Homeopathic remedies have been developed, in a number of ways, over more than 220 years. The first remedy was identified when Samuel Hahnemman, a scientist, qualified medical doctor and multi-linguist, was translating a medical text and noticed that quinine poisoning produced the same symptoms as malaria, a disease that it was used to treat – like cures like. This led Hahnemman to experiment with other materials (mainly plant, animal (milk) and mineral) and to devise a method of testing on healthy people in order to identify probable symptoms that could be relieved by each substance.
Other ways of identifying the healing benefits of each substance were to look at traditional uses for herbs, note symptoms of an accidental poisoning or create hypotheses based on a material’s relationship to a remedy with known qualities (e.g. a plant or animal in the same family, a mineral on the period table). After further testing on healthy volunteers, these potentised substances were then tested clinically by homeopaths to confirm their theoretical application. Records of remedy applications are still being rigorously clarified, updated and shared by homeopaths to this day - now made easier with the help of computers and specialized software!
The aim of homeopathy is to restore health rather than to stop or suppress symptoms. The suppression of symptoms is seen as comparable to removing the bulb from a warning light in a car. One of Hahnemman’s theories is that in order to support a dis-eased body to return to health, the ideal remedy must be given in the correct potency – prompting the body to heal itself. It may help if you think of the remedy as a barcode with a specific message that needs to match the broad range and characteristics of what is currently disordered in the person.
Hahnemman believed that it is more important to focus on treating illness based on the mental and physical symptoms of distress displayed by the body, than to name or categorise the illness – or to attempt to research the exact mechanics of what had occurred in the physical manifestation of the disease. Another important aspect of care is to identify any factors that have contributed to the illness developing or that may prevent a patient from being able to heal.
Homeopathic remedies started as material doses or tinctures. However, these were sometimes experienced as ‘coarse’ and caused side-effects. Hahnemman eventually discovered potentisation: following a strict formula of dilution and succussion (banging to pass a vibration through the bottle), the remedies were not only far more gentle – they increased in potency and additional healing qualities of the substance were released. This sounds ludicrous and leaves homeopathy open to ridicule, but has been the experience of homeopaths and their clients for over 200 years and is one of the most profound and intelligent aspects of homeopathic medicine.
A huge proportion of the homeopathic remedies we use today are diluted beyond ‘Avogadro’s number’ i.e. the dilution level that has been identified as still having a material substance present. This also allows poisonous substances to be potentised and used for medicinal purposes without toxic side-effects. Recent research has indicated that the different potencies in remedies may soon be able to be scientifically confirmed using magnetic resonance, rather than being identified as plain water as in current tests.
Wenda Brewster-O’Reilly says in her translated and annotated edition of Samuel Hahnemann’s Organon: “Hahnemann’s approach to medicine had little to do with the world view described by the Newtonian physics of his day; it is much more closely aligned with modern post-quantum physics.”
I've been thinking and reading about health and healing a lot. Along with homeopathy, I am especially interested in nutrition (delicious, life-giving real food vs bloating, malnourishing and inflammation/mucous-causing 'fake' food) and how to bring our all-important hormones into balance.
I read about Daniel Amen's Daniel Plan (a guide to bringing about health using 5 pillars of faith, food, fitness, focus and friends). While I enjoyed Daniel's 5 pillars (and admire him for working with others to inspire a huge number of people to improve their health), I've been exploring how 5 H's apply to my view of well-being:
Any approach to healing needs to be holistic - along with a check-up at your GP (and blood tests if necessary), mind, body and spirit (what ever this means to you) all need to be considered...
... which is one of the many reasons I love homeopathy where time is taken to hear about many aspects of a client's symptoms, feelings, thoughts, health and life.
Balance and harmony are vital - in loving relationships with family and friends, spending time with loved ones / or alone, giving / receiving, working / free time, being active / resting, laughing / releasing sadness or anger, exploring new things / enjoying much loved favourites, budgeting / splashing out on a treat, eating to fuel your body / enjoying a treat...
... all of which will impact on your hormones. Whether you're a man or woman, hormones are affected by every aspect of your life and affect every aspect of your life leading to health or ill-health, balance or dysfunction - and are always changing and reacting to your environment and choices.
The bottom line is your habits (what you repeatedly do i.e. how you create your self). Diet, sleep, exercise, addictions, how you relate to and interact with others, whether you worry or problem-solve, think positively or fall prey to a repeated cycle of ruminating on doom and gloom - unhelpful habits may take some time to replace with good ones.
