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More about Homeopathy
I stumbled upon homeopathy looking for solutions for my children’s health problems. What I read was fascinating, yet I did not know if those promises were not empty. I went to school to study homeopathy pretty much trying to figure out if it even works. My fellow students still joke about it when we meet.

On the fist day of classes the students were introducing themselves telling stories why they came to study Homeopathy. Most came because at some point of their lives either they or their children were ill and conventional medicine could not help. They went to a homeopath following someone’s recommendation, had this miraculous cure, and ever since wanted to learn it.

One of those students was a woman, who some 10 years ago used to have debilitating migraines unresponsive to medications. A homeopath gave her a dose of a remedy called Natrum Muriaticum after which she had a headache like never before and then all her headaches stopped. With a few more doses they were gone forever. 

Natrum Muriaticum is one of very common headache remedies, so just a few weeks later a teacher gave us an introduction into the remedy. We learned that this remedy helps people who are very sensitive emotionally, tend to remember having their feeling hurt for a long time, and protect themselves from future hurts by distancing themselves. If you happened to offend a Natrum Muriaticum type of a person, a break up or a pretty strained relationship is common. They are specifically sensitive to the relationships with their mothers. On the physical level, besides other symptoms, they tend to have severe headaches commonly triggered by sun exposure.

As this was told, that student’s face became flashed and with a wavering voice she said that only now she really understands what she had been treated for. She went on to sharing that at the time she’d gone to the homeopath she was not on speaking terms with her mother for some years and, interestingly enough, about a month after she was given the remedy she thought about the situation, wrote her mother a letter, restored the relationship, and never until this very moment realized that all of that had anything to do with the fact that she was treated for her migraines. 

If this fellow student of mine whom I came to love later as we were studying together for years and still keep in touch recognizes herself and finds some errors – they are due to this being long time ago. That’s the way I remember it.

This story made an impression on me then and brings us to the point of what we mean when we say that Homeopathy is a holistic healing system. I often prefer calling it “Wholistic”: affecting the whole person. Homeopathy does not see various symptoms of a person (mental, emotional, and physical) as coming from different unrelated diseases (say, ulcerative colitis, high blood pressure, and depression); it rather considers them a single imbalance manifesting itself in various parts of the body. Homeopathy aims to go to the root of that imbalance. Once it is addressed and the person becomes stronger physically and emotionally the need for compensations goes away on its own. In this specific case my friend was no longer as vulnerable and thus, did not need to keep the mother that far away. Most patients come in for a specific problem; yet, a well selected remedy brings balance on many levels.

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Part 1 of 3:     A story to start with

We do not know the exact mechanism. Homeopathy is based on the principle of “like cures like” meaning that if a remedy can cause a certain set of symptoms (mental, physical, and emotional) in a healthy person it is likely to cure them in a sick one. 

I initially took it as a purely philosophical postulate and did not pay much attention to it (“whatever..., as long as it works...”) until I connected the dots and all of a sudden it all made sense.

A human body keeps its dynamic balance called homeostasis with the help of negative feedback mechanisms working to return it to its original state. Whatever happens to the body is registered by receptors which send signals to the brain, which in turn initiates a balancing response. This way when we come out on a hot day this chain of signals causes sweating to keep our internal temperature stable.

Say, somebody has high blood pressure. A conventional approach would be to give medications to reduce it. Yet, the medicines are only going to work while they are in the system and the moment they are out, these feedback mechanisms will bring the blood pressure higher. Moreover, it commonly comes with a rebound effect: i.e. even higher then before because the body has adjusted to run against an obstruction. Thus, it cannot come to a cure and the person has to permanently stay on the medications (with all their side-effects).

Contrary to the conventional approach, a well chosen homeopathic remedy sort of adds a tiny bit of a similar disease. The rebalancing mechanism of the body while working to counteract the effect of the remedy, takes away its own imbalance along because it happened to be similar by the way the remedy was chosen. This way the remedy triggers the body’s own internal healing mechanisms to stimulate a cure in a sort of an Aikido way of healing: using the energy of the “other”. Anther good metaphor of a chronically imbalanced person coming to mind is that of a pendulum awkwardly stuck in a side-ways position. If you give it a bit of a push upwards, on the way down it may pass the sticking point and come to the easy equilibrium the way it’s supposed to.

As a matter of fact, this approach to healing is generic and is not at all restricted purely to the use of homeopathic remedies. Think of a well known way of overcoming flu by putting the sick one under lots of blankets to break the fever. Fever, as well as many other symptoms of an illness, is an attempt of the body to heal itself. Raising it, as opposed to suppressing with fever-reducing meds, helps the healing process by killing the viruses. 

I’ve heard awhile ago an advice from a chef in a restaurant that if you get burned at a stove, a good way to speed up the healing is to bring the burnt spot to the source of the heat (obviously not touching it as to not burn even more) just to experience more of a burning sensation and then withdraw. This advice made sense to me homeopathically, but was so counter-intuitive and counter-instinctive that I hesitated to try it for a long time. Only when I had a minor burn was I brave enough to bring my burnt hand close to the heat of the stove (not too close please – just testing waters); I then took my hand away and, hmm..., it did relieve the pain to some degree. The real test came about a year later when I had a large gathering of guests in the house and being preoccupied with a conversation I grabbed a handle of a skillet in a 450F oven with my bare hand. That really hurt. Encouraged by my previous experience I did not hesitate to bring my hand back into the oven for a quick moment being careful not to touch anything. It briefly increased the pain and then I withdrew the hand. It did hurt somewhat through the evening but not to the degree which would prevent me from using my hand or not being able to socialize. A few days later I looked at my hand wondering why there is a little bit of peeling skin on my palm – this is when I recalled the burn and realized that the morning after the party I had no symptoms whatsoever and totally forgot the accident. Normally, I would expect a second degree burn with blisters from such temperatures and exposure.

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Part 2 of 3:     How it works - The pendulum metaphor
(Part 3 of 3) How we chose an appropriate remedy.

Homeopathic remedies are highly diluted natural substances prepared in a way precisely described by the Procedure Manual of Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States and verified by FDA. Any plant, mineral or an animal substance can be prepared as a remedy by the process involving sequences of dilutions and succussions (i.e. vigorous shakings). At the last count there are more then 4000 homeopathic remedies.
An understanding of a new remedy’s scope of action starts with a process of “proving a remedy”. For simplicity’s sake I am omitting a few steps.
Someone qualified makes a preparation from a chosen substance. Then a group of people willing to participate in the proving (called provers) get together and start taking the remedy; the process is blind – they do not know what the original substance was. Typically, if one takes a single dose of a randomly selected remedy – nothing happens: there is no synergy. Yet, the repeated intake makes a difference. Provers take the remedy repeatedly in strong doses until they start exhibiting some symptoms. Their symptoms are collected by a master prover (also in the blind as to the original substance). The master prover then looks at common patterns trying to understand the themes and the scope of the remedy.
Upon this initial data homeopaths start prescribing this remedy when coming across patients with a similar symptom picture. It may work in some cases and not in others. Later on, successful cases are collected and analyzed for similarities. This clinical use provides better understanding of the remedy and allows for a more precise prescribing in the future.

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