by Laurie Monteleone
Homeopathy is a sub-system of natural health care in which extreme dilutions of substances from nature are used to stimulate a healing response. The basic principle of homeopathy is that substances that elicit a particular symptom picture in their physical form (for example onion causing itchy watery eyes and a runny nose with discharge that burns) can be used in a diluted form to stimulate the healing of the same set of symptoms.
Using this principle, a homeopath working with an individual that suffers from allergies (with the specific symptoms of watery itchy eyes and a runny nose with discharge that burns) might select homeopathic onion.
Homeopathic pharmaceutical companies prepare homeopathic dilutions according to FDA guidelines. Once completed, the diluted substances are called “remedies”.
Most remedies are derived from plants (such as Belladonna or Pulsatilla), and minerals (such as Phosphorous and Silica). A smaller portion are derived from animal substances (such as dog’s milk or dolphin’s milk). Remedy symptom pictures are derived from research studies called “provings”. Once completed, proving information is recorded in homeopathic materia medicas (large reference books), and homeopathic material medica software.
The role of a professional homeopath is to understand the symptom pictures of a large number of remedies, and then to be able to select the remedy that most closely matches the symptom picture of the patient. (This is called the similimum.) When this match is achieved – that is, the symptom picture of the remedy matches the symptom picture of the individual suffering from a disease pattern – the individual’s innate healing ability is activated and healing occurs.
Are there research studies in homeopathy?
Yes, there are a significant number of studies completed in the US and Europe on various aspects of homeopathy. The web-site for the National Center for Homeopathy gives an excellent overview of a sampling of these studies. For details, see www.homeopathic.org/research.htm.
How does a homeopathic remedy stimulate healing?
There is a lot of research directed at answering this question from a technical perspective. The book Homeopathy, Frontiers in Medical Science gives a wonderful overview of theories that are being considered and investigated. It includes a discussion of research on the ability of water molecules to hold memory, and an overview of principles in quantum physics, information systems theory and chaos theory and how these areas apply to the energy medicine paradigm.
Homeopathic professionals generally answer this question by explaining that homeopathic remedies cause an action-reaction response within the immune system. The remedy pushes the disease process in one direction and the immune system rebounds back in the opposite direction, stimulating the healing process.
In my practice, my experience has been that well selected homeopathic remedies assist the body wisdom of the individual in focusing on the root cause of the disease pattern. Often this means a retrace to the original insult (mental, emotional, and/or physical) which caused the individual to lock into a stress/defense pattern. When this happens, we often see the individual reconnect with old thoughts, emotions and physical symptoms that were somehow related to the origin of the chronic symptoms. This may take the form of strong memories and emotions coming out during the dream state or waking state, a rethinking of long held beliefs about the individual’s life, and/or acute physical symptoms such as the flaring up of a chronic rash or digestive upset.
Holistic health professionals call this phase of the healing process a “healing crises” or a “retrace”. Homeopaths call this type of response an “aggravation” of the disease pattern.
There are different viewpoints in the homeopathic community about the necessity of patients going through an aggravation. Many homeopathic professionals believe this is a necessary step in the resolution of any chronic illness and expect it as part of the remedy response. When these homeopaths see an aggravation, they are rest assured that the individual’s body wisdom has responded to the remedy and is doing the necessary restructuring to bring about a permanent resolution of the symptoms.
Others might argue that aggravations are not necessary – but that instead they’re a sign that the incorrect remedy was selected, or that it was selected in the wrong potency and/or dosage.
My own practice experience has been that both viewpoints have merit. When the similimum (remedy that best matches the symptom picture of the patient) is selected, the patient is able to get in touch with and process long suppressed memories and emotions with a greater sense of acceptance and grace. The physical symptom aggravation is moderate and temporary (e.g. often just an hour or two).
When a remedy is selected that is close to the similimum (but not the optimal match), or, when the dosage and potency is not optimal, the patient tends to “grip” more – that is, they have greater resistance to the release of toxic thoughts and emotions, feel more threatened by the process, and correspondingly have a more difficult time with the retrace of acute physical symptoms. The physical symptom aggravation is more vivid and lasts longer.
Nevertheless, (in my experience) in cases of deep pathology (such as cancer), most patients have a profound level of resistance to feeling their feelings. Usually this is because of a built-in survival mechanism which protects them from feeling feelings which could destablize them and/or be more destructive than the disease itself (e.g. suicidal feelings). As a result, patients with deep pathology will tend to either have very moderate reactions to homeopathic remedies (because of the built in protective mechanism), or the remedies will release thoughts, emotions, and memories which are extremely toxic and destabilizing. In either case, there is strong initial resistance to the release process.
When patients are able to release suppressed toxic emotions (via homeopathy or other means), the optimal scenario is for the patient to work with accompanying practitioners (psychotherapists, counselors, healers, etc). Some homeopathic practitioners will provide some support, but often other professionals are needed.
