Homeopathy is a system of medicine that differs substantially from traditional orthodox (allopathic) treatment.
The word homeopathy originates from the Greek words homios (similar) and pathos (suffering). The cornerstone of homeopathic philosophy is that disease in a living creature can be cured by the administration of a substance which when given to a healthy individual would cause similar symptoms. The fundamental principle, similia similibus curentur, means 'let like be cured by like'. Homeopathy was developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who lived from 1755-1843.
A basic example would be the use of the homeopathic remedy, allium cepa, or the red onion. We have all experienced the tearing eyes and the burning, runny nose while working with onions! Those symptoms of increased secretion from the mucous membranes of the eyes and nasal passages are very common in hay fever or a cold...and so a homeopath might prescribe allium to someone with these symptoms. The allopathic or antipathic approach might be to try ANTI-histamine where the effect of the medicine is contrary or opposite to the symptom, hoping to stop those secretions, but unfortunately not resolving the underlying root cause.
Homeopathy seeks to view the patient as a whole, a unity of physical, emotional and mental essences. In viewing our animal patients in this holistic fashion we seek to understand what individualizes their disease process.
Kidney disease presents differently from patient to patient. One dog may drink excessively while another drinks very little. One cat may seek the cool tile of the bathroom while another wants to lay by the heater and under the covers. A third critter might want to be right in your lap while another shuns contact. They all have the physical symptoms of kidney failure: elevated uremic toxins in their blood stream, stomach irritation and lack of appetite. These are the general, quantifiable features of kidney failure, but each of them deals with it in a different way based on genetics, disposition, age and other disease processes.
With homeopathy we seek the totality of symptoms on those multiple levels that individualize that creature’s disease process. It is that individual symptom picture that directs us to the homeopathic remedy most suited and similar to that particular creature. In choosing that specific remedy we seek to activate that individual’s life force to cure their disease. One patient in kidney failure might be treated with Phosphorous, another with Apis and a third with Natrum Muriaticum depending on how they manifest their disease process.
The remedy is chosen on a constellation of symptoms encompassing multiple levels (physical, mental, emotional). The properly selected homeopathic remedy 'nudges' the life force and healing energy of the individual. Homeopathic remedies are energetic medicines that are prepared in a very particular fashion. Repetitive dilutions and sucussions (shaking and mixing) of the original substance transfer something physical into something beyond the physical.
There is increasing evidence that homeopathic dilutions have a demonstrable effect on living organisms under laboratory conditions. Viewing the evidence overall, there is some experimental support for the ideas that ultra-molecular homeopathic dilutions may possess unique physical properties and can exert physiological effects. The theories include the 'memory of water' postulating that water and the hydrogen bonds formed within it can store information relating to the molecules that have been in contact with that water. another theory is that of 'molecular clusters' which states that as a solution is made more and more dilute, very stable and larger 'clumps' of material develop in dilute solutions rather than in more concentrated solutions. This means that residual molecular clusters of the original substance are present in homeopathic dilutions.
Succussion, or the vigorous shaking of the homeopathic remedy solution as it is prepared, causes the formation of 'nanobubbles', incredibly small bubbles that alter the structure and quantum energy of the medicinal solution. One way to look at it would be this...the multiple dilutions and sucussions of the original substance are transferred onto the carrier substance, the water. This is similar to a recording on a CD. The material has not changed chemically but the information has been saved. Through the right information, stored in the well-chosen homeopathic remedy, the patient receives the stimulus to heal themselves from within.
In our 21st. century worldview that has quantified and analyzed so many aspects of life it is very hard to understand something that seems simplistic and yet complex. I remember sitting in church as the priest asked a young child if they could see the wind that rustled the leaves. Do we need to 'see' something to believe it?
Quantum physics and the speed of light are beyond my understanding but they are illuminating the confusing world around us...given time we may understand the enigma of homeopathy. Albert Einstein once said, “the only thing that interferes with my learning is my education..."
