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What is Homeopathy?

 

homeopathy-imageWhat is Homeopathy?

by Jerry Gore, M.D.

INTRODUCTION

Homeopathy is a system of medical therapeutics developed by a German physician, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843).  The medicines, or remedies, are prepared from natural substances such as plants, minerals, and animal tissues and are prepared and recognized in accordance with the US Food and Drug Administration. They are non-toxic, used in extremely low doses, and are safely used with infants, children and adults.

Homeopathy is practiced all over the world.

In Britain, homeopathy is widely practiced, recognized, and paid for by health insurance plans, as 37% of British and 42% of family physicians have referred patients to a homeopath (BMJ, 292, june7, 1986 1498-1500) and in France, 40% of the French public have used homeopathic medicines, and 40% of French physicians have prescribed them. (Compl Med Research, May, 1990, 4(2) 4-8.).

In many European countries, homeopathy is reimbursable under their national health services, and in India there are government sponsored homeopathic hospitals, clinics and medical colleges as well as licensed pharmacies. In Latin America, as well as, the United States as it is becoming increasingly popular as remedies are increasingly found on shelves in the drug stores, alternative food stores and homeopathic practitioners are found in the alternative therapy sections of medical centers throughout the united states.

 

HOW DOES IT WORK?

1.     Dilution: Plants, minerals or animal tissues are made into remedies through a process of diluting and shaking.  For example, a piece of red onion (Allium cepa) may be diluted with distilled water and alcohol by taking one part of onion and 99 parts of alcohol and water, giving us a (1/100th dilution, commonly referred to, using roman numerals, as a 1c potency. Many dilutions or potencies are used depending upon whether the practitioner desires a weaker or stronger effect.  For example, it is common to put allium through this dilution process 30 times, which results in a remedy referred to as a 30c potency (allium diluted 1/100×30). According to the mathematical axiom of Avogadro’s number, there cannot be any molecules of onion left in the preparation. Yet, this is a very effective and commonly used potency in clinical practice. How is this possible? It cannot be the “herbal” affect of the onion because of the extreme dilution. Instead, think of it this way: the remedy now has the “energy” of the onion without actually having any molecules of onion remaining in the dose. That’s why homeopathy is called an “energy medicine”.

2.    Energy, not molecules of matter: Now, when a remedy is given successfully, it is postulated that the energy of the remedy is positively affecting the energy inside the person. This inner energy inside the person is referred to as the “vital force” of a person in the homeopathic literature. I personally conceptualize it as the energy of the remedy influencing the prana flowing through our nadis or meridians inside us, as mentioned earlier, restoring energy balance to create health.

3.     Law of similars:  When cutting an onion, a healthy person will experience a burning flow of tears in the eyes. When diluted into a remedy, (in this case Allium cepa) it is then prescribed for a sick person exhibiting those same symptoms as part of their illness who may be suffering from allergy, hay fever, colds or flu etc. characterized by a burning, watery discharge from the eyes (same as onion) and clear up those symptoms. Just as the substance, the onion, can cause symptoms in a healthy person (burning, tears, etc.), it can then stimulate self-healing in a sick person with the same symptoms, (allergy, flu, characterized by burning tears). Homeopathy means similar-suffering and is based on this healing law of life called the “law of similars”. Another example would be the herb, chamomile.  When diluted into the homeopathic remedy Chamomillia and given to a healthy person, the person develops symptoms of irritability and impatience. This is called a homeopathic “proving” and is conducted to find out the potential properties of a substance.  In this case, an important aspect of the plant chamomile is shown to produce irritability in a healthy person. Therefore, when the remedy Chamomilla  is used according to the” law of similars” and is given to a child with an ear infection and irritability, or a teething baby with swollen gums showing a restless, whiney, snappish irritability (sound familiar?), self-healing is stimulated (based upon the”law of similars”) and the child becomes cured, i.e.,  the ear infection heals up and the gum inflammation and swelling disappear along with the irritable mood!

WHAT DOES HOMEOPATHY TREAT?

Homeopathy can be applied to all manner of physical and mental/emotional health issues, from conception through birth, childhood, adulthood and the challenges of the elderly.

