Homeopathy4health

27 March 2008

Wholesale scorn on complementary medicine is unscientific.

Madeleine Bunting (at my least favourite newspaper ‘The Guardian’ since ‘I’m a cuddly junior doctor/you’re-making-it-up-psychiatrist’ Ben Goldacre’s devoid of any twisted homeopathic facts propaganda piece) makes some pertinent points about the state of Sceptic-Woo wars in complementary medicine.  I disagree that homeopathy is ‘just placebo’ as the benefits of homeopathic treatment can be much more profound than just ‘feeling better’ or ‘removal of symptoms’ but otherwise I agree with her thinking:

“Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools of Us All; Snake Oil Science; and next month sees another, Trick or Treatment: what these new books have in common is varying degrees of frustration at the seemingly inexorable rise of complementary medicine. It seems the aim of some of these authors is to finish off a burgeoning health industry that they believe is based on charlatans and quacks preying on the gullible and desperate.

The books reflect the growing exasperation in some quarters that public opinion is not as amenable to persuasion and scientific evidence as they would hope. The language gets lurid; the mood music to pronouncements on complementary medicine is increasingly alarmist – we are living in dangerous times, an unEnlightenment looms as tides of irrationality threaten to overwhelm the palisades erected by science. “Reason is a precious but fragile thing,” declared Richard Dawkins in his series, The Enemies of Reason, last autumn. “Reason has liberated us from superstition and given us centuries of progress. We abandon it at our peril.”

What so troubles these science warriors is that it is estimated a third of people in the UK now use complementary medicine, at a cost of £1.5bn a year. In the US, the figures are substantially higher; it has been calculated that more visits are made to healing therapists than to doctors. There is an extraordinary paradox here: a half-century of astonishing conventional medical advances has not succeeded in eliminating complementary medicine. Quite the reverse: the breakthroughs in conventional medicine have been accompanied by the proliferation of other forms of healing – many of which have little or no evidence base to prove their efficacy. Indeed, it only takes a short surf on the web to discover that the wilder shores of this burgeoning industry are, well, pretty wild.

To the science warriors, this bizarre state of affairs can only be explained by irrationality. They bemoan the state of science education and lament how, contrary to expectation, literacy and access to information have failed to eradicate superstition. Meanwhile, in this increasingly sharply polarised debate, complementary medicine practitioners are equally exasperated by what they see as blinkered scientific reductionism.

So it takes a brave scientist to launch into this territory and risk getting attacked from both camps by daring to ask a simple question: is there anything science can learn from complementary medicine? That is precisely what Kathy Sykes is doing in her current television series, Alternative Therapies (the second programme is on BBC2 tonight). As Bristol University’s professor of public engagement in science and the director of the Cheltenham Festival of Science, no one can challenge her credentials as a scientist, yet her scrutiny of particular therapies throws up serious challenges to conventional medicine.

Sykes is too good a scientist to give complementary medicine an easy run. Tonight she examines reflexology, and gives it pretty short shrift. There are 30,000 reflexologists working on a million British feet a year. They base their work on a theory that parts of the sole of the foot correlate to organs in the body. The only problem is that Sykes could find no one, reflexologist or scientist, who could explain how these correlations might work. Furthermore, it turned out that this “ancient” healing system seems to have originated with an imaginative American woman in the 1930s. But patients swear by it. One reflexologist points Sykes to her annual garden party full of babies and children as evidence of the success she has had with infertility problems. This is the point where most scientists snort with derision at the use of personal anecdote as evidence, but Sykes presses on and it takes her into two areas of scientific research. First, she digs up new research on the importance of touch, which can have a profound impact on the brain. Even the hand of a stranger reduces anxiety and that of someone with whom one has a close relationship is even more significant. In fact, Sykes finds some scientific underpinning which goes beyond placebo in many of the therapies she looks at. But it is placebo which emerges as a recurrent and crucially important thread in her quest, and it leads her to the work of several American scientists who are trying to identify what placebo is, who it works for, and why it works.

