For more information about homeopathy, please refer to the article below. Additionally, there are several self-help articles describing
the utility of homeopathy in the treatment of simple acute disorders.
Samuel Hahnemann 1755-1843
An Introduction to Homeopathy
History of Homeopathy
Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, introduced homeopathy as a system of medicine to the world with the publication of his book “The Organon” in 1810. After several years of adversity, his ideas gradually gained acceptance throughout Europe. Homeopathy was introduced to the United States in 1825 and steadily grew in popularity. At the turn of the twentieth century, homeopathy was very popular; there were 22 homeopathic medical schools in America, over 100 homeopathic hospitals, and more than 1,000 homeopathic pharmacies. Fifteen percent of practicing physicians used homeopathy in their practices. Homeopathy produced stunning successes in a number of devastating epidemics – cholera, influenza, typhus, scarlet fever, yellow fever, smallpox, polio. Homeopaths introduced a number of medicines subsequently taken up by their conventional colleagues. Homeopathy introduced the concept of pharmacological experiments, and homeopaths were the first to suggest double-blind clinical trials. The first women’s medical college in the United States was the Homeopathic Boston Female Medical College (1848), and professional homeopathic medical societies were the first to accept female physicians into their ranks. The Washington (DC) Homeopathic Medical Society was the first to admit African-American physicians (1870).
All of this popularity, progressive thinking, therapeutic success, and scientific advancement understandably upset the allopathic (conventional) physicians of that time. A consequent backlash arose and allopaths organized with a major goal in mind of suppressing homeopathy. The AMA (American Medical Association), in fact, was formed a few years after its homeopathic counterpart, the AIH (American Institute of Homeopathy), for, among others, the express purpose of containing homeopathy’s further acceptance and encroachment within their ranks. The growing conventional pharmaceutical industry, recognizing the threat of homeopathy, also marshaled its efforts against homeopathic medicine. Eventually these suppressive efforts, as well as other factors, took their toll. Homeopathy in the United States began to decline.
Of late, however, corresponding to the surging interest in alternative health care in general, homeopathy has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts in this country. Elsewhere in the world homeopathy has been and remains quite popular. Currently, the World Health Organization ranks the public’s utilization of homeopathy second only to conventional medicine in the western world. Homeopathy is actively taught in several of Europe’s and other countries’ medical schools; it is included in many countries’ governmentally subsidized health care programs. Over a decade ago 42 percent of all physicians in the United Kingdom regularly referred patients to homeopaths; in France, Greece, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Russia, India, Argentina, etc. homeopathy enjoys widespread acceptance and utilization by the public.
What is this medical science and art? And why does it continue to survive and grow?
Homeopathy’s Basic Precepts
Three basic tenets lie at the heart of homeopathic medicine – the Law of Similars, the Law of the Single Dose, and the Law of the Minimum Dose. These will each be explained in detail. Additional characteristics of homeopathy that distinguish it from conventional medicine are its unique understanding of health and disease, its focus upon the individualization of patients, and its utilization of extremely small, “potentized” doses.
Two distinct trends of thought have prevailed in western medicine – empiricism and rationalism. The rational trend has culminated in modern conventional allopathic medicine. Its focus has been the isolation and identification of specific processes of pathology responsible for disease and the development of specific treatment modalities for each recognized pathological process. This approach of necessity requires the segmentation of the human organism into separate systems of function, leading to medical specialization. In many ways this approach also tends to view the organism as a victim of pathology. Disease, beyond genetic predisposition, is a process that just seems to happen to people. It is deemed an aberrant process, one detrimental to the organism, and one which, excepting relatively mild, self-limited, acute disease, must be eliminated or controlled through very specific medical or surgical procedures. This approach yields the existing vast array of “anti” drugs, medicines which oppose perceived symptoms, disease processes, microbes, etc.