I feel gifted to have that broad veterinary 'education' forged through years of traditional medical school and passionate study coupled with the true practical experience of working in the trenches of clinical veterinary medicine. And that education serves me well but there is still a need to go further in the care and nurturing of my patients. Learning other options for treating those conditions that have responded poorly to traditional care helps me to provide more complete care to my patients. Dr. Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy said: "the physician's highest and only calling is to make the sick healthy, to cure as it is called." (Organnon of the Medical Art).
And so, how do we help, how do we heal our patients? I think we must use multiple approaches, finding which among them can enhance the healing potential of each individual. Homeopathy is another 'tool' that might bridge that difficult gap in our ability to help our patients at those critical times when traditional medicine or surgery can't. As someone who has utilized both modalities I would like to share a few cases that were saved from the brink...all of these animals were critical cases treated with the best of both worlds and I truly feel it was the synergy of traditional critical care and homeopathy that saved them.
After a routine anesthesia procedure, a middle aged kitty awoke from her anesthesia in mild respiratory distress which progressed rapidly. Intravenous medications were given to reduce the swelling and reverse what appeared to be an allergic reaction, but there was minimal improvement. We were on the brink of performing a tracheotomy and placing a breathing tube because her larynx had bulged into a bright red balloon, almost closing in front of my eyes.
She would soon go into anaphylactic shock and die. I gave her a dose of Apis mellifica, a homeopathic remedy prepared from honeybee venom. Severe tonsil swelling, burning throat and life threatening shock can be reactions to bee stings. I was incredibly worried and hoped that I was making the right decision. Within 5-10 minutes, her breathing normalized and the swelling had reversed. We were all stunned, and the whole clinic was amazed by those little white pills!
Buster, a middle aged shepherd cross, was brought in one Friday with an acute onset of paralysis affecting all of his legs. The probable diagnosis was a spinal disc extrusion in his neck, or some type of stroke. He was overwhelmed and confused at why his legs wouldn’t work. We tried everything….IV steroids, and muscle relaxants, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage and a lot of praying. By Sunday there was no real change. Euthanasia was, reluctantly on everyone’s mind. His paralysis was progressing and his front legs became even weaker.
His symptoms triggered a memory and I rushed to the ‘Materia Medica’, the homeopathic PDR (physicians’ desk reference), to read up on a possible remedy. The medicine was Conium Maculatum, which produces an ascending paralysis affecting the nerves and muscles causing weakness, incoordination and paralysis. I gave Buster a dose and carried him to his owners nearby business so he could relax and I went back to the clinic. An hour later I heard the owner screaming for me! I expected the worst, thinking that Buster was having a major seizure or something terrible. I ran to the door to see Buster lumbering up the parking lot dragging his IV behind him!
I thought I would give you some examples of how I assess a horse homeopathically.
‘Dancer’ is a 14 year old Warmblood gelding who started colicing and the owner gave him 10 cc. of Banamine but the pain progressed. When I got there he was down and thrashing. His legs were ‘accordioning’ back and forth and his abdomen was very distended. When he got up and I tried to examine him he reared up and struck out. I was thinking that this poor guy might be a surgical candidate. Unfortunately that wouldn’t be in the cards though. I had just started Homeopathy and so we decided to give it a try.
I mixed up the remedy in a syringe with some water and as he wheeled around at the end of the lead rope I squirted some in his mouth. I started to walk him around and a little while later he produced these incredible farts and totally settled down. I could examine him then and besides having some really increased bowel sounds everything seemed pretty normal. We were both pretty shocked! Seeing as it was late afternoon I still oiled him. When I palpated him there were no displacements or twists that I could feel. He was just pretty distended. But instead of no gut sounds his intestinal motility sounded good. I suspected he had a very severe gas colic, secondary to Ileus (when there is no intestinal movement), and as gas builds up it stretches the gut and can cause intense pain. The remedy that I gave him was Colocynthis, made from a plant that in the old days was used as a ‘purgative’ (laxative), something that would help clear out the bowels in a pretty drastic way. Anyone that has prepared for a colonoscopy will know what I mean!
