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What It Is & What It Can Do For You
By Dana Ullman
New World LibraryCopyright © 2002 Dana Ullman
All rights reserved.
what is homeopathy?
Most people have had some experience with homeopathy, from noticing remedies at the health food store to trying them out themselves to seeing a professional homeopath. But many have only a vague idea of what homeopathic medicine really is. In this chapter I will provide a brief explanation of homeopathy and how it works.
Homeopathic medicine is a natural pharmaceutical science that uses various plants, minerals, or animal products in very small doses to stimulate the sick person's natural defenses. In Greek the word homoios means "similar," and pathos means "disease" or "suffering." The basic principle of homeopathy is called the "law of similars," because medicines are individually chosen for their ability to cause in overdose in healthy people the symptoms similar to what the sick person experiences.
In essence, homeopathy consists of two highly systematic methods: toxicology and case taking. First, homeopaths discern the specific physical, emotional, and mental symptoms that various substances cause in overdose. In fact, homeopathic texts contain more details about toxicology than any other sources. Second, homeopaths interview their patients in great detail to learn about all the symptoms — physical, emotional, and mental — the patient is experiencing. The homeopath ultimately seeks to find a substance that will cause symptoms similar to what the person experiences and then gives it in small, specially prepared doses.
the principle of similars
Homeopaths, like many modern physiologists, recognize that symptoms represent the best efforts of the organism to adapt to and defend against various stresses or infections. Because the body is not always successful in dealing with every stress or infection on its own, it is important to find substances in nature with the capacity to aid the body in its efforts to defend and ultimately heal itself. Thus the medicines go with, rather than against, the person's natural defenses.
The principle of similars, the primary premise of homeopathy, is even used in some conventional medical therapies, such as immunizations and allergy treatments. These treatments, however, are not pure homeopathy, since homeopathic medicines are more individually prescribed, given in smaller doses, and used to treat sick people and to prevent disease. Ultimately, homeopaths, and more traditional doctors, prescribe according to the "principle of similars" because it works.
our inner doctor
Homeopathy, like conventional physiology and pathology, recognizes that symptoms do not simply represent something "wrong" with the person but rather that they are actually the body's defense against infection and/or stress. The body creates symptoms in its effort to defend and heal itself.
Every textbook on pathology recognizes that inflammation is the body's way to heat up, burn out, and isolate infective organisms. Although conventional anti-inflammatory drugs work temporarily to reduce inflammation, they do not influence the underlying cause of the inflammation. Such drugs provide a short-term benefit but often lead to longer-term complications.
The human organism has survived as long as it has because we have an "inner doctor" who helps us fight infection and adapt to stress. Using conventional drugs to inhibit or suppress symptoms tends to push the disease deeper into our bodies, creating more serious chronic physical and mental illness. The homeopathic principle of similars, on the other hand, respects the body's own wisdom and seeks to find the correct, individualized remedy that will mimic and augment this wisdom.
how do you know when you're cured?
Although many people believe that they are cured when either a conventional or natural remedy erases their symptoms, that's not necessarily true. Just because a person's symptoms disappear doesn't mean that she is better off, and in fact, it may mean that she is in fact sicker.
For instance, we commonly recognize that people who suppress emotions tend to explode later, usually to some unsuspecting soul. Likewise, many conventional drugs work by inhibiting or actually suppressing the disease, which ultimately pushes the disease deeper into the person, creating more serious and often chronic illnesses that manifest later. This is called "disease suppression." What are often called the "side effects" of a drug are usually the results of this suppression.
Between cure and disease suppression is "palliation," that is, a treatment that provides temporary relief of an illness but does not suppress it. Palliative treatments are given when the person's immune system is reasonably strong. Although the treatment used does not cure the disease, it does provide enough relief to the person that his body is able to avoid disease suppression.
To evaluate whether a cure, palliation, or suppression has occurred, it is useful first to understand Hering's guidelines to cure.
hering's guidelines to cure
Constantine Hering, M.D. (1800–1880), is considered the father of American homeopathy. He observed that patients often get better in somewhat predictable patterns. Hering recognized that each person experiences a specific pattern of symptoms, and that when comparing this pattern with past or future ones, it is necessary to evaluate the degree to which the symptoms cause pain and discomfort and the degree to which they inhibit a persons life. Hering assumed, for example, that skin symptoms are superficial signs of deeper, internal physical symptoms, that mild irritability is considerably less limiting than a fear of death, and that minor memory problems are significantly less problematic than, say, schizophrenia.
