31 March 2010
Homeopathic View of Disease
An understanding of the concepts of health and disease from a homeopathic perspective is fundamental to comprehending the law of similars. The relationship of health versus disease can best be understood by examining the interaction of people and their environment. The nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system initiate and control the body's response to environmental pressures. These pressures may include internal or external factors such as inherited genetic weakness, emotional stress, mental or physical strain, injuries, environmental pollutants, bacteria and viruses, or nutritional deficiencies. If a person’s adaptive powers are strong enough to withstand the disruptive effect of these influences, health prevails. On the other hand, disease results if pressures stress the individual's adaptive powers beyond his or her ability to cope. Whether successful or not in the attempt to adapt, the body always strives for health. Consequently, a sick person’s symptoms represent an attempt to overcome internal and external stresses and stimuli in an effort to re-establish health. The symptoms are not the result of these stimuli, but rather an expression of the body and mind’s reaction to the stimuli.
Though people vary tremendously in their ability to adapt to stress in the environment, the homeopathic prescriber is concerned with all of the factors that are associated with the onset of a person's health problems. Characteristics such as oversensitivity, insecurity, lack of self-confidence, or laziness are important in understanding the nature of a person's illness and in choosing the correct remedy. Illnesses often date back to events which resulted in grief, worry, disappointed love, or childhood neglect.
Homeopathic philosophy contends that from birth until death the individual is reacting with his or her environment in the most intelligent way possible. A vital healing force is always moving in the direction of greater overall balance for the whole person, and this healing force is clearly expressed in every mental, emotional, and physical symptom. The symptoms of an illness are a clear expression of this intelligence at work attempting to re-establish a state of health. In this context a fever or nasal discharge represents the body's attempt to fight infection, and giving a medicinal substance that encourages the immune reaction should generally help this immune response. This is precisely what the homeopathic remedy does because it works to stimulate the body in a similar way and in the same direction as the person’s own response to illness.
The homeopathic prescriber obtains information about the cause of disease by studying the body's reaction to it. This reaction is depicted by symptoms such as fever, cough, diarrhea, or pain. Based on the law of similars, a remedy is chosen which reinforces the symptoms that are representative of the mind and body attempting to heal itself.
Not only can homeopathic remedies treat disease, they can also prevent it. Even if there is no specific diagnosis of the group of symptoms and all diagnostic studies are within the normal range, homeopathic treatment is possible. This is because the symptom complex is an accurate expression of the forces of the disease process. There are signals or sensations of illness that may appear long before actual tissue damage takes place. By administering the appropriate homeopathic remedy, a disease process may be halted before it progresses to pathological changes. In this respect, homeopathy can be a preventive medical system.
For example, conventional allopathic doctors generally disregard the liver as being the source of illness unless liver enzymes are elevated. Only when these blood-test changes occur, or when X-ray proves pathological destruction, ultrasonic scan, or biopsy, will medicine be given. Even then, few drugs are considered effective in such liver diseases as hepatitis or cirrhosis. The homeopath, on the other hand, recognizes that certain changes in mind and body are signs of underlying liver dysfunction. Even if the liver enzymes are normal, symptoms such as a heavily coated tongue, vague abdominal pain in the right upper side, sluggishness in the morning, and a melancholy mood or hypochondriasis all suggest liver dysfunction. The homeopathic physician prescribes a remedy based upon the totality of these symptoms so that the liver functioning can return to normal. In this way, symptoms are eliminated and potential diseases are prevented. Similarly, other vague or poorly treated illnesses, such as viral infections or allergies, respond well to homeopathy, using the symptoms, which the mind and body produces as a guide to prescribing.
It is fundamental in homeopathy to view the symptoms of an illness as a curative response by the entire organism. This means that, despite the presence of symptoms in various parts of the body such as the skin, lungs, or joints, there is nevertheless only one illness present. Each symptom is related to another, forming a single condition. In homeopathic treatment, the one medicine, which can produce the entire constellation of symptoms in a healthy person, is administered to cure the ailing person.