Typically the fact that the patient is even able to surface the emotions is a sign of mental/emotional/spiritual strength – it provides evidence that their body wisdom is convinced that the individual can handle the memories and emotions and still remain safe. In other words, desomatization occurs when the memories and emotions somatized in the body are less life-threatening to the individual than the disease itself.
There are several different treatment philosophies and approaches for using homeopathy to treat individuals with cancer. Often times practitioners that use homeopathy in the treatment of cancer use a combination of these approaches.
One approach is to use homeopathic remedies to target the tumors themselves. In this case, the homeopath selects remedies which match the symptom picture of the tumor itself (e.g. Conium Maculatum for hard immovable tumors that develop slowly). Homeopaths using this approach might also consider other symptoms (such as the individual’s food cravings, disposition, etc), but their primary focus is to target the tumor and reverse its growth. Some physician homeopaths also give remedies at the tumor site itself (in the form of an injection) to more aggressively stimulate a response.
Another approach is to use homeopathic remedies to assist in healing the patient’s eliminative channels (kidneys, urinary tract, lymphatic system, liver, etc), and strengthen cell detoxification. In this case, the homeopath may use drainage remedies. These are low potency combination remedies that are used to target specific systems, or detoxify particular substances (e.g. heavy metals, etc). Homeopaths using this approach select the drainage remedy based on an analysis of the case – or they may use an electro-dermal diagnostic tool, such as the Quantum machine.
Still another approach is to use homeopathy to address the overall constitution of the patient. In this case (called the classical approach), the homeopath does a complete interview of the patient’s mental, emotional, and physical symptoms and then selects the best match accordingly. Often the best selected constitutional remedy will directly affect the tumor. By assisting the body in addressing and resolving the energy that underlies the tumor, it can result in complete elimination of the tumor. The best selected constitutional remedy can also support drainage and detoxification, although this is not the primary focus of a classical prescriber.
How effective is homeopathy in the treatment of cancer?
In the US, most alternative health care professionals use homeopathy in combination with other approaches (nutritional and immune system support, diet and detoxification programs, etc), so it’s not typically considered as a primary or stand-alone therapy for cancer. However, when used correctly, and in combination with necessary therapies, it can be an amazingly powerful tool for empowering someone to heal themselves of cancer. There are many cases in homeopathic literature (from other countries where homeopathy is more commonly used for cancer) in which the correct homeopathic recommendation resulted in the resolution of tumors, reversal of the cancer process, and recovery by the patient.
Also, homeopathy has an excellent track record in the treatment of animals with cancer and there is much anecdotal evidence that certain remedies (when correctly selected) are effective in reversing the cancer process.
Much of the success with homeopathy, however, depends on the skill level of the practitioner and the resources of the patient to heal on all levels.
Specific Homeopathic Remedies for Cancer:
One of the most frequently. recommended homeopathic remedies for cancer is Arsenicum Album.
Arsenicum Album is a primary remedy for cancer and is often recommended for individuals with terminal cancer that are entering into the death process. It helps the individual confront and deal with their fear of death – feelings of being stuck in limbo, not knowing what lies ahead, not knowing what to expect, feeling terrified of the transition, afraid to let go of their life. When used appropriately, it can be a powerful tool for assisting individuals in coming to greater peace about the death process, enabling them to embrace the transition with greater spiritual centeredness.
Arsenicum Album is also of great value to individuals that have just been diagnosed with cancer and are gripped with profound fear – fear of cancer, fear that they will never get better, fear of death, fear of not having enough money to sustain the treatment, fear of not getting the needed medical care. In this state, the individual sees the cancer as being bigger than themselves and bigger than their own ability to heal themselves. They feel powerless over the cancer, seeing it as being 100 feet tall and seeing themselves as being very small.
This is not to say that the fears that come with a cancer diagnosis are not justified, but that these fears in an of themselves severely weaken the immune system of the cancer individual. By taking Arsenicum Album (when indicated), it can help the individual reconnect with a greater spiritual center, such that they see themselves and their immune system as being bigger than the cancer.
Arsenicum album may also be indicated for family members and friends that are gripped with these same types of fears – terror that their family member will die, that there are no therapies available, that the situation is out of control, that a new or different doctor is needed, that people are not taking the situation seriously enough. In these cases, Arsenicum Album can help the individual let go of some of these fears, making it easier for them to affirm the ability of their friend or family member to heal themselves.
On a physical level, Arsenicum Album helps the body release fear and tension held in the kidneys, adrenals, and nervous system. This sometimes correlates with the detoxification of the heavy metal arsenic from these areas as well.
In some cases, Arsenicum Album can be instrumental in actually turning the cancer around, arresting tumor growth and empowering the individual’s immune system to turn the disease around.
