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Version 2.04
Autonomic Reflex Testing (ART)
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© David Little 1996-2007, all rights reserved.
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Preface:

Guy Beckley Stearns MD.

"Homeopathy gives us a hint of how to go about it because the "strange, peculiar and unusual symptoms" that Hahnemann stated as the only ones to be used for selecting a curative drug are all symptoms related to the reactions in a patient that represents his specific autonomic response toward recovery. It is only that response which brings about a cure." 

I have received several requests for information related to autonomic reflex testing (ART) and the testing of homoeopathic remedies for susceptibility on the human organism. To use autonomic reflex testing one must master the traditional methods of clinical examination and be able to apply them in an artistic manner unknown to the orthodox physician. This gives the homoeopathician added insight into the state of the individual's constitution, the nature of the disease state, observation signs, and gives information about the prognosis of the case. For the last 25 years I have carried out intensive research in this area working hard to bring the material up to date.

ART is a method which can only be utilized by those who have completed their study of homoeopathic philosophy, pathology and posology. The Organon, Repertorium, and Materia Medica should be studied daily by every homoeopath. The doctors that developed these methods had a strong background in medical sciences as well as homoeopathy and great respect for the traditional methods. No method can tell a homoeopath they have the "correct remedy". Such a lofty title can only be placed on a remedy after it has completed the cure. ART does not replace the Materia Medica approach, but rather, complements our reference works by including the reactions of the vital force in the process of assessment. Art is learning how to interpret "the language of the vital force" directly through the methods of clinical examination. In this way the healing artist can communicate with the vital force and test the susceptibility to remedies and potencies on the individual constitution. Like all clinical skills it takes years of training and experience to use ART correctly within the homoeopathic paradigm.

Guy Beckley Stearns MD

In 1922 the I.H.A. requested The Foundation for Homeopathic Research, under the auspices of Guy Beckley Stearns MD. to investigate the claims of Dr. Abrams that the traditional clinical reflexes responded to homoeopathic remedies in a thorough scientific manner and to report back to the association. The results of this study were delivered 10 years later in a lecture before the I.H.A. Bureau of Clinical Medicine on June 9, 11, 1932 and was published in The Homoeopathic Recorder on Nov. 15, 1932. The report confirmed the abdominal reflexes of White, Abrams, and Boyd and much, much more.

The list of clinical observations that react to the contact of homoeopathic remedies included the change of percussion tones of the abdomen and the chest; relaxation of the muscles and connective tissue on palpation; changes in the heart beat, pulse rate and character; changes in the respiratory rate, dilation of the pupils: intensification of the color of the iris; direct observation of the blood flow changes in the capillaries by transillumination of the ear lobes and webs of the fingers; direct observation of the variation in the caliber of the veins on the back of the hand; movements in the fine reticulations of the skin; changes of shade of colored pigments when they are rubbed into the skin; observation by fluoroscope of the changes in the amplitude of the heart pulsations; impediment of a dielectric rod when rubbed on the skin; and changes of sensations associated with touch; and changes in the taste.

Out of these various tests the easiest methods to use in the clinic are the pupil dilation effect; changes in pulse and respiration, the percussion of the abdomen and chest cavity; and the impeding of a dielectric rod or glass bottle on the skin of the abdomen, on the inside of the arm, and near the spine. One who is skilled in the art of palpation can also detect changes in the tonus of the muscles and tissues of the body to remedies.

All of these effects are the reaction of the autonomic nervous system to the radiations of energy waves from the homoeopathic remedy. In fact many of these reflexes will react before the vial is actually brought into contact with the patient. This also includes assessment of changes in leg lengths and body alignment as well as muscle testing by the Applied Kinesiology of Goodheart. Kinesiology is not as objective as the traditional clinical reflexes because of the intimate involvement of the operator in the testing of the reflex. It also entails the use of both the autonomic and voluntary nervous system and the conscious minds of both individuals. This statement is not meant to debunk or disclaim the system in the hands of an expert operator. In fact Applied Kinesiology can be very useful when kept within reasonable bounds. Nevertheless, the clinical reflexes cannot be as easily manipulated consciously or unconsciously by the tester because the reactions only involve the autonomic nervous system of the client. Autonomic reflex testing is an art that can be learned by anyone who is willing to try it. Stearns added the following insight into the process of testing and its relationship to homoeopathy.