The other trend – empiricism – has paralleled the evolution of rational medicine. This paradigm has tended to view the human organism much more wholistically, as an inherently intelligent system, thoroughly integrated, and both sensitive and adaptive to its environment. The empirical understanding considers disease largely a stress response, one mobilized by the entire organism, and, in many traditions, directed by the energetic core of the organism; such as, chi (in acupuncture), bioplasmic body, Inner Physician (osteopathic term), vital force (homeopathic term), etc. Empirical disciplines tend to view the organism as always seeking to maintain a healthful functional balance with its environment, homeostasis being one term describing this balance. Thus, the organism’s response to its environment and to stressors in it (physical, emotional, environmental, microbiological, etc.) is an adaptive one, one that is inherently beneficial to itself, helping to insure its survival. In this understanding, disease is but the offshoot of this process, occurring when stresses are of sufficient intensity and/or persistence to overwhelm to a variable degree the organism’s adaptive defense mechanism. Homeopathic medicine has its roots in the empirical tradition and has developed a system of medicine based upon the facilitation of this homeostatic, self-curative process – through the application of “similar” medicines in accordance with the central tenet of homeopathy, the Law of Similars.
Law of Similars
In accordance with the Law of Similars, a medicine is selected for the patient which possesses the capability of producing symptoms in a healthy person almost exactly similar to those the patient experiences. This principle is the exact opposite of the strategy of conventional (or allopathic) medicine, where contrary medicines are usually given. There are, however, a few examples of conventional medicine’s adoption of homeopathic methods. One is immunization; another is the use of Ritalin, a central nervous system stimulant, for attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.
The application of the Law of Similars revolves around the concept of the individuality of the patient. Where allopathic (conventional) medicine bases its treatment protocols upon group statistics and disease classification (group studies are used to determine recommended treatment protocols and disease classification is based upon grouping of symptoms), homeopathy bases its treatment methods upon the uniqueness of the patient’s symptom presentation, his individual reaction to the stress producing the illness.
Here’s a simple example of the individuality of stress response: A gentleman is walking barefoot on a boardwalk and stubs his toe. He experiences excruciating pain in his toe and starts cursing and fuming and criticizing the city for not better maintaining the sidewalk. Someone else stubs his toe in the same place; his reaction is quite different. He keeps walking despite the considerable pain, telling his companions that nothing is wrong; it’ll be alright. Another person suffers the same trauma; she begins crying and anxiously wonders whether she should hurry to the emergency room, fearing that she has broken her toe. The toe, of course, displays symptoms too – it hurts, swells some, turns first red, then blue. Each person’s reaction, toe included, to the trauma is unique and represents the organism’s full and individualized response to that stress. Similarly in illness, each patient’s symptomatology is unique and predicated on his or her individual constitutional characteristics.
Homeopathy has made a science out of the observation of just these sorts of individualized and global reactions to stress. It attempts to ascertain all the overt and the far more subtle expressions of disturbance in patients, refusing to discard the unexplainable and idiosyncratic as irrelevant. The homeopathic physician strives to understand his patient as completely as possible – his or her personality, emotional strengths and limitations, metabolic characteristics and particular disease symptoms. All limitations on all levels – mental, emotional and physical – are identified and a composite image of the patient’s more striking symptoms is drawn. This becomes the basis of medicine selection.
After analyzing a case, a medicine is selected which is “homeopathic” to the case; i.e., similar. The symptom profile of the medicine derives from a form of medicinal experimentation called Provings. As I mentioned earlier, homeopathy was the first system of medicine to employ drug research. In provings, medicinal agents in very small amounts are given to healthy volunteers. Any resulting symptoms – mental, emotional and physical – are noted in great detail and carefully catalogued. These then comprise the initial remedy image. Subsequent clinical experience further develops and refines that image. When a homeopathic physician prescribes for a patient, he endeavors to select the single homeopathic medicine (from nearly 2,000 possibilities) whose symptom profile most closely approximates that of the patient. The correct choice of a deeply acting, curative homeopathic remedy is termed the simillimum.