Homeopathic View of Health
Homeopathic philosophy views health as a dynamic ongoing process in which a person constantly meets challenges in a positive way. Health is not simply the absence of disease, but represents the person’s constant adaptation to internal and external stresses. From this perspective, a person who has a chronic illness such as arthritis who continually strives to have a positive attitude and takes responsibility for doing appropriate joint loosening exercises, may be healthier than a person who is pain free but is stubborn, constantly angry, or hypercritical.
Emotional health is characterized by a person who feels and experiences the full gamut of human feelings, including love, anger, jealousy, compassion, and sadness. The individual who is emotionally healthy does not become overwhelmed by these feelings, does not feel enslaved by emotions, and does not dwell or brood on negative thoughts. Mental health is characterized by calmness, courage, patience, clarity of thinking, and creativity. Even after disappointment or loss of a loved one, emotionally healthy people are able to adjust to new life circumstances with reserves of strength.
Vital ForceThe concept of the vital force is fascinating and integral to understanding homeopathic medicine. This concept helps to explain the dynamics of how the potentized remedy interacts with the sick person to affect a cure. Vital force is not a biochemical entity. Rather, it is a bio-electrical energy that effects a human's mental and physical functioning. It is that quality which animates living organisms and constantly seeks homeostasis and health in an inherently intelligent way.
All aspects of nature, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal, also have underlying energy patterns. Homeopathic remedies are derived from these three kingdoms. The energy pattern or vital force of these remedies is enhanced by potentization and when matched with the vital force of people, promotes a healing response.
Homeopathy maintains that the vital force permeates all levels of human existence - body, mind, and spirit - and is similar to the energy stimulated by acupuncture needles. People are viewed as a dynamic whole, with the vital force acting as the integrating factor. Healthy people have a particular quality or pattern to their vital force, but when they become sick this subtle energy is distorted. Even during illness this healing force reacts in the most self-preserving manner, and its plan is clearly articulated through the symptom complex.
In homeopathy, energy qualities of the remedy (as revealed by the proving of the remedy) are matched with the unhealthy person's energy qualities (as revealed by physical, mental, and emotional symptoms). Through the law of similars, unhealthy people can be cured. Perhaps the similar vibratory qualities of the remedy and the sick person produce a harmonic resonance that helps to balance the person's vital force.6
Western medical science describes the defense mechanisms of the human organism as a physiochemical phenomenon. Antibodies, lymphocytes, gamma globulin, and interferon are thought to somehow interact to protect and rid the body of internal or external disease agents. The factors that underlie their functioning, however, remain elusive. Homeopathic theory states that it is the vital force which underlies these defense mechanisms. If the vital force is aligned, then the defenses maintain homeostasis; if the life force is disturbed, illness results.
Allopathic medicine acknowledges that disease can result from the defective functioning of "physiologic energy," which generates heat, enhances metabolism, and along with various enzymes is responsible for maintaining important physiochemical reactions in the body. These latter energy reactions are responsible for the transmission of nerve impulses and production of ATP or cellular energy from oxygen and glucose. However, allopathic medicine does not recognize that disease and disharmony can manifest on a subtler energy level. As a consequence, no treatment is directed towards eliminating illness that reflects these energy imbalances.
The energy referred to in homeopathy is more fundamental and subtle and underlies the physiologic energy of the body. Without this deep energy, the biochemical reactions could not occur. However, technology has not been developed to a sufficient degree to analyze this vital energy. We cannot assume from that, however, that the energy is not real. Two hundred years ago people would have scoffed at the idea of electrical energy, and not long ago the concept of nuclear energy might have seemed preposterous. As technology advanced, these energies were isolated, channeled, and reproduced with amazing rapidity and skill. Eastern medical traditions and a few branches of Western medicine have discovered that the underlying subtle energy is not only real, but is also fundamental to health and disease. In time it may be recognized in traditional allopathic medicine. Perhaps the modern technologies of nuclear magnetic resonance (MRI), PET scanners, or electron spectrometry will someday be able to detect the energy described by homeopathy.