This is one of the most common charges made against complementary medicine – that most of it is no better than placebo. But there is a way of turning that accusation around: perhaps complementary medicine is an effective way to harness placebo as one of the most powerful – and cheapest – of healing processes. Rather than being derogatory about the phenomenon as “just” placebo, perhaps we should see it as one of the most remarkable and little understood aspects of the human body.

That line of inquiry has taken Sykes to the US several times over the course of the two series she has made. There placebo has become a new frontier in medicine. In a range of studies with startling results – even sham knee surgery can be as effective as the real thing – many factors contribute to placebo: the confidence of the doctor; the social, cultural expectations around the procedure; the empathy and warmth of the patient-doctor relationship; the patient’s degree of faith. Get all these right, and the outcome can be remarkable. Harvard professor Ted Kaptchuk is publishing a study this week which shows that placebo is as good as any conventional treatment available for irritable bowel syndrome. Given that the eight most industrialised nations spend $40bn a year on medication for this condition, that’s revolutionary stuff.

This kind of research into placebo gives some insight into why complementary medicine has boomed and why there are so many people who cite their own experience to passionately defend it. The average consultation with a GP is 4.6 minutes, while the complementary therapist can devote an hour to taking detailed personal histories. That time and relationship provide a context and an opportunity for the ritual and recasting of personal experience which Kaptchuk believes are the crucial elements of placebo.

Complementary medicine is most popular where conventional medicine fails, such as with musculoskeletal conditions and mental health – stress, depression, anxiety (the recent revelations about the inefficacy of Prozac were another reminder of how shaky the science is in a large area of conventional medicine). Several complementary therapies are particularly effective at pain relief – you had to see Sykes’s footage of hypnotism helping a woman to have teeth extracted without anaesthetic to believe it. Kaptchuk argues that pain is not a static given but can be experienced dramatically differently.

Conventional medicine prolongs life but is less successful in prolonging good health – we can expect to spend more years of our life in poor health, as a government report showed last week – and in producing wellbeing. So people are voting with their feet, trying to find other ways to fill the gaps left by conventional medicine. We need scientists to help to identify what they are looking for and why, rather than pouring scorn indiscriminately on the whole field and on the relations between belief, mind and body, of which science still has such a fragmentary understanding.”

Advertisements

Flu abating, did homeopathy help you?

I notice that my ‘Treating flu symptoms with homeopathy’ post is not getting as many hits from people searching for ‘flu symptoms’ in the US states and cities mentioned in it, so I hope that the epidemic is abating there and that some of the viewers found the post helpful.  So far it has had 283 views.

Sceptics would like us to believe that it is ‘just placebo’ but has anyone ever tried to treat full blown flu with placebo? References please.

14 March 2008

Consumer attitudes towards alternative therapies and homeopathy around the world

Global TGI Barometer January 2008 Issue 33

A combination of reduced faith in conventional treatments and the growth in availability of alternative remedies has led to a rise in the popularity of alternative medicine around the world. 

Using the latest research from Global TGI, we investigate consumer attitudes towards alternative therapies in different parts of the world.

Divergent attitudes

The results of the studies suggest that acceptance of alternative therapies varies a good deal from country to country. This is likely to be caused by a combination of cultural factors and variance in the regulation of its use.

Focusing on the proportion of consumers in each country who say that they ‘trust homeopathic medicine’, we see a considerable divergence of opinion. Almost two thirds of consumers in India** say that they trust homeopathy compared with less than a fifth in the US and Great Britain.

Homeopathy supporters…

In India, alternative treatments are a well established means of combating illness, with an impressive 94% of people saying that they have faith in alternative remedies. Homeopathy is integrated into the general system of health care in India and our study shows that one in ten consumers have consulted a homeopath in the last year.

Other strong supporters of homeopathy can be found in Latin America and the Middle East. Around half of the population in Brazil, Chile, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates say that they trust homeopathic medicine.

