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WHAT IS HOMEOPATHY
Homeopathy is an exceptionally safe form of medicine that treats the whole individual. It is equally concerned with maintaining good health and aiding recovery from ill health, and like all forms of medicine -- even those that use powerful drugs and high-technology surgery -- relies for its effects on the body's own powers of self-regulation and self-healing. Since its development nearly two hundred years ago homeopathy has benefited millions of people, young and old, from all walks of life, in countries all over the world.
The word ''homeopathy'' (also spelled ''homoeopathy'') comes from two Greek words, omio (meaning ''same'') and pathos (meaning ''suffering''). A homeopathic remedy is one that produces the same symptoms as those the sick person complains of, and in doing so sharply provokes the body into throwing them off. ''Like may be cured by like,'' also expressed as similia similibus curentur, is the basic principle of homeopathic therapeutics. The opposite therapeutic approach is ''allopathy,'' which is defined as a system of therapeutics in which diseases are treated by producing a condition incompatible with or antagonistic to the condition to be cured or alleviated.
The idea that remedies and symptoms sharing certain key features might interact in such a way as to banish illness, and the implied corollary that two similar states of discomfort cannot exist in the same body, was not new even two centuries ago. The great achievement of Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, was that he systematically studied, for himself, all the orthodox medical remedies of his day, noted their effects on healthy people, and then used this knowledge to give very specific and safe treatment to sick people. This was revolutionary in an age when medicines were indiscriminately prescribed, often in poisonous quantities.
Homeopathy is a naturopathic form of medicine -- it seeks to assist Nature rather than bludgeon her, to assist the body's own healing energies rather than override them. The ''disease'' is not only the virus or the bacteria -- these are merely the organisms that move in when the body's defenses are low. The discovery of legions of microorganisms since Hahnemann's time has done nothing to alter this fundamental truth. The fever, the inflammation, the diarrhea, the headache -- these are not the disease either, but the body's attempt to return to normality. Such ideas may be difficult to adjust to if one has been brought up in the belief that both attack and cure come from the outside, but they are ideas that have been accepted by humanistic physicians since the time of Hippocrates.
Another tenet of naturopathic and therefore of homeopathic philosophy is that every person is different. The same remedy, the same diet, the same general advice does not necessarily help everyone with the same ailment. Indeed there is no such thing as the same ailment; the course of a particular kind of cancer in one person will not be the same as that in another. Accordingly, homeopathy has the most flexible system of remedy prescribing of any system of therapeutics, as this book demonstrates. The most effective remedy is always the one that matches three things: the physical symptoms, the mental and emotional symptoms, and the general sensitivities of the person concerned. It is also taken in the lowest possible dose for the least possible time.
If homeopathy is, or becomes, your first line of health care, you will probably want to consult a professional homeopath from time to time. Indeed his or her skills should complement and guide your own. The purpose of this book is to enable you to give homeopathic first aid and to help you decide on a sensible course of action for ailments and diseases already diagnosed. It will also enable you to treat homeopathically the symptoms that do not add up to any particular ailment, symptoms that general practitioners see the most of and find hardest to treat.
Homeopathy is also a rational system of medicine. If the body's defense systems are handicapped by poor diet, bad habits, destructive emotions, and environmental stresses, it stands to reason that homeopathic remedies, of themselves, will be of limited benefit. If you consult a homeopath, he or she may suggest a change of diet or lifestyle before prescribing any remedy. Homeopathy is not a system for those in search of instant, easy answers, although it can act very swiftly in acute conditions. It requires careful selfmonitoring and a willingness to stick to a course of action. The prize is higher vitality and greater resistance to all disease processes.
THE BEGINNINGS OF HOMEOPATHY
The ''father'' of homeopathy was Samuel Christian Hahnemann, born in Dresden in 1755. Despite his humble background -- his father worked in a porcelain factory -- he acquired a good education, became fluent in eight languages, and studied chemistry and medicine. He then set up in practice as a physician. But the accepted medical customs of his day, which included excessive purging, bloodletting, and cavalier prescribing of drugs that often caused more suffering than they cured, gnawed at his conscience, and after a few years he turned to translating rather than doctoring to earn his living.
