Homeopathy – An Overview
Homeopathic care can have dramatic results, as the following cases indicate. Dr. Christina Chambreau, homeopathic veterinarian and educator, was contacted by the owners of Suzy, a female Dachshund paralyzed in the rear legs. The original veterinarian who examined Suzy found that she had no deep pain sensation in the rear limbs and hypertonic reflexes. X-rays indicated complete intervertebral disc protrusion. After the owners declined surgery, Suzy was sent home on steroids. At the time her owners called Dr. Chambreau, Suzy was depressed, incontinent, and could only drag herself around by her front limbs. She did not appear to feel any pain when her toes were pinched. Dr. Chambreau discontinued the steroids and instituted homeopathic treatment based on the Suzy's physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. Within 24 hours her bladder control had improved. Within 48 hours she was no longer incontinent and was able to walk, although she fell occasionally. After four additional days of treatment, Suzy returned to normal. There has been no recurrence of Suzy's back trouble during the past four years.
A veterinary teaching hospital diagnosed the mass in eleven year old Barney's heart as probable hemangiosarcoma. At the time of referral to the teaching hospital, Barney had muffled heart sounds and fluid in her chest and pericardial sac. The teaching hospital told Barney's owner that the prognosis was poor and recommended surgery to remove part of the pericardial sac. If surgery was not performed, periodic draining of the pericardial sac would be necessary. Barney's owner consulted Dr. Rai Kaur Khalsa, a veterinarian who uses acupuncture, homeopathy, and other alternative therapies when treating animals whose owners prefer a holistic approach. After homeopathic treatment began, Barney's owner reported that Barney was alert and active. Six weeks later, Barney's heart sounds were completely normal. During a follow-up visit to the teaching hospital, Barney was given a clean bill of health. Barney has never shown any further signs of heart disease.
Homeopathic principles are very different from the principles employed in allopathic (conventional) medicine. These differences can be illustrated by briefly examining three areas: the definition of health, the significance of symptoms, and the individuality of patients. Allopathy defines health as freedom from pain, disease, or defect, i.e., a person or dog is normal if he or she displays no symptoms. By homeopathic standards, this "health as absence" definition is incomplete and limited. Homeopathic veterinarians view health as a dynamic, active process which includes proper functioning on the mental and emotional levels as well as on the physical level. A healthy dog, in homeopathic terms, has a body whose physiological functions are efficient and harmonious, allowing him to respond as necessary to events in his environment. The emotional status of a healthy dog is balanced and his response to situations is appropriate. The mental status of a healthy dog is bright, alert, and inquisitive. True health has no "excepts". From a homeopathic standpoint, healthy dogs do not have allergies or chronic ear infections. Healthy dogs do not display lack of confidence in unfamiliar locations or fear thunderstorms. Dogs who do are not healthy because these conditions indicate imbalances - at the physical level (allergies, chronic ear infections) and at the emotional level (uncertainty in unfamiliar locations, fear of thunderstorms).
Another important difference between allopathy and homeopathy is the significance placed on symptoms. In conventional veterinary care diseases are defined as collections of symptoms (e.g., a dog has cystitis when most or all of the following symptoms are present: straining to urinate, pain on urination, bloody urine, frequent urination). Treatment consists of drugs and/or surgery to eliminate those symptoms and return the animal to "health". To the homeopathic veterinarian, disease is an underlying process which affects all levels of being, not just the physical body. (A common example of this concept is the way we feel when we get the flu. Our primary symptoms are physical but we usually display mental symptoms (e.g., loss of mental clarity) and emotional ones (e.g., irritability) as well.) The collection of mental, emotional, and physical symptoms exhibited by an ill animal represents the best defense against the underlying disease process that the animal can muster at the present time. When that disease is eliminated, these symptoms are no longer necessary and will disappear on their own.
Patient individuality is a key concept in homeopathy. In allopathic medicine standard treatment protocols exist for most diseases. Consequently, all animals displaying a given disease tend to be treated similarly. For example, dogs with flea allergy dermatitis are routinely given antihistamines or steroids. In homeopathy, the focus is on the total symptom picture displayed by the patient rather than on the "name" of the disease. This is important because each animal reacts differently to the stress of a disease. For example, one young dog with urinary tract problems may exhibit frequent urination, crying during urination, irritability, and a preference for warm places. Another young dog, also with urinary tract difficulties, may exhibit bloody urine, straining while urinating, depression, and a preference for cool places. Homeopathic veterinarians would treat each case based on the physical, mental, and emotional symptoms displayed by the patient and prescribe different remedies.
Origins of Homeopathy
In his readings, Hahnemann discovered an account which claimed that cinchona bark (a source of quinine) produced malaria-like symptoms when given to healthy individuals. He tested this claim on himself and found it to be true. Hahnemann hypothesized from this experiment that the toxic signs and symptoms which substances produced in healthy individuals indicated the clinical uses of these substances in sick individuals. To test his theory, he gave malaria sufferers concoctions of cinchona bark and found that they improved dramatically. During the next few years, Hahnemann and his colleagues catalogued more than 200 medicines (known as remedies) primarily of plant, mineral, and animal materials. Each remedy was proved, i.e. taken by healthy volunteers who kept detailed records of their physical, mental, and emotional reactions. The provings of toxic substances were provided by reports of accidental poisonings. Eventually the most frequently reported symptoms were compiled in a Materia Medica to provide detailed information about the workings of the remedies.
Hahnemann formulated three basic principles which summarized his experiences: A remedy which in large doses causes symptoms of a disease will, in small doses, cure that disease. (Law of Similars) Extreme dilution enhances a remedy's therapeutic properties while eliminating toxic side effects. Homeopathic remedies are prescribed after study of the whole person. Since Hahnemann's day, new homeopathic remedies have been proved and additional materia medicas have been compiled. Computerized repertories (lists of symptoms and the remedies which produce them) and materia medicas are now available to assist homeopathic practitioners in remedy selection.
To understand how remedies work, it is necessary to examine what happens when a dog is exposed to a disease. The dog may be immune, e.g., the disease has no effect so no symptoms develop. If the disease overruns the dog's defense mechanism, the dog will become ill and die. If the disease is stronger than the dog's defense mechanism (but not overwhelmingly so), the dog becomes ill and the defense mechanism creates the symptoms necessary to fight off the disease. Once the disease has been eliminated, the symptoms disappear. If neither the disease nor the defense mechanism is strong enough to eradicate the other, chronic disease occurs and on-going symptoms will be necessary to counteract disease activity. An everyday example, the thunderstorm, may help to clarify this concept. The underlying causes of a thunderstorm are pressure differentials, electromagnetic forces, and other meteorological events which result in unstable atmospheric conditions. Rain, thunder, and lightning are the effects of this out-of-balance condition and represent the atmosphere's attempt to re-stabilize itself. In our thunderstorm analogy, the meteorological events represent disease processes. Thunder, rain, and lightning are the symptoms necessary to counterbalance these disease processes and restore stability. (The author thanks Jessie Davis for suggesting this analogy.)
The defense mechanism discussed in the preceding paragraph is one aspect of the vital force. Vital force is the term Hahnemann used to describe the life force which animates us and our pets. The vital force organizes our physical bodies, gives us spiritual dimensions, and makes us more than just the sum of our cellular biochemical reactions. The concept of vital force is central to the understanding of homeopathic philosophy. All disease affects the vital force prior to being manifested as physical, mental, and/or emotional symptoms. Homeopathic remedies stimulate the vital force, enabling it to throw off disease influences and thus restore health. The strength of the vital force is the chief determinant of a patient's ability to achieve a cure.
In chronic disease states, the vital force has been weakened and is no longer capable of eliminating the disease influence which affects it. Layers of symptoms develop over time as the failing vital force attempts to counterbalance disease effects by producing new symptoms. Frequently, these new symptoms are more serious than earlier ones. New symptoms can also be caused by the use of antibiotics, steroids, and other allopathic drugs which suppress previous symptoms and drive the disease deeper inside the body.
This layering concept explains why, after a remedy has been given, original symptoms are often replaced by ones exhibited at an earlier time. Homeopathic veterinarians review each new layer of symptoms which appears and prescribe additional remedies as necessary to facilitate the healing process. Often during treatment, a chronically ill dog will display early symptoms which have not been present for a long time and which the owner had forgotten.
Homeopathic theory assigns a hierarchy to symptoms. Cases are progressing toward health when symptoms move down this hierarchy. On the physical level, this can be thought of as moving from the head toward the tail or from the trunk to the limbs and from deep (internal) to superficial (external). For example, a dog initially presented for kidney problems would be considered to be healing if the kidney problems were replaced by eczema. Movement from the physical sphere to the mental or emotional sphere which cannot be explained by remedy effects would be considered case deterioration (e.g., a dog being treated for skin problems suddenly develops a protracted fear of strangers). Transient mental and emotional changes frequently occur as remedies eliminate layers of symptoms.
Potentization involves not only dilution of the substance but also succussion, a prescribed form of shaking which adds kinetic energy to the dilutions. Each time a remedy is diluted, the dilution is succussed. Thus, a 10X remedy will have been diluted and succussed 10 times. When the desired potency has been achieved, the remedy can be retained in liquid form or impregnated into sugar pellets of various sizes. The dilution portion of remedy preparation retains a remedy's essence while eliminating the side effects associated with the starting material. Succussion enhances the energy of a remedy. Increasing the potency of a remedy enables it to work more deeply and for longer periods than a lower potency of the same remedy.
Homeopathic remedies can be single remedies or combination remedies. Single remedies are derived from a single substance. Combination remedies are prepared from more than one starting substance and may contain multiple potencies of each ingredient. Single remedies are used by veterinarians who practice classical homeopathy. Such veterinarians believe that one remedy which closely parallels the dog's symptom pattern should be given. The action of this remedy is then monitored. Other homeopathic veterinarians, who practice a European style of homeopathy, believe that, in addition to single remedies given individually, the vital force may require combination preparations. These veterinarians may also administer one or more single remedies at the same time.
The efficacy of homeopathic remedies can be affected by many common household products. Remedies should be stored away from televisions, microwaves, radios, and other electric devices; strong odors (such as cooking smells); chemicals (household cleaners, allopathic medicines); heat; and light. Because remedies can also be affected by food, owners are usually advised to separate remedy administration from food intake by 30 - 60 minutes.
While the American Veterinary Medical Association does not yet endorse homeopathy (considering it an "unconventional form of veterinary practice"), the AVMA Guidelines on Alternate Therapies do state that "favorable anecdotal evidence exists regarding the efficacy of homeopathic treatment of animals". Although animals have been treated successfully with homeopathy for many years, formal scientific research trials have not been performed. The AVMA is withholding judgment until such research has been conducted.
The following organizations can assist owners in locating homeopathic veterinarians:
American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association
2218 Old Emmorton Rd
Bel Air, MD 21015
National Center for Homeopathy
801 North Fairfax Street, Suite 306
Alexandria, VA 22314
2218 Old Emmorton Rd
Bel Air, MD 21015
National Center for Homeopathy
801 North Fairfax Street, Suite 306
Alexandria, VA 22314