If you're unwell, malnourished, tired, overweight, underweight, depressed or have an active addiction, it is harder to maintain a positive outlook.
Healing requires a multi-faceted approach - homeopathy, a bio-individual approach to nutrition, a suitable balance of activity and rest, positive visualisation and affirmations (and if need be EFT, a Twelve Step program, seeing a counselor or seeking other professional help), may all be needed to help bring your body into balance - along with loving support and encouragement (self-talk, family or friends).
A good GP and the benefits of other natural healing modalities (e.g. osteopathy, acupuncture, naturopathy, herbal therapy, shiatsu, massage etc) as needed are also valuable supports. Many cultures have a culturally inherited perspective regarding health and we benefit greatly when we attend to these guiding principles or see those who are trained in traditional healing practices. Spiritual healers, lay healers and self-healing are also valuable options. There are those who insist that the right food can heal anything.
Whenever you are working with homeopathy, it is also useful to consider the health of the digestive system. As Hippocrates said: “All disease begins in the gut” so this applies to all systemic illnesses and conditions, but is especially relevant when considering digestive issues, asthma, allergies, skin conditions and auto-immune diseases. I am a homeopath, not a nutritionist or naturopath, but I’ve learnt a lot about gut dysbiosis and will condense some of that information into this introduction to gut health.
The digestive system is an important component of the immune system – being considered external to the body and a primary source of either support or contamination (along with the respiratory system). As well as occupying space (which prevents pathogens from establishing), beneficial gut flora supports the body in many ways including gently boosting antibodies, aiding digestion, regulating metabolism and producing or synthesising vitamins.
Gut flora, living mainly in the colon or large intestine, literally has ‘a life of its own’ and interacts with your body and mind according to whether it is compatible or not (although even generally beneficial or benign flora may negatively affect your health if you are run down or unwell). Gut dysbiosis has become increasingly common. This means that harmful bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites compete with or outnumber the healthy population of beneficial micro-organisms.
Harmful flora creates a toxic environment in the colon that wreaks havoc on the digestive system, immune system, nervous system and general health. Researchers relate conditions as wide-ranging as allergies, hormone imbalances, obesity, autism and Parkinson’s disease to imbalances in gut flora. Severe vaccine reactions may also be primarily due to the toxicity of the vaccine being an additional assault to a child already suffering from gut dysbiosis. It is thought that particular food cravings may actually be your ‘guests’ letting you know that they need a specific food (to survive or thrive) and that overwhelming feelings of anxiety could be due in part to chemical waste products from harmful micro-organisms.
The make-up of gut bacteria is very individual. The gut is populated with flora at birth, either as the baby makes its way through the birth canal during a vaginal birth (or in the hospital environment following a caesarian birth), from the initial breast or bottle feeding and from the baby’s initial environment. Other areas of the body such as the mouth, skin, armpits and vagina are also populated in the days following birth.
The baby who has had a natural birth is not necessarily going to have a healthy gut. It is thought that gut flora has generally degraded over the generations and the mother’s donating flora is not likely to be as healthy or diverse as her great-grandmother’s was. This is likely to be due to the change in diet, increased use of antibiotics (along with other medications), environmental toxins and hazards, chemicals/procedures used in the production and preservation of food, anti-bacterial cleaning/hygiene products etc. - and no doubt GMO.
For many of us, our diet is disconnected from what our body needs. We eat for pleasure or out of convenience, addiction or habit, rather than to provide nutrition for our body. Sometimes, even when we eat a healthy diet, our gut is so impaired that we cannot absorb nutrients or, for example, excessively large particles of food are taken in through a leaky gut, creating an immune response, inflammation and increasing the likelihood of allergic responses such as hay fever.
Once we are aware that our gut is unhealthy (along with associated mental or physical symptoms or conditions), it can be very confusing to try to work out how to bring it back into balance. Along with a consultation with your homeopath, it is essential to see your GP to ensure that you do not have a condition such as Crohn’s, Coeliac Disease, Bowel Cancer or Ulcerative Colitis etc. However, a GP or specialist may find nothing wrong with the gut and yet symptoms persist.
