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Poison Ivy Strikes Again

by Dr Angela Jones(more info)

listed in homeopathy, originally published in issue 49 - February 2000

One of the attractive features of homeopathy as a therapy is that it is the antidote to polypharmacy. How often does one see an unfortunate patient with a drug list of four, six, ten or even more items to try and control all the many symptoms of his or her illness?

Ann's case was not as complex as some are. However, to treat it conventionally had been requiring the daily ingestion and application of drugs for many years. In contrast, her homeopathic treatment consisted of one medication only, and did not even have to be taken every day.

Ann had suffered from psoriasis for twenty years. Her skin was marked by large scaly plaques, which are patches of thickened and inflamed skin. Her plaques were particularly bad on the knees and lower legs and, because of them, she hated going on a beach holiday. Over the years, she had used every messy, and less messy cream in the medical armamentarium as well as quite a few "miracle cures" from the papers. None had a lasting effect and Ann had become resigned to just keeping the situation under control.

She was now getting more worried because her joints were gradually becoming more painful. She knew that psoriasis could cause arthritis because, quite early on in her illness, she had developed joint pains and her specialist had started her on a strong antiarthritis drug called indomethacin. Over the years, she had made efforts to stop taking the drug, even replacing it with over-the-counter ibuprofen when it became available, but had never succeeded in stopping the pain. Her joints would seize up and stiffen so much that she could hardly get out of bed and she often had to stand under a hot shower for half an hour in the morning in order to get things moving.

Ann's general health was pretty good. She had not had any serious illnesses apart from the arthritis and her family was also long-lived and healthy. She worked in the civil service and described herself as very organised and strongly reliant on routine. However, she did have a tendency to become despondent. These bouts of depression were not linked to her periods but rather to times when her joints were worse. She then felt as if she would never get better, and would visualise herself in a wheelchair, completely dependent on others – a nightmare scenario, as far as Ann was concerned.

All she wanted was to be able to cut down on her medication. Since a new regulation requiring a patient information leaflet to be provided in dispensed medication, Ann had become aware of just how dangerous her indomethacin tablets could be. Fortunately, she did not suffer from indigestion. However, she was aware that peptic ulcers could develop silently in patients on these drugs, because the pain-killing effect of the drug masks the pain as the ulcer forms. Her already heightened tendency to worry about her health was fed by these reasonable concerns and she longed to be free of the indomethacin if at all possible.

When one has been practising homeopathy for some time, the temptation grows to make things more complicated than they really are.

In Ann's case, there was an obvious medicine that would help her joints. To summarise the features, she had widespread joint pain with marked stiffness in the morning, or indeed after any period of inactivity, which improved with movement but even more markedly with heat. She had not volunteered this, but on direct questioning agreed that her pains were worse in the rain – "but aren't everyone's?" The medicine that covers these symptoms is the old faithful, Rhus toxicodendron. This American plant, known colloquially as the Poison Ivy, causes nasty skin rashes and a characteristic arthropathy in poisoning cases. In homoeopathic dilution, it is one of the mainstays of treatment for joint pain and practically the first medicine taught to students. As such, it is not considered as a particularly "clever" prescription among homeopaths – and yet, its judicious use can work wonders.

In Ann's case, she took Rhus tox 30c for three doses – effectively a single stimulus. She found, to her surprise, that she did not need any indomethacin AT ALL for two days. Thereafter, she was down to two or three doses a day instead of the previous four to six. The following month, we repeated the dose and found the same effect with a total absence of symptoms for about three days and a marked improvement for the rest of the month.

We tried a higher potency next, the 200c strength. Interestingly, this did not agree with Ann at all well and she had a bad month, although not as bad as she had been originally. The next strength again, the 1M, was also less effective than the 30c and so we went back to the original potency. In order to maintain a good level of function and to minimise the intake of indomethacin, we gradually increased the number of days on which the Rhus tox was taken, from once a month to once a week. Ann eventually settled on a single dose every weekend, which left her pain free and needing indomethacin on a very occasional basis only; for instance, if she had overdone the exercise, particularly in damp weather.

But what about the psoriasis, I hear you ask? Fascinatingly, Ann's psoriasis started fading from the moment she started the Rhus tox. After four months, the centre of the plaques had faded to almost normal skin and Ann was able to go on holiday and show her legs without embarrassment. One should not be surprised at this development – after all, Rhus tox is known to be active against psoriasis, particularly on the lower limbs. Thus, a single medicine controlled both of Ann's conditions and she only had to take it on a weekly basis. That might have been enough on its own to make Ann feel generally better. Indeed, after six months treatment, Ann stated that she felt better than she had for years. I think that, in fact, the Rhus tox matched the totality of Ann's symptoms so well that it helped her on the physical and the psychological level, helping to counteract her depressive tendency as well as her skin and joint problems. All this for a few pounds' worth of tablets and with no side effects. Imagine the benefit to the National Health Service if this therapy were more widely available.


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About Dr Angela Jones

Dr Angela Jones works in NHS general practice and also privately, using homeopathy alongside conventional medicine. Dr Jones can be contacted via the Faculty of Homeopathy on Tel: 020-7566 7800.

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