Some of the physical symptoms that are included in the profile of an individual needing Arsenicum Album are:
- Burning pains, better with heat (this is specific to arsenicum album – for the majority of other homeopathic remedies indicated for burning pains, the pain is better with cold application. is one of the few remedies in which the pain is better with heat.)
- Burning pains, felt deep within the body, burning pain in the bones, the nervous system, the digestive tract, etc
- Neck stiffness
- Craves sour foods and drinks
- Cold hands and feet, ice cold feeling, lack of body heat
- Itchy scalp
- Eczema, especially on the hands and on the scalp
Key mental/emotional symptoms associated with Arsenicum Album include:
- Fear of death, disease, cancer
- Survival issues
- Despair of recovery
- Fear of poverty, that there is not enough money to support oneself, that the insurance company is being stingy, that everywhere one goes there is not enough
- Perfectionism, fear of making a mistake which will be severely detrimental to one’s health and/or financial situation
- Obsessive/compulsive, rigid behavior, ritualistic, the tremendous fear drives the individual to a strict adherence to a protocol or routine, the feeling is that if they divert from this routine, they will not survive physically and/or financially
Are there in risks in using homeopathy?
Homeopathic remedies, in and of themselves, are extremely safe and have no harmful side-effects. The real risk in using homeopathy is when you use it at the exclusion of other needed therapies, and/or diagnostic tests. As with any therapy or approach, its best to use a synergistic approach so that therapies can work together. Also, if you have a cancer diagnosis, be sure that you’re working with a practitioner who is using homeopathy aggressively enough for your situation.
Another thing to consider is that sometimes the healing response caused by a homeopathic remedy can be strong enough to bring on a “healing crises”. This might mean a fever, the release of strong emotions (e.g. fear, anger, anxiousness), or possibly detoxification symptoms (diarrhea, mild headache, rash, etc). These types of reactions are temporary and not harmful in and of themselves – but, it’s wise to be under the care of a licensed physician to evaluate what’s going on – just in case the symptoms are related to something else. One danger is ignoring noteworthy symptoms because you think they’re just part of a healing crises. Another danger is overreacting to symptoms, seeking medical care, and then receiving medications which further complicate your situation (e.g. pain killers, anti-depressants, etc).
To avoid confusion, make sure you’re working with a homeopathic practitioner that has experience in managing remedy reactions and can discern if merging symptoms are related to your healing process, or if you need to pursue further medical testing and treatment.
In my own private practice, my experience has been that the healing crises that people go through with homeopathy are usually related to the hysteria that comes from the “unknown”, and not so much the remedy itself. With good communication and education, people are more able to relax and walk through the healing process more gracefully.
Homeopathic practitioners come in the form of MD-homeopaths, Naturopaths that include homeopathy in their practice, Acupuncturists and Chiropractors that have post-graduate training in homeopathy, and professional homeopaths (individuals that are not licensed in any other profession, but have training in homeopathy). Each group has their own examination board and certification process for homeopathy.
Locating a Homeopathic Professional
You can find a listing of homeopaths in all of the above categories at www.homeopathicdirectory.org.
Homeopaths specializing in working with individuals with cancer:
Recommended Homeopathic Web-Sites and Books
www.homeopathic.org - Web site of the NCH (National Center for Homeopathy). It includes numerous links, including ‘Introduction to Homeopathy’ which provides answers to commonly asked questions about homeopathy and ‘Homeopathic Research’ which provides abstracts from different types of research studies.
www.homeopathic.com - Web site of HES (Homeopathic Educational Services) which is a company that sells books and other educational materials on homeopathy. It’s owned by Dana Ullman, an accomplished writer and spokesperson for homeopathy in the US. The site includes numerous articles by Dana as well as a listing of homeopathic research studies.
www.healthy.net/clinic/therapy/homeopat/under - Web site under Health World On-line. It includes a number of articles written mostly by Dana Ullman, as well as an on-line audio library.
www.homeopathicdirectory.org - Provides a listing of homeopathic professionals in the US and Canada that have completed a homeopathic certification exam.
www.minimum.com – Website for Minimum Price Books, which sells books on homeopathy.
Essential Homeopathy: What Is It and What it Can Do For You, by Dana Ullman, MPH
Emotional Healing with Homeopathy, by Peter Chappell, BSc RSHom FSHom
The Consumer’s Guide to Homeopathy, by Dana Ullman, MPH
The Desktop Guide to Keynote and Confirmatory Symptoms, By Roger Morrison, MD (For Professionals)
A Homeopathic Approach to Cancer, by Dr. A.U. Ramakrishnan MD and Catherine R. Coulter (For Professionals)
Introduction to Homeopathic Medicine in Primary Care, by Sidney Skinner, FNP(For Professionals)
The Emerging Science of Homeopathy: Complexity, Biodynamics and Nonpharmacology, by Paolo Bellavite, MD, and Adnrea Signorini, MD (For Homeopathic Science Enthusiasts)