The Law of the Single Remedy
The second basic tenet of classical homeopathy is the Law of the Single Remedy, which states that only one homeopathic medicine should be prescribed at a time. Observing this rule helps to avoid confusing and potentially disrupting remedy interactions, and enables the practitioner to fully apprehend the effect of the remedy on the patient. So-called “complex homeopathy,” which is really an attempt to simplify and bypass the intellectual rigors of classical homeopathy, ascribes to the prescription of multiple homeopathic medicines at one time, often in the hope that one of them will work. While this approach can work, it lacks the precision of classical homeopathy, and the resulting curative effects are seldom as deep and long-lasting. That said, there is a place for combination remedies, namely the short-term treatment of simple acute disorders when the means of prescribing a single, very specific remedy are absent. One will find in health food stores and some pharmacies a wide selection of over-the-counter homeopathic combination remedies for a wide array of acute disorders – colds, flus, coughs, etc. For self-treatment, these products can be useful.
The Law of the Minimum Dose
The third tenet is the Law of the Minimum Dose. This rule states that the smallest amount of medicine that can effect a curative response is the optimal amount. In daily practical terms, it implies that only a single dose or very few doses (depending upon the potency – strength – selected) of the appropriate homeopathic remedy should be given. Once curative action is apparent, the remedy is usually discontinued. As long as improvement continues, the remedy is generally not repeated. But there’s another perspective on the minimum dose.
When Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, was developing the system of homeopathy and conducting the first provings, he was concerned about the potential for toxicity of some of the substances he was using. In an effort to minimize direct toxic effects he began diluting the substances he was testing. While this reduced toxic effects, it also, understandably, after a certain stage of dilution, reduced the medicinal action of the substance. For unknown reasons, he tried vigorously shaking the remedies at each stage of dilution. When he did this, inexplicably, he discovered that he could virtually eliminate the toxic effects of the remedy, yet retain, and even enhance, its therapeutic properties when prescribed for a patient sensitive to it. This observation led to the prevailing practice of administering homeopathic medicines in “potency;” that is, in extreme dilutions which have been “succussed” (vigorously shaken). One very significant benefit of this process of potentization is that it renders homeopathic medicines extremely safe; because of the extremely high dilutions used, homeopathic remedies cause virtually no direct toxic side-effects.
Three potency scales are commonly used – decimal, centesimal, and fifty millesimal. Each stage of dilution in the decimal scale (D or X designation) corresponds to a 1:9 dilution (1 part medicinal substance to 9 parts water), the centesimal (C designation) 1:99, and the fifty millesimal (LM designation) 1:49,999. “Doses” of homeopathic remedies usually consist of small sugar pellets which have been saturated with a water-and-alcohol-based solution of the medicinal substance. Occasionally, remedies are dispensed in liquid form. The production of homeopathic remedies, which is conducted by various homeopathic pharmaceutical companies in the United States (and Europe, etc.), is rigorously regulated by the FDA, which conducts regular on-site inspections of the facilities. Most remedies are classified as over-the-counter medications which any layperson can purchase. Certain potencies and some remedies, though, require a medical license to dispense.
As mentioned, the range of potencies can get quite high, the dilutions extreme. This fact has been a major obstacle to widespread, mainstream acceptance of homeopathy. Skeptics just can’t believe that such small doses can act.
The Science of Small Doses
There are a number of clinical research studies investigating homeopathic medicine’s efficacy. While the number of studies relative to conventional medicine’s standards is quite small, a reasonable percentage demonstrate both that homeopathic medicines act and that they have therapeutic effects greater than placebo. Two well-respected conventional medical journals published in the United Kingdom, Lancet and the British Medical Journal published meta-analyses of published homeopathic research. The Lancet article (1997) reviewed 186 clinical trials and concluded that the evidence was clear that homeopathic medicines were intrinsically active and not just placebo. The British Medical Journal (1991) article reviewed 107 studies and deemed 80% of sufficient quality to demonstrate the effectiveness of homeopathy. Additionally, there are a number of laboratory studies (as opposed to clinical studies in humans) that have documented the activity of homeopathic potencies. Even though a solution of a highly diluted homeopathic medicine displays on chemical analysis no difference from plain water, said solution can produce measurable biological (degranulation of basophils – part of our immune system; influence on growth of microorganisms, etc.), physical (heat production, nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopic findings, emission of specific electromagnetic energy frequencies, etc.), and chemical effects. Clearly the process of preparation of a homeopathic medicine, the sequential dilution and succussion significantly alters the properties of the water used in preparation. Many theoreticians feel that the effects induced in the water are energetic or electromagnetic in nature.
