people with a physical disability, such as spinal cord injury (SCI) or
dysfunction, have no escape from a life filled with medications.
Although clearly providing benefits, these drugs often have side effects
and have no proof of safety or effectiveness if taken in combination.
How many problems are aggravated by overmedication? What is going to happen if life-saving antibiotics are no
longer effective because of their continued misuse?
To reduce the medication burden associated with
spinal cord injury or dysfunction, we need alternatives that augment
body defenses. Homeopathy - a holistic therapy - is one such alternative
More than 2,000 years ago,
Hippocrates, the father
of western medicine, said: “Through the like, disease is produced, and
through the application of the like, disease is cured.” Using this
philosophy, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann developed
homeopathy as a medical discipline in the late 18th and early
19th centuries. He discovered that substances that cause
symptoms of illness in a healthy person could be used in exceedingly low
doses to cure similar symptoms when they result from illness.
For years, homeopathy was very popular. Compared to
the relatively backward methodology (e.g., blood letting, toxic drugs,
etc.) of 19th century conventional medicine, homeopathy was
gentle and effective. After Queen Victoria became an advocate, it became
a health-care stable of the English royal family. During various
epidemics, the death rate in homeopathic hospitals was much lower than
that in conventional hospitals. By the turn of the century, America had
22 homeopathic medical schools and more than 100 homeopathic hospitals.
In spite of its popularity, homeopathy clashed with
conventional medicine’s objectives and beliefs. Founded in part to
fight homeopathy, the American Medical Association (AMA) waged a medical
“holy war” against the discipline.
For example, AMA members could not be or consult with homeopaths.
Because the nonpatentable homeopathic medicines could not generate
profits, AMA found an ally with the drug companies. Through political
mechanisms, homeopathic schools were stigmatized and regulated out of
existence, a process accelerated by conventional medicine’s
breakthroughs in treating disease. By 1950, no schools and few
practitioners remained in America.
Although abating somewhat, dogmatic opposition to
homeopathy continues to this day, as demonstrated recently by a state
medical board revoking the license of a homeopathy-practicing physician.
In recent years, however, homeopathy has seen a
renaissance driven by consumers and their desire for alternative
health-care options. Currently, homeopathic products are available in
most pharmacies. Because of their long history of safe use and small
doses, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows selling them
without prescription (i.e., over-the-counter drugs). Although most
consumers buy these products on their own, there are now several
thousand homeopath practitioners in the country, representing a variety
of professional disciplines.
Conventional medicine focuses on suppressing
symptoms or diseases in isolation from the whole person. Because
symptoms represent the body’s effort to heal itself,
symptom-suppressing drugs (e.g., reducing fever) are counter productive.
In contrast, homeopathy attempts to enhance the body’s natural
defenses and vital force. Although homeopathy also focuses on symptoms,
it does so from a highly individualized, big-picture,
With homeopathy, an individual receives an
exceedingly low dose of substance that produces the same symptoms when
the substance is given at toxic levels. For example, toxic doses of
arsenic cause diarrhea, weakness, restlessness and anxiety. When people
have the same symptoms due to illness, they can be cured by extremely
dilute homeopathic solutions of arsenic. Similarly, ultra-dilute
homeopathic preparations of coffee are used to treat insomnia and
For homeopathy to work best, the patient’s
symptom profile must closely match the toxic symptoms produced by the
substance when given at a high dose. These toxic symptoms have been
documented for thousands of substances. If the symptom match is close,
the treatment can be amazingly effective. The disease name is relatively
unimportant. Because ultra-diluted homeopathic remedies have few adverse
effects, they can be safely used in combination with other medications.
Homeopathic solutions are prepared by a
“potentization” process, in which a mother tincture is serially
diluted and shaken. In each
cycle, one part of the solution is diluted with nine parts of water and
vigorously shaken. The cycle is repeated many times. When a solution has
been diluted like this thirty times, it is called 30X.
The common homeopathic preparation belladonna 30X represents a
one to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (30 zeros) dilution!
Although extraordinarily dilute, homeopathic medicines are highly active
or potent due to the vigorous shaking between each dilution.
Paradoxically, if the symptoms are closely matched,
the most dilute solutions are the most powerful. Many homeopathic
products sold in pharmacies tend to target a specific disorder (e.g.,
flu, hay fever, insomnia, etc.) - not symptoms.
As such, lower potencies (not serially diluted as much) are used,
often in combination. This cover-all-bases approach may or may not work.
Although based on years of hands-on clinical
observations, homeopathy could not be explained by the usual biochemical
mechanisms inherent in most physiological processes. Basically, the
preparations are so dilute that statistically no molecules or atoms
remain. Hence, no matter how effective the preparations appeared to be,
critics concluded if nothing was there, they could not work. They
dismissed any positive results as due to a psychological placebo effect,
ignoring that it worked in unconscious individuals, children, animals,
and isolated organs and cells. Furthermore,
over the last 20 years a number of homeopathy preparations have proven
to be effective in clinical trials rigorously designed to eliminate
Mechanism: Scientists, who have started to apply quantum physics,
chaos, and complexity theory to understanding living systems now believe
that homeopathy’s effects are mediated indirectly by an
electromagnetic mechanism. Using sophisticated nuclear magnetic
resonance, researchers have shown that homeopathic agents modify the
electromagnetic structure of water. This modification is perpetuated
through the potentization process and is not diminished but strengthened
with increased cycles of dilution and shaking.
