Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fundamental Differences Between Homeopathy and Conventional Medicine

Many people don't realize that homeopathy is a complete system of medicine for treating acute and chronic illnesses.  Although homeopathy is well-known in Europe and India in particular, it is generally misunderstood by most people in this country, who confuse it with herbal remedies and other natural healing modalities.  In reality, homeopathy is very different from other natural healing methods.

At its fundamental level, homeopathy is also very different from conventional medicine. It works in a completely different way, and, as anyone who has fully experienced constitutional (chronic) homeopathic treatment can attest, homeopathy has very different effects than conventional medicine does.  Rather than effecting one specific symptom as conventional medicines do, homeopathic remedies can have positive effects on many different symptoms (including mental, emotional, and physical) all at the same time. What makes homeopathy and conventional medicine so different?

Law-of-Similars vs. Law-of-Opposites

Conventional medicine operates through the Law of Opposites.  With the Law of Opposites, symptoms are treated by using medicines that have opposite qualities.  For instance, if someone is having a hard time sleeping, conventional medical treatment would be to prescribe a medicine that produces the opposite effect, which would be something that induces sleepiness. If someone is congested with too much mucous, conventional medicine would prescribe a substance that reduces mucous. This method of using opposites was originally begun by Galen, who lived from 130-200AD.

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On the other hand, homeopathy works through the Law of Similars, also known as Like-Cures-Like. This is "the principle that a substance which produces certain symptoms in healthy people can cure the same symptoms in the sick" [1].  The Law of Similars was originally described by Hippocrates, who lived from 460-370 BC. Samuel Hahnemann, who lived from 1755-1843, verified the Law of Similars and went on to develop the homeopathic system of medicine over the course of his lifetime. Hahnemann "clearly pointed out that material eliminations of a disease such as pus, mucus, blood, phlegm, bile, and the like, are the products of a disease and not the disease itself" [2].

When the Law of Opposites is used, as in conventional medicine, there may be "quick palliation of the symptoms for a short period but eventually the underlying disease will return after the medicine becomes less active. This return of symptoms calls for the need to use stronger doses and more frequent repetitions of the same medicine to control the disease. [2] " This is why, with conventional medicine, prescriptions for chronic diseases are often needed for extended periods of time, and sometimes even for the rest of the life of the patient, to continually suppress the symptoms of the disease.  Taking such medicines for extended periods often leads to undesirable side effects, and the underlying disease is not actually cured, but rather the symptoms are just being suppressed.

On the other hand, when the Law of Similars is used, as in homeopathy, the remedy actually stimulates the body to cure itself.  The correct remedy is the one that has been proven to produce the same symptoms from which the person suffers when given to a healthy person. So when the body responds to the stimulus of the correct remedy, the body also corrects its own imbalance. This is why, with homeopathic treatment, the amount of remedy needed is actually lessened over time, and the dosing becomes less and less frequent, until eventually no more remedy is needed at all yet the improvements remain.

Body-and-Mind-as-a-Whole vs. Body-and-Mind-as-Separate-Entities

Another fundamental difference between homeopathy and conventional medicine is in how the body and mind are viewed. In conventional medicine, the body and mind are seen as separate entities. This is based on Rene Descartes' (1596-1650) conclusion that "there is nothing included in the body that belongs to the mind, and that there is nothing related to the mind that belongs to the body... Building on the mechanistic philosophy [the followers of Descartes] began to separate the body into various parts to explain each system as a mechanical agent. The bones and muscles were explained as mechanical levers that allowed the body to move like a machine. The inner organs and various systems were seen as chemical mechanisms that digested food and eliminated waste..." [2]. Only recently has conventional medicine started to question this, but these ideas of each body part being separate and unrelated to the other parts of the body are still very firmly entrenched in our culture. This leads to the idea that, if a person has asthma, for instance, then the asthma needs to be treated (suppressed) with an asthma medication. If the same person has depression, that is seen as a completely separate symptom from the asthma, and it is treated separately from the asthma. 

In homeopathy, the mind and body are viewed as one, and the selection of the correct remedy involves evaluating each person as an individual, including the totality of their mental, emotional, and physical symptoms. Hippocrates was the first to view people from this viewpoint. "As he observed his patients he noticed that different body types reacted to the same stimuli in a different manner... He recorded a definite linkage between the physical makeup of the body and the mental temperament as well as reactions to the environment" [2]. Descartes' conclusion that the mind and body were separate entities was in direct contradiction to what Hippocrates had learned, and with the rise of the Cartesian view, the Hippocratic view was excluded and suppressed. The founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, picked back up where Hippocrates had left off.  By viewing the mind and body as a whole, the homeopath is able to select a remedy that can positively effect all areas of health in the mind and body. For instance, in a person who has asthma, migraines, social anxieties, and depression, the correct homeopathic remedy would actually stimulate the body to improve all of those.