"In this section we shall show how the autonomic activities of the body can be utilized for finding drug or other substances that stimulate the natural resistance of the body in a specific manner. Homeopathy gives us a hint of how to go about it because the "strange, peculiar and unusual symptoms" that Hahnemann stated as the only ones to be used for selecting a curative drug are all symptoms related to the reactions in a patient that represents his specific autonomic response toward recovery. It is only that response which brings about a cure."

The autonomic nervous system is the intermediary for the activities of the vital force in the human body. This system is intimately connected to the production of the mental and physical generals, as well as the strange, rare and peculiar symptoms. By observing the totality of the symptoms a homoeopath understands the internal essence of the disease. Through skillful reflex testing the homoeopath is able to communicate directly with the vital force by learning its language. We can ask the vital force what it wants through reading the reaction of the autonomic nervous reflexes to the stimuli caused by homoeopathic remedies. In this way we can know if a remedy is going to react before we give it! It can also help us to find the correct potency to use. This certainly is a great advantage. This can most easily be done by observing the pupil reflex, the pulse and respiration, palpating and percussing the chest and abdomen, and testing the galvanic skin response with a dielectric substance on the skin of the patient.

The Pupil Reflex Effect

One of the easiest autonomic reactions to observe is the pupil reflex. Poets and mystics have recognized the responsiveness of the pupil for centuries and called the eyes  "the mirror of the soul". The pupils are constantly responding to changes in light as well as to different emotions. They have been observed to contract during anger and aversion and dilate during pleasurable experiences. The pupils also dilate in response to a resonant homoeopathic remedy thus demonstrating their susceptibility on the vital force. To observe this reflex the proper method must be utilized during testing. The patient should be seated in a room which is darkened or at least not brightly lit.

The best direction to face the patient during testing is the west. His or her hands should rest easily on the thighs with the feet separated slightly. During the test the patient should relax the eyes by looking toward but not at the opposite wall. The gaze should be directed toward the far wall but with relaxed attention so that the eyes will be focused at a distance. The operator should sit in front of the person shading their light source from the patient 's eyes. One of the best light sources is a goose-neck lamp with an opaque shade or a shaded hand light. A flashlight can also be used if the beam is directed from the side toward the pupil. The remedies in question can be handled by the operator but it is best to use an assistant. First we must "sensitize" the patient's autonomic nervous system by randomly bringing a few remedies near the person. We do this because some patients may react in a random fashion to the first few exposures. After this they will settle down and only react to the exact remedies to which they are susceptible.

Once the is patient is relaxed and ready the operator shines the light into the person's eyes. If one is using a shaded light it should be held no higher than the waist and suddenly turned upward so that the light shines into the patient's eyes. If one is using a flashlight it should be held to the side and directed into the patient's eyes from one to two feet away. The pupils will immediately contract and then after one or two seconds dilate slightly and come to rest. At this moment the assistant should come up behind the patient and with a quick movement bring the remedy close to the person's body or lightly touch them. If the homoeopath is working alone they may bring the remedy very close or lightly touch the remedy to the hand of the patient while watching the pupils.

 If the homoeopath is working alone they may have some difficulty because the patient's eyes will shift toward the operator when they move the remedy. The person should be instructed not to focus on the movements of the operator but to continue to gaze toward the opposite wall with relaxed attention. If the patient is sensitive to the remedy the pupils of the patient will dilate quite clearly and come to rest in a new position. In certain rare instances the pupils may contract first and then dilate. The remedy that causes the most dilation of the pupil of the pupil is the remedy to which the body is the most susceptible. After allowing the nervous system to settle down for a few minutes, retest the chosen remedy in various potencies. The potency that causes the largest, most stable dilation is the potency to which the body is most reactive. In this way we can use the vital force as a guide in helping to choose a suitable remedy in the proper potency.

