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Homoeopathy - a practical alternative

by Beth MacEoin(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 24 - January 1998

In the past decade, alternative medicine has gained a great deal of prominence, as high street chemists display a wide range of unorthodox remedies, and most popular women’s magazines now include some information on non-conventional approaches to healthcare. This can be seen as part of a popular general trend that is demanding more solid information about the choices that can be made by the average person with regard to positive management of their health. In order to make these choices, we need reliable information on which to base our decision before we take action to protect our own health and the health of our families.

Within this general context of change, the popularity and prominence of homoeopathic medicine is undeniable, with a Which? survey conducted in 1995 revealing that more than one in six members had visited a homoeopathic practitioner in the previous year. In addition, three quarters of those surveyed felt they has been satisfied with the outcome. Homoeopathic medicines also make up a large percentage of over-the-counter sales, with retail outlets including high street pharmacies, specialised homoeopathic pharmacies, and health food stores. The scale of popularity is clearly reflected in the healthy sales figures for homoeopathic medicines, with an estimated nineteen million pounds being spent on these remedies in 1995.

However, we may experience some confusion when confronted with the choice of homoeopathic medicines available to us for self-help use, and may also feel bewildered with regard to the range of potential conditions that can be treated. In such a situation, it is not surprising that we may feel some anxiety about the possibility of getting out of our depth if we attempt to treat health problems that we are not knowledgeable enough to treat.

The solution is, in fact, much more straightforward than it might initially seem to a newcomer to this area of home treatment. Before setting out on homoeopathic prescribing it is vitally important to appreciate that medical problems can be divided into two separate categories that may be termed chronic or acute. These categories do not refer to the severity of a condition as some of us might think, but are ways of defining whether a condition is likely to occur on a long-term basis or not. In other words, problems that are described as acute are generally those that have a short life-span with predictable stages of progression of the illness. These conditions may be seen as self-limiting and include many everyday problems such as colds, ‘flu, food poisoning, cuts, bruises, and hangovers.

These are the sort of problems that the homoeopathic home prescriber can treat with appropriately-chosen remedies, since they have the virtue of clearing up by themselves, provided they are given enough time and assistance in the form of rest, appropriate diet, and peace and quiet. Within this context, homoeopathic remedies are regarded as being an extremely valuable way of supporting and speeding up the body’s capacity for self-healing.

However, conditions that fall into the chronic category do not tend to clear up by themselves however much time and appropriate support is given. Chronic health problems can be identified by their tendency to repeated flare-ups of symptoms, often punctuated by episodes when symptoms may seem to calm down significantly or even temporarily disappear.

Unlike acute problems that are characteristically self-limiting, chronic conditions tend to be progressive in nature, with each flare-up of symptoms often being more severe and longer-lasting than the previous episode. Conditions that fall into this chronic category include asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, psoriasis, migraines, pre-menstrual syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and hay fever.

These and conditions like them are the health problems that should not be treated by the home prescriber, since management of the condition can be very difficult from the perspective of knowing when to repeat the homoeopathic remedy, and when it is best to watch and wait. In addition, many patients who suffer from these conditions are likely to be taking conventional medication, and skilled knowledge is needed to interpret the reaction of the patient to the homoeopathic remedy. This can be especially difficult when the picture may be clouded or complicated by the side-effects of conventional drugs.

It is also important to bear in mind that patients who suffer from a combination of atopic conditions such as eczema, hay fever, and asthma may be extremely sensitive to homoeopathic remedies, with the result that choosing the appropriate potency or strength of remedy can be extremely tricky. This is because the potency of remedy that is selected must be powerful enough to stimulate a curative response, but also gentle enough to avoid an over-reaction in the form of intensification of symptoms.

If we consider that patients who suffer from atopic problems tend to be extremely reactive to a wide range of allergens such as dust, pollen, air-born gases and detergents, we can also appreciate they may be equally reactive to homoeopathic remedies. When we regard chronic conditions from this general perspective, we can understand why they should be treated by an experienced homoeopathic practitioner rather than the interested lay person.

For those of us who want to learn the basics of home prescribing for acute conditions, there are a number of excellent beginner’s guides to simple homoeopathic prescribing. These should give straightforward advice on the treatment of acute conditions, as well as suggestions for the contents of a homoeopathic first aid kit. However, the most effective way of developing confidence in homoeopathic self-help is to attend one of the many homoeopathic first aid classes held across the country. These have the advantage of allowing for interaction between the teacher and members of the class so that practical questions can be dealt with as they arise. In this way, issues can be raised that may not be covered by the best homoeopathic self-help manual.

Since homoeopathic treatment is all about treating the individual person rather than symptoms of illness in isolation, the difference between acute and chronic prescribing can perhaps be most effectively illustrated by the two following examples.

Sally was a young woman who planned to have homoeopathic treatment to help her over the birth of her first baby. All had gone well during her pregnancy, but she experienced a long and exhausting labour that left her with a great deal of internal bruising as well as a number of stitches. Three doses of Arnica (in the thirtieth potency) given over four days did a great deal to ease the sensitivity of the localised bruising, while bathing in a diluted tincture of a combination of Hypericum and Calendula did a great deal to ease the sensitivity of the stitches, as well as acting as a natural antiseptic. In addition, taking Arnica internally also did a great deal to help Sally with the emotional as well as physical exhaustion that is often part and parcel of labour and delivery.

Kitty, on the other hand, had suffered from eczema since her teens and was now in her forties. The patches of eczema were extremely widespread, covering extensive areas of her face, arms, and legs, and often caused her great distress when they became itchy, weepy and crusty. In addition she had also needed to make occasional use of an inhaler to ease variable asthma symptoms that had been with her since childhood. On analysis of her symptoms as a whole, she was prescribed Phosphorus in homoeopathic potency which covered the main symptoms of her sensitive, sympathetic nature, as well a tendency to tightness and wheezing of the chest that would be intense at night, recurrent nosebleeds, and burning, sore skin that was eased by cool bathing.

Kitty took a daily dose of her homoeopathic remedy in water, with her homoeopathic practitioner monitoring her reactions on a monthly basis. At first, Kitty reported no change in the skin symptoms, but did comment on the fact that she was sleeping more soundly and felt she had more energy than she had in a long time. Over the next two to three months her asthma began to trouble her less, but her eczema became more active on her face and upper body.

Since her homeopath was aware that the case was progressing as expected, she continued with the same remedy for the duration of the case. Over the following six months the asthma cleared steadily, and Kitty was delighted to report that her eczema was clearing up on her face, although it was still very active on her arms and legs. Eventually the eczema also disappeared, with the patches on the legs being the last to go. In this way, Kitty’s case demonstrated some of the basic ground rules of successful chronic prescribing, with symptoms clearing up from within outwards, and moving from the upper parts of the body to the lower. Most significantly of all, Kitty’s overall experience of health and vitality had improved considerably in line with the general expectations of successful homoeopathic prescribing.


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About Beth MacEoin

Beth MacEoin BA, MNCHM, RSHom is a professional homoeopath. She is the author of Practical Homoeopathy, Homoeopathy and the Menopause and Homoeopathy for Women. She can be contacted on Tel: 0191 281 6667. Beth will be a key speaker at the Positive Health Menopause Symposium in April 1998.

  • June Sayer Homeopathy

    Training Academy Homeopathy Nutrition Reiki, Distant Learning. Diet, Health Screening, Detox, Stress

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