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Homeopathy and the City

by Elizabeth Kaye(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 111 - May 2005

The Liver Here she comes, her black robe billowing, her children trailing in her wake. She shouts at the little one to say hello to me, then tells him off for interrupting. They're Bengali. They have problems with the downstairs neighbours who call them, inaccurately and with great malice, Paki bastards. This happens, for the most part, at random, but always occurs during festivals and other special days when they dare to entertain at home – when they are, relatively speaking, having a good time. One of the many shortcomings of cheaply built public housing is the lack of sound-proofing. Not only do the walls have ears, but the floors and ceilings as well. This determines more than the material quality of shelter. It condemns her family to a living-hell equation. Celebratory rites, and the right to celebrate, equals another load of racial abuse.

The children were all on asthma medication when I started seeing them. She'd lost count of the number of antibiotics they'd had. I've been directing treatment towards clearing their lungs and cleansing their blood. 'Unsurpressing', if there is such a word. They're doing well, but there's so many of them and they cough a lot.

My actress daughter had phoned five minutes before to tell me the great news. She'd got the part. "Guess what, Mum. I'm playing a slut again." "Fantastic, darling," I say, encouragingly, whilst wondering what 30 years of feminism has really taught me. I also wonder what this devout Muslim woman would make of it if she knew. I experience, not for the first time, a split between my private self and my homeopath persona. I shake it off and pay attention to what she is saying. The police were called, but did nothing as usual. Everyone was upset. Her eldest son had to be restrained. The evening, yet another evening, ruined.

She pulls up her robe and assorted jumpers and shows me where it hurts. Right side, behind the ribs – the liver. She's been scanned, palpated and the medics can find nothing wrong. They've diagnosed stress, and she's been given anti-depressants. She hasn't taken them. But her digestive system isn't working properly and her liver, well, it hurts. What am I able to do for her? she asks. What should she take?

I have been trained to view the body in relation to the mind and the emotions. That's common to all holistic traditions and I borrow heavily from various maps, aligning the European road-trip that is homeopathy with, among others, the Chinese medical system. This is an ancient pathway and can be consulted as a kind of Rough Guide to the Organs. The theory goes like this: When we withdraw our awareness from our emotional pain, the emotion lodges in an organ and the body reacts. The liver is where we store our anger, and our anxiety concerning the past or future. The Liver is 'One Who Lives'. If there is an inability or unwillingness to be engaged with the here and now but rather to dwell in the failed past or project an unsafe future, the liver becomes compromised. If we suppress our anger, or express it too much, the liver becomes irritated. This does not show up on a scan.

"Well," I say, "you could try and stop shouting at the kids." "Yes, I know," she says, "but if they make a noise the downstairs neighbours start banging on the ceiling, isn't it. Then, sometimes, four in the morning they do it, just to stop us sleeping. I shouting at children to keep them quiet." Four in the morning. Liver time. At 4am the liver is at its most active, at the height of its assimilative process. How neat, I think, and frown at her.

She rifles through a plastic bag and pulls out a little packet of tablets. "Those last pills you give me. I don't think they did much." "No" I agree. "Doesn't seem like it." She says again, "tell me, what should I do?"

I am always touched by her reverence for homeopathy, which comes from a life-time of being familiar with its wonders. Back home, her mother always used my kind of medicine for the family. She will never take anything, not even a vitamin, without consulting me first. I feel she looks upon me as some kind of benign, light-skinned Avatar, a link with her home and her ancestral knowledge, though I've never been to Bangladesh and we meet in a crummy Portakabin in London. She trusts me because I am her doctor. Which, of course, I'm not.

Homeopathy, as we who practise it are so fond of telling you, can be used to treat anything. It's not just for sore throats and nappy rash, you know. It's powerful stuff. The anger of the downstairs neighbours makes me feel defeated and ashamed of my race. The anger of the woman sitting in front of me, chin resting on her clenched fists as she waits for me to come up with the solution to the torturous puzzle of her family's health-care, is spilling out in all the wrong places. I try and gather it up for her to look at but I know I'm only chasing ghosts.

I prescribe a liver tonic and something for each of the children. I book their next appointment for four weeks time. I expect she'll phone me in a couple of days because one of them will be coughing too much at night, loud enough to wake the neighbours. It's a slow process.


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About Elizabeth Kaye

Elizabeth Kaye qualified as a homeopath in 1998 and works in London, both in private practice and as part of a team delivering low-cost complementary therapies through a publicly funded agency. She can be contacted on

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