…and cynics

In many countries, particularly in Europe, consumers are less convinced. At 15% agreement, Britons are the least trusting of homeopathy, and only 1 in 10 say that they prefer alternative medicine. Even in Germany, the birth place of homeopathy, just 27% of people trust this kind of treatment. France is the European market in which people are most trusting of homeopathy.

Why go alternative?

There are many reasons why many consumers are increasingly turning to alternative remedies to complement more conventional medicine. One theory is that consumers are choosing more and more to take responsibility for their own health and well-being. The internet has had a large impact in this respect, with consumers being given access to unlimited health information online. In the US for example, where we have seen a slow but steady increase in the proportion of people who say that they ‘prefer alternative medicine to standard medicine’ over the past five years, a third of the population now gathers healthcare information on the internet.

At the same time, people are becoming increasingly health-conscious. Taking Brazil as an example, 9 out of 10 people who trust homeopathic medicine say that they would pay anything where health is concerned, and one third claim that friends ask for their advice on health and nutrition matters. In Germany and Great Britain, half of those who trust homeopathic medicine believe that they should do more about their health.

Who uses alternative medicine?

According to Global TGI research, people aged 35 and over are generally more likely than their younger counterparts to turn to alternative medicine, and acceptance of the practice appears to increase with age. In Germany for example, 30% of 45-54 year olds say that they trust homeopathic medicine, compared with just 20% of 18-24 year olds. The research also shows a clear gender divide, with women generally more in favour of alternative medicine than men. In Chile for example, women are 24% more likely than men to say that they trust homeopathic medicine.

An alternative cure

Homeopathy is typically used to treat chronic or recurrent conditions and our research shows that people who have faith homeopathic remedies are generally more likely to have suffered from such complaints. In the US for example, homeopathy supporters are 57% more likely than average to suffer from eczema or psoriasis, 29% more likely to have asthma and 22% more likely to suffer from allergies or hay fever. In France, people who have suffered the same ailments were found to be 50% more likely than average to have consulted an alternative health practitioner in the last 12 months.

Base: Individuals aged 18+

* Respondents from urban areas only

** Respondents from ABC socio-economic groups in urban areas

12 March 2008

Joining the homeopathic dots. Rajan Sankaran, remedy families and vital reaction

In my last post I talked about my growing confidence in the clinical homeopathic data recorded in modern repertory books and databases. I have also written about how gaps in the data are being filled through extrapolation of well-tested homeopathic principles by the work of homeopaths such as Jan Scholten on mineral remedies.

Similar work is being undertaken by the very experienced Indian homeopath Rajan Sankaran on understanding the remedies from the plant kingdom.  Plants are the source of many homeopathic remedies but relatively few of them have been fully proved and clinically used.  Sankaran has used the MacRepertory database to look at the similarities and possible remedy pictures of plant remedies in his books ‘Insight into Plants Vols I, II, III’.

Here is Jan Scholten’s comment in his foreword of the books:

“In the beginning of February 2002 I attended the Mumbai seminar. It was a great inspiration.  As I was listening to the new approach of Rajan Sankaran in handling cases and finding remedies in the Plant Kingdom I got more and more excited.  Here were great new possibilities to look at and solve difficult and till now unsolved cases.

Sankaran developed the possibility to analyse which plant is indicated.  The first step is to find the botanical family that’s indicated.  This is done by comparing the basic sensation of the patient with that of the family.  The next step is to differentiate the members of the family by ‘miasms’. Sankaran developed 9 miasms, that signify a way how they feel about a problem, how it is handled.  An example by Sankaran can make the approach more clear.  A young woman feels lost in the world, as a plane in the sky, without direction. this feeling of being lost is common to the family of the Magnolianae; it’s an expression of the vital sensation of “strangeness” in that family.  The woman feels desperate and wants it to be solved immediately, she needs direction from other people.  The desire for help from others and to get it immediately as a relief is typical for the “typhoid” miasm.  The remedy in the typhoid miasm in the Magnolianae is Nux moschata and that remedy cured the patient.

