26 August 2010

Edzard Ernst Exposed

H:MC21 (Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century) report that Professor Edzard Ernst the leading ‘authority’ on homeopathy, and perhaps its most referenced critic, has no qualifications in homeopathy.

William Alderson of HMC21 also claims that Ernst’s book Trick or Treatment? shows Ernst to be unreliable as a researcher into homeopathy. He outlines 11 mistakes made by Ernst which can arise from ignorance of the principles of homeopathy, and which can seriously affect the reliability of randomised controlled trials and meta-analyses of homeopathy.

He says ‘We believe that it is time to recognise that opposition to homeopathy is largely based on the opinions of individuals who are unqualified or unwilling to judge the evidence fairly.’

1 August 2008

The disease didn’t kill her, the medication did….

How many of us have heard of this?

I have been away visiting family.  My mother-in-law told us that my brother-in-law’s friend’s 47 year old wife had recently died.  She had been suffering from breast cancer for several years but she died in her sleep from a heart attack.  This was blamed on her medication which had ‘weakened her heart’. A ‘side effect’ I expect.

According to Hering’s Law of Cure inappropriate medicine can suppress the vital system and weaken more internal and more vital organs.  People can live without breasts (men can be affected by breast cancer too); they can’t live without a heart.  I’ve commented on patterns and progress of disease before.

Ok, I know it’s not that simple, I didn’t know the lady concerned and how she was before she died, she might have died shortly anyway, but there was no indication of that in the story as told, her death came as a surprise.

5/8/08 – Updated to include links to information about the homeopathic approach to treating people with the symptoms of cancer:

Treating cancer with homeopathy

Dr Ramakrishnan – Cancer

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. 


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

29 February 2008

Skeptic-‘Woo’ wars: left vs right brain?

The 21st century has seen the return of right brain thinking after left brain dominance during the 20th.  Sceptics call this the age of endarkment.  Is it the opportunity to do joined up thinking?

 Left Brain, Right Brain by Dan Eden :

“There appear to be two modes of thinking, verbal and nonverbal, represented rather separately in left and right hemispheres respectively and that our education system, as well as science in general, tends to neglect the nonverbal form of intellect. What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.

-Roger Sperry (1973)”
“The chart below will help illustrate the characteristics which are known to reside on each side of our brains.

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies



uses feeling
“big picture” oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Our personality can be thought of as a result of the degree to which these left and right brains interact, or, in some cases, do not interact. It is a simplification to identify “left brain” types who are very analytical and orderly. We likewise certainly know of the artistic, unpredictability and creativity of “right brain” types. But each of us draws upon specific sides of our brain for a variety of daily functions, depending on such things as our age, education and life experiences. The choices of which brain is in control of which situations is what forges our personalities and determines our character.

Experiments show that most children rank highly creative (right brain) before entering school. Because our educational systems place a higher value on left brain skills such as mathematics, logic and language than it does on drawing or using our imagination, only ten percent of these same children will rank highly creative by age 7. By the time we are adults, high creativity remains in only 2 percent of the population.

The War of the Brains The two brains not only see the world in vastly different ways but, in our current society, the left side just “doesn’t get” what the right side is all about. It tends to dismiss anything significant coming into consciousness from its “flaky” cranial twin. Sometimes two sides can actually disagree, resulting in our perception of emotional turmoil from the expressive protests of right brain. Our conscious mind can only focus on data from one brain at a time. We can switch from one side to the other very quickly (with our corpus collosum intact) but that’s not always the most efficient way to act and eventually ultimate authority to enter consciousness is delegated to one brain or the other. In our modern world, this battle is almost always won by the left brain.It appears that most people will never reach their maximum potential because of compromises that have been made between these two governing bodies. Sometimes skills which the right brain can perform better are routinely handled, with less skill, by the left brain. Ideally, both brains work together in people with optimum mental ability. This coordinating ability may be the key to superior intellectual abilities. In most people, however, the left brain takes control, choosing logic, reasoning and details over imagination, holistic thinking and artistic talent.”