Often experts totally disagree about crucial aspects of nutrition and gut health. The most important approach to gut health is to find out what works for you. Everyone is different - many people find that a paleo diet soothes their digestive and associated issues; some may need to also avoid eggs, shellfish, salicylates, vegetables in the nightshade family or FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides & Polyols - or short chain carbohydrates or sugars that are indigestible for some people with gut issues and so ferment in the gut and cause issues); while a smaller group find a raw, vegetarian or vegan diet best (which must be very carefully constructed to ensure adequate nutrition, especially at times of greater nutritional need such as puberty or pregnancy). What works for one person may be disastrous for another. See a naturopath or nutritionist or, if money is limited, research online and at your local library.
Lastly, changing the way you eat and introducing healthy habits can be very difficult. Some people are forced, due to severe ill health, exhaustion or depletion, to make huge changes to their diet and lifestyle. When it comes to the gut, however, every little bit helps. Every small gut-supportive change you make will help your overall health and happiness. Notice what makes your gut feel good and what foods lead to bloating or diarrhoea etc. Small, steady steps add up to great strides over time. Work out what you need to do in order to support yourself or your children and make a start to introducing changes.
From an article I first published in Homoeopathica Magazine, NZ, Spring 2014
I am interested in growth and balance. Do you survive, live or thrive? It seems that at some times in our lives we are doing little more than surviving. Bogged down by stress, difficulties, lack of support or ill health - we need to recognise that we are struggling, look around and find suitable help for ourselves and our family.
Or we are at a stage when we have the basics sorted. We have enough resources / are healthy enough so that we are not worried all the time about the very basics of life (nutritious food, paying the bills, our relationships etc). We have healthy routines going - our lives feel in balance. Are there long-standing health or emotional issues that we could now look at resolving? Goals we had put on the 'back burner'?
Then we need to consider what we would be doing if we were actively thriving. This is likely to be different depending on our age or stage we're at in our lives. Perfecting a skill, living at our full creative potential, supporting others in our family, sharing skills and knowledge, donating time or money, becoming a mentor? Of course we may be thriving in one area of life and feel like we are 'falling apart' in another. No one is perfect - but the need for balance applies in all areas of life.
The founder of homeopathy Samuel Hahnemann had a motto: Aude Sapere - 'dare to be wise', or 'dare to know'. I am inspired by this philosophy. I think that it is important to reflect on our lives and how we are living - and to take steps to keep growing and learning.
I know how confusing it can be to read a remedy description that you cannot relate to. Especially when you have been told that a remedy will be chosen for you that matches your symptoms on a physical, mental and emotional level. While this is the ultimate aim and is generally the case, sometimes a remedy will have key aspects that match the most uncomfortable symptoms (that we need to focus on and resolve first), or an unusual symptom that you have is a major indicator of a specific remedy. Sometimes, the remedy is chosen using understanding of remedy 'families' and a broader perspective of you, your symptoms and what is impacting on your life at this time.
To choose your remedy, along with using the information and techniques gained in four year's study of homeopathy, I usually will look at 4 to 5 books and often use specialised homeopathic software. There is no one place I can quickly refer to for a 'complete' picture of a remedy - unless I am using remedies for a specific, often acute, purpose (e.g. first aid, birthing) and in this instance the remedy will have been condensed into a paragraph of symptoms that may apply in this instance.
The quote, "backward mentally and physically... dwarfish..."(1) stood out to me when I googled the remedy my homeopath had given me the first time I saw her. "Is this how she sees me?!" I thought. But now I know that she chose that remedy as it is a specific for chronically swollen glands (and the shyness that may be seen in the remedy is an aspect of my mental/emotional picture).
Online remedy pictures frequently contain much conflicting information and are often written using very negative language. I'm sometimes concerned when I have given a client Calc carb for e.g. to address fears about starting a course, worrying if she will be embarrassed by her lack of knowledge and about how her family will cope while she studies - along with a myriad of other details and concerns identified at an initial consultation (a made up example). How will she feel if she reads this description? "... they may resemble a beached whale, unfit for terrestrial life – overweight, flabby, lacking muscle tone, awkward and clumsy, with weak joints, bones unable to bear their weight..." (2)
A full description of all of the possible presentations of Calc carb is very helpful to homeopaths, but not so helpful for a client seeking understanding about a remedy that they've been given. In fact, in an ideal world, it would probably be best not to look up your remedy - but I completely understand the impulse. When a client is interested and would like to know more about their remedy, I include a summary of the main points of why I've chosen it for them - and I'm always happy to answer any questions.
(1) ABC Homeopathy, http://abchomeopathy.com/r.php/Bar-c
(2) Included in the description for Calc carb by the British Homeopathic Association on their website