The Promise of Homeopathy

This article, by renowned author Amy Lansky Ph.D. provides a solid overview of homeopathy.
Many of us are old enough to remember the time when doctors made house calls – a time when our doctor was like a family friend.  There seemed to be a more “homey” feeling to medicine back in those days. Doctors had time for us and they knew strategies us well enough to understand our individual needs.

We can also remember a time when the pharmaceutical companies did not reign supreme – and did not hold our wallets and the national budget hostage.  Absent were today’s TV drug ads and other kinds of media pressures to use particular forms of treatment. Absent too were weekly pill organizers.  For most of us, life did not revolve around numerous expensive pills to be ingested daily and paid for. 
Indeed, studies indicate that Americans are more chronically ill than they were in the past. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported in 2002 that 80% of adults in the U.S. take some form of medication every week, with 50% taking a prescription drug.  Even children are increasingly prey to chronic diseases like asthma, diabetes, learning disorders, hyperactivity, severe allergies, and autism.  The sad fact is that children now have to use pill organizers too.  Schools and summer camps must be informed of complex drugging regimes, their walls adorned with “Epipens” just in case of unexpected anaphylaxis from allergens.
But how many of us can remember an even earlier time – the time when conventional (allopathic) medicine did not completely dominate the medical landscape?  Back in the early 1900s, most small towns and cities had their resident homeopath dispensing mysterious little white pills, or an eclectic physician touting the nature cure.  Indeed, before World War strategies I, many doctors were still being educated at Eclectic and Homeopathic medical schools.  During WWI, homeopathy was still sanctioned by the U.S. armed forces, with entire army base hospitals staffed by homeopaths. 
Surprisingly, these alternative practitioners often had much more therapeutic success than their allopathic counterparts practicing “conventional” forms of medicine.  For example, during the 1918 flu epidemic, homeopathic practitioners had a death rate of only 1.05%, whereas conventional physicians had a death rate of 30%.   The charity hospital on Wards Island in New York City had the lowest percentage of deaths in that city.  It was overseen by the city’s health commissioner (and later U.S. Senator), Royal Copeland, MD, who used homeopathic treatment in all cases.
Of course, before 1915, conventional doctors did not have medicines like antibiotics or aspirin at their disposal.  When the first homeopaths came to the United States from Germany, back in the 1830s, their methods were embraced by many conventional doctors (allopaths) because homeopathic treatments worked much better than any method they had available to them.  In the 1800s, homeopathy built up an amazing track record in treating epidemics in Europe and the USA.  It was successful in treating outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, flu, and scarlet fever. In the early 1900s, homeopathic practitioners were even successful in treating and preventing smallpox outbreaks – to the extent that the state of Iowa ruled homeopathic treatment to be a legal substitute for conventional vaccination.  Pioneers carried homeopathic medical kits as they made their way across the vast North American wilderness – indeed, the very first American domestic manual (a medical reference for use in the home) was published in 1835 by the father of American homeopathy, Constantine Hering, M.D.  Many tried and true homeopathic medicines of those times, such as nitroglycerine and digitalis for heart disease, are still used by conventional doctors to this day. 
Unfortunately, the successes of the 19th century homeopaths were a threat to the allopathic status quo. Starting in the 1850s, allopathic societies and journals began a program of systematic disenfranchisement of homeopathic practitioners.  With the advent of modern pharmaceuticals and the rise of the large drug companies in the early 1900s, homeopathic medical schools, along with schools that taught other alternative therapies, were undermined.  Eventually, their graduates were refused the opportunity for medical licensure, regardless of their proficiency.  Many of the great American homeopathic medical schools, including the Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia (named for the founder of Homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, MD), were slowly converted to allopathy. 