26 February 2008

Classic homeopathic authors: Rajan Sankaran

Homeopathy has benefitted greatly through the further development of homeopathic philosophy from the practice and study of contemporary Indian homeopath Dr Rajan Sankaran.

In ‘The Spirit of Homeopathy’ (1991) Sankaran describes how rather than analysing cases in a mechanical rule-bound manner he found that a “remedy represents a particular situation and that each patient’s state comes from a particular situation in the past, in which the components of his present state were necessary”.

Chapter 6: Health and Disease: Psychological and Philosophical Considerations

“Disease consists of two parts: generalised disturbance of the whole organism and localised problems. It can be seen that generalised disturbance (which includes physical, general and psychological changes) precedes localisation of the problem.  this generalized disturbance is probably what Hans Selye (the authority on stress) described as the General Adaptation Syndrome.  The whole of this generalized disturbance or change can be understood as a posture of adaptation for survival in a particular situation.  It is obvious that if the situation does exist or is intense enough, such an adaptation would ensure survival and therefore, cannot be treated.  Conversely, if such a situation does not exist, or is not proportionately intense, this general adaptation would be a maladaptation and needs to be corrected.

 Disease as a posture

 In sum, disease is a posture, a state of being, which is suitable and appropriate in a particular situation, a situation that does not exist at present.  Disease originates from severe situations which demand this posture or state of being for survival. This state leaves an impression which we call a root which gets activated later on.

Disease sets up several conditions for feeling OK.  When we imagine a lion is chasing us we will not feel OK unless we are running. In the same way, if your disease originated in the situation where you needed to achieve in order to be loved or to survive you will not feel OK unless you achieve.  These conditions restrict your being in the present and your reacting to the situation appropriately.  The miser’s constant need is to check his purse.  He will do this even when visiting the Taj Mahal, rather than admiring its beauty.

Disease is a restriction of vision, it is a narrow way of looking at things. Only awareness of this delusion can remove it, just as light removes darkenss.  Delusion disappears only with awareness. 

All this talk may sound esoteric and theoretical unless the reader looks at himself in the light of what he has understood so far.  If you honestly look at yourself, you will see how you feel uncomfortable in many situations and how you cling to certain roles in which you feel OK.  These situations in which you feel OK fulfil your conditions for feeling OK.  You are compelled to act in a particular way even though some other type of action is appropriate. In most situations you have the option of deciding how to react, but always you almost choose to react in just one or two ways, no matter what the situation is.  This fixed type of reaction, compulsion, comes from the fixed way you view yourself and the situation in front of you (obsession).  Both the obsession and the compulsion come from the perception you have of yourself in the situation; this is your basic delusion.

Somewhere in the past or in earlier generation you will find that somebody had gone through a situation which necessitated this kind of behaviour.   You may find more often than not that you were conceived when one of your parents was exactly passing through such a state of being, or such a situation might have originated sometime in your childhood, especially from the circumstances in your own family.”

‘The Spirit of Homeopathy’ was followed by ‘The Substance of Remedies’(1994) and  ‘The Soul of Remedies’ (1997) which conveyed the innermost feeling of remedies which he had observed and confirmed in his own practice.  Here is a short part of his description of Arsenicum:

“The Arsenicum patient sees the world as threatening, chaotic.  He feels that he is old, weak and defenseless, and that there are thieves all around him, ready to take advantage of his weakness. He needs people and is dependent on them because of his weakness, yet feels that they cannot be trusted, that they are interested only in his money.  However he cannot do without them, and hence is very careful that he should not offend them, lest they leave him and go away.  He is mistrustful and suspicious, cautious and anxious in all matters: money, relationships, even health.”

Dr Sankaran has continued to develop his observations of the central disturbance and the determining characteristics of groups of remedies and are read with interest by homeopaths world-wide.

24 February 2008

Classic homeopathic authors: Herbert A. Roberts M.D.

My favourite book on the philosophy of homeopathy is ‘The Principles and Art of Cure by Homoeopathy – A Modern Textbook’ by Herbert A. Roberts (1936).