It was while he was translating a treatise on herbs by a Dr. Cullen of Edinburgh that he came across the tiny seed that was to flower into a whole new system of medicine. Cullen stated that quinine, an astringent substance purified from the bark of the cinchona tree (Cinchona calisaya), was a good treatment for malaria because it was an astringent. Why, Hahnemann wondered, should quinine have an effect on malaria when other, more powerful, astringents did not? He decided to investigate. For several days he dosed himself with quinine and noted down his reactions in great detail. It seemed that in a healthy person, himself, quinine produced all the symptoms of malaria -- fever, sweating, shivering, weakness. Was this why it also cured malaria?
Fascinated, Hahnemann repeated the quinine tests, which he called ''provings,'' on his acquaintances, again noting their reactions in meticulous detail. He then went on to test other substances in widespread use, such as arsenic, belladonna, and mercury. There were strict requirements for the people involved in these provings. They had to be healthy in mind and body; they could not take anything that might confuse the results, such as alcohol, tea, coffee, or spicy foods; and they were to avoid ''all disturbing passions.''
Hahnemann found that people's responses varied. Some of his volunteers showed one or two mild symptoms in response to a particular substance, but others experienced vigorous reactions with many and varied symptoms. The symptoms most commonly found for each substance he called ''first line'' or ''keynote'' symptoms. ''Second line'' symptoms were less common, and ''third line'' symptoms rare or idiosyncratic. Together these symptoms added up to a ''drug picture'' of the substance concerned.
Using the results of his provings, Hahnemann went on to test various substances on sick people. But before he did so he questioned them thoroughly about their symptoms, general health, way of life, and attitudes, and gave them a physical examination. From each interview and examination he built up what he called a ''symptom picture,'' then prescribed the substance whose drug picture most closely matched it. The closer the match, the more successful the treatment. What he had suspected from his early experiments with quinine was indeed proving to be the case: A remedy and a disease that produce the same symptoms cancel each other out in some way. The adage similia similibus curentur, ''like may be cured by like,'' was true. In his first essay on the subject, A New Principle for Ascertaining the Curative Powers of Drugs and Some Examination of the Previous Principles, published in 1796, he stated: ''One should imitate Nature, which at times heals a chronic illness by another additional one. One should apply in the disease to be healed, particularly if it is chronic, that remedy which is able to simulate another artificially produced disease, as similar as possible, and the former will be healed....'' The name he gave to this new principle of healing was ''homeopathy.''
This was not the end of the story, however. To Hahnemann's dismay some of his patients reported that their symptoms actually got worse before they got better. To prevent such ''aggravations,'' as he called them, Hahnemann started to dilute his remedies. First he made a tincture of the substance concerned, leaving it to stand in a solvent, usually pure alcohol, for one month. He then strained off the liquid, the ''mother tincture.'' Then he took 1 drop of mother tincture and added it to 99 drops of pure alcohol, a dilution factor of 1:100. To mix the 1 drop with the 99 thoroughly he ''succussed'' the mixture by repeatedly banging it on a hard surface for a specific length of time. The dilution process could be repeated again and again, with each successive dilution having one-hundredth the strength of the preceding dilution. If the substance was insoluble, it was triturated, or ground up, before being dissolved into solution.
To Hahnemann's surprise, diluted remedies not only forestalled ''aggravations'' but seemed to act much faster and more effectively. They were, paradoxically, weaker but more potent. The process of successive dilution and succussion ''potentized'' the original substance in a way that is difficult to explain.