Over the course of the 20th century, state medical licensing laws became more and more restrictive as well.  In the late 1800s, three medical systems were generally sanctioned in the USA – Allopathic, Homeopathic, and Eclectic (similar to today’s Naturopathy, which uses herbalism, hydrotherapy, and other natural healing methods).  By the1940s, most states had removed the opportunity for legal medical practice by anyone other than licensed allopaths. For example, in my own state of California, there had been a “drugless practitioners license” that had allowed for various forms of alternative practice, as long as practitioners did not use drugs, perform surgery, or claim to be doctors.  This license was repealed in 1949, ushering in a time in which allopathic practitioners enjoyed a complete monopoly over health care.  Most states now had laws that required anyone who provided any kind of treatment for any physical or mental ailment of any kind, or performed any form of diagnosis (even a store clerk recommending an over-the-counter product) to be a licensed physician.
Of course, times change.  Things seem to be turning full circle, with many of us beginning to use alternative forms of therapy once again.  A Harvard study has shown that a majority of Americans now use some kind of alternative medicine, and that these numbers are steadily increasing across all demographic groups. Why? Because we have come to realize that conventional medicine does not hold all the answers.  And the costs and often alienating nature of modern allopathy has begun to wear thin. 
For example, many of us have begun to wonder if all those pills in our weekly pill organizer may be making us sicker. Evidence has shown that these suspicions may be well-founded. A 2000 JAMA study reported that after heart disease and cancer, modern medicine itself is now the 3rd leading cause of death in the USA – that is, deaths attributable to prescribed medications, unnecessary surgeries, hospital errors, and hospital infections.  Another 2002 JAMA study reported that 20% of newly approved drugs will ultimately be recalled as unsafe.  If there is another way to restore our health – a way that is more effective, safer, and less costly – it would serve us all well to embrace it.
For my family, homeopathy has become that way. In truth, I didn’t come to be an advocate of homeopathy so easily. As a computer science researcher in Silicon Valley, with a doctorate from Stanford University, I was once a devotee of modern medicine and loved my pills like everyone else.  That all changed when my younger son became a statistic – one of the many children in this country suffering from autism.  Thankfully, he is also one of the few autistic children to have fully recovered – thanks to homeopathy.  Today he is 14 years old and no one would suspect his former autism.  And he’s not the only such case. 
When my son dramatically responded to homeopathic treatment, I began to study homeopathy myself.  Ultimately, I gave up my career in computers and wrote a book to let our country, and especially the parents of autistic children, know about this amazing medical system. My book includes a comprehensive introduction to homeopathic philosophy, guidance for patients, and plenty of scientific studies to placate the skeptics. It also includes many stories of hope and cure – not only my own family’s story, but dozens of first-person cure stories for a wide variety of physical and mental ailments – chronic bladder infections, obsessive-compulsive disorder, migraine, Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, anxiety disorder, and more.  There is even a remarkable story of healing in a case of Alzheimer’s.
In addition to my son’s cure from autism, my family has experienced many other homeopathic miracles.  My own summer allergies, which had been growing increasingly more severe each year, disappeared.  Over the years I have seen ear aches, fevers, and stomach flus nipped in the bud, warts turn brown and scabby and drop off, and a red, swollen welt from a wasp sting disappear in minutes.  Homeopathy has also been an amazing resource for my 90-year-old mother.  She still takes many of her allopathic medications, but a dose of the homeopathic remedy that was recommended by her certified homeopathic practitioner always serves to perk her up and ease her chronic insomnia.  I believe it has given her a new strategies lease on life, and helps her to maintain her still quite active lifestyle. 
So how does homeopathy work?  Unlike most allopathic drugs, homeopathic remedies  do not cause symptoms to be disguised or suppressed.  Instead, they are able to cure disease – including many chronic diseases – by stimulating the natural healing mechanisms of the body.  The homeopathic strategy, developed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, MD in the early 1800s, is based on a simple therapeutic principle called the Law of Similars.  This principle states that if a substance can cause the symptoms of a disease in healthy people, then it can be prepared in such a way that it triggers a curative response in sick people.  In fact, that’s what the word “homeopathy” literally means – “similar suffering.”