IE Crystals/Bioenergetic Effects
One striking example of the changes wrought in water during the preparation of a homeopathic remedy was first observed by a Los Angeles physicist with the California Institute of Technology, Dr. Shui-Yin Lo, PhD. With the aid of electron microscopy and Atomic force microscopy, Dr. Lo demonstrated that, when a substance was placed in water and sequentially diluted and shaken, a clustering of water molecules occurred around each molecule of the substance. The clustering occurred despite dilution of the substance well beyond the possibility of even one molecule of the original substance remaining in the solution; in fact, the higher the potency, the more water clusters formed. It was as if crystals, similar to ice, formed in a liquid solution! The water molecule clustering is the result of electromagnetic forces; hence, the clusters were termed IE crystals – I for ice and E for electromagnetism. These IE crystals have a unique geometrical shape as well as charge and density. Dr. Lo published his work on this subject (see Modern Physics Letters B10, 1996, pages 921-930). One theory resulting from this observation is that water is actually capable of storing electromagnetically coded information, sort of like a CD does. It is readily recognized that the human organism is very sensitive to electromagnetic energy, especially to the frequency of such energy. Even exceedingly weak fields can affect cellular and sub-cellular functioning. In fact, many researchers believe that the human body must employ a highly sophisticated system of electromagnetic energetic communication in order to be able to initiate and maintain the high degree of ordered, complex, and seemingly instantaneous chemical, hormonal, immunological, etc. interactions that take place in the body. It may not be so farfetched then to assume that the electromagnetically-encoded information contained within a homeopathic remedy, when administered to a living system, such as an ill individual, acts as a bioenergetic catalyst, facilitating subtle shifts in cellular metabolism which can, ultimately, restore optimal healthy functioning. This topic could be explored in much greater detail, but such a discussion exceeds to scope of this article.
Homeopathy in Practice
Let me now proceed to describe the mechanics, so to speak, of homeopathic practice. Homeopathy can address a wide range of ailments, both acute (brief, self-limited disease) and chronic. Some of the more common diseases for which patients seek homeopathic treatment include: allergies, various immune deficiencies (e.g., susceptibility to recurrent infections, autoimmune diseases), infectious diseases (colds, influenza, sinusitis, bronchitis, pneumonia, otitis (ear infections), cystitis (bladder infections), viral infections, etc.), headaches (migraine, cluster, tension, etc.), gastrointestinal disorders (indigestion, esophageal reflux, gastritis, ulcer, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, constipation, diarrhea, gall bladder disease, liver disorders, etc.), arthritis (degenerative and inflammatory; also gout), hormonal disorders (hypo and hyperthyroidism, female disorders such as premenstrual syndrome, menstrual disorders, menopause, hypoglycemia, etc.), high blood pressure, prostate disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia; skin disorders (eczema, hives, psoriasis, boils, warts, etc.), children’s disorders (teething difficulties, colic, attention deficit disorder, behavioral disorders, enuresis, etc.); psychiatric disorders (anxiety, phobias, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress syndrome, grief reactions, insomnia).