Nano-Doses vs. Large Doses

In terms of dosing, here again homeopathy and conventional medicine are fundamentally different.  Conventional medicine "[assails] the body with large, often protracted and rapidly repeated doses of strong medicine... The long continued employment of such formulas inflicts new and, in part, ineradicable medicinal diseases [side effects] on the sick body" [3]. Samuel Hahnemann actually started his career in healing as a conventional medical doctor, but gave it up because he felt that he was often inflicting more harm than good upon his patients. To Hahnemann, the side effects and continually degenerating long-term health of his patients indicated that using strong doses of medicine was not the way to heal the sick.

After years spent as a chemist and translating medical texts, Hahnemann later went on to discover the use of very, very small doses, "so small that they exactly suffice to lift the natural malady without causing pain or debilitation. The result is that, without in the least weakening, tormenting, or torturing the patient, the natural disease is extinguished and the patient, while improving, soon grows stronger and thus is cured" [3]. The extremely small doses used in homeopathy are often pointed out by critics who insist that, with doses so small, no healing could possibly result from their usage. In reality, the small doses are one of the cornerstones of homeopathy's success. "How can we understand the action of a remedy which does not contain even one molecule of the original substance? Modern physics is just beginning to catch up with Hahnemann's vision of two centuries ago: that matter is essentially energy, that remedies based on energy can be more powerful than those limited to mere matter, and that remedies are essentially information which can be conveyed to the body's own healing energy by their vibrational pattern imprinted onto the inert carrier substance" [1].

Hahnemann did not stumble blindly into using such small doses. He experimented in a very logical manner, using his results to guide his progression. Eventually he found that, indeed, such small doses actually had great curative powers without the negative effects that strong doses of medicines can have (such as side effects and the progressive worsening of the disease over time). Homeopathy's small doses which are so often criticized are actually an essential part of what makes homeopathy work so well.


Different Philosophies and Different Outcomes

Conventional medicine and homeopathy are fundamentally different, and their outcomes are fundamentally different as well.  When conventional medicines are used, there is temporary relief of specific localized symptoms, and often the relief is followed by a recurrence of symptoms which require even more medicine to be suppressed. This leads to a cycle of chronically degenerating health, as the body manifests the illness at progressively deeper levels of the body.  

With homeopathy, the remedies are selected based on the totality of a person's mental, emotional and physical symptoms. Such remedies are then applied with very small doses which stimulate the body to heal itself. Over time, the level of health is increased and the body is able to reach a point at which the homeopathic remedy is no longer necessary for the improvements to remain.

Have you had any experience with healing illness and chronic disease in yourself or your family? Have you tried homeopathy?

[1] De Schepper, L. (2001) Hahnemann Revisited: A Textbook of Classical Homeopathy for the Professional, Santa Fe, NM, Full of Life Publications.  
[2] Little, D. (2014) The Homeopathic Compendium Volume 1: History and Philosophy, District Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, India, Omnibus Global.
[3] Hahnemann, S. (1842, 1996) Organon of the Medical Art, as translated by Wenda O'Reilly, Palo Alto, CA, Birdcage Press.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or licensed healthcare professional. I am a homeopathic practitioner whose services are considered complementary and alternative by the state of New Mexico. The uses of homeopathic remedies described herein are provided for educational use only.  

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

My Daily Nap

I am an early riser. Although I never set an alarm, I generally awaken every morning between 5:30 and 6:30am. I stay busy most of the day, and indeed I am a person who thrives on staying busy. But every afternoon: I take a nap!

Daily napping started as a survival mechanism about 5 years ago in the midst of mothering an infant who slept very poorly, but now both of my kids sleep well and I usually sleep 7-8 hours per night.  Yet, I still take a nap every day. And I don't plan to ever stop. 


Benefits of Napping

Numerous studies have shown that naps have significant benefits, including increased productivity, motor skills, and mood. One study showed that "a nap improves mental performance, even after a full night's sleep" [1].

For me, taking a daily nap provides a brief respite for my busy, always-on-the-go self. As a homeschooling mother who is also working part-time from home, my time and attention are being pulled in many different directions for much of the day.  My daily nap allows me to recharge and be refreshed for the evening ahead. It gives me a calm, temporary stopping place. It is a lovely, cherished part of every day.

If I don't take a daily nap, I am more likely to be grumpy or burned-out in the evening.  Without a nap, I am less engaged with my family in the evening, and may feel like I want to be left alone. And if I my mood is poor, the mood in our whole household is negatively affected. So my daily nap actually provides a tangible benefit to my family and our home.

