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The American Institute of Homeopathy Handbook for Parents
By Edward Shalts
John Wiley & SonsISBN: 0-7879-8033-1
Chapter OneThe Basic Principles of Homeopathy
Without a doubt, this is the most important chapter in this book. In it, you'll learn what homeopathy is and how it differs from conventional Western, or allopathic, medicine. I'd wager you're probably just looking to learn about a few homeopathic remedies so you can help your children, and I promise that you'll find such information in these pages. Yet homeopathy differs enormously from conventional medicine. So before you can set out on a course of homeopathic healing, you need to understand a few significant details. Otherwise you may be as astonished and disbelieving as Tim's parents were.
As happens frequently in my homeopathic practice, I saw Tim after his parents had already tried every single conventional approach offered to them by dermatologists. Tim was thirteen and he had an awful case of eczema. Lesions had spread all over his body, most looking like various stages of poison ivy, and they were, as Tim put it, "very ugly." The itching was enormous. Luckily, he only had a few marks on his face.
Tim and his parents felt devastated. This good-looking, intelligent boy couldn't socialize, as he was afraid that other kids would make fun of him. He avoided going to the beach, swimming in the pool, or playing sports. After all, what if another student saw his embarrassing lesions while he was changing in the locker room? His parents were also concerned that the eczema wouldn't get better no matter what they did. They'd heard from dermatologists that kids usually "outgrow" eczema. But it hadn't happened so far.
As far as homeopathy is concerned, the severity of skin lesions doesn't matter as long as the patient is otherwise healthy. In our initial consultation, I determined that Tim was. I therefore knew I simply had to find the correct remedy. One dose of that exact remedy would probably take care of everything. Of course, this was easy for me to say. The parents told me honestly that if not for the utter failure of conventional treatments, including steroids, they would never have considered bringing their son to a homeopath. In the end, they only came because a mutual friend recommended me as trustworthy.
After taking a look at Tim's lesions, I conducted a full homeopathic interview. The questions I asked were seemingly strange. I was mostly interested in what made his rash feel better or worse, and in what made Tim different from other people. I wanted to know his eating and sleeping habits and about his relationship with the weather, animals, and people. I needed to understand what made this particular child with eczema different from everyone else with the same diagnosis. In addition, I needed to match the set of symptoms that Tim was then exhibiting with the set of symptoms that had been triggered in healthy volunteers by a homeopathic substance during initial research that was conducted to understand its curative properties. That's how a homeopath carefully picks a remedy.
After about an hour and a half, I made a decision. I gave Tim a 200C dose of a homeopathic remedy called Rhus toxicodendron. He dissolved the sugary pellet under his tongue and told me he liked its sweetness. I explained to his parents that I'd given him a preparation of poison ivy that had been diluted 10400 (that is, 10 to the four hundredth power) times. Tim's father was a chemist. He said, "That's crazy. Nothing diluted this much can work." He was also surprised that I wanted Tim to take a pill only once. Both parents seemed disappointed that there was nothing else I was willing to offer. Nevertheless they didn't have a choice.
I asked Tim's parents to wait six to eight weeks and then come in for a follow-up appointment. Two months later, they brought Tim back. The rash was gone! Tim was so happy that he decided to become a homeopath when he grew up. They reported that about five days after taking the Rhus, Tim complained of an increased rash and itching. But a few days later, the itching subsided and the lesions started to disappear. The skin on the upper parts of his body healed first, and then the rash completely went away.
Interestingly, not all cases of eczema would have responded to Rhus. To the contrary, I've successfully prescribed many other remedies for the same skin condition. In homeopathy, we treat the individual patient rather than suppress the symptoms of a disease. Like Tim, his parents were thrilled with the results of homeopathy. But they still wondered if we should give Tim more of the remedy, just to make sure he would be fine in the future. I explained to them that it wasn't necessary or even useful. He was cured.
What Is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a medical approach that's defined by the principle of similars: "like cures like." Its practitioners use small quantities of highly diluted substances that in larger quantities would provoke the same symptoms they intend to cure. In the case of Tim, for instance, we employed heavily diluted poison ivy to heal an itchy skin rash. The idea is to give the body's own healing process a tiny boost. All forms of medicine that don't follow this principle are considered allopathy.
In homeopathy, we appreciate symptoms as being the language in which the body speaks to us. They show us that the body is struggling to externalize the potential damage that a deep-seated illness could do at the body's core. If we're seeing various external symptoms, we can be fairly certain that deep damage hasn't been done yet. If these stop, we can assume that either the individual is cured or the illness has reached deeper to the core level.
