We know the symptoms of a remedy through homeopathic provings. Provings are essentially tests of a remedy on healthy, willing participates. Without provings, indications for remedies would be based on speculation or assumption.

Scientific tests

Provings are usually blinded, meaning the participants don’t know the remedy they’re taking. It’s important that participants don’t know the remedy in order to reduce bias. We encounter biases all the time in our everyday lives, but when it shows up in research, it can weaken or skew the results.  

Drug trials in traditional medicine are done on sick people but homeopathic provings are done on healthy people. With provings, we’re not testing the remedy to see how it addresses symptoms of a particular condition making people sick. Instead, we want to understand the full picture of the remedy and its action upon the whole person. Using healthy people gives a clearer picture of this. Ensuring people are healthy prior to a proving is also the safest approach for the participants themselves because we don’t know what temporary effect the remedy will have.

We have no idea what a remedy may be best suited for until a proving is done. However, we can draw conclusions about some remedies like minerals and plants based on toxicological reports of the substance. Such reports become an important part of proving data and other resources that homeopaths use. Still, provings remain the best investigation into the healing power of homeopathic remedies.

Direct experience of substances

A proving is about learning through direct experience. We want to know in what ways and to what degree the remedy affects the whole person. So, giving the remedy to a healthy, willing participant (aka, prover) under appropriate test conditions provides this direct experience.

Each prover keeps a detailed log of their experience and symptoms, including mental, emotional, and physical symptoms. This is reported to a proving supervisor. Proving supervisors are a conduit between provers and proving administrators. Proving administrators are responsible for filtering and collating all of the data from provers to identify patterns. Obviously, repeated symptoms or symptoms that a larger number of provers experience have more weight.

Thorough, detailed and sometimes repeated provings give us remedies that have hundreds or thousands of symptoms. Because we know the symptoms of a remedy from a homeopathic proving, if a person experiences those symptoms, the person may be alleviated by that remedy.

For instance, homeopathically prepared Calendula consists of 2,892 symptoms in our repertories (as of 2023). Repertories are essentially a collection of all of the symptoms recorded from provings and clinical data. Generally, Calendula is useful in healing wounds when used herbally and homeopathically. Based on the thousands of symptoms of Calendula in our repertories, homeopathically prepared Calendula covers many more symptoms than its herbal preparation. We know the full picture of this substance through the direct experience of provings.

When provers take a remedy

Provers experience the mental, emotional, and physical symptoms of the remedy. What they experience then becomes the symptoms that homeopaths use to match a remedy to the person and what they are experiencing. We can feel close to nature when we hike in the woods or walk along the beach, but I imagine there is no better way to connect to an aspect of nature than by being a prover.

As Jeremy Sherr, who has conducted over 40 provings, insightfully says, “Simultaneously, we may also perceive an aspect of the natural universe previously hidden from us. Thus, if we prove Scorpion, we experience the inner perspective of a scorpion. If we prove Silica, we experience the inner nature of a rock or a grain of sand.” Hence, researching, understanding or knowing a substance, whether its a plant, animal, or mineral, can never produce the direct experience gained from proving it.

For more on homeopathic provings, review this explanation from Homeopathy Plus.

For more on specific homeopathic provings, check out the following list of provings conducted at the School of Homeopathy and the New York School of Homeopathy.