The foreword gives the following biographical information: ‘We know he was born in 1868 and was still living in 1954, that he was a pupil of Stuart Close, that he practised in Connecticut, that he was Chairman of the American Federation for homoeopathy and Head of the Department of Philosophy at their post-graduate school, that he was at one time President of the International Hahnemann Association, that he was editor of the Homoeopathic Recorder, and that he was also the author of the The Principles and Practicability of Boenninghausen’s Pocket Book, Sensations As If, and Rheumatic Remedies. ‘

Here he introduces the study of homeopathy:

“If a physician would successfully practice medicine he must know, first, what is curable by medicine, and second, what is curative in drugs.

The physician must know something of the history of the development of the drug action; of the gradual experiments with the remedial substance upon healthy human beings and the data gathered therefrom over a long period of careful observations, which have been checked and verified again and again, both in experimental provings and in clinical use.  The basis upon which this knowledge of drug action is built is a profound and a basic element of homoeopathic procedure.

By the time the physician has become somewhat acquainted with these guides he is in a position to go forward and erect the structure of his future medical career upon a basis that is immovable, that does not change with every new theory that arises upon the medical horizon.  If we look thoughtfully at medical literature over a period of years we find it one kaleidoscopic panorama of ever-changing theory and practice.

Homoeopathy, on the other hand, is ever capable of development, while the principles remain the same.  Homoeopathy is founded upon principles that are again founded upon natural laws.  These natural laws are basic, they are more eternal than the hills, for these laws were formulated before the hills came into being.

 If a man follows where homoeopathy leads he must be able to follow those laws and to hold close to them, regardless of pressure or influence.  On the other hand, the very principles which he follows stabilise him and make him sure in his work.  This stability can be maintained equally well in chronic work, in acute cases or amidst the panics of epidemics of unknown origin, such as influenza, poliomyelistis; outbreaks of such conditions as encephalitis; for here, as in all other manifestations of illness, the fundamental laws remain firm and intact, and they are sufficiently basic to provide a sure guide to health.”

23 February 2008

Classic homeopathic authors: Catherine R. Coulter.

Catherine R. Coulter is well known and respected in homeopathic circles for her three volumes of ‘Portraits of Homoeopathic Medicines.  Psychophysical Analyses of Selected Constitutional Types’, the first being published in 1998.

Here she defines constitutional remedy:

“In homoeopathy the expression, “constitutional remedy”, signifies the medicinal substance which encompasses the sum total of the individual’s physical, emotional, and mental picture.  Homoeopathy denies any inherent or qualitative distinction between these, assuming that all processes within the organism are interdependent.  Physical illnesses (apart from accidents and injuries) have a mental aspect, while mental illnesses have a physical aspect, and the prescription of medicines must be based upon a consideration of both categores of symptoms.  A patient is said to be a Phosphorous, a Silica, a Pulsatilla or some other type, according to the constitutional remedy which most closely approximates his total picture.  To find this constitutional remedy the physician not only records painful sensations, symptoms, pathology, and the like, but also how the patient looks and behaves when in health, what he says, how he responds, his temperament and disposition, strengths and weaknesses.  After collection, arranging and evaluating these characteristics, he matches them to the remedy which most expresses this “wholeness” of the patient.  Espousing this truly holistic approach, each chapter of this work describes the relationship between a given type’s physical emotional and mental patterns when viewed in their dynamic interaction.”

In the book her observations of each constitutional type is expanded over many pages but here is my very brief summary of her ‘prominent characteristics’ of Lycopodium:

“The following analysis will focus on four prominent Lycopodium characteristics: his resilient self-esteem, his unshakeable viability, his imperturbable detachment and the Achilles heel of this highly capable individual – his tendency to deceive himself.

The first striking Lycopodium characteristic is self-esteem.  It is seen in the quiet air of one who is self-possessed and obviously has a good opinion of himself.  He has confidence in his own judgment, believing that he knows best at all times.   He considers himself an example of moderation and reasonableness others would do well to follow.  He is convinced the world would be a far, far better place if it contained more right-thinking and right-acting persons like himself.