The time involved in a typical homeopathic interview usually ranges from 30-45 minutes for acute diseases and from one to two hours for chronic problems. The focus in acute diseases is primarily upon the immediate physical (or emotional) symptoms. In chronic problems the extent of inquiry includes pretty much everything that can be learned about the individual and his or her physical and emotional problems. For every symptom and unusual sensation the patient identifies a search is conducted for individual and highly specific characteristics and modifiers (termed modalities in homeopathic terminology); for example, the homeopath will ask the patient to describe exactly how the pain feels and whether it extends to another part of the body, what makes the pain better or worse – heat, cold, weather, position, motion, pressure, touch, time of day, noise, light, emotional states, etc., and what additional symptoms seem to accompany the primary symptom (so-called concomitants). Then an examination of the person’s overall physiology is conducted by asking about his or her general temperature and weather sensitivities; his reaction to motion, noise, light, odor, music, etc.; food cravings and aversions; sleep habits; menstrual history; medical history; etc. And, finally, though often most importantly, the homeopath tries, in the short time afforded him, to develop a thorough understanding of the patient’s life history, psychological characteristics, social history, past and current stresses, and overall personality. Usually, too, a physical examination is performed, and, if indicated, laboratory tests are ordered. The striking symptoms and characteristics gathered during the homeopathic interview are then prioritized and analyzed, and a single appropriate homeopathic medicine, or remedy, is then prescribed – either as a single dose or daily doses, depending upon the potency selected and the characteristics of the case. In some cases further, complementary therapeutic suggestions are made; such as, diet changes, nutritional and/or botanical supplementation, lifestyle changes, professional counseling, bodywork, or chiropractic care.
After a period of observation – minutes to hours to a few days for acute disease, several weeks for chronic – the homeopathic physician evaluates the effect of the prescribed remedy. Once a favorable effect is manifest, the remedy is often discontinued, to be repeated at any sign of relapse. In the case of chronic disease, it is not at all uncommon for just one dose of a correctly prescribed remedy to generate a beneficial effect for many months, if not permanently. This is because, as mentioned earlier, rather than having a “duration of action” (such as conventional medicines have), a correct homeopathic medicine (the simillimum) stimulates an on-going process of cure, one which can, in theory, continue indefinitely unless severe stress, poor lifestyle habits, toxic agents (drugs, some vaccines, chemical pollutants), etc. intervene to compromise the process. Often in chronic disease, and occasionally in acute disease, one remedy effects a partial change in a case and subsequent remedies are required over time to continue the process of cure.
The Rules of Cure
A really significant contribution of homeopathy to the practice of medicine, in my opinion, is the standard commonly employed in homeopathic practice to evaluate the effects of a prescribed medicine – Hering’s Rules of Cure. These guidelines provide a means of determining whether a homeopathic medicine, or any therapeutic intervention for that matter, is really benefiting the patient. The basic gist of these rules is that any truly curative intervention will instigate beneficial changes that proceed from the center to the periphery of the organism and from greater organs to lesser organs. For example, if a patient is suffering from heart disease and intestinal complaints, a correct therapeutic intervention will result in either both complaints improving simultaneously or the heart complaint improving before the intestinal, the latter to follow suit over time. Were one to witness the reverse – the intestinal symptoms improving, but the heart worsening, it would imply that the treatment was inappropriate and harmful, even though the patient might be thrilled that his digestive tract seems normal. Similarly, except in instances of severe physical pathology, when significant psychological problems exist, a correct treatment will induce psychological improvements before or simultaneous with any physical amelioration. This perspective affords the homeopathic physician an invaluable tool in patient care, enabling him to avoid many of the pitfalls conventional medicine, lacking such a standard, is prey to.
In addition, this perspective leads naturally to a far more comprehensive understanding of the restoration of health. Health becomes more than the mere absence of a symptom or disease. A healthy patient is one who feels (and is) well and energetic, whose emotions flow freely though not excessively, whose mind is clear, and who is essentially free of distressing, limiting physical symptoms. This is the result homeopaths aspire to for their patients.
A case illustration would, I think, be helpful at this juncture.
I saw this 22 year-old female over twenty years ago, early in my career. She came complaining of pelvic inflammatory disease, a serious infection of her uterus and fallopian tubes, for ten months. She had been treated with various antibiotics for three months without result. Her physicians were now recommending surgery – complete removal of her uterus, fallopian tubes and both ovaries. Needless to say, she was not excited by the prospect.
She suffered severe pelvic pain, sharp in both groins and lower abdomen, which was worse from intercourse and during her menstrual periods. The pain was better from firm massage and heat. She had a heavy, brownish vaginal discharge. She was also very fatigued.
