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Homeopathy and homeopathic remedies for hay fever

Are there homeopathic remedies that can help hay fever sufferers? Indeed there are. If you follow this blog you will know that Classical Homeopathy follows the ‘law of similars’. Simply put this means that the characteristics of the ailment as experienced by the patient must match the ‘picture’ of the homeopathic medicine / remedy.

Several homeopathic remedies have that hay fever ‘picture’. Of course that ‘picture’ varies from individual to individual. For some it is sore and red eyes, for others sneezing and so on. So the challenge is to match the remedy to the case.

Homeopathic First Aid

Continuing with the series on remedies in a typical home first aid kit, in this blog I focus on kit remedies that have a particular affinity to hay fever. For more on the benefits of purchasing a first aid kit of basic homeopathic remedies see my earlier blog Family Care with Homeopathy

homeopathic first aid kit

Classical homeopathic prescribing for acute complaints considers the following:

  1. Causation (and for hay fever, most likely it is pollen)
  2. Location (your eyes, nose and throat but see point 5.)
  3. Modalities (things that make the complaint better or worse – e.g. hot or cold)
  4. Sensation (for example the nature of any discharge – clear, yellow or acrid)
  5. Concomitants (characteristics that may seem unrelated – e.g. how you feel generally)

Consider homeopathic treatment like finding the right key for a lock, if after a taking the remedy for a short while (say one pill every 4 hours for a day or two) there is no response, then try another. Note also that homeopathic medicines are absorbed through the mucous membranes of the mouth – not the gut – so you let the tablet or pill dissolve under the tongue.

Hay Fever: what is it?

Hay fever can cause sneezing, sore eyes and more.  Homeeopathy can help.

Hayfever is an acute allergic reaction to certain types of pollen. A type of allergic rhinitis where grass tree and flower pollens and / or mould spores cause the body to over react. Histamine is produced which draws fluid to the site of the irritation causing the familiar symptoms of redness, itching, swelling. The eyes and nose are most affected but the upper respiratory system can all be irritated.

Over the counter conventional treatments are mostly of the anti-histamine type. These used to risk drowsiness but this effect is less with newer formulations. Sometimes steroid containing nasal sprays are prescribed to reduce inflammation of the nasal passages. On the NHS website there is a useful overview with an accompanying short video from and ENT Consultant.

From a Homeopathic point of view there are a number of common remedies available in typical first aid kits sold by such as Ainsworths (see above) and Helios. However, deeper constitutional treatment is recommended where the hay fever symptoms cause discomfort year on year.

The herbal products from Vogel have been around a long time, and may also help.

Constitutional Homeopathic Treatment for Hay Fever

The annual recurrence of hay fever symptoms, which can be quite debilitating, indicates a genetic predisposition. For example hayfever sufferers may be aware of a familial history of respiratory condition such as asthma. By strengthening the consitution – in effect addressing underlying factors – the allergic response is reduced. Homeopathy has long recognised familial traits and endeavours to address these.

Addressing these underlying traits is not as easy at taking an over the counter remedy from the pharmacy. It may take two or three seasons to yield long lasting benefits. But the goal is long lasting benefit and not just symptom management.

That said the homeopathic approach has a good track record and if you would like to discuss this further please do book a free Discovery Call

Homeopathic First Aid for Hay Fever

For short term symptomatic relief here below are some remedies typically found in first aid kits that you can try.

Allium Cepa

Allium Cepa is a homeopathic preparation of the onion plant. The common reaction to chopping an onion points to the characteristics of this remedy. Burning discharge from the nose and bland discharge from the eyes. Strangely being indoors makes the symptoms worse.

Euphrasia (Eyebright)

Here the picture of Allium is reversed, with the burning discharge from the eyes, which are swollen with bland discharge from the nose. The sufferer may cough and bring up phlegm.

Arsenicum Album

Indeed this is a remedy from Arsenic, but remeber that homeopathic remedies are potentised ultra dilutions so there is no risk of poisoning! The picture here is of restlessness, a thirst for hot drinks taken at short intervals. The discharge is bland. There is sneezing and tightness in the chest. Where the picture fits, this is often a remedy for the common cold. Where there is chronic nasal catarrh with a thick yellow discharge think of the related remedy Arsenicum Iodatum.

Gelsemium

Here there is much sneezing and the patient feels quite apathetic and quite drowsy with heavy eyes. This is also a remedy well associated with the ‘flu like state – dull droopy and drowsy.

Nux Vomica

Eyes smarting, and sensitive to light, with a stuffy nose and obstructed breathing. Itching in the ears and eustation tubes. General irritability.

Mixed Pollens

This is a combination remedy. A preparation of pollens from many sourced prepared in the usual manner for homeopathic remedies. It is often a useful catch all.

Something similar is Dr Reckeweg R84

These are just a few of a long list of homeopathic remedies that are known to help with hay fever symptoms. To get a deeper understanding of your case an in-depth consultation is suggested and if you would care to discuss this further please book a free 30 minute discovery call from my website.