  • Pregnant mothers
  • Nausea of pregnancy, aches and pains associated with carrying the baby, tonifying uterine issues to make delivery easier or for dysfunctional labor and including postpartum emotional issues.
  • Nursing mothers such as breast infections.
  • Children
  • Children respond very well to remedies and their conditions often clear up rapidly when the right remedy is found. Some commonly treated conditions for children are:
  • Promotion of healthy teething, acute or chronic ear infections, unwanted side effects from vaccinations, eczema, allergies, asthma, ADD and /or, emotional problems.
  • Women’s Health
  • There are many problems specific to women that respond well to homeopathic treatment such as cystitis, yeast difficulties, fibroids, PMS, infertility, perimenopausal, menopausal symptoms and osteoporosis to name a few.
  • Men’s Health
  • Prostate difficulties, infertility
  • Adult (both sexes)

There are too many conditions to list here and they all respond to treatment. Below are a few of the common conditions that people present with:

  • Fatigue, colds and flu, sinusitis, irritable bowel, skin problems, headaches, hypertension, heart problems, arthritis, insect bites, injuries, recovery from accidents or surgeries, anxiety, depression, grief and transitions in life
  • Elderly
  • Homeopathy is a gentle and effective way of treating the elderly without creating more problems from the side effects of traditional medications
  • Weakness, joint pain, age related memory loss, problems with movement, digestion, circulation and emotional issues related to losses and changes both past present.

WHAT DOES THE DOCTOR DO?

1.    Study the symptoms:

The doctor will ask for all your physical and emotional symptoms and try to individualize them, determining what makes these symptoms unique to you and then select a remedy based on this information. For example, a 35-year-old woman came in to the office complaining of a sore throat and cough (physical history). She also reports she is stressed by car-pooling her children and handling their other school needs and has been feeling anxious lately ( emotional history).  The doctor further studies the symptoms to find out how they are unique to her.  The sore throat is right-sided, feels burning, and is better from hot drinks.  Her anxiety is worse from the disorder in her life (others thrive on disorder).  These symptoms are now individualized and point to a specific remedy that fits her unique condition (Arsenicum).  She was given one dose of Arsenicum, consisting of 5 pellets melted under the tongue. Within the next 24 hours, her sore throat and anxiety disappeared.

2.    Study the person:

This is a second way of arriving at a prescription.

People can be said to have different constitutional types.  For example, two men desire help for their headaches but instead of studying the symptoms of the headache and individualizing their headache symptoms we will study their constitutional traits and look for a remedy that fits their specific type. Mr. A has the following characteristics that are unique to him; he is warm (kicks the covers off at night), messy (but knows where everything is), forgetful and spacey (misplaced the keys), collects things (may be a packrat), is handy, likes to talk (argue, speeches, etc.) and often has red itchy rashes on his skin; Mr. B has a different constitution.  He is serious, holds on to old hurts, idealistic, feels worse after being consoled, craves salty foods and suffers with hangnails, cracked lips, and eye problems.  Mr. A received a dose of the remedy, Sulphur, and not only did his headache go away, but he cleaned his house, threw away old “stuff”, and found his memory improved.  Mr. B received Natrum Muriaticum (Sodium chloride) as a remedy.  His headache improved, his disposition became lighter, and he stopped craving chips (salt).  This example demonstrates that by studying the person, we look for their individuality and give the remedy that fits their constitution, and then self-healing takes place. –“A remedy to fit your unique constitution.”

3.    Study the remedy:

After studying the symptoms and/or studying the person’s constitution, the doctor is now ready to choose a remedy that best fits the person.  We do this by looking up these symptoms or constitutional characteristics in books or computer programs loaded with information about remedies.  For example, many homeopathic books tell us that a right-sided sore throat made better by hot drinks is the remedy Arsenicum as mentioned above.  But a left-sided sore throat made worse by hot drinks is Lachesis (made from snake venom).  There are hundreds of remedies to choose from and each remedy has several pages of information about how it affects the entire body and mind of the person.  Through a combination of taking a good history to clarify all the patient’s important symptoms, then researching and using our experience of our knowledge of the remedies to find the remedy that matches those symptoms, a remedy is then selected for the person.

