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From the Townsend Letter,
the Examiner of Alternative Medicine
May 2006

Healing with Homeopathy
Incredible Medicine

by Robert Ullman, ND and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, LCSW

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Homeopathy is both effective and incredible at the same time, and it seems that no amount of double-blind, controlled studies or clinical cases seems able to set the issue to rest. Ever since Hahnemann first set out his theories in the Organon of Medicine in 1810, homeopathy has been the subject of controversy and debate. After nearly two hundred years of successful practice, that homeopathy should still be having problems with acceptance and that it should remain an enigma to the medical world seems implausible to us. Nevertheless, that is the current state of affairs.

Discussing homeopathy for many people is akin to discussing religion and politics at the same time: many opinions, much speculation, and few conclusions. We are no exception, but we have had the benefit of practicing homeopathy for many years and seeing both our successes and our failures with patients. This experience allows us to come down on one side of the issue with a strong opinion about whether or not homeopathy is effective. Some who have never experienced homeopathy, either as practitioners or as patients, flatly deny that homeopathy could possibly work, while those who have experienced homeopathy declare it either miraculous or totally worthless or somewhere in between.

Clearly, our bias is that homeopathic medicine is effective when properly prescribed, and a partial or utter failure when misunderstood and misapplied. We have done our best to master homeopathic practice over the years, and we still have much to learn. We have seen enough success in practice, however, to know that homeopathy is a remarkable medicine, however unbelievable it seems.

What makes homeopathy seem incredible? A number of reasons exist that, individually, might not seem so unbelievable, but they add up, as we shall see. Some of homeopathy's remarkable virtues are also the very things that strain its credibility. What is true of homeopathy is truly incredible, in both senses of the word.

Poisons as Medicine
One of the biggest problems in understanding homeopathic medicine lies in homeopathy's choice of medicinal substances. Every natural substance is a possible homeopathic medicine, as long as it can produce symptoms in a healthy person. This is called the "law of similars" or "like cures like," the foundational principle of Samuel Hahnemann's theory of homeopathy. The symptoms a substance in nature can produce in a healthy person can be cured by that same substance in a sick person. If a substance doesn't produce any symptoms when given over and over to healthy volunteers, it doesn't make the grade. Only those substances capable of making one sick can also be candidates as medicines. Counterintuitive? You bet. Nevertheless, it's true.

Some of the best medicines in homeopathic practice come from the most poisonous substances in nature. Viewing a homeopathic pharmacy is like going on a global hunt for the most deadly agents in the natural world: toxic minerals like mercury (Mercurius), arsenic (Arsenicum), and lead (Plumbum); poisonous plants containing strychnine, such Nux vomica and Ignatia; hallucinogenic alkaloids from Belladonna and Datura (Stramonium); and animal poisons from a wide variety of insects (Apis, Cantharis), spiders (Tarentula, Theridion), snakes (Lachesis, Naja), sea animals (Murex, Medusa, Sepia), and scorpions (Androctonus). Two thousand or so additional mineral, plant, and animal substances of less virulence are also used in the making of homeopathic medicines. The idea of using poisons as medicine may give pause to potential practitioners and patients alike. Nonetheless, these are some of the substances from which effective and non-toxic homeopathic medicines are made.

Astronomical Dilutions
As if the idea of using poisons is not enough to challenge credulity, the process that makes those poisons more acceptable makes homeopathy even more unbelievable. Such medicines are made non-toxic by diluting them. That seems reasonable: you make a poison less toxic by diluting it. The amount of dilution, however, is so astronomical that it seems that nothing could possibly remain of the original substance, thereby seeming to eliminate any possibility that the medicine could remain effective.

An extract of a substance used to make a C potency of a homeopathic medicine, say table salt (Natrum muriaticum), is serially diluted one part to 99 parts, six, 12, 30, 200, 1,000, 10,000, or 50,000 times to make various potencies of the medicine. Theoretically, no molecules of the original substance remain past the twelfth dilution, because the dilution factor exceeds Avogadro's number (i.e., the number of molecules in a mole of the original substance). This is where the chemists decide that homeopathy can't work because "there's nothing left in that stuff!" Nevertheless, homeopathic medicines have been shown to be clinically effective in high dilutions. How is that possible? No one knows. Various theories have been proposed involving the memory of water and liquid crystals, but nothing has been definitively proved.

Because of proven clinical effectiveness of homeopathy in many, though not all, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, some information must survive the dilution process to inform the body in such a way as to produce a therapeutic response. An unknown mechanism does not eliminate the possibility that the body is able to recognize the unique patterns of substances prepared homeopathically and to use them beneficially.

A Whole Lot of Shaking
One interesting fact to add to the dilution controversy is succussion, the process of shaking the vial between each dilution during the preparation process. Without succussion, the diluted medicines are not effective in producing clinical changes, especially in the higher dilutions. This implies that succussion alters the dilutions physically or chemically in some way that preserves the pattern of the original substance, allowing it to remain active clinically even when diluted far beyond the 12C potency.

In fact, higher dilutions, such as 200C, 1M, 10M, and 50M — which are prepared with a far greater number of dilutions and successions — are considered by homeopaths to be more powerful and to last longer in clinical practice than the lower dilutions of 6C, 12C, and 30C.