Homeopathy in Kolkata is for many the home of Classical Homeopathy. In January I had the privilige to attend a course run at the Bengal Allen Medical Institute in Kolkata (Calcutta).

Some 18% of the world’s population live in India – about 1.5 billion. Although there are many poor people it is a fast developing country and is the fifth largest economy in the world.

Calcutta - spiritual home of classical Homeopathy

Dr Saptarshi Banerjea now runs the Calcutta Clinic. His father Dr Subrata is primarily UK based but regularly visits India to assist. Respectively they are the fourth and fifth generation of homeopathic doctors. During the two week course the two doctors saw over 150 patients. In addition to the main clinic they also host a low cost ‘slum’ clinic which we were privilidged to visit.

Homeopathy in Kolkata: A Different Health Care Model

In a departure from my recent blogs themes, I wish to share with you a different health care model to that which you find in the West. One that offers the cleint more choice.

At the outset let me say that in India that orthodox ‘western’ medicine such as you find in the NHS is widely available through both state and private facilities. It is not by accident that many doctors from the Indian subcontinent practice in the UK.

Almost all the patients seen by the Drs Banerjea had undergone orthodox investigation, diagnosis and treatment. The strengths of orthodox medicine are not to be denied, but neither are the limitations. Medicine is complex, and the nature of healing more complex still. There is no single approach.

Homeopathy Kolkata
Local Pharmacy

Dr Subrata jokes that if you were to throw a stone in Calcutta, you would hit a Homeopath. Perhaps an exaggeration, but there are many pharmacies specialising in homeopathic medicines upon which the local communities rely.

Medical Training in India

So how is medical training in India organised? As mentioned there is a strong focus on the ‘orthodox’ model as we understand it. But not to the exclusion of other systems.

The simple answer is that the Indian Government recognises traditional forms of medicine.

There exists a Ministry of AYUSH. The accroynm is a play on the Sanskrit word for Long Life, and incorporates Ayurvedic, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy. Ayurvedic and Siddha rather overlap. Their focus is to reestablish balance by dietary herbal and other means. Unani is not dissimilar but is Arabic/ Persian in origin.

These approaches reach back millenia and it is worth remembering that what we in the west see as orthodox medicine is a very recent science.

Almost everyone will have some familiarity with Yoga and how it benefits both mind and posture. There is much about Homeopathy on this website of course, but you can find an introduction here.

In India, medical students with an interest in Homeopathy study for the BHMS qualification (Bachelor of Homeopathy and Medical Science). This is equivalent to the MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery) within the western orthodox model. Obviously there is appropriate training in the other pathways, though I am unfamiliar with the details.

Practitioners and patients may favour (or show bias to) one approach over another. But they reflect different ways of approaching health and the different outlooks of physician and patient alike. One size does not fit all. The majority present at the course were Indian BHMS qualified doctors.

Homeopathy in Kolkata: The Calcutta Clinic

The ‘slum’ clinic

Over the two weeks there were both new and follow-up cases. There were a wide range of complaints affecting almost every system of the body: skin, respiratory, musculo-skeletal, gastic, cardiac, emotional / neurological and so forth. It most cases, given time, improvement resulted. Significantly so in some cases.

As a general rule it is difficult to reverse well established pathology, but symptoms can often be eased. You can get an idea of the range of cases from Dr Saptarshi’s website.

The in-depth knowlege of both father and son of the Homeopathic Materia Medica (that is to say the applicability of the homeopathic remedies) was truly impressive. Many patients travelled for long hours to reach the clinic which is testimony to the achievements of this homeopathic dynasty.

Could Homeopathy Help You?

I and the other participants can only be in the shadow of the Dr Subrata and Dr Saptarshi but if you would like to discuss how Homeopathy might help you please book a free Discovery call

Homeopathy in Calcutta

The genus name for the honeybee is Apis Mellifera. Apis is a useful homeopathic remedy and this blog is the next in the series of first aid remedies for the family. The origin of this remedy is the venon of the honeybee. As we will see the guiding symptoms will be familiar to anyone who has been stung by a bee, and indeed reflect the characteristics of the bee in common speech – busy as a bee, queen bee and so on.

Apis homeopathic remedy - origin is the venom of the honey bee
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Homeopathic Principles – a quick recap

Classical homeopathy prescribing follows the natural law of similars.  

This means that you select the remedy by matching its picture to the symptoms of the patient.

Every homeopathic remedy has both mental / emotional and physical characteristics.

The patient will not exhibit every characteristic of the remedy.  Just capture the general theme.

Three Legged Stool

Try to establish three out of the following four:

Apis – Homeopathic Remedy

First Aid Uses:

This is a remedy for any condition where the classic features of the bee sting are seen. The key symptoms are burning, stinging, redness and swelling. So it is a remedy for bee and other stings (but think also of Ledum). Swellings can occur anywhere, skin, mouth and throat, around the eyes, neck or abdomen. Think of apis when there is an allergic reaction, urinary infection (cystitis) with burning (also consider Cantharis ), tonsilitis and so forth. There may be numbness or paralysis of the affected part.