Susceptibility to Disease
Homeopathic philosophy has long understood the importance of susceptibility to disease. Individuals are continuously exposed to bacteria and viruses but do not always get sick. People actually have potentially deadly bacteria growing in their bodies. This includes meningococcus in the nasal-pharynx, which can cause severe meningitis, and pneumococcus that grows in the bronchial tubes and can cause pneumonia. What keeps people from getting these diseases is their underlying susceptibility and the ability of their immune systems to maintain health.
This susceptibility or predisposition to illnesses can also help explain why certain people respond to loss of a loved one or job with anger or extreme depression and others feel sad yet continue to lead productive lives.
Homeopathic practitioners recognize that the underlying susceptibility to disease is based on such complex factors as hereditary predisposition, childhood experiences, emotional traumas, accidents, life habits, and psychological attitudes. All of these factors effect and interact with a person’s immune and nervous systems to lower or increase susceptibility to disease. Homeopaths believe this interaction is coordinated in an intelligent, coherent way by the person’s vital force. It is this underlying energy on which the homeopathic remedy acts. The remedy activates the vital force when the immune system and other psychophysiologic factors need stimulation, such as in the case of colds, influenza, injuries, or depression. The homeopathic remedy also acts to reduce the activity of the immune or nervous system when they are overly stimulated, such as in the case of allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, or anxiety
Hering's Laws of Cure
Constantine Hering (1800-1880) is considered the father of American homeopathy and was responsible formany valuable contributions to medicine. Based upon his observation of mental, emotional, and physical symptoms as a barometer of the overall health of a person, he was able to measure improvement or deterioration of health. Hering's "Laws of Cure" state that:
- Healing moves from the deepest and most vital parts of the person (mental and emotional states and vital organs such as the brain, heart, or kidneys) to the most superficial and least vital parts of the person (joints, extremities, skin).
- Healing moves from the upper parts of the body to the lower parts.
- As healing progresses, symptoms disappear in the reverse order of their appearance. Healing moves from the most vital to least vital parts of the person.
The natural direction of cure is always outward or centrifugal as the organism attempts to establish homeostasis by externalizing disease. Although a person may complain of one or several limiting physical complaints, there are often mental or emotional problems that actually preceded the physical problem. It is uncommon to see a person with a physical problem without a pre-existing or associated psychological or emotional component such as anxiety, depression, or irritability.
Homeopaths believe that physical symptoms often relieve or decrease pressures that build up internally and limit mental and emotional freedom. Seen from this perspective, the physical symptom represents the healing force's ability to externalize the disease process and preserve the integrity of the more vital mental and emotional life. Mental and emotional health may be considered more crucial than physical health. An extreme example is a person who is paraplegic as a result of multiple sclerosis but is relatively balanced in mental and emotional functions. This person may be healthier and more able to enjoy a high quality of life than a schizophrenic with few physical limitations but with a delusional and paranoid mind.
There is also a hierarchy of which organs are more inner and vital. An example is seen in the condition of shock, either due to hemorrhage of blood or massive infection. To sustain life when a person is in shock, blood is shunted away from the less important organs to the most vital ones. The outer skin becomes cold and blue due to the redistribution of blood, and the intestinal tract and kidneys shut down. The majority of blood flow is to the brain and heart: the two organs that are most vital to sustaining human life.
Through its effect on the vital healing force, the homeopathic remedy acts as a channel for smooth, efficient transmission of the disease process from the mind to the body and finally out of the organism. If the first sign of an illness appears in the mental and emotional realm, treatment must take these symptoms into account. The person must first feel better subjectively if cure is proceeding in the proper direction. Physical symptoms, such as a skin rash, may get worse as the cure is taking place and the disease is being externalized to the least vital parts of the organism.
Cure moves from above downwards.
Symptoms move from higher areas of the body to lower areas during the curative process. For example, eczema that is being treated with a homeopathic remedy often descends from the eyelids to the elbows to the knees before disappearing. Sensations such as pain or tingling also progress in a downward direction when the person is improving. The reverse direction will often be found in cases where eczema or pain worsen.
Symptoms disappear in the reverse order of their appearance.
