Anthroposophic pharmacy

Introduction

Fundamental principles

Every therapy approach relies on both drug-free treatment methods as well as on specific pharmaceuticals. In the same way in which anthroposophic medicine always involves the different levels of human existence (body, life, soul, spirit) in diagnoses and treatments, the objective of anthroposophic pharmacy is to consider pharmaceutic substances not only as dead matter, but also to pay attention to their formative processes and potentials. The origin of the word substance (Latin substare: ‘to stand under’) already suggests that the physical aspects of the phenomenon are only a part of the whole. The essence of a substance is thus to be found “above” its visible manifestation, but still has to be conceived of as being closely connected to the former.

Anthroposophic pharmacy thus takes a broader, comprehensive approach. It is based on current scientific research and teaching (academic knowledge), but aims to complement the latter with anthroposophic insights.

A groundbreaking insight for this deeper understanding of substance as well as a spiritually expanded study of processes is that matter and spirit are mutually dependent: “Learning to recognize the soul-spiritual quality of that which appears externally material in nature, this is what is important. … However, what is necessary is: to no longer distinguish between the material and the spiritual in an abstract way in the future, but to search within the material for the spiritual itself in order to describe the latter as spiritual at the same time and to recognize within the spiritual the transition into the material, i.e. the way in which the spiritual underlies the efficacy of the material.” (1)

Nature – Human being – Pharmaceutical

External nature brings forth mineral substances from both the plant and animal kingdoms. This occurs following fixed formative processes that involve life, the soul as well as spirit-like influences in a specific form. Natural substances that are processed into pharmaceuticals thus constitute such processes that have come to rest and bear the potential of influencing living organisms. A central objective of anthroposophic pharmacy is to maximize this effect and to bring it into a suitable form of administration while maintaining a high standard of quality. This clear way of thinking was already pursued by the famous doctor and polymath Paracelsus. His characterization of pharmaceuticals, many of which he was most likely still producing by himself, can be summarized as follows: “What has been created by nature in a raw form and is completed by humans through their insights.” This says a lot since nature works constantly and reliably as long as it is not disturbed without justification, yet it can never go beyond a certain point. What humans produce from natural substances is the result of their knowledge. The objective (in this case “end”) determines the actual approach. This is a key insight for understanding the different foci in pharmacy and medicine. The following example may clarify this: pharmacy has been increasingly material in focus and, over the course of centuries, instead of a comprehensive “insight” that includes more levels than just the material, it has been accompanied by the constrictive idea that the efficacy of plants can be reduced to so-called “ingredients” (e.g. the alkaloids hyoscyamine and scopolamine from Atropa belladonna). Based on this logic, the aim has been to isolate this “active ingredient” and, if possible, even to produce it fully synthetically in the following step. If the substance in question, which is considered as “nature-identical”, is, furthermore, chemically modified (e.g. into butylscopolamine), the result is usually a highly increased pharmacological efficacy that is one-sided in this regard. (Frequently, this also results in a more varied range of side effects). Full synthesis/derivatization leads to a loss of the connection to the original plant. The essence of a plant is most apparent in its characteristic, pharmacologically effective substantiality, but is not limited to this. The Gestalt of the roots, leaves and flowers, the plant’s overall appearance, its size, color, smell, taste, position within the family, preferred natural habitat and biocoenosis are also important for understanding a plant. Furthermore, these elements shape its efficacy and are, in fact, indispensable for attaining a thorough understanding of the plant’s healing relationship to human beings.

The connection between nature and humanity that was still part of knowledge in past centuries, is an essential basis for anthroposophic medicine since it is the point of origin for both disease and healing. “Disease occurs due to the change of a process from a human quality to a natural quality. Healing in turn means a humanizing of the natural.” (2, p. 90)

The joint evolutionary development of human beings and all of external nature bears the potential that natural substances can be processed in the correct process—adjusted to the therapeutic aim, either for a more typical or for a highly individual disease progression. This is intended to lead to an increase in the efficacy, but never to a destruction of the substance or of an alienation from human beings.

The principal difference between purely chemical-synthetic pharmaceuticals and those from anthroposophic medicine lies in their fundamental approach and Rudolf Steiner has described it to physicians as follows: “It is thus the case that, apart from producing pharmaceuticals by only considering chemical forces following the prescriptions of our materialistically oriented chemistry, it is also possible to create pharmaceuticals about which one can say: the spirituality of the world has been channeled into this medicament in a specific way.” (3)

Quality

The objective of anthroposophic pharmacy is therefore to take substances from nature and to closely accompany them through rationally comprehensible processes that transform the substance into effective and well-tolerated pharmaceuticals. Raw materials of the highest quality are being used for this. For mineral starting materials, either the different minerals (and stones) that are potentized after identifying, cleaning and pulverizing them are being used directly, or one relies on them in the sense of natural raw materials in order to melt them into pure metals, crystallize salts from them or to extract other inorganic products. One aim is to maintain the connection between the formation of the original substance and the starting material (primordial material) produced from it, while ensuring it is not being negatively influenced by undesired processes of a technical or other nature (recycling in case of metals).

Plants for anthroposophic pharmaceuticals are ideally sourced from biologic-dynamic medicinal plant cultivation or from certified wild collection.

Special standards of quality also apply to animals, animal secretions or organs that are used pharmaceutically. In some cases, these standards are stricter than legal regulations. Apart from the health of the animals, important considerations are the protection of species and a way of farming that is appropriate for their nature.

Production processes

We are indebted to Rudolf Steiner for crucial suggestions concerning the renewal and expansion of pharmacy that still remain visionary today, about 100 years after their first publication. These provided the basis for entirely new production processes that were turned into practice by the pharmacists of the pioneer generation—Walther Cloos, Oskar Schmiedel, Wilhelm Pelikan, Hans Krüger, Wilhelm Spieß, Rudolf Hauschka and others (4)—starting in the 1920s and which have been developed and enhanced further ever since.

