Be aware that Homoeopathic medicine actually gained its greatest popularity primarily due to its impressive successes in the treatment of infectious diseases in the 19th century. The death rates in American and European homoeopathic hospitals from cholera, scarlet fever, typhoid, and yellow fever were typically two to eight times less by percentage than those in conventional hospitals. As a result of these successes, at the turn of the 20th century there were over 100 homoeopathic hospitals and 22 homoeopathic colleges, including Boston University, University of Michigan, New York Medical College, and Hahnemann College of Medicine.
If homeopathy can have such significant results in treating people suffering from these serious infectious diseases, there is little doubt that it can be similarly effective in treating the various common infectious diseases today. Yet many people know little or nothing about homoeopathy. Even many people who are passionate about alternative medicine know little about the science and art of homoeopathy.
What is so different about homoeopathy?
Homoeopathic medicines are not just composed of different medicinal ingredients, and they are not just the use of smaller doses of medicines. Homoeopathy represents a different approach to understanding disease and health.
Like modern-day physiology and pathology, homoeopaths understand that symptoms are not just something “wrong” with the person but that symptoms are defensive adaptations of the human body in its best efforts to fight infection and/or to adapt to stress. From this perspective, it does not make sense to use pharmacological therapies to inhibit, control, or suppress symptoms since such methods tend to reduce the body’s inherent self-healing responses.
Instead, homoeopaths use medicinal agents that have been found to cause in healthy people the similar syndrome of symptoms that sick people experience. The very word “homoeopathy” is derived from two Greek words, “homoios” which means Similar and “pathos” which means Suffering or Disease. This is why the basic premise of homoeopathy is called the “principle of similars.” Because symptoms are the ways that the body is trying to heal itself, it makes sense to use medicines that are similar to and that augment their body’s wisdom, rather than suppress it.
What also makes homoeopathy different (and sometimes more difficult to understand) than conventional medicine is that homoeopathic medicines are not prescribed to treat a specific or localized disease but are prescribed to treat specific syndromes of symptoms of which one’s disease is just one part. In other words, two people may have the common cold, but one would have a thin watery nasal disease that irritates the nostrils, frequent sneezing, and a mild headache, all of which are aggravated in warm rooms. The other would have thick yellowish nasal discharge that doesn’t irritate the nostrils, nasal congestion alternating with nasal discharge, a cough that is relieved in the open air, and no thirst.
It is remarkable how many normally smart people, including many health professionals, mistakenly assume that people with the same conventional diagnosis should be prescribed the same medicine even though they tend to have such different symptoms. While it may be more easy and convenient to give people with the same diagnosis the same medicine, individualization of treatment makes sense… and in homeopathy, it works wonderfully well.
In homeopathy, a medicine is not prescribed based on the disease that the person has but on the unique pattern or syndrome of symptoms that are experienced. In the above example, the first person would be prescribed Allium cepa (the common onion), while the second person would be given Pulsatilla (a herb called windflower).
Jonas Salk, MD, the famed medical researcher, once said that there were two basic approaches to treating sick people: the conventional model of medicine which seeks to diagnose and treat a specific pathology and the holistic model of healing which seeks to strengthen host resistance. Needless to say, homeopathy is an integral part of this second school of thought in medicine.
There are no “homeopathic antibiotics” or “homeopathic anti-viral agents” because every correctly prescribed homeopathic medicine has the potential of strengthening a person’s own immune and defense system in a way that helps to fight bacterial or viral infection.
The Logic of Homeopathy in Infectious Disease Treatment
It is commonly assumed that bacteria and viruses “cause” disease, and it is heretical to consider otherwise. And yet, most of us have various bacteria and viruses in our body right now despite the fact that we are not sick.
The reason that some people get ill and others do not is what biologists call “host resistance” and what physicians refer to as “susceptibility.” Basically, it is understood that infection is the result of two factors: exposure to a pathogen and the person’s present state of health. From this perspective, bacteria and virus are not the cause of disease but at best are a “co-factor” to disease.
One “take-home” message from this logical (and obvious) analysis of infectious disease is that taking a conventional antibiotic or antiviral drug may get rid of the pathogen, but they do not do anything to strengthen a person’s host resistance or immune system. In fact, there is ample evidence that these conventional drugs actually increase the chances of re-infection. The second take-home message is that one should consider ways to strengthen his or her own immune and defense system… and homeopathy is one important way to do this.
