Homeopathy, a possible panacea that is brushed off as placebo


S. Ainavolu

2/23/2022 7 min read

Homeopathy, a possible panacea that is brushed off as placebo – Revisiting the experiences and reflecting on the potential

Homeopathy draws its name from the understanding that similar cures. Taking the first principle of homeopathy, ‘similia similibus curanter’ meaning like cures like, the name is apt and direct. For the unintroduced, the symptoms (or disease) that are caused by a substance shall be cured by the same material. In other words, if one had been abusing common salt by excessively consuming it in various food items including fast food and ready to eat, the set of symptoms one develops shall again be cured by common salt, albeit in a diluted but ‘potentized’ manner. This is the essence of the treating philosophy of homeopathy, the wise say.

Early exposure and experiences

First memories of homeopathy were when I could first remember, say by the age of three or so. One serene and kind old man whom I used to address as ‘grandpa’ equivalent used to visit our home to treat a senior member. Intuitively I knew he was a ‘doctor’ but the appearance and the ambience were not like the clinic I was taken to on occasions, possibly for vaccinations. Homeo doctor was engaging, calm and reassuring. Perhaps he was in his late fifties then and with a flowing white beard. In fact he was not a trained doctor but picked up homeopathy as a serious hobby and helped thousands through various interventions over forty or more years. All along, he worked for telephones department, I learned later. Like the method, he was gentle and very kind in his dealings with his ‘patients.’ Again I learned later, he never charged money, but it was his way of serving the society. Now I can say both the method and the ‘model’ were different. This was in the town of Warangal before mid-1970s. Times were different and people too, one may quip, but the ambience and the engagement left a serious positive impression on self.

In mid 1970s during the posting of my father as head of a teacher’s training institute at Adilabad, another district headquarter town another doctor practicing homeopathy was the family doctor. He was a qualified doctor with a small clinic and he was courteous not only to the visiting family but also to their pet dog Tommy, who was always well-behaving. This time, being the recipient of the ‘remedies’, we kids were more than happy as there are no ‘injections’ or big tablets. We got sweet pills and the cork cap on the bottle was a special attraction, as we could play with it after the bottle got emptied. Neither can remember what was ‘administered’ nor why? Only memory was he was very assuring and gentle to kids and respectful to elders. Possibly he was in his late thirties or so then, and vague memory is of his brother who was a student of our father then. These two were the early homeo doctors I remember in this lifetime and met dozens in the last two decades, many virtually.

Origin, philosophy and source materials

Homeopathy or homeo as it is popularly known as originated in Europe, and Dr Samuel Hahnemann is the acknowledged founder of the approach. Kent, Herring, Schussler and many more contributed to the field in many ways and made a number of proven remedies from a mere hundred to few thousands. All this happened over the last two centuries. At the peak of its popularity in the American continent too, there were homeo medical colleges and the large number of practitioners. Probably early twentieth century invasion of chemical industry into healthcare as ‘pharmaceutical industry’ almost affected its existence.

The very philosophy is that the disease condition shall be improved by tapping the life force which overcomes the condition. To trigger the life force, the substance whose form is diluted through potentization method is used. An example of this is that a drop of the substance is mixed with say 99 drops of water and energized. One drop from this solution is taken and added with 99 drops of water and this becomes second level. If this process continued thirty times, we come across the popular 30C potency. If it is done for two hundred times then it is 200C. Needless to say that there shall not be any trace of the original substance in the solution after first few times of dilutions. What contained in the solution is the energy form from the substance. Thus some of the names of remedies often makes one get a jolt, say Arsenic or Mercury or Lachesis (special snake poison). If the material is there in the dilution more harm shall happen but the dilutions and potentizing ensures only energy is there. This energy triggers the life force in the individual and makes the fight between the disease condition and the person’s system ‘On’. Hence, Homeo can possibly help until the person's last fighting stage and not beyond the stage. Wise say there are methods like Siddha approach that help afterward too!

Homeo method mostly uses substances from different sources viz mineral, plant and animal. The fourth can be the very disease condition itself. Sodium chloride (Natrum Mur), Silica, Calcium Carbonate (Calcarea Carb), Potassium Phosphate (Kali Phosp) etc. are used from mineral sources. Metals are also used like Aluminium, Gold (Aurum), Silver (Argentinum), Copper (Cuprum), Platinum etc. Similarly, we have plant sources like Hing, and animal sources, including their milk. Schussler popularized the use of twelve definite salts. In fact, various combinations of these are also available in the market, aimed to cure certain related conditions. These conditions include teething troubles for kids to joint pains for the elderly, nervous headache conditions possibly aimed at working age groups. Thus, the spectrum is wide and touches all possible age groups and conditions.

