species, and suggests that we can expect them to remain a feature of our natural habitat for years to come.
The Orchid in Mythology
The orchid features regularly in Greek mythology. Firstly as a man named ‘Orchis’ who was said to have been born of a nymph and a satyr (half man half goat). It is reported that he disgraced himself by attempting to sexually assault a priestess, his punishment for this was to be ripped apart by wild animals, after which his form was shifted into the iconic plant known today as the Orchid. The appearance of the double root tubers on the Orchid plant are said to bear a resemblance to Orchis’s male genitalia. The name orchid is derived from orkhis the Greek word for testicle as some species have two tuberous roots that resemble testicles. Similarly in Middle English they were called ballockworts.
Orchids are the most sexual of plants. Many of them are sensual; in their appearance, to touch and in their scents. In addition, women of Greek origin believed that they could determine the sex of their unborn infants with the roots of the Orchid. Their belief was that if the father of the child ingested the larger tubers from the plant then the resulting child would be male, if the mother ate the smaller tubers, the child would be born female.
The Orchid in Literature
Historically, the orchid was scarcely written about before the 19th century, this was largely due to the opposition from religious figures who deemed the plant overly erotic and a negative influence because of its sexual connotations and association with the downfall and degradation of man due to sexual desire. Since then, many talented individuals have depicted the orchid flower in their writing; its sensual nature provides inspiration in abundance. H. G. Wells depicted the orchids menacing and manipulative side in his book ‘The Flowering of the Strange Orchid’ in which a vulnerable bachelor is drawn in by the alluring plant, almost resulting in his death. In addition, the well-known Scottish born American naturalist and author John Muir was literally moved to tears upon the sight of the ... slipper orchid whilst walking in the woods. Here is a poem written by Sam Hamhill about this favoured flower which fits with the theme of immense beauty, bewitchment and death which surround this lurid plant.
The Orchid Flower
By Sam Hamill
Just as I wonder
whether it's going to die,
the orchid blossoms
and I can't explain why it
moves my heart, why such pleasure
comes from one small bud
on a long spindly stem, one
blood red gold flower
opening at mid-summer,
tiny, perfect in its hour.
Even to a white-
haired craggy poet, it's
pistil and stamen, pollen,
dew of the world, a spoonful
of earth, and water.
Erotic because there's death
at the heart of birth,
drama in those old sunrise
prisms in wet cedar boughs,
in washing evening dishes
or teasing my wife,
who grows, yes, more beautiful
because one of us will die.
Colour plate from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur
Jan Scholten looks more closely at the orchid in homeopathy in his book ‘Wonderful Plants’, from which this extract is taken:
Series: Hydrogen, Carbon and Silicon series; emphasis on Silicon series.
Source: Lou Klein, Sally Williams
DD: Phosphorus, Flourine, Natrium
In the Apg3 classification the Orchidaceae are placed in the order Asparagales, as a first branch.
In the Plant theory they are placed in their own order Orchidales. This does not affect the monophyly of both orders. Orchidaceae is one of the biggest families with more than 20,000 species.
The Orchidales are tentatively split into 7 subphases. This is tentatively at the moment, as not many orchids have been well known in homeopathy. Recently quite some orchids have been proved but there has not been published much clinical experience. The subfamilies of Apostasioideae, Cypripedioideae, Orchidoideae are placed in Subphases 1 to 3. Epidendroideae, the biggest subfamily, is split into 4 Subfamilies: Maxillarioideae, Vandoideae, Dendrobiodeae and Neottioideae.
The Stages are also put tentatively as there is too little information to be sure about them in many species.
From the point of view of the Plant theory it would be more elegant to raise Orchidaceae to the level of Order, Orchidales and the Subfamilies to the level of Families.
Continue reading the full proving here: Orchid (Dactylorhiza Praetermissa)
Awareness of Presences
Sensation of not needing to prove myself to anyone; to be far less ready to constantly put others before my own life needs. Happy to go along with plans of others; want friendships and social times with friends but not prepared to be manipulated or bullied into doing things that are uncomfortable for me.