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Burnett | The First Non-Conformist Homeopath

~ Dr. M. A. Usmani

CONFORMISM means adherence to an ideology, or faith, and being ready to do or sacrifice any thing for its survival, or its ideational and ideological purity and its ritual’s intactness. Such sacrificial adherence or devotion leads to fundamentalism that is anti reason, anti knowledge, anti progress, non-human and anti-social. As religion should be for life, and not life for religion; that is, religion should promote life, social harmony, love and compassion and all positive human values among the mankind (the homo sapiens); similarly any philosophy, ideology, or a body of tenets and codes, belonging to any discipline of science, the science of therapeutic or otherwise, should be above emotions, and should not curb logico-scientific inquiry, and be intellectually promotional and not demotional. Any discipline of science should not be shy of advancement.

Non-conformism is not a heresy, or a denial. Non-conformism is begotten of conformism; not alien to it, nor unrelated to it. It is not equal to liberalism, in the bad sense of the word. A non-conformist is a person who is first a conformist and a true follower of that discipline, and becomes non-conformist only when he starts feeling incongruity in certain parts of the doctrine or discipline of his adherence; and feels the need to whet or redefine certain rules and tenets of that discipline, and to fine-tune them to make them consonant with the new and the changing realties of the times, thus to make them life-propagating. Instead of living apologetically by upholding the antediluvian and worn out ideas, in contradistinction to the modern scientific realities, he feels an ardent need to bringing the discipline up-to-date. And in this he is sincere and loyal to the doctrine to which he belongs. There is no fun in going on harping on the jejune tunes of blind ‘loyalism’.

All advancement in learning and knowledge comes from non-conformity. Complacency and conformism are negative values for any or every discipline of knowledge and science. Science and knowledge grow, they are not static. So within every system or body of knowledge there should be a constant effort to recast and reinterpret the concepts of the science, to uplift its face and façade to answer the new difficulties brought about by the advancements and new inventions in the modern therapeutic and modern sciences. Only a non-conformist can do this. So did Burnett. He had a strong logical and thinking mind. He could not remain complacent in the face of difficulties he encountered in his day-to-day practice. His inventing genius charted new vistas to circumvent these difficulties; and like all reformers he encountered opposition and ridicule.

His first practical edict was that there was no incurable disease, in the sense that it could not be helped. He helped every patient with the best of his knowledge and skill. You may call it palliation, but palliation has its noble merit. Ask the person who has been saved and relieved by palliation, as to how comfortable he feels! I’ve dealt the subject of palliation in the context of a concrete example of ‘Congestive Hear Failure’. cf.

Calling A Spade A Spade

Burnett was the first man who gave homeopathy a clear knowledge and practical demonstration of the Organ Affinity drugs. In this his guides and mentors were Hohenhein and Rademacher. He took full advantage of these luminaries.

The nascent and germinating ideas of Drainage Therapy sprouted forth from his knowledge and practice of Organopathy. He divided homeopathic medicines in two classes: Organ Remedies and Systemic Remedies. In advanced cases he always took care of organs at fault; and first dealt them with Organ Remedies. His strategy was first to unburden and stimulate the ailing organs, one after the other, by giving the relevant organ remedies, and thus reaching the systemic level, where he would find and give the similar remedy, or the similimum, finding of which has become easy now.

He also gave the profession many new remedies and popularized many other. His prominent class was the splenic and hepatic remedies, few of which I mention below, which almost all are his own discoveries, or he brought them out of the oblivion. They are as under:

• Carduus Marianus;
• Ceanothus Americana
• Quercus Glandium Spiritus
• Chelone Glabra
• Rubia Tinctoria
• Cundurango

And so many others.

He gave many other invaluable gems to the homeopathic material medica. I’ll mention few:

• Cupressus lawsoniana, ( to boost Thuja, and Sabina, to be prescribed when the latter failed);
• Bellis Perennis (as another trauma remedy);
• Urtica Uren (popularized as gout remedy, became so successful as to give Burnett the name of ‘Dr. Urtica’);
• Vanadium, used as oxygen carrier for anemic patients.
• Levico Spring Water.
• Variolinum as specific for shingles, and for many unthought-of occasions.

Examples can be adduced ad infinitum. His sources for such remedies were mostly naturalists and organopathists, from Paracelsus to Rademacher.

He is the first doctor who popularized nosodes, and invented Bacillinum (a very active and effective nosode, prepared by him, by macerating a portion of a tuberculous lung); and became conducive in the preparation of many more nosodes.

In coining new terminology he was an adept. He is the first and also perhaps the only person who has given the profession a new terminology, and devised ingeniously such a learned medical terms, which convey the true meaning so cogently.

  • His famous “Sternal Patch” indicating heart and liver disease, got currency in the profession.

  • After witnessing the universal vaccination, against the variola virus, and the havoc that it wrought in myriad shapes of diseases, Burnett coined the term ‘Vaccinosis,’ to mean from it all the vaccinal morbidity, from facial acnes to the formation of tumors and cancer. And he laid down a specific treatment for it. Cf. his monograph: ‘Vaccinosis’.

  • In context with this, he also devised a concept of ‘Taking and Not-taking’, which means ‘showing or not-showing’ some reaction to this vaccination, at first instance. Not-showing a reaction is taken as dangerous, as the poisonous vaccinal effluvia, he believed, got assimilated in the system, and the body didn’t show any reaction unburden it, in the form of fever and suchlike efforts.

  • His research on vaccinosis is irrefutable, as he devised a detailed method for dealing with it. Through this methodology he convinced himself and the world about the origin of various diseases, as belonging to vaccinosis. I adduce one example: one Dr. Kunkel observed that a very weak growth of hair, and an excessive growth, especially in wrong places, as an effect of vaccination. Burnett says that the cure of this anomaly by Thuja reasonably proves the cause to be the Vaccinosis.