Some patients have very sensitive pupils which are continually dilating and contracting under the influence of the light. This is a sign of an unstable nervous system and hypersensitivity. These patients should be considered to be high on the sensitivity scale as they may aggravate more easily than someone with a stable nervous system. There are also those who seem to have steady pupil contractions under the influence of light but their pupil dilates and contracts in alternations under the influence of a remedy. This is a sign that the remedy might aggravate the patient. The remedy must be adjusted by checking several degrees of potency until the dilation remains as stable as possible. If the pupils are still unstable, take the remedy that seems the most stable and make a medicinal solution and prepare one dose. Then check to see if the pupil dilation becomes more stable under the minimal dose.

This process usually works unless the patient is extremely hypersensitive and has a very unstable nervous system. If this happens give one single dose of a remedy diluted in several dilution glasses and wait and watch the case very closely. One interesting phenomena is that the remedies may be lying close to the subject without causing any reactions until they are touched. The assistant may still be several feet away yet the pupils will already begin to react. This is a sign that the patient is very susceptible to the remedy as the farther away they react the more strongly the medicine will affect the vital force. At the same time, if the assistant holds the remedy behind their backs, their body will shield the effect of the remedy energy from the subject. This is true with all of the autonomic reflex tests. As the pupils dilate the color of the iris changes. This change of the iris color is usually to a lighter shade. It may be difficult to observe color change at the same time as testing the dilation reflexes. It is better to observe this effect at a separate time from the pupil dilation.

Life often demonstrates the truth that "what goes around, comes around" as this method ended up saving Dr. Stearns' own life. He was given up for lost due to a severe heart condition by the best homoeopathic prescribers in America. He became so ill that he could not even walk more than a few steps without suffering great pain. In an attempt to save his own life Dr. Stearns trained two laymen in the pupil testing methods. For 12 days his assistants tested 100 medicines a day, a totality of 1200 remedies. On the 13th day all the remedies that had shown a response on the pupil were retested and compared. At the end of the day it appeared that Morphine Acetate came through as the best remedy. Dr. Stearns took this remedy and made a slow but steady improvement. This remedy was later followed by two other remedies that showed up during the testing, Ruta and Rhus tox. On these three remedies Dr. Stearns made a full recovery. Thus Dr. Stearns' own vital force assisted by the two laymen was able to do what the best classical prescribes of the day could not!

The Pulse-Effect and the Heart Response

The heart is traditionally considered the central vital organ of the body as its beat is related to the possession of life itself. Both the rate and quality of the pulse are affected by homoeopathic remedies that are related to the patient's susceptibility. The position of the patient should be basically the same as in the pupil dilation test with the patient facing west. The homoeopath should read the pulse at the wrist in the traditional manner. The average adult pulse is 70 to 72 beats per minute. Individual pulse rates vary above or below this average. Some well-conditioned athletes have pulses of 50 to 60 beats. In general, those above the 72 mark are considered to have somewhat faster pulse rates and those below 70 are considered to have slower pulse rates. 

Pulse rates in children vary according to age. An infant's pulse can be checked below the left nipple or on the brachial artery on the inside of the arm between the elbow and shoulder. The average rate of an infant is around 120 beats per minute. A toddler between 1 to 5 will have a rate between 90 and 120 beats a minute. Children and young people between 5 and 15 years have a pulse rate of around 70 to 100 beats per minute. Both the rate and the character of the pulse should be noted carefully by the observer and then the remedies should be brought near and the pulse counted for 60 seconds. Once you are familiar with the pulse's qualities and rate it may be read for 15 seconds and the number of beats multiplied by four. After this the heart rate and character can be used to test the remedies.

If the homoeopath has an assistant he or she may read the pulse while the other person stands behind the patient with the remedy behind their back. While reading the pulse the remedy vial is brought near the subject's back with a quick swing stopping a few inches away from the patient's body and the changes in the pulse are recorded. The vial only needs to be in contact with the body for a few seconds but the effect may last for up to 60 seconds. The heart usually responds to the correct remedy with a sudden hesitation, sometimes for up to 1/2 a beat, followed by one loud beat of the heart, and a perceptively new rhythm and volume. This reaction is somewhat homeostatic in nature. If the heart frequency is too rapid due to a fever or acute pain the remedy will cause it to slow down. If the pulse beat is too slow as seen in some chronic diseases or a state of collapse the pulse will increase. Either way the pulse usually  seems to get stronger, more vital, and take on a healthier rhythm. 