Distinctive features of the mineral original substances include the process of metallic mirror production (e.g. Aurum metallicum praeparatum), the vegetabilizing of metals (e.g. Urtica Ferro culta) and diverse mineral compositions (eg. Solutio Siliceae comp.).

Plants are steeped in different media (in particular water, ethanol-water mixtures, glycerol and plant oils) and are exposed to different degrees of warmth. Depending on the type of plant and the therapeutic aim, one extracts

  • At room temperature (mazeration),
  • By warming at mild 37 °C (digestio),
  • By pouring a boiling medium over the plant (infus),
  • By boiling strongly (decoct),
  • Or by producing a distillate.

The dry heating of plants produces

  • A powdery roast product (tostatio)
  • A charring (carbo) or
  • An ash (cinis).

Apart from selecting the correct level of heat, the differentiation according to the part of the medicinal plant that is being used plays an important role. The flower (flos) represents other qualities than, for example, the leaf (folium), the root (radix) or the entire plant (planta tota).

An essential and specific way of processing plants in anthroposophic medicine is the rhythmization of watery plant starting solutions, which is used in particular in the production of WALA-solutions and Weleda Rh-tinctures. Recurring process steps such as warming and cooling, moving, exposing to light etc. are always carried out in the morning and in the evening. These processes are subject to cosmic influences and lead to a stabilization of the starting solutions.

Mistletoe compounds from different host trees are another specific pharmaceutical and have been used for decades for the treatment of cancer. The mistletoe plants, which are harvested during both winter and summer, are processed into separate juices—following manufacturer-specific procedures—and are combined in a special machine process. The mixing processes are very important as a distinct pharmaceutical production process for other pharmaceuticals as well, e.g. Hepatodoron. Key substances taken from the animal kingdom include the organ compounds that are obtained from mammals, various poisons and secretions as well as the pharmaceuticals from the insect kingdom (Apis, Formica).

Outlook

In a speech from the year 1924, Rudolf Steiner expressed his idea of pharmacy based on the example of processing lead with honey and sugar as follows: “And you see the aim is to penetrate everywhere with this way of thinking, not only into the substance, but also into the processes, i.e. into what is occurring. It is incorrect to say that lead is a medicine for this or that. What is crucial is to know how the process has occurred, whether we have a raw substance or if we have subjected the substance to any kind of process. At bottom, the way of treating the substances is what is essential. The way of thinking needs to stop looking for the medicine in the substance as such. One would need to tell oneself more and more: if a disease is present, a process is present that is not entirely enclosed by the whole of the human organism.  If one wants a medicine, one needs to strengthen the organism and subject the human being to processes of this kind that one understands fully and accurately. This is what is important.” (5)

Anthroposophic medicine aims to provide these kinds of modern pharmaceuticals for treatment. It researches, develops, optimizes and produces pharmaceuticals based on an expanded conception of the human being, nature, substance and process that builds on a scientific basis, but always strives for an anthroposophic enhancement of the latter.

Apart from prescriptions by physicians and other therapists, the consultation in the pharmacy for self-medicating patients plays an important role. The pharmaceuticals of anthroposophic medicine are offered in all common forms of administration for internal, parenteral and dermal use. The approval status of industrially produced pharmaceuticals ranges from “over-the-counter” through “pharmacy-only” to “prescription medicine”. Custom extemporaneous preparations are produced on prescription, also in public pharmacies.

In several countries, medical societies and associations have been founded that focus on many topics related to anthroposophic medicine, for example:

  • GAPiD: Gesellschaft Anthroposophischer Apotheker in Deutschland e.V. (6) (Germany),
  • VAEPS: Verband für Anthroposophisch Erweiterte Pharmazie in der Schweiz (7) (Switzerland),
  • Farmantropo: Associação Brasileira de Farmácia Antroposófica (8) (Brazil).

The national organizations have united under an umbrella organization—IAAP: International Association of Anthroposophic Pharmacists (9). The IAAP is the publisher of the Anthroposophic Pharmaceutical Codex (1).

Additional Literature

  • Meyer U, Pedersen P (ed). Anthroposophische Pharmazie. Berlin: Salumed Verlag; 2017.

Pharmaceutical catalogues of the manufacturers:

1 Steiner R. Die Sendung Michaels. GA 194. Vortrag vom 30.11.1919. 4. Aufl. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag; 1994.

2 Girke M. Innere Medizin. Berlin: Salumed Verlag; 2010.

3 Steiner R. Anthroposophische Menschenerkenntnis und Medizin. GA 319. Vortrag vom 29.8.1924. 3. Aufl. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag; 1994.

4 Gesellschaft Anthroposophischer Apotheker in Deutschland (Hg). Pioniere der Anthroposophischen Pharmazie. Acht biographische Skizzen. Norderstedt: Verlag Books on Demand GmbH; 2011.

5 Steiner R. Physiologisch-Therapeutisches auf Grundlage der Geisteswissenschaft. Zur Therapie und Hygiene. GA 314. Ansprache vom 21.04.1924. Dornach: Rudolf Steiner Verlag; 1989.

6 Verfügbar unter http://www.gapid.de (19.10.2015).

7 Verfügbar unter http://vaeps.ch (19.10.2015).

8 Verfügbar unter www.farmantropo.com.br (19.10.2015).

9 Verfügbar unter http://www.iaap.org.uk (19.10.2015).

10 Verfügbar unter http://www.iaap.org.uk/downloads/codex.pdf (19.10.2015).