Picture:

Better or worse:

Other points

Where the general picture fits, this remedy can help with more demanding complaints such as shingles (burning pains), kidney disease (leading to oedema), ovarian pain (burning), and asthma (cannot get another breath)

A Small Aside

Local marketing consultants Honeybee capture some of the mental characteristics of bees on their website. Busy bees indeed…

Apis is a homeopathic remedy for busy bees!

I wrote about the Allium Cepa (the onion) Homeopathy back in 2021 from a slightly different angle. Here, as part of an ongoing series, I consider the remedy from a first aid perspective. The origin of the remedy is of course the common oinion. I am sure that you have chopped up some onions and so you know the effect.

Allium Cepa (the onion) as a homeopathic remedy
Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash

Homeopathic Principles – a quick recap

Classical homeopathy prescribing follows the natural law of similars.  

This means that you select the remedy by matching its picture to the symptoms of the patient.

Every homeopathic remedy has both mental / emotional and physical characteristics.

The patient will not exhibit every characteristic of the remedy.  Just capture the general theme.

Three Legged Stool

Try to establish three out of the following four:

ALLIUM CEPA HOMEOPATHY DESCRIBED

This remedy is of plant origin.  It is, as I have said, the common onion. 

Allium Cepa Homeopathy First Aid Uses:

This is a remedy for upper respiratory tract infections or allergies which primarily affect the eyes and nose, but can extend into the ears and throat.  It is also a remedy of value in seasonal hay fever (Roger Morrison MD – Doctor / Homeopath in the USA – says it cures up to 30% of cases for a season, but permanent cure requires deeper acting remedies)

The Picture:

Better or worse:

Other points:

The patient may desire onions and – curiously – be averse to cucumber

Injudicious use of this remedy to suppress an inconvenient runny nose in the common cold risks driving the infection deeper (remember discharge is an aspect of the attempt of the body to cure).  So use this remedy when the symptoms are more severe

Can homeopathy help with a cough? Yes it can. If you follow this blog you will know that Classical Homeopathy follows the ‘law of similars’. Simply put this means that the characteristics of the ailment and the remedy must match.

Homeopathy for cough
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Unfortunately many homeopathic remedies have a cough ‘picture’. Fortunately, however, there is considerable overlap between the various remedies such that absolute precision is not required.

Coughs that fail to resolve warrant further investigation by your GP.

***

Continuing with the series on remedies in a typical home first aid kit, in this blog I am going to focus on kit remedies that have a particular affinity to coughs.

homeopathic first aid kit

Classical homeopathic prescribing for acute complaints considers the following:

  1. Causation (e.g. chill or getting wet)
  2. Location (e.g. chest or throat)
  3. Modalities (things that make the complaint better or worse)
  4. Sensation (describe your cough)
  5. Concomitants (characteristics that may seem unrelated – e.g. your mood)

Put another way, items 2,4,5 on this list are your main symptoms.

So let’s have a look.

Homeopathy for Cough – A Selection of Cough Remedies

Aconite

This is a dry cough. The characteristic of this remedy is sudden onset. There may be fever or chilliness with shivering. The symptoms are worse around midnight. The cough is hoarse and dry. The patient is thirsty. This is a remedy for the first 24 hours only. If the cough continues then change to another of the remedies below.

Antimonium Tarticum

This is a wet cough. Breathing is difficult because of the phlegm (which is white) and so there is rattling in the chest. Worse in warm stuffy rooms and at night. Better sitting up. A remedy for the very young and elderly. Thirsty for cold drinks

Arsenicum Album

This is a dry asthmatic type of cough with wheezing. There may be a sense of constriction, tightness and / or burning though you may feel chilly (so better in the warmth). There is great restlessness. The symptoms are worse around midnight. Warm drinks help and taken regularly is small sips (rather an Arsenicum keynote)

Bryonia

This is a dry, hard cough. The onset is slow (not like Aconite). Because everything is sore you do not want to move – this is a key characteristic. You are irritable and want to be left alone. Generally better for pressure and long drinks (very thirsty).

Drosera

This is a dry cough that comes in spasms – you can hardly catch your breath. Consequently the stomach muscles may be painful. The cough is worse when lying down making sleep difficult. Better for slow movement in the open air.

Hepar sulphur

This is a wet cough with thick yellow mucus (infection) – often dry at night and loose in the morning. But it is also useful in croup which has a dry cough. You will be chilly and want to be wrapped up. Worse at night in bed.

Ipecacuana

Totally dry cough – tickling and comes in paroxysms with choking or gagging, with wretching / vomiting. Worse in the evening and in a warm room and better with warm drinks. The nose may bleed.