Today most homeopathic remedies are available in centesimal potencies, that is, successively diluted by a factor of 100. It is also possible to obtain some of them in decimal potencies, successively diluted by a factor of 10, or as mother tinctures. In this book 6c is the potency recommended for most acute or self-limiting ailments, and 30c the potency recommended in chronic conditions or emergencies: 6c means that the remedy has been diluted six times by a factor of 100, and 30c that it has been diluted 30 times by a factor of 100. This means that 30c remedies are many, many times more potent in homeopathic terms, although they contain much less original substance. A small range of remedies can be bought in most ordinary pharmacies; mail-order companies and homeopathic pharmacies offer a wider range. Many of the commonest remedies are sold as lactose (milk sugar) pilules that have been impregnated with potentized solution; these are taken by dissolving them on or under the tongue. Others are available as solutions that can be dropped directly on the tongue (the recommended method if you are allergic to lactose) or onto lactose pilules. Some can be obtained in lactose powder form, others as creams or ointments, and a few as injections, although only medically qualified homeopaths are allowed to give such injections. Suggestions for building a home medicine chest appear on page 30.
However, before we return to Hahnemann's work, it is important to point out that there is no such thing as a ''homeopathic remedy.'' This is not a perverse statement. A remedy can be prepared homeopathically, by successive dilution and succussion and in accordance with standards laid down by the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States, but it will not act homeopathically unless its drug picture matches the symptom picture of the person taking it. Herein lies the art of homeopathic prescribing. An over-the-counter product that commends itself to a thoroughly miserable hay fever sufferer because it says ''for hay fever'' may indeed work, but only fortuitously. A remedy specially selected to match the sufferer's constitution and personality as well as his or her most distressing hay fever symptoms would be a surer route to eventual cure. A fundamental tenet of homeopathy, and of all the healing arts, is that there is no such thing as a disease purely of the mind or body. Mind and body are one. Influence one and you influence the other. Stress one and you stress the other. The beauty of homeopathy is that its prescribing system, although complex, takes full account of the physical and the mental.
It is not difficult to imagine the scorn that Hahnemann's contemporaries poured upon his claim that weaker remedies produced stronger effects. This ran, and still runs, completely counter to the principles of clinical pharmacology. At dilutions above the eleventh or twelfth centesimal potency, does even one molecule of the original substance remain in solution? Modern physics affords a glimmer of an explanation for why the energies of the original substance persist through successive dilutions and succussions, but how did Hahnemann answer his critics two centuries ago? Then, as today, the cures achieved by homeopathy are real. They cannot be dismissed because the mechanism of cure is not fully understood.
Being a chemist, Hahnemann knew that whatever active principles his dilute remedies contained, they could only be present in infinitesimal quantities. And yet the merest trace of them was enough to produce a strong effect. At some level in the body, he reasoned, there must be something that responds to such tiny hints, an extremely subtle something capable of switching the body from sickness to health, and vice versa. He called that something the ''Vital Force.''
It was this force that was responsible for the orderly and therefore healthy running of the body, and for coordinating the body's defenses against disease. In fact, Hahnemann thought of the Vital Force as a form of electromagnetic energy or vibration. If this coherent energy became jangled and disturbed by stress, poor diet, lack of exercise, inherited constitutional problems, or climatic change, illness would result. The signs and symptoms of the illness were the body's attempts to restore order.
Most of the ailments doctors see are ''acute'' -- they onset quickly, run a fairly well-defined course, and then clear up of their own accord with or without treatment. Hahnemann's rationale for prescribing homeopathic remedies in such cases was that they hastened recovery. The Vital Force, temporarily depressed, was more than equal to bouncing back. He discovered that in outbreaks of acute infection -- measles for example -- where the basic symptoms are usually the same for most people, the same remedy could be routinely prescribed for those afflicted; he also prescribed the same remedy as a preventive.
By contrast, ''chronic'' or long-standing illnesses represent a series of minor victories and capitulations on the part of the Vital Force. Though relapses may be followed by remissions, the general trend is downward. In his writing Hahnemann likened this process to a wearying civil war, with both sides alternately losing and winning battles. In such circumstances, the Vital Force stands sorely in need of mercenaries, or rather correctly prescribed homeopathic remedies.
