What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is essentially a system of natural healing. Remedies, which are medicines based on animal vegetable or mineral substances, are given to help stimulate the body’s natural forces of recovery. Homeopathy concentrates on treating the person as a whole rather than just the disease.
History of Homeopathy
The concept of homeopathy was first put forward by Hippocrates. However the person really responsible for it’s development was a German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann, born in 1755. As an experiment he took some cinchona bark – quinine, and was amazed to find that he developed the symptoms of malaria, the disease that quinine was supposed to treat. From this discovery came the basic homeopathic principle of “Like Cures Like”. A substance which causes symptoms in a healthy person can cure disease manifesting those same symptoms. E.g. if a healthy person takes Belladonna, Deadly Nightshade, they may develop a fever, very flushed face and become delirious. Belladonna, the homeopathic remedy is often used to treat children with high temperatures from whatever cause, when they have red hot burning faces and become a bit disorientated or delirious.
Hahnemann, after this initial discovery, tried out various other substances on his family and friends and gradually developed a series of medicines. As a lot of these substances were poisonous he diluted them down and also “energised” the medicines by a process called succession.
Homeopathy became widespread throughout Europe in the years that followed. There are many examples of it’s success, e.g. during the cholera epidemic in 1854 in Britain. The death rate in the London Homeopathic hospital was 16.4% compared to 51.8% at the conventional hospitals (Figures are confirmed in the British Museum records)
Scientific Basis of Homeopathy
In the last 2 years, the scientific explanation for homeopathy has started to be discovered. French scientists have found that each remedy has a molecular energy of its own, and this can be picked up by NMR scans. So each remedy has its own unique
NMR trace. The theory is, that molecules of a substance vibrate at their own characteristic rate. During the preparation of the remedies, i.e. dilution and succession, the energy of a particular substance is imprinted into the water molecules. So it is not necessary for a molecule of the original substance to be left in the water for the remedy to be effective. In fact the more the remedy is diluted and “energized” the more potent it becomes. This answers one of the popular misconceptions of homeopathy, that there is nothing left but water and therefore how can it work. The new phrase used by scientists today is “energy medicine”.
What are remedies and how are they used?
Remedies are extracts of animal, vegetable or mineral substances. Many are plants, which is why homeopathy is often confused with herbal medicine.
A remedy is selected according to the symptoms that a person or animal may have, rather than by the name of the disease. E.g. if a cat presented with a yellow/green nasal discharge, sneezing, high temperature and was better for being outside and was thirst less, it would be given the remedy Pastille. If another cat was presented with sneezing, high temperature a clearish nasal discharge was thirsty and restless it would be given the remedy Aconite. If these cats were treated conventionally they would both be given the diagnosis of “cat flu” and be treated with antibiotics. This is not to say that one method of treatment is better than the other, it is just to illustrate the differences in prescribing.
So it can be seen that there is no “cat flu” remedy or “diarrhoea” remedy. The remedy given depends on the particular symptoms of the individual person or animal.
Remedies are also not given as frequently as conventional medicines. One, two or three doses of a remedy may be sufficient to stimulate the body’s natural defenses. Once the symptoms have stopped it is important to stop the remedy, to continue the remedy too long may be harmful. Exceptions to this are in chronic disease e.g. arthritis where there is an ongoing problem that may require ongoing treatment.
The remedies come in tablet or liquid forms. I may prescribe 1 or 2 doses of a daily dose depending on the animal and it’s condition.
What happens in a consultation?
A homeopathy consult usually takes 40 – 50 minutes and a great number of question are asked about the animal and its problems but also about it’s diet, environment and personality so an accurate picture can be built up. Then a remedy is selected that most fits that picture. The consultation usually takes about 40 – 50 minutes. Sometimes I need several days to ‘study the case’. Remedies can then be collected or posted to you.
What can homeopathy treat?
Most conditions respond to homeopathy. However it is always important to have your animal examined by a veterinary surgeon initially so a diagnosis can be made and any serious clinical problems identified.
It must be remembered that there is a difference between “ the repair of the man and the repair of his house”. If someone has a broken leg, the fracture must first be stabilized by conventional orthopaedic surgery before the fracture will heal properly. Homeopathic remedies can be given to aid in the process e.g. to reduce bruising, treat shock and to stimulate the healing of the bone, but they should not be used alone in such cases. Similarly, in the case of a pyometra, cure will not occur without first removing the infected uterus. Also with conditions such as diabetes or hypothyroidism, there is a need to replace in the body that which is missing i.e. insulin or thyroid hormone , before cure can take place.
Where homeopathy can be particularly useful is in cases where conventional medicine has little to offer, e.g. acute viral infections such as cat flu. Or chronic recurring conditions such as arthritis or chronic URT infections. Emotional or psychological problems respond very well to homeopathy e.g. Urine spraying by cats, separation anxiety and fears such as fear of thunderstorms or fireworks. Travel sickness is often successfully treated homeopathically and a major area of success is accidents and emergencies.
Homeopathy should just be considered as another method of treating disease. It can be used on its own or alongside conventional treatment. It is another service veterinary surgeons can offer in these days of increased awareness of complementary health care. The more ways we have of ensuring our patients recover, must surely be for the better.
Homeopathy at Mercer and Hughes – Ilse Pedler
I qualified as a Veterinary Surgeon from Cambridge University in 1989 and I started work at Mercer and Hughes soon afterwards. I became a director in 1992. I have always had an interest in homeopathy and attended several day courses at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital before starting the 3 year Homeopathic Physicians Teaching Group Course for Veterinary Surgeons in Oxford, I gained a diploma of Vet Homeopathy in November 2001. I have written many articles on complementary therapies for magazines and I am an active member of the (BAHVS) British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons.
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Ilse Pedler MA, Vet MB, Vet MFHom, MRCVS