Concomitant with the above she suffered from depression. She was also angry. She would cry without cause. She felt that she was going nowhere with her life, especially when she saw her old boyfriend with his new lover. She avoided the company of others and kept her problems to herself, not wanting to bother her friends. She felt unimportant. Her moodiness corresponded to her physical symptoms.
Her illness began while she was in the throes of the ending of a love affair. Immediately after the separation, she lost fifteen pounds and suffered insomnia. She was angry, felt cheated, and harbored great resentment toward her former lover. Subsequent to this, she found her attitudes about men changing. She began avoiding them, feeling that she had suffered enough sexual and romantic frustration in her life.
She had also noted an eye infection for the preceding four months, with redness, dryness and morning discharge. She experienced aching of the fingers, knees, hips and ankles, all worse from exposure to damp, cold weather. When emotionally upset, she became nauseous and tight in the stomach area.
She was chilly and disinterested in food. Her food preferences were for pizza and starches.
Her physical exam was remarkable for an exquisitely tender pelvic area. Her brown vaginal discharge was, on microscopic exam, full of white blood cells (i.e., pus).
Taking into account all of this patient’s symptoms, not just the physical ones related to her female organs (as the conventional approach would), we are struck by several striking characteristics – sadness with a tendency to isolate herself, grief in relation to a series of frustrating romances, especially the most recent; smoldering resentment, self reproach, an aversion to the opposite sex, a craving for starches, pelvic pain ameliorated by pressure and worse during the menstrual periods. All of these symptoms are highly characteristic of the homeopathic remedy Natrum muriaticum, which is plain old sodium chloride – salt – prepared homeopathically. Especially consistent with this remedy was the close association of the onset of the infection with her romantic grief, as well as the manner in which her grief was manifested – conjoined grief and anger, lingering resentment, and the tendency to keep her grief to herself. According to homeopathic understanding of this case, while this woman’s pelvic inflammatory disease was not directly due to her grief, that grief set her up for the infection by undermining her resistance. In that indirect sense, the grief was the trigger for the whole scenario.
After one dose of Natrum muriaticum 1M she had a fascinating reaction. At first nothing seemed to be happening; then, after about three weeks, she complained of increasing pelvic pain which at times was quite intense. There were no changes in her physical exam or other symptoms. This occurrence was tentatively viewed as a possible homeopathic aggravation (more on this phenomenon later) and we opted to closely observe a bit longer, one to two weeks. Within that time frame her pain began to subside. One month later on follow-up she reported that her pain was continuing to improve; also she felt that her mood was lightening. One month after that, about three months after the remedy, she returned completely pain free and in fairly good spirits; furthermore, her pelvic exam was completely normal! There was no tenderness and no sign of vaginal discharge. In effect, her pelvic inflammatory disease was cured, and she was spared surgery. Over the next few months her mood and her more minor physical symptoms improved dramatically. She became involved in a healthy romantic relationship.
When we compare the conventional and homeopathic treatment results in the above case, we note . . . well, that there is no comparison. On antibiotics she failed to improve and her depression just deepened. Homeopathic treatment, in addition to relieving her physical condition, helped to restore her emotional balance, as would be expected of correct homeopathic treatment. This kind of global response is the anticipated result of a true simillimum – a deeply-acting correct remedy.
The Homeopathic Aggravation
The phenomenon of the homeopathic aggravation is quite interesting. It rather resembles the “healing crisis” some other forms of alternative medicine describe. It is not uncommonly observed after a correct remedy has been prescribed and typically consists of a brief intensification of the presenting symptoms of the patient. Usually, when a patient is in the midst of such an aggravation, something about his or her condition is different from the usual periods of exacerbation: the patient will feel vaguely better in general and better able to cope with the more severe symptoms, or some aspect of the physical symptoms will be altered. (For example, if fever always accompanied increased sinus pain in the past, it will be lacking during the aggravation, or the pain will be less despite high fever, etc.) While one remains vigilant and circumspect during an aggravation in case the worsening is circumstantial and not remedy related, generally such occurrences are cause for an optimistic prognosis in a case. Their occurrence, perhaps paradoxically to some, signal a strengthening of the defense mechanism of the individual with attendant increased symptom intensity. The phenomenon is rather akin to the substitution of a similar brief intense illness for a long, drawn-out one.