Nux Vomica

Dry teasing cough with soreness in chest. Throat raw. Spasmodic with wretching. Feverish – colds go to chest. Irritable and impatient. Better with warmth. Better in the evening but then worse after midnight.

Phosphorus

Violent dry cough with irritation in throat, but lungs congested. Laryngitis. Seeks comfort and sympathy. Nervous temperament. Cold drinks may be vomited.

Pulsatilla

Changeable cough – loose in the morning, dry during the day and then loose in the evening. Thick yellow mucous. Craves attention and sympathy. Better in open air.

Spongia

Bronchial catarrh with wheezing. Sound like a saw going through board. Alternate with Hepar Sulph in Croup.

Homeopathy for Cough – Dr Saptarshi Banerjea (Calcutta)

India is perhaps the most notable country for the wide practice of Homeopathy. There are pathways for medical students to study both western medicine and homeopathy as well as other traditional forms such as Ayurvedic medicine.

Dr Saptarshi Banerjea in Calcutta (Kolkata) recently posted a video on the subject of coughs and remedy selection. Quite entertaining (unless you have the cough in question!)

Not everyone has the skills of Dr Banerjea, but nonetheless, homeopathy can help shorten the duration of any cough resulting from respiratory infection.

I happen to be a school governor, and on occasion I have to sit on a panel considering whether or not to exclude a child from school for behavioural reasons.  Those meetings always get me thinking of homeopathy and mental health.

Without going into inappropriate detail, I recall one case where the child concerned was both disruptive in class and suffered from anxiety.  Clearly a mental health issue at the core. Although it is something all schools try to avoid, there really no option but to approve the exclusion. And then we all hope that in due course CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service) will turn things around.

Wearing my homeopathic hat, I saw a different perspective, though as a governor I had to act in accordance with my role and keep my thoughts to myself.  That perspective is the general subject of this blog.

Ghost in the cupboard?

Shortly it will be Halloween or the eve of All Saints Day.  It marks the end of the summer and has an association with the boundary between the living and the dead, hence ghosts etc.  There is a nice explanation of the origins of halloween here https://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

I lived in Belgium for a while and I recall the churchyards full of flowers – mostly chrysathemums – at this time. And of course there are the traditions of childhood, the pumpkin laterns, ghosts and so on. Here is a photo from my garden of this year’s crop.

Our inherritance - ghostly presence. Homeopathy and mental health

Not much to do with the topic of this blog, you might think.  Well, quite.  

Yet, Homeopathy uniquely recognises what might be described as ‘ghosts in our cupboards’. Homeopathy and mental health are not strangers.

Dr Samuel Hahnemann on Mental Health

Dr Samuel Hahnemann who set down the principles of homeopathy. Homeopathy and mental health.

I introduced you before to Dr Samuel Hahnemann (1755 – 1843), the German physician who set down the principles of homeopathy.  For the most part he put a structure to a theory that stretched back into antiquity, that of like cures like, or the law of similars.

However, his real genius was to come up with the concept of the ‘miasm’ (from the Ancient Greek word for ‘pollution’). 

If you look up the word ‘miasma’ in a dictionary it has the traditional meaning of some invisible and unpleasant vapour that caused sickness.  A sort of smog.

Today we know that the cause was more likely to be contaminated water supplies.

Here is the famous story of Dr John Snow and cholera in London and an amusing cartoon courtesy of the Wellcome Collection (creative commons license).

But this was not what Hahnemann meant by the word ‘Miasm’, rather it was something in our inheritance that impeded cure.  We are after all the product of our parents, grand-parents, great-grand-parents and beyond … reaching back into history. 

Hahnemann’s genius was to touch on epigenetics. Factors that change how your genes are expressed.  It is frontier science today and you can find out more here.

This was Hahnemann’s ‘light bulb’ moment.

Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay

Miasm impacts the health of adult and child

To give an example, tuberculosis or TB was a disease that was once rife causing death in a quarter of the adult population in the 19th century. It is not much remembered today although antibiotic resistant strains are on the rise again.

Although the rise of TB post dated Hahnemann’s life, his observation was that epidemic / endemic diseases like TB can leave a taint (the miasm) on the genetic code that passes down the generations.  This is quite different from the original disease. 

This taint expresses itself in our make-up; both mental and physical. It can underly our disease picture especially in chronic long term conditions. If for example you are prone to chest infections or asthma it could be that you are ‘tubercular’ epigenetically speaking.

But the influence goes beyond the physical. Tubercular types can be restless, dissatisfied and always seeking pastures new (‘the grass is greener on the other side’). There may be fear of dogs and cats especially in children, who might also be inclined to destructiveness and head banging (in toddlers).

Homeopathy can address this; in a sense it retunes the body. 

Homeopathy – distilled down – is about restoring harmony.

Yes, Homeopathy can help with minor ailments at a superficial level, but deep homeopathy starts a healing process and is much more profound. 

The pace of change depends to some extent on how long the condition has been present and it does necessitate some commitment.  Hence the term ‘patient’!

