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Dactylorhiza praetermissa

The Homœopathic Proving of

The Southern Marsh Orchid

Conducted by Misha Norland and Peter Fraser

with TG28

at The School of Homœopathy


The Proving


The Orchid family, Orchidaceae, is the largest family of flowering plants with 880 genera and well in excess of 20,000 species. They represent between 6% and 11% of all seed plants. 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 insect that is sexually available. 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 the genetic code, 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.

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.

Orchids are the most sexual of plants. Many of them are sensual; in their appearance, to touch and in their scents. The deceptive pollination of many species involves what could be termed sexual behaviour with insects. 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.

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

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. It grows in open ground such as bogs and wet meadows and it will colonize waste ground. It hybridizes very easily with other species of Dactylorhiza.


The orchids were located on Gaddon Down, near Ashill, Devon. This had been a domestic waste dumping site that closed down in the early eighties. The habitat includes open grassland and encroaching thistles, nettles and brambles. It is a fine place to find rabbits. 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.

The remedy was run up to higher potencies by Helios Homeopathic Pharmacy and is available from them. (www.helios.co.uk)


There were 12 provers all of whom took a single dose of the remedy in a 30c potency. Provers 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 and 12 were female; provers 4, 7 and 11 were male.

The Proving

The proving revealed a clear picture of the remedy and many of the more general Orchid themes can be found in it.

The theme that seems to be most important is one of adapting to the environment, emotional and spiritual as well as physical, and letting go of past dogmas and beliefs. For most provers this was a positive experience and reading the proving it could be easy to misinterpret these as curative responses. In fact the pathological state lies in the place of having to adapt and in doing so losing the dogmas and beliefs that give us the solid base we rely on. This pathological state was clearly revealed in one prover and to a lesser degree in several others.

The state of having lost ones fixed ideas leads very easily to a state of confusion and this theme, which is strong in the Orchids generally, was strong in the proving. Confusion around time seemed to be particularly important.

The other consequence of this adaptability is a freedom from restrictions and a lack of inhibition. This was seen generally but especially in areas of sexuality where there was a wildness and lack of inhibition that seemed to have an adolescent quality to it. It was a naive and open sexuality and did not have the qualities of seduction, deception and betrayal that were predominant in the Calypso Orchid. The theme of betrayal and deception, the idea of a trickster, were there in the remedy but not as strongly and not primarily in the sexual arena.

The lack of inhibition and wildness could also be seen in a tendency to, or at least a possibility for, violence and brutality. The provers found themselves wondering about how easy it would be to be violent, brutal and cruel.

There was a corresponding fear of dark forces and of being the object of violence and brutality. There was also a particular sense of being trapped.

The remedy caused great sensitivity, empathy and clairvoyance which could be an appreciation of beauty and of the divine in the world but could also lead to an awareness and fear of presences and evil spirits.

Provings often cause a group dynamic that is both general and has a flavour that comes out of the proving. In this case there was a sense of bonding in the group that was about being attacked by an outsider and coming together in support of each other in the face of that attack.

The mind symptoms of Dactylorhiza can be arranged under the following themes:

Letting Go, Accepting, Adaptation, Dogma

Organized, Clean, Confident

Sexuality, Flirting, Adolescent, Wild

Anger, Irritability, Brutality

Divinity, Joy, Love, Nature

Sensitive, Emotional, Empathetic, Clairvoyant

Confused, Disoriented

Confused about Time

Dark, Fear, Violence


Awareness of Presences

Group - Individual

The most powerful physical symptoms were expressed in an affinity to the eyes. The eyes felt larger, as did the pupils which seemed to let in too much light. There was a clarity of vision and specifically a greater peripheral vision. There was also a sensitivity in the eyes and one prover actually found herself blind for a few minutes.

There was an affinity to the mouth with pains, ulcers and horrible tastes. There was a general aversion to food, especially heavy and fatty foods such as dairy. Appetite was generally diminished. There was diarrhoea with sudden urging to stool.

Sleep was an important area of the remedy action. It could be deep and generally refreshing. However, there was an element of wakefulness that is reminiscent of Cypripedium.
There were no male and very few female sexual symptoms, which was surprising but the the sexual mind symptoms and dreams suggest that the remedy is more about sexuality than sexual function.

There was a significant lack of respiratory symptoms, just some coughs. The heart was more affected and there were many symptoms of the back.

There were many dreams of animals, dogs and foxes, snakes, insects and spiders in particular and the dreams had a powerful animal energy. There were dreams of war and of conflict and division. Death, dying and dead people were found in many of the dreams. In some dreams there was a powerful feeling that things were not really as they seemed.



Proving Copyright The School of Homœopathy 2011

Introduction Copyright Peter Fraser 2011

All rights reserved