Cost and Benefits
Another asset of homeopathic treatment, aside from its impressive ability to improve health, is its cost. The principle expense incurred is that of the homeopathic consultation. An initial chronic consultation – an approximately one-and-a-half to two hour interview and physical exam – costs, depending upon where one lives, anywhere from $150 to about $500. This is a fairly small fee relative to what conventional doctors charge for a similar amount of time. (Remember that most conventional doctor-patient visits last from 5 to 15 minutes!) Subsequent 30 to 45 minute follow-up visits, usually conducted only every one to two months until improvement is established, then less frequently, range in cost from about $50 to $100. The cost of homeopathic medicines is essentially negligible – less than $10 to $15 for four to six weeks’ worth of medicine. When one considers that for some patients just one course of homeopathic treatment can relieve a chronic complaint of several years’ duration, the cost savings become readily apparent. (It is more realistic to assume that at least a few visits will be necessary.) Just the savings on conventional pharmaceuticals alone often supersedes the total cost of homeopathic treatment.
Venues for Practice
Several venues currently exist for the legal practice of homeopathy. Many homeopaths are medical doctors or osteopathic physicians. In addition, several states permit naturopaths (ND’s) to practice homeopathy, as well as chiropractors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, licensed acupuncturists, and dentists. There are also many homeopathic veterinarians practicing today. Three states that I know of have separate boards of medical examiners for homeopathic physicians. There has been only one legal challenge in one state, North Carolina, of the right of a medical doctor to practice homeopathic medicine. (The laws in North Carolina were subsequently amended, after a successful grass-roots legislative campaign, to unambiguously permit physicians to practice unconventional medicine in the absence of demonstrable harm or threat of harm to their patients.)
There are also homeopathic specialty boards which certify professional homeopaths. The American Board of Homeotherapeutics certifies MD’s and DO’s after their having passed an extensive written and oral exam; the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians certifies ND’s, and the Council for Homeopathic Certification certifies a variety of health care professionals. In general, homeopaths possessing one of these certifications – DHt, DHANP or CHC – can reasonably be assumed to possess an acceptable level of competency to practice homeopathic medicine.
Homeopathy and Conventional Medicine: An Alliance?
Fortunately, homeopathy is making inroads into the medical establishment. These incursions are small and gradual, but definite. Increasingly, homeopathy is being introduced to medical students as part of either elective or required exposure to CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) therapies. In a few hospitals and out-patient clinics, some quite prestigious, homeopathy and other CAM therapies are offered to patients. Whether such developments are based in a sincere desire to further medical care or, as I am sure some are, a disingenuous attempt by hospital administrators to retain economic market share given the unfailing popularity of CAM therapies, they will, I predict, lead to the inevitable, though for a time grudging, acceptance of many of these unconventional therapies. Such recognition will be the inevitable result of these therapies’ effectiveness.
When that time comes, we can anticipate a major shift in the prevailing medical system as homeopathy, and other CAM therapies, are regularly utilized in conjunction with or instead of conventional medicine, as determined by the individual requirements of each case. Such an approach can only be beneficial and an improvement upon medicine as it is practiced today.