Homeopathy is not a pill for every ill, nor a quick fix.

 

If this article about homeopathy and mental health has interested you – please share it with others.
And if you think homeopathy might help you, do take the opportunity of a free discovery call to find out more.

Joint and Muscle Pain - can homeopahy help?

© Can Stock Photo / leonido

Homeopathy Solutions for Joint and Muscle Pain – The Hippy Shakes

Homeopathy can help with joint and muscle pain. With early intervention may save the surgeon’s knife. Now, there is no denying the wonders of modern surgery and hip-joint replacement. This seems to have become almost a right of passage when you get to my sort of age.  Moreover, these days patients are in and out or hospital quicker than a tyre change by a Kwik-fit Fitter.

History

Interestingly, in the not too distant past, surgeons where rather the second class citizens of the medical world. Often the last resort. 

Should your barber or hairdresser’s premises sport a red and white striped pole, this harks back to the days of the barber-surgeons who would undertake certain surgical procedures as well a giving a ‘short back and sides’. 

A Trade Guild was established in 1540 (the livery company exists to this day), but by 1800 the two organisations were split and the Royal College of Surgeons established.

Joint Replacement – Spare Parts – Man the Machine

However, what fascinates is when friends tell me that their hip or knee has ‘worn out’. It is Man the Machine. There is of course a certain truth in this, the X-ray or scan doesn’t lie.  However, as I pointed out in an earlier blog the cells in our bodies are in a continual state of death and renewal.  Apparently some 10 million cells die and are replaced every second.  Indeed, I recently read that if you see someone you know after six months or so, not one cell of their face remains from the last time that your paths crossed!

Now if you think about it, the real problem is not wear and tear, apparent as that may be. Rather it is the regeneration ability that has diminished.  Clearly the ageing process is a key factor, unless you happen to be the athletic sort in which case aggressive wear and tear might outstrip the ability to repair.  As we enter the Wimbledon tennis season, I find it very interesting to compare the likes of Federer and Djokovic with Nadal and our own Andy Murray, the former two having suffered less on the injury front. 

Innate Healing

The real question is how we might best preserve the underlying capacity of the body to repair and maintain itself. 

 Dr Samuel Hahnemann of whom I spoke last month, wrote in his Organon of Medicine:

“In the state of health the spirit-like vital force (dynamis) animating the material human organism reigns in supreme sovereignty. It maintains the sensation and activities of all parts of the living organism in a harmony that obliges wonderment.  The reasoning spirit who inhabit the organism can thus freely use this healthy living instrument to reach the lofty goal of human existence”

“Without the vital force* the material organism is unable to feel, or act, OR MAINTAIN ITSELF. Only because of the immaterial being (vital principle) that animates it in health and in disease can it feel and maintain its vital functions. 

(* Without the vital force the body dies; and then delivered exclusively to the forces of the outer material world, it decomposes, reverting to its chemical constituents.)

“…it is only this vital force thus untuned which brings about in the organism the disagreeable sensations and abnormal functions that we call disease”

Dr Samual Hahnemann, Organon of Medicine 6th Edition, Translated by Künzli et al, Gollanz 1989

Quite simply he is saying that we are animated by an immaterial source of dynamic energy which preserves our health, and if this energy supply is disturbed then disharmony and disease will result.

Logically then it is of great importance to the balance of the body that this flow of energy is maintained.  The longevity of our joints depends upon the harmonious existence between  the immaterial life principle (vital force) and material (physical) body.

Homeopathy is Vitalist

The vital force is central to homeopathic philosophy, a principle that sits well with the philosophies of acupuncture, osteopathy and other systems of medicine (Chinese, Indian etc).   Although the precise mechanisms remain obscure it is increasingly clear that potentised homeopathic remedies interact energetically (or informationally) in some manner that restores harmony to the living organism (read again the first paragraph from the Organon of Medicine, above).

Homeopathy may not seem to be an obvious therapy for musculoskeletal injury but there are a range of remedies well suited to such as hip joint disease.  Here below are but a few examples with brief characteristics. The task for the homeopath is to match the symptoms of the patient to the characteristics of the remedy. Homeopathy is the application of the natural law of similars – like cures like.

As you proceed down the list that follows, you move from the more acute (short term) to the more chronic (deep seated).

Homeopathy is unlikely to restore established pathology, and as the old saying goes “a stitch in time saves nine”.

Colocynthis – cannot stand / sit, worse for motion, neuralgia and spasm, better for pressure, right sided

Rhus Tox – classically pain on first movement, then eases, better for warmth

Phytolacca – shooting pain like electric shock, swollen hot joints, inflamed periosteum

Pulsatilla – shifting pains, sense of dislocation, worse for warmth in any form

Natrum Sulph – pain extends to knees, better for walking and cold application, worse for damp

Causticum – pain as if dislocated, worse on first motion and lying on hip, extends down or up

Homeopathy’s Nemesis

The meaning of the word is ‘the agent of something’s down fall’ and this blog considers whether homeopathy is or is not a placebo. Emeritus Professor Edzard Ernst, who prior to his retirement was chair of the Department of Complementary Medicine at Exeter University, took a rather negative stance on complementary medicine and homeopathy in particular.