Perhaps a less bellicose analogy is better suited to the spirit of homeopathy today. Let's imagine, instead, that the Vital Force is a trampoline and the stresses that beset us all from time to time are stones dropped onto it at random from a great height. If the Vital Force is flowing strongly, the trampoline will be taut; any stone falling onto it, even quite a big one, will be flung off. A homeopathic remedy will merely provoke a quicker recoil.
But if the Vital Force is weak and confused, the trampoline will sag; it will not have the recoil energy to fling off the stones, so the stones will settle and make it sag even more. The only way to provoke a recoil sufficient to throw off the stones is to bounce something much heavier onto the trampoline, in the nope that the recoil will be fierce enough to throw off the stones along with the heavy object. This, essentially, is what homeopathic remedies do in cases of chronic illness; they are the stimuli that energize the Vital Force.
Although Hahnemann did not understand the immune system or the intricacies of homeostasis (the body's ever vigilant self-steadying mechanism) as we understand them today, or appreciate that where infection is present so are viruses, bacteria, and other microorganisms, his intuition that it is some quality or energy in the individual that makes for health or illness is difficult to quarrel with.
Hahnemann gradually reestablished himself as a physician, using his new homeopathic methods. However it was not long before he realized that certain patients, whom he had treated for acute conditions, were returning to him complaining of new sets of symptoms. These often seemed to declare themselves after stressful events. As the years passed, it became clear to him that such patients were treading a descending spiral of health, despite intervals of feeling reasonably well. Were their episodes of acute illness a manifestation of some deeper malaise? In treating the symptoms of each acute episode, was he not repressing the fundamental, underlying problem or ''miasm''? ''Miasm,'' meaning ''taint,'' was the word Hahnemann used to describe these putative deep-seated tendencies.
Hahnemann recognized various miasms, some of which we now know to be mediated by specific microorganisms which can indeed provoke repeated episodes of deepening illness if treatment is inappropriate or delayed; among them were syphilis, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, and cholera. Another was ''psora,'' which manifested itself in skin eruptions. Modern public health measures have made such taints less frequent, but the miasm concept continues to be useful and is much discussed among homeopaths. We now know that many bacteria and viruses, including those associated with measles, chickenpox, influenza, and AIDS, seem to create, in predisposed people, a vulnerability to all sons of seemingly unconnected ailments. Depression and anxiety seem to underlie a host of conditions, from migraine to cancer. Hereditary conditions also have a miasmatic character. The task of the homeopath is to look for and recognize such disease patterns and attempt to treat them. By diligent research, mainly with sick people, Hahnemann developed remedies that seemed to work at the deeper miasmatic level. He also gave strict advice on the son of diet and lifestyle his patients should follow -- no perfumes or scented waters, no tooth powders, no snuff, sparing use of tobacco, no woollen underwear, no excessive bathing, no card playing, only occasional visits to the theater, only moderate studying, and no madcap riding or cabdriving.
The first edition of An Organon of Rational Healing, the best-known and most comprehensive of all Hahnemann's writings on the nature of health, disease, and homeopathic healing, was published in 1810. He revised the book five times before his death in 1843, each time searching for greater understanding of the potency of homeopathic remedies and the nature of the Vital Force. At the time of writing it is still in print.
THE SPREAD OF HOMEOPATHY
During the nineteenth century Hahnemann's ideas spread quickly from Germany across Europe and then to the Americas, and also eastward to Asia. Today homeopathy is well respected in some countries, notably in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, India (where it is recognized and supported by the state), South Africa, and South America, but mistrusted in others.