If this effect is pronounced the pulse beat will change up to four, six, or eight beats per minute. If the practitioner is alone they will have to manipulate the vial by themselves. This can be done by lining up the remedies on a table and bringing them near the client"s upturned hand, or lightly touching the fingers or palm with the vial. Listen to see when the response first ensues. How close did the vial have to be brought to the body to start the reaction? Sometimes the pulse will respond as soon as you pick up the remedy. These effects can be plainly distinguished by auscultation with a stethoscope and can be viewed on a fluoroscope. In cases where there are irregular beats the correct remedy seems to stabilize the pulse and make it more regular. If the heart is arrhythmic because of a serious pathological lesion there is still often a clear response.

Those practitioners who have been trained in the traditional Chinese pulse used for acupuncture will find that this method contains a wealth of information. Because the Chinese pulse is related to the five elements, and the energy channels, and organs of the body, it offers the observer great insights into the reactions of the remedies. In this way each major organ and their related physiological systems can be monitored by the operator through their corresponding regions in the radial pulse. In this way the changes brought on by the remedy can be carefully recorded. This analysis is made in the same manner that is used to check the reaction of the vital force to the inserting of the needles in the acupuncture points. The same may be said about the use of other traditional pulse reading techniques such as the Ayurvedic, the Urani, or Tibetan Buddhist systems.

I have had the opportunity to study all these traditional pulses with Chinese, Tibetans, and Indian Vaids and Muslim Hakims. With these more subtle pulse reading systems it is also possible to see the affects of an incorrect remedy as well as signs of aggravations in advance. For more information on how to read these pulses please refer to books on the subject, or, if possible, find an experienced teacher. Even those who have not studied these subtle pulse reading techniques will be able to hear the changes in the rhythm, volume, nature and character of the pulses. Over the years I have depended more on reading these changes than simply counting the number of beat. Many times the change in the strength, rhythm, and character are more pronounced than the change in the number of beats. This is where the old four elemental Hippocratic or Chinese pulse readings are much more useful than the number of beats recorded by most modern orthodox practitioners.

The great homoeopath, C. M. Boger, shared his experience of using the pulse reflex in one of his most difficult cases. After the patient failed to respond to the traditional methods of selecting a homeopathic remedy, Boger decided he should try the pulse reflex. He went through the difficult practice of testing as many remedies as time allowed over a period of a days until he found a remedy that was so rare that it had no proving. This remedy was then used without knowing the complete symptoms of the medicine and the patient began to recover immediately. When the symptom picture cleared up on this remedy, Boger was then able to follow that medicine with a remedy chosen in the traditional manner to complete the case. 

Normally, it is best to chose a small group of remedies by the traditional methods and then test them on the pulse. We have all had trouble deciding between two or three remedies in a given case. The pulse can easily show the homoeopath which remedy the vital force wants in that moment. It will also help show you which potency is the most suitable. Autonomic reflex testing can make a great difference in any homoeopath's practice, particularly when it is difficult to chose between a few well chosen remedies. It is also useful after several remedies have been used and the symptoms have become masked due to too many partial simillimums. Anyone with a little patience can learn to observe the reaction of the pulse.

The Respiratory Response

There are also changes in the respiratory rate associated with the changes in the heart function and pulse rate. First of all, observe the rate, rhythm, depth, movement of the chest, and effort in breathing of the client. The normal respiratory rate for a resting adult is 14 to 20 breaths per minute. Infants can breathe up to 44 cycles per minute. After observing the respiration bring the remedy near and touch the patient as in the other testing methods and watch for a response. When a related remedy is brought near the patient will sometimes almost sigh, or take a deep breath, then a new respiratory rate will be established. Look for changes in the rhythm, depth and movement of the chest. Counting the respiration can be done at the same time that the pulse is assessed. These affects can be watched together after one has gained experience in the method. Breath sound changes can be ausculated with a stethoscope much in the same way as the heart sounds. Observation, tactile fremitus, palpation, and percussion also supply information about the state of health of the respiratory system and can be used to assess the actions of related remedies.