Detailed analysis of symptom regression has shown that as the person improves, the symptoms that appeared last are the first to disappear, while those symptoms, which appeared earlier, disappear later.
The reverse of these laws is also true in that disease progresses from superficial and less vital body parts to deeper and more vital areas; and that disease spreads from the lower parts of the body to the uppermost parts. This law exemplifies that the nature of disease is not random or mysterious. Natural laws govern all forms of life, and it is illogical to assume that health is an exception.
If medicinal treatments are given for ailments without a thorough understanding of their origin and without an understanding of the whole person and the predictable patterns of disease progression or regression, the natural defense mechanism may be suppressed and a poorer state of health may result. For example, a typical problem often seen by homeopathic prescribers is infantile eczema. Allopathic doctors usually treat these skin eruptions with cortisone creams, but the underlying process and individual symptom pattern is neglected. Topical treatment of eczema is often suppressive and forces the problem inward. If the suppression is chronic, the skin symptoms may improve while the destructive force shifts to the internal organs. Classically, the lungs are affected and bronchial infections and possibly asthma result. In fact, homeopaths believe that most cases of asthma and eczema are the same disease. The eruptions and skin appearance so characteristic of eczema can be pushed further inward, affecting the mental state of the child, resulting in symptoms such as irritability and temper tantrums. The centrifugal healing response is suppressed, and there is an inward progression of disease. The deeper organs, and finally the mind, are affected because there is no way to release the disease through less harmful areas such as the skin. The original process becomes more deeply entrenched (as the eczema is suppressed and the disease has spread from less vital areas to more vital ones). In the process of cure, the homeopathic prescriber carefully observes the progression of symptoms. True cure occurs only if the mental state first improves and then the asthma is relieved. The external skin symptoms may reappear and then improve later in the course of treatment, as the centrifugal healing response is re-established.
A disease can be viewed as an obstacle, similar to a wall that a hiker must climb to continue a journey. As the hiker attempts to climb the wall, a boost may be given and the obstacle easily overcome, just as the homeopathic remedy assists the vital force's attempt to overcome obstacles to health.
On the other hand, a person can be pushed to the bottom as he or she attempts to climb over the wall. The force is applied in a direction opposite to the desired movement. This is similar to the dynamics of allopathic drug actions. Although it may temporarily reduce the discomfort of the climb, being pushed to the bottom of the wall does not help the hiker continue the journey since he or she is simply avoiding the problem. Similarly, an allopathic drug will not help the defense mechanism overcome challenges. That wall may have to be met sooner or later. If pushed to the bottom repeatedly, a person may become weak and frustrated, and the wall may become insurmountable. When this analogy is applied to health, it is seen that after repeated suppressions the defense mechanism becomes progressively weaker, the symptoms of illness are continuously present, and a chronic disease state exists.
The idea of suppression is very important in understanding homeopathy, especially when treating chronic illness. While this program deals mostly in acute illnesses, the concept is important to explain for a more complete understanding of homeopathy.
Allopathic View of Disease
Allopathy is the form of medicinal treatment that is used by most doctors in this country. It is a system for prescribing medicinal substances according to principles other than the law of similars. Allopathy is derived from the Greek root allo, meaning other or different, and means "Other treatment of disease." Hahnemann coined the word to describe the treatment based on the law of contraries and all other treatments not prescribed strictly in accord with the principles of homeopathy.
The forerunners of today's allopathic doctors were certain physicians of Greek and then Roman eras. They gradually replaced the importance of the abstract and indefinable vital healing force of the organism with an emphasis upon understanding the individual in terms of physiochemical laws. They began to view the body as a material and mechanical entity and sought to understand it through the laws of physiology, chemistry, and physics. The role of the vital healing force was neglected because it could not be measured with these tools.