Homeopathy ''arrived'' in Britain in 1832 when a Dr. Hervey Quin began to minister to fashionable society from premises at 19 King Street in London's West End. Quin had traveled to Germany to consult Hahnemann on his own account and learned homeopathy from the Leipzig homeopaths. Later Quin became the first president of the British Homeopathic Society, founded in 1844. Thereafter, despite opposition from orthodox physicians, homeopathy steadily grew in popularity. Quin set up the first homeopathic hospital in London in 1850. The first royal patron of homeopathy was Queen Adelaide, consort of William IV, who, from 1835 until her death in 1849, was the patient of Dr. Ernst Stapf, one of Samuel Hahnemann's closest colleagues. Three very distinguished homeopathic physicians have served the present queen in the past, Dr. John Weir, Dr. Margery Blackie, and Dr. Charles Elliott. Currently, Dr. Ronald Davey holds this position.
In the United States the fire of homeopathy was lit by Dr. Constantine Hering (b. 1800). As well as formulating the Laws of Cure summarized below, he pioneered the use of ''nosodes,'' remedies made not from plants or minerals but from diseased tissue or from bodily secretions. In 1838 he and his colleagues used a homeopathic preparation of infected sheep's spleen to cure anthrax, at one time an almost certainly fatal disease.
MATERIA MEDICAS AND REPERTORIES
Hahnemann originally published the results of his provings in the form of a book called a Materia Medica. This listed, under each remedy, the symptoms that the remedy produced in healthy people. Later work has increased the number of substances used as remedies to three thousand, although not all of these have been tested with the same thoroughness as Hahnemann's original investigations. The Materia Medicas of today contain not only details of symptoms from provings but also the effects of poisons from the science of toxicology and details of symptoms from clinical observations.
Most of the remedies found in Materia Medicas nowadays were discovered in the last century or in the early part of this century. Many homeopaths agree that there is an urgent need to update the information, in order to find out if the twentieth-century environment has changed people's responses to remedies. Some work has been done -- in England, in mainland Europe, and in the United States -- but there is still much to do.
Materia Medicas are used to find out which symptoms a remedy might cause. Homeopaths have also developed remedy finders or Repertories. In a repertory, there is a series of headings concerned with parts or systems of the body, such as mental, vertigo, head, eyes, nose, and so on down to toes. Under each heading there is a list of symptoms, such as pain, redness, or swelling. Alongside each symptom are printed all the remedies known to produce that symptom, together with any factors that may affect it. The symptoms are graded, with the most well proven in bold type, the second in italics, and the third in plain roman. In our repertory, or General Remedy Finder, I have stuck to a single grading system for simplicity.
The ''Laws of Cure'' were partly devised by the physician who established homeopathy in America, Dr. Constantine Hering. They state that cure takes place from the top of the body downward, from the inside outward, and from the most important organs to the least important. Cure takes place in reverse order to the onset of symptoms. Therefore, for example, an ill person will start to feel better emotionally before the physical symptoms disappear and a long-standing complaint will take longer to disappear than a recent one.
Other homeopathic laws state:
1. Small stimuli encourage living systems, medium stimuli impede them, and strong stimuli tend to stop or destroy them altogether (Arndt's law).
2. The quantity of action necessary to effect a change in nature is the least possible, and the decisive amount is always the minimum -- perhaps an infinitesimal amount.
3. Functional symptoms are produced by the Vital Force in exact proportion to the profundity of the disturbance, and functional symptoms come before structural change.
Most people, when they are ill, suffer not only from the basic diagnostic symptoms of the disease but also from other symptoms that are specific to each person. In orthodox medicine, these individual symptoms are mostly unimportant. But in homeopathy, they are vital for giving the correct prescription. This is why different patients may receive different remedies for the same disease.
Many homeopaths who worked on the provings, especially the American, James Tyler Kent, noticed that different types of people reacted strongly to certain remedies and proposed that people could be placed in different categories, called ''constitutional types.'' Homeopaths talk of, for example, ''phosphoric types'' (people who react strongly to phosphorus) or ''Arsenicum album types'' (those who react strongly to Arsenicum album). The belief is that people of one type share similarities in terms of body shape, character, and personality, and the sons of diseases from which they suffer. For instance, Natrum mur people tend to be pear-shaped, have a dark complexion, be fastidious and rigid in personality, keep themselves to themselves, crave salt, and suffer from constipation. Lycopodium types tend to be tall, gangly, and of stooped appearance, with an anxious expression, a craving for sweets, and a propensity to produce intestinal gas.
Of course, constitutional types have their limitations. In reality, each person is an individual, and so there are as many constitutional types as there are human beings, and account must be taken of the sum total of the person's inherited predispositions, past illnesses, diet, general reactions to the environment, intellectual and emotional features, and general attitude toward life. This is what is meant in this book by ''constitutional treatment.''
FINDING A HOMEOPATHIC PRACTITIONER
In the United States today there are several kinds of homeopathic practitioners. Some practitioners have been trained in the more orthodox forms of medicine and have an M.D. (Allopathic Physician) or D.O. (Osteopathic Physician) degree; they are licensed to practice the full scope of medicine and have added the extra dimension of homeopathy to their practice. Another group comprises nontraditional health care practitioners who have a D.C. (Chiropractor), N.D. (Naturopathic Physician), or O.M.D. (Doctor of Oriental Medicine -- Acupuncture and Herbs) degree and also use homeopathy. There are also R.N.s (Nurses), D.D.S.s (Dentists), and D.P.M.s (Podiatrists) who use homeopathy in their treatment of patients. Last there are lay practitioners who have learned homeopathy in a variety of ways but lack the clinical experience of the full spectrum of disease. These practitioners, though many are excellent in the practice of classical homeopathy, often tread the borderline of practicing medicine without a license.
The best way to find a qualified practitioner is to write to the National Center for Homeopathy or the International Foundation for Homeopathy. Both organizations maintain a list of qualified practitioners. In order to be listed by the International Foundation for Homeopathy you must be a health professional and have taken their course in homeopathy. The N.C.H. also requires a practitioner to be a licensed health professional, but only demands an expressed interest in homeopathy in order to be listed.
The American Institute of Homeopathy is an organization of orthodox licensed physicians (M.D. or D.O.) who also practice homeopathy. They also have a mechanism by which they examine and certify physicians in homeotherapeutics through the American Board of Homeotherapeutics. Physicians who have passed this rigorous exam may use the initials D.Ht. after their name.
You may be put in touch with a homeopath who uses less conventional methods. There are many concepts that go under the name of homeopathy today. Practitioners are the best guides to the methods that will best suit your needs. If you discover that your homeopath's philosophy and practice do not meet your expectations, you are of course free to find another practitioner.
The homeopathic practitioner must put the care and cure of his or her patients above any particular beliefs about which branch of homeopathy is right. As Hahnemann himself said, it is not so much the theories about the causation and treatment of illness that are important, but the results.
At your first consultation with a homeopath, there are a great many questions to answer. He or she will want to know about the symptoms of your illness and what affects them, about your medical history from your mother's pregnancy onward, your appetite, likes and dislikes, and the regularity of your bodily functions.
Some questions are aimed at deciding which constitutional group you fit into. Your activities, occupational and recreational, are discussed, along with your emotional state.
The homeopath will prescribe a remedy, which he may dispense himself or which you can obtain from a homeopathic pharmacist; he may also give you advice on any changes you should make in your lifestyle and on the sort of diet you should follow. Hahnemann stated that nutrition was one of the principal factors that could modify the body's response to disease. He was very strict about what his patients ate, especially those with chronic illness.
In a second consultation where constitutional treatment is concerned the homeopath must interpret your response to the prescription in detail, and decide how to continue treatment.
CONTROVERSY AND PROOF
Homeopathy is a living, evolving form of treatment. Throughout its history there have been controversies and arguments. There was a split in the homeopathic world when Hahnemann introduced his theory of the Vital Force and how it could be influenced by remedies diluted, 1 to 100, perhaps 30 times (30c) or more. Some homeopaths, such as Kent and Vithoulkas, have supported his theory. Others have believed that Hahnemann left science behind at this point. One of these was the British homeopath, Richard Hughes. He produced his own Materia Medica called The Cyclopedia, (1884-91), based on laboratory findings and low potencies, without regard for the theory of the Vital Force. Those who followed him tended to see homeopathy in more conventional scientific and medical terms. It was as a result of this split that homeopathy foundered in America some years before the introduction of antibiotics. One living homeopath who champions the middle road, using both approaches with great skill and expertise, is the Argentinian, Dr. Francisco Eizyaga. (For further details see The Two Faces of Homeopathy by Anthony Campbell.
