The Swiss government has a long and widely-respected history of neutrality, and therefore, reports from this government on controversial subjects need to be taken more seriously than other reports from countries that are more strongly influenced by present economic and political constituencies. When one considers that two of the top five largest drug companies in the world have their headquarters in Switzerland, one might assume that this country would have a heavy interest in and bias toward conventional medicine, but such assumptions would be wrong.
In late 2011, the Swiss government’s report on homeopathic medicine represents the most comprehensive evaluation of homeopathic medicine ever written by a government and was just published in book form in English (Bornhoft and Matthiessen, 2011). This breakthrough report affirmed that homeopathic treatment is both effective and cost-effective and that homeopathic treatment should be reimbursed by Switzerland’s national health insurance program.
The Swiss government’s inquiry into homeopathy and complementary and alternative (CAM) treatments resulted from the high demand and widespread use of alternatives to conventional medicine in Switzerland, not only from consumers but from physicians as well. Approximately half of the Swiss population have used CAM treatments and value them. Further, about half of Swiss physicians consider CAM treatments to be effective. Perhaps most significantly, 85 percent of the Swiss population wants CAM therapies to be a part of their country’s health insurance program.
It is therefore not surprising that more than 50 percent of the Swiss population surveyed prefer a hospital that provides CAM treatments rather to one that is limited to conventional medical care.
Beginning in 1998, the government of Switzerland decided to broaden its national health insurance to include certain complementary and alternative medicines, including homeopathic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, anthroposophic medicine, and neural therapy. This reimbursement was provisional while the Swiss government commissioned an extensive study on these treatments to determine if they were effective and cost-effective. The provisional reimbursement for these alternative treatments ended in 2005, but as a result of this new study, the Swiss government’s health insurance program once again began to reimburse for homeopathy and select alternative treatments. In fact, as a result of a national referendum in which more than two-thirds of voters supported the inclusion of homeopathic and select alternative medicines in Switzerland’s national health care insurance program, the field of complementary and alternative medicine has become a part of this government’s constitution (Dacey, 2009; Rist, Schwabl, 2009).
The Swiss Government’s “Health Technology Assessment”
The Swiss government’s “Health Technology Assessment” on homeopathic medicine is much more comprehensive than any previous governmental report written on this subject to date. Not only did this report carefully and comprehensively review the body of evidence from randomized double-blind and placebo controlled clinical trials testing homeopathic medicines, they also evaluated the “real world effectiveness” as well as safety and cost-effectiveness. The report also conducted a highly-comprehensive review of the wide body of preclinical research (fundamental physio-chemical research, botanical studies, animal studies, and in vitro studies with human cells).
And still further, this report evaluated systematic reviews and meta-analyses, outcome studies, and epidemiological research. This wide review carefully evaluated the studies conducted, both in terms of quality of design and execution (called “internal validity”) and how appropriate each was for the way that homeopathy is commonly practiced (called “external validity”). The subject of external validity is of special importance because some scientists and physicians conduct research on homeopathy with little or no understanding of this type of medicine (some studies tested a homeopathic medicine that is rarely used for the condition tested, while others utilized medicines not commonly indicated for specific patients). When such studies inevitably showed that the homeopathic medicine did not “work,” the real and accurate assessment must be that the studies were set up to disprove homeopathy… or simply, the study was an exploratory trial that sought to evaluate the results of a new treatment (exploratory trials of this nature are not meant to prove or disprove the system of homeopathy but only to evaluate that specific treatment for a person with a specific condition).
After assessing pre-clinical basic research and the high quality clinical studies, the Swiss report affirmed that homeopathic high-potencies seem to induce regulatory effects (e.g., balancing or normalizing effects) and specific changes in cells or living organisms. The report also reported that 20 of the 22 systematic reviews of clinical research testing homeopathic medicines detected at least a trend in favor of homeopathy.* (Bornhöft, Wolf, von Ammon, et al, 2006)
The Swiss report found a particularly strong body of evidence to support the homeopathic treatment of Upper Respiratory Tract Infections and Respiratory Allergies. The report cited 29 studies in “Upper Respiratory Tract Infections/AllergicReactions,” of which 24 studies found a positive result in favor of homeopathy. Further, six out of seven controlled studies that compared homeopathic treatment with conventional medical treatment showed that homeopathy to be more effective than conventional medical interventions (the one other trial found homeopathic treatment to be equivalent to conventional medical treatment). All of these results from homeopathic treatment came without the side effects common to conventional drug treatment. In evaluating only the randomized placebo controlled trials, 12 out of 16 studies showed a positive result in favor of homeopathy.
The authors of the Swiss government’s report acknowledge that a part of the overall review of research included one negative review of clinical research in homeopathy (Shang, et al, 2005). However, the authors noted that this review of research has been widely and harshly criticized by both advocates and non-advocates of homeopathy. The Swiss report noted that the Shang team did not even adhere to the QUORUM guidelines which are widely recognized standards for scientific reporting (Linde, Jonas, 2005). The Shang team initially evaluated 110 homeopathic clinical trials and then sought to compare them with a matching 110 conventional medical trials. Shang and his team determined that there were 22 “high quality” homeopathic studies but only nine “high quality” conventional medical studies. Rather than compare these high quality trials (which would have shown a positive result for homeopathy), the Shang team created criteria to ignore a majority of high quality homeopathic studies, thereby trumping up support for their original hypothesis and bias that homeopathic medicines may not be effective (Lüdtke, Rutten, 2008).
The Swiss report also notes that David Sackett, M.D., the Canadian physician who is widely considered to be one of the leading pioneers in “evidence based medicine,” has expressed serious concern about those researchers and physicians who consider randomized and double-blind trials as the only means to determine whether a treatment is effective or not. To make this assertion, one would have to acknowledge that virtually all surgical procedures were “unscientific” or “unproven” because so few have undergone randomized double-blind trials.
In my view, for a treatment to be determined to be “effective” or “scientifically proven,” a much more comprehensive assessment of what works and doesn’t is required. Ultimately, the Swiss government’s report on homeopathy represents an evaluation of homeopathy that included an assessment of randomized double blind trials as well as other bodies of evidence, all of which together lead the report to determine that homeopathic medicines are indeed effective.
The next article will discuss further evidence provided in this report from the Swiss government on the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of homeopathic care.
Statement of correction (9/18/2013): The report on homeopathy (2012) that was described above has now been verified to be a second edition of a report that was initially commissioned by the government of Switzerland, but it was not a report that was issued by the Swiss government nor endorsed by the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health. Therefore, it is my intention here to state clearly that the first publication listed in the “References” section was not commissioned by the Swiss government, but the second reference that was written by most of the same authors as the first reference was commissioned by Swiss government. The conclusions of this publication (2006) are the same as those asserted in more detailed in both book forms, 2005 (ref. Bornhöft G, Matthiessen PM (Eds.). Homöopathie in der Krankenversorgung – Wirksamkeit, Nutzen, Sicherheit und Wirtschaftlichkeit. Frankfurt/M. 2006 VAS Verlag für Akademische Schriften.) and 2012. The conclusions of the commissioned report and the more detailed books are basically the same in the safety, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of homeopathic medicine.
Bornhoft, Gudrun, and Matthiessen, Peter F. Homeopathy in Healthcare: Effectiveness, Appropriateness, Safety, Costs. Goslar, Germany: Springer, 2011. http://rd.springer.com/book/10.1007/978-3-642-20638-2/page/1 (This book is presently available from the German office of the publisher, and it will become available via the American office as well as select booksellers in mid- to late-February, 2012.)(NOTE: When specific facts in the above article are provided but not referenced, this means that these facts were derived from this book.)
