Homeopathy: What is it?

Excerpt from Natural Baby and Childcare by Lauren Feder, M.D.



When I met five-year-old Sandro, he was covered in hives, a reaction to an antibiotic he had been administered.  He was irritable, uncomfortable, and itchy, and while Benadryl , calamine lotion, and oatmeal baths gave temporary relief, they did not solve the underlying problem, his reaction to the drug.  I gave Sandro Apis mellifica (Apis for short), a great remedy for hives as well as bee stings, and he recovered completely - without needing additional medication or suffering side effects. 


Apis is derived from honeybees - in fact, from the very venom that causes us to react to their sting - and is a good example of how homeopathy works.  Homeopathy is based on the administration of minute doses of drugs, which are capable (in their natural state) of producing symptoms like those of the disease being treated.  This principle is known as the law of similars. In other words, a substance that could cause symptoms in large amounts can heal you in minute homeopathic doses.  A common homeopathic remedy, for example, is Allium cepa (Red Onion), used to treat runny nose and red eyes from a cold or hay fever - the very symptoms red onion would cause if you were cutting it in the kitchen. 


There are over 2,000 homeopathic remedies derived from various plant, mineral, and animal substances.  Through a series of dilutions and successions, natural substances are distilled until all that is left in the medicine is their print, or essence.  Just as if you were to touch a pane of glass and leave your fingerprint, so in homeopathy the active agents of the substance remain while potential toxicity is diluted out.  The homeopathic process  done by reputable homeopathic pharmacies renders natural products non-toxic while increasing their potency, producing a safe and effective treatment for children and adults.


Homeopathy has a long history of treating both acute and chronic illnesses naturally.  The scope of this book focuses on providing you with information on how to treat simple acute problems at home. In contrast, the treatment of chronic problems, called constitutional treatment, is based on an in-depth interview in which a homeopath is gathers a great many details about your child's current condition, medical complaints, past history, lifestyle, mental and emotional attitudes, past traumas, character, and other relevant information.  This information helps a homeopath find an appropriate remedy aimed at treating chronic conditions on a mental, emotional and physical level. 


Many people view homeopathy as an alternative, and hence non-mainstream, form of medicine, but, in fact, until relatively recently homeopathy occupied a central place in American healthcare.  In Washington, D.C., only one memorial is dedicated to a physician - the founder of homeopathy, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann.  In Hahnemann’s time, in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries, patients often suffered as much from their treatments as from their illnesses:  Standard medical practices included bloodletting, leaching, and mercury poisoning.  Early in his medical career, Hahnemann rejected these injurious therapies and shifted his focus to finding a different method of healing. He called his eventual discovery homeopathy.


News of his system spread, and by the early 1800s, homeopathy had arrived in America.  Its popularity in the U.S. grew considerably after doctors used homeopathic remedies with great success during the cholera epidemic of 1849.  In addition, many people were not only seeing homeopathic doctors, but relying on homeopathic remedies to treat common mild ailments at home.  By 1900, there were over a hundred homeopathic hospitals in the U.S. alone. Conventional doctors defended their turf, however.  The American Medical Association, or AMA, began in direct response to the popularity and success of homeopathy, and effectively forced this once very mainstream medical practice to the sidelines of U.S. healthcare. 


For children, homeopathy and other forms of holistic medicine can prove to be safer and more reliable therapies than standard courses of antibiotics or over-the-counter medications.  Children’s bodies grow and change at an incredibly rapid pace, and part of their healthy development is the fine-tuning of their immune system.  Mild acute illnesses like colds and earaches are normal and healthy parts of growing up, and natural remedies allow you to treat the discomfort without interrupting the immune response.  For non-serious ailments like these, homeopathic remedies are also safe and easy for parents to administer, saving a trip to the doctor’s office and a course of antibiotics.  One Friday, for example, my son’s preschool called me to let me know that he was sick and needed to be picked up.  When I arrived, he was sitting in his teacher’s lap, crying and clutching a red and painful-looking ear.  I anticipated we would be spending the weekend nursing an earache, so at home I decided to give himBelladonna, herbal ear drops (Garlic-Mullein oil), and an onion poultice, and he went to bed early.  The next day, to my surprise, he was in good spirits and had no further complaints about his ear.


Stories like this are common in my practice, and demonstrate the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies for children.  These substances counteract symptoms, but they do not interfere with a young body’s natural inclination to heal itself.  Allowing the body to work through all the stages of healing is important at any age, but particularly for children, who are developing the immune systems that will keep them healthy through the rest of their lives. Moreover, the homeopathic approach is child-friendly. Most children love the sweet taste of the remedies.

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