  • As a homeopath Burnett didn’t take skin-diseases lightly. He said “skin-diseases are diffused cancerosis”; by which he means that by suppressing a chronic skin-disease, the relevant under-lying organ will be affected malignantly.

Burnett’s non-conformity came under hot discussion for his giving the primary importance to pathology, in contradistinction to the totality of symptoms. About the place of pathology in homeotherapeutic, I’ve already talked in detail in my article Pitfalls: (presented at the 18th. International Conference of Asian Homeopathic Medical League, held at Gending, Kuala Lumpur, in Oct. 2009]; visit

Pitfalls in Homoeotherapeutics

I quoted Burnet there as under:
"Far be it from me to underestimate the importance of symptoms or speak lightly of all symptoms to find the remedy in a given case, but far be it from me to treat the symptom or the total symptoms as the only way to find the remedy because the totality of symptoms can be and often is a scientific means of palliation”.

Upon his being criticized, he says:
“I do not care, I argue that the future of the Homeopathy is for pathologists Homoeopaths and to cure serious diseases (with a pathological basis) we will have homeopathic remedies appropriate to the morbid anatomy at least in its early stages. No drug is able to heal homoeopathically a morbid state that it is not able to produce it.”

--Biography: Dr. James Compton Burnett, 1840-1901 by Dr. Robert Seror

To harvest a rich knowledge in therapeutics, and gain practical wisdom, one must read Burnett. It is a treasure trove of deep wisdom and common sense (which, alas, is not so common, and also definitely not apportioned to the conformists by the Providence). In Burnett (James Compton Burnett) you will find a flawless and steadfast teacher, with the original and fecund ideas to infuse in you a spirit of inquiry, and an unprejudiced mind that is never downcast in the face of practical difficulties. You will never meet him alone, but always in the company of great luminaries, as, e.g., the towering figure of Hohnhein, and the lovable naturalist and always resourceful Rademacher.

I will end my article with a sterling quote from Burnett:

“Heresy and schism are the grandest means of human progress, and, when the prayer against these comes in, I commonly remain—silent!”



Best of Burnett by H. L. Chitkara
Burnett's works were interpreted by Chitkara and are here served to us, as it were, on a silver plate: we can find important things such as all his references to the spleen and to Ceanothus, or to the case of Platanus ichthyosis. Chitkara summarises anew the most important writings of Burnett and revises them scientifically.

Publishers Note:

The author has tried to collect all the available Burnett's titles for this compilation. The Materia Medica notes and case-reports (Part II and III of this compilation) are almost complete reproductions from originals but selections of observations considerable trimmed versions.

Usmani Resource Page

Copyright 2011-12/All rights reserved © Dr Usmani
Contact author for permission to use

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Comment by Hans Weitbrecht on February 26, 2012 at 5:32pm

I think evolution is good. it can either lead towards more wisdom or towards the opposite. Much depends on understanding the principles. Historically, Hahnemann used different methods of creating and applying his medicines at different stages of his live.

He moved forward with evolution, and as his experience grew, so did he refine his modes of application and methods of making his medicines. Reverting back to C-potencies is......... (I said that already).

Comment by Dr Nikhil Kambli on February 26, 2012 at 2:43pm

it is nothing but evolution of Dr.hahnemann from material to dynamic is transition ........and people have to do a longitudnal study ..........

Comment by Dr Nikhil Kambli on February 26, 2012 at 2:42pm

@ Hans Weitbrecht

  Dr. Hahnemann has used bryonia mother tincture in 1 trillionth of a dose or something similar.. and it is given not in his paris case book but in his book chronic diseases....

Comment by Dr. Sayed Tahir Hassan on August 20, 2011 at 12:57am

Good informative article Dr. Usmani. Thanks for sharing.


Comment by Dr Muhammed Rafeeque on August 15, 2011 at 11:57pm
Also there are some points in Life and letters of Hahnemann.
Comment by Dr Muhammed Rafeeque on August 15, 2011 at 12:10am

All cases are given in 'Best of Burnett,' by Chitkara, published by B Jain.

Rest of the things I have read in an article written by Dr Devraj, in IHK news, and some articles published in the net.


Comment by Dr. M. A. Usmani on August 14, 2011 at 2:38pm

Hello All,

Read my new blog: Burnet: A Prodigy of a Genius; Rightful Place of Pathology in Homeotherapeutics


Comment by Debby Bruck on August 12, 2011 at 8:08am
Visit the discussion of, "Understanding the mind of a conformist."
Comment by Hans Weitbrecht on August 11, 2011 at 9:57am

Dear Dr Raffeeque

Which case? Which journal? -- I love to find out myself.

Alternation of remedies: which case, which journal?

Anti miasmatic suggestions were made in the organon and in the Chronic diseases.  I haven't found any reference in the Paris case books (1839 - 1842).

Comment by Dr Muhammed Rafeeque on August 11, 2011 at 7:19am

I think compared to others (including Hahnemann), Burnett had shared more cases with us. True that his approach was different, but he had mentioned that the organ remedies are useless when the whole individual is affected. In that sense, he was supporting the concept of Hahnemann.


In Paris case diary, Hahnemann had mentioned about cases for which bryonia tincture was given. He had also mentioned the alternation of Rhustox and Bryonia. Drugs like Sulphur, Hepar, Thuja, Nitric acid, Mercurius, etc were suggested by Hahnemann as antimiasmatic drugs. He was very specific while writing about all these drugs. In the treatment of Intermitent fever, China was his highest priority!

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