Does homeopathy stand up to scrutiny by modern medical and scientific methods? Lack of convincing scientific proof is one of the great stumbling blocks to homeopathy's acceptance by the general medical community. Many reasons are quoted for this failure, such as lack of money, lack of time, and lack of interest. (Although it should be said that many homeopaths are not interested in providing proof, because they know from their own experience that homeopathy works.)
There are three main areas that must be explored in an effort to overcome this lack of evidence. First, tests called clinical trials must prove that homeopathic remedies, as prescribed, actually benefit patients. Second, there must be proof that the highly diluted remedies have a measurable effect on living organisms, to show that they do contain some of the original substance. Third, the theoretical mechanism behind the potentization effect must be explored.
In conventional medicine, all new drugs must undergo clinical trials before being licensed for prescription by doctors. There have been few well-run clinical trials in homeopathy. In 1854, there was an outbreak of cholera in London. The mortality rates were compared for homeopathic and orthodox hospitals. The former had a mortality rate of 16.4 percent, while the rate in the latter was 51.8 percent. The Board of Health at the time attempted to suppress these damning figures. It was only after the matter was raised in Parliament that the figures were duly recorded.
During World War II there were experiments on the homeopathic treatment of mustard gas burns, for the Ministry of Defence. Controlled trials of mustard gas nosode 30c, and a remedy called Rbus tox 30c, showed a protective effect when these were given as a preventative measure.
A more recent study was conducted in 1980 by Gibson and colleagues, in Glasgow. It compared homeopathic treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with orthodox treatment by the drug aspirin. The results showed that the improvement rate was higher among the former group. However, a combination of aspirin and homeopathic remedies was even more effective.
Smaller trials have shown that Arnica 30c can significantly control pain and bleeding after dental treatment, and that Borax 30c and Candida nosode 30c are effective treatments for vaginal discharge.
In 1986 there was a double-blind study of the homeopathic treatment for hayfever, by Reilly. This showed significantly reduced symptoms in patients taking prescribed homeopathic remedies, compared with those taking a placebo. There have been other trials but their results are open to question and cannot be used as proof.
The overall conclusion is that, where results are available, they show homeopathy to be of benefit. But many people demand better clinical trials, and more of them, before they will accept that homeopathy works.
THE EFFECTS OF HIGH DILUTIONS
What about the evidence that living systems can be influenced by substances in high dilution? It is known that animals can be extraordinarily sensitive. For example, salmon in the ocean can detect the ''scent'' of their home water at dilutions of 1 part in 1 million. The human nose is capable of detecting the foul-smelling mercaptan compounds at concentrations of only 1 part in 500 billion parts of air.
In 1940, Dr. W. E. Boyd conducted an important experiment in Edinburgh. He showed that the chemical mercuric chloride, diluted to 60c, had a measurable effect on the rate at which an enzyme, diastase, affected starch. Similar experiments have been done using animal tissues in the laboratory, including frog's heart and rat's uterus. Yeasts and plants have also been tested. All the results demonstrate that substances ''in potency'' (diluted to typical homeopathic concentrations) have effects on living tissues. Many other experiments are recorded, but most have not been repeated and their accuracy has been questioned. However, recently there has been a worldwide standardization of homeopathy, which it is hoped will give future scientific experiments their due credence.
THE THEORIES BEHIND POTENTIZATION
When a substance is diluted 1 to a 100, for 12 times (the 12c potency) or more, then it is likely that in any one sample, nothing of the original substance remains -- it is pure solvent. Naturally, it is difficult to give a chemical explanation for how such infinitesimally small doses, or even no doses at all, produce their effect.
