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“I Do Not Think it Means What You Think it Means.“
-Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
Do you know what the term homeopathic means?
I’m not sure what you think of when you hear the word “homeopathy”, or how you might use it in a conversation with someone.
I remember the days that I was clueless to the difference between two terms that many people use interchangeably: homeopathic and holistic. I’ve had a number of conversations where people tell me that they prefer homeopathic remedies to pharmaceutical drugs, but then it becomes clear that the conversation is about holistic medical treatment, not homeopathy.
The term holistic medicine refers to a way of approaching an individual’s health as a whole. Some doctors treat in a “car mechanic” fashion. They tend to look at the problem that is making the most noise and either medicate it into silence or remove it. Holistic medicine considers that the noisy body part may be an alarm for something underlying that needs investigation. Holistic medicine has an appreciation for the way that our bodies are made, that every part of us is so inter-connected that to separate out various systems without considering the whole does a disservice to the patient as well as the body. The best medicinal methods consider every alarm that is sounding, not just the loudest one, and how they might be related with each other.
Homeopathy is not entirely removed from holistic medicine, but it would not be correct to use the two terms interchangeably. Homeopathy is under the umbrella of holistic medicine and is a way of treating symptoms that stimulates a healing response within the body so the body is enabled to heal itself. Homeopathic medicine is a very sensitive way of treating and considering very specific symptoms, some of which may be so minute, that the patient may not have even realized or given much attention to them. It is a way of treating that is based on the premise that “like heals like”.
In order to select the correct remedy for treatment, a homeopathic practitioner, or the sick individual or their care provider, considers the patient’s symptom profile as a whole, along with specific preferences and aversions.
For example, say Suzy comes home from school and says that she spent time outside at recess that day, despite it being cold and windy. She goes to the fridge and rummages around for a cool drink to soothe her pain. Suzy brings her drink to the living room where she tries to settle in and relax, reading a book. But she can’t seem to get comfortable, and isn’t content just sitting still. She voices that she hates being sick and is afraid of the symptoms getting worse. The sound of the wind outside howling is frightening to her as well. After a few minutes you check on Suzy and find that her cold drink sits mostly untouched because even though it sounded soothing to her, her throat is too painful when she swallows to continue drinking.
Based on an inventory of Suzy’s behavior and symptoms, a good remedy match to start with might be aconite. Aconite is a remedy for a sudden onset of a sore throat after being exposed to cold and wind outside. The child tends to be scared and restless with severe throat pain and a desire for cold drinks.
One of the best parts about homeopathy is that if you arrest an acute illness in the beginning stages, you can either lessen the intensity of the illness, or enable the body to overcome it completely without it fully blossoming.
A Competitive History
Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) a German physician, is credited as being the founder of modern homeopathy. By 1840 homeopathy was prolific in the United States, and in 1844 homeopaths founded the first medical organization, called the American Institute for Homeopathy. There were even homeopathic hospitals 1 2 3 and throughout the cholera epidemic that occurred in 1884, and the famous 1918 influenza epidemic, the success of homeopathic hospitals was reported as being statistically much higher than that of the “allopathic” hospitals.
In 1900 there were 22 homeopathic colleges in the US. However, there was an organization formed in 1843 by a group of physicians who practiced in these non-homeopathic locations, called the American Medical Association. The AMA fought the success of homeopathy, and continued until it was nearly impossible to gain a well-rounded education in homeopathy. By 1923 all but two of the homeopathic colleges had shut down.
Despite the suppression of homeopathy, the practice has lived on. In our current medical climate, we are seeing a re-resurgence of homeopathic medicine. These days, many people turn to homeopathy after traditional allopathic methods of treatment have failed them, especially with conditions like allergies, asthma, and eczema.
My Experience with Homeopathy
I was first introduced to homeopathy by a friend who shared it with me when our son was around 1 year old. How I wish I’d known more about it earlier for those days that he had awful colic! But I was so grateful for my friend’s willingness to share it with me when she did, and how much she had benefited from using homeopathy as she raised her large family.