Galen was a second-century physician whose extensive work and writings did much to establish allopathic theory as we know it today. Galen postulated a concept of disease based upon his knowledge of the body obtained through anatomy and physiology. He postulated that the vital healing force existed only as it was expressed in the various organs of the body, with each organ having its own behavior and manifesting certain qualities that could be rationally studied. This approach downplayed the functioning of the organism as a whole and instead focused on the many parts. Galen's teachings, with emphasis on the organ systems of the body as the key to understanding and treating disease, are easily recognized in modern allopathic medicine. Modern medicine is a highly subdivided profession with kidney, heart, or lung specialists who study disease processes as they eventually appear in these organs, and who use the physical laws of the scientific method.7
Allopathic medicine has traditionally tried to understand the cause of disease by examining its effects. Bacteria, tumors, and toxic products of metabolism, which are found in diseased tissues, are seen as causes of disease, whereas they might actually be the result of disease when viewed from the homeopathic perspective. Experimental science, using the same laws of chemistry and physiology as allopathic medicine, supports the allopathic approach as truly "scientific." However, the subtle factors that influence the appearance of disease, such as the individual's lack of internal resistance to environmental stresses, are disregarded in this methodology. In other words, factors which are important in the cause of disease but which cannot be studied by rational and reductionistic methods are overlooked by allopathic medicine. Also, since allopathy is oriented toward diagnosis using pathology as a guide, diagnosis and treatment of many states of ill health are vague or non-existent when tissue studies and laboratory tests are normal.
The body's innate intelligence, expressed through the symptoms that it produces, is ignored as instead the body's physiochemical properties are analyzed. The symptoms are not viewed as a reaction to disease but as the result of disease. They are considered abnormal by the allopath and, in accord with the law of contraries, medicinal substances that have an opposite effect are administered to eliminate the symptoms. From the homeopathic view, medicines applied according to this principle go "against the grain of the wood" in that they oppose or suppress the person’s healing response. Repeated exposure to these treatment principles, or even their occasional application in an individual with weak powers of resistance, may lead to further weakening of the individual's defense mechanism.
Psychiatry is one branch of traditional allopathic medicine, which has some appreciation of the problems that may result from suppressing symptoms. Psychotherapists contend that thoughts, feelings, and emotions that arise from the conscious and subconscious mind represent the person's reaction to psychological trauma. Greater mental and emotional health ensues as these thoughts and feelings are recognized, accepted, and integrated with greater understanding into the person's life. On the other hand, denial of strong feelings leads to the development of defenses, which may suppress these feelings into deeper layers of the conscious and unconscious mind and eventually lead to more severe mental and psychological limitation.
Allopathy's real strengths are in the same areas where this system has focused its emphasis. Anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and pathology are highly developed. Technical aspects of surgery and laboratory diagnosis are highly sophisticated. The weakness of the system is its lack of attention to the dynamic and energetic nature of the human organism in disease progression and regression. Ultimately, the result has been the adoption of a fragmented system of medicinal therapeutics.
In traditional medical training in this country the approach to therapy is generally considered to be medicine first (i.e. allopathic medicine) and surgery second. This means that since medicine is relatively less invasive than surgery, medicine should always be the first choice to control a health problem. Those practicing homeopathic medicine try to use homeopathy first, allopathic medicine second, and surgery third. The reason for this is that homeopathy actually strengthens the sick person, which is preferable to drugs that do not enhance the person's resistance to disease but merely strive to reduce or eliminate the most distressing symptoms.
Obviously, surgery remains the first choice for illnesses such as some injuries from accidents, gunshot wounds, and other such forms of trauma. It can also be helpful as an adjunct to managing chronic disease, for example replacement of scarred heart valves resulting from rheumatic fever, total hip replacements in advanced arthritis, or removal of a cancerous tumor. But, although the surgery may be successful, it may be naive to consider the person cured without carefully assessing lifestyle, eating habits, and ways of coping with stress, which may have lowered the person's resistance and allowed the cancer, arthritis, or heart disease to begin.
Allopathic medicines can be helpful in the nonsurgical management of disease. Some examples include the drugs used to resuscitate people in cardiac arrest, medicines used to treat advanced pathologic diseases such as insulin in diabetes and digitalis in heart failure, and antimicrobial drugs such as penicillin used in bacterial meningitis or other serious or life-threatening infections.
Health care should selectively include all therapy that is available and appropriate. The first choice should be modalities that strengthen the person, resulting in less susceptibility and more resistance to disease.