Have you noticed the little blue bottles you can buy at health food stores for ear infections, a sprain, or back-pain? They normally list a complaint or two on the bottle and can work quite well for temporarily getting rid of annoying aches, pains, and sniffles. Homeopathy for symptom relief is used routinely by MD’s in many parts of Europe along with, or as the occasional alternative to, Allopathic prescriptions. Still, like Allopathic medicine, this use of homeopathy treats symptoms, not the underlying cause. To make a clear distinction, “Classical homeopathy”, as it was originally founded, uses the same substances but in a different way. It isn’t only about getting rid of symptoms, it’s about addressing the root of the problem. And if you aren’t confused enough already by the two different types of homeopathy, it gets even more confounding when coming to terms with a completely foreign, in many ways opposite way of viewing health. Because Classical Homeopathy is so contrary to what we’re used to in it’s philosophy and action, it can be tricky to describe.
Classical Homeopathy was invented over 200 years ago by a German Physician named Hahnemann who was a genius in the way he turned the current logic of ‘getting rid of’ symptoms on it’s head. At the time, though doctors used leaches, sulphur, and even mercury to treat certain disorders, the underlying Allopathic philosophy was similar to today – ‘ relieve the symptoms and you have been successful in your treatment.’ Hahnemann believed that in order to effect deep and lasting cure, the medicine must first be harmless, and it needed to get at the root of the problem. In his experiments, Hahnemann actually ingested raw herbal components of the then current medications to see what their effect would be on himself, a relatively healthy person. Through this, he discovered that the substances that created a certain set of symptoms in a healthy person, would also cure those same complaints in a sick person. One famous example of this is when Hahnemann ingested minute amounts of China bark, an herbal component of quinine, used at the time to treat Malaria. He quickly developed symptoms very similar to Malaria – intermittent fever, chills alternating with sweats, etc. A modern, Allopathic example of this idea is using Ritalin, which contains components of “speed”, to treat hyperactivity and ADHD. In other words, “like cures like”.
Hahnemann began to discover that along with physical symptoms and maladies, the now diluted homeopathic substances he was experimenting with created certain moods and emotional symptoms in healthy people. Fascinatingly, these ‘remedies’ could also alleviate the same emotional and mental imbalances in those who suffered from them. Each remedy could now be seen as creating symptoms not just of a certain disease “type” but also of a personality type. This is where homeopathy becomes even more interesting. Hahnemann, through his endless studies and experiments mostly on himself and his colleagues, realized that the fastest and most effective way to help an individual move towards health was to look towards the core of his or her complaint. This ‘core complaint’ specifically meant the mental and emotional state (or personality) that accompanied the physical imbalance. If a patient was experiencing repeated ear infections or headaches, Hahnemann knew that many homeopathic remedies could lessen or mask those symptoms. But if there was no information beyond physical ailments, the symptom relief would be short-lived. That same person’s personality made him or her, and consequently the remedy that would have a real impact, highly unique.
Because Allopathic drug prescriptions depend mostly on common physical ailments, they are usually effective at suppressing the symptoms. The occasional unfortunate result of masking symptoms is that the malady disappears in the short term, only for it to possibly re-appear after treatment, or even migrate to a deeper organ or diseased state. Though Allopathic medicine can be life-saving and brilliant in many ways, there are also times when well-meaning doctors are left with drugs that can have unintended side-effects, or sometimes no treatment options at all. These are the cases where some patients seek alternative medicine and Classical Homeopathy can come in handy.
A patient of mine we’ll call Liz had recurrent tonsillitis and bronchial infections that would disappear for a short while with antibiotics, only to come back a few months later. She had taken antibiotics so often that she was beginning to worry about the long-term effects. Liz had also recently began to get regular headaches. It came out that on a different level, she had lots of anxiety that she thought was unrelated to the tonsillitis. She was afraid of germs and disease, terrified of getting even a low-grade fever. This made her scared to go into crowded places and had her overly concerned with any illness that was around. She was also afraid of suffocation when she became sick or was in a crowded place. Her fear had started as a small child, the only difference now was that in her adult years, the anxiety was accompanied by chronic tonsillitis and bronchial complaints.
When Liz came to see me, she had been given antibiotics at least 10 times in the past year with little lasting improvement. In fact her symptoms seemed to be getting worse and lasting longer. When listening to her complaints, I focused on the more central anxiety and fear that had permeated her life. If you look simply at tonsillitis, you will find hundreds or more homeopathic remedies that can help with that specific symptom because it is so common. Fear of death, germs, and suffocation along with chronic tonsillitis becomes infinitely more unique.
Because homeopathic remedies are made from several groups of substances – from minerals and bacteria to plants and animal secretions – the final recommended homeopathic remedy can seem quite strange. As it happens, when the correct homeopathic remedy is recommended by an experienced practitioner, there is generally an overall improvement in the mental symptoms coinciding with a possible short-term worsening of physical symptoms. This is type of physical ‘healing crisis’ occurs because homeopathy works from the inside-out. The mental and emotional imbalance is considered the innermost core, and it should be the first to improve. Liz’s anxiety began to noticeably lessen about a month into taking the remedy and continued to improve throughout the treatment. Her tonsillitis improved slowly and permanently, and so gently that it was hard to believe it was the homeopathic remedy.
From this example, you can see how Classical Homeopathy can begin to balance mental and emotional complaints, something to keep in mind when traditional medication has failed or is unwanted. Classical Homeopathy differs from the Allopathic model in its departure from assessing just physical symptoms. It uses the inner life of the patient as a compass toward finding the correct treatment. In addition to working towards physical health, the patient then gets the added possibility of more emotional balance and freedom.
Katharina Sandizell, MA, MFT is a Psychotherapist and mother of two. She works with individual parents and couples on relationship and parenting issues in her Bay Area office and online over Skype. You can find her at www.ksandizell.com.
Photo by Heather Fontenot