Homeopathy in the balance - placebo or not
CanStock JohanH

The biblical story of Daniel and King Belshazzar comes to mind (Daniel Chapter 5) where Daniel is summoned to interpret the words Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin that mysteriously have been written by a disembodied hand on the palace wall. Daniel reveals the meaning as, ‘God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting!’. Such was the view of Prof. Ernst on homeopathy.

Scientist in Wonderland

In order to better understand the Professor and his thinking, my second 2023 holiday read was his autobiography A Scientist in Wonderland.

You might find it surprising that I found it rather a good book.

It is not appropriate here to drill down into the detail of the scientific method. Suffice to say that given funding constraints much of the research undertaken was systematic reviews and meta-analyses of previously published work. One problem here is the quantity and quality of the original studies. When it comes to meta-analyses (indeed everything) the quality of the input sets the quality of the output.

Research in Homeopathy

You may also be surprised to learn that it was not until 2010 that the Homeopathic Research Institute was established. Its aims are to improve the standards of reseach and its efforts are beginning to yield results. The debate surrounding homeopathy you can find here, and the current evidence here.

Research is an expensive business and mostly in the hands of pharmaceutical companies whose commercial interests lie elsewhere. Their influence is wide, not least in medical schools.

Returning to the book, I have little doubt that Professor Ernst was a caring doctor during his long career. His first job as a physician was in a homeopathic hospital in Munich. He observed that patients got better, but by inference he clearly had suspicions that homeopathy was a placebo effect (from the Latin piacere meaning to please). A suspicion that perhaps he wished to investigate once his career focus moved to reseach work. His appointment to Exeter University brought about that opportunity.

He comes across as a principled man. His career took him across European borders (mostly Germany, Austria and the UK – plus he has a French wife) and his insights into the characteristics of each nation are most interesting. He brought to light some uncomfortably history concerning medical practice during the Nazi era. An unpopular step with some of his colleages who preferred to leave ‘sleeping dogs lie’.

Good Medicine

I can concur with his view that there is no such thing as ‘alternative’ medicine – simply good medicine or quackery, though I do not share his conclusions.

Patient safety also is one pillar of his arguments. Could following an alternative path risk the patient’s life? This is a subject I have written on before.

Still, he might well have reflected on the level of iatrogenic disease today (from prescribed medication). The opioid crisis in America is an obvious example. Just recently questions around anti-depressants have hit the news. Dr Malcolm Kendrick writes extensively on statins. And so on..

The jest that in allopathy (orthodox medicine) one dies of the cure; in homeopathy, the disease, comes to mind!

How Objective is Science

What is really interesting here is our ability to be truly objective. Professor Ernst clearly sought to distance himself from teaching complementary medicine to students in favour of objectivity in research. The importance he attaches to this is very clear. At face value, surely worthy of plaudit?

Yet retired GP and homeopath, Dr Bob Leckridge writes this most pertinent blog. Can anyone ever be truly objective? However hard we try somewhere along the line, self gets in the way.

In another blog, Dr Leckridge pens this (you can read it in full here)

In health care we should hold this knowledge [hazard of too narrow a focus] at the core. We need to start with this individual, unique patient, today, choose the best known, most likely treatment to help them, then follow up to see how it’s worked out for them. Because no treatments produce the same outcomes for everyone, no matter whether a drug is branded “evidence based” or not. Only this individual, unique patient can tell you if the treatment is helping them.

Human beings are not machine like, and health care shouldn’t be factory like. Because every patient is unique and every doctor, nurse and therapist is unique. We need a system built on the value of keeping uniqueness at the core.

Dr Bob Leckridge
Homeopathy see every patient as unique - like a rose
Photo credit – Dr Bob Leckridge

Dr Leckridge’s picture of a rose symbolises that uniquess – no two roses are the same. Living things are not like machines. A car stays a car. You, on the other hand, are dynamic; constantly changing. A mysterious combination of the material and immaterial. A data based analytical approach takes you only so far. Valuable for sure – but it is not the whole story.

Homeopathy is not Placebo

We may as yet not fully understand the mechanisms of homeopathy but the homeopathic approach has a long heritage. The placebo effect is real, but insufficiently so to justify two hundred years of effective homeopathic practice throughout many countries globally.

There is a little accronym TEETH (Tried Everything Else, Try Homeopathy). That homeopathy is often the last resort and proves beneficial is a point to reflect upon.

Homeopathy may be the ‘aunt sally’ of the medical world, but placebo it is not.

Somewhere in this realm is Professor Ernst’s nemesis.

It was concerning to read about the quantity of pharma drugs in rivers today. This article considers the consequences and alternatives.

