Knopper Oak Galls
The morbid growth produced on the cupules of Quercus pendunculata by the larvae of the wasp Cynips calicis
Sometimes it happens that a proving is undertaken simply because the substance is there! This is how it was with Knopper Oak Galls: they were literally under my feet. One day in late October the old oak trees along the lane by our house began to drop them in place of their usual crop of acorns. The trees had been previously stressed: for the first time in countless years the adjacent pasture had been ploughed up and planted with potatoes. One third of the Oak's roots had been cut away. Could this have been the reason they had become susceptible to the Gall wasp? These parasitic insects lay their eggs in the tissues of the cupules which, as they hatch out into larvae, stimulate the oak into producing a gall where an acorn would have been. These Galls are sticky and smell oddly sweet and rancid. They are extraordinary to behold: a ridged and horned hood of smooth green wood. They have a depression at their centre through which the wasp lava will eat its exit in order to pupate.
I gathered the galls and pounded a couple in a pestle and mortar adding one third absolute alcohol. This maceration was put into a vial and posted to the Hellos Pharmacy who ran it up into 30th centesimal potency.
Other proving projects intervened and the potentized galls lay in my drawer awaiting 'their turn'. This 'turn' arrived when I was invited to teach my third seminar in the Czech Republic. This was a seven day event held in conjunction with two other teachers. We agreed to invite the seminar participants to join us in a closely monitored proving during the course of the week. We contracted that we would proceed only if everyone was in agreement because even those who chose not to take the potency (yet were susceptible) could be affected by the influence of the proving group. This contract was unanimously accepted. Our first impressions were gathered ten minutes after 35-40 volunteers, Czech and Slovak doctors of both sexes took one of the pills. The remaining 150 abstained. No one knew what it was that they were taking. The comments then, and on all subsequent days were spoken into the PA system for the benefit of all participants and simultaneously translated into English for our benefit. I was thus able to write down everything that was said. A number of written accounts were also presented and subsequently translated - they are included.
I imagined that the proving would represent something of the struggle of the mighty Oak against the wasp's invasion: a struggle against the 'disease' of its mechanism of survival: the Oak's seeds vs. the wasp's larvae. As it turned out this was partially the case. This proving demonstrated to me the weakness of making assumptions: the theme which emerged seemed to have much relating to the wasp and its larvae and less relating to the Oak than I had expected. (This reminds me of Drosera which has a great relationship with the flies, deceived into landing upon the leaves' digestive hairs.) It demonstrated that ascertaining a connection between the substance and its medicinal action (revealed through a rigorous proving) is an undertaking which should be carried out only when one is in possession of many relevant facts. It is most reliable when a part of this armamentarium of facts be a number of cured cases.
In the case of Oak Gall one prover experienced a miraculous, although short lived amelioration of both physical and psychical symptoms. I shall write a brief account of the bare bones of this case:
Prover X seemed to be the only unreservedly happy person during the week of the seminar, for as the days progressed a growing sense of homesickness and a feeling of not belonging, of exclusion, inexplicably pervaded many of us. Prover X, who customarily felt excluded, began to feel increasingly confident, even cherished. She has been a lifelong eczema sufferer, feeling disfigured by it, ugly and undesirable. She often feels she is the most repulsive person, that no one could possibly find her acceptable. During the seminar these feelings abated, her skin cleared up, and she was approached by a man who revealed his attraction for her! After the proving her condition gradually deteriorated and she naturally enough requested that I send her another dose. This I did and she took it, yet with little therapeutic effect.
Prior to leaving the seminar she had had a consultation with me. I suggested, given her skin amelioration by very hot bathing, and her feeling of having been damned by God (she is of Catholic faith), that Radium Bromatum should be considered if and when a repetition of Oak gall failed to relieve. This subsequently proved to be helpful. From this case we learn that there may be a 'follows well' relationship between the two remedies, and one learns something of the symptomatology of Oak Gall: severe skin symptoms, as is common to all tree remedies, and a sense of self disgust, which is best known in Thuja occidentalis and comes out, more or less, in all other tree provings that I am aware of.
Galls are morbid growths found on various parts of plants. They are caused by the presence of parasitic insects. There is no certainty whether they are caused by the biochemical action of enzymes secreted by the insect or by the biomechanical irritation of the insects movement. It is most likely that the galls are a result of a combination of the two. Some galls are fairly amorphous but others have a consistent, and often unusual, shape which may involve horns, hairs or ridges.