Lycopodium‘s viability (enormous tenacity for survival) stems from his resolute yet conforming nature which permits him to adapt to fluctuating times and circumstances while pursuing his own policies.  He likes wielding power and even while wanting to please everyone, needs to be honored or acknowledged as a leader.

Lycopodium needs to feel detached at almost all times and at almost any cost. Aloof from the turmoils of earth, he likes to float somewhere above struggling humanity, unruffled and unperturbed, regarding it from the lofty perspective of his detachment.

Lycopodium’s fourth prominent characteristic, self-deception is the natural outgrowth of his self-esteem, viability and detachment. To preserve these three, the individual may resort to deceiving himself.  Few types are so adept at blanking out undesirable realities and concealing from themselves what they do not want to admit.”

19 January 2008

Medicine: blind and in the dark?

The thing I like most about being a homeopathic practitioner is the observation process.  We all practise in slightly different ways according to our strengths, and whereas some of us are adept at reading body language my strength is in the language that people use when in the homeopathic conversation (reference Brian Kaplan’s book ‘The Homeopathic Conversation’) and out of it.  My aim is to empathise with the person’s situation, understand how they think and feel and how their body reflects these.

What puzzles me about scientific papers is that observation is taken out of the process and reduced to statistics which are incomprehesible to the lay person and which are subject to statistical interpretation bias.  Observation of effects is impossible and readers of scientific papers are literally ‘blind’ to their sense of the results.

The foundations of the scientific approach are suspicion and doubt: both are deeply negative mental processes.  I am told that a good scientist should doubt his results as his first reaction;  I would say that this is an unhealthy reaction in most normal situations:  someone who doubts his reactions has poor intuition.   Someone who is doubtful isolates themselves from experience.  Suspicion causes peers to doubt each others results and slows progress.

 Then there is the requirement to take an experiment into a laboratory both to control real world contamination and to simultaneously mimic real world conditions.  How can it do both?

Skeptics believe that the scientific method is the answer to medical problems, I am unconvinced.

Dr Natasha Campbell McBride says it better than I : http://www.thehealthbank.co.uk/nutrition_articles/blind_and_double_blind.html

11 January 2008

“If there’s little risk, why not exploit the therapy?”


“U.S. News‘s Avery Comarow has been editor of the America’s Best Hospitals annual rankings since their debut in 1990. In his reporting on all aspects of clinical medicine from the latest cholesterol guidelines to robotic surgery, he has kept one question in the front of his mind: What does this mean to patients? That perspective uniquely qualifies him to observe and comment on the efforts by hospitals and other healthcare providers to improve care and patient safety.”

In his personal blog he reflects on recently reporting on alternative medicine:

“Academic medical centers all over the country—venerable altars of clinical research and practice like Mayo and Duke, top-ranked cancer centers, and even children’s hospitals—are scrambling to roll out therapies that five or 10 years ago most regarded as dubious at best, crackpot at worst. Acupuncture, homeopathy, herbs, traditional Chinese medicine.

When I began my reporting, one of the first things that struck me was that not a single researcher or clinician bothered arguing that the evidence for any of the alternative therapies they were testing and using on patients was persuasive. To the contrary, all agreed that almost none of the studies that show positive results have been designed or run very well.

If I wanted an evidence base, I was out of luck. But absence of evidence, as the late astronomer Carl Sagan said, is not evidence of absence. And if we lack an understanding of or explanation for how something works (as was the case for decades for how an airplane could stay airborne), that doesn’t give us the ammunition to state that it doesn’t work. In philosophy, that kind of reasoning is called argument by ignorance.

The patients I spoke with told me how acupuncture had made their allergies go away, how they were able to avoid painkillers after major surgery because of hypnosis or visualization or other mind-body techniques, how a homeopathic remedy that science would regard simply as water reduced swelling and pain within hours after an injury. I heard many such anecdotes, along with candid appraisals of treatments that seemed to be effective only for a short time or not at all. These people were not all true believers.