One possibility is the ''placebo effect.'' It has been shown that up to three-quarters of patients will feel better if given a ''treatment'' that is actually only a placebo. It appears that, if they think it will cure them, then this belief is enough, and they do improve. But it seems unlikely that babies or animals would respond to this effect -- and respond they do, to homeopathic remedies.
It has also been proposed that minute quantities of a remedy may act as a catalyst, a substance that speeds up the chemical workings of the body and so stimulates its innate healing powers. However, the extreme dilutions seem to preclude this.
It may be that physics, rather than chemistry, holds the answer. Experiments have been conducted using Raman lasers and nuclear magnetic resonators (NMR machines, used in medical scanning) to reveal the electromagnetic or vibratory properties of remedies in high dilutions. Evidence indicates that the structure of the solvent molecules may be electrochemically changed by succussion (the violent mixing used when diluting potencies). The solvent molecules may be imprinted and ''remember'' the vibratory properties of the original tincture. When the remedy is given to the patient, this ''memory'' is communicated to the living system and stimulates the effect that we see.
A recent experiment to demonstrate potencies was carried out in France by Dr. Benveniste and its results published in the prestigious Nature magazine. It provoked a flurry of comment and resulted in the retrial of the experiments under the ''scientific'' eyes of a fraud detector, a journalist, and a magician. The resulting furor has done little to clarify the issue of potentization and much to discredit the objectivity and reputation of the orthodox scientific community.
HOMEOPATHY AND CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE
Homeopathic remedies are not exclusive to homeopathy. For example, Cis platinum is used in the treatment of many types of cancer, in both homeopathic and conventional medicine. Cis platinum, in common with many other drugs used in cancer treatment, is itself a ''carcinogen'' (cancer-inducing drug). Similar experiments include quinine, digitalis, and emetine. Orthodox medicine also employs dilutions of allergens (the allergy-causing substances) to treat the allergies themselves.
Remedies that are presented as homeopathic cures for certain conditions, such as lumbago or sleeplessness, may give results -- but they are not being used homeopathically. Rather, they are being used as orthodox drugs, without regard for the individuality of symptoms.
It is important that homeopathic physicians use orthodox methods of diagnosis. This permits understanding of how an illness might progress without treatment, which in turn helps in assessing the response to the remedy. Such diagnosis also helps the practitioner to identify symptoms that are characteristic of the individual, rather than the illness -- information that is vital in prescribing the correct remedy. And qualified homeopaths are aware when it is necessary to recommend that a patient see an orthodox physician. In addition the repertories include many examples of orthodox diagnoses.
Conventional surgery is used in conjunction with homeopathy in certain cases. For example, there may be an injury or physical blockage in an internal organ, or an illness may be draining the body's ability to cure itself. Homeopathic remedies also help in the healing of the wound made by the surgeon's knife. And homeopathy interacts with toxicology, the study of the effects of poisons on the body. Although homeopathic remedies are so dilute that they are not poisonous, their toxic effects must be understood.
There are many similarities between the concepts of homeopathy and the new, expanding fields of immunology and allergy study. Indeed, the homeopathic approach to preventative medicine is reflected by the immunizations of orthodox medicine.
HOMEOPATHY AND NONORTHODOX MEDICINES
There are many complementary, alternative, or other nonorthodox medicines that share concepts with homeopathy. In particular, common to many such therapies is the concept of a natural healing force by which the body cures itself, given the right circumstances. In its use of natural remedies, homeopathy resembles herbal medicine and aromatherapy. In its use of subtle diagnosis it resembles iridology and kirlian photography. In its emphasis on the calmness of the mind it has a close harmony with yoga, meditation, and relaxation techniques. Homeopathy can be used together with hypnotherapy and psychotherapy. And if structural problems are interfering with the progression of a cure, most homeopaths will send patients for physiotherapy, osteopathy, chiropractic, or massage.
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