The Percussion Reflex

The percussion technique can easily be done by anyone who has experience in the art of percussion for diagnostic purposes although a person can be trained in this method especially for the purpose of testing remedies. In this technique the patient is to be seated facing the west in a chair in the same manner as the previous tests. The experimenter may sit in front of patient toward the left side so that they can percuss the upper and outer section of the person's chest. They may also stand behind the subject so as to reach over and percuss the subject's chest from behind. An assistant stands about four or five feet away with the vials of the homoeopathic remedies placed on a table or chair. 

The operator then begins to percuss the upper outer area of the apex of the lungs in a steady rhythm where the percussion-note is between flatness and resonance. When the experimenter is ready the assistant picks up a remedy and steps three or four feet away from the rest of the vials and then takes about two seconds to lift the vial upward until they reach the full length of the arm. If the remedy has any relationship to the patient, the percussion tone will become dull once the assistant touches the vial containing the remedy. As the remedy is raised upward the percussion-note may change to a higher pitch or becomes resonant again. Only those remedies which maintain a dull sound no matter how high the vial is held above the body are to be considered for retesting by the other methods for further assessment.

Several experiments were performed by the original research group under Dr. Stearns' guidance which showed the effects that a remedy may have on the constitution from a distance. After finding the remedies that produce and maintain a dulling of the percussion tone the remedies may be further assessed by increasing the distance between the assistant holding the vial and the subject. The assistant holding the vial carefully walks backward increasing the distance between patient and the remedy. At a certain distance the dull percussion-note will again become resonant. 

The distance that the remedy "holds" the dull percussion-note is related to its ability to influence the constitution in question. Some of the most active remedies have maintained the reaction at a distances of 75 to 100 feet or more! This imponderable remedy energy passes through walls made of brick, stone, concrete, or plaster without any obstruction. Stearns and his team observed remedy reactions at distances up to 200 feet. The remedy that "holds" the dullness of the percussion-note at the greatest distance is the remedy that will have the greatest influence over the vital force. Although these techniques are not very practical in the clinic it is quite amazing as a demonstration of the sensitivity of the human aura to the energy of a related homoeopathic remedy.

Over the years I have documented another interesting aspect of the percussing reflex. In the general test the percussion tone is resonant until the remedy is introduced into the human aura. If one is using percussion as a clinical method on the chest and abdomen to assess the state of the tissue underneath one often observes a dull tone over areas where there is functional or pathological changes. For example, if there is congestion of the lungs in a certain area that region will often register a dullness when percussed. If a remedy has the ability to remove that congestion it will change the dull tone to a more resonant tone when the remedy is being tested. The same is true of dull areas on the abdomen. The resonant areas of the chest and abdomen become dull when a reactive remedy is introduced and the dull areas become resonant. This effect is often very dramatic in cases involving the lungs, abdominal organs and bowels. Any of the traditional uses of percussion can be used as a method of testing the susceptibility of an individual to various homoeopathic remedies.

The Skin Response Test

The skin resistance test is another easy to read response of the autonomic nervous system to a correct remedy. It is best if a sitting patient faces west or a prone person lies with the head to the north. The abdomen of the patient should be bared, and if the weather is humid, dried well with a cloth. The operator should then stroke the abdomen with a dielectric rod, such as one made out of glass, rubber, or bakelite. A drinking glass or a 6 oz. remedy bottle works very well. The remedies to be tested should be placed close by and handled by an assistant or the tester. The operator lightly strokes the abdomen in an up and down direction t in order to get a feel of the skin tonus of the patient. 

The assistant or operator now picks up the remedy to be tested and brings it close or in contact with the body while the stroking motion is continued. The operator continues to stroke the abdomen to see if they can observe a "clinging" or "sticky" sensation as the skin is stroked. The dielectric rod will appear to "stick" or feel slightly retarded because of the galvanic skin response. In order to observe the stick effect the rod should be held horizontal to the abdomen and stroked vertically. To start with a single area to the side of, or immediately below the navel should be stroked. All remedies that cause a stick reaction should then be retested by stroking the other areas of the abdomen to see which one causes the largest area of the abdomen to respond. The remedy that shows the largest pattern of reaction will be found to have a strong effect on both the pupil dilation and pulse reflexes. It has also been found that the areas along the spine are also good areas for the testing of the remedies.