The first remedy that I used with our son was when he was teething. Homeopathic oral pain relief tablets were a life saver! At first, I was skeptical. This was a method of treatment that I hadn’t used before and most of what I had heard about it was discounting it and calling it “quackery”. Nevertheless, I tried it and guess what? IT WORKED! The tablets calmed and quieted my baby, without the dangers of using teething gel or children’s Tylenol.
Teething gels contain benzocaine, which is a topical anesthetic that’s in products like Baby Orajel. The FDA has issued warnings against these products, due to a potential condition caused by benzocaine called methemoglobinemia. Methemoglobinemia is a blood disorder where the oxygen carried through the blood can drop to dangerously low levels, and can lead to death. Doesn’t sound like it’s worth the risk to me! I’ll take a screaming live baby any day!
Children’s Tylenol is not the safest option because it depletes glutithione, which can lead to a cascade of health issues, especially for children who have MTHFR gene mutations and are unable to detoxify efficiently. There’s a healthier way!
The second product that we tried was also somewhat out of desperation. We wanted something that worked not just by covering up symptoms, but by stimulating healing. This was oscillococcinum. This remedy is sold by Boiron in most drug stores and many grocery stores. Oscillococcinum is great for sicknesses involving body aches and a fever. Although it doesn’t exclusively treat the flu (homeopathy is symptom-based), it’s a good one for flu-like illnesses.
Although we stay pretty healthy overall, there have been a few situations where this remedy has been an amazing help. One time was when we traveled by plane and my husband officiated his friend’s wedding. He was fine throughout the wedding but must have picked up something during our travels, and whatever it was came on fast and hard. The day following the wedding he had a speaking engagement and lunch meeting that he had to attend. Even though I am absolutely an advocate for staying home when you’re sick (to rest and not spread illnesses to others), oscillococcinum allowed my husband the energy, pain relief, and ability to fulfill his obligations. Without any potential side effects! And after meeting those obligations he was able to rest and recover completely without being set back much from trucking on through.
Our experience with homeopathy has gradually become more extensive as I have been able to learn more about using individual remedies to treat acute illnesses. Homeopathic remedies have become my “go-to” for complaints ranging from bloody noses to head bumps to sun burns to sore throats to coughs and fevers.
For chronic illnesses, it is best to work with a well-trained homeopath who is well-aquainted with a materia medica and the action of homeopathic medications on symptoms and disease.
“Homeopathy: Beyond Flat Earth Medicine by Timothy R. Dooley, ND, MD, is a gem of a book. Dooley’s writing style is informal, conversational, and easy to read. Amazingly, it is mostly jargon-free with the history and philosophy woven throughout in colorful threads rather than delivered in dry, dusty chunks. The explanations are succinct and beautifully digestible. Dooley answers every question I have ever been asked about homeopathy–and many more–while describing virtually every aspect of homeopathic treatment. The chapters are sprinkled with memorable stories, anecdotes, and case histories that are invariably vivid, interesting, humourous, or entertaining–sometimes all at once. This book reminds me of my favorite teacher, who entertained and instructed in equal measure.” — Miranda Castro, FS Hom, Mothering Magazine, Summer 1997
The Complete Homeopathy Handbook: Safe and Effective Ways to Treat Fevers, Coughs, Colds and Sore Throats, Childhood Ailments, Food Poisoning, Flu, and a Wide Range of Everyday Complaints, Miranda Castro
“The Complete Homeopathy Handbook is the definitive guide for using homeopathic remedies at home. It includes A-to-Z listings for external and internal remedies, with explanations for correctly diagnosing the symptoms of any particular injury or illness. The book also includes ten case studies and specific dos and don’ts to follow when treating more than seventy conditions.”
These homeopathy kits are available from Mary Aspinwall, author of Basic Guide to Homeopathy. They are easy to use, especially in conjunction with Miranda’s book. We especially like this kit, and they’re small enough that you can carry them in your purse with you wherever you go!