Homeopathic remedies for spring allergies

When I first started school to be a naturopathic doctor I had a basic idea of what a naturopath used as treatment tools such as nutrition, herbs, acupuncture, lifestyle counselling, etc but I had no idea what homeopathy was. I thought, “I like everything else, who cares if I have no idea what homeopathy is? I’ll just practice everything else and ignore it for now.”  As it turns out, I couldn’t ignore it and now it is the primary modality I use in practice.

We were given an assignment to go to the student clinic and have our homeopathic case taken (the case taking process is very detailed and a little longer than your typical 8 minute visit with the doctor) and were prescribed a remedy.  I took mine and experienced very positive effects on my wellbeing, moreso than just changing my diet or taking supplements had done and I knew I wanted to experience more about homeopathy.  A lot of my other classmates were hesitant to take their prescribed remedies or didn’t experience any effects at all, either positive or negative and concluded that homeopathy was not going to be part of their healing toolkit.  I don’t think they should have been so easily discouraged because there are many factors that could influence the effectiveness of a remedy:

The skill of the doctor to obtain information from the patient, analyze it and choose a remedy could have been lacking (we were seeing student interns, of course they were in the beginning stages of learning too).

Or maybe the remedy choice was correct but prescribed at an incorrect potency.

Or maybe the power of skepticism can be just as strong as the power of positive thinking or placebo and lead to negative or non-effects.

 As an intern at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine we treated patients on different shifts under the care of different supervisors.  One of my shifts was a homeopathy focus shift and in the end I learned that I loved homeopathy and had very good results with it.  After graduation I enrolled in the Ontario College of Homeopathic Medicine to obtain my Homeopathic Doctor degree and have since gained more knowledge and experience with homeopathic patient care.  However, I learned that we are always learning and it never stops.  You just have to pay attention to the lessons that can come from anywhere, your teachers (obviously, that’s what they do!), your classmates, colleagues, and most importantly your patients.  All these relationships are important and that is a key lesson I have learned: the relationship between the doctor and patient is crucial to healing and is fostered in the homeopathic casetaking process.

So, just because you try the following homeopathic remedies which may or may not work for you, please keep in mind that there are many factors to the homeopathic prescription.  Homeopathic doctors prescribe remedies based on the totality of the symptom picture. We don’t just take into account your allergy symptoms, we also prescribe on your other physical, mental and emotional symptoms.  This is because you can have itchy eyes and I can have itchy eyes but how it affects you and your experience of it can be very different than my experience, perceptions and reactions to it.  This makes your prescription unique to you!

Now to the remedies:

Allium cepa (onion, think about your symptoms when chopping an onion)

  • Lots of sneezing with watery discharge and burning
  • Itchy, watery eyes – bland, non-irritating discharge
  • Symptoms are better outdoors and with splashing cold water on the

Euphrasia officinalis (eyebright flower)

  • Very red, itchy and watery eyes with burning (conjunctivitis)
  • Nasal discharge – bland
  • Very sensitive to the light and prefers to stay indoors in a dimly lit room

Arsenicum album (arsenic, don’t be scared! homeopathic remedies are very dilute and there is a minute amount of the original substance present) —

  • Sneezing with nasal burning relieved by hot compresses on the sides of the nose and breathing warm air through a humidifyer
  • Specific allergies to mould, dust and cats
  • Restlessness, tiredness, coldness of hands and feet and distressful waking in the night
  • High-strung and anxious about health

Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal in homeopathic form! see my previous blogpost on goldenseal: https://drellensimonend.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/goldenseal-a-great-herb-to-combat-spring-allergies/)

  • —Very thick yellow-green discharge from nose
  • —Mucous often forms thick crusts around the nose
  • —Constipation
  • —Averse to bread and vegetables

Sabadilla officinalis (cevadilla seed, part of the liliaceae plant family)

  • —Spasmodic fits of sneezing with a lot of discharge
  • —Itchiness of the nose and soft palate, the child will want to scratch the top of his mouth
  • —Triggered by exposure to flowers

Most homeopathic remedies can be purchased from a health food store in a 30CH potency with recommended use of letting 5 pellets dissolve under your tongue 3 times per day.  If you don’t see relief after 3 days then it is not the correct remedy for you and you can try a different one or perhaps see a homeopathic doctor for a constitutional prescription which will encompass all of your symptoms.  Homeopathic remedies do not interact with medications and supplements but it is always a good idea to consult your doctor prior to starting any new treatment.

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CBC Marketplace: Homeopathy: Cure or Con? my comments

After CBC’s show Marketplace aired an episode to discredit homeopathy I decided to write to them and let them know my opinion regarding the episode as well as some of the comments that were appearing on their website.  Below is a copy of my letter.  Feel free to comment your thoughts and opinions below.  The full episode can be watched here: http://www.cbc.ca/marketplace/2011/cureorcon/

Dear CBC:

I was disappointed by your recent show, “Con or Cure” which aired on your program Marketplace on January, 14, 2011. The “investigative reporting” was plainly biased and did not demonstrate an understanding of the basic tenets of homeopathy. Furthermore, it did not uphold the standards of professional journalism that should be a cornerstone of CBC programs. This episode has called into question the credibility of not only Marketplace, but all CBC programming.