The same technique may be used for testing the remedies on the spine as for the abdomen. Some individuals seem to react better on the back than the front. It is also useful in those men who have too much abdominal hair to get a good response. The remedy that shows the largest area of reaction along the spine is the most suitable. Those individuals who have experience in Osteopathic or Chiropractic  methods may notice certain relationships between the reflexes that respond and the areas of the illness treated. This is a phenomenon where research will prove most interesting to those with knowledge of the field. The inside of the arm, especially over the elbow joint, is also another area that responds well to the skin reflex. This area is convenient in situations where it may be impractical to bare the trunk of the body.

Palpation as a Testing Method

Palpation is a method of assessing the state of health by means of examination with the hands. The different regions of the body are investigated for heat, cold, unusual growths, swellings, tightness, looseness, and pain by the hands of the examiner. Much of the information acquired during palpation can be used to test remedies much in the same manner as the other reflexes. For example, the tissue can be assessed for areas of tension, relaxation and pain before and after the remedies are brought in contact with the patient. The tight areas of the body become more relaxed and loose areas become more tight. Pain on contact is usually significantly reduced when the correct remedies are in contact with the human electromagnetic field or the body. 

Those who are familiar with the acupuncture or trigger points will find that pain and tension in these reflexes will be immediately reduced when the correct remedy is tested. This makes these points not only diagnostic but also helpful keys in finding a curative remedy. Areas of heat and cold will also respond but not as fast as areas of pain, tension and relaxation. There are sometimes subjective feelings and subtle tones that are picked up by palpation. This level of examination belongs to the artist more than the scientist, but anyone who tries will sense more and more as time goes on. 

Those that have studied Craniopathy, Cranial Osteopathy or Craniosacral Therapy have become aware that there are more pulses than the arterial and more breaths than those of the lungs. In fact, each of the primary systems of the body has its own pulse and breath. This includes cerebral spinal fluids, the nervous system, the organs and the various cellular groups. All of these subtle pulsations respond immediately when the correct remedy is brought in contact with the body. Those who use these methods should check the response of the remedies against the imbalances they feel in these subtle patterns. The results are often most amazing as the homoeopathic remedies can change subluxations of the cranium, spine and connective tissues all by themselves. Cases that were not responding to manipulation will move forward rapidly and cranial and spinal faults that were reappearing will become easy to remove for good. The great Kentian homoeopath, Dr. Margaret Tyler, was also an excellent osteopath who used manipulation in conjunction with homoeopathic remedies.

Since clinical reactions are controlled by the autonomic nervous system it is a direct communication between the homoeopath and the vital force. It is a valuable way of assessing the remedies that the homoeopath is considering as well as an effective way of testing potency reaction before the remedy is given. Often there are two or three remedies that seem to fit the patient so it very hard to make the final choice. These clinical methods are very helpful in such situations because they allow the vital force to have the last word in the selection. Although homoeopaths cannot prove how their remedies work they can easily demonstrate to even the most skeptical allopaths their effects on clinical reflexes.

 With proper biofeedback equipment the human operator can be removed from the testing altogether and the results analyzed by computers. This area of research is an aspect of modern science where homoeopaths can prove that their remedies have definite physiological results. These biofeedback systems can also be combined with the radionic methods to demonstrate the presence of subtle waves emanating from the human body as well as homoeopathic remedies. This work needs the assistance of those who are experienced in Homoeopathy if it is going to yield the best results. Dr. G. B. Stearns was such a man as he was one of the only Americans to use Boyd's Emanometer and clinical reflex testing in conjunction with homoeopathy.

Study Guide: Closely related to autonomic reflex testing is Boyd's Emanometer and other experimental devises. This area is an expansion of the field of dynamics as introduced by Samuel Hahnemann in §286 of the Organon of the Healing Art. In this aphorism the Founder requests that further research be conducted in the homoeopathic use of magnetism, electricity and galvanism.

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