The approach looks very much that of the group analysis in “Elements”, where series and stages are “crossed”.  Here Families and miasms are crossed.  The concept of miasms has to be taken “relative”. Miasm is used in many different ways in homoeopathy.  Sankaran uses it for a way of feeling and reacting to a basic sensation.

This approach is bringing homoeopathy again more into the second scientific stage, the stage of classification, categorisation and grouping.  It gives homeopathy the strength of predicton.  His approach makes it possible to extend the pictures of little known remedies, so that they become full and meaningful pictures.”

I have succesfully used the methods and thoughts in the books to justify my choice of plant remedy with excellent results.  21st century homeopathy is greatly enriched by the inspiration of Jan Scholten and Rajan Sankaran.

11 March 2008

Storing, updating and referencing the homeopathic data 21st century style. James Tyler Kent to Frederik Schroyens

As I say on About Homeopathy4health, James Tyler Kent (1849-1916) spent 20 years carefully cataloguing all the symptoms both produced by remedies in provings and cured by remedies in clinical use in his considerable experience.  This catalogue became his ‘Repertory of the Homeopathic Materia Medica’ (shown in the picture in the header above) which became the most valuable homeopathic reference book of his time until the late 20th century.

Modern homeopaths have continued to update this data and add in new remedies as and when they are proved and newer up to date repertories have been produced.  I now use Frederik Schroyen’s ‘Synthesis’ which has considerably more pages than my ‘Kent’ and the print is also considerably smaller to squeeze in as much as possible on a page.  Helpfully, Schroyens has reorganised and updated Kent’s 18th century language and added in many cross-references so that symptoms can be found using more modern descriptions.

With the increasing use of personal computers, several homeopathic computer packages have been developed from the new repertories, which are automatically updated by internet link when new provings and clinical data is available.  I was impressed to find recently that some remedies had been crossed out against a symptom on my RADAR database because a double-check had been carried out and the data found to be incorrect.  It was helpful and reassuring to see that the correction was visible and hadn’t just disappeared.

Here is a symptom from RADAR:

STOMACH – COLDNESS

abrot.bro1,k,tl1 absin.a1,k acon.k agar.a1,k alum.a1,b4.de,bg2,k alum-p.k2 Am-br.a1,k am-c.a1,bg2,k Ambr.h1,k amph.a1 arg-n.a1,k ARS.a1,b4.de,b4a.de,bg2,k,ptk1 ars-s-f.k2,vh arund.a1,k bar-c.a1,b4.de,bg2,k bar-s.k2 Bell.a1,k berb.a1,bg2,k bol-la.k bov.a1,b4.de,b4a.de,bg2,bro1,k cadm-s.k cain.k Calc.bro1,k calc-sil.bro1,k2 CAMPH.a1,bg2,bro1,k,ptk1 cann-i.a1 cann-s.h1,k CAPS.a1,b7.de,b7a.de,bg2,k,ptk1,tl1 Carb-an.bg2,k Carb-v.k,mtf33,tl1 carbn-s.k Castm.k cham.a1,k chel.a1,bg2,k CHIN.a1,bg2,bro1,k,ptk1 chinin-ar.k chinin-s.vh Cist.a1,bg2,k,mrr1,ptk1 clem.a1,k,ptk1 coc-c.a1,k cocc.tl1 Colch.a1,bg2,bro1,hr1,k,tl1 coloc.a1,k con.a1,b4.de,b4a.de,bg2,k crot-c.a1,k crot-h.k,tl1 elapsbg2,br1,bro1,k,mrr1 germ-met.srj5 graph.a1,b4.de,k grat.a1,k helon.a1,k HEP.xyz61 Hipp.a1,bro1,k ign.a1,b7.de,b7a.de,bg2,k kali-ar.k Kali-bi.a1,k,tl1 kali-c.a1,bro1,k kali-i.a1,k kali-n.a1,b4.de,b4a.de,bg2,k kali-p.k kali-s.k kali-sil.k2 Kreos.bro1,k Lach.a1,b7a.de,bg2,k Lact.a1,k laur.bg2,k lepi.a1 lyc.ptk1 lyss.k mag-c.a1,b4.de,k mag-m.h2 mag-s.a1,k meny.bro1,ptk1 Nat-m.a1,b4.de,bg2,k nit-ac.a1,b4.de,bg2,k nux-m.bg2 ol-an.a1,bro1,k,ptk1 op.a1,k ox-ac.bro1 Petr.bg2,k ph-ac.a1,bg2,k Phos.a1,b4.de,bg2,k phyt.a1,k podo.fd3.de pyrusbro1 rhus-t.bg2,k sabad.a1,b7.de,b7a.de,bg2,bro1,k sec.a1,k sep.a1,k Sil.k spig.a1,k spong.a1,bg2,k Sul-ac.a1,b4.de,bg2,bro1,k sulph.a1,b4.de,bg2,k tab.a1,bro1,k Tarax.k tub.jl2 verat.bro1,k verin.a1 vesp.a1,k zinc.b4.de,bg2

There are 101 remedies which have the symptom sensation ‘coldness in the stomach’.  The remedies in RED have the symptom to a strong degree, those in BLUE have it in a moderate degree, and it may sometimes be found remedies in small type.  The pink references refer to the codes of authors who have reported the symptom.  For example, ‘k’ stands for Kent and ‘ptk’ for Phatak.

Before the use of homeopathic software, symptoms had to be cross-referenced by hand to find the remedies which were most common to all the symptoms.  This could take several minutes or hours.  Now the computer does it instantly and produces charts like this simple one I produced from RADAR:

Sum of symptoms    Sum of symptoms    Intensity is not considered

 1

1234

1 

MIND – ANXIETY – night – children; in

 29 

2

1234

1 

GENERALS – FAINTNESS – headache; during

 23 

3

1234

1 

GENERALS – FOOD and DRINKS – milk – aversion

 128 

4

1234

1 

THROAT – PAIN – raw; as if

 185 

5

1234

1 

STOMACH – COLDNESS

 101 

6

1234

1 

EXTREMITIES – COLDNESS – Feet – night – bed agg.; in

 26 

   

calc.

carb-v.

ars.

sil.

sulph.

zinc.

bell.

chel.

kali-c.

lyc.

 

6

6

5

5

5

5

4

4

4

4

1

2

1

3

1

1

1

1

2

2

1

1

2

2

1

3

2

2

1

2

2

1

1

1

1

4

2

2

1

1

2

2

3

1

1

3

5

2

2

3

2

1

1

2

1

1

1

6

3

1

1

1

1

1

(I know the headings are out of sync but you get the idea, the most likely remedies are across the top and the presence and strength of the symptom is shown below). 

Once a short-list of remedies is determined, it is a matter of checking against the descriptions of remedies in materia medica books such as the factual, detailed and straightforward ‘Phatak’s Materia Medica’ (left brain oriented) and the simultaneously mythical, referential and scientific Frans Vermeulen’s Prisma (right and left brain oriented) to ensure the most appropriate one is given according to the patient’s symptoms, personality and characteristics.  These and many other books are now electronically accessible by other homeopathic software packages allowing homeopaths to cross-reference many more books than they can keep on their already heaving bookshelves.

6 March 2008

Filling in the gaps. Classic Homeopathic Authors: Jan Scholten

When I first contemplated becoming a homeopath over 10 years ago, a concern I had was what I perceived to be the gaps in the homeopathic literature.  If homeopathic remedies could be made from all kinds of substances, animal, vegetable or mineral, and not all substances in the world had been proved then it was likely that at some time I would encounter a patient who needed a remedy from an unproven substance. 