Hering and others since him have developed ways to evaluate the depth and breadth of physical, emotional, and mental/spiritual levels of a persons health. He and other homeopaths have found that certain symptoms in each level of a persons health, depending on their frequency and intensity, represent more and more serious stresses to that persons health.
Based on these assumptions, Hering developed guidelines to help us understand how to differentiate a healing response from a disruptive or diseasing response. His guidelines to cure were based on the premise that a curative response evolves:
1. from the most vital functions of the person to more superficial ones (a healing process will indicate that a person with a high fever or high blood pressure will experience a reduction in fever or blood pressure, while other less vital physical symptoms may increase as a way of helping to externalize the disease process);
2. from internal sources to external ones (sometimes mental or emotional symptoms will decrease, while more superficial physical symptoms may increase); and
3. in reverse order of appearance (a person may re-experience symptoms that were either previously suppressed or never fully cured as a way to finally get rid of them).
These insights are useful no matter what treatment, conventional or natural, one uses.
discerning what works
Homeopathy is actually based on thousands of experiments in which human subjects have taken continual doses of various plant, mineral, or animal substances until specific symptoms were elicited. These experiments are called "provings," and they are conducted on humans, not animals, because homeopaths believe that the symptoms a substance causes in an animal do not necessarily accurately parallel how the substance will act on the human body.
Innumerable substances cause skin rashes, digestive problems, tumors, and various other disease processes; however, each substance causes its own unique pattern of symptoms. The trick to making a homeopathic medicine work is finding the medicine that matches the overall pattern of symptoms that the person is experiencing, not just a single symptom or small group of symptoms.
Once it is known what a substance causes in overdose, the specific affinity that this substance has to the human body is then understood. And because symptoms represent the best defense of the human body to fight infection and/or to adapt to stress, it makes sense to mimic and augment the body's own defenses.
the importance of individualized medicine
In homeopathy you don't simply treat the disease; you treat the person, who will have his own manifestation of a disease, as well as many other symptoms that are a part of his unique ailment Therefore, it is essential to individualize a homeopathic treatment to the person receiving it.
A person does not simply have a heart problem when he has heart disease, and a person does not simply have a skin problem when she has skin disease. Disease is rarely localized to one part of the person. The whole person is ill, not just an isolated part. Ultimately, a person's illness is an overall syndrome, of which the disease is but a part.
For instance, people with arthritis (or with any disease) generally have many symptoms in common, but each person also has many symptoms that are unique to him or her. Based on this important point of view, it is scientifically unsound to treat everyone with a similar disease with the same drug.
treat the person, not the disease
Two people may have a headache, but each will have his or her own pattern of symptoms or syndrome. It is remarkable how misinformed we have been in thinking that everyone with a headache has the same condition and should be treated similarly.
A person suffering from a headache may also have digestive complaints, respiratory problems, skin symptoms, psychological problems, and many other possible symptoms. Because each person is an individual, it is inappropriate (and ineffective) to treat each complaint that a person experiences as a separate condition. In homeopathy, one seeks to find an individualized remedy that fits the persons overall pattern or syndrome of symptoms.
William Osier, M.D., considered the father of modern medicine, once said, "It is more important to know what type of person has a disease than what type of disease a person has." This is the assumption behind homeopathic medicine.CHAPTER 2
how homeopathic medicines are made
In this chapter I will describe how homeopathic medicines are made, including a discussion of what ingredients are used and why these substances are such potent healing agents. I will also discuss prescriptions and dosages of these medicines.
types of medicines used in homeopathy
Various substances from the plant, mineral, or animal kingdoms are regularly used in homeopathy, and almost any type of material can become a homeopathic medicine. Once a homeopathic "proving" is conducted (an experiment done to discover what a substance causes in overdose and thus what it will cure in homeopathic dose), it is then known how that medicine can be useful when given in homeopathic doses.