In allopathy, symptoms are viewed as being the illness, rather than as an attempt to heal, which is why conventional doctors believe they must be suppressed. By contrast, homeopathy views the body's expression of symptoms as a healthy mechanism. For this reason, homeopaths treat a patient's set of symptoms with remedies that would cause a similar set of symptoms if taken in sufficient quantity by a healthy person. Like cures like.
The Principle of Similars
Samuel Hahnemann was an extraordinarily intelligent and multitalented man. Born April 10, 1755, into the family of a poor German porcelain painter, he had to work from a young age. At twelve, he was already tutoring Greek. Later on, he became a prolific writer, translator, doctor, chemist, and pharmacologist. Once he presented a thesis in Latin at the University of Leipzig. During this presentation, Hahnemann apparently quoted sources in eight original languages, including Hebrew and Arabic.
A tragic misconception about homeopathy is that it has no scientific basis. This statement couldn't be further from the truth. As you read on, I'm sure you'll appreciate how much Hahnemann has done for modern biomedical science. He introduced many groundbreaking ideas into medical practice. Hahnemann discovered homeopathy at age thirty-five by conducting a series of experiments on himself. In the process, he invented reliable research methods. Prior to that, he was already deeply involved with nutrition and noninvasive healing. We're talking about the 1700s here! Clearly a man way ahead of his time, without any doubt, Hahnemann deserves recognition as being the father of modern scientifically based medicine, both homeopathic and conventional.
Hahnemann's discovery of homeopathy began when he was translating a book on pharmacology that described Peruvian bark, a preparation made from a tree that was highly effective in treating malaria. As medicine in his era had no scientific basis, the only explanation offered by the textbook for Peruvian bark's curative effect was that it had the capacity to upset the stomach. It was a cockamamie time for medicine. The most respected theory of the era was the doctrine of signatures, which a German mystic named Jacob Boehme had popularized in two books, Aurora and The Signature of All Things, more than a century earlier.
The doctrine of signatures was a purely philosophical notion until Boehme's predecessor, the alchemist Paracelsus, had applied it to medicine. It postulated that certain features of a plant carry indications of its medicinal use. For example, plants with yellow roots or flowers (yellow signature) were supposed to cure jaundice. Plants impregnated with the color red (red signature) were considered to be beneficial for blood disorders. The hue of iris resembled bruises, so that's what the plant was used to treat. Also the shape of plants played an important role in determining their uses.
Hahnemann couldn't accept the textbook's silly explanation for why Peruvian bark worked so well. He decided to take the preparation himself and find out what would happen. After a few repeated doses of Peruvian bark, he developed symptoms that closely resembled the symptoms of malaria. These subsided shortly after discontinuation of the medication. Hahnemann described this experiment in a footnote to the translation, which was published in 1790. Six years later, after a continual literature search and further experimentation, Hahnemann published a landmark article, "Essay on a New Principle for Ascertaining the Curative Powers of Drugs." In this piece, he proclaimed the discovery of a curative law of nature: Similia similibus curentur (like cures like).
You were introduced to the principle of similars in the story about Tim's eczema. Let's look at another real present-day example to see how it operates. Yellow-jasmine poisoning causes severe weakness with significant heaviness in the back of the head, heavy eyelids, and chills running up and down the back. The homeopathic preparation of this flower, a remedy called Gelsemium, has shown to be very helpful for treating the flu in people who develop the same set of symptoms.
Superficially, it might seem as though the use of the conventional drug Ritalin for the treatment of attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) follows the principle of similars. Ritalin is a stimulant given to children who are restless to calm them. But the way the medication is typically used actually doesn't correlate with our natural law.
For a medication to be suitable for a specific patient, other individual characteristics must be present, besides the ones that everyone exhibits. In the case of ADHD, as a common symptom is restlessness, we would look elsewhere. The same remedy won't work for everyone. Furthermore, remedies need to be homeopathically prepared-diluted and activated. This process is described in detail in Chapter Two.
Another interesting modern example demonstrating the principle of similars is the conventional allergy elimination technique. First, an allergist conducts a series of tests to find the allergen that's affecting someone. Then this same allergen is given to that individual in significantly smaller and smaller concentrations until the allergy goes away. Many children and adults have benefited from the application of this technique.