The Homeopathic indications for Colocyhthis are:
Abdomen- Cramping pain
Abdomen- Bending double ameliorates
Abdomen- Lying on abdomen ameliorates
Abdomen- Distension- Tympanitic (like a balloon)
Mind- Irritability during pain
His ‘symptom picture’ fit the pattern of Colocynthis very well and it resoled things pretty quickly.
‘Truman’ is a 25 year old Thoroughbred gelding who presented with unusual symptoms. He was ataxic (staggering like he was drunk); he was dribbling urine and had lost a lot of weight in a week. If he tried to walk he stumbled and appeared incredibly weak. He got worse when he tried to move and looked like he had aged 10 years in a week. He had always been alert and feisty, even at 25. He still ruled the pasture. The scariest thing his mom told me was that one of the other horses in that same pasture had died the week before with very similar symptoms.
Based on his age, the clinical signs and the death of the other horse we were not in a very good place his liver enzymes and white blood cell count, indicative of infection, were also elevated.
He was treated very aggressively from both a conventional approach and an integrative approach. I placed an IV catheter and started fluids with megavitamins, IV antibiotics, tubed him with mineral oil and a combination of essential oils to improve his gut motility and stimulate his appetite. I catheterized his bladder to help him pee and treated particular acupuncture points to help his liver and his overall weakness.
I also gave him the homeopathic remedy Lycopodium. It was touch and go for a few days but ‘Truman” is back to his feisty self. The indications for Lycopodium are:
Stomach- Diminished appetite
Generals- Emaciation in old people
Mind- Dull senses
Bladder- Dribbling urination
Generals- Weakness aggravated by exertion
Mind- Alpha type ranking
Liver- Hepatitis (inflammation)
I am convinced that the integration of both the conventional and alternative treatments is the reason ‘Truman’ is still with us.
The third case was an 8 year old Mini gelding (I’m sorry I can’t remember his name)…I probably need a remedy to help my memory!
He had been a trailer accident two months earlier on his way to a show in Texas. His mom told me his personality had totally changed from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde. He was unpredictable and very aggressive. He would charge and try to bite her, sometimes rearing and striking out. She had become very afraid and was worried about how he would react to me as a stranger. And I must say so was I a little worried myself.
They did not know what happened exactly but his halter chain had been broken and his neck was very tender with his head tilted to the side. He was treated by the show vet with dex, muscle relaxants, ice and rest but there was minimal improvement. When they returned home their local vet tried to examine him and after hearing the history said give Dr. Fenton a call.
Based on his history of trauma I had asked them to administer a dose of Arnica. Arnica is the preeminent remedy for any type of trauma. It is also indicated in states of fear of being approached and touched.
When I first saw him I was surprised at how irritable and surly this little guy was. Trying to put even his halter on was a tough task as he wheeled around.
I squirted the remedy Nux Vomica into his mouth and we left him alone for a little while.
Nux is known for the state of irritability and anger. Just leave me alone or else…it also helps with headache and neck pain particularly with what is called ‘neuralgic’ or nerve pain.
When I came back he was still a little upset but with some coaxing let me touch him and massage in some calming essential oils. I spent quite a while massaging him and talking to him. He then allowed me to adjust his neck and back which were really out of whack. Then I placed some acupuncture needles and just let him be. After a few minutes I asked his mom to take off his halter. She was still worried he would charge and bite me…I squatted down and called him, asking him how he felt. He came over slowly and let me touch him and after a few minutes he came to my face and nudged me a bit and actually gave me a kiss. His mom started crying; she was taking some pictures and said that her horse was ‘back’. I got goose-bumps. I never had such an amazing encounter on such a deep level with any animal.
I feel gifted to have had a ‘broad’ veterinary education which serves me well. But I still feel the need to go further in the care and nurturing of my patients. Learning new options for treating conditions that respond poorly to conventional care helps me provide more complete care for my patients.
As Dr.Hahnemann, founder of Homeopathy said: “The physician’s highest and only calling is to make the sick healthy, to cure as it is called.”