Remedies from Bird Feathers
Homeopathic practitioners have discovered birds and now flocks of our feathered friends have begun their flight across the globe of homeopathy. There has been a rapid increase in the number of prescriptions. Remedia Pharmacy in Eisenstadt, Austria, offers approximately 100 remedies from bird substances, including many native birds as well as exotic species such as the hummingbird species Calypte anna, and the long extinct elephant bird, Aepyornis maximus. What do these fascinating and sometimes strange creatures have to offer the world of homeopathy?
Within the annals of the history of medical practice, prescriptions based on animals such as snakes, dogs or owls belong more to the realm of magic than to serious medicine. By Hahnemann’s time however, homeopaths began to see things differently, even though at that time remedies based on vertebrates still did not play a very large role. Amongst a hundred substances, Hahnemann only homeopathically proved two vertebrate-derived remedies – Moschus and Ambra grisea (other available animal substances were Sepia, Calcium carbonicum, Carbo animalis and Spongia tosta). Other vertebrate substances added over time were Lachesis and Lac caninum. Eel serum, Castoreum, Dippel’s Oil and a few other vertebrate substances remained relatively unknown. Within this rare group of substances birds make up the smallest portion. In the 19th century eggshell calcium and seabird excrement (guano) also became known. Of course classical homeopaths today prescribe snake venom or milk substances from various mammals, but a bird remedy?
The German homeopath Jörg Wichmann has drawn up a comprehensive analysis of the present state of research, preparation and proving of bird remedies for the specialist magazine “Spektrum der Homöopathie”.  In his article he refers to the above-delineated array of animal substances covering the time period from Hahnemann until today. Wichmann writes that the foundation for understanding bird remedies is the book by Jonathan Shore, whose extensive work is the first of its kind to detail the use of bird-derived remedies in homeopathy, and has created a breakthrough for this category of substances. In Shore’s “Birds. Homeopathic Remedies from the Avian Realm”, also now available in German at Narayana Press, one finds an introduction to the characteristics of this substance group, and the detailed review of several species that have been proved and used by different authors. Shore’s Red-tailed Hawk was one of the first proved bird remedies, along with Jeremy Sherr’s Osprey and Fink’s European Herring Gull.
Larus argentatus, the European Herring Gull, was one of the first bird substances that entered the homeopathic medicine chest. It was proved by Wilfried Finks ( in Germany) and first published in Links’97.
Jörg Wichmann summarizes: “Today we can be pleased with the current state of research and development: we have approximately 160 remedies available from birds representing most of the larger orders within Aves, of which a third have already undergone proving. Until now our leap in new research and knowledge hasn’t been supported by adequate clinical experience, which means that prescribing bird remedies remains somewhat uncertain. Luckily most of the bird substances have undergone a full (or Hahnemannistic) proving; some of the results also come from trituration, or alternative types of provings such as contact, meditation or seminar methods.” 
The Newly Awakened interest in Birds
There has been an explosive increase in new remedies since the beginning of the 1990’s, within which birds have secured themselves a secure niche in the new millennium. But why is this happening now?
In an interview conducted by the aforementioned magazine “Spektrum”, Jonathan Shore speaks about how his interest in the remedy group Aves was awakened: “The bird remedies have practically developed their own dynamic. I didn’t plan it, organize it or consider it beforehand. It simply happened that more and more people sent me feathers, and slowly the preparations emerged. I can’t say this for other provings, but with the birds they clearly crystallized and manifested by themselves.”
The Blue Peafowl (Pavo cristatus) is a bird species from the family Phasianidae. It belongs to the order Galliformes and along with the Pheasant and domestic Chicken is one of the better known members of this bird group. The Indian homeopath Chetna N. Shukla performed two provings of the species using two different substances, one from the peafowl’s egg and one from the feather, and came up with parallel results.
According to Robert Müntz, bringing the animal kingdom into the homeopathic picture is connected with new insights into evolutionary history: “The ever-changing relationships between species, the overall picture, the ability to survive throughout our violent evolutionary history; this is very exciting.”