Pharma Drugs in Rivers – Time to Clean-up?

Our rivers once polluted by industry are now full of pharma drug residue

Back in February The Week published the following short article:

Pharmaceutical pollution is contaminating the rivers on every continent, a major study has shown. Scientists at the University of York measured the levels of 61 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) in 258 rivers around the world, including the Thames and the Amazon.

Just two areas had unpolluted waters: Iceland and a part of Venezuala whose indigenous inhabitants don’t use modern medicine. The most common APIs were an anti-epileptic drug called carbamazine and the diabetes drug Metformin, along with paracetamol, antibiotics and caffeine.

Potentially toxic levels of drugs were in a quarter of the sites, and the highest being in low-to-middle income countries such as India and Nigeria – possibly because their populations have encough money to by drugs but may live in areas without good sewage infrastructure.

The most contaminated site in the UK was the River Clyde in Glasgow.

The study, published in the journal Procedings of the National Academy of Sciences, warned that pharmaceutical pollution poses a risk to wildlife, and could also contribute more to antimicrobial resistance in humans.

The Week 26th Feb 2022

Previously on a BBC science programme I heard that the equivalent of 200 pills of Metformin pass under the bridges of the Thames every hour. Even the apparently pristine River Dee in Royal Deeside carries a significant pharmaceutical burden as this report shows. Hopefully the famous Deeside Water – highly regarded for its purity – is sourced well upstream!

Pharma Drugs

The NHS Health Survey for England 2016 states that nearly half of adults had taken one prescribed medicine in the last week and 24 percent had taken three or more. The total cost at list price of prescriptions dispensed in the community in 2016 was just short of £10 billion. It is not an improving situation.

None doubt the value of medicines, but health impact both on the individual and the enviromnment of long-term use is a matter worthy of discussion.

Brave New World

For the first time since school days I read again Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World written in the 1930s. His vision was one where the highs and lows of human existence were under the control of a world state. With remarkable prescience Huxley foresaw the path we are on today. Elsewhere he remarked, “Medical science has made such tremendous progress that there is hardly a healthy human left”. I dare say there is a degree of overstatement here, but he had a point nonetheless.

It is a subject I indirectly blogged on previously

Health

What is health? That is the question. During the first lockdown of the pandemic I cycled out into the New Forest and visited a couple of Churchyards. I was struck by the longevity even in an age of no medical care.

It made me think about the late Jan de Vries, a remarkable naturopath who ran a clinic on the west coast of Scotland until his death in 2015. He wrote many books amongst them 10 Golden Rules for Good Health. Attention to these basic principles would do much to reduce the burden on the NHS not to mention the individual.

I do not underestimate the challenge: a very rural 19th century New Forest is very different from modern city life.

Homeopathy plus

Homeopathy, osteopathy, naturopathy and other forms of so-called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) all seek to maintain the human organism in balance.

They are not always quick fixes. The saying “a stich in time saves nine” is very true – the longer things are our of balance the longer it takes to correct.

Sadly, CAM has been marginalised in the health service. Some argue that such approaches do not work and waste money. Yet, the long term cost of the current medical model is problematic.

Time for a rethink?

So what are Homeopathic remedies (medicines) and how do they differ from what we now consider to be orthodox medicines.

I had the dubious pleasure of a FB encounter with a person who was under the illusion that the homeopathic preparation Mercurius was a poison. Mercury – such as can be found in a traditional thermometer surely is a poison – hence the term “mad as a hatter”.

What's your poison: Mercury is poisonous yet a poserful homeopathic remedy
©Can Stock Photo / Rixie

The origin of that saying can be found here. Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at normal atmospheric conditions. It was used in medicine for many years as this article summarises, and toxic is surely is. That dental amalgam still contains mercury to this day is perhaps a matter of concern.

Homeopathic remedies are potentised…meaning?

The preparation of homeopathic medicines (potentisation) – a process of serial dilution with agitation at each step (succussion) – was developed by Hahnemann in order to eliminate any poisonous hazard yet maintain therapeutic benefit. This enabled many substances that were poisonous – be it plants, minerals or animal venom – to be safely used as medicines.

The bottom line is that you cannot poison someone with a homeopathic medicine.

But poisons, potentised homeopathically make some of the best medicines – see my earlier blog

What’s controversial about Homeopathic remedies then?

The controversy in homeopathy is that the level of dilution is so great that no molecule of the original substance remains. From school days you may remember Avogadro’s number which defines the particles in a quantity known as a “mole”. Once dilutions exceed this number no atom of the original substance remains. Ultra-dilution is a key concept in homeopathy.

If you believe that all medicines must be material doses, then you will insist that all homeopathic medicines are placebo. The usual quip is “there is nothing in it” or “its a drop in the ocean”!

Fair enough, but two centuries of experience suggest otherwise.

You might have come across the concept of “hormesis”?