My Nap Routine

My nap is generally around 2:30 or 3pm each day. On rare occasions, I will shift my nap an hour or two earlier to accommodate some afternoon commitment, but for the most part I plan my napping time as a scheduled event that happens every day. Excepting the few times a year when we are away from home, I could count on one hand the number of times I have missed my daily nap in the last year.  

My nap has been such a regular part of our lives for so long now that my children just expect it every day as part of our daily Quiet Time (which I will blog about soon). My brain tends to be thinking fast all the time I am awake, so I need to do some calming activity before napping. Reading, yoga, or meditation work well for this.

Then I close the curtains partway (never all the way, or I awake feeling groggy), change into comfy clothes, and snuggle down. Most of the time I naturally wake after 10-15 minutes. Sometimes I sleep for an hour (and usually do feel a little groggy on those days). I only set an alarm if I have some commitment or appointment for after the nap, and I usually wake before the alarm anyways.

Naps Are Part of Many Cultures

Many cultures include daily napping. For instance, a siesta (or short nap in the early afternoon) is "historically common throughout the Mediterranean and Southern Europe" [2].  In "many parts of the world—including Greece, the Philippines, Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Nigeria—naps are seamlessly woven into the tapestry of everyday life" [3].  Naps are often frowned upon for adults in our culture, but I think this needs to change.  Short naps are beneficial, and in my own experience, they make life run more smoothly.

Do you nap? Have you tried Power Napping?

[1] The effects of a 20-min nap before post-lunch dip, Mitsuo Hayashi PhD and Tadao, Hori PhD, 
Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, Volume 52, Issue 2, pages 203–204, April 1998

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Egg-In-a-Nest: A Favorite Breakfast!

One of our favorite breakfasts is Egg-In-a-Nest.  I rediscovered this wonderful food a few months ago
thanks to a visit from my father-in-law. Egg-In-a-Nest combines eggs and toast into one scrumptious combination.

If I serve my children fried eggs for breakfast, my daughter is likely to leave most of the yolk untouched and my son is likely to leave much of the egg white uneaten. I love that, when I make Egg-In-a-Nest for breakfast, my kids will both easily eat a whole egg.

Serves 2
  1. Carefully cut a hole in the middle of each slice of bread. This can be accomplished with a sharp knife or biscuit cutter.  Don't stress if the bread rips a bit; the egg will "glue" it back together for you later on.
  2. Butter both sides of the bread and the round pieces that were cut from the bread. 
  3. Warm a cast iron skillet over medium heat.
  4. Place the two slices of bread and the two round pieces into the skillet and cook until lightly browned. Flip them all over and cook until lightly browned. Remove the round pieces from the skillet, but leave the bread-with-holes in the skillet.
  5. Add a little pat of butter into each hole in the bread.  Once it is melted, crack an egg into each hole.
  6. Allow the eggs to cook until the whites are set. It will take longer than it usually does when frying an egg, because of the bread.
  7. Once the egg whites are set, flip each piece of bread over to cook the other side of the egg. I like to melt a little more butter for each one, to make sure the eggs don't stick to the pan.
  8. Cook for 1-2 minutes, until the egg white is fully cooked.
  9. Serve each Egg-In-a-Nest alongside with the round pieces. I like to add jam to the round pieces, which my children then dip in their egg yolks. Yum!

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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Tips for a Road Trip with Young Children

My children and I recently went on a 9-day road trip to the Grand Canyon with my mother.  This trip involved a considerable amount of driving, since our round trip was over 1,200 miles and over 20 hours of driving time.  I had decided early in the planning for our trip that this was to be a low-tech trip: no videos or video games to occupy the children in the car, and a break from the internet, email, and Facebook for me during our trip. (I did break this rule once, on the last evening of our trip when I succumbed to the temptation to briefly get rid of the accumulated spam in my email.)

My children (who are 5 and 8 years old) have never spent more than 3 hours in the car in a day, and they typically do not nap in the car. So I wondered how they both would do with all of the driving time on our trip. I had quite a few tricks up my sleeve to ensure that our drive time would be enjoyable. In short: my children did brilliantly in the car (and on the whole trip). 

How We Made Our Road Trip a Success 

Before Our Trip
  • Anticipation and Excitement: For several months before the trip, the kids and I talked often about our trip: how much fun we would have, and how amazing it would be to be able to see the Grand Canyon, saguaro cacti, the Navajo reservation, etc. To tie our trip into our homeschooling, we also read books about the Grand Canyon, Navajo culture, and saguaro cacti. Our anticipation and excitement for the trip were high.
  • Clear Expectations and Consequences: Before our trip, I talked with my children several times about the fact that there would be lots of driving time. I emphasized that, if the children chose to complain, bicker, or otherwise make the car time un-enjoyable, then we would not be able to take such trips again in the future. 

While On Our Trip

Do you have any tips to share for road trips with children?


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