Bornhöft G, Wolf U, von Ammon K, Righetti M, Maxion-Bergemann S, Baumgartner S, Thurneysen AE, Matthiessen PF. Effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness of homeopathy in general practice – summarized health technology assessment. Forschende Komplementärmedizin (2006);13 Suppl 2:19-29. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16883077
Dacey, Jessica. Therapy supporters roll up sleeves after vote. SwissInfo.ch, May 19, 2009. http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/Therapy_supporters_roll_up_sleeves_after_vote.html?cid=670064
Linde K, Jonas W. Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? Lancet 36:2081-2082. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67878-6. http://download.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140673605678786.pdf
Lüdtke R, Rutten ALB. The conclusions on the effectiveness of homeopathy highly depend on the set of analysed trials. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. October 2008. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2008.06/015. http://www.jclinepi.com/article/S0895-4356(08)00190-X/abstract
Rist L, Schwabl H: Komplementärmedizin im politischen Prozess. Schweizer Bevölkerungstimmt über Verfassungsartikel «Zukunft mit Komplementärmedizin» ab. Forsch Komplementmed 2009, doi 10.1159/000203073.
(Translation: Complementary medicine in the political process: The Swiss population votes on the Constitutional Article “The future with complementary medicine” http://www.ayurveda-association.eu/files/swiss_referendum_on_cam_-_forschkomplementmed_2009.pdf
*Although this Swiss government report was just published in book form in 2011, the report was finalized in 2006. In light of this date, the authors evaluated systematic reviews and meta-analyses on homeopathic research up until June 2003.
Colds and flu can make any time of the year a struggle. In this post I look at how using individually-tailored Homeopathic remedies can offer support and facilitate healing.
Using Homeopathic Remedies for Colds and Flu
‘Physician, heal thyself’
A year or so into my four-year Homeopathic training, I lay in bed in agony. I was at the last stage in my “flu journey” and had an awful pain deep in my bones. I had never experienced anything like it before and was astonished that flu could be so painful. I crawled out of bed and raided my supply of remedies. Taking the one whose profile matched my sorry state, I was relieved when the pain subsided straight away and I could sleep.
At the outset I had felt so poorly, that I reluctantly realized I did have to rest, as this was indeed proper flu. Not just a bad cold, but the kind of debilitating flu we dread. Once it set in, I took a remedy that covers the archetypal flu experience such as I was feverish, shivery, weak and tired, with a runny nose and sneezing.
I used the 6c and 30c first aid kit Homeopathic remedies I had on hand. Taking them around four times a day, and changing the remedy as the symptoms moved through their different phases.
My experience was that the Homeopathic remedies not only helped with the symptoms that I was suffering with at each stage, I also moved through the whole flu journey in a matter of days. Much less than the standard week or more that we are told to expect.
My overall approach is to use Homeopathic remedies to help myself to stay well in the first place, which is always preferable! However, some bugs do still manage to sneak through the defenses from time to time, and I will then reach for one of the thousands of Homeopathic remedies we have available.
Individually Tailored Remedies for Colds and Flu
As each and every one of us will have our own way of expressing a cold or flu, we try to make the remedy match as best we can for that individual. This is as true for self-help remedies for minor and self-limiting conditions as it is for the individually tailored deeper Constitutional support when a Homeopath is prescribing for you. It is also important to check-in with a healthcare professional if you have under-lying or chronic health issues where respiratory conditions need to be monitored and managed accordingly.
Homeopathy treats the person as a whole and considers their symptom picture as a whole, working holistically. This means that we can use the same remedy for a cold or flu, if the profile matches. That is the key to remedy selection, is that we consider the whole person, not just the label of the disease or condition.
Homeopathic Remedies for Colds and Flu
We have a huge selection of remedies that can be helpful but here are some that I have found to be useful both personally and professionally. I have given my experience for each and you can also find more general information on Homeopathic Materia Medica by following the links in the References and Resources , .
Aconite – this is the remedy to reach for even at the threat of a cold or flu, as well as at the onset. I personally find this can often help me to avoid me going down with the full cold or flu about nine times out of ten. A soon as I feel the early warning signs that a cold is coming on, I reach for this.
Arsenicum-Album – has a wide range of applications and it is often used in colds or flu where the person feels chilly, has a very watery runny nose and eyes, sneezes a lot and wants lots of little sips of water.
Eupertorium-Perfoliatum – this was the remedy I took to help myself get over the last stage of that bout of flu. It is characterized by terrible bone pain where the person will just want to be still and rest, and will be very thirsty.
Ferrum-Phos – this can be a very useful remedy to have to hand if you have a cold and may feel run down. I have also used it as a tonic after a cold or flu.
Gelsemium – this was the remedy I used as my flu took hold and is commonly used for colds and flu that present in the ‘classic’ flu way described above.
Pulsatilla – with many uses, this is also remedy that is often used in colds. There may be lots of thick yellow or green catarrh, the person will feel better for fresh air. Children may be tearful and want to be with Mom or Dad – which is quite understandable when they feel poorly!
If more than one remedy looks relevant for how you are feeling at a particular point, you can ask your Homeopath or a Homeopathic Pharmacy for advice. It is also possible to simply alternate the individual remedies throughout a day, adjusting according to how you feel.
Getting Better and Staying Well
It is also really important to take good care of yourself when you are unwell. To do everything you can think of to boost your immune system and help your system to throw off the cold or flu and to make a good recovery. Having enough sleep, eating sensibly, keeping yourself well hydrated by drinking enough water and if you find them helpful, home remedies like a hot drink of local honey and fresh lemon. If you are doing all the right things and you are not responding, see your healthcare professional, just to check something is not being overlooked.
Homeopathy is a distinct philosophy of medicine that has its roots in eighteenth century Germany, and subsequently spread to Europe, India, Australia, South America, the United States, and Canada.
“The underlying basis of Homeopathy is the principle that ‘like cures like’…”
The underlying basis of Homeopathy is the principle that ‘like cures like’, or that a substance that is capable, in toxic doses, of producing a set of symptoms is also capable, in much lower doses, of curing the same set of symptoms regardless of their perceived cause.
The founder of modern Homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, speculated that a Homeopathic medicine has a temporary acute effect on the body. As the body rouses to neutralize this effect, similar symptoms from any other cause are likewise neutralized or eliminated. Homeopathic treatment thus involves matching as many symptoms as possible in a patient to the known effects of a remedy.
Remedies are derived from substances found in any of the three kingdoms (animal, vegetable, and mineral). Many of the early remedies were already in popular use in eighteenth century medicine. Because patients often showed severe side effects when they received standard doses of medicines, early Homeopaths directed their efforts at finding the minimum dose that was still therapeutic. Experimental work showed that a remedy could cause less reaction, yet still effectively treat a patient, when it was serially and systematically diluted and succussed (shaken in a specific manner).
By carefully observing patients and recording their symptoms and subsequent response to treatments, Homeopaths were able to catalog and cross-reference the remedies with the symptoms they could treat. At times, Homeopathic practitioners would administer placebos to their patients in order to determine whether symptoms and responses were truly due to the effects of the remedy. Additional information was also derived from reports of toxic reactions to various drugs and natural substances. Modern Homeopathic practitioners use these reference works, known as repertories, as a basis for determining the correct treatment for an individual case.
What is the history of Homeopathy in veterinary medicine?
Often, early Homeopaths treated both human and animal patients, and numerous case reports of treatment in dogs, horses, and cattle have been preserved in the works of these pioneers.
“Veterinarians in the nineteenth century used Homeopathic texts that were specifically developed for their profession…”
Veterinarians in the nineteenth century used Homeopathic texts that were specifically developed for their profession, as well as information from their medical colleagues.
In the latter years of the nineteenth century, Homeopathy began to decline in popularity with the development of the pharmaceutical industry. Homeopathy has been undergoing resurgence since the middle of the twentieth century, and has become popular again as a form of veterinary medicine in the past twenty to thirty years as animal owners and veterinarians alike explore it as a way beyond the limitations of conventional medicine. Formal training courses are offered to veterinarians and lead to certification status for successful veterinarians.
On which species of animals is Homeopathy practiced regularly?
Homeopathy is routinely practiced in dogs, cats, horses, ruminants, and birds. Its use in other exotic species is growing.
Who practices veterinary Homeopathy and do I need a referral?
“Homeopathic first aid for self-limiting conditions, can be readily taught to lay people.”