Hormesis is defined by toxicologists to describe a biphasic dose response to an environmental agent with a low-dose stimulation showing beneficial effects and a high-dose stimulation showing inhibitory or toxic effects.

from: The Science of Hormesis in Health and Longevity

Maybe hormesis extends to lower doses than we think?

News or fake news?

Today we sit in our homes bombarded by information. For your grand or great-grand parents there came radio, then television and now all that feeds your mobile phones. This is “information” and that is most likely what homeopathic remedies contain also. The homeopathic remedy “informs”.

Who are we?

Human beings are many things. I have written on this before. For sure we are complex chemistry sets but also electromagnetic. Here is a little bit of pioneering science – a sort of electronic homeopathy.

Mercury – messenger of the gods

So what of Mercurius solubilis – this patient is hot when it is cold and vice versa – like the mercury thermometer they are sensitive to temperature. It is useful for nasty sore throats, mouth ulcers, feverish colds with lots of catarrh and more besides.

Homeopathy means “like” “suffering”. If the Mercurius “picture” matches your “symptoms” it will speed your recovery.

But the homeopathic remedy Mercury will never, ever, poison you!

If you are old enough to recall TV from the 1990s, you doubtless remember Noel Edmonds and the pink character with yellow spots called Mr Blobby which he introduced to viewers. Clearly, Mr Blobby still has his fans as you can see from this website https://www.mrblobbycollection.com/.

Mr Blobby from the BBC TV programme Noel’s House Party

Mr Blobby even has a Wikipedia page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mr_Blobby Here is the image from that page:

Suffice to say, I do not seek to extol the virtues or otherwise of this icon of 90’s British humour, but would simply like to suggest that the human being is more “blobby” than perhaps you might think.

Don’t worry, this is not going to be a blog on the matter of expanding waistlines, rather it is about our true nature.

You see, our bodies appear solid, but this is somewhat an illusion as water makes up about 60% of our weight. Hydrogen and Oxygen are the elements of water (H2O), and these together with Carbon, Nitrogen, Calcium and Phosphorus add up to 99% of human body, the remainder being trace elements.

The human body comprises some 75 trillion cells apparently (who counted?) each of which doing what it needs to do: building; replicating; communicating; dying etc. Some cells last for just a few hours others for years, but no typical cell lives as long as a typical person. Unbeknown to us, our body is continually being replaced. It is estimated that it takes around 7 to 10 years to complete the make-over. Amazing!

So in fact we are more fluid than solid. Which is what brought the “blobby” term to mind.

The question is what happens when we get sick? Dr James Tyler Kent was a notable American homeopath working in the early years of the twentieth century, and his “Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy” remain important to this day. In the first lecture he considers the “The Sick”. He notes that medicine is mostly concerned “with the ultimates”, that is to say the visible results of disease which, he argues, is only a part of the story.

It is “the real nature of man” that must also be considered, says Dr Kent. But what is this “real nature”?

Kent suggests that Man (in the generic sense) is “will and understanding” and the physical body is just the house in which he or she lives. Our “real nature” then is much more than the physical body, indeed our “will and understanding” may be what first and foremost needs attention before physical healing can take place.

Since Kent’s time science and technology has advanced our understanding of body biochemistry and delivered many new therapeutics. Yet the concept of “will and understanding” remains somewhat unexplored in mainstream medicine. How a person sees, feels and interacts with their world remains at the core of homeopathic practice, which is why it is termed holistic medicine.

I am watching an interesting YouTube clip by Dr Zach Bush https://youtu.be/f6zb5rXgRvs. I say ‘am’ because it is quite long and I am taking it in bite size chunks. Quoting from an online version of the Oxford Dictionary he observes that the definition there in of ‘nature’ is the natural world around us; something rather apart from man. Dr Bush draws our attention to the fact that man is actually fully part of nature not ‘apart’ from it. We have long tried to control the natural world, but current crises from pandemic to environmental, suggest a need to better understand our limitations. He is all for science, but points out that science is not a fixed body of knowledge. It is an ongoing endeavour.

Isle of Wight from Lepe

I took the above photo on a blowy day about a month ago. It is hard to say what early man made of such a scene, and science brings its explanation of light reflected and refracted through water droplets. Nonetheless a rainbow still makes you stop a while and watch. The scientific analysis is good but I bet many at Lepe that felt the colours a omen for better times after a tough year.

A relatively recent scientific endeavour is the micribiome. That is to say, the gut. Dr Bush tells us that our guts are full of viruses and bacteria; many billions of them in fact. The same is true of the soil, the sea and the whole of the natural world. The living world adapts to viruses and bacteria; it has done so from the beginning of time. You might wonder then about our strategies concerning SARS-Cov-2; certainly Dr Bush does.

Complementary medicine has long taken and interest in diet and hence the gut, and on that I will say a little more next time.

society of Homeopaths

Disclaimer: I am a qualified professional homeopath and not a medical doctor. The NHS has many resources, and seeking the opinion of your GP is always of value.

© 2024 Allan Pollock