Laws of Healing
I thought I would digress from my usual format to explain a very important aspect of homeopathic health care — the laws of cure. Unfortunately, space restrictions necessitate brevity; nonetheless, I hope the basics of these concepts will be adequately conveyed. These “laws” represent years of observation of cured clinical cases by one of America’s foremost homeopaths, Dr. Constantine Herring, about one hundred years ago. While not infallible, these criteria of cure do generally apply and have withstood the test of time. When a patient’s clinical course after treatment is viewed with these laws (or, more accurately, rules of cure) in mind, one can readily determine not only if the treatment has been effective, but if it has been truly curative. Too often therapeutic results are gauged solely by the immediate symptom relief obtained, the overall well-being of the individual being lost in the process. In homeopathy we recognize that some treatments (of any system of healing) can be suppressive (or palliative) as opposed to curative. Such results are typically characterized by fairly prompt relief of the presenting complaint with a subsequent (the time interval is variable) or simultaneous diminution in one’s general sense of well-being and the later development of more serious pathology. I will illustrate below. If Herring’s rules of cure were employed universally for all therapies, we could quickly ascertain the appropriateness of a treatment and move rapidly to correct suppressive effects. As it stands to date, though, homeopathy is the only therapeutic system, as far as I am aware, that utilizes this invaluable tool.
Rules of Cure
1. Cure proceeds from the center of the organism to the periphery, from greater organs to lesser.
This is the most important rule, superseding all others. It means that, after treatment, more serious health problems (including psychological illness) should be the first to improve or should improve at the same time as more minor problems improve. For example, in a patient with heart disease and arthritis (both, for the sake of argument, of equal intensity), the heart disease should improve before or simultaneously with the arthritis. Were the arthritis to improve and the heart condition to worsen or remain unchanged, we would suspect that our treatment was incorrect and should be changed. The same would apply to a patient with significant depression and, say, psoriasis, or any other clinical situation (with but few exceptions). Truly curative effects should proceed from more vital structures or aspects of the organism to less vital. The reverse is suppression and detrimental.
2. Cure proceeds in the reverse order of the appearance of symptoms.
This observation means simply that a patient’s most recent symptoms will be the first to disappear after correct treatment; subsequently, older symptoms will also disappear in reverse chronological order. While this rule very often applies, it may be superseded by the first rule, as in the hypothetical case of someone with ulcerative colitis who subsequently develops a skin rash. While the rash might disappear prior to improvement of the colitis, the reverse might also be seen as healing ensues on the deeper level.
3. Cure proceeds from above downward (or toward the periphery).
This observation applies primarily to skin rashes and arthritis. Typically after correct homeopathic treatment, one sees rashes improve from the head downward toward the hands and feet. Similarly, arthritic inflammations flare and subside progressively toward the periphery, as in the case of a hip arthritis improving, followed by latter involvement of the ankle and eventual relief of that joint as well.
Other Signposts of Cure
Enhancement of General Well-being
While difficult to monitor in an objective sense, another very important subjective indication of a curative response to treatment, and one employed constantly in homeopathic medicine, is an improvement in a patient’s feeling of well-being. Frequently, before any improvement in a specific health complaint is seen, and sometimes even in the midst of a healing crisis (termed aggravation in homeopathic medicine), a definite sense of feeling better, healthier overall – both mentally and physically – is observed. Whenever the opposite is encountered, the homeopathic physician views any patient’s professed improvement on a local level (such as a diminution of pain in an arthritic joint or less itching of a skin rash, etc.) with considerable circumspection. Almost always, improved well-being accompanies or precedes true cure. If it doesn’t, simple palliation or symptom suppression is suspected, often leading to a worse outcome in the long term.
Return of Old Symptoms
This observation is a corollary of rule 2 above – symptoms improving in the reverse order of their appearance. Very often, in homeopathy and any other deeply curative healing modality, patients in the course of their treatment response experience a return of old, sometimes long forgotten, symptoms. For instance, a childhood eczema that preceded the later development of asthma will re-appear some time (and the timing can vary widely) after the asthma has subsided in response to treatment. Not infrequently, the eczema, or other condition, will then improve on its own without further treatment, leaving the patient feeling very well indeed. Other times the eczema, etc. will require a repetition of the earlier treatment or even a different homeopathic medication altogether . The worst response to such an old symptom revisitation would be the administration of suppressive treatments – steriod ointments, for example, in the case of eczema; such a course almost invariably results in a full relapse the deeper, originally treated health condition.
The above represent the essential criteria of a deeply curative response to homeopathic and other holistic treatments. An awareness of these laws of healing can help patients and health professionals alike choose the best treatment modalities.