Some aspects of Homeopathy, such as Homeopathic first aid for self-limiting conditions, can be readily taught to lay people. Because of the potential for harm if critical illness or chronic disease is assessed incorrectly, it is absolutely necessary to have veterinary training as well as training in Homeopathic theory and practice in order to properly treat animal patients. Both the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association consider veterinary Homeopathy to be the practice of veterinary medicine and, as such, licensed veterinarians in those countries can only legally practice it. As veterinary Homeopathy gains acceptance, there are an increasing number of veterinarians in private practice who possess the necessary training and experience. Referrals are available, but not necessary.
What conditions are most often treated with Homeopathy?
Both acute and chronic diseases are amenable to treatment with Homeopathy.
From the Homeopathic perspective, acute diseases are diseases that are caused by external influences, such as injuries, poisonings, infectious diseases, etc. The symptoms that arose in these cases were considered to have an adaptive advantage in that they often resulted in neutralization or elimination of the noxious influence.
Samuel Hahnemann later proposed that chronic diseases were also caused by the invasion of an external force, or ‘miasm’. To Hahnemann, symptoms that arose in response to this invasion represented the enduring action of this external force on the body. Some modern practitioners consider chronic disease symptoms as merely an initially constructive response to disease that has become enfeebled and ineffective over time. Chronic diseases from the Homeopathic perspective include most common disease syndromes such as allergies, arthritis, skin problems, digestive disturbances, respiratory problems, musculoskeletal problems, organ disease, and cancer.
How can my pet benefit from Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is potentially of value in any condition, regardless of prognosis from a conventional medical perspective. Some individuals may not be amenable to treatment with Homeopathy, and experience little or no improvement despite the practitioner’s best efforts.
“Homeopathy has a reputation of demanding a very high degree of skill from the practitioner.”
Homeopathy has a reputation of demanding a very high degree of skill from the practitioner. If properly applied, Homeopathy may eliminate the need for surgery in certain conditions, or may eliminate the need for chronic medications.
How successful is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy has been credited with saving countless lives during epidemics of dysentery, cholera and typhoid fever in the age before anti-microbials (antibiotics). The success of the treatment of chronic conditions will vary according to the age of the patient, prior treatment history, diagnosis, and the patient’s vitality.
“As with all other forms of medicine, the earlier in the course of disease that Homeopathy is started, the better the response tends to be.”
As with all other forms of medicine, the earlier in the course of disease that Homeopathy is started, the better the response tends to be.
Patients considered more difficult to treat include cases that have been previously treated with multiple potent drugs, especially chemotherapy; patients that have undergone long-term therapy with corticosteroids and other immune suppressants; and diseases that can be characterized as a very deeply entrenched form of pathology such as cancer.
Homeopathy may produce side effects or a worsening of the initial complaint if the wrong remedy is administered, or if the correct remedy is overused. A partial response to treatment is not necessarily optimal for a patient’s health, if other symptoms continue unabated. As with other medical systems, comprehensive improvements are more likely to be associated with a fundamental change for the better. Such partial improvements may be more common when over-the-counter combinations of remedies are used, as opposed to a single more appropriate remedy. Veterinary Homeopaths are trained to use single remedies and correctly interpret symptom changes.
When used correctly and by a skillful veterinary practitioner, serious adverse reactions to Homeopathic remedies are uncommon, but may occur. When the correct Homeopathic remedy has been administered, it is common to see a mild worsening of the condition, called an ‘aggravation’. Such aggravations should resolve within a short period of time once treatment is at least temporarily discontinued.
What is the cost of Homeopathy?
Homeopathic remedies are generally very affordable. However, comprehensive Homeopathic treatment can be very time consuming, since it involves a thorough history taking and physical examination, followed by a patient assessment, case analysis and formulation of a treatment plan, including remedy prescription.
“…costs will vary according to the specific condition being treated, the time spent on the case, and the response of the patient…”
It rarely involves a single visit, and costs will vary according to the specific condition being treated, the time spent on the case, and the response of the patient, which dictates how many follow-up appointments are required. The fees associated with Homeopathic treatment are set by the individual practitioner, and will often reflect the skill, experience and training of the practitioner.
Can Homeopathy be combined with other types of veterinary medicine?
Homeopathy is useful as an adjunct therapy to manage post-operative pain and to speed healing after injuries. However, as a complete and well-developed system of medicine, Homeopathy is effective as the sole form of treatment for most conditions, and is used that way by skilled practitioners. Under certain circumstances, it can be combined with other forms of treatment.
Caution must be used when mixing Homeopathy with some drugs, or with other forms of complementary or alternative veterinary medicine.
“Pungent ointments, strong smelling chemicals such as camphor and tea tree oil, and any strong stimulant medications may interfere with homeopathic treatment.”
Pungent ointments, strong smelling chemicals such as camphor and tea tree oil, and any strong stimulant medications may interfere with homeopathic treatment.
Combining therapies can make if difficult to determine what is working well, or whether the different treatments are interfering or nullifying each other. Ideally, when two or more forms of treatment are given, they should be separated by one or two days or by at least several hours if a longer interval is not possible. Certified veterinary Homeopaths have the knowledge and skill to understand the interactions between different forms of treatment and to interpret the patient’s response to therapy. If your pet is receiving Homeopathic treatment from a practitioner other than your regular veterinarian, it is imperative that both individuals are kept updated about the ongoing treatment in order to provide coordinated care of your pet, to allow proper evaluation of treatment and to minimize any avoidable interactions or interferences.
Steve Marsden, DVM ND MSOM LAc DiplCH AHG, Shawn Messonnier, DVM and Cheryl Yuill, DVM, MSc, CVH.
Madeline, a middle-aged woman diagnosed with mild depression, felt worse during the winter months. It started with the anticipation of the obligatory family get-togethers during Christmas.
She grew up in a dysfunctional family with an alcoholic and abusive father. Christmas was a time when the old feelings of shame and guilt resurfaced, causing anxiety and depression to dominate her existence. By the time she got through the holidays, the cold weather made her become reclusive. She found it difficult to keep warm, and as a result turned down invitations and isolated herself, leaving her apartment only for work and other basics.
The progression of winter corresponded with Madeline’s downward spiral with depression. She suffered from seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The limited sunlight during the winter months contributed to her feelings of anxiety and depression.
One year she tried anti-depressants to alleviate the awful feeling she described as “feeling insignificant.” Within three months she had to stop taking the drug as it made her feel “numb” and gave rise to unwanted side effects.
On a friend’s recommendation, Madeline decided to try Homeopathy and she came to my clinic.
After an extensive intake interview with Madeline, I selected the homeopathic remedy Carbo Vegetabilis based on her mental-emotional outlook and physical symptoms combined.
Within four weeks of starting the Homeopathic regime, Madeline reported feeling hopeful. When I asked her how she felt about the season’s absence of sunlight, she smiled and told me she hadn’t even thought about it. Madeline now had increased energy, was going out more, and enjoyed longer hours of sleep.
Within six months, Madeline was feeling significantly better. She was especially happy to report feeling emotionally stronger during the recent holiday season.
What is Depression
Depression is an affliction characterized by many signs and symptoms. People diagnosed with depression can have a few or several of the following: feelings of sadness, fatigue or lethargy, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, inability to concentrate, difficulty making decisions, significant weight loss or gain, disturbed sleep or too much sleep, loss of interest in activities, low libido, anxiety and restlessness, feeling anti-social, aggressive behavior, and persistent thoughts or talk of suicide.
The Homeopathic Approach
When did your depression begin, and what was going on in your life at that time? This is one of the first questions your homeopath will ask when you’re seeking help for depression.
The answers are as diverse and colorful as the patients themselves. Perhaps you have felt depressed all your life due to hereditary factors. Maybe it began after a major and traumatic event in your life, such as divorce, abuse, death of a loved one, or loss of employment. Or possibly you became depressed as a result of hormonal imbalance, which is common during puberty, after childbirth, and during menopause.
The answer to the origins of your depression provides an important clue to finding your individual Homeopathic remedy. At the same time, regardless of the triggering event of your depression, Homeopathy can help you get unblocked, turn the corner, and set you on the path to recovery.
How Homeopathy Works
Homeopathy is a medical science based on the law of similars. Simply explained, this means any substance capable of promoting symptoms (or disease) is also capable of curing the same, when taken in infinitesimal or Homeopathic doses. The Homeopathic approach to curing depression is no different. After listening to your story, your unique symptoms, and circumstances, a Classical Homeopath will give you a substance that is capable of producing feelings of depression in a non-depressed person.
There are well over 3,000 Homeopathic remedies to choose from. Treatment of any condition is based on the totality of symptoms expressed by the individual. Therefore, in Homeopathy we cannot assign remedies to specific disease labels. Instead, the remedies are unique to individuals. Each individual suffering from depression expresses it quite differently; with different feelings, behaviors, and symptoms. As a result, 10 people diagnosed with depression will likely receive 10 different Homeopathic remedies.
• A patient who had been depressed his entire life, with feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem, and difficulties expressing his feelings, made great progress with the Homeopathic remedy Natrum Muriaticum;
• Another patient suffering with life-long depression, who was a perfectionist, was unable to tolerate mediocrity and had rage and suicidal thoughts, made great improvement with the remedy Aurum Metallicum;
• Two recent cases of depression involving hormonal imbalance received the Homeopathic remedies Lilium Tigrinum and Sepia;
• The Homeopathic remedy Tuberculinum helped the recovery of a patient who became severely depressed after separating from her husband;
• Arsenicum Album created a spark of optimism for a young woman who had been depressed since a childhood occurrence of sexual abuse.
After taking the indicated Homeopathic remedy, patients start noticing changes within a few hours to several days. Most people experience increased energy and motivation. This becomes the catalyst for positive changes in their lives. I have had numerous patients tell me that they cleaned out their garage or the entire house after taking a Homeopathic remedy; a symbolic expression of cleansing. People adopt a more positive outlook on life and begin engaging in their favorite activities once again.
Length of Treatment
The length of time needed to cure depression (or any disease) depends on the severity and the length of time you’ve had it. So it is not realistic for your Homeopath to assess how long treatment should take until your response to the remedies becomes apparent over a period of time. While long-standing conditions may take months or years to heal, there will be improvement quite soon. Conversely, an acute condition such as a sprained swollen ankle can be healed within 30 minutes with the remedy Arnica (as just one example).
Expression vs. Suppression (Homeopathy vs. Anti-depressants)
It is important for me to emphasize that sadness is a normal part of life. It is a healthy response to losing a loved one, separating from a spouse, or feeling betrayed by a trusted friend. What may be a problem is identifying sadness as wrong and suppressing it with anti-depressant drugs. These drugs drive the depression deeper into the organism, never addressing the origins of the strong emotions. The body’s natural healing response becomes stuck, and the depression bottled up inside. This stagnation gives rise to side-effects as well as other health complications down the road, worthy of a whole other article.
Here is one worth mentioning – a recent must-read article in which a top US psychiatrist goes on the record to acknowledge the connection between gun violence / mass killings and children being prescribed SSRI drugs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). Read the article at http://bit.ly/Wpe6GQ
Homeopathic medicine enhances and accelerates the expression of grief and sadness, helping one move through the process of depression with more ease. One example is the Homeopathic remedy Ignatia Iamara, which is known for its quick relief of acute grief. I prescribed this remedy for a patient whose young nephew had died in a car accident. She reported feeling “emotionally stronger and more at ease” while dealing with the grief.
Homeopathy can heal your life. Not only can the correct Homeopathic remedy restore your health and eliminate depression, but continued treatment with Homeopathic remedies can even eliminate inherent weaknesses and predisposition to disease.
If eliminating the root cause of your depression is your goal, then Homeopathy is your medicine of choice.
This is my first case submission for Clever H. and when considering a range of cured cases I’ve seen in my practice, this one stood out for selection. I use a range of Classical and practical strategies in my work. This case is one where I was able to select a single remedy at the first session, then repeat the prescription until there was a plateau, at which point a nosode completed the case.
I started seeing a 7 year old boy in November 2015.
His Mother had been recommended to me by another client.
At the first appointment I learned that he had been born by C-Section, following induction of labor that had been unsuccessful. My patient had always been a ‘high need’ baby, who breastfed a lot and cried a lot throughout his early years of life.
He lived with his Mother and siblings, and spent time with his Father on a weekly basis. The children were home educated.
The boy’s Mother found him difficult to deal with, as he was very sensitive. He had a range of triggers, but was especially affected by noisy situations or anywhere with crowds.
Fireworks were very distressing for him.
He was fearful of many situations. In particular he was terrified of being alone, and would follow his Mother from room to room. He needed her to be there whenever he went to the toilet. He was also afraid of the dark and was unable to sleep alone. He would not go to sleep unless his mother lay beside him and would talk about being scared of dying every evening when it was time for him to go to sleep.
He could also be violent and verbally aggressive. He would hit, punch and scratch when asked to do something that he did not want to do. His Mother would regularly need to restrain him to prevent him from hurting himself and others.
She described him as being unable to follow directions. His usual response to any request was to refuse, and would become violent, if she insisted on compliance.
Another aspect to his character was that he was shy and extremely anxious about new situations.
He enjoyed playing outside and especially enjoyed climbing, but wouldn’t go out of his comfort zone.
There were no physical health issues to note.
His appetite was good and his favorite foods were fish, apples and cucumber.
Family history of note was that both of his parents were recovered crack cocaine and heroin addicts. He was conceived after his parents became free of alcohol and drug addiction.
Prescription: Stramonium 10M as a collective split-dose.
The remedy selection was based on the extreme fears of dark and of being alone, combined with the aggression and rages.
Medorrhinum and Hyoscyamus were considered, but I found Stramonium to be a better match for the main symptoms.
At the second appointment the boy’s Mother reported steady improvement.
She had noticed that his behavior was noticeably less intense. He had been able to be alone in the living room without needing someone else to be with him or needing to follow her around the home.
He had started to become more relaxed at bedtime. On one or two evenings he had not talked about being scared. Previously he would talk about being scared every night at bedtime.
He had been able follow simple instructions on some occasions, and was generally less aggressive. There had still been some name calling and hitting but nowhere near as frequently.
He was still anxious about new things, but more able to talk about his feelings.
His appetite was still good and his favorite foods were still fish, apples and cake.
Prescription: Stramonium 10M as a collective split-dose.
At the third appointment his Mother was able to report further improvements.
Bedtime was still a challenging time of day, but he could now go to bed without needing her to stay with him.
Rages were far less frequent. He still hit out at times, but not so much and not so aggressively. He had recently hit the furniture but then apologized.
He was less confrontational but remained persistent and stubborn. He always needed to be first, and wanted things his own way.
He was getting on well with his siblings and was generally more relaxed.
Appetite good and no changes in food desires.
Prescription: Stramonium 10M as a collective split-dose.
At the fourth appointment his Mother was able to report continued improvement.
He could go to the toilet alone and stay in a room by himself without needing company.
He was no longer afraid of bedtime and had not mentioned his fear of dying.
Name calling and violent behaviors were only happening occasionally. She had not needed to restrain him for some time.
The shyness had also improved and he was more able to integrate with people in new situations.
Prescription: Stramonium 10M as a collective split-dose.
At the fifth appointment we reviewed his notes from the beginning.
The most striking improvement was that he was no longer violent.
His Mother told me, ‘It’s such a relief because it was too much to cope with. The physicality of it was so extreme.’
He was still sensitive to noise and crowds, and was still quite shy but generally he was more calm and able to cope with new situations.
At this point I felt the improvement was consolidating but potentially moving towards a plateau.
I considered Medorrhinum, but wanted to try a higher potency of Stramonium first.
Prescription: Stramonium 50M as a collective split-dose.
At the sixth appointment his Mother was not sure there had been any dramatic changes, except that he had started a martial arts class and was able to stay and take part in the group activity.
She also disclosed a new piece of information which was that he wears a sleep nappy to bed and would like him to be able to move forward from that.
He was still occasionally angry and name calling.
He could still be shy in new situations, but was being more brave and adventurous when outside and definitely taking more risks when climbing and jumping.
His appetite was good and he still liked fish. He had also been asking for strawberries, clementines and grapes. He enjoyed drinks with ice.
To confirm my choice of nosode to progress the case further, I asked whether he had had nappy rashes as a baby and was told that he had. I also asked whether he was warm or chilly and was told that he would sometimes take off all his clothes and preferred to walk barefoot at home.
Prescription: Medorrhinum 10M
This was the last time that I saw the boy. Subsequent communication with his Mother has revealed that he is doing well.
The remedy picture of Stramonium was very clear for me from the onset of this case. I was interested to see sustained improvement from repeat prescriptions of the same remedy and potency. The nosode Medorrhinum was indicated with a number of keynote symptoms and completed the case.
The etiology appears to be birth trauma, but it is interesting to speculate whether the family medical history of narcotic addiction could have been a contributory factor.
The first session was face to face, but subsequent sessions were carried out over Skype.
I also treated his Mother and siblings, which I feel contributed to the overall success of the case.
At the beginning of July 2016 Usain Bolt withdrew from Olympic trials with a grade-1 tear in his hamstring. He immediately went to Germany for Homeopathic medical treatment. Then he improved so quickly by getting this amazing Homeopathic treatment that he competed just a month later in the Rio 2016 Olympics and won gold three times!
The Olympic sprinter and famed winner of numerous gold medals has been using Homeopathy since the age of 16. He is a patient of German sports doctor Hans-Wilheim Muller-Wohifahrt who uses Homeopathy at his Munich clinic. “I’ve been coming here since I was 16,” the world record holder said at a press conference in Munich. “It’s been a long relationship. Every time I have a problem, he always gives good advice and treatments. He’s the best at what he does. We are very close.”
Bolt was born with scoliosis, a curvature of the lower spine, which makes him more susceptible to back pain and injuries.
There are thousands of trained Homeopathic physicians in Germany and Dr Müller-Wohlfahrt is a world leader in the treatment of sports injuries. “He is well-known for his holistic approach. Though conventionally trained in medicine and orthopedics, his treatment includes manual diagnostics, as well as herbal and Homeopathic remedies and acupuncture.
Other famous patients include Paula Radcliffe, Kelly Holmes, Tyson Gay, Ronaldo, Michael Owen, Steven Gerrard and Boris Becker. He is also the team doctor for the German national football team and FC Bayern München.”
Why consider Homeopathy for Mother’s and babies? There are at least three good reasons.
The first is that it’s safe. Although many Homeopathic medicines are prepared from plants and other substances which are poisonous in their raw form, by the time they have been prepared as medicines for sale or prescription they are completely non-toxic and they be given safely to breast-feeding Mother’s as well as to children, from the first day of life, onwards.
The second reason is that the Homeopathic remedies work by stimulating the body’s own healing mechanisms. That’s not to say the modern medicine is of no value. Quite the contrary. For example, the technological and scientific breakthroughs in caring for premature babies, have enabled many more such children to survive those difficult first few weeks. Modern methods of care have also made death during childbearing a rarity in our country.
However, health is about more than mere survival and whilst these advances have undoubtedly been life-saving, other, more holistic approaches are needed to promote and maintain a more comprehensive well-being.
This leads me to my third reason – understanding health and understanding people from a Homeopathic perspective, really helps us to make sense of not only our illnesses but the health and development of our children.
Let’s start with Mother, because when you come home with the new baby, everybody is thrilled with the baby and, sometimes, Mom gets a little forgotten. In the first few days there are a couple of problems which might need attention.
Wound healing Arnica is probably taken by many women after the baby is born as it is good for helping the body to heal areas of bruising. However, I don’t recommend it routinely because often Bellis perennis (the daisy) is more effective. This has been described as the “gynaecological Arnica”. It certainly seems to help better when most of the bruising is internal. Like Arnica, the bruise is painful and the person doesn’t want the sore bit to be touched. In fact, they are likely to downplay the whole problem and be quite uncomplaining even though they may be feeling quite distressed about it.
Bruising, however, may not be the main problem. Sometimes a more pressing problem is a tear or a cut (an episiotomy). This is more common if there has been a forceps delivery. The wound is acutely painful and the woman will probably be feeling pretty aggrieved at having had the cut done. She will be feeling hard done by, or feeling that she wasn’t treated well by the staff.
The Homeopathic term for this is “indignation” – the feeling that “it shouldn’t have happened to me. It’s not fair!” This state is typical of the remedy Staphysagria and if taken over the next few days, it can promote the healing of the wound as well as begin to settle the woman’s distress. Staphysagria is also a great remedy for healing clean, surgical cuts, so it is also indicated after caesarean section.
Another useful remedy to have to hand is Calendula. Often the damage to the tissues after childbirth is quite superficial. By that, I mean on the surface. There are multiple grazes and superficial lacerations. This kind of wound can be helped with Calendula. I would recommend that the Homeopathic form be used and taken as tablets or powders by mouth because the local applications and creams can sometimes irritate the delicate tissues of the vagina
Breast problems Mastitis is a common problem. When it occurs suddenly and the breast becomes red, swollen, hot and tender, then Belladonna might speed resolution of the problem, although antibiotics may still be indicated. If the inflammation isn’t caught early enough, and an abscess has formed then Hepar-sulph might be a better-indicated remedy. Usually once the pus has formed, the stage of Belladonna has passed.
Cracked nipples can be very painful and really make breast-feeding difficult, if not impossible. When the cracks are accompanied by sharp, shooting pains in the breast when the baby feeds, then Phytolacca may help, especially if the pains seem to shoot out from the breast to other parts of the body.
Calendula cream is a good application for cracked nipples. Stitching pain in the breast when the baby feeds in the absence of cracks around the nipples can be helped with Kali-carbonicum.
Baby blues “Baby blues” are very common around the fifth day. You might find yourself becoming very tearful and upset at that time, or, alternatively, irritable and anxious. If you find that having company at this time helps, then you may find Pulsatilla helpful. However, if you find that company and consolation actually make you feel worse, then Natrum-muriaticum might be the more indicated medicine.
Postnatal depression, on the other hand, is far more serious. If your sad or upset feelings continue beyond a few days then it would be a good idea to discuss it with your health visitor, midwife, or GP. Even in the most troublesome postnatal depression, Homeopathic remedies can be useful, but in such a situation it’s harder to self-treat so it would be better to consult a Classical Homeopath.
Colic This miserable condition causes enormous distress to babies and their parents. There are no good, safe drugs available, so Homeopathic medicines are a great idea. There are two-main remedies to consider. If the baby settles a bit when held face down with the tummy supported by the parent’s hand, or if they settle when their tummy is pressed against the parent’s shoulder, then there is a good chance that Colocynth will help. If these positions don’t help but rubbing the tummy lightly, or holding a warm hand against the baby’s tummy, helps, then Magnesium-phosphoricum is more likely to help.
Teething Teething is that other early trial which disrupts the peace of the family sleep. The most typical pattern is the baby with a bright red cheek, screaming with anger, who settles when carried around the room. This is the picture of Chamomilla.
Sleep Sleep, or rather, lack of it, is a common problem when there is a young baby in the house. It’s important to understand the place of sleep in a baby’s life and not treat this issue as a disease. Initially, babies need a lot of sleep and really only wake for food or drink. They soon start to develop waking periods however, and within a few short weeks are already starting to smile in response to smiles and to have periods of great alertness where they lie with eyes wide open taking in their surroundings. Babies cry for many reasons. The physical reasons include being hungry or thirsty, being physically uncomfortable and feeling insecure or unhappy.
It’s always important to check and see if any of these common factors are playing a part. However, in some children, they continue to cry despite the exclusion of physical factors. Colic and teething are common explanations for sleep disturbance that won’t clear up without help.
What do we do with the babies who just won’t sleep? If underlying reasons of discomfort or pain have been excluded there are a couple of Homeopathic remedies worth trying. Firstly, there is Jalapa. This remedy is indicated in babies who are “good all day and bad all night” particularly in those who have a tendency to diarrhea, or just very loose stools. The other remedy to consider is Cypripedium, which is indicated in infants who are just alert and active. They wake up through the night and just want fun. They are obviously not distressed, unlike the Jalapa babies who are most distressed at night.
We can get other clues about the remedies our children might need by observing them during the night. Do they get hot and sweaty and throw off the covers, which is typical of Sulphur? Do they sweat on their heads at night, making the pillow wet, like Calcarea-phosphoricum? Do they usually sleep in a particular position? (Medorrhinum children sleep on their tummies with their bottoms sticking up in the air. Pulsatilla children sleep on their backs with their arms stretched out above their heads.)
Development All babies develop at their own rates. However, some babies definitely develop more slowly than others. The slowest ones are usually the rather chubby ones, who sit about without expressing much sense of adventure. These might be kids whose teeth are slow to come through, who are a bit sweaty, and may be constipated. These might be typically Calcarea-carbonica or Baryta-carbonica children. Which of the two they are is hard to tell when they are very young, but as they get a little older other personality characteristics become clearer. They are both quite fearful, the Baryta baby is shyer than the Calc baby and is more likely to have developmental delay. I think it is hard to self treat at this level but some of the child’s characteristics will give the clues your Homeopathic doctor needs to find the right remedy to stimulate maturational growth.
Immunization This is a very difficult subject for parents. It’s all about trying to choose the path of least risk for you child. I think you need to consider each immunization separately. What is the disease which we are trying to protect the child from? How serious may that disease be for the child if they catch it, and how significant is the risk of catching it? After consideration of those questions, we then ask, what are the risks associated with the immunization? We then try to do the best for our children and choose the lowest risk. When you stop to consider this you will realize that there are no rules, no hard and fast conclusions which are applicable in all children at all times and in all places.
There isn’t a Homeopathic alternative vaccination program. However, this doesn’t mean that Homeopathy has no role to play here. There are two approaches to consider. Firstly, when it is judged that a particular immunization is a preferred choice, and we go ahead and vaccinate a child, sometimes there are obvious short term problems afterwards. Homeopathic medicines can help to treat, what we refer to as, ailments from vaccination. This might be anything from a local reaction at the site of the injection which may be hot, red and painful and need Belladonna, to bruising which might be helped by Arnica, to local pain and discomfort which might be helped by Ledum, which is great for puncture wounds. If there are more long-lasting problems after immunization then a dose of Thuja might help to sort things out.
Secondly, some people advocate giving a child his or her “Constitutional Remedy” to boost his or her immune system. The idea of a “Constitutional” Remedy” is one which is chosen to match the character and characteristics of the person who is going to be treated. When given, it will stimulate the body’s systems of defense and repair. Think of it as a kind of tonic. If it works then the body will be in a more optimal state of health and therefore better placed to defend itself against infections.
Understanding your Baby Knowing that there is such a wide range of personalities and characteristics described in the Homeopathic literature helps us to accept the uniqueness of our own children. How are they different? Begin to notice when they are most at ease and when they don’t feel secure. This might be different times of day or night. It might be about the social environment, for example, how are they with mom, with dad, with brothers and sisters and with strangers. What kinds of toys do they seem to enjoy most? Are they explorers and adventurers, or do they prefer to occupy themselves with a single toy? What do they seem to be scared of? What do you do to settle them down when they are upset? Noting these kinds of things quickly gives you a sense of their unique character. But Homeopathy doesn’t stop there. The understanding of Homeopathy is that we are unique in our whole beings and express ourselves through our whole beings. It really is a holistic understanding. So, noticing the physical features of your baby will help in finding the best remedies for them too. Are they hot children or chilly children? Are they sweaty? What is their normal sleep pattern and what position are they in when you check them in their cots at night? What foods do they refuse and which, if any, upset them? Do they like to drink, and, if so, what do they like to drink? As you build up the picture of your baby you’ll be struck by how different he or she is from your other children and from other people’s children. That uniqueness is a great thing.
If you are going to use any of the Homeopathic medicines mentioned, unless a specific dose is recommended by your Homeopathic doctor, use a 30c strength and repeat the doses as often as is necessary. For babies crush one granule between two spoons, add to a small amount of expressed breast milk, mineral or distilled water, and give one-teaspoon for a dose. The rule in Homeopathy is to take a dose, experience the improvement, then if the improvement starts to decline, repeat the remedy. If a dose does not produce any improvement, then there is no point in repeating that particular remedy.
-Bob Leckridge, MBChB, FFHom, graduated from Edinburgh University in 1978 and worked as a GP until 1995 since when he has worked full-time as a Specialist in Homeopathic Medicine at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital. He teaches Homeopathy internationally and is the author of Homeopathy in Primary Care. He became President of the Faculty of Homeopathy in 1998.
Do you suffer from bouts of frequent sneezes, itchy and runny nose?
Do you often wake up sneezing in the morning?
Does sneezing and runny nose occur during a particular weather or when there is change of weather?
Or, do you wheeze or do your eyes feel itchy with sneezing and runny nose?
If you have some, or all of these symptoms, then you may be suffering from nasal allergy.
Nasal allergy, also called allergic rhinitis or hay fever or pollinosis, is an allergic reaction of the body (mainly the upper respiratory tract and eyes) to certain substances – allergens – that we breathe in.
The main allergens are pollen’s, molds, animal dander and dust.Allergy is nothing but an over-sensitization of our defense system. This means that our immune system (defense system) starts reacting to a substance which is otherwise harmless to our body. In other words, it is a misdirected immune attack.
Pollen’s are usually the main culprits. Homeopathic treatment is based on the principle of “like cures like.” This means if a substance that in its raw state, produces a disease condition, this substance also has the ability to treat similar symptoms, when given in diluted and activated (potentised) form. Thus, a lot many plants whose pollen’s are the known culprits for this kind of allergy are being used in Homeopathy to treat Allergic Rhinitis. By giving a substance that has similar manifestations, Homeopathy is able to optimize the already over-sensitized immune system.
Two medicines which represent new advance in Homeopathy are Galphimia-Glauca and Histaminum-Hydrochlo-ride.
A US study foundHomeopathic Galphimia-Glauca to be highly effective in treating Allergic Rhinitis.
Many other very effective plant-based Homeopathic medicines have also been introduced during the last few years: Cardiospermum-Halicacabum and Amni-Visnaga, for example. Conventional Homeopathic medicines like Allium-Cepa , Sabadilla , Arundo-Mur, Ambrosia and Aralea are also very effective.
It is important to remember that Homeopathy is a system where the treatment is based on the patient’s individual symptoms. Thus, each medicine has its own important place in treating allergic rhinitis. It may take a season or two to completely eradicate allergic rhinitis. With growing industrialization, our bodies are changing according to the environment.
A BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) report stated that one-in-six-people in the industrialized world suffer from seasonal pollen allergies. Pollution does not cause allergy directly, but is supposed to increase the sensitivity to pollen’s.
In Japan, it was found that the sensitivity to pollen’s was high, in people living in areas with high levels of diesel exhaust particles in the environment.
Genetic factors are also supposed to play a role in developing nasal allergy.
For proper treatment of your allergies, please see your Classical Homeopath to find they Homeopathic remedy that best matches you!
Ear infection is the most common childhood illness other than simple runny nose. Almost every child has had at least one ear infection by the time he or she is six, and for many children and their parents, frequent recurrences of these infections are a major problem. Further, there’s always the worry that the complications of ear infections can impair the child’s hearing and even delay learning to speak. Adults sometimes get ear infections too.
There are two main types of ear infections. Infection of the middle ear and eardrum is called otitis media. It is the more serious illness and is the type most often meant when a health professional diagnoses an “ear infection.” Otitis externa, as its name implies, is infection of the outer ear or of the canal that leads to the eardrum. It is actually a skin infection similar to those occurring elsewhere on the body, but it can cause a great deal of ear pain and discharge. We’ll discuss each type of ear infection separately.
Not all earaches are due to infections. During a cold many people complain that their ears feel stopped up or that they experience twinges of sharp, brief pains. These symptoms are generally mild. They are due to pressure differences on either side of the eardrum caused by the inflammation and fluid secretion that accompanies a cold. Pressure changes also account for earaches that happen in airplanes or in cars driving up or down a mountain. Some people get earaches whenever they are out in a cold wind or swim in cool water.
Otitis Media (Middle Ear Infection)
The middle ear, the space behind the eardrum, becomes infected during an episode of otitis media. The eustachian tube leads from the middle ear forward and downward, connecting the middle ear to the cavity behind the nose. Normally, the tube opens to allow fluids secreted by mucous cells in the ear to drain into the throat, and to allow pressure in the middle ear to become equalized with the pressure of the atmosphere. At other times, the eustachian tube should be closed to prevent fluids in the nose, which are full of microorganisms, from reaching the middle ear.
Ear infections develop when the eustachian tube opens and closes improperly, allowing germ-laden fluids from the nose and throat to enter but not depart from the middle ear. Inflammation resulting from a cold or allergy may cause this improper function, but in young children sometimes the tube is just too small and short to work properly.
As a middle-ear infection progresses, white blood cells and antibodies are secreted into the tissues and the middle-ear area, where they attack and kill infecting bacteria. As dead bacteria and white cells accumulate, pus forms and puts pressure on the ear drum. The thin eardrum membrane bulges outward, and pain increases as it is stretched. Eventually it may tear, allowing pus to drain to the external auditory canal. Don’t be alarmed if this happens (you’ll see pus or blood dripping out of the ear) this is the way the body expels the infected material, and usually a torn eardrum heals rapidly.
The symptoms of acute middle-ear infection are variable. A young child may seem to be in pain, often playing with or pulling at the ears. Older children or adults usually know if something is wrong with the ear, but sometimes even during a severe infection the ear just feels stuffed up. If the eardrum is ruptured, a discharge from the ear may be obvious, or the hair around the affected ear may be sticky or crusty.
Many children with recurrent ear infections have their own characteristic symptom patterns parents learn to recognize early in the illness. Unusual irritability, emotional sensitivity, or clinginess may accompany ear infection, and sometimes a child’s mood changes are the only evidence of the problem. There may be a high fever, but ear infections often occur without any fever at all. Sometimes the child vomits or has diarrhea because of an ear infection, with no sign that something is wrong with the ears. In most cases, if nothing else is responsible, these digestive symptoms clear up rapidly.
The diagnosis of an ear infection depends on accurate visual examination of the eardrum performed with an otoscope, a magnifying lens and light that illuminates the drum and external canal through a small speculum that fits into the canal. A normal eardrum has a pearly gray, slightly shiny appearance and looks delicate and translucent. During an infection the most characteristic change is outward bulging of the eardrum due to buildup of pus inside. The eardrum becomes thickened and more opaque and often looks quite red. Redness of the drum, however, may be caused by fever, crying, or cold, and a diagnosis of otitis media should never be made on the basis of a red eardrum alone.
Traditionally, physicians have held that antibiotics effectively treat ear infections and prevent complications. However, many scientific studies over the past 25 years contradict such beliefs. In one large study of children with acute otitis media, those treated with antibiotics actually recovered at a slightly lower rate than those who were not. (Froom, et al, 1990). Another found that children with chronic otitis maintained on prophylactic (preventative) antibiotics were two to six times more likely to have recurrent acute infections than those on placebos (Catankin, et al, 1991). Recently, John Bailar, M.D., a Harvard professor and editorial board member at the New England Journal of Medicine, comprehensively reviewed the scientific literature on the treatment of otitis with antibiotics. He concluded that the available research, “… seems to demolish the conclusion that antibiotics improve the outcome [in otitis media]” (Bailar, 1995).
In any case, be watchful if otitis media is diagnosed. Serious acute complications of middle-ear infection are rare but do occur. These include mastoiditis, infection of the bony area just behind the ear. Be alert for any redness, tenderness, pain, or swelling in this area and report these symptoms immediately to your health practitioner. Mastoiditis can become a chronic problem and result in hearing loss and erosion of the bone.
Meningitis and other infections of the central nervous system may result from acute otitis media if the infection spreads through the blood stream to bony structures. Symptoms of these problems include severe or persistent headache, stiff neck, persistent vomiting, and marked change in mood or alertness.
The most common complications of middle-ear infections are the chronic ear problems that often follow. Serous otitis media, accumulation of a translucent noninfectious fluid in the middle ear, interferes with normal motion of the eardrum and the tiny middle ear bones so that hearing is reduced.
Homeopathic constitutional treatment is often effective with chronic serous otitis. Antihistamines and decongestants are worthless, though they are often prescribed. Conventional treatment for persistent hearing loss due to serous otitis involves surgical insertion of polyethylene tubes into the eardrum to allow drainage of middle-ear fluid. These tubes seem to improve treated ears’hearing for a few months, and this may be very important to the child who is at a crucial stage of language development. Research has shown, however, that there is no long-term improvement in hearing when tubes are inserted, and eardrums in which tubes have been placed tend to become scarred. We believe that the tubes should be inserted for serous otitis only when there is a significant, documented hearing problem, when the risks of the surgery are clearly understood, and when the goal of treatment is improved hearing within a short period.
General Home Care
General recommendations for any infectious illness apply to people with acute middle-ear infections; they should rest, have plenty of liquids, and be comforted. A heating pad or hot washcloth applied to the ear may help reduce pain.
To help prevent ear infection, avoid nursing or bottle feeding children when they are in a lying position; gravity may allow milk or juice to run into the eustachian tubes, encouraging infection. Allergies may predispose an individual to ear infection by causing inflammation and fluid buildup; identification of the substances that trigger allergic reactions for that person can be helpful.
Beyond Home Care See “Beyond Home Care” that follows “Otitis Externa.”
Otitis Externa (Outer Ear Infection)
External ear infections are essentially skin infections involving the canal that leads from the outer ear to the eardrum, The symptoms of external ear infections often include much ear pain and throbbing due to inflammation. The pain is characteristically aggravated by moving the outer ear, so a helpful way to differentiate between middle ear and external ear infections is to pull on the earlobe. Both types of ear infections can be present at the same time, so you should still use the guidelines in “Beyond Home Care” to decide if medical consultation is needed. Often the ear canal is quite itchy during an external ear infection. If you look into the canal, you can see that it is red and scaly or wet, and a thick discharge may be present. There is usually no fever or general symptoms of illness.
External ear infections do not endanger the organs of hearing, although the discharge and swelling may reduce hearing for a time. As with all skin infections, there is some small danger that the infection will spread aggressively. Rapidly spreading redness or swelling of the outer ear or nearby skin is a danger sign, as is onset of fever.
General Home Care
Gently wash out the accumulated scaling and discharge by placing a piece of cotton soaked in dilute vinegar (half water/half vinegar) or Burow’s solution (available at drug stores) in the ear canal, leaving it there for eight to twelve hours. Make sure you can pull the cotton out easily again. Then briefly rinse the canal with warm water, using a bulb syringe. Let the ear drain after this, but put in a drop or two of the vinegar solution every eight hours or so.
Beyond Home Care
Get Medical Care Immediately:
if earache is accompanied by severe weakness, loss of alertness, severe headache, or stiffness of the neck.
Get Medical Care Today:
if a baby begins to pull or rub her ears;
for any definite earache or any ear discharge in a child under seven years old;
for anyone with severe earache, especially if it’s accompanied by fever or ear discharge;
if there is tenderness or redness in the bony area behind the ear;
if there is sudden, significant decrease in hearing with or without pain.
See Your Practitioner Soon:
if an older child or adult has had mild ear pain or discharge lasting longer than one or two weeks;
if mild hearing loss lasts longer than two weeks.
Homeopathic Medicines for All Ear Infections
The following descriptions apply to children with ear infections, but the indications for adults are the same. Most of the descriptions of physical-exam findings (color and shape of the eardrum) apply to otitis media, but all the other symptoms are applicable to those with both middle-ear infections and otitis externa. You can also use these descriptions to treat the person with a earache due to something other than infection.