Interestingly, in the same year that Hahnemann published his seminal paper on homeopathy, British physician Edward Jenner published a paper on vaccination. He noticed that milkmaids never got sick with smallpox, a terrible, deadly infectious disease. But most of them had experienced cowpox, an illness benign to humans. Jenner cleverly suspected that milkmaids were protected from smallpox by the similar illness. He therefore decided to inoculate people with cowpox to protect them from smallpox. In Latin, vacca means "cow." His idea worked perfectly. As a result, 1796 gave birth to two great medical discoveries, both of which incorporated the principle of similars.
Testing New Remedies
During his research on Peruvian bark, Hahnemann invented an experimental method for finding new remedies and investigating their qualities. He called this process a prufung, meaning a "test." In English, it's known as a proving. Original provings were conducted using alcohol-based tinctures of various substances. Essentially, he took the substance and then experienced a set of symptoms, which he recorded in great detail. Healthy volunteers, or provers, also received repeated doses of the substance in question and then would describe all the symptoms they experienced.
Obviously, people have varying levels of sensitivity to particular substances and therefore develop different sets of symptoms, depending on their individual dispositions. A few of the provers were highly sensitive to a particular substance and would develop hundreds, often thousands, of symptoms. Other provers weren't sensitive to it at all.
As mentioned in the Introduction, the systematic summary of everyone's combined symptoms is called Materia Medica, an old name for a textbook on pharmacology. It's a collection of symptoms experienced by a pool of provers and also symptoms that arose during cases of accidental poisoning. At a later point, symptoms cured by the remedy that weren't in the original provings were also included in Materia Medica.
Provings were a prototype for the first phase in contemporary pharmacological studies of conventional drugs. There's a major difference between a proving and a phase I study, however. Phase I studies are designed to establish side effects. Homeopathic remedies don't have any "side" effects. All effects discovered in a proving are used to match a particular substance as closely as possible with the symptoms of a particular ill person. When a perfect match-in homeopathic parlance, the simillimum (meaning "similar" in Latin)-is found, a remedy is administered to that sick person in order to stimulate a cure.
Double-blind, placebo-controlled homeopathic provings occurred as early as the first part of the 1800s, whereas the first placebo-controlled study published by conventional medical researchers dates back to a 1948 trial conducted by the Medical Research Council on the use of streptomycin to treat pulmonary tuberculosis. The term double blind means that neither the participants nor the researchers in a study know which substance specific participants are receiving. Placebo-controlled indicates that an active substance-a medication of any kind-is being compared with a neutral substance, such as a sugar pill. Both requirements ensure that the results of an experiment are nonbiased.
Homeopaths instituted another important research design feature: the multicenter study. The importance of multicenter research is that it eliminates the influence of unforeseen variables, such as the character of a regional population and human error. If results are duplicated when conducting the same research in more than one location, that verifies that those results are extremely reliable and accurate. The first multicenter study of a homeopathic remedy (Belladonna) was conducted in 1906, whereas the first multicenter study of an allopathic drug was conducted in 1944.
I only present such facts to help you understand how the two hundred-yearlong feud between conventional physicians and homeopaths has translated into ignorance about homeopathy's scientific underpinnings. Unfortunately, our allopathic colleagues don't usually realize how deeply rooted homeopathy is in objective measures. Homeopathic prescribing is based on experimental data received from healthy humans. Its practice is rooted in precise and rational scientific observations.
During Hahnemann's research and professional practice, he continually refined his understanding of homeopathy and his methods. For a long time, Hahnemann used fairly concentrated tinctures of substances. For an unknown reason, he started to dilute remedies in proportions of 1:10 (called decimal, from the Latin word for ten, and marked with the letter X) or 1:100 (called centesimal, from the Latin word for one hundred, and marked with the letter C). Between each of a series of dilutions, he hit the tube against a thick book ten to twenty times. He called this process potentization.
Hahnemann believed that vigorous shaking helped to extract healing energy from the active substance in the remedy: a vital force that could produce a response in a patient's vital force. Frankly, we don't yet have a better explanation. But we do know that he discovered that higher serial dilutions provide deeper and longer-lasting results than lower serial dilutions. He didn't "dream up" or theorize these results. He just followed the data he was objectively collecting from the numerous patients he treated. It wasn't unusual for him to administer remedies diluted [10.sup.400] times (200C) or more.
Excerpted from The American Institute of Homeopathy Handbook for Parents by Edward Shalts Excerpted by permission.
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