One Medicine is All a Patient Needs
Another startling proposition of homeopathic medicine, especially when compared to conventional medicine, is that the one medicine that truly matches the chronic or constitutional symptoms of the patient will stimulate a substantial portion, if not all, of the healing that a patient needs — physically, mentally, and emotionally. Such a homeopathic medicine is called the simillimum, defined as the medicine most similar to the patient's symptoms. Having seen such results in many of our cases, we know this principle to be true, and it is what we strive to achieve with every patient. If you read our books, such as Ritalin-Free Kids, Rage-Free Kids, Whole Woman Homeopathy, Prozac-Free, and A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism, you will see the degree of healing possible with the correct medicine. We are not always able to find the simillimum for every patient and may have to settle for a series of homeopathic medicines that are approximations. These approximate medicines each cover a part of the symptom picture and thus do part of the job, but not the complete healing we know is possible with the single correct medicine. Other homeopathic medicines may be beneficial for acute illnesses or first aid, but nothing matches the comprehensive benefits of the simillimum.

Permanent Healing Back to Birth, According to the Laws of Cure
One sign that a patient may have received his or her simillimum is the return of symptoms experienced previously, perhaps years or decades earlier. These often come in the reverse order of their original appearance. The symptoms stay for a much shorter time than they had originally, although the time is proportionate to their original appearance. If observed carefully, this process may result in the reappearance of symptoms dating all the way back to infancy or even birth itself. The return of old symptoms is an excellent sign in homeopathic treatment, indicating that the medicine is producing results. Such a phenomenon is rarely seen in conventional medicine where either it would not be believed or would be misinterpreted as renewed illness rather than as part of a curative process.

Other observed indications of a healing process underway are skin eruptions and discharges occurring for no apparent reason. These seem to be part of the body's attempt to cleanse and heal itself in response to the stimulus of the homeopathic medicine. During the healing process, symptoms may also disappear from center to periphery, from top to bottom, and from most important to least important organs and functions. These directions of healing are known classically as the Laws of Cure. Although the healing processes may not occur in those exact ways in every case, they often fit at least part of that pattern described by the observant nineteenth century homeopath from Pennsylvania, Constantine Hering.

One Dose May Last for Months
Another surprising and illogical, though common, event in homeopathic practice occurs when one dose of a homeopathic medicine produces effects for weeks, months, or even years. It appears that the medicine acts as a catalyst to a healing process that has a certain momentum specific to the particular combination of the person, the illness, and the medicine itself. During the indefinite period of that medicine's single dose action, symptoms are mitigated or they simply disappear. After that period, the symptoms may return until another dose of medicine is administered; in some cases, the symptoms may never return, leaving the patient in good health. A dose of a well selected homeopathic medicine that works perfectly will cure the patient of all the symptoms that it matches. Unbelievable, perhaps, but again, demonstrable in clinical practice.

Symptoms Borrowed from Nature
One interesting idea regarding homeopathy, recently proposed by Dr. Rajan Sankaran, is that the symptom picture of the homeopathic medicine is in a sense borrowed from the substance in nature from which the medicine is derived. The patient literally and metaphorically takes on the state of the substance in nature, producing the same physical and mental state that would be produced by actually being toxically affected by the substance, but without experiencing any actual contact with it. In this way, a person acquires symptoms from a substance, like an exotic mineral, plant, or animal, that may exist half-a-world away, without any conscious knowledge of the resulting state. During the homeopathic interview, when the patient is led into a process that reaches beyond the conscious mind, the nature of substance itself begins to be revealed by the patient's words and gestures. These words and gestures have nothing to do with the actual situation or conscious thoughts and feelings of the patient. Sankaran calls these symptoms non-human specific feelings and sensations that come directly from the substance itself. The patient may say, "I have no idea why I'm saying this," when referring to these sensations and thoughts, but those reactions often relate directly to the substance that the patient needs as medicine. For example, a patient needing a medicine from a bird may start to speak about being up above all her worries, flying freely. A patient who needs a mineral medicine may speak about his structure crumbling, thereby pointing to a substance like that within Arsenicum, a remedy used when a patient talks about fears of imminent death. A person may relate a sensation found characteristically only in patients needing a medicine from a certain plant family, such as the feeling of constriction and expansion found in medicines made from the cactus family.

Incredible but True
All the above discussion may cause a person to decide that homeopathy is just a hoax, a delusion, or simply an elaborate form of placebo. If so, use other forms of healing and be well.

For those of you who can willingly suspend your disbelief, we urge you to give homeopathy the benefit of the doubt and try it. Do the Arnica test on a bruise or black eye, or the Apis test on a bee sting. Give Chamomilla to a screaming, teething baby and see if the placebo effect works. Try Cantharis for a raging, exquisitely painful bladder infection with blood in the urine, or for a burn from the stove. Try Gelsemium or Oscillococcinum for the flu. (See our book, Homeopathic Self-Care: The Quick and Easy Guide for the Whole Family for directions.)

If those remedies work, consult an experienced classical homeopath for your constitutional remedy, and, if you are given an effective medicine, watch your chronic illnesses and mental and emotional states improve and resolve over several months to a year. See for yourself if this incredible medicine produces the plausible results that we know are possible.

Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are licensed naturopathic physicians, board certified in homeopathy. Their books include A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism, Ritalin-Free Kids, Rage-Free Kids, Prozac Free, Homeopathic Self-Care: The Quick and Easy Guide for the Whole Family, Whole Woman Homeopathy, The Patient's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine, and Mystics, Masters, Saints and Sages-Stories of Enlightenment. They teach and lecture internationally and practice at The Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds, Washington and Langley, Washington. They treat patients by phone as well as in person and can be reached by telephone at 425-774-5599 or by fax at 425-670-0319. Their web site is


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