November 1999, Homeopathy Today
by Luc De Schepper, MD, PhD, DIHom
At the dawn of a new millennium, homeopathy is in a unique position, with the power to rescue our current medical system from its morass of high-tech, suppressive, alienating and exorbitantly expensive measures. There is a groundswell of interest and involvement in alternative medicine in general and homeopathy in particular among both patients and allopathic practitioners. The most recent study by Dr. David Eisenberg of Harvard Medical School shows 70% of Americans seeking alternative treatment (and spending billions to pay for it out-of-pocket), while in another recent survey 49% of primary care physicians stated that homeopathy was the alternative modality they most wanted to learn about. Insurance companies are beginning to reimburse for alternative treatments like homeopathy, recognizing the long-term savings involved.
At this point the greatest threat to homeopathy comes not from allopathic practitioners or pharmaceutical companies but from self-professed homeopaths who do not follow the immortal laws and principles laid down by Hahnemann. Whether out of ignorance or laziness, or the desire to impress their patients with their gimmicks so that they can charge more money, these pseudo-homeopaths violate the most basic principle of homeopathy: to give a single remedy which covers the totality of the symptom picture. Some give three or four remedies within a single week; others give mixtures of several or even a dozen remedies at once. In so doing they harm the patient, which is bad enough, but worse still, they harm the profession and the reputation of homeopathy.
We are accustomed to patients treating homeopathy as the last resort; they often come to us after the harmful, suppressive, and invasive measures of allopathic medicine. In my own practice I find myself in the unenviable position of the absolute last resort: patients come to me after being mistreated by other homeopaths. Or other homeopaths refer patients to me when they are honest enough to admit that they can no longer follow a case. I have seen hundreds of such patients over the years who have suffered from bad homeopathy. In addition, I have heard about hundreds more from my patients. Like typical homeopathy patients, they become missionaries who zealously try to convince their families and friends of homeopathy, but too often they come back to me with sad stories of these people who have had bad experiences at the hands of homeopaths who did not know the most basic principles of homeopathy.
Typically these patients suffer aggravations lasting weeks or months while the homeopath offers no succor and even refuses to return phone calls. In other cases the homeopath actually suppresses the symptoms with the remedy and fails to recognize that the case is going in the wrong direction, thus setting the patient up for more suffering later on. In still other cases, superficial physical symptoms disappear, to be replaced by mental/emotional ones. Many of these people have suffered so much that they adamantly refuse to consider consulting another homeopath, and they warn others away from homeopathy. I am just one practitioner; if I have encountered so many of these patients, how many more must there be in this country?
With Hahnemann giving us such clear guidance, I am honestly puzzled at how people practicing in his name can deviate so far from his direction.
I have tried to find out the rationale for these practices of mixing and alternating remedies. Many practitioners delude themselves that there is no danger in these practices because the remedies are “harmless.” Apparently they think that since the remedies contain not one molecule of the original substance there cannot be any harm in giving several at once, and perhaps they follow the American belief that “more is better.” I know other such practitioners who are trying to create for themselves the prestige and status of allopathic physicians, imitating the lab coats and stethoscopes as well as the polypharmacy of allopathy.
But polypharmacy (giving many prescriptions at once) is harmful in homeopathy as well as in allopathy. Remember that the remedies bear a powerful force. If they can consistently cure the so-called “incurable diseases,” they must be highly active agents. Each remedy delivers an energetic “punch” to the Vital Force, and it is the secondary response of the Vital Force which acts against the illness and heals the patient. Giving too many remedies at once can leave the Vital Force punched down like a boxer staggering to his knees. In fact I have seen patients who have been given so many remedies by previous homeopaths that their Vital Force no longer responds to the single well-chosen remedy, which could have cured their case in the first place before they were rendered incurable by bad homeopathy.
The well-chosen remedy, the simillimum, delivers an energetic impact which exactly matches the symptom picture of the patient. Any other remedy will not be a perfect match, that is, it will have symptoms in its symptom picture which do not match the patient’s. These aspects of the remedy can stimulate the Vital Force to create new symptoms, called accessory symptoms of the remedy. It is only logical that if more than one remedy is given at once or in close succession, only one can be the simillimum and the others are likely to create accessory symptoms. For example, I have seen a mixture labeled “Grief” which has every grief remedy under the sun, from Pulsatilla to Nat mur. There is no way that one patient can need both these remedies; they cannot be both the weepy, needy, consolation-seeking Pulsatilla and the stiff-upper-lip, leave-me-alone Nat mur.
The result of these mixtures can be a tangled mess of symptoms which make it impossible for the homeopath to follow the case. I have seen these patients too. It is bad enough that we have to sort out the patient’s true symptoms from those induced by their allopathic medications. We should not have to sort out symptoms induced by our own colleagues! Speaking of difficulties following the case, mixtures and alternation of remedies bring about another problem which we see in allopathic medicine all the time. I have seen allopathic physicians give my patients several drugs, one of which might “cure” the case but all of which have serious side effects. The mixture achieves the desired effect (suppressing the symptoms, which they call a cure). Then the physician does not know which medication “worked” and which ones can be discontinued. As a result the patient is kept on the dangerous drug cocktail indefinitely, with drug interactions compounding the side effects of the single drugs. When remedies are mixed the same problems arise. If the patient aggravates it is difficult to tell which remedy caused the problem; if the patient is improving slightly, which remedy should be re-administered in a higher potency?
And just as in allopathic medicine, the interactions among the remedies can bring about harmful effects which the single remedies would not create. This can even happen when the remedies are alternated. Each remedy has a long duration of action, usually lasting weeks or months. Giving several remedies within a single week creates all the bad results of mixing remedies because their effects will overlap.
To make the problems arising from mixtures more clear, consider remedies made from chemical compounds containing more than one element, like our old friend Nat mur. If it were possible to remove the Natrum (sodium) element from the muriaticum (chloride), the proving results of each one separately would be entirely different from the combination. It stands to reason that adding further elements would change the proving picture again. Another justification for mixing remedies stems from a confusion over existing remedies like China sulphuricum or Calcarea silicata which seem to be mixtures. But these remedies were proven as such. Their indications are not invented by adding the symptom picture of China with that of Sulphur, or that of Calcarea with that of Silica. Provings were done on the compound itself so that it can be prescribed confidently according to Hahnemann’s principles. This type of proved compound in no way justifies creating new, unknown and unproven mixtures.
Another reason I hear for mixing and alternating goes like this: “The modern era, with its more complicated diseases, requires more than one remedy to cover the case.” Again, this answer betrays an ignorance of Hahnemann’s principles so beautifully and clearly laid out in Chronic Diseases and the Organon. He has given us powerful tools which enable us to clearly analyze even the most complicated case. True, we see more effects of medical suppression in modern times: allopathic medicine has much more powerful tools at its disposal, including antibiotics, chemotherapy, and radiation. And it is true that the miasms have become increasingly more powerful; sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have become pandemic because of changes in sexual mores and because of the world wars, among other causes. At the same time STDs have become more effectively suppressed by antibiotics, thereby creating new miasmatic cases, while existing miasms are fueled by factors like mandatory vaccinations.
This does not stop us from a clear analysis of our patients’ cases, however. If we search the patient’s past medical history and family medical history to find the active miasm, we can give one of the remedies most strongly active against that miasm, thereby ensuring good results every time. If we have the patient create a timeline, marking different traumatic events as well as surgeries and medically-suppressive interventions and correlating these with the first appearance of different symptoms, we can determine which are the most recently-created symptoms and therefore which ones need to be addressed first.
I might mention an error I see even among my true colleagues, the real classical homeopaths who give a single remedy at a time. Too often they lump all the patient’s symptoms together, even those created by a long-ago grief or other trauma, and attempt the impossible task of finding a single remedy to cover the patient’s entire life. This is not what Hahnemann meant by the totality of symptoms. We must address the totality of current symptoms in the current layer, those created by the most recent trauma or suppressive act, before retaking the case and finding a different match for the previous layer (as Hahnemann explains in the Organon).
A final argument I hear is that we do not need to limit ourselves to Hahnemann’s principles because he was senile at the end of his life. I only wish that these Hahnemann-bashers could read Hahnemann’s Paris case books, as I have. They would see for themselves that far from floundering in the dark, as the Hahnemann-bashers claim, he was constantly experimenting to perfect and refine his system within the framework of the basic principles which he had so brilliantly laid down.
It was in the last years of his life that he experimented with the higher potencies (far beyond the 30C which many people claim was his limit) and he developed the LM potency, the crown jewel of his method. Those who read the Paris case books for themselves will also debunk the myth that alternation of remedies is acceptable because Hahnemann himself did it. Hahnemann had earlier experimented with alternating remedies, but discarded the practice. He did give some of his Paris patients two remedies, but only because they had traveled a great distance and he anticipated that at some point they would need to switch from one to the other.
I look forward to the time when Hahnemann’s case books will be available in English for all to read. In the meantime, all those who claim to be homeopaths should read and re-read, study and re-study, Chronic Diseases and the 6th edition of the Organon. I am shocked that whenever I talk to professional colleagues at conferences, I find that the great majority have never read the Organon even once! Each time I study this masterpiece I am astounded at how Hahnemann was able to anticipate the medical concerns of our modern world. On each re-reading I gain new insights which help me in my practice.
I also encourage my colleagues, all those who sincerely aspire to deserve the title of “homeopath,” to read the old masters—Kent, Hering, von Boenninghausen, Lippe—and the masters from the earlier part of this century—Farrington, Wright-Hubbard, Pierre Schmidt, Tyler, Compton-Burnett. Few if any homeopaths in the world today have the stature of our great predecessors. By studying their works, we find that they always adhered to Hahnemann’s principles. In everything they did they harked back to the master, never questioning his guidance and never accusing him of being senile. We also find that there is nothing new under the sun: the old masters and Hahnemann himself lamented the pseudo-homeopaths of their day, who were harming patients and ruining the reputation of our profession with their mixtures and alternations.
As practitioners we must remember, as I always tell my students, that we are not repairing refrigerators. We have our patients’ lives and health in our hands. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves in the laws and principles of homeopathy: we must know how to give a single well-chosen remedy, chosen by the totality of the symptoms, based on the proving picture of the remedy. We must educate our patients and the public that anyone who does not follow these laws does not deserve the title of homeopath. They may call themselves eclectics or anything else they want, but not homeopaths. In the words of Constantine Hering, one of our most revered masters, “If our school ever gives up the strict inductive method of Hahnemann, we are lost and deserve only to be mentioned as a caricature in the history of medicine.”