An Introduction to Veterinary Homeopathy
Homeopathy is a form of medicine which has been in use for 220 years during which time its philosophy and principles have hardly changed. However the last 10 years have seen the greatest deepening of homeopathic understanding for 170 years – it is a very exciting time to be a homeopath. Homeopathy can be highly effective yet it provokes much controversy. This is mainly because it uses medicines that are serially diluted and agitated to the point where often none of the original substance is left in the remedy solutions, and its mechanism of action is not fully understood. Homeopathy is a demanding all-encompassing subject to learn and practice, but the rewards are immense. The majority of practitioners are passionately interested and CPD events are centres of debate and enthusiasm. Study frequently departs from medicine into philosophy, biology, chemistry, quantum physics, mythology....in fact all knowledge is useful for the homeopath. I shall break up this huge subject into simplified chunks for the benefit of this article.
Why practice homeopathy when we have conventional medicine?
In my first eight years of practice it totally escaped my notice how few patients I cured. Maybe you are the same, because conventional medicine is tremendous at treating acute disease and dealing with fire brigade issues. However in chronic disease we need to rely on continual drugging to control symptoms, often with side-effects and great expense. We need a medicine which can deal with chronic disease.
How does it work?
The world's most effective healing mechanism is the body. Without our homeostatic mechanisms and immune system we wouldn't be here. They have been working and evolving constantly since life on earth appeared over three billion years ago. Most diseases we see in the western world in human or veterinary medicine occur when this malfunctions. Atopy, cancer, auto-immune diseases, behavioural and hormonal problems are obvious examples, and that is what fills veterinary and doctors' surgeries. Hence to stimulate the body to stop 'making a mistake', because that is all these diseases are, is the most powerful medicine we could employ. This is recognised in the conventional world by the attempt to get to the root of the problem by employing gene therapy. Sadly this has had very limited success despite the billions of pounds poured into research. It is this homeostatic self healing system that homeopathy stimulates.
How can it work when there is no material substance left in the remedies?
Homeopathy, and just about every form of medicine in history except conventional medicine, believes that the body is ultimately controlled by something non-material. It is called Qi, the spirit, Prana or, in homeopathy, the vital force. It is this formative, homeostatic healing force that drives the physical systems we are familiar with. Disharmony in this mechanism is the ultimate reason for disease, and hence the most effective form of medicine involves stimulating this vital force.
What evidence is there for active ultra-diluted aqueous solutions?
A vast amount. There is no doubt that water seems to be able to retain some sort of memory or imprint of a substance that has been dissolved in it and serially diluted and violently shaken at each stage. This process is called potentisation. The latest in an endless stream of evidence came from one of the most respected scientists in the world, 2008 Nobel prize winner Professor Luc Montaigner, co-discoverer of HIV. He discovered bacterial DNA sequences are able to induce electromagnetic waves, even at high aqueous dilutions up to 10^18. These waves only occurred if the solutions were strongly agitated at each stage of dilution. He shocked the 'scientific' world when he said this supported the tenets of homeopathy, and is now pursuing his research in China – sadly ostracised in much of the west.
What Evidence is there for a vital force?
Personally I wouldn't disregard the wisdom of the ages. Scientific evidence was first supplied by neuro-anatomist Harold Burr at Yale in the 1940s. He discovered that salamanders in all stages of development had an electrical field around them in the shape of the adult animal, and even the unfertilised egg had an electrical axis along which the spinal cord would subsequently form. He also investigated the fields around developing seedlings to discover they were in the shape of the adult plant. This formative field explains what is still a mystery to Newtonian scientists – the development of the embryo. Obviously huge evidence is supplied by the evidence that homeopathy is effective.
What evidence for homeopathy?
Again – vast amounts. 142 human double blind trials have been performed, and 5 meta-analyses, of which 4 were positive. Important to our profession – there have been 5 veterinary trials performed by members of the BAHVS (British association of homeopathic vet surgeons) published in the last 4 years in peer reviewed literature, two in the veterinary record. All were positive and the only unbiased conclusion that could possibly be drawn is that money should be made available for further research. However the suggestion that 2 million euros might be made available for homeopathic research produced a howl of protest.
Why does homeopathy provoke such organised and well funded opposition?
