By Lisa Glydon, homeopath.
Even though homeopathy is becoming increasingly popular, it is a discipline that is often quite misunderstood. In fact, people often mix it up with aromatherapy, asking: “Oh, is that the use of oils, as in massage?
But homeopathy is, in fact, something very different. It is a truly ‘holistic’ form of natural medicine. Working on the principle that the body, mind and spirit are all connected, it treats the whole person, not just their physical symptoms
It also takes into account the unique physical and emotional characteristics of each patient as well as their state of mind and lifestyle, recognising the body has its own natural healing abilities and, given the right treatment, will always try to heal itself.
Possible treatment scenarios
To understand the difference between allopathy (conventional medicine) and homeopathy, it may help to share two possible treatment scenarios. A 45-year old man suffers from severe migraine headaches so:
- He goes to his doctor, who asks him:
- How long have you had them and what have you taken to help?
- Are they bilious or stress-related?
- Do you have high blood pressure or have you suffered a head injury?
- Do they affect your vision?
The doctor checks his blood pressure, offers dietary advice and prescribes various drugs.
- He goes to a homeopath who discusses his migraines in detail with him and discovers:
- The pain comes on at 4pm each day;
- It is in the centre of his forehead, his temples feel pressured and he feels a constant throbbing;
- He feels light-headed and irritable and just wants to get home to eat in order to clear the giddiness and fatigue;
- The migraines improve after eating but as he is tired and irritable, the man soon falls asleep in front of the TV;
- The migraines began some months ago after he was given a promotion and more responsibility at work;
- He does not feel confident in his new role and is trying to impress his new boss but is concerned he is not highly rated;
- The man wants to support his son but is worried about how he will pay the university fees as money is tight and he is afraid of losing his job.
The homeopath knows that frontal forehead headaches usually suggest an issue with the liver and so he asks the man questions about his digestion, only to discover he experiences bloating, flatulence and tiredness especially after a meal, which he is embarrassed about.
By pulling together a three-dimensional picture of the patient’s situation and state of being, it is possible to prescribe a remedy called Lycopodium. This remedy helps to tone the liver, aids digestion and migraines, and is linked to under-confidence.
As a result of taking it, the man’s migraines improve dramatically and his digestion problems are resolved. He also grows in confidence, which enables him to cope more effectively with his new role and, in turn, with his money worries.
The point of this story is that homeopaths get to the heart of the matter by discovering the whole story. In this case, the patient was suffering from a crisis of confidence, which led to the development of a range of symptoms. A painkiller would not have addressed this underlying issue, but the homeopath found the root cause – which is always crucial to solving any case.
How did homeopathy first come about?
Homeopathy was first discovered by Samuel Christian Hahneman. Although born to a poverty-stricken family, he was well-educated and studied chemistry and medicine, qualifying as a doctor in 1779. But while practising his profession, Hahneman protested about the harsh treatments given to patients at that time, especially bloodletting, purging and huge doses of medicine, which led to terrible side effects.
In order to support his large family, he eventually gave up medicine and, seeing as he spoke a number of languages, started translating old medical books on herbs. As a result, Hahneman came across an herb called ‘Cinchona calisaya’, which is today known as quinine. A Dr Cullen in Edinburgh had claimed the little flower was a good treatment for malaria, which was rife in Europe at the time.
So Hahneman experimented with the plant for several days, dosing himself up with quinine. Although he did not actually have malaria, he noticed that he developed all of the disease’s usual symptoms such as sweating, fever, delirium and weakness.
Fascinated, Hahneman repeated the tests, which he called “provings”, on others, using only “healthy people in body and mind”. But the outcome was the same. He then experimented with other substances, ranging from belladonna and arsenic to mercury, recording the symptoms produced in each individual.
Next Hahneman tested the results of his provings on “sick people”. Before doing so he questioned them thoroughly about their symptoms, general health, way of life and attitudes and he also physically examined them. As a result, he was able to build up a detailed “symptom picture”.
Using this picture, Hahneman then prescribed each patient with a substance whose drug picture related most closely to their symptoms, taking meticulous notes along the way. What he discovered was that the closer the match, the more successful the treatment. In other words, both the disease and the remedy produced the same symptoms and cancelled each other out.
It was the same principle that the Greek physician Hippocrates who lived in the 5th century BC had followed: Similia similibus curentur or ‘like may be cured by like’. He was the first person to consider that disease was the result of natural forces rather than divine influences. Hippocrates also believed that a patient’s own healing powers were essential in finding the right cure.
The vital force
Anyway, Hahneman continued with his experiments but noticed that some of his patients were developing severe reactions or “aggravations”, after taking a remedy. So as he believed medicine should be gentle in its healing action, he started diluting them.
Initially Hahneman made a tincture of the substance in question, leaving it to stand in a pure alcohol solvent for a month. He then strained off the “mother tincture’s” liquid, took one drop and added it to 99 drops of alcohol.
This dilution was rigorously banged or “succussed” to maximise its energy – and to Hahneman’s surprise, prevented any of the initial “aggravations” but instead acted more quickly, efficiently and effectively than before.
Unfortunately, Hahneman’s contemporaries poured scorn upon his claims that the merest trace of a diluted remedy was, paradoxically, more potent and produced stronger effects that a full-strength one. This scepticism remains in certain quarters to this day.
However, an extremely subtle reaction happens within the body, which is capable of moving it from sickness to health and vice versa. This reaction Hahneman called “the vital force”.
Homeopathy continued to grow in popularity during the 19th century, particularly due to its impact on treating malaria. This situation led to the founding of homeopathic hospitals throughout Europe, Asia and America, with France becoming a particularly important centre, which it remains to this day.
In fact, a 2004 survey of French pharmacists found that 94% regularly advised pregnant women to use homeopathic medicine, which are sold in all French pharmacies. Homeopathy is also taught in 21 of the country’s 24 pharmacy, midwifery, dental and veterinary schools.
Despite homeopathy’s popularity and acceptance in the UK, an active group of sceptics, some of whom allegedly receive funding from big pharmaceutical companies, sadly work vigorously to attack this kind of medicine. This is notwithstanding the fact that, unlike other approaches, this natural and gentle healing technique treats each person as an individual and can be used safely by everyone, from cradle to grave.
Lisa Glydon has been a qualified homeopathic practitioner since 2007, but she also uses herbs, supplements and Bach/Bush Essences to boost the body’s systems and help remove emotional blockages. She initially trained as a State Registered Nurse in London, specialising in oncology and palliative care, but now treats clients of all ages and with all kinds of conditions. Lisa also runs workshops and provides talks to school children and adult groups about all aspects of health care.