Some homeopathic medicines from the plant kingdom include onion (Allium cepa), ipecac root (Ipecacuahna), and poison ivy (Rhus toxicodendron), Some homeopathic medicines from the mineral kingdom include calcium (Calcarea carbonate), arsenic (Arsenicum), and salt (Natrum muriaticum). Some homeopathic medicines from the animal kingdom include bee venom (Apis mellifica), rattlesnake venom (Crotalus horridus), and dog's milk (Lac caninum). It should be noted that homeopathic medicines are listed by their Latin name, because homeopaths insist on being precise in describing the specific species they use in their medicines.
You might be asking why substances such as snake venom and arsenic are used in homeopathic remedies. Various strange and even poisonous substances are used in homeopathy because they have been found to cause a pattern of symptoms similar to what sick people experience. Therefore, by taking small, specially prepared doses of these substances, one can eliminate their toxic effects while maintaining their healing benefits. Homeopaths use such small doses of these substances that even homeopathy s strongest critics assert that homeopathic medicines are basically safe.
It should also be noted that although homeopathy uses strange substances, so does every system of medicine. Conventional medicine uses drugs derived from mold (penicillin) and pregnant horses urine (Premarin), to list but a few examples, yet few people call physicians "witch doctors" for doing so.
some examples of homeopathic medicines
When you are chopping an onion, your eyes tear up, and you might experience a watery, burning discharge from your nose. These symptoms are aggravated when you are in a warm room, and they are reduced if the room is cool. Homeopathic doses of onion (Allium cepa) are used to treat people with a cold or allergies if they exhibit similar symptoms. If, however, a person with a cold has a stringy yellow nasal discharge that is aggravated by exposure to cold or open air, then a medicine using onion is not prescribed but rather Kali bichromicum (potassium bichromate).
It is initially confusing but ultimately logical that homeopaths use ipecac root (Ipecacuanha) to treat people with certain types of nausea and vomiting. It is commonly known that ipecac root causes nausea and vomiting, and because of this, it has an important place in emergency medicine as a method of inducing vomiting if someone has ingested certain poisons. In homeopathy, Ipecacuanha is used to treat people who experience symptoms similar to what Ipecacuanha is known to cause: constant nausea with no relief from vomiting, lack of thirst with increased salivation, and a clean pinkish tongue despite indigestion.
how homeopathic medicines are made
Homeopathic medicines are made through a specific pharmaceutical process called "potentization." With plant or liquid substances, the tincture of the plant is extracted, usually through distillation with alcohol. The solution is then diluted with one part of the tincture with nine or ninety-nine parts of a double- distilled purified water. This new solution is vigorously shaken (or "succussed"), and then the dilution and succussion process is repeated numerous times. Typically, a homeopathic medicine is potentized three, six, twelve, thirty, two hundred, one thousand, ten thousand, fifty thousand, one hundred thousand times, or more. When mineral substances are used, they are triturated (ground up) with lactose (milk sugar). Initially, one part of the mineral substance is ground together with nine or ninety-nine parts of lactose. Each substance is diluted and then triturated up to thirty times, and then it is dissolved into a double-distilled water, at which time it is potentized in a process similar to that used with plant or liquid substances.
single- and multiple-ingredient medicines
"Single-ingredient" homeopathic medicines use various plant, mineral, animal, or chemical substances that have undergone a proving. Classical homeopathy uses single-ingredient remedies and has been practiced for more than two hundred years. However, many homeopathic manufacturers create formulas that are combinations of various homeopathic ingredients. Generally, a manufacturer creates a formula by combining two to ten of the most common remedies used to treat a specific ailment (headache, allergies, arthritis, and so on). Although these formulas are not individually prescribed, they are often effective at least in providing temporary relief, and they are considerably safer than most conventional drugs, because homeopathic remedies are nontoxic.
Some classical homeopaths assert that these formulas are not "real homeopathy," since the medicines have not undergone their own provings and because they are not individualized to the person. While these critiques are certainly true, the ingredients are homeopath-ically prepared and, more important, they have been found to work reasonably well.
In general, individually chosen remedies tend to work better; however, it should be acknowledged that such individually chosen remedies only work better if the person prescribing them was adequately educated in finding the correct remedy. Most laypeople are not trained in homeopathy, so homeopathic formulas provide a "user-friendly" way for people to use these natural medicines.
Excerpted from Essential Homeopathy by Dana Ullman. Copyright © 2002 Dana Ullman. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
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