The Diversity of Bird Species and their Unique Characteristics
Traditionally birds are classified as land vertebrates, along with amphibians, reptiles and mammals, whereby birds are a subcategory belonging to the reptiles. The most well known link between reptiles and birds is the genus Archaeopteryx (“ancient feather” or “original bird”), which had feathered wings that are similar to modern birds.
Reptiles were the first land vertebrates that were able to reproduce outside of water. The development of the embryo takes place within a protective egg covering or shell filled with amniotic fluid, which distinguishes them from amphibians or fish. The class of Aves are described as vertebrates with wings, usually able to fly, and having a beak. At present there are around 10,350 known bird species.
So which species and which birds from this abundance should one choose for homeopathic investigation, and why would Robert Müntz, from an immense amount of possibilities, produce a remedy from the extinct Elephant Bird? Two reasons are curiosity and a thirst for knowledge; another reason is purely pragmatic. “I take what I can get,” says the pharmacist matter-of-factly. According to a research group that decided to study the Aepyornis maximus, this was a flightless bird 3 to 4 meters tall that laid eggs 16 times larger than chicken eggs. The researchers found remains of Aepyornis’ fossilized eggshells, which Müntz was gratefully able to acquire and prepare homeopathically. He hasn’t prescribed it yet, but believes one day a patient’s unique history will match up with the remedy.
Birds are distinguished from all other animals by their unique and remarkable feathers. Feathers are specialized structures that only the class Aves have and they exist in different forms; from long, stiff flight feathers to soft, elastic down. Evolutionary theory teaches that feathers are related to the scales of reptiles. Feathers protect from cold temperatures, serve as camouflage, and make flight possible. It seems logical then to use bird feathers, the quintessential characteristic of the genera, for trituration and potentization. Although most bird remedies are made from feathers, as for example with the Ruffed Grouse, European Goldfinch, or European Robin, there is a diversity amongst the remedies with some based on other substances such as skin, muscles, flesh, bones or blood.
Apparently the origin is not important and the decision is left mostly to chance. “I am sure that it’s not so important which part one takes from the whole,” explains Müntz. “The substance used is determined according to the situation at hand. There are no regulating rules. When birds are killed, one uses the flesh or blood; with live birds one uses the feathers. With Falco peregrinus, the Peregrine Falcon, for example, the substances proved were taken from an animal held in captivity. The behaviors of a captive or domesticated animal influence the proving and must be carefully documented. Proper scientific procedure and fastidious documentation are therefore crucial.”
Very often it is difficult to obtain a sought-after substance. Golden Eagle feathers are one example, which are highly valuable as a commercial commodity. Pharmacist Müntz had to court some experienced hunters from the Austrian Alps with the best wine from Burgenland before they would hand over one of their precious eagle feathers.
Sometimes the best wine in the world doesn’t help. His search for true “owl milk” continues after 15 years. Even his hunter friends can’t find this substance for him, a secretion from the uropygial gland of the Common Barn Owl, called “Bürzelsekret” (tail secretion) in German, or more commonly, “Eulenmilch” (owl milk). Also known as Lac owleum, it entered into homeopathic consciousness from a joking discussion between the homeopaths Jörg Wichmann and Uta Santoz, and has since then been the source of some confusion. Is the whole thing a farce amongst homeopaths? For an in depth summary of the subject, you can read more at the following link: www.remedia.at/homoeopathie/homoeopathie/lacowleum.html (in German)
Bird Remedy Themes
In his book “Birds”, Jonathan Shore together with his co-authors Anneke Hogeland and Judy Schriebman, presents the remedy provings together with clinical case studies of 16 different bird remedies. He comes to the astounding conclusion that a large majority of the symptoms encountered during the provings is not specific to a single remedy, but are typical for the entire group of bird remedies as a whole. He has organized these shared symptoms into themes that characterize all of the bird remedies. Only after the acknowledgement of this shared group signature does he then extract and separate the essences of the individual bird remedies determined through proving and clinical experience. 