4.    Follow the progress

An important question to ask is “am I going in the right direction with my health care? “This may sound silly but this is not discussed very much in standard medicine.  It usually goes without saying that if the patient’s symptoms are better, then they are better and the medical treatment is considered a success. We find this too simplistic and may even be harmful. Therefore, I use the following approaches when evaluating a patient’s progress.

 

An orderly relief from the physical symptoms.

It is stated in the homeopathic literature and in my experience as a physician, I have found that deeper and long-lasting healing  often comes about when the body takes a path of healing that exhibits the following order: symptoms appearing and then healing from deep to superficial, i.e., from deep within the body to a more superficial part of the body, or from a more important organ to a less important organ, or in the reverse order of their coming.

Case example. A 42-year-old woman presented with shortness of breath diagnosed as asthma. She remembered that the onset of her asthma began after using skin creams to treat a rash that was diagnosed as eczema in her childhood. Her childhood eczema had made her very uncomfortable both physically and emotionally. During her homeopathic treatment, we first witnessed her asthma improve, which was, much to her horror, followed by a reappearance of her dreaded eczema condition! After assuring her that her case was going in the right direction, we did not use any creams and waited. Slowly, her eczema disappeared and she felt fine. These medical events followed the principles of correct direction of cure in that we saw the more important and deeper organ (lungs) improve first followed by the appearance and then healing of the less important more superficial organ (skin). We also saw the symptoms appear and heal in the reverse order of their coming, i.e., the asthma was the more recent illness and was healed first, followed by the eczema, which was the older condition, and it appeared and was healed last.

Using my experience, I have added the additional following guidelines towards assessing the direction of cure, which reflect a more complete body/mind/life approach.

Improvement in energy and a sense of well-being.

Mental and emotional clarity

A restored sense of purpose or meaning in life

Case example: A 28 year old woman complained of PMS symptoms; swollen ankles, stomach upset, insomnia, fatigue and irritability.  After studying the symptoms, the person, and the remedies, we selected Nux Vomica and gave her 5 pellets under the tongue once each night for a week.  An ideal response would be to see healing on all levels such as decreased ankle swelling, increase in energy, and a feeling of calm alertness.  Beware of treatments that bring relief of physical symptoms while the person becomes worse on the energy level (“I just don’t feel right”) and/or worse on a mental level (depressed, confused) or on the spiritual level (deteriorating personal relationships, work and other life choices, lose their sense of rightness).

Case example: A 72  year old woman complained of joint pain.  A history showed that the pain was better from motion and warmth and worse from rest.  She was also unsure about where to live and some important decisions to make.  Anti-inflammatory medication had helped with the pain but left her feeling tired.  She was beginning to feel discouraged (physical symptoms better, energy and mind worse).  A remedy immediately came to mind that usually helps the pain in the joints that is worse from rest and better from motion and warmth.  But would it help or hurt her ability to feel, think and make decisions? With the whole person in mind, we selected a different remedy that helps with arthritis and discouragement.  After one dose of a middle potency, she returned and stated, “I feel my life is in order.  I’m beginning to think through things properly and making progress on my living situation and thank you, my hip and knees are slowly but surely improving.”

 

SIDE EFFECTS

In my experience there are few side effects with remedies due to the fact that they are diluted, as they are prepared so that only the “energy” of the substance is given to the person.  If an incorrect remedy is given over and over to a person, it is possible for that person to develop symptoms so be sure to follow the advice of a practitioner that is well trained and experienced in homeopathic medical practice.

IN SUMMARY

Homeopathy is a system of medical therapeutics using natural substances in very small doses.  It is known and practiced throughout the world.  It is becoming increasingly popular in the United States and the world as articles appear in national magazines, new research studies are funded, new training programs and societies emerge and hospitals embrace holistic medicine programs.

Why the renewed interest?  As a practicing physician, I find the ideal medicine would be safe, cost effective, and useful in the incredible variety of situations as described above. It would work on all levels (physical, energetic and mental) needed in the daily practice of general medicine.  The medicine would be flexible enough to span the age gap from infancy to elderly and the power should be adjustable so that a weaker or stronger potency can be individualized.  Homeopathy fits this picture and gives me a powerful tool in treating the whole person!