In the last 10 years several homeopathic authors have been working very hard to fill in the gaps in the homeopathic materia medica, one of whom is Jan Scholten, author of ‘Homeopathy and the Elements’, which proposed a way to determine a mineral remedy based on principles outlined in his previous study of mineral remedy characteristics in  ‘Homeopathy and the Minerals’.

He says: ‘This book is about the elements in the periodic system and how we can use them in homoeopathy.  So far we are only using a fraction of these elements and the aim of this book is to explain how we could apply the remainder of these elements.  It is the story of the opening of a whole new world, the world of the periodic system, which had always brought up lots of questions in my mind: why were there so few remedies that we really knew well, remedies like Aurum or Argentum nitricum for instance?  What about Hafnium or Krypton or any of the others?’

He gives themes to each row in the periodic table which he calls ‘series’:

Row 1: Hydrogen Series  Theme: Being               Age: Foetus

Row 2: Carbon Series       Theme: I                   Age: Child

Row 3: Silicium Series      Theme: Other             Age: Teenager

Row 4: Ferrum Series      Theme: Work              Age: Adult

Row 5: Silver Series          Theme: Ideas           Age: Middle Age

Row 6: Gold Series            Theme: Leadership    Age: Ripe

Row 7: Uranium Series     Theme: Magus           Age: Old Age

Within each series he describes up to 18 stages each of which correspond to a stage in a cycle describing ‘the rise, the success and the fall of any undertaking, project, business or kingdom’.  Each element in the periodic table then corresponds to a series and a stage of individual development and each may be combined to represent a mineral. 

For example ‘the mineral Natrum bromatum has never been proved but it still possible to get a general idea of the remedy by means of the group analysis’.  Here is the simplified analysis.

Natrum metallicum:

Silicium series: Relationships, family, other, love and hate. communication, language and learning, presentation, play, teenager
Stage 1: simple, impulsive, spontaneous, natural, naive, alone, immature

Group analysis: impulsive relationships, changing contacts, vulnerable, lack of perserverance, withdrawn, alone, lonely, reserved silent

Bromium:

Ferrum series: Task, work, duty, ability, perfection, routine, order, rules, failure, guilt, crime, adult
Stage 17: exit, end, letting go, holding on, demanding, climax, condemned, exiled, escaping

Group Analysis: Terminating work, redundancy pension, forced labour, guilt fault, passion aggression, fleeing, antisocial

Natrum Bromatum

Alone with their guilt.
Depressed by their aggression.
Withdrawing when they feel guilty.
Restricting themselves to avoid guilt.
Aggression held in check.
Withdrawing when they make a mistake.
Withdrawing makes them feel guilty.

He goes on to suggest physical symptoms that are combinations of the characteristic of the well known remedies Natrum Muriaticum and Bromium.

Homeopaths worldwide now make good use of the suggestions in the book, helping to flesh out the clinical use of previously little-used or unproven remedies, and having successfully used the methods outlined in the book, I am confident that I will be able to find a suitable remedy for many more patients.

3 March 2008

Walk the walk, talk the talk. Fruit acid or milk for heartburn?

 

I’ve been suffering from acidic heartburn all day today which I get from time to time.  I took a constitutional remedy the other day and have had a whole range of symptoms returning and subsiding including the heartburn today.  So rather than take another remedy for the acute symptoms of heartburn and potentially undermine the constitutional prescription I thought of what else I could use at home to get relief.

My first thought was drink milk because that’s what I used to do.  It would relieve for a while then would come back soon after, so I’d drink more milk and so on.

My second thought was, my diet has been poor of late I should eat more fruit, and although the thought of fruit acid on top of the heartburn made me wince I ate some grapes and an orange. 


http://www.flickr.com/photos/blepere/2204792914/ 


One hour later: no heartburn.  Similia similibus curentur (Like cures like)  Dilution not always required.

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: