J.D. Salinger and His Love for Homeopathic Medicine

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Jerome David Salinger (1919-2010), known as J.D. Salinger, gained his reputation as a result of his massively-popular novel The Catcher in the Rye (1951) and most recently was the subject of a documentary, simply entitled Salinger.

Salinger wrote a couple of other books after this and several acclaimed short stories. Ironically, he became increasingly famous for being one of the most private and reclusive modern-day authors. Very little was known about him until Joyce Maynard, a New York Times columnist, developed a relationship with him, lived with him for several years, and then wrote a book about her time with “Jerry” Salinger (Maynard, 1998). Maynard wrote (and Salinger’s daughter Margaret confirmed, in her own book, published in 2000) that Salinger has a special love and even a “preoccupation” with homeopathy. He supposedly spent several hours each day (!) studying homeopathic books, and he regularly prescribed homeopathic medicines to people and animals.

At one point, Maynard describes a visit by her mother, who had an infected toe at the time. After an interview with her, Jerry prescribed a homeopathic medicine, and within minutes, her toe swelled considerably and then burst, after which the pain disappeared instantly (Maynard, 1998, 138). Experiencing rapid effects from homeopathic medicines is quite common, and it is such impressive experiences that have helped homeopathy developed an international and loyal reputation, especially among the educated public and among the elite cultural classes (Ullman, 2007). People who take homeopathic medicines also often experience a temporary increase in certain symptoms prior to a deeper healing. More specifically, homeopaths often observe an increase in skin eruptions, nasal discharges, respiratory expectoration, or early and/or clotted menstrual bleeding shortly after taking a homeopathic medicine. Such experience of a “healing crisis” prior to a healing suggests that homeopathic medicines are not always the result of a placebo effect.

Maynard describes Salinger’s interest in “high potency” homeopathic medicines and his appreciation for constitutional homeopathy (one of the important and sophisticated practices of classical homeopathy, in which a single remedy is prescribed based on the totality of a person’s physical, emotional, mental, and genetic characteristics in order to strengthen a person’s entire constitution).

“High potency” homeopathy refers to the use of medicines that undergo a process of dilution (of 1:10, 1:100, or 1:50,000), with vigorous shaking in between dilution. While many homeopathic medicines sold in health food stores and pharmacies are commonly diluted 3, 6, 12, or 30 times, it is common for professional homeopaths to prescribe medicines that undergo this process of dilution and vigorous shaking 200, 1,000, or even 50,000 times, all of which are deemed to be “high-potency” medicines. In fact, over 200 years of clinical practice has led to the observation that the higher numbers of dilutions, with mandatory shaking in between each dilution, usually need only a single dose of one medicine to elicit a profound healing response, while the lower potency medicines tend to need more frequent repetition.

Salinger and others who have used homeopathic medicines pre-date the evidence that has confirmed the persistence of nanoparticles of the original medicinal substance even after hundreds of dilutions. Researchers at India’s Institute of Technology (the most respected scientific governmental agency in that country) tested six different homeopathic medicines and using three different type of modern spectroscopy found nanoparticles of each substance, even after they were diluted 1:100 six times, 30 times, and 200 times (Chikramane, Kalita, Suresh, et al, 2012). They published their work in one of the most respected journal in the technical field of “material sciences,” a multidisciplinary field that integrates chemistry, engineering, and physics. What is highly significant about the power of nanoparticles is that it is widely acknowledged that many hormones and essential cell signaling agents in our body have profound physiological effects in a similar nanodose range (Eskinazi, 1999).

Maynard also noted Salinger’s method of giving a person a homeopathic medicine in water, which is an advanced modern method of dispensing remedies to people (or animals), thereby providing additional evidence that Salinger kept up-to-date on how to optimize results using these nano-medicines.

Salinger’s use of and advocacy for homeopathic medicine is part of a long and impressive tradition from many literary greats, including Henry James, William James, Emily Dickinson, Washington Irving, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott, Harriett Beecher Stowe, Upton Sinclair, Goethe, Fyodor Dostoevsky, George Bernard Shaw, amongst many others (Ullman, 2007). To learn specifics of that each of these literary greats did with and for homeopathy, click here.

Ultimately, Maynard moved out of Salinger’s home, got married, had children, and then got divorced, but throughout her life, she too has sought treatment from professional homeopaths. As for Salinger himself, he lived to the ripe old age of 91 years.

Chikramane PS, Kalita D, Suresh AK, Kane SG, Bellare JR. Why Extreme Dilutions Reach Non-zero Asymptotes: A Nanoparticulate Hypothesis Based on Froth Flotation. Langmuir. 2012 Nov 1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23083226

Eskinazi, D., Homeopathy Re-revisited: Is Homeopathy Compatible with Biomedical Observations? Archives in Internal Medicine, 159, Sept 27, 1999:1981-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10510983

Maynard, J. At Home in the World. New York: Picador, 1998.

Salinger, M. A. Dream Catcher. New York: Pocket Books, 2000.

Ullman, D. The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2007.

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