Even when a homeopathic solution has been filtered to eliminate
any remaining molecules, it still possesses activity. Therefore,
although the substance, itself, may have been diluted out, its imprint
The snowflake also demonstrates the ability of
water to have a “memory.” Although
each snowflake is unique, it can be melted and then frozen back into its
Consistent with an electromagnetic mechanism,
homeopathic effects are destroyed if heated or subjected to magnetic
fields. No direct contact with the homeopathic preparation is needed.
Specifically, a homeopathic preparation enclosed within a glass vial has
been shown to mediate biological effects.
Complexity Theory: Researchers explain the translation of
homeopathy’s subtle electromagnetic energy into physiological effects
using chaos and complexity theory. Basically, under these theories, the
flap of a butterfly’s wing in the Sahara can lead to a hurricane
hitting the Gulf Coast (it also explained how the dinosaurs got loose in
the movie Jurassic Park).
These theories challenge the scientific reductionism perspective that
whole (e.g., the body) can be understood by breaking down and studying
each piece (e.g., organs, hormonal systems, etc.). For example, if a billiard ball is fired against other balls,
it is impossible to predict trajectories after a few ricochets, even
under ideal circumstances. Nevertheless, scientists attempt to predict
outcomes in much more complex systems such as the human body.
With disease, the body’s healthy equilibrium has
broken down. Due to the complexity of physiological systems, achieving
this healthy equilibrium again in any single patient using conventional
approaches is difficult.
In contrast, homeopathy’s strength is based on
this complexity. Because a homeopathic remedy is chosen based on an
in-depth matching of individual symptoms, it most likely interacts with
the same specific, complex, systems involved in producing the disease.
Through subtle electromagnetic effects, homeopathy cures because it
affects the complexity of the “forest as a whole and not just single
tree in isolation” as do conventional drugs. It is the uniquely
appropriate “butterfly wing’s flap” that is needed to shift the
body back to health.
Because homeopathy has the potential to effectively
treat most ailments, it provides a real opportunity for individuals with
spinal cord injury and dysfunction to reduce their heavy medication
burden. By enhancing the body’s natural defenses, homeopathy should be
tried first before using conventional medication. However, if you are
already using conventional drugs, you can also try homeopathic remedies
because they have few, if any, side effects. Regardless of the outcome,
you have little to lose and perhaps much to gain.
Homeopathic medicines work best when they closely
match the individual’s unique symptoms. To some degree, you can do
their own matching by consulting consumer guides available in
bookstores. Even when remedies are based on disease instead of symptoms,
the results can be considerable. For example, a popular homeopathic
preparation called oscilococcinum has been proven to be effective in
treating flu. Although more hit or miss, some homeopathic combination
products (i.e., containing multiple ingredients) can be effective. For
example, they can quickly clear up some urinary tract infections (UTIs).
To obtain the most effective remedies for disorders
associated with spinal cord injury or dysfunction, you should see a
professional homeopath. However, if this is not feasible, one may
benefit from occasionally take several doses of Hypericum (30X or 30C).
Isolated from St. John’s wort, Hypericum can potentially help
nerve-related injuries, including acute and chronic spinal cord injury
or conditions aggravated as a result of SCI.
Other homeopathic remedies that may help for spinal
cord injury include Arnica, Cocculus, Natrum sulph, Aurum metallium,
Heleborus, Aconitum, and a combination remedy called Traumeel.
Homeopaths believe that in the future, emergency medical technicians
will administer homeopathic medicines at accident scenes to minimize
Although little formal research has been carried
out on individuals with spinal cord dysfunction, in a recently completed
study, Dr. Edward Chapman of Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation
Hospital demonstrated that homeopathy significantly lessens the symptoms
and improves the functioning of individuals with mild chronic head
injury. Given these results, it is reasonable to expect that homeopathic
preparations also would help for spinal cord injury.
By enhancing the body’s natural defenses,
homeopathy provides a real opportunity for individuals with spinal cord
injury or dysfunction to reduce their heavy medication burden. Unlike
some alternative treatments, homeopathy is supported by a long history
of safe use, many methodologically sound clinical studies, and evolving
Information: For further information, including homeopathic
practitioners in your area, consult the following:
The Consumer’s Guide to
Homeopathy: The Definitive Resource for Understanding Homeopathic
Medicine and Making it Work for You, Dana Ullman, G.P., Putman’s
Homeopathic Educational Services, 2124 Kittredge, Berkeley, CA
94704 510/649-0294. (www.homeopathic.com).
National Center for Homeopathy, 801 North Fairfax St. ,Suite 306,
Alexandria, VA 22314, 703/548-7792 (www.homeopathic.org)
from an article appearing in the January 1999 issue of Paraplegia
News (For subscriptions, contact www.pn-magazine.com).