The most notable galls are those created by various species of wasp and found on trees, particularly oak trees. The wasps of the Cynipidae have an unusual life cycle in that alternate generations take two, often very different forms. One generation, the one that lives through the summer months, consists of both males and females and reproduces sexually. The male is winged and flies away to fertilize other females. However, the females of many species are wingless and noted for their indolence, therefore the spread of a species can be very slow. The alternate generation which develops through the winter and hatches in the spring is entirely female and reproduces asexually. Its form may be quite different from that of its mother and daughters. It was only at the end of the Nineteenth Century that the alternation of parthogenesis and sexual reproduction was discovered and it took many years to put together the two forms in each species which had previously been classified as separate species.
The position of the egg must be precise if the gall is to form that will protect and nourish the larva and the females of both forms have organs, known as ovipositors, which are designed to pierce a hole in the bud and then place the egg within. These organs bear a strong similarity to the stings found in other species of wasp. The larvae grows and pupates within the gall feeding on the rich substance of the gall. The full grown insect or imagine eats a path out of the gall and emerges from it.
A fully grown oak tree contains a greater diversity of life than any other equivalent habitat. The robust, slow growing nature of the tree means that it can support many parasitic life forms. These primary parasites in turn feed a vast number of creatures further up the food chain. The gall wasp follows the same pattern and its various species are more common on oaks than on other trees. However, the rich nutrition and protection afforded by the gall is very attractive to many other insects which lay their eggs in the developing gall. As many as 30 different species have been observed to hatch from a single gall. These parasites can be divided into two types. Inquilines are usually fairly closely related to the original occupant of the gall and take maximum advantage of the gall's resources by killing the owner. Comensuals are much less closely related and though they deprive the primary parasite of some of his food supplies they do not tend to kill him.
The particular gall used in this proving was the Knopper (nut) Gall which has been common on continental Europe for a long time and which appeared in Britain this century though it is now common, especially in southern parts. The wasp places the egg precisely between the acorn and the cupule and it grows at the expense of both.
The oak is symbolically one of the most important trees. Its wood is not as tough as ash or as hard as box or as water resistant as elm but it combines these qualities in a way that no other wood, indeed no other material can. As well as providing timber, oak bark was an extremely valuable commodity used in the tanning of leather and dyeing of wool. Acorns are high in carbohydrate and fats and make an excellent fodder for pigs.
Oak galls, primarily Aleppo galls or Mecca Galls imported from Turkey contain 50 to 70% gallotannic acid and were a major source of gallic and tannic acid used in tanning and dyeing. They were also used to produce the highest quality inks which were used for keeping court records and for printing government banknotes and bonds.
Aleppo galls were known as Sodom Apples - The fruit that never comes to ripeness - The fruit so pleasant to the eye, so bitter to the taste.
Oak Apples were a part of the rituals of early summer and when Charles II returned to Britain at the Restoration on his birthday, 29th May 1660, Oak Apple Day became a celebration of royalty. Perhaps they did not see the fitting irony of celebrating the monarchy with an indolent parasite living off the bounty of the tree that symbolized Britain.
Medicinally oak galls are the most powerful of all vegetable astringents. They are used in tincture internally for dysentery, diarrhoea and cholera. Externally a gall ointment has been used to treat painful haemorrhoids and to arrest haemorrhage from the nose and gums. The dust of oak bark was considered effective against consumption, a disease that tanners were particularly immune to.
Flying, Floating, Blown upwards.
Nakedness, Sexuality, Pregnancy.
Anger, Violence, Recklessness.
Insecurity, Ugliness, Criticized.
Homesickness, Homelessness, Lack of Space.
Emptiness, Old and Tired.
Curtain, Fence, Separation.
Ostracism and Exclusion.
Death, Black humour.
Knopper Oak Gall were tinctured as described in the introduction and potensized by the single vial Hahnemannian method to the thirtieth centisemal potency.
The remedy was prepared by The Helios Homopathic Pharmacy, Tunbridge Wells, Kent.
The proving symptoms are arranged by day. The first set of symptoms were recorded 20 minutes after the remedy was taken and are listed under day one. Those recorded the day after the remedy was taken are listed under day two and so on.