Let me demonstrate my point.  On your webpage for the episode you fail to include any links in your “Related Documents and Links” section to either the Ontario Association of Homeopaths (www.ontariohomeopath.com), or the Ontario College of Homeopathic Medicine (www.ochm.ca). If you are indeed intending to provide individuals with information to inform themselves about the benefits and risks associated with homeopathy, these links are at minimum required. Both organizations have been advocating for regulation of homeopathy in Ontario to protect patients. The exclusion of these key players demonstrates an unwillingness on your part to allow Canadians to be a part of the discourse on homeopathy and inhibits their ability to exercise self-determination in regards to their health. This is a very troubling misstep, particularly for a public broadcasting organization.

I also found the program’s lack of understanding about the fundamental tenets of homeopathy troubling. How can Marketplace present an overwhelmingly biased position on a health practice it doesn’t understand? There is a historical context for homeopathy that went completely unexamined.  I think the public has a right to know (and Marketplace should have acknowledged that) homeopathy was the dominant form of medicine prior to the introduction of antibiotics and the shift of medicine to rely on pharmaceuticals; instead Marketplace made homeopathy look like an emerging health trend without a historical and societal context.  Were your journalists aware that homeopathy has a rich history in North America and it played a key role in the creation of the American Medical Association, it set standards for curriculum in medical schools that are still being employed today, including standardized testing to obtain a license as a physician? If they had done their jobs, they should have been able to articulate the merits of this practice and the benefits it has attributed to our current health system. A thorough history of the development of homeopathic medical theory and the spread of homeopathic medicine in North America can be found on the North American Society of Homeopaths website under this link: http://www.homeoint.org/history/king/index.htm

I would also like to broach the topic of research that was continuously discussed in the episode. Randomized trials, meta-analyses and Cochrane reviews are not the only way to determine what works and what doesn’t in the field of medicine. Research and its methods are constantly evolving and within the confines of evidence-based methods homeopathy does not perform well due to the limitations of these methods. Randomized control trials are performed to isolate a specific substance and its effect on one isolated symptom in the body.  This is a very linear approach of looking at the effects of A on B and expecting them to equal C.  However, holistic medical models such as homeopathy, traditional Chinese medicine and naturopathy view a person as an individual with many factors affecting their health and medicines in these fields are prescribed upon the totality of the symptom picture which includes mental, emotional, social, environmental and physical symptoms.  Therefore, isolating a specific symptom or a specific substance through randomized control trials will not yield results representative of how these medicines actually work because they are not currently studied in the context in which they are prescribed.

I think it is completely unethical for your journalists and web moderators to include and allow comments that call into question a homeopaths knowledge of physics and chemistry. These are personal insults and they are contrary to the code published by your organization about what is publishable and what is not. I would like to refute these comments and remind others of a basic concept in physics; the fact that all matter is energy and all energy is matter.  This is the basic concept of the particle-wave duality where a substance exists as the potential to be both matter and energy.  Its expression is based on how it is observed or the perception of the scientist/measuring instrument.  Just because you can’t observe matter in a homeopathic substance in the chemistry lab, does not mean there is not an energy wave that is associated with the matter, which has been diluted and potentized in water to that degree.  Also, if these basic physics concepts are true, this means we cannot deny that our physical bodies are made solely of energy, observable at the quantum level and that a medicine may work on this energetic level and not be detectable through instrumentation available today.  Throughout history we have observed the effects of energies we could not see or measure at the time (for example gravity) and science only came up with an explanation for the mechanism of action after the fact. If your journalists had a shred of integrity and had done research about how homeopathy works, perhaps they would have included this basic information about how homeopathy works. 

Other comments on the website described a concern about the mechanism of action. As a health practitioner, I call into question this concern.  Is it really necessary to fully understand a physical mechanism prior to prescribing a medicine which we have observed through hundreds of years of practice to have a positive healing effect on a patient? Why don’t we ask medical doctors why so many pharmaceutical drugs are prescribed for off label use without the mechanism of action being known? Would we ask medical doctors to withhold these experimental or theoretical treatments, which through experience and case studies have been shown to greatly benefit other patients in a similar situation just because the mechanism of action is not yet known?

Lastly, I’d like to challenge the sceptics  employed by your organization and those that dominate the discourse on your website to open their minds to research in quantum physics, psychology, neurology, immunology and biology which clearly shows evidence that all matter and energy are connected by a quantum field. For those unfamiliar with the basic principles of physics this explains that all theories  are under one “grand unified theory.”  (Here is a link to a great documentary and well-respected researchers who are pioneering their fields http://www.whatthebleep.com/scientists/ ). Perhaps these scientists will disprove that randomized control trials are the only way to prove something exists and create a new scientific framework where alternative medicines can be evaluated in a fair and representative manner.

Until that time, I urge CBC to examine this episode in detail and bring an equitable and balanced viewpoint to the foreground in this and all future programming. To do otherwise risks not only your credibility as a trusted organization, but by misrepresenting a health practice – you are misinforming the Canadian public about arguably the most important public issue of our time, our health.

Regards,

Ellen Simone, Naturopathic Doctor