Many of these medicines share similar symptoms. For example, Silica, Hepar sulph., and Mercurius are all equally indicated by the presence of painfully swollen lymph nodes in the head and neck that commonly occur with ear infections. If no medicine is strongly indicated, start with either Pulsatilla, if the child is more clingy than usual, or Hepar, if the child is somewhat irritable or severe pain is the predominant feature of the illness.
Casetaking Questions for Earaches
Character of the symptoms:
Does the pain extend into the throat, neck, or behind the ear?
Describe the color and consistency of any discharge from the ear.Modalities:
At what time of day is the pain at its worst?
Is the ear tender or sensitive to touch?
How does heat and cold affect the pain?
How is the pain affected by stooping or bending over, motion in general, and lying down? Does it help to lie on the affected ear?
Does swallowing make the pain worse?Other symptoms:
What is the color and consistency of any nasal discharge?
Is perspiration or salivation increased? (See the appropriate articles if the earache is accompanied by runny nose, cough, sore throat, or any other symptoms.)Remedy Summary for Earaches
Give the medicine: every 3-6 hours for 2-3 days, stopping when there is definite improvement; repeat when symptoms begin to get worse again, or if no further improvement has occurred after twelve hours. When to try another medicine: if there is no significant improvement after 12-24 hours
Earache beginning suddenly with intense pain, with few prior symptoms of a cold (no thick or colored nasal discharge) Confirmatory symptoms
Bright red outer ear, ear canal, or eardrum without pus formation
Accompanied by sudden high fever (see chapter 3)
Ear pain extending down into the neck, or accompanied by sore throat or facial pain.
Early stages of earaches before pus has formed; symptoms similar to Belladonna but not as sudden or severe
Alternatively, give if Belladonna seems indicated but hasn’t helped.
Hepar sulph. Essentials
Sharp, severe earache
Earache accompanied by thick, colored discharge from nose or ears
Irritability Confirmatory symptoms
Chilliness and aversion to the cold or uncovering; desire for warmth
Earache worse in cold or open air or from cold applications better from warmth; worse at night
Mild disposition; craves affection and physical contact
Yellow to green thick discharge from the nose or ears Confirmatory symptoms
Ear pain worse at night and in a warm room.
Worse in general from warmth, wants fresh air
Little or no thirst
Extreme irritability; the child screams and cries angrily, doesn’t want to be touched or comforted, and may strike out
Severe ear pain Confirmatory symptoms
The child calms down when carried
Earaches during teething
Symptoms are worse when stooping or bending over and improved by warmth or being wrapped in warm covers
Clear nasal discharge, usually of watery consistency
Another common earache remedy after pus has formed in the middle ear Confirmatory symptoms
Earache worse from warmth and worse at night
Profuse, bad-smelling perspiration, head sweats
Increased salivation, bad breath, puffiness of the tongue
Symptoms are worse when stooping or bending over and improved by warmth or being wrapped in warm covers
Later stages of an earache
Physical weakness and tiredness
Chilliness, desire for warm covering Confirmatory symptoms
Mild and whimpering disposition but less interested in affection than the
Pain behind the ear in the region of the mastoid
Sweating about the head or on the hands or feetBelladonna is the most commonly indicated homeopathic medicine during the early stages of an ear infection or earache, especially when the illness begins suddenly with few prior cold symptoms, Within an hour or two the child is in intense pain. He may have had a watery runny nose for a short while, but the mucus isn’t cloudy, colored, or thick. The outer ear, ear canal, or eardrum may be bright red, but pus hasn’t formed and the eardrum is still normally shaped. A sudden high feveroften begins about the same time as the earache. The ear pain may extend down into the neck, and there may be associated sore-throat or facial pain.Ferrum phos. is used in much the same way as Belladonna, in the early stages of suddenly occurring earaches not yet accompanied by pus formation. The onset is not quite as sudden, the fever is not so high, and the overall condition of the child is a little less intense. You can also give Ferrum phos. if you’ve already tried Belladonna and it still seems indicated, but hasn’t worked. Chamomilla is indicated chiefly by the effects of the illness on the child’s mood, and less so by particular symptoms. Children for whom Chamomilla is indicated are extremely irritable. They scream and cry angrily, do not want to be touched, and can’t be comforted. They may ask for things that they then reject, and they are likely to hit you for crossing them at all or for no apparent reason. Sometimes the child can be calmed by being carried. The earache generally doesn’t come on as quickly as in the Belladonna case, but the pain is severe and the child may scream. The symptoms may be made worse by stooping or bending over and improved by warmth or being wrapped in warm covers. A discharge from the ear is less typical of Chamomilla than of other medicines discussed later. There is usually a watery runny nose and, less often, a very thick discharge. As with Belladonna, the nasal mucus is usually not colored. Whatever the particular symptoms, though, be sure to consider Chamomilla for the child who is in severe pain, especially if he is extremely irritable.
Another commonly effective medicine is Pulsatilla. In contrast to Chamomilla, it is indicated for children who are sweet, placid, loving, and mild during the earache. The Pulsatilla child may be irritable, but the irritability is weak and whiny, not violent as is the Chamomilla or Hepar child. Pulsatilla children want to be held and cuddled and are comforted when given affection. They too may scream with the pain but are just as likely to weep piteously. Pulsatilla is more frequently indicated for ear infections that develop after cold symptoms have been persistent for a few days. The nasal discharge has become thick and yellow to green in color. Though pain may be fairly severe, sometimes there seems to be no pain at all. Examination often shows a red, swollen eardrum and a buildup of pus in the middle ear. A thick yellow-green discharge may be seen at the external canal. The pain is typically worse at night and in a warm room. There may be a sensation of pressure in the ear. The child may or may not be feverish but tends to feel uncomfortably warm and wants fresh air. She is noticeably less thirsty than usual, even with a high fever. In any case, the strongest indication for Pulsatilla is the characteristic mildness and clinginess of the child.
Silica is also indicated for the middle and later stages of a cold accompanied by an ear infection. The child who needs Silica also is mild and whimpering but is less loving and less interested in affection than the Pulsatilla child. Also characteristic of children for whom Silica is indicated are marked physical weakness and tiredness. The illness seems to have really worn them out. They are definitely chilly and want warm covering. They may have sweat about the head or on the hands or feet. If there is pain in the ear, it may be intense but usually not as severe as the pain of some of the other medicines. It tends to occur at night and is made worse by cold applications, moving, sitting for a long time, and noise. Silica is the remedy most prominently indicated for pain behind the ear in the region of the mastoid, though many other medicines also cover this complaint. There may be itching in the ear (also symptoms of Hepar sulph. and Mercurius) or a stopped-up sensation. The examination may show inflammation and pus formation, and there may be drainage of pus or watery fluid from the ear. A nasal discharge, of any character, often accompanies the infection.
The physical symptoms indicating Hepar sulph. are similar to those of Silica but more intense. Again, this is a remedy best given during the middle and late stages of colds and ear infections, when a thick, colored nasal discharge often precedes or accompanies the earache and when inflammation in the middle ear has progressed to the point that pus has formed. You should think of Hepar when the child is intensely, even violently irritable about everything. Although this emotional state is similar to that described for Chamomilla, the child is a little less expressive, is less prone to scream constantly or hit, doesn’t have such a strong aversion to being held, and is less likely to throw away things she asked for. But the Hepar child lets you know, in no uncertain terms, that she is angry. Hepar is indicated for children who are very chilly-cold air or coldness of any sort makes them uncomfortable and provokes symptoms. The child wants the heat turned up, and she wants lots of blankets. The earache is usually severe and is worse at night. It is also made worse by cold air, open air, and cold applications and is improved by warmth and bundling up.
Mercurius is also indicated for earaches after pus formation has occurred. The child needing Mercurius is somewhat irritable and may act impulsively or hastily, or he may be less alert than when normal. He may be generally bothered by heat or cold or both, but this particular earache is typically made worse by warmth, especially the warmth of the bed. Pain is worse at night. Characteristic Mercurius symptoms also include profuse and offensive perspiration, head sweats, increased salivation, bad breath, puffiness of the tongue, and trembling or twitching.
The information provided here is not only applicable to children but to most people with earaches.