Here’s a simple example.  Everyone knows the effects of drinking coffee – you become stimulated and elated, you feel wide awake, your mind races with ideas and excitement, and you may experience heart palpitations.  Many people with insomnia experience these very same symptoms, often after an exciting night on the town.  An appropriate homeopathic remedy for them (the remedy most similar to their state of insomnia) would be Coffea Cruda, prepared from coffee bean.  But unlike conventional medicine, which uses the same drug for each catchall classification of disease (e.g., anti-histamine for hay-fever, aspirin for headache, or a sleeping-pill for insomnia), homeopathic medicine is individualized.   Thus, if a patient’s insomnia symptoms are different – say, sleeplessness from worrying or from over-tiredness, accompanied by dizziness and nausea – a different remedy would be chosen. 
Here’s another illustration.  Recently, my neighbor’s mother called to ask me about her chronic bladder infections. She had read my book, which includes the story of a woman who had suffered for many years from this painful condition.  The doctors had all but given up on this woman and had recommended daily doses of antibiotics on an indefinite basis.  What cured her permanently – and, ultimately cured my neighbor’s mother as well – was a dose or two of Cantharis, a remedy made from Spanish Fly.  This substance is known to cause, and can therefore cure, the intolerable constant urge to urinate associated with this condition.  Patients who are likely to be helped by Cantharis find that their symptoms are aggravated by drinking coffee, and that they have violent burning pains before, during, and after passing urine.
Now please note: If a healthy person takes Spanish Fly, they will not develop a bladder infection.  Rather, they will develop many of the symptoms of bladder infection.  Because of this, the Law of Similars states that a homeopathically prepared dose of Spanish Fly, will be able to cure bladder infections – but only if symptoms match.  If a patient’s bladder infection symptoms are different from those of Cantharis, a different remedy must be used.   That is one of the reasons why it is always best to consult a certified homeopathic practitioner who can find the remedy that best matches your overall symptom picture.  
Over the past 200 years, over 1000 homeopathic remedies have been developed and tested in homeopathic drug trials called “provings.”  Each proving determines and records the physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral effects of a potential remedy on healthy test subjects.  The symptoms of any given patient are then compared against this proving knowledge base.  Working collaboratively with a patient, a homeopathic practitioner identifies the patient’s unique physical and psychological symptom profile and selects the remedy that best matches it.
One of the beauties of the Law of Similars is that it can be applied to any disease – even new strategies diseases that have never been seen before.  Somewhere within the homeopathic medicine chest is usually a remedy whose symptoms will match those being experienced by a patient.  This makes homeopathy even more valuable today, when new strategies viruses appear each month and the threat of bio-terrorism looms before us. A new strategies drug or vaccine need not be found – only the remedy that best matches the symptoms.  Indeed, the former director of the Office of Alternative Medicine at NIH, Wayne Jonas, MD, testified before Congress in November 2001 that homeopathy should be considered very seriously for these very reasons. 
Interestingly, the philosophy of disease and cure that underlies homeopathic practice also provides us with clues as to why Americans are now experiencing an increase in chronic disease. Through careful long-term observation of their patients, the early homeopaths discovered that when minor symptoms are repeatedly suppressed rather than cured, the underlying dysfunction that created those symptoms would ultimately express itself in more serious ways.  For example, even back in the 1800s, homeopaths noticed that repeated suppression of skin conditions like eczema could ultimately lead to the development of the deeper chronic problem, asthma. If this homeopathic theory is correct, rather than pollution, it could be our society’s perpetual use of cortisone creams, antihistamines, and other suppressive drugs that has led to the dramatic rise in asthma rates.  Indeed, our increasing tendency to suffer from chronic disease in general, and from weakened or self-attacking immune systems, may also be attributable to our overzealous and injudicious use of suppressive drugs and vaccines – the mainstays of modern medicine since World War strategies II.

Luckily, homeopaths also discovered that treatment based on the Law of Similars does not suppress.  Instead, it can cure eczema without leading to asthma, and can even cure asthma itself, along with many other chronic conditions. Homeopathy, along with many other alternative treatments becoming popular in the United States today, truly have the potential to make us well again – and at the same time, help to relieve our national health-care crisis. 

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