It may be that the placebo effect is behind most of the successes claimed for alternative therapies. I suspect it probably is—it can be quite powerful. Suppose we could tap into that power. Maybe we’d need to redefine our thinking about a therapy’s ability to work. What does “work” mean, anyway?

I wrestled with the story for weeks, because those patients made a considerable impact on me. Yes, I’m still an evidence guy. I still want well-done clinical trials to be the foundation for care. I still want researchers to set high standards and to meet them before claiming success. But we’ve been learning some amazing things in recent years about the way the mind affects the body and the body affects the mind, discovering a relationship far more dynamic and interlocked than anyone previously believed. It seems as though many alternative therapies may exploit this relationship. If there’s little risk, why not exploit the therapy?”

1 January 2008

A homeopath’s view of health

Conventional medicine tends to concentrate on disease – definition of symptoms, labelling (often purely a latin description of the symptoms), cause (often declared ‘unknown’ or attributed to infection with a ‘germ’).  It can take a long time for medicine to agree that a particular ‘disease’ actually exists and treatments often come much later and can be ineffective or cause side effects.

Homeopaths work from the starting point of health.  ‘That’s easy’ you might say: ‘health is a lack of symptoms’, but we would disagree.  Health is being able to react appropriately to circumstances and to be able to adapt and recover.

Reaction starts with reflexes, thoughts and emotions.  If something dangerous occurs to you it is important to be able to make sense of the situation quickly and react appropriately to save yourself.  It is necessary to have self-judgement and self-reliance to take these steps independently.  After a stress and its corresponding physiological symptoms does the mind and body recover easily and continue as normal or do they suffer from the effects for a considerable time?  These effects are an expression of ill-health or disease (dis-ease, i.e. not at ease) and can be in the forms of anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance as well as physiological effects in the organs of the body.  Mental disturbance disrupts normal life activities of work, rest, play and relationships and sleep disturbance affects immune sytem function.

Homeopathy is a holistic therapy, the ‘hol’ in holistic referring to ‘whole’.  Homeopaths look at whether a person has a full (whole) range of appropriate mental processes and emotions as well as physical functions: can the patient make sense of the world, get angry and defend themselves, can they show upset and get emotional support from family members and friends, do they have times of joy, happiness and sadness?  Inbetween times, do they recover to a neutral state of relative contentment?  If not content can they work out ways of reducing the discontent by confronting the problem and finding a solution, getting away from the problem or coming to terms with it? 

In reality the effects of society and upbringing results in many people finding one or more emotional states difficult or impossible to express.   These suppressive effects can have been in place over several generations in a family to the extent that its members become unaware of its absence.  Where there is emotional suppression a corresponding emotion becomes uppermost: with the absence of anger comes resentment, with the absence of support comes vulnerability.  These states can become quasi-normal states of being and lenses through which people perceive the world, and the source of compensating behaviours such as self-medication with drugs, alcohol and food, and personality disorders.  Wars, epidemics and difficult living conditions weaken health and their effects can be noted from one generation to the next in the type of symptoms to which we are susceptible.

A key word is ‘appropriate’.  Does the patient react appropriately to events in their lives? Some people overreact becoming easily angered or upset and affecting their confidence, work and relationships: others don’t react at all to the most severe provocation, putting themselves at risk of abuse and unable to reach their potential.  At the simplest level, if it is hot: to sweat and to seek shade and cool; if in danger: to escape, fight, hide or flee; if tired: to rest and recuperate;  if hungry: to seek food;  If thirsty: to seek water.   How many of us trust and act on our natural instincts? How many of us are still able to? How many side-effects of conventional medicine interfere with these natural functions?

 At the heart of homeopathic treatment is the desire to move the patient towards a state of physical, emotional and mental health, to smooth out over-reactions, to generate appropriate reactions where before there were none, to encourage independence of action and thought so that above all the patient can know their limits, trust their natural instincts, reach their potential and take care of their own health.

Happy New Year

with thanks to Sheilagh Creasey for her inspiration for this blog.

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