Evidence of Success with Homeopathy
Skeptics of homeopathy mistakenly assert that there is no research that verifies its efficacy. In actual fact, skeptics who assume this are simply showing their own ignorance and their own unscientific attitude.
An impressive international study that involved 30 clinicians in 6 clinics in 4 countries enrolled 500 consecutive patients with upper respiratory tract complaints, lower respiratory tract complaints, or ear complaints. The study found 83% of patients receiving homeopathic care experienced improvement, while only 68% of those receiving a conventional medication experienced a similar degree of improvement. The study also found that those people given a homeopathic experienced more rapid relief: 67.3% experienced improvement with homeopathy within 3 days, while only 56.6% of patients given conventional medicines experienced improvement (16.4% of homeopathic patients improved within 24 hours; 5.7% in other group).(Riley, et al, 2001)
The #1 reason that parents take their child to a physician today is for ear infection. A study published in a major pediatric journal found that there were 19.9% more treatment failures in children given a placebo than those given a homeopathic medicine. The study also found a significant decrease in symptoms at 24 and 64 hours after treatment in favor of those given a homeopathic medicine.
The homeopathic medicine that has undergone a significant number of studies is the popular flu remedy Oscillococcinum. Three large-scale studies (over 300 patients in each) conducted by three groups of independent researchers have consistently found positive results in using this remedy to treat influenza (Vickers and Smith, 2005). Because conventional medicine has nothing to offer this all-too-common viral illness, it is good to know of a safe and effective remedy. However, it is useful to know that this remedy is primarily useful when it is taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
Examples of Homeopathic Medicines
There are several simple homeopathic medicines that can be used by anyone to treat many kinds of infections. The trick to using them effectively is to remember that they are not used to treat only one type of disease but are effective in treating the “syndrome” of symptoms that each is known to cause (when taken in overdose in experiments). It is also helpful to mention that homeopathic medicines are listed by their Latin name in order to be precise with the specific substance being used.
Aconitum (monkshood) is sometimes called “homeopathic vitamin C” because it is commonly used at the first symptoms of infection (respiratory infection, influenza, sore throat, ear infection, bladder infection). It is indicated when symptoms start rapidly and are intense. Usually, there is a high fever (not higher than 103 degrees), strong thirst, restlessness, and may begin after being chilled or after a sudden fright, anger, or shock.
Belladonna (deadly nightshade) is useful for various types of infections, especially when the person is feverish with flushed, reddened skin and mucous membranes, with palatable feelings of heat radiating off the body. It is indicated when the person’s senses are hyperacute, and the person is aggravated by noise, touch, light, or jarring motion. The sick person may be delirious and will tend to experience vivid dreams (children will say that they see ghosts or scary things).
Pulsatilla (windflower) tends to be much more commonly given to women and children for various infections. It is particularly useful for people who are very emotional, moody, and desire sympathy. These people do not tend to have much thirst, even if they have a fever. They feel worse in a warm room and desire open air. If they have a cold or cough, their mucus tends to be thick and yellow or yellow-greenish, and their symptoms are usually worse at night.
In addition to homeopathic medicines that are composed of specific single ingredient substances, there are also “homeopathic formulas,” that is, combinations of 2 to 10 ingredients. These formulas are very simple to use because they are usually made with some of the most commonly prescribed remedies known to be effective in treating people with a specific ailment, and these products are marketed based on a specific disease name. Homoeopaths generally find that the individually-chosen single ingredient homeopathic remedy is more apt to provide faster and more certain results, but if you don’t know how to select a homeopathic medicine for you or a family member, it is good to know that “user-friendly” homeopathic formula products are readily available and are often wonderfully effective.
To learn how to select an individually chosen remedy, consider getting a homeopathic self-care guidebook, such as Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines by Stephen Cummings, MD, and Dana Ullman, MPH orHomeopathic Medicines for Children and Infants by Dana Ullman, MPH. To better understand what homeopathy is and to learn about why so many of the smartest, most successful, and most famous people of the past 200 years used or advocated for homeopathy, see The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy by Dana Ullman.
If a person experiences repeated infection or experiences particularly intense symptoms, you should seek professional homeopathic and/or medical care. Because homeopathy is a method of strengthening a person’s overall immune and defense system, it should be seriously considered as a treatment of choice to people who are prone to infection.