Why an effective form of medicine capable of treating chronic disease without side-effects or residues which is vastly cheaper than conventional medicine should be so attacked I leave to your imagination. The protest against money for homeopathic research derives from the knowledge that the trials are liable to show homeopathy is effective. There are too many influential people who will be demonstrated to have been disingenuous. There is too much money to be lost. There are well funded organisations with considerable political and media influence whose aims include discrediting homeopathy. A main one is called Sense About Science.
Why do we or our animal patients become ill?
The founder of homeopathy, Dr Samuel Hahnemann, in his seminal work 'Chronic Diseases', was far ahead of his time in stating that most chronic disease arose from stress, especially grief. This is frequently demonstrated by modern studies. If you can deal with the impact on the vital force of that trauma, then the body can heal itself.
What is the implication of this in veterinary medicine?
It is clear to veterinary homeopaths that our patients experience the same emotions as us. This is totally supported by the work of the Natural Animal Centre, who have been working with the Bristol vet school. This has major implications on our views regarding the treatment of pets and food animals. They are the same as us.
It is equally clear that deleterious emotions can cause serious disease in animals, just as they do in humans. It is here where homeopathy can really come into its own, because the remedy choice is not just based on the physical symptoms, but on the personality of the animal, and its history. If you doubt this, simply go back over some of your chronic cases and note when the disease first reared its head. Probably you have never asked the relevant questions, or if you are like me in 1995, ignored the owners telling you what seemed like irrelevancies. You will find frequently that preceding the first symptoms the owners might have moved house, divorced, died or got another animal. There is always a reason for disease. Why should a six year old horse suddenly develop sweet itch, or a seven year old cat FAD? Veterinary medicine seldom seeks to answer these questions.
So how can homeopathy help?
There are groups of remedies which over two hundred years have been shown to be useful for specific stresses, such as homesickness, death of a loved one, bullying, domination, punishment, neglect or rejection. Homeopathy gives you the opportunity to deal with what is really going on, and hence can lead to happy energetic animals without symptoms. A common comment from the owners would be 'he hasn't been like this for years', or 'he is behaving like a puppy again'.
What can homeopathy treat?
It should be considered in all chronic disease, and can work well alongside conventional medicine if necessary. In the UK it is primarily used in difficult chronic conditions where conventional medicine cannot help, or the drug side-effects are too unwelcome. Over 30 million Europeans use homeopathy. It is used by tens of millions around the world as a preferred first treatment, especially in India, where currently much of the recent advances have been realised.
Would you like to use homeopathy?
I would highly advise it if you want to inject some joy and fascination into your work - if you wish to gain a much deeper insight into what disease and cure are really about. Be warned – it is a big commitment and requires a four year part time course before you could achieve veterinary membership of the Faculty of Homeopathy. However you can begin using simple homeopathy regularly in your practice after a few months. If you are interested contact me.
An example of a typical homeopathic case - one of my first.
An eight year old sheepdog Tess was presented to me suffering from pemphigus, with typical ulceration around the mouth, ears, anus and nails. She had been treated at Bristol vet school, who had prescribed steroids, but unfortunately she was not responding well and was declining. The case history was compelling. Her owner, a farmer's son, had violently argued with his father and had to leave home. The first symptoms appeared six weeks later. There were two aetiologies to consider – grief over losing her owner and stress due to the discord in the house. The common homeopathic remedy Natrum mur covers both of these stresses. It is also an excellent remedy for complaints of the orifices such as cracking and ulceration. I prescribed it bid 3d. Tess improved in her energy, and began to eat. Over the next two months we weaned her off the steroids, and except for a minor blip six months later, needing another two days of Natrum mur, she remained totally well until I put her to sleep of old age many years later. The only indication she had ever suffered from pemphigus was the scarring around her orifices where no hair ever grew. Of course she was not suffering from pemphigus, but from grief. The 'body's mistake' of pemphigus was simply Tess's reaction to such a severe emotional trauma.
That is why I am a homeopath.
This article was very kindly provided by Geoff Johnson MA Vet MB MRCVS VetMFHom RSHom PCH:
Wiveliscombe Homeopathic Veterinary Surgery
12 North Street Wiveliscombe