Freedom: A need for independence and the desire to travel are an essential part of a bird’s nature and an often-repeating theme in the provings. In actuality, many bird-type patients are cosmopolitan, often very cultivated, and have lived in different countries and/or learned several diverse professions. An equally important indication for this type of person is the fear of borders, of being closed in and trapped; the opposite pole of their longing for freedom.
Aloofness: A special aspect of this independent nature is a certain aloof distance to worldly affairs, like a nonparticipating observer that stands or floats over events. This quality manifests itself physically during the provings through diverse disturbances in mental performance.
Intuition and Spirituality: At the same time their thoughts were characterized by true wisdom, an ability to understand that comes from a deeper level. This inner clarity gives faith, a feeling of confidence, a feeling of interacting naturally without being forced.
Perfectionism: This quality is stronger in some birds than others, but seems to appear to some degree in all species. It is usually expressed as having incentive or being a go-getter, rather than as true conscientiousness, and often occurs together with arrogance, feelings of humiliation, shame, and of being at fault.
Family and Socialization: Birds are characterized by close personal relationships. They are bound to each other and to larger groups or family with strong emotions. Their nature is to be family oriented, to care and tend to each other, to be helpful and have protective instincts.
Oversensitive to noises, visual impressions, or touch.
Lack of inner peace: Undefined restlessness and irritation, often combined with a small but intense inner vibration, a humming or pulsation.
Disturbances in appetite: From a lack of appetite to hunger attacks and gluttony. Sharp or stabbing pain mostly in the eye, chest or abdomen.
Body temperature: often warm blooded, fresh air, hot spots on certain areas of the body.
Head: frequent headaches, with feelings of fullness, pressure, or heaviness, together with a feeling of the rising movement of energy, or the feeling to be outside or above one’s own body. A feeling as if the top of the skull is open or elevated.
Face/Teeth: Pressure and sharp pain in the cheek bones or in the lower jaw, many tooth symptoms, including pulsing gums or toothache, and even the mistaken perception that the teeth are weak or soft.
Eyes: A lot of symptoms with sharp, stabbing pain, irritation, dryness and changes in the quality of vision, including improved ability to focus, or lack of focus and blurriness, to even the disappearance of peripheral or central vision, and the fear of going blind.
Nose: Stuffy sinuses, sniffing, sneezing, which when considered together with eye dryness and irritation, resembles hay fever symptoms.
Women: strong dysmenorrhea
Chest: sharp, stabbing pain; feelings of constriction or tightness, and the desire to be able to breathe deeply, as if one can’t get enough air
Back: here lies the pathological emphasis, appearing especially frequently in the neck. Although the pain may be sharp, it is usually manifested as tension, stiffness, pain moving in a spiraling motion, and painful cramps. Tension and stiffness in the neck often spreads to the shoulders and arms. Muscle tension also often appears in the upper back or dorsal region.
Extremities: also numerous symptoms, with the lower extremities more often affected. Sciatica, pain in the hips and knees. Strong pain in the shoulders. Pain in the elbows, wrists, hands and fingers. More important however than pain in the distal extremities, are feelings of heaviness, weakness, numbness and itching. These feelings occur most often in the lower extremities. It is of course possible that the opposite can occur, with feelings of lightness, extra strength and flexibility.
(Source: Jonathan Shore, Judy Schriebman, Anneke Hogeland: BIRDS – Homeopathic Remedies from the Avian Realm, Homeopathy West, Berkeley 2004, and Jonathan Shore, Judy Schriebman, Anneke Hogeland: “Vögel – Homöopathische Heilmittel aus den Gefilden des Himmels”, Narayana Verlag, Kandern 2010)
A man is waiting in line when he suddenly falls unconscious. Later he doesn’t know how long he was in such a state, but he remembers clearly the feeling of floating in the clouds or being propelled like a bird. As he describes this beautiful, almost heavenly state, he holds his arms stretched our horizontally with the palms of his hands turned downwards – making strokes like that of an eagle’s wings. His portrayal is so vivid that his doctor, a well-known classical homeopath who studied under Künzli, is able to directly experience the energy of a bird. Without consulting his Repertory or Materia Medica, a fascinatingly clear image of a remedy appeared.
The path that leads to the simillimum via the direct revelation of the energy of a substance within the deepest emotional states of a patient, especially as is practiced by those following Rajan Sankaran, is apparently easier to detect and comprehend with remedies derived from animals. In our daily lives, we often compare the behaviors and characters of people with certain animals. Sly as a fox, strong as a bear, crafty as a snake are all common anthropomorphic classifications arising from the animal world. And of course we also say: free as a bird.
Biology of the Source Substances and Reactions to the Remedies
The qualities we associate with particular animals reappear in the homeopathic Materia Medica, in “drug pictures” that have been developed on the basis of provings and further clinical experience, all conducted according to strict recognized procedures. This is the signature resonance of a substance that then becomes part of a repertory or index of symptoms. When Lachesis is given a 3 in rubrics such as “devious, sly” or “lascivious, lustful”, this exemplifies qualities of the snake we have learned through our mythology.
We also meet common clichés such as the “gentle dove” or “wise owl” in the core character types of Jonathan Shore, who developed his ideas through symptoms that appeared during the provings of individual bird remedies and through successfully treated cases. But the similarities between the characteristics of the remedy substance and the reaction of the prover go even deeper. In their dreams the provers seem to inhabit the environment and living space of the bird being proved, and experience the bird’s specific sensitivities not only in dreams but also in physical symptoms (see the heading “Bird Remedy Themes”). A vibrating inner restlessness is common to all bird remedies, as well as attacks of hunger, which is understandable in a group of animals that eats enormous amounts compared to humans.
After many years of experience with bird remedies and this type of patient, Jonathan Shore says, “I feel that for birds there exists a certain “lightness” or “effortlessness” in the form of a relatively strong vibration. When you talk to them you don’t have the feeling that everything is heavy or difficult. Although they speak about their problems, there is a certain quality to it. It’s difficult to understand but for me perceptible. Although it’s definitely not what I experience for every remedy or in every treatment, with birds I feel a connection to the person and they to me. For my part, I always listen to my inner feelings concerning the patient. This is for me of great importance. Not in order to arrive at a prescription, but rather to confirm or reject it. My understanding of the remedy must agree with my inner feelings.”
What can homeopaths learn from birds? Their biology is seductive. Their shimmering character makes them enchanting but also difficult to comprehend. Where does the border lie between abstract ideal and well-founded prescription? The November 2010 issue of “Spektrum der Homöopathie” is the first general overview in German on the subject of bird remedies. Here interested homeopaths can find an exciting article to read about familiar and unfamiliar bird remedies and at the same time deepen their knowledge. Maybe some will be inspired to explore this expansive and truly exciting area and to conduct a proving conform to recognized homeopathic standards for one of the many bird remedies that has yet to be proved. And those who would like to learn more about the biology and “secret language of birds” are advised to read Ralph Müller’s book of the same name, where he describes the fascinating life of birds in a lively way, and how to understand the message that lies hidden in their behavior, body language, and voices.
 Issue 4 of the new german-language specialist magazine for homeopaths, with internationally recognized authors and published by Narayana Press, appeared in November 2010 with the theme “Birds – a New Remedy Group”. It will appear in February 2011 in Englsih. You can find a table of contents with a list of all articles, as well as an excerpt from issue 4, at the following links: www.narayana-publishers.com/spectrum-homeopathy/spektrum-homoeopathie-032010 and www.narayana-verlag.de/spektrum-homoeopathie/spektrum-homoeopathie-032010
 Jörg Wichmann’s overview of the proved bird remedies is available as a complete chart in the “Birds” issue of “Spektrum der Homöopathie”, see: http://www.narayana-publishers.com/spectrum-homeopathy/spektrum-homoeopathie-032010 ; details of the provings can be found at his website: www.provings.info
 This is a short summary of the themes, for more information see the source listing at the end of the section.