Science or a pseudo-science

Many of scientifically ‘bent minded’ ask is it a pseudo-science. Their concerns possibly are justified as there are no ‘clinical trials’ in this method. Instead the practitioners depend on ‘proving’ technique. The idea behind proving is simple, as same cures same, apply some material on a healthy person and he/she shall display the symptoms. Record these and whenever such appear in any patient, give the ‘proven material’ in a diluted/potentized form. It is expected to cure the condition. In fact, the origin of Homeo started with Dr Hahnemann’s observation while translating medical work that Chinchona bark that produces malaria symptoms can cure malaria! However, in the world of double-blind experiments for ‘clinical trials,’ the provings may not suffice.

Another observation or the point of order is how one gets cured when there is no trace of ‘material’ in the final solution given as the remedy? It is true that after fourth or fifth titration, there is no physical evidence of the substance. Now that the energy has engulfed the solution and the energy trigger that is applied is difficult to be told to doubting ones and we may say ‘proof of the pudding is..’. But they won’t try it as there is no proof. In the same breath, such may say it is a placebo and if one feels it is working, one may get a bit of improvement. Thus, many a slip-cup-lip happen due to doubting nature. A close friend of mine Rajiv told me that right (healer+remedy+trust) combination is difficult to find and hence cures are rare. Complicating the matter further is for the same or similar symptom in different persons, different remedies are prescribed, confusing the new users and even learners of the method. Here the wise say, it is the ‘person’ who is getting treated and NOT the condition. Difficult to appreciate, one may say. One has to be fortunate like Dr Rajan Sankaran of Mumbai to be mentored by who’s who of the then Indian Homeo world to have the right insights after years of apprenticeships. Alternatively, one who has proximity to the great masters who display the mastery with ease, then mere observation of the ‘cases’ cured gives one confidence. They in turn, get groomed to become masters for future generations. Positive cycle, one may say.

Great potential to cure the world’s health issues

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3 of ‘Good health and Wellbeing’ may appear unattainable, given the costs associated with the modern aka allopathic medicine methods. Comparatively, Homeo offers a simpler diagnosis (it relies more on mental symptoms) and the remedies cost almost nothing compared to other methods. The shelf life is longer, the dosage is minimal and people need to find the right remedy. This last condition often is little tricky, whether it is a art or science is the question asked. While the body of knowledge is science, the administration mechanism is art. Confusing one may say. Mapping the symptoms with the right remedy and taking a call on the ‘potency’ may appear like a skill and hence an art. SOPs probably may not work. Having said the above, the wise have developed some thumb rules like in acute/sudden cases typically lower remedies are given to see whether it is working or not. The repetition is also there to help the condition improve. In long-pending disease conditions which are chronic cases, often higher potency is given with less repetition. In fact, the city of Chennai benefited for half a century by a homeo doctor who was a ‘single dose’ doctor who used to give high potency, single remedy, one dose for well diagnosed chronic cases. Thus, there is a huge potential to leverage the innate power and good economics embedded in homeopathy. This becomes more relevant as modern healthcare is becoming more complex, investigation centric and administration costs becoming higher. Those countries and communities with limited resources stand to gain from the popularization of homeopathy. Having said this, the lobby that may interfere and oppose can’t be underestimated. As the informed know, the collective power and collusive actions of pharmacy + hospitals + insurance + diagnosing agencies are mighty. Only the truth is the power that is Juggernaut that may withstand this.

On a closing note

Power of homeopathy needs to be experienced to believe, the beneficiaries aver. The system is well documented, easy to transfer the knowledge, apprenticeships can be made available, and as the experience of the doctor increases, the success rate phenomenally goes up. It is cost effective, surprisingly fast acting when right remedy is given, diagnosing costs are very low and can be made available even in remote areas. In fact the households can be given the kit comprising of say score plus remedies for sure to spot and immediate acute conditions. In fact, this is the way many a family in Indian context adopted homeo as a home remedy tool. The moment is often at the birth of the first child in the nuclear family that is stranded and standing alone without much generational help. Preliminary knowledge of homeopathy helps the kid’s condition quickly, and first to get the relief often are the young parents! Empathy of this seeker’s family for such young couples is complete, as they themselves formally got introduced to the innocuously appearing sweet pills that their first kid willingly took, more than two decades ago in a remote industrial township where help of any sort was as remote as the nearest airport, Varanasi that was eight hours away. May generations of couples and their kids when they become couples, benefit from the humane contribution of pratahsmaraneeya Dr Hahnemann and all the followers of the classical method. Keeping the system alive for over two centuries when the opposition is enormous due to vested commercial interests and scepticism ruled the minds of the educated was a challenge. The support for the homeo was only those who got the benefit, often who were not that articulate. It is easy to observe that the system is gentle, the practitioners are and even the beneficiaries turn into so. Future seems bright as the consciousness shifts are happening and people are more openminded now. Thank you sir, we owe you a lot. We shall try paying back by spreading the knowledge with deep gratitude. Lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu.