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Homeopathy for the over 60s

by Bob Leckridge

More and more people are living well past the age of retirement. Average living conditions and improvements in the treatment of infectious and other acute diseases are generally held to be the main reasons. This is resulting in an increasing percentage of the whole population being “elderly”. However, many “elderly” people are really pretty healthy and lead very active lives.

Here is the first problem. How do we refer to the over 60s? “Pensioners” doesn’t seem quite right because there is an implication that someone who has been pensioned off has been sidelined or abandoned. The medical term, “geriatric”, has become quite derogatory. Indeed, I once heard a doctor who specialised in the treatment of older people saying that he thought we should abandon the term “geriatric” altogether. He no longer wanted to be known as a “geriatrician”. He proposed we use the term “elderly” instead and claimed this would allow him to rename his speciality as “elderology”. An “elderologist”, he said, would look after his patients in a ward known as “Eldorado”! I think he was joking. “Senior citizens” seems somehow quaint now and the modern “grey panthers” is positively ghastly.

Maybe part of the difficulty lies in the fact that not everyone over 60 is the same. Isn’t it interesting that in this series on the seven life stages, the last one is the only one which applies to an age group stretching for more than two decades? Should we really consider people in their 60s to be the same as people in their 90s? For the purposes of this series we will and I am going to get round the labelling problem by making this article be about the “over 60s”.

It could be argued that what this age group has in common is that they are the people with chronic illnesses. This is a fair observation. Most chronic diseases are due to degeneration of tissues and of body functions. When something degenerates, its healthy efficiency is lost. This is an age of losses. Other diseases are more destructive than degenerative, such as cancer and heart disease. However, being over 60 isn’t all about degeneration and destruction. It can be about previously unexperienced independence and freedom – the independence of having only choices about your own life to make, having moved on from family responsibilities, and the freedom from work commitments of time, energy and effort.

Flow
The concept of flow is an interesting one when we think about health. A healthy person has the experience that life is flowing smoothly and one of the characteristics of illnesses in the over 60s is a disturbance, or even loss, of flow.

At a physical level there may be an impedance of flow because of painful joints due to arthritis. Bryonia is a commonly indicated homeopathic medicine for arthritis. The patient who responds best to Bryonia usually feels quite restless. They would like to move but every small movement is painful and so they have to try and keep very still. Indeed they might even hold the affected part or press it against a firm surface to gain relief.

Pulsatilla, on the other hand, is more commonly indicated when continued, gentle motion relieves the pain. Continuous changeability is the most important feature to remember when thinking of Pulsatilla. The person’s pains continuously change. Their right knee might be painful in the morning but by afternoon it’s their left elbow and by the following day it’s moved again to the right ankle. Literally, it’s all over the place!

In between is Rhus tox which is indicated when the patient is very restless but finds the first movements very painful as the joints stiffen up with rest. Once they get going, continued movement actually relieves the pain. Rhus tox, by the way, is the classic medicine for patients who get sore when the weather gets cold and damp. Homeopathic medicines cannot arrest the wearing out of the joints but in stimulating the body processes of self-healing and repair, it can ameliorate much of the pain and stiffness.

Constipation
Another physical problem caused by loss of flow is constipation. It isn’t a subject people like to talk about but the word constipation is used in several different ways. For some people it means they can’t manage to empty their bowels daily, whilst for others, although they can go every day, it is always painful. Calcarea carbonica is a common homeopathic medicine for older people because almost all of its indications are about slowing up. It can be very useful in chronic constipation, but most typically in people who are really not that bothered about that problem. Some will even say they actually feel worse when their bowels move so they almost prefer being constipated. In these patients it seems that all bodily and mental processes have slowed up. They are chilly, usually overweight and do everything slowly.

Another common medicine for chronic constipation is Silica. This is indicated in patients who have to strain hard to pass a stool and who can have a lot of rectal pain (frequently associated with having an anal fissure). Like Calcarea carbonica, this is also indicated when there is a rather deficient metabolism which shows itself in Silica in chilliness, sweaty feet and a tendency for scratches, cuts and infections to take a long time to heal up.

Prostate problems

In older men another flow problem is caused by the prostate gland becoming enlarged and slowing up the flow of urine. It is important to have this problem checked out by a GP because it can occasionally be due to cancer of the prostate gland. However, it is much more commonly due to what is called Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy, which is just a simple swelling of the prostate gland. Sabal serrulata is a commonly indicated homeopathic medicine for this condition. Usually when this medicine is useful the prostatic hypertrophy is associated with a degree of impotence.

Chimaphila is another common treatment for the swollen prostate gland, especially where the patient has discomfort which leads him to complain of a sensation as if he is sitting on a ball.

Isolation
The problem of flow being disturbed at this age is not just a physical one but it is also a mental and a social one. In fact, pain and stiffness in the joints, or having to run frequently to the loo, can have significant impact on a person’s social life preventing them from managing to leave the house and so resulting in them becoming isolated and withdrawn. This can lead to depression which just compounds the feelings of being cut-off.

There are a number of possible homeopathic medicines which might help to alleviate some of the social or emotional isolation by stimulating the person’s healing system, which, in turn, helps them to cope with their changed circumstances. Pulsatilla, mentioned earlier as a common arthritis medicine, is also useful in alleviating these problems because the person in the Pulsatilla-type state will be feeling abandoned and weepy. They will long for company and feel better when others commiserate or sympathise with them. Magnesium carbonicum can also help if the person is feeling very isolated and has become very sensitive to cruelty, to sad stories and especially to violence on the TV, to the extent that they may have to switch the set off when the news comes on. The people who benefit from this medicine will likely complain that their pains are unbearable and will have a tendency to flares of anger which pass very quickly.

Mental slowing down
If the brain starts to have flow problems it shows with impaired memory, poor concentration and difficulty holding on to a train of thought. These problems are of course worst in dementia but they can occur to some degree in almost all older people. Medicines such as Petroleum, Alumina and Baryta carbonica are each commonly indicated as a treatment for people with such mental slowing. We tend to think of memory as being a single skill but in fact people who have developed dementia have shown us that different people develop more or less difficulty with different types of memory loss.

Homeopathy illustrates this well and so helps us to make a better understanding of people with dementia. The typical patient who needs Petroleum will have memory problems which are mostly to do with spatial orientation – they will get lost when they go out into surroundings which should be familiar to them. Alumina is indicated for anxious people who feel hurried a lot and who cannot remember what they have just said and Baryta carbonica is for those who become a bit childish in their old age. It’s indicated for people who have problems finding the right words to say, and who go off home and leave their purchases in the shop.

Sleep problems
Another common interruption of flow in the brain is that of sleep function. For many older people sleep just does not flow as easily as it used to. This is partly because as we get older we actually need fewer hours sleep at night whilst we also develop a pattern of cat-­napping through the day. Coffea cruda is a treatment for insomnia where the problem is due to a constantly active mind. These people just can’t get to sleep because of the continuous flood of thoughts in their overactive minds.

Passiflora is a particularly commonly indicated treatment for sleeplessness in older people who may be generally a bit weak but may have no other significant problems. Of course if the reason for the insomnia is pain then the cause of the pain must be dealt with directly. For example, some people suffer from disturbances of sleep because they have night cramps. If this is the case then a dose of Cuprum metallicum each night before retiring may solve the problem.

Grief and loss
Apart from all these disturbances to the easy flow of energies and functions, once people are over 60 the other common difficulty they experience is how to cope with loss. When loved ones or friends die it is normal to experience grief. However, it becomes a significant problem if the suffering continues for a long time or becomes so severe that normal life is overwhelmed. Psychologists have described four stages to the grieving process. Initially there is shock. The person just can’t really take in what has happened. The full significance has not sunk in. This stage typically only lasts a few hours and gives way to a time of distress where the mental pain is very acute. This is typically a very unstable time with rapidly changing mood swings and outbursts of tears. This may either be accompanied by a period of anger, or may progress into a period of anger with the anger being felt towards both to those who cared for the person who has died in their last illness and towards the deceased person themselves. The final stage is of resolution and acceptance which is really the most obvious phase of coping with the loss.

Homeopathic medicines do not numb pain or take it away artificially and the process of bereavement is normally a healthy one which, although distressing, does not need any kind of medical treatment. Everybody actually copes with bereavement in their own unique way and a homeopathic medicine may only be required if it is felt that they need help to move on at any stage.

Almost any homeopathic medicine can potentially be useful in resolving grief if it is prescribed on the basis of the individual’s distinctive reaction. However, there are two medicines which are the most commonly indicated. Ignatia is frequently the best medicine for those experiencing overwhelming suffering in the acute, or early, stages of grief. These are people who may be just completely numbed and unable to speak or eat or do anything. Or they may be in the stage of acute pain with rapid mood swings, suddenly bursting into tears at any moment, followed immediately by laughter. It can be a useful medicine at the funeral when emotions are at their most acute and unstable.

Natrum muriaticum is mostly indicated for people with chronic grief who are stuck, anxious, withdrawn and constantly looking back and dwelling in the past. How long is it before we would consider grief to have become chronic? Well, there is no definitive number of weeks. It is more an issue of the extent to which the person seems to be overwhelmed and stuck. If they are beginning to become ill themselves because of it then they may need the help of Natrum muriaticum.

Positive factors
The situations I have described here paint a rather bleak picture of being over 60. So let’s wind up the series by considering the issue of health rather than disease because there is no reason why being over 60 should inevitably be equated with suffering and loss. We tend to take our health for granted. It is something we don’t even think about until it isn’t there any more. However, the whole process of considering the principles on which homeopathy is based gives an opportunity to consider health in its own terms and a well chosen homeopathic medicine can help to promote health at any age.

Health can be considered to have three characteristics. It is the ability to cope with change – not to just put up with change but to adapt, develop, mature and become able to thrive in changed circumstances. Secondly, it is the ability to be creative, in the sense of being able to come up with novel solutions to our personal difficulties and of being able to express our true uniqueness in life. Thirdly, it is about engagement. As well as being individuals we are social beings. It is important for us to be in relationships where we are loved and loving. Being involved with others and with our world gives our lives purpose and without purpose it is hard to find a reason to get up in the morning.

Considered in this way, the well chosen homeopathic medicine can enhance all three of these healthy characteristics – adaptability, creativity and engagement. At all stages of life such good health can help us to grow, whether physically, mentally or emotionally, and it is through good health that we overcome disease. This is a very different way of viewing life because the more common view in our society is that health is achieved by eliminating disease. This is one of the reasons why homeopathy is so satisfying – it focuses on health rather than becoming sidetracked into an obsession with disease. We are all different and we all have our own unique ways of coping. Recognising this uniqueness can be the answer to the puzzle of how to have good health at all stages of life.

If you are going to use any of the medicines mentioned in this series, unless a specific dose is recommended by your homeopathic doctor, use a 30c strength and repeat the doses as often as is necessary. The rule in homeopathy is to take a dose, experience the improvement, then if the improvement starts to decline, repeat the remedy. If a dose does not produce any improvement, then there is no point in repeating that particular remedy.

Bob Leckridge MBChB FFHom graduated from Edinburgh University in 1978 and worked as a GP until 1995 since when he has worked full-time as a Specialist in Homeopathic Medicine at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital. He teaches homeopathy internationally and is the author of Homeopathy in Primary Care. He was President of the Faculty of Homeopathy from 1988 until February 2005.

Homeopathy for the 40s and 50s

by Bob Leckridge

Throughout this series I’ve focussed on transition and change as well as considering some of the specific diseases which occur quite commonly at each stage of life. Homeopathy is based on a whole life approach where the aim of treatment is to try to stimulate the body’s healing system to do its job. The healing system is not only the body’s defence, it is also the capacity to deal with change. In biological terms this is known as “adaptation”. Any changes in the circumstances of our lives, whether physical, emotional or social, demand that we respond by adapting. Sometimes this is a process of regaining our balance, or of holding steady in the face of some stress, but at other times the adaptive response is more about growth or development. This can result in life seeming to be never the same again. The changes can be so substantial, and the responses of the individual can be so deep and so wide-ranging, that really the word “transformation” is the most appropriate one to describe what has happened. We tend to think of transformation as being a positive phenomenon, but while it may be fundamentally positive, it can also occur in the midst of painful or disabling symptoms which transform someone’s experience of life in anything but positive ways.

Homeopathy and chronic illness
Dr Hahnemann noticed in his practice that many of his patients who had recovered quickly from acute diseases did not seem to make such a full recovery from other illnesses. This led him to develop a whole theory about chronic illnesses. His theories were quite advanced at the time, but since his day we have discovered much more about human health and disease so we have to adapt his original insights. For example we now know about the role of micro-organisms (eg viruses and bacteria) in causing acute infectious disease and we have discovered the genetic codes which are the main causes of some chronic diseases. We have also developed our knowledge of the nurture side of the “nature versus nurture” debate. What I mean is that we have increased our understanding of the environmental and social causes of chronic disease.

Most chronic diseases are more common in the second half of life, so people in their 40s and their 50s are the very people most likely to have the experiences of developing and dealing with many different kinds of chronic problems including heart disease, cancer, arthritic diseases and diabetes.

The vast majority of patients referred to the NHS homeopathic hospitals are referred with chronic diseases. This is partly because almost all of the drug treatments and surgical operations available for patients with chronic diseases don’t actually address the issues of healing or coping. They either just suppress symptoms or remove diseased tissue. As homeopathy works by stimulating the body’s natural system of self-repair and self-recovery then a well-chosen remedy has great potential to improve a patient’s quality of life. This can be experienced as an increase in energy, in well-being and as a reduction in disturbing or distressing symptoms. It is not uncommon for a patient with a condition like multiple sclerosis to say after homeopathic treatment that their loss of sensation, or their leg weakness, or whatever, is no better but that they now feel much more able to cope with their illness or disability. Alongside feelings of well-being and good energy this really is what health is about. In this context it would be reasonable to say that whatever the chronic disease it is worthwhile including homeopathic treatment.

However, some chronic diseases are due to natural ageing of cells and tissues and others are caused by an inability of the body to pro­duce particular important hormones. Two examples of this latter state are diabetes and hypothyroidism. These are both common problems at this stage of life and both involve failure of particular organs to produce necessary body chemicals. In the case of diabetes, there is a failure of insulin production from the pancreas and in the case of hypothyroidism there is a failure of thyroxine production from the thyroid gland. Homeopathic remedies cannot produce what is not there so in such diseases the best which can be hoped for is that the organs which are not working properly are stimulated to work better and/or the person can be helped to cope with the change.

A homeopathic remedy might improve both energy levels and the amount of well-being experienced by a patient with such a problem, but they will probably still need to take artificial supple­ments of some kind – insulin injections or sugar-lowering drugs in the case of diabetes and thyroxine in the case of hypothyroidism. It’s a sad fact that simply achieving “normal” levels of chemicals like insulin or thyroxine will not necessarily be all a patient needs to feel well, so homeopathy can in fact produce a better outcome for such patients than can be achieved through drugs alone.

The menopause
A particular hormonal problem at this time of life only affects women and that is menopause. Really, the menopause should not be considered to be a disease. It is a natural part of a woman’s life. Trying to not have a menopause by taking artificial hormones in the form of HRT for the rest of a woman’s life has been shown to cause many problems, including increasing the risk of several life-threatening diseases. However, the time around the menopause is undoubtedly one of the most significant periods of fundamental change in a woman’s life. Some women seem to sail through without any major difficulty but others experience profoundly unpleasant symptoms. It isn’t clear why experiences are so different. For some it is menopausal flushes which are the main problem, but for many there is a more fundamental issue.

Trinny and Susannah in What Not To Wear focussed on menopausal women in one of their TV shows. It was an extremely moving programme and showed very clearly that for many women this period of life feels like a time where they disappear from the world. This is due to a whole host of reasons including loss of libido, tiredness, loss of roles in life (with the children growing up and leaving home) and a profound loss of sense of self as an attractive, sexy woman. It is a challenge to the very essence of personal identity as a woman. In the TV programme the problem was tackled at the level of care about personal appearance. This isn’t a trivialisation because there is no doubt that giving up on these issues is often a feature of depression.

However, it is likely that a deeper level of help is needed – changing your clothes and your make-up just isn’t going to be enough! The homeopathic approach is ideal in this situation as it takes into consideration every aspect of a woman’s experience, from flushings to low self-esteem. There are no simple homeopathic solutions to this problem however. There isn’t any “homeopathic HRT”. Instead a homeopathic doctor will try to find a constitutional remedy for each woman.

Nevertheless let me just say a little about some of the features of commonly indicated remedies for this problem. Sulphur, as a homeopathic drug, is a medicine for people who are hot. They often stick their feet out of their beds at night because they feel so hot. They tend to feel worse in hot conditions and get flushes of heat when moving from a cooler atmosphere into a warmer one. They are usually restless people but they are not very focussed. They tend to become quite disorganised, untidy and even messy. These are often people who choose to wear bright colours which clash with each other. You can spot them at the bus stop! Their physical problems often include eczema and bowel upsets like chronic diarrhoea. Indeed, there is a strange significant symptom which often indicates the need for Sulphur – diarrhoea driving the patient out of bed quickly in the morning.

There are several other homeopathic medicines prepared from salts of Sulphur and these too can be commonly indicated at this time. Sulphuric acid, for example, includes the features of flushing seen in Sulphur itself but more severely. These are people who are always hurrying here there and everywhere and they complain that other people around them are not moving quickly enough. They do everything quickly – eating, writing, and talking. They tend to have lots of tremulousness and are also very irritable.

Natrum sulphuricum, another sulphur salt, is a medicine which can be indicated for the depressed woman with flushes. In fact, the woman who needs this may be profoundly depressed, even to the point of having suicidal thoughts. These are patients who also have trouble with asthma and they are especially sensitive to damp conditions, often saying they feel much worse when the weather turns bad.

The loss of oestrogen around the menopause also increases the risk of brittle bones (osteoporosis) but there are a number of things a woman can do to reduce the likelihood of this. Not putting too much stress on the bones by not getting overweight is a good help, as is regular, moderate exercise; stopping smoking is another big plus. In addition, a good constitutional homeopathic medicine can result in an optimising of the whole body’s function so, theoretically, it can also help to maintain the health of the bones.

Gall bladder and heart problems
At medical school, students are taught that the people most likely to get gallstones are those who are “female, fat, fertile and forty”. This is a bit cruel but it highlights the people most likely to have gall bladder trouble – women in their forties who have had children and who are overweight. There are homeopathic medicines which can both help to relieve the pains of gallstones and even help the body to expel them. The medicine, Calcarea carbonica, which we looked at in a previous article has these characteristic features, especially when the patient also has the typical symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland. More specific treatments include Berberis which is a great remedy for the typical sharp, burning, well-localised colicky gall bladder pain.

Another of the major diseases which turn up at this point in life is heart disease. Angina is the name given to the tight chest pains caused by the heart muscle being deprived of oxygen (usually because of hardening of the arteries). If you develop this you will definitely need to visit your GP but if you have already been given a diagnosis of angina, and the doctors have decided to try to control it with pills, then you may find the additional use of homeopathic medicines to be beneficial. This is not a situation where you can self-prescribe but included in the list of homeo­pathic medicines which are most commonly used to try to treat angina pains are Cactus grandiflora which has the typical tight chest pain described as being like a band of iron constricting the chest, often accompanied by palpitations, and Latrodectus mactans which is indicated where there is pain radiating down the left arm and accompanied by coldness of the hands.

Cancer
This has become the dread disease of our times. Yet it really isn’t helpful to think of cancer as being a single disease. There are two things to bear in mind with cancers. Firstly, cancers of different types behave differently and, secondly, every individual is different. One of the worst things a doctor can do is to tell a patient they have a certain number of months or years to live. No doctor can predict this accurately for any particular patient. It is guesswork based on the experiences of others.

Patients with cancer can benefit from homeopathic treatment in a number of ways. It can be helpful at any stage of the disease to reduce painful or disturbing symptoms. Homeopathic medicines are non­toxic and don’t cause troublesome side-effects the way that orthodox drugs do. Again, at any stage it is useful to boost the body’s healing system resulting in improved energy levels and improvements in well -being. Thirdly, homeopathic medicines can reduce the unpleasant side-effects of powerful treat­ments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy. However, there is yet another, I believe even more significant use for homeopathy in the treatment of cancer and that’s in the growth of self-understanding and awareness which comes about by being enabled to tell your full story to someone who understands. Just that experience itself can improve a person’s quality of life. It’s this point which I’ve made repeatedly throughout this series. Homeopathy is about more than just some medicines for some symptoms. It is a way to improve self-awareness, and therefore, self-understanding. This is what brings about the transformations in life which can occur in the course of homeopathic treatment.

Major challenges
A characteristic of the typical challenges of this life-stage is loss; it’s about endings. It may be because a man or a woman is confronted with what is known as an “empty nest” where the children have grown up and no longer need the kind of parenting they had needed over the best part of twenty years. Or it may be a man’s or a woman’s realisation that they are never going to have a child. The time has passed. This is, of course, much more likely to be an issue for a woman than a man because a man may still father a child later in life. On the other hand, it may be the end of a professional or working life. Many people have experienced redundancy or enforced early retirement in their 50s and, particularly if it feels as if this was indeed enforced rather than chosen, it can precipitate depression. These losses in relation to family or work are particularly significant because of their impact on self-identity. We each have a sense of self, constructed from various different sources.

The roles we play in life are especially important in defining the way we see ourselves. Traditionally it has been said that a woman defines herself through her relationships and a man defines himself through his work. This is still true of older people but society has changed so much over the last 50 years that this view is now out-dated. However, the areas of relationship and work are still the most important ones for both men and women in defining how they see themselves. This is why a loss of sense of self as a parent, potential parent, or as a professional person has such a huge impact. There is no doubt that these times demand major changes and so it is no surprise that under such stress people have increased vulnerability to a whole host of diseases. It is also no surprise that depression is common at this time.

Depression is often a complex condition and most people need professional help. There is a multitude of homeopathic medicines which may be indicated in the treatment of depression but a couple of common ones which cover this sense of emptiness and loss of self or loss of personal power are Aurum metallicum and Stannum metallicum – that is, gold and tin. Aurum is a medicine which is indicated for black, deep, even suicidal depressions. This kind of depression comes from a loss of personal power and is most likely to occur in those who lose positions of power. Stannum is often indicated when there has been a loss of status and is accompanied by feelings of emptiness and hollowness which may be experienced in the chest or in the head and may also be accompanied by loss of power in the legs.

You will see, even from these small descriptions, that every homeopathic medicine has its unique and specific features and indications. This is the beauty of homeopathy. It is based on the characteristics and the situations of an individual’s experience and it treats not just part of a person but the whole person. This means the effects can be wide-ranging and profound. These medicines can help you to transform your life.

If you are going to use any of the medicines mentioned in this series, unless a specific dose is recommended by your homeopathic doctor, use a 30c strength and repeat the doses as often as is necessary. The rule in homeopathy is to take a dose, experience the improvement, then if the improvement starts to decline, repeat the remedy. If a dose does not produce any improvement, then there is no point in repeating that particular remedy.

Bob Leckridge MBChB FFHom graduated from Edinburgh University in 1978 and worked as a GP until 1995 since when he has worked full-time as a Specialist in Homeopathic Medicine at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital. He teaches homeopathy internationally and is the author of Homeopathy in Primary Care. He became President of the Faculty of Homeopathy in 1998. 
 

Spotlight on Women’s Health

by Janet Gray

As a female doctor, it comes as no surprise that the majority of my “clientèle” are female. I have always told any female medical students who have come to sit in with me for training, that there is no point in being a doctor if you do not like treating women!

I have very recently retired from nearly 30 years of General Practice, and for 20 of those years I have incorporated the use of homeopathy in my treatment of female complaints – I do not know how I would have managed without it! There are so many situations for which conventional medicine does not have a satisfactory treatment, and this is where homeopathy comes into its own.

Although I am a great advocate of equal opportunities and rights for women, I would also be the first to admit that being a woman does have its problems! We are the weaker sex in terms of muscle strength – no one would expect Sally Gunnell to compete against Linford Christie! We also have a complex system of hormones which causes a fluctuating environment, producing a monthly cycle. This creates a system which has the potential to cause “distress” both emotionally and physically, if the hormones are not in balance.

It goes without saying that women are the receptacles of new life – pregnancy is a whole area of complex emotional and physical changes and the symptoms experienced by pregnant women are particularly difficult to treat conventionally because of the potential for damage by drugs to the foetus. Here one can reassure the woman one hundred per cent that homeopathic medicines are completely harmless to the unborn child.

During and after the menopause, the hormonal milieu again undergoes a huge upheaval, with some women faring better than others. Now that hormone replacement therapy is less popular, again homeopathic medicines can come to the rescue. There are also many other aspects of health peculiar to women – for example, breast problems, recurrent thrush, vaginal soreness and discharge and pain on intercourse. This article will attempt to address some of these problems.

Healthy lifestyle
There are a lot of common sense things a woman can do to remain healthy. It is obvious that all women need a healthy, well-balanced diet, and should not allow themselves to become overweight. As soon as young girls start to menstruate, more dietary iron is needed to replenish the stores lost each month. This is more difficult for vegetarians, as the most concentrated source is meat, but iron is also found in dark green vegetables, molasses, tomato paste, bran flakes, chick peas, soya and haricot beans, dried apricots and figs, and oily fish.

Being overweight upsets the hormonal balance, as oestrogen, one of the female hormones, is stored in fat cells. The body can become insulin-resistant and this triggers a complicated chain process of hormonal change leading to irregular periods. This is now thought to be the basic problem in polycystic ovarian syndrome and one of the simplest treatments for this condition is weight loss. I do realise this is easier said than done, but it is facilitated with the addition of a regular exercise programme.

It is also very important throughout life to eat a diet rich in calcium, in order to lay down a good strong bone structure. This again should be started early on, because oestrogen is needed to stop the excretion of calcium in the urine. Once the menopause is past, much higher amounts of calcium are required daily to protect against osteoporosis, but if the intake has been adequate throughout life, the bones will already be good and strong. The best sources of dietary calcium are cheese and milk, but of course these foods are also high in cholesterol, so should only be eaten in moderation. (Skimmed milk has much less cholesterol, but just as much calcium, so is to be preferred.) Other foods high in calcium are whitebait, sardines, tofu, black beans, chocolate (!), seeds and nuts, and again, dark green vegetables. As a rule of thumb, five portions of calcium containing foods should be consumed per day.

I mentioned regular exercise as an aid to weight control, and I can hear you all groaning already. The problem with writing an article on healthy living is that it turns into a lecture on – “Don’t do this, and don’t do that!” Don’t eat too much, and certainly nothing that you enjoy. Don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol to excess, don’t sit around watching television. What spoil sports we are! The trick is to turn all this advice into something positive. Try to educate your palate into enjoying savoury foods – it is amazing how quickly you will start disliking the taste of very sweet things once you have cut sugar out of your diet. As for exercise – try to find something to do that you enjoy. It’s no good trying to make yourself go out for a run three times a week if you hate it. You may prefer swimming – or take up a new sport such as badminton.

You are probably protesting here “But I haven’t got time”. No – no one has the time. It is a question of priorities and, if you really care about your health, you will make it a priority. It is no good waiting until you have time, because that will not happen. Everyone can fit something into their busy schedule – even if it is just getting off the bus at a bus-stop earlier, walking upstairs instead of taking the lift, or doing the housework faster – which is, in fact, excellent exercise as the stooping and bending stretches lots of different muscle groups. Also, try to do something with a friend. It is much more fun going out for a jog or fast walk with a friend, than on your own: you can encourage each other to keep it going and monitor each other’s weight.

Alcohol-wise – again it is moderation in all things. A glass of red wine a day is good for you, but all alcohol is fattening. Also, there is a danger of using alcohol as a stress reliever, which can then escalate into addiction. So be careful. Cigarettes, too, are stress-relievers, but no one these days needs to be told of the health hazards associated with smoking. So give it up! All GP surgeries these days have specially trained “Stop smoking” nurses who will put you through a programme. They will advise on the best way of quitting for you and support you along the way. You will feel better for it.

Talking of stress – this is a modern scourge which takes its toll on a woman’s health. With the high cost of living, it is virtually impossible these days to buy a house and support a mortgage on one person’s wages, which means that women are now forced into going back to work after having had a baby, even if they would rather choose to stay at home with their child. However much the partner takes a share in running the home, the woman tends to be the one who has to juggle childcare and a job. It is therefore vitally important that the woman does not take on too much, and recognises that pre-menstrually she will not cope as well as usual and puts in place, if possible, other support mechanisms. None of this is easy to achieve, but a healthy balance is important for a healthy mind and body.

Pre-menstrual tension (PMT)
Often it is the woman’s partner who recognises the link between an impending period and a decrease in coping abilities or increased irritability. I have seen many patients who were sent by their partners, to “go and do something about it”.

Hormonally it is difficult to work out the basis for PMT, as studies have failed to show any difference in hormone levels pre-menstrually in women who suffer from PMT and those who do not. It seems to be the balance between oestrogen and progesterone (the two female hormones, secreted mainly by the ovaries) which causes the trouble. The pattern varies from woman to woman, with some showing increased anger and irritability, very quick to fly off the handle, and blaming everything on her partner, while others are weepy and pathetic, changing from hour to hour, and needing constant reassurance and cuddles. You may recognise two distinct homeopathic types in those descriptions – the former picture needing Sepia and the latter, Pulsatilla. These remedies are also useful for the menopause. Indeed these are just two of the remedies so useful for PMT, which have literally saved marriages.

Menopause
The menopause is defined as the time when regular menstruation ceases and with it fertility. The average age now for the menopause is 51 years. There is a length of time called the peri­menopause, during which the periods become increasingly irregular (can be either more frequent or less frequent, heavier or scantier, there is no fixed pattern), when it is not always realised that the menopause is impending. The reason for the irregularity is that ovulation is by now not always occurring every month, because the ovaries are failing. This is accompanied by a massive increase in secretion of the pituitary hormone, follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) which is trying to force the ovaries into continuing to produce eggs. The raised FSH levels are probably responsible for the hot flushes experienced at this time.

Both the peri-menopause and menopause proper may be a time when the woman realises that she is not coping as well as she used to and finds herself unusually emotionally unstable. It is often a difficult time in a woman’s life, because the children may well have left home, causing the “empty nest syndrome”, and she may find herself having to define a new role for herself. She may have elderly dependent parents by this time and also may have reached the zenith of her career, with a demanding and competitive job. Just when she needs all her emotional strength, it may desert her. Her sleep may be disturbed by the hot flushes, adding to the feeling of tiredness. Also, especially if the menopause is occurring younger than usual (premature menopause) she may be grieving for her lost fertility.

Some women may find that they have become unusually suspicious, accusing their partner of infidelity, or being jealous if he is out with his work colleagues. The hot flushes are very uncomfortable, making her avoid wearing tight clothes, preferring open necks and loose waists. Such a woman would benefit from Lachesis. Other women will find they are becoming more reclusive, keeping themselves to themselves and not talking about their feelings, especially about past losses. They will prefer cool weather, and find that they are craving salt. This type of woman will need some Natrum mur.

Other very good hot flush remedies are Sepia and Pulsatilla (as above) and Belladonna, Sulphur, Glonoine or Amyl nitrite. These remedies are also very helpful for women who have had breast cancer and are taking drugs such as Tamoxifen, which causes hot flushes.

Painful periods
In General Practice I often saw girls with painful periods, which were causing difficulties at school, especially during examination times. In the last issue of Health & Homeopathy, Mollie Hunton wrote a very interesting article on endometriosis, which can be a cause of painful periods at any age. However, the majority of girls with painful periods do not have to be referred to a gynaecologist for investigation and many cope simply by taking pain-killers, which do not need a prescription.

However, homeopathy can offer more than just pain-relief. If the correct remedy is found, it will improve the periods dramatically. The pain is caused by the uterine muscle contracting in a cramp-like way. As always, when trying to find the simillimum for the patient, a full history must be taken, as the description of the type of pain is always different.

In the most extreme cases, the girl may be completely wiped out by the pain, with fainting, clamminess, diarrhoea and vomiting. In this case, Veratrum album is magical.

In other cases the pain may be colicky, relieved by pressure and being curled up with a hot water bottle. The remedy here is Mag phos or Colocynth if the heat modality is less marked. Kali phos is useful if the pain is felt more in the back or radiates down the thighs. A magnesium supplement and omega oils are also very useful for preventing the uterine muscle from cramping.

Heavy periods
Some women experience heavy periods throughout their life, and others develop them when in their 40s. In this case a physical examination often reveals the presence of fibroids, which can be confirmed on a scan. Fibroids are an overgrowth of the muscle that forms the wall of the womb, that grow in “whorls” and can cause growths the size of an orange. These are entirely benign, but can produce symptoms by pressing on organs such as the bladder.

In the past, heavy periods were a common cause of hysterectomy, and many a “normal” womb was removed because nothing else could be done. These days, there are drugs which can reduce the bleeding, or a progesterone-bearing coil (Mirena) can be inserted which acts by thinning down the lining of the womb.

A coil cannot be inserted in the presence of fibroids, so management is more difficult, and although new techniques are being tried to remove the fibroids, these are not altogether successful and hysterectomy is often offered. After the menopause, the fibroids shrink and cease to be a problem. Homeopathic treatment can reduce the amount of blood flow, and help the woman avoid an operation. Some homeopaths claim to be able to shrink fibroids, but I’m afraid I was never that successful. However the text books contain mention of remedies said to reduce the size of them, such as Aurum muriaticum, Calcarea carbonica, Cacaria iodatum and Fraxinus americana. I found these remedies (and others) helped to reduce the bleeding and improve the quality of the patient’s life.

It is also important to take iron supplements to replace the iron loss each month. Any bleeding that occurs between periods, or after the menopause must always be investigated by a gynaecologist.

Vulval problems
This was another reason that I was frequently consulted in General Practice. Vulval problems can occur at any age, and have several different causes.

The commonest cause is vaginal thrush and it can be very difficult to eradicate. The symptoms are commonly a whitish discharge, like curds, associated with intense itching and soreness of the vulva. However, the presentation can be misleading, as the only complaint may be soreness on intercourse or vulval swelling. Adding to the complication is that vaginal swabs for thrush can often be negative, so many a patient has been told that they do not have thrush and are left with miserable complaints, not knowing what the problem is, or what to do about it. I have always worked on the assumption that the problem is thrush, unless a different cause can be found. The fungal organism causing thrush, called Candida albicans, likes to live in warm, moist places, so the vagina is ideal. It does not survive well on a swab being transported to a laboratory, hence the frequency of negative tests. It also needs a substrate to live on, as do all fungi, so if the woman has a high sugar intake, it will thrive. This is why it is a common in women who suffer from diabetes.

The first line of attack, therefore, is dietary. I put my patients on a no-sugar diet, much to their dismay. I also stop fruit for the first two weeks in severe cases, but after that fruit can be re­introduced, as fructose, the sugar in fruit, is less harmful. Patients are reluctant to comply at first, but life is so miserable for a sufferer from recurrent thrush, that once they have proved for themselves the connection, they will never touch sugar (or chocolate) again! I could always guarantee a stream of patients suffering from thrush coming in to consult me after Easter every year, for obvious reasons! Sugar – that is the culprit.
Women have often bought for themselves the usual anti-thrush treatments available, in the form of pessaries and cream, but they find that the thrush always comes back. Along with the dietary advice, I also give Candida 30c, three doses once a month to prevent attacks, with the advice to start taking it frequently, two-hourly, if they feel a bout coming on. This usually stops the attack in its tracks.

Other causes of vulval soreness are allergies, eg to perfumes in toiletries or even to the dye in toilet paper. Other infections can cause it, such as herpes genitalis. Post-menopausally, the cause can be oestrogen lack and an oestrogen pessary can safely be used, as it will not be absorbed sufficiently to cause any effects around the body. Alternatively, phyto-oestrogens (ie plants with oestrogenic properties) can be consumed or applied, such as soya milk or wild yam cream.

In conclusion, following a healthy life-style will help to support a woman’s health, both mentally and physically, and the judicial use of homeopathy can alleviate many of the problems that beset the fairer sex!

Dr Janet Gray MA MB BCh FFHom MRCGP DRCOG has recently retired from General Practice and, together with her husband, is taking a sabbatical from her homeopathic practice and teaching this year.

Pre-menstrual Syndrome

By Dr Andrew Lockie MB ChB DRCOG MRCGP MFHom and Dr Nicola Geddes MB ChB MSc Nutrition MFHom

PMS is a constellation of symptoms, both physical and emotional, which affect many women in the days leading up to a period, for anything from two to 14 days. It is only relatively recently that it has been recognised and accepted as a disorder with a physical cause. The term pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is more comprehensive than pre-menstrual tension, and is preferred by women as it has a less sexist, accusatory ring. The symptoms are relieved almost as soon as the period starts. It is a very common complaint, affecting three out of four women aged 30-40.

The social implications of PMS are considerable. There is an increased incidence of anti-social behaviour, accidents, illness and psychiatric crises in pre-menstrual women. Examples of this include poor standards of school work, with fewer passes and distinctions; schoolgirls receive more than the expected number of punishments, and are more forgetful and unpunctual. A three to five per cent increase in absenteeism from work occurs around the period time. Symptoms may be severe enough to cause a fear of crossing the road or driving, so the sufferer becomes isolated, preferring to stay close to home.

Behaviour of the sufferer that is different from the norm influences the lives of partners, children, neighbours, and friends. Aggressive behaviour towards the partner may lead to counter-violence.

Children are very sensitive to their mother’s emotional state, and may respond to inexplicable mood swings by psychosomatic symptoms such as a cough, runny nose, crying and vomiting. Thus, in addition to the unpleasant symptoms and feeling of not being in control that the sufferer experiences, she may also feel guilty about the effect she is having on those closest to her. This may account for the significant number of attempted suicides in the pre-menstrual phase.

Causes and symptoms
The causes of PMS are many and varied. They include hereditary predisposition, emotional causes and dietary errors. Metabolically it is possible to recognise four main sub-types of PMS, depending on the symptoms experienced. 

Type 1 PMS A:  Symptoms are nervous tension, mood swings, anxiety and irritability. This is the most common type, affecting 65 to 75 per cent of PMS sufferers. 
Type 2 PMS B:  Symptoms are of fluid retention, weight gain, breast heaviness and swelling and abdominal bloating. This affects 65 to 75 per cent of sufferers with PMS and appears to be due to excess aldosterone production, which produces salt and water retention. 
Type 3 PMS C:  Symptoms are sweet craving, increased appetite, dizziness and fainting. This affects 24 to 35 per cent of pre-menstrual women, and is due to decreased carbohydrate tolerance.
Type 4 PMS D:  Symptoms are depression, crying, confusion, forgetfulness and insomnia. This affects 25 to 35 per cent of women, and is more commonly found combined with PMS A, which occurs first and is followed by PMS D symptoms a few days before the onset of a period. It is characterised by high progesterone and low oestrogen.

Additional Symptoms
1. Skin disorders, increased tendency to acne. Skin becomes blotchy and dull with blemishes and whiteheads, and there may be a tendency to bruise. The skin is often more greasy.
2. Aches and pains due to (a) increased pressure within the tissues as retained fluid starts to collect, pressing on the nerve endings; (b) increased state of tension of the muscle fibres, possibly due to actual pre-menstrual effect on the muscle fibre, though it may also be due to mental tension; (c) painful periods caused by congestion of blood vessels in the pelvis and the genital regions – giving rise to a dull persistent pain in contrast to spasmodic period pains; (d) clumsiness.

Other more unusual symptoms are as follows: apathy, agoraphobia, panic attacks, fright, phobias, aversion to company, suspicion, feeling of detachment, suicidal tendencies, swelling of upper eyelids, hair loss, sinusitis, sore throat, numbness of the throat, backache, swelling of the hip and lower back, cutting pain in the legs, itching irritation and burning in the vagina, vaginal discharge which may be yellow and offensive, aversion to intercourse, pain on intercourse, burning pain in bladder, increase in wind and alternate constipation and diarrhoea, hot feet and a general feeling of being worse between 3 and 5pm.

Homeopathic treatment
The best course of action is homeopathic constitutional treatment, although the remedies listed below are well worth trying.

Specific remedies to be taken every 12 hours for up to three days, starting 24 hours before pre-menstrual symptoms are due. All remedies to be taken in 30c potency.

Sepia
Irritability – worse for stress; depression; indifference; agoraphobia; weepiness; difficulty in concentrating; wanting to get away from everyone; emotionally flat; suicidal; fits of screaming; possible violence; anger; hair falling out; headaches in general; pressure on top of the head; chronic sinusitis; greasy facial skin; hot flushes on face; sore throat with numbness; desire for sweets and salty things; tenderness, dragging, bearing down pains in lower abdomen; anal fissure; burning pain in vagina; yellow, burning, offensive vaginal discharge; itching of vagina caused by discharge; discharge after intercourse with tendency to thrush – worse after childbirth; aversion to sexual intercourse or just reduced sex drive; prolapse of the womb; may have endometriosis; pain in vagina on intercourse, symptoms worse at menopause; sore nipples; palpitations.

Generalities: muscular tension – worse between 3 and 5pm; trembling weakness and weariness in morning. Symptoms worse after periods.

Calcarea
Depression; indifference; agoraphobia; weepiness; irritability; panic attacks; suicidal; apprehension; fearful, especially in public places; dizziness; headache before periods; general tendency to headaches; pains in back of head; greasy facial skin; sore throat; desire for sweets, sugar, salt and eggs; yellow, burning vaginal discharge causes itching; tendency to thrush; PMS worse since pregnancy; prolapse of womb; pain in womb during periods; swelling and tenderness of breasts before periods; backache; clumsiness; swollen ankles; swelling of hands; cutting pains in thigh; sleeplessness.

Generalities: painful joints; tiredness and lack of energy; weakness with cold sweats; tendency to put on weight.

Lycopodium
Irritability – worse for stress; depression; lack of self confidence; weepiness; difficulty in concentrating; wanting to be left alone; suspicious; mistrustful; feeling of being detached; violent behaviour; fearful in a crowd of people; weepy after periods; anger; hair falling out; headaches before periods; greasy facial skin; hot flushes on face; sore throat; nausea; desire for sweet things; desire for sugar; bloated abdomen; dull aching pains; bearing down pains in lower abdomen; irritable bowel syndrome; yellow vaginal discharge; aversion to sexual intercourse; may have endometriosis; tender nipples and breasts; backache; swelling of back; swollen fingers, hands, feet and ankles.

Generalities: joint pains; general weakness; trembling; weakness in morning; weakness with sweating; tendency to put on weight.

Pulsatilla
Irritability – worse for stress; depression; indifference; lack of self-confidence; weepiness; burst into tears for no reason; desire to be alone; suspicious; mistrusting; feeling of detachment; suicidal; indecisiveness; anxious about the future; fearful in public places; fearful in a crowd; dizziness; headaches before periods; swelling of upper eyelids; bloated abdomen; dull aching pain and bearing down pains in lower abdomen; cramping pains -better for heat; irritable bowel syndrome; urgent need to pass water; burning pain; burning pains in vagina; burning yellow vaginal discharge, with tendency to thrush; PMS worse since pregnancy; prolapse of the womb; pain in womb during periods; periods irregular and may be scanty; symptoms worse at menopause; tender breasts; backache; hot feet; swollen fingers, ankles and feet.

Generalities: joint pains; weakness; muscular tension; tendency to weight gain.

Sulphur
Weepiness; irritability; desire to be left alone; mistrustful; anxiety; violent; angry and apprehensive; hair falling out; headache before periods; drawing pains in head; swelling of upper eyelids; chronic sinusitis; greasy facial skin; hot flushes on face; sore throat; marked desire or sweets, sugar and salt; dragging bearing down pain in lower abdomen; constipation; anal fissure; irritable bowel syndrome; urgent need to pass water; burning pains in vagina; yellow, burning offensive vaginal discharge which causes itching; aversion to intercourse or reduced sex drive; pain in vagina on intercourse, worse at menopause; painful nipples; clumsiness, hot feet; swelling of fingers and hands.

Generalities: joint pains; PMS worse during convalescence from illness; tendency to put on weight.

Lachesis
Irritability; difficulty in concentrating; aversion to company; suspicious and mistrustful; detached feeling; suicidal; violent; indecisive; symptoms worse for stress; dizziness; hair falling out; headache before periods; sore throat worse on left side; bloated abdomen; tenderness in abdomen; constipation; anal fissure; irritable bowel syndrome; menopause; burning, vaginal discharge; PMS worse since pregnancy; tender nipples; palpitations; backache; clumsiness; swollen ankles; aching pains in hips; swollen hands; sleeplessness.

Generalities: symptoms better at beginning of period; weakness and heaviness in morning – worse after periods are over.

Natrum mur
Depression; indifference; lack of self-confidence; weepiness; definite aversion to company; detached feeling; anxiety; suicidal; violent; fearful in a crowed; symptoms worse for stress; hair falling out; headaches before periods; pressure on top of head; greasy facial skin; nausea; desires salty and sweet things; anal fissure; irritable bowel syndrome; burning pain in vagina; itching from vaginal discharge; tendency to thrush; aversion to intercourse or reduced sex drive; pain in vagina on intercourse; swollen tender breasts; palpitations.

Generalities: weakness; muscular tension; trembling; weariness in morning; fluid retention.

Nux vom
Indifference; lack of self-confidence; agoraphobia; irritability; difficulty in concentrating; aversion to company; mistrustful; anxiety; suicidal; violent; fearful in public places; fearful in a crowd; anger, symptoms worse for stress; dizziness; drawing pains in head; chronic catarrh; acne on face; sore throat; nausea; desire for fatty foods, rich foods, alcohol; bearing down pain in lower abdomen; constipation; anal fissure; irritable bowel syndrome; frequent need to pass water; yellow, offensive vaginal discharge with tendency to thrush; PMS worse since pregnancy; pain in womb during periods; worse at menopause; tenderness of breasts; backache; clumsiness.

Generalities: joint pains; muscular tension; weariness in the morning; generally worse after periods as well as before, chilliness.

Phosphorus
Worse for stress; indifference; panic attacks; difficult concentration; feeling of detachment; violent; apprehensive; weepiness after periods; anger; dizziness; hair falling out; greasy facial skin; acne on face; nausea, desire for sweets, sugar, salt and salty things; dragging down pain in abdomen; anal fissure; irritable bowel syndrome; urgent need to pass water; menopause; burning vaginal discharge; aversion to intercourse; clumsiness; swollen fingers, ankles, feet and hands; cramps in calves.

Generalities: joint pains; weakness; PMS worse during convalescence from and acute illness; muscle tension; tendency to put on weight.

Graphites
Weepiness; irritability; difficulty in concentrating; anxiety; indecision; hair falling out; swollen face; hot flushes on face; constipation; anal fissure; burning pain in vagina; yellow vaginal discharge, with tendency to thrush; reduced sex drive; symptoms worse at menopause; tenderness in breasts and nipples; clumsiness; cutting pains in thigh; swelling of fingers, ankles and feet.

Generalities: weakness; generally worse after periods; tendency to put on weight.

Kali carb
Irritability; panic attacks; angry; tense; hair falling out; swollen upper eyelids, like a little bag or pouch; chronic sinusitis; swollen face; desires sweets, sugar; dull aching pain; gnawing pain in abdomen; constipation; irritable bowel syndrome; urgent need to pass water; reduced sex drive; pain in vagina on intercourse; symptoms worse at menopause; swollen, tender breasts; backaches; sleeplessness.

Generalities: joint pains; trembling; tendency to weight gain; exhaustion; symptoms worse around 3am.

Silicea
Lack of self-confidence; difficulty in concentrating; hair falling out; pressure on top of head; greasy facial skin; acne on face; sore throat; cramping pains – better for warmth; constipation; anal fissure; offensive vaginal discharge; tender nipples; clumsiness; swollen feet.

Generalities: joint pains; symptoms worse during convalescence from acute illness; muscle tension.

Belladonna
Worse for stress; irritability; aversion to company; mistrustful; suicidal; violent; headache before periods; feeling of pressure on top of head; sore throat; dragging pains; burning in vagina; tendency to thrush; PMS worse since pregnancy; pain in womb during periods, symptoms worse at menopause; clumsiness; cutting pains in thigh; swollen hands; sleeplessness.

Generalities: joint pains; weakness; weariness; tendency to gain weight.

Causticum
Depression; weepiness; irritability; difficulty in concentrating; suspicious and mistrustful; pessimistic; over-sensitive; greasy facial skin; acne on face; sore throat; frequent urge to urinate or signs of cystitis; anal fissure; itching from vaginal discharge; PMS symptoms worse since pregnancy; aversion to sexual intercourse or reduced sex drive; tender nipples; backache; clumsiness; swollen feet.

Generalities: joint pains; weakness.

This article is taken from The Women’s Guide to Homeopathy by Dr Andrew Lockie MB ChB DRCOG MRCGP MFHom and Dr Nicola Geddes MB ChB MSc Nutrition MFHom published by Penguin Books, price £14 (paperback only).

Pre-menstrual syndrome


Dr Julie Geraghty
talks about how wild yam helped a patient suffering from severe PMT

‘It must be the time of the month’, is quite often the response when a woman snaps at her partner, friends or colleagues. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the name given to the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that can occur in the two weeks before a woman’s monthly period, is generally regarded and accepted as part and parcel of being a woman’s life despite the accompanying mood swings, fluid retention and abdominal pain. However, a small number of women find that their symptoms are severe enough to stop them living their normal lives, including Y a 29-year-old woman who was referred to the Homeopathic Hospital with menstrual migraine associated with symptoms in the right arm, and episodes of severe abdominal pain.

Patient symptoms
I asked the patient to describe her symptoms to me. Y told me: “I get migraines once a month with the start of my periods. I’ve also had two small bowel blockages since I asked my GP for the referral. The migraine starts with a pain between my neck and shoulders, then my head starts pounding and my whole right arm goes numb, like a dead weight. There’s a feeling as if something is pulling on my shoulder, it’s better if I put my arm above my head (she puts her right arm up over her head). I can’t hear properly in my right ear, my ear feels bunged up. And there’s a dot in the middle of the vision of my right eye. My head is pounding, I need to put pressure on my head to suppress the pounding.”

Further probing
I asked her which symptom as the worst. Her response was: “My arm is the worst, I can never get comfortable. I also get it at the mid-cycle, along with a slight headache, but it’s much worse with the migraines at the start of my period. It’s as if there’s a block of concrete in my arm, the whole arm is tingling, and the fingers go numb. There’s tremendous pressure on the joint by my neck, a pulling feeling in my joints between my shoulder and my head, as if someone is yanking on my arm. It’s better if I prop my arm up with pillows. I try to stretch it; I put it above my head. The migraine comes once a month but it affects me mid month too, so you don’t have much release from it. I can’t plan anything. It’s there in the mornings; it gets worse as the day goes on. It lasts two days and I feel a spaced out and nauseous.”

Migraine
I then went on to ask the patient to describe the actual pain of the migraine. She said: “There’s tremendous pressure in my head as if my head is going to explode. I push against it with my pillow…pressure is the only thing that releases the feeling, as if all the blood vessels in there are wanting to burst. It’s a constant pain, excruciating, always worse on the right side at the back of my head. It’s so intense in a small area, as if all the blood is rushing to this part of your head, and there’s nowhere for it to go. Something needs to burst to relieve the pressure. I feel my arm is pulling me down, like I have an arm made of concrete. The arm feels so solid, the end of my fingers feel numb. I have to stretch my arm up above my head to get any relief.”

Bowel blockage
The patient had also mentioned two recent small bowel blockages so I asked her to tell me more about them. “It’s excruciating pain, you curl up into a ball. It eases if I stop eating and drinking, but they had to put me on a drip for two days until it unwinds itself,” she said. “I can’t stretch out, it’s knotted in a ball. I’m curled up rocking, I feel everything is in a big knot. It’s all entangled together, there’s no movement at all. worse, it gets solid; everything is stuck as if there’s a solid block there. There’s nothing you can do to relieve it …it feels as if one big bowel movement would empty it, but it’s one big blocked area, no softness anywhere. Now the skin of my tummy is flexible, but when I have the obstruction, I can’t grab the skin because it’s so stretched, so bloated. It doesn’t feel like gas, it feels like I’ve eaten boiled potatoes, which have formed one big solid thing with no movement to it, it feels it wants to come out but there are no small bits. It’s a whole big block that would have to come out to relieve the pressure. My whole body tenses up as I’m trying to go to the toilet. I feel pressure on my rectum, excruciating pain in my bottom as if all the weight is pushed onto it, but it can’t get out, as if it’s trying to get out of a hole that’s that big, but the block is twenty times bigger, a whole block is pushing on the tiny area. When you’re not trying to make a bowel movement, the pain is spread out, when you push, it centralises the pain to one small area. It’s very draining, you get so frustrated, something so simple is causing so much pain, no matter how much you try there’s nothing you can do. You can’t even pass wind; you can only go into hospital.

Stomach ulcer
The patient added that doctors thought that the pain was due to scar tissue from a burst stomach ulcer when she was 21. “I woke up with a fever, I was throwing up blood, I was taken to hospital and eventually they found out it was a small stomach ulcer that had burst, and I was given a blood transfusion,” she said. “They think that taking Nurofen for wisdom tooth pain had caused the ulcer. It happened again last year. I felt sick, the pain got worse and worse, I was taken to casualty, they did an x-ray and I had another burst ulcer. I was in hospital for 10 days and they did emergency surgery. I lost a lot of weight. The first time I felt as if I was dying when I was vomiting blood. The second time I had so much pain breathing I also felt like I was dying. They don’t know what caused it, I was told to stay on antacids forever. The first time when I was 21, I was drinking more, and I did take Nurofen for my wisdom tooth. Now I’m much healthier but I’m still completely at a loss as to why it happened last year because I hadn’t been taking any anti-inflammatories. When an ulcer bursts, it’s like a hole, things can go where they shouldn’t go, they cause your insides to flare up, everything gets red and full of pus, which causes pain. I’ve had two lots of bowel blockages which they say are caused by the bowel twisting around the scar tissue from the burst ulcers. The first was last year and the second was six weeks ago. With my bowel, there’s no way of knowing when the obstruction is going to come back again, so I’m always on tenterhooks. To me it feels as if my bowel got in a knot, all tangled up, screwed up in a ball. If you don’t eat, it slowly relaxes, untangles, it feels as if it’s squashed in a space where there’s not enough room, it’s all tangled. It relaxes it can move around, unravel, like when you wake up all curled up in a ball, you slowly relax, you stretch yourself out. When I wake up screwed up in a ball on my side, I stretch my legs out, any tension slowly goes down my body as I stretch, (she stretches her legs and arms out straight), and it’s like a complete release.”

Homeopathic diagnosis
This young woman has very severe symptoms that are interfering with her life. What’s interesting from a homeopathic point of view is the way that she describes these symptoms. In fact, I’d never heard anyone describing migraines and arm pains like she was experiencing. That’s the beauty of a homeopathy, when you go into it, even if patients have the same diagnosis like ‘migraine’, the individual experience of the migraine will be very different for each person. She also has two completely different sets of symptoms, migraines with arm pains, and burst ulcers causing blockages due to scar tissue, but we are looking for a homeopathic medicine that covers both. As a homeopathic doctor we are trying to understand what is similar in the way that her body experiences these two different groups of symptoms. In this case, I found it fascinating that she described both the pain in her head and the pain in her bottom as a feeling of great pressure on a small area. She describes both the feeling in her arm and the feeling in her tummy as being completely ‘solid’. The thing that most relieves the arm pain and the tummy pains is stretching out, and ‘unwinding’ the solid knot.

Wild yam
This led me to a very interesting homeopathic medicine called Dioscorea Villosa. It’s made from wild yam, and has long been known as a remedy for unbearably sharp, twisting, colicky pains. These pains can occur pretty much anywhere in the body, but are particularly common in the tummy. The characteristic ‘keynote’ about these pains is that they’re better for stretching out, or bending backwards, and worse for doubling up. I decided to give Dioscorea Villosa 30c, one dose with the mid-cycle pains, and three doses 12 hours apart with the migraine pains.

Partial improvement
Two months later the patient returned for a follow up appointment. She said: “Last month, the medicine worked brilliantly with the mid-cycle headaches, it’s the best relief I’ve had. With the menstrual headaches, it only helped the arm symptoms, not the head pain. Now I only have very slight tingling in my arm, but no pulling pain or numbness. But I’m still getting the bad headaches when my period starts. I feel drained and nauseous, but I’m never actually sick.”

As she’d had a promising improvement in some symptoms, I decided to increase the strength of Dioscorea Villosa to 200c with pre-menstrual migraines, and continue 30c mid-cycle.

World of difference
Four months on the patient came back and reported: “The tablets are helping a lot; I’m feeling much better. The lower strength helps the arm symptoms a lot but sometimes it takes 40 minutes to kick in. The higher strength has definitely helped the migraines; I’m taking much fewer painkillers. I take the medicine three times a day for two days, but I think four times would be better. I’m amazed how quickly it works; within 15 minutes my headache is improving. I’ve been dreading my periods; they seem to come around again so quickly. The medicine has made the world of difference, the high strength is definitely much more effective. I haven’t had any tummy pains.”

I advised her to take the higher potency, 200c, up to four times daily, as it was clearly more effective than the 30c.

Effective remedy
Four months later the patient reported a marked improvement in her symptoms. She told me: “The medicine has made a huge difference, the four doses on the first two days of my period are very effective. They work very quickly and last for four hours. I only take one dose at the mid-cycle for the arm pain that helps hugely. I’ve also tried the remedy when I’ve had tummy pain, because of gas making me bloated, I’ve taken two doses on three different occasions and the pain has cleared up very quickly. Before it would take hours and I’d be afraid it would go into the knot. I feel so much better. I feel I can live again.”

Julie Geraghty MBChB MFHom DCH works at the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital and also has a private practice.
 

Pregnancy and labour

It’s baby time

Jenifer Worden discusses the use of homeopathy during pregnancy and birth

So the test is positive and you are pregnant. But what happens next? What can you safely take for morn­ing sickness or sore breasts or heartburn or any of the other harmless but upset­ting symptoms associated with a normal pregnancy? Let me guide you through this exciting time from start to finish, with homeopathic medicines for every stage of pregnancy and labour. My per­sonal approach is to treat problems at this point in your life as they arise but some homeopaths will have specific remedies for each stage of pregnancy or will treat you constitutionally through­out. Homeopathic medications are safe to take at all stages of pregnancy or labour; but take care with herbal reme­dies unless they have specific instruc­tions for use when pregnant.

The first trimester
This term refers to the first three months of pregnancy, from the moment of con­ception onwards. Most women nowa­days find out that they are pregnant from almost the first day of a missed period, thanks to modern technology and ever more sophisticated pregnancy tests. Some women know the moment that they conceive but most of us have to wait a little longer to find out. Pregnancy is dated from the first day of your last period by doctors and mid­wives so even if you are sure when you became pregnant, the estimated day that your baby will be born will be worked out from your last menstrual cycle. This is why when you see your GP following a positive pregnancy test, he or she will say that you are a little further on in your pregnancy than you think you are, so be prepared for this.

Nausea and sickness
One of the first signs of pregnancy is a feeling of nausea or sickness. Some women may actually vomit. The term “morning sickness” is somewhat of a misnomer as many women feel sick all day long, or not until the afternoon or evening. This symptom usually lasts until you are 14 to 16 weeks pregnant but occasionally can persist through the whole pregnancy. If very severe, it is referred to as “hyperemesis gravidarum” and may require a hospital admission and/or conventional medication.

If the nausea starts as soon as you lift your head off the pillow, then Cocculus indica can be very helpful. It is derived from the cockle flower and can be taken at a dose of 30c three times a day. It is especially useful when the nausea is related to movement so may also be taken if you find that you are inclined to motion sickness in your preg­nancy. If the nausea is worse in the morning, and you keep being sick with small amounts of food and mucus, then try Nux vomica at the same dose as the Cocculus indica. If the smell of food trig­gers your sickness and eating does not help stop the nausea, then try Sepia, again 30c three times daily. If symptoms are very severe, you can take any of the above remedies every two hours, at the same strength, but I would advise that you seek urgent medical advice if you are unable to keep any fluids down whatsoever or are feeling very unwell.

Breast tenderness
Another common problem in the first trimester is breast tenderness or dis­comfort. This is due to the hormonal changes occurring in your body at this time and homeopathic medicines that are used for breast pains before and dur­ing periods can also be used in early pregnancy. The remedy that I most often recommend is Pulsatilla. Usually 30c taken once or twice a day will soothe things down. Don’t forget that wearing a good supportive bra throughout this time will help to prevent damage to the delicate supportive ligaments of the breasts which are put under strain in pregnancy due to the increase in size.

The second trimester
Backache
During months three to six your bump will be getting bigger and you will find that you start to waddle like a duck due to a combination of your growing womb and your pelvis enlarging slightly as your ligaments stretch due to the effect of pregnancy hormones. This can give rise to backache, leading to the typical image of a pregnant woman resting her hands on the small of her back for comfort. Kali carbonicum for a back which feels weak and tired and with a dragging pain in the middle and lower region is a good option and can be taken at the 6c strength, up to four times a day. If you find that your back feels better by lying on something hard or by getting some­one to press firmly into your back, then it is worth trying Natrum muriaticum, at the same strength and dose. If your back is hurting due to an injury or strain, then take an Arnica 30c, followed by Rhus toxicodendron 6c, every six to eight hours, for up to seven days if the backache persists.

Constipation
One of the most troublesome symptoms of the middle stage of pregnancy is con­stipation. This is due to added pressure on your bowels from your growing baby and also the effects of the hormone progesterone. Keeping up your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, and not forgetting natural laxatives such as dried fruit or prune juice, is vital to keep things on the move but if you find everything is becoming a strain, then the following medications may help. Hard, small stools that are difficult to pass, leaving you feeling as if you have not really emp­tied your bowels are typical constipa­tion symptoms that may be helped by a 6c dose of Lycopodium up to four times daily. No urge to have your bowels open and trouble passing even a soft motion is an indication for Alumina (same dose as Lycopodium) and large, hard stools which make you feel as if there is a ball inside your rectum, causing pains to shoot upwards can be helped by tak­ing Sepia 6c four times a day.

Varicose veins
As your womb grows, it presses on the main arteries and veins in your pelvis, leading to a feeling of faintness if you lie on your back, but more upsettingly, to the appearance of knobbly veins in your legs, otherwise known as varicose veins. These can be prevented by wearing sup­port tights, not crossing your legs and keeping your feet up at every available opportunity. However, the latter is not always possible if you are a working woman. Avoiding long periods of stand­ing is essential at this point in your preg­nancy and if your legs are particularly uncomfortable, try a twice daily dosage of 6c Pulsatilla to help. Pulsatilla can also help the discomfort of varicose veins in the rectum which are more commonly known as “piles”. These usually accom­pany constipation, which is why they are common in pregnancy. If the Pulsatilla does not help, then try Carbo vegetabilis at a similar dose, especially if your piles result in a burning pain in the rectum after a bowel movement.

The third trimester
Heartburn
You’re on the home straight but the final three months of pregnancy bring their own problems. Nearly half of all preg­nant women suffer from heartburn, which is due to the relaxing effect of the progesterone hormone on the gullet (oesophagus) and increased pressure on the stomach from your growing bump. Eating small meals and often can help, as can avoiding difficult to digest foods such as fried, spicy or fatty ones. A simple antacid can also relieve discom­fort but speak to your GP, midwife or pharmacist before taking any over ­the-counter medicines when pregnant. If your heartburn is worse around mid morning, causes a gnawing sensation in your stomach and milky foods make your symptoms worse, try taking Sulphur 6c four times daily. Lycopodium is also a good remedy if you find that eating small amounts of food tends to help you feel better. If you are suffer­ing from a severe burning sensation behind your breastbone, then Capsicum may help, again at the 6c strength, four times a day.

Urinary problems
The other major problem at this stage is urinary in origin, principally urine infections and incontinence of urine. Al­though urine infections (UTIs) are com­mon throughout pregnancy, they can occur more often in these final three months. Symptoms of infection, such as a stinging or burning when passing urine and having to go to the toilet more often (cystitis), may be less noticeable in preg­nancy. This is one of the reasons that the midwife or doctor will test a urine sam­ple when you go to see them, as you may have a UTI without realising it. Anti­biotics are very necessary to treat urine infections in pregnancy but homeopathic remedies can be taken alongside them to make you feel better more quickly. It is important that urine infections are ­treated properly when pregnant to avoid serious kidney complications.

Cantharis is a good remedy to take if you have constant stinging or burning in the area of your bladder (lower abdomen) and noticeable discomfort on passing urine. Try a 30c strength tablet every two hours alongside any conven­tional treatment necessary. If you are passing large amounts of cloudy urine frequently and find that the urine is burning you as you pass it, and you need to go to the bathroom mostly at night, then Phosphoricum acidum 6c two hourly may be a better option. For itch­ing and irritability of your bladder and urethra (the tube from your bladder to the outside world), with dribbles of urine passed frequently but only with some difficulty, I would suggest Nux vomica 6c at the same dose.

Because of the weight of the baby on your bladder at this time, you may find that you leak or dribble a little urine when you cough, sneeze or stand up. You may also find it harder to hang on to your urine when your bladder is full. Of course, these problems will persist until your baby is born, as they are due to a very physical reason, but you may wish to try taking Causticum to see if this helps you. I would recommend a 6c tablet twice daily.

Labour
Labour is defined medically as having started when the cervix (neck of the womb) can be felt to dilate (stretch). This is determined by a physical examination vaginally by your obstetrician or mid­wife. False labour pains can last for hours or days before true labour starts but feel the same and are responsible for numerous false alarms in mums-to-be. Babies will arrive when they are ready and I would not advise trying to hurry nature along unnecessarily but keeping active in late pregnancy is a good idea. Sex has been suggested as one way of getting things going but only if you are in the mood!

Speak to your hospital consultant or midwife if you want to use homeopathy during your labour. Most hospitals are sympathetic but some obstetric depart­ments confuse herbal and homeopathic medicines and have a blanket ban on all complementary treatments. It is better to sort things out before you go into labour. I always write out a detailed plan for the parents-to-be on how to use the homeopathic medicines I recommend for birth and am more than happy to advise local obstetricians or midwives should the occasion arise. My comments and advice below refer to normal deliv­ery, after 37 weeks of pregnancy, unless otherwise specified.

Some women like to take Arnica 30c daily from week 39 onwards, to help prevent bruising after the birth, but don’t worry if your baby arrives a little early. You can take it immediately after your baby has been born, two to three times daily, until your bruising has gone. This applies to normal deliveries, forceps/ven­touse deliveries or Caesarean sections (C-section).

As having a baby can be somewhat of a hectic time, I keep my advice for the labour room itself simple and recom­mend three principle homeopathic med­ications to take in with you.

Colocynthis 30c is indicated when there is a lot of pain in your abdomen but with lack of progression in labour. The midwife will usually assess the lat­ter by the dilatation/stretching of the cervix, and movement of your baby’s head through the birth canal. A prob­lem with either of these and pain that seems out of proportion to the progress of your baby is the time to take Colocynthis as needed, up to every ten minutes. If your midwife advises that the situation is not changing or your baby is distressed, it may be best to use conventional means.

If your contractions seem to have died off or pains flit around your abdomen without doing very much, then Caulophyllum 30c can be taken hourly for a total of four doses. This stage in labour may coincide with you feeling exhausted and being quite tearful and emotional. If there is no improvement, then Caulophyllum 200c can be taken in the same way. It is vitally important to take the advice of the midwife and to check that she is happy that the baby is in the right position for a natural birth. If the labour seems to have become com­pletely blocked by lack of progress and despair on your part, then a single dose of Arsenicum 200c can be tried.

I always advise that a glass of spring water containing four drops of Bach Rescue Remedy is available to everyone in the delivery room, from birthing part­ner through to midwife!

After the birth
At this time, you probably are either exhausted or on an emotional high. Babies are often tired too and need to rest straight after delivery so this is a good time for both baby and new mum to relax. Many hospitals now discharge you within 24 hours of an uncompli­cated birth and within six hours if you want. If you have had a home delivery, it is still important to rest; let someone else put the washing machine on!

Continue taking Arnica 30c and add in Hypericum 30c twice daily if you have had an episiotomy or stitches to a vagi­nal tear. If you have had a Caesarean sec­tion, then I would advise Staphisagria 30c to be taken with the Arnica, in pref­erence to Hypericum, particularly if you had to have a catheter in your bladder for any amount of time.

Remedies can be taken until things feel back to normal.

Late arrivals
Finally, if your baby decides to arrive later rather than sooner, Caulophyllum 30c can be taken twice daily to promote labour if you go more than a week over your due date, but again, check first with your GP, obstetrician or midwife that they are happy with the position of your baby.

Jenifer Worden MB ChB MRCGP MFHom is a part-time NHS GP in Ringwood, Hampshire and has a private homeopathic practice in Highcliffe, Dorset. She treats patients with a wide range of conditions and across the complete age range. 
 

Polycystic ovarian syndrome

Mollie Hunton describes how she treats this condition homeopathically

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) used to be called Stein-Leventhal syn­drome when I was at medical school, and was so rare that no gynaecologist could find a case of it to demonstrate to us. Now, however, it is extremely com­mon and I see about ten cases a year.

The symptoms in the syndrome are acne, irregular or absent periods, obe­sity, hirsutism (excessive growth of bod­ily hair) and infertility. Not all patients have every symptom. In fact some peo­ple are not overweight. This can cause difficulty when doctors are not inclined to refer for investigations if the patient does not fit all the categories.

An ultrasound scan shows that suf­ferers have changes in the ovaries which cause multiple small cysts to occur with­out ovulation. The cysts are arranged around the outside of the ovary, just under the surface and have not been able to rupture as they should at ovulation.

As ovulation does not occur, hor­mone levels do not fall as they would normally do. Consequently menstrua­tion, which occurs in response to falling levels of hormones, may be delayed or absent. I feel that this situation should be able to be picked up early in teenagers who do not menstruate regularly. At this point, some homeopathic remedies would help, but the patient and the doc­tor need to be aware that irregularity may indicate pathology and some tests need to be done, even if no other symp­toms are present. I call this early stage the “tough ovary” situation. It is as if the covering (capsule) of the ovary is too tough to allow the follicle to burst when it has ripened. Some cyclical Folli­culinum and Ovarian gland in 30c potency usually helps at this early stage.

The elevated levels of testosterone and oestrogen eventually result in hir­sutism, acne and long or absent mens­trual cycles and obesity. A primary cause is thought to be high levels of insulin due to insulin resistance, where the body tis­sues do not respond normally to insulin which may be a genetic abnormality. Women with this syndrome (also called Syndrome X) are therefore at risk of pre­mature heart attacks, premature menopause and abnormal growth of the uterine lining (endometrium) which can lead to cancer.

Conventional treatment of the infer­tility, which is what takes most women to their doctor, is with clomiphene, which is said to induce ovulation in 70 per cent of patients. Inducing ovulation is not the same as getting pregnant though. If people are overweight, a low carbohydrate load diet is advised and also the medication metformin which people with type 2 diabetes take.

In order to understand this complex syndrome I analysed ten patients I had seen in the previous year. I was look­ing to see how each patient presented, which homeopathic medicines were suc­cessful and what the outcome was.

The patients
The youngest was 18, two were in their 20s and seven in their 30s, the oldest being 39. This reflects the situation that people are waiting until later to start their families and when they want to become pregnant find that they have a problem. The 18 year-old was a student, but everyone else was in full-time work, often in busy, stressful jobs like teaching.

Symptoms experienced
Acne
Seven patients had acne and two had had Roaccutane which can only be prescribed by a consultant dermatolo­gist. At no time was PCOS considered as a diagnosis. Dermatologists do not normally ask about periods.
Hirsutism Seven patients had abnormal body hair. One had had it since the age of 16 and was now 31.
Menstrual cycle All the patients had abnormally long menstrual cycles. Six had had the problem since they started menstruating. Usually if a teenager goes to the doctor complaining of a long cycle, investigations for PCOS are not under­taken and the patient is reassured that things will settle down. I don’t know if anyone has done any research to see what proportion of young girls who complain of a long cycle do revert to normal and how long it takes, but it seems to be a missed opportunity to diagnose the con­dition. The situation of a long cycle is not common anyway in my experience, so I would take it seriously if it were pre­sented to me at that age.
Weight Six patients were overweight, so four were not – an important observation. None was diabetic. The Americans describe five different types of PCOS according to the variations in the symptoms, but in three of the variations the weight is nor­mal. This is one time when you can blame your glands for your weight!
Infertility Only four patients com­plained of infertility and in fact another was actually pregnant. The other five were not contemplating pregnancy. One patient had one child already but had been unable to conceive again and one patient had two children.
Concomitant problems One patient suf­fered depression and grief, one depres­sion, alcohol problems, heavy smoking, Syndrome X and bulimia, one had epilepsy and suicidal depression, one had recur­rent cystitis and Irritable Bowel Syn­drome, and one had panic attacks and had had repeated courses of antibiotics.

Investigations
Eight patients had had their hormone levels checked. One had not and one was not sure. Four were told that their testos­terone levels were not elevated and the rest were not told their results. Seven had had an ultrasound scan, in two of whom no cysts were seen. This does not necessarily mean that cysts were not there, only that they were not seen. Sometimes the ovaries are not easy to see if the patient is very overweight or the ovaries are positioned deep in the pelvis. One patient had not been offered a scan. This meant that only five patients had a definite diagnosis of PCOS, which tells you that the GPs do not consider a diagnosis of PCOS or that they feel the expense of the investigations is not warranted.

However, it is important to make a diagnosis because there may be treat­ment implications – diabetes and Syndrome X must not be left unchecked. I now check the blood sugar of every­one who is overweight. Although only five patients had had a definite diagno­sis, the other five had not had an expla­nation for their long menstrual cycles and other symptoms. Where there were classical symptoms of PCOS but no con­firmatory test results, I explained my theory of the “tough ovarian capsule” situation. I did suggest to three patients that they ask their GPs for tests and one person was refused.

Treatment
It is very important for people who are overweight to lose it and for diabetics and women who have Syndrome X to stick to a low carbohydrate (glycemic) load way of eating. Glycemic load is sim­ply the best measure of whether a food, a meal, or a diet will help create blood sugar control, and help lose weight (see Patrick Holford’s web site or his book Low GL Diet Made Easy). People who are overweight all have emotional prob­lems focussed on food, for example com­fort eating. One patient in this study had bulimia, which always is emotional in origin and has added emotional over­tones. When you embark on treating PCOS you are treating a chronic condi­tion that has often been present, albeit unrecognised, for many years, which is why people become depressed. Homeo­pathy is the only system that looks at the whole person and not just at their hor­mones and ovaries.

Case study
Mrs KJ, aged 31, came to see me because she had had PCOS for ten years and dur­ing her first pregnancy she had a large ovarian cyst which could not be oper­ated on and she had to have a caesarean section. She was now pregnant for the second time and wanted to try and deliver normally.

Her PCOS was diagnosed at the age of 21 when she was experiencing irreg­ular bleeding. At the time she was work­ing on a ship which she found very stressful. She developed severe acne which was treated by a dermatologist with Minocin, a strong antibiotic. After this she developed irregular bleeding and a scan showed ovarian cysts. She was put onto oestrogen patches. She then conceived naturally, but developed the large cyst. The cyst was dealt with dur­ing the caesarean.

Eventually she wanted to conceive again, but was unable to. She was refer­red back to the gynaecologist and was due to have a laparoscopy when she became pregnant.

By nature she was a home person. On board ship she had been very home­sick. She was very moody and often burst into tears. She hated stuffy atmos­pheres and always slept with the win­dow open. She hated to be cold. Despite what she thought about her acne scars, she was a very attractive person with blond hair and blue eyes.

I prescribed Pulsatilla 200c, three tablets to be taken in one day once a month whilst pregnant. She did not develop any cysts and went on to deliver normally.

Outcome
Out of the ten patients treated, two were lost to follow up. Three were unable to handle the diet, however one had an improvement in her cycle despite having considerable emotional problems exposed which can be difficult to treat. Another felt she had had a therapeutic consultation. There were lots of improve­ments recorded in patients’ cycles, in their diets and in their mental health.

This is a complex syndrome with a lot of symptoms in different systems and often of long standing. It would obvi­ously take a long time for changes and recovery to occur. Sometimes there is not enough time and patients find the conventional system with its quick fixes hard to resist.

Mollie Hunton MB BS DRCOG FFHom teaches homeopathy to undergraduates at Birmingham Medical School. She is President of the Midlands branch of the Faculty of Homeopathy and has a private practice. 
  

Post-natal depression

Jenifer Worden discusses how homeopathy can help women suffering from this distressing condition

The first thing that can be said about post-natal depression (PND) is that to the women who have suffered it and those women reading this article, who may be suffering from it, the effects of PND are distressing, debilitating and are very real.

PND is not uncommon, with up to ten per cent of all mothers affected to a greater or lesser degree. The incidence of PND is higher in the months imme­diately following childbirth but it is not unknown for a small number of women still to be suffering the effects a year after the birth of their child.

PND and its symptoms
PND may be defined as a non-psychotic depression occurring during the first six months after the birth of a child. The term “non-psychotic depression” for the lay person means that the mother does not suffer from hallucinations or delusions. These are the symptoms of a severe mental illness and require urgent specialist medical attention from a con­sultant psychiatrist.

PND, on the other hand, can affect all women after childbirth but more often women who have a history of life events such as bereavements or a poor marital relationship which includes lack of support, feelings of “having to manage on one’s own”, coupled with a general perception of being isolated.

Another factor that adds to the pres­sure of some women who suffer from PND is that the family do not know how to react to the mother who is suffering, so through lack of knowledge and, in some cases, understanding, are dismis­sive of the problems faced by a woman after childbirth. This then creates a fur­ther spiralling of the helplessness some women undoubtedly feel, leading to a sense of inadequacy and not being able to cope, which inevitably leads to in­somnia, anxiety and debility.

Additionally, other symptoms may be present including a difficulty in con­centrating, a loss of confidence and self-esteem, not eating properly due to a lack of interest in food and, in extreme cases, recurring thoughts of death, or even suicide itself. With regards to the latter, it must be stressed that this is a very rare event and it may be that there are other underlying causes for such thoughts.

While the mother is the direct suff­erer of PND, it must not be forgotten that the behaviour of the patient can impact on the family or close loved ones, leading to tensions and stresses within the family group, which in turn re-impacts on the mother. This then becomes a self-perpetuating downward spiral of tension, misunderstanding and depres­sion. Because of the potential devastat­ing effects on the family life overall, it is important that the mother seeks help as soon as possible. It is also not uncommon for a new mother to be in self-denial about her problems but realistically the feelings of inadequacy normally will tell her that all is not well and therefore she should seek professional help.

PND and the working woman
Whilst PND has been recognised for some time as a clinical condition, the effects on the family and society in gen­eral were not so pronounced in the years leading up to the war. However, dur­ing that period, between1940 and 1945, women were conscripted in large num­bers to work in factories, munitions and to serve in the Armed Forces. This new role for women and the changes to society immediately following the war meant that women went to work as mat­ter of course and became de facto a joint, or second bread winner.

It is in this expanded role for women, in a working environment, that she may fear having a baby will in some way compromise her ability to fulfil this role. As a consequence, this can produce seri­ous problems with depression immedi­ately following the birth of the child.

In this context, therefore, the under­lying problems which cause PND are accentuated by economic concerns or the loss of position in a company or a job, should the mother have to take time away from her employment to attend ante­natal classes, hospital appointments and so on. These pressures inevitably bring about a guilt complex whereby the mother is torn between the love and desire for her baby and fulfilling her role as a part­ner in a marriage or relationship.

It must not be assumed that the depression suffered by non-working mothers is any less severe or debilitat­ing than that for women who work. It is only that in the latter case, where sec­ondary considerations may be involved, the depression may be accentuated or intensified.

Seeking help
It is very important for women suffer­ing from PND to understand that they are not alone and help is available in many ways: from counselling, medica­tion and complementary therapies. Firstly with respect to counselling, this can be done informally by the health visitor who can carry out a brief ques­tionnaire to assess a woman’s mental state and then offer appropriate support or non-directive counselling as “active listening visits”. For many women, this will be sufficient to allow a full recov­ery in a matter of weeks.

Secondly, if the symptoms do not subside, medication prescribed by the GP can help but, for those women who are worried about the side-effects of any drug prescribed for depression, there are homeopathic remedies which can be used.

This is very important because, to a large number of people, there is unfor­tunately a stigma about being diagnosed with depression and seeking possible help. It is because of this and of the reported problems associated, rightly or wrongly, with the drugs prescribed to combat depression, that homeopathy can be of such benefit.

Homeopathy and PND
I think it is important to state that when considering a homeopathic approach to the problems of PND, it should always be remembered that homeopathy can do the patient no harm. Indeed, there is a large body of evidence to support the premise that it can make a substantial difference to the sufferer. As a practis­ing NHS GP and with over ten years experience in homeopathy, I am able to look at the problem from both perspect­ives. Therefore, when I have a patient who is unwilling, unhappy or unable to tolerate conventional medication, I then recommend the homeopathic approach. However, before recommending any complementary medicine, I try to deter­mine if there are any underlying social factors which will lead me to advise one treatment rather than another. Generally, I have a choice of four or five homeo­pathic remedies which have helped to bring about a marked improvement in the well-being of the patient.

Sepia
This is my foremost remedy for PND. It is used essentially for the woman who comes to see me in floods of tears, com­pletely resigned to the fact that she is unable to care for or hold her baby. She thinks she hates the baby and her part­ner, can see no way out of her problems and despairs of recovery. Sleeplessness is a major problem, which leads to fatigue and the vicious circle of sleep deprivation and feelings of inadequacy.

We all know how much worse things seem when we are tired. Even though these women do not want to be with their families, they cannot bear to be alone. They feel cast off from the world around them, a symptom which we refer to homeopathically as being “forsaken”; a word which I feel describes succinctly the way a woman with PND feels about herself. In the midst of this depression, no matter how bad the woman feels, if she can be encouraged to take some exercise or, even better, to go dancing, she is very likely to make a substantial and noticeable improvement with Sepia.

Lycopodium
Lycopodium is not always the first rem­edy that I, as a homeopath, think of when considering post-natal depression but patients who exhibit the symptoms of low self-esteem, weeping when sym­pathy is shown and feelings of hope­lessness and despair are those who may benefit from this remedy.

These women may also have a fear of failure, particularly in relation to the stress of their new role as a mother and the change in their responsibilities. Like Sepia, patients who will recover with Lycopodium often feel better in the evening but they do not experience the improvement which exercise and love of dancing usually bring. Women who are helped by this remedy may also have had a history of irritable bowel type symptoms sometime in the past.

Ignatia
Like Lycopodium, Ignatia is a plant-based remedy and is recommended when the mother has a variety of emotional problems. Symptoms can vary widely and may also be contrasting, with the woman sometimes feeling as if she is on an emotional roller-coaster. This can manifest itself with mood swings and impulsiveness.

The woman may also have had unrealistic or romanticised ideas about childbirth and what caring for a small baby would entail. She then finds her­self falling below the high standards that she has set herself and then feelings of guilt arise, leading to depression.

Patients will often try to hide their symptoms, fearing that their child may be taken from them, should they show that they are not coping as well as they think they should. They then endeavour to present a façade that all is well and usually only those who are very close to the mother will be aware of the emotional turmoil she is experiencing.

However, sympathy and a recog­nition of the desperation felt in these circumstances and a recommendation that the mother seeks help can, in itself, be a great therapy.

Pulsatilla
Widely used by homeopaths for a vari­ety of female hormonal problems, Pulsatilla is sometimes overlooked when it comes to treating the symptoms of PND. Like Sepia, patients who may be helped by taking Pulsatilla will be tear­ful and cry when relating how they feel. However, sympathy makes them feel bet­ter and they often say how crying helps, whereas Sepia patients usually weep without the feeling of any relief from their symptoms. Women who may bene­fit from Pulsatilla tend to be of a softer personality than those being helped by Sepia, and often will seem to be of a more maternal inclination, which is why their feelings of depression are more dif­ficult for them to understand after hav­ing the baby they wanted so badly. Patients who respond to Pulsatilla may also have changeable moods but the swings tend to be less pronounced in those women for whom I would re­commend Ignatia. Overall, Pulsatilla is a remedy for a more gentle type of the patient than the other remedies previ­ously mentioned.

Recurrence
One question I frequently get asked by women who have suffered after the birth of their first child is can it happen again if they have further children?

The short answer is yes; it can, but is far less likely, although the circum­stances under which the second child is conceived will have a large bearing on the mental health of the mother after birth. Factors such as home environ­ment, relationships and lack of support will all have a consequence on whether a woman will face the same, or similar, problems but mothers usually cope much better because they are aware of the problems having faced them once already. However, they should not be frightened to seek help on the basis of “you were like this last time so you must know what it is”.

Finally, what is vital for women suffering from post-natal depression to remember is that you are not alone. As a mother myself, I know how easy it is to feel that somehow you are not wor­thy or adequate. Do not worry, help is available to you from many different sources including counselling, conven­tional medicines and homeopathic reme­dies, so don’t despair and don’t be frightened to ask for help. It is there and available for you.

Jenifer Worden MBChB MRCGP MFHom is a part-time NHS GP in Ringwood, Hampshire and has a private homeopathic practice in Highcliffe, Dorset. She treats patients with a wide range of conditions and across the complete age range.

Mother and baby

Homeopathy for mother & baby – the first year

by Bob Leckridge

Why consider homeopathy for mums and babies? There are at least three good reasons. The first is that it’s safe. Although many homeopathic medicines are prepared from plants and other substances which are poisonous in their raw form, by the time they have been prepared as medicines for sale or prescription they are completely non-toxic and they be given safely to breast-feeding mums as well as to children, from the first day of life onwards. The second reason is that the remedies work by stimulating the body’s own healing mechanisms. That’s not to say the modern medicine is of no value. Quite the contrary. For example, the technological and scientific breakthroughs in caring for premature babies have enabled many more such children to survive those difficult first few weeks. Modern methods of care have also made death during childbearing a rarity in our country.

However, health is about more than mere survival and whilst these advances have undoubtedly been life-saving, other, more holistic approaches are needed to promote and maintain a more comprehensive well-being. This leads me to my third reason – understanding health and understanding people from a homeopathic perspective really helps us to make sense of not only our illnesses but the health and development of our children.

Let’s start with mum, because when you come home with the new baby, everybody is thrilled with the baby and, sometimes, mum gets a little forgotten. In the first few days there are a couple of problems which might need attention.

Mother

Wound healing
Arnica is probably taken by many women after the baby is born as it is good for helping the body to heal areas of bruising. However, I don’t recommend it routinely because often Bellis perennis (the daisy) is more effective. This has been described as the “gynaecological Arnica”. It certainly seems to help better when most of the bruising is internal. Like Arnica, the bruise is painful and the person doesn’t want the sore bit to be touched. In fact, they are likely to downplay the whole problem and be quite uncomplaining even though they may be feeling quite distressed about it.

Bruising, however, may not be the main problem. Sometimes a more pressing problem is a tear or a cut (an episiotomy). This is more common if there has been a forceps delivery. The wound is acutely painful and the woman will probably be feeling pretty aggrieved at having had the cut done. She will be feeling hard done by, or feeling that ahe wasn’t treated well by the staff.

The homeopathic term for this is “indignation” – the feeling that “it shouldn’t have happened to me. It’s not fair!” This state is typical of the remedy Staphysagria and if taken over the next few days, it can promote the healing of the wound as well as begin to settle the woman’s distress. Staphysagria is also a great remedy for healing clean, surgical cuts, so it is also indicated after caesarean section.

Another useful remedy to have to hand is Calendula. Often the damage to the tissues after childbirth is quite superficial. By that, I mean on the surface. There are multiple grazes and superficial lacerations. This kind of wound can be helped with Calendula. I would recommend that the homeopathic form be used and taken as tablets or powders by mouth because the local applications and creams can sometimes irritate the delicate tissues of the vagina

Breast problems
Mastitis is a common problem. When it occurs suddenly and the breast becomes red, swollen, hot and tender, then Belladonna might speed resolution of the problem, although antibiotics may still be indicated. If the inflammation isn’t caught early enough, and an abscess has formed then Hepar sulph might be a better-indicated remedy. Usually once the pus has formed, the stage of Belladonna has passed.

Cracked nipples can be very painful and really make breast-feeding difficult, if not impossible. When the cracks are accompanied by sharp, shooting pains in the breast when the baby feeds, then Phytolacca may help, especially if the pains seem to shoot out from the breast to other parts of the body.

Calendula cream is a good application for cracked nipples. Stitching pain in the breast when the baby feeds in the absence of cracks around the nipples can be helped with Kali carbonicum.

Baby blues
“Baby blues” are very common around the fifth day. You might find yourself becoming very tearful and upset at that time, or, alternatively, irritable and anxious. If you find that having company at this time helps, then you may find Pulsatilla helpful. However, if you find that company and consolation actually make you feel worse, then Natrum muriaticum might be the more indicated medicine.

Postnatal depression, on the other hand, is far more serious. If your sad or upset feelings continue beyond a few days then it would be a good idea to discuss it with your health visitor, midwife, or GP. Even in the most troublesome postnatal depression, homeopathic remedies can be useful, but in such a situation it’s harder to self-treat so it would be better to consult a homeopathic specialist.

Baby

Colic
This miserable condition causes enormous distress to babies and their parents. There are no good, safe drugs available, so homeopathic medicines are a great idea. There are two main remedies to consider. If the baby settles a bit when held face down with the tummy supported by the parent’s hand, or if they settle when their tummy is pressed against the parent’s shoulder, then there is a good chance that Colocynth will help. If these positions don’t help but rubbing the tummy lightly, or holding a warm hand against the baby’s tummy, helps, then Magnesium phosphoricum is more likely to help.

Teething
Teething is that other early trial which disrupts the peace of the family sleep. The most typical pattern is the baby with a bright red cheek, screaming with anger, who settles when carried around the room. This is the picture of Chamomilla.

Sleep
Sleep, or rather, lack of it, is a common problem when there is a young baby in the house. It’s important to understand the place of sleep in a baby’s life and not treat this issue as a disease. Initially, babies need a lot of sleep and really only wake for food or drink. They soon start to develop waking periods however and within a few short weeks are already starting to smile in response to smiles and to have periods of great alertness where they lie with eyes wide open taking in their surroundings. Babies cry for many reasons. The physical reasons include being hungry or thirsty, being physically uncomfortable and feeling insecure or unhappy.

It’s always important to check and see if any of these common factors are playing a part. However, in some children, they continue to cry despite the exclusion of physical factors. Colic and teething are common explanations for sleep disturbance that won’t clear up without help.

What do we do with the babies who just won’t sleep? If underlying reasons of discomfort or pain have been excluded there are a couple of homeopathic remedies worth trying. Firstly, there is Jalapa. This remedy is indicated in babies who are “good all day and bad all night” particularly in those who have a tendency to diarrhoea, or just very loose stools. The other remedy to consider is Cypripedium, which is indicated in infants who are just alert and active. They wake up through the night and just want fun. They are obviously not distressed, unlike the Jalapa babies who are most distressed at night.

We can get other clues about the remedies our children might need by observing them during the night. Do they get hot and sweaty and throw off the covers, which is typical of Sulphur? Do they sweat on their heads at night, making the pillow wet, like Calcarea phosphoricum? Do they usually sleep in a particular position? (Medorrhinum children sleep on their tummies with their bottoms sticking up in the air. Pulsatilla children sleep on their backs with their arms stretched out above their heads.)

Development
All babies develop at their own rates. However, some babies definitely develop more slowly than others. The slowest ones are usually the rather chubby ones, who sit about without expressing much sense of adventure. These might be kids whose teeth are slow to come through, who are a bit sweaty, and may be constipated. These might be typically Calcarea carbonica or Baryta carbonica children. Which of the two they are is hard to tell when they are very young, but as they get a little older other personality characteristics become clearer. They are both quite fearful, the Baryta baby is shyer than the Calc baby and is more likely to have developmental delay. I think it is hard to self treat at this level but some of the child’s characteristics will give the clues your homeopathic doctor needs to find the right remedy to stimulate maturational growth.

Immunisation
This is a very difficult subject for parents. It’s all about trying to choose the path of least risk for you child. I think you need to consider each immunisation separately. What is the disease which we are trying to protect the child from? How serious may that disease be for the child if they catch it, and how significant is the risk of catching it? After consideration of those questions, we then ask, what are the risks associated with the immunisation? We then try to do the best for our children and choose the lowest risk. When you stop to consider this you will realise that there are no rules, no hard and fast conclusions which are applicable in all children at all times and in all places.

There isn’t a homeopathic alternative vaccination programme. However, this doesn’t mean that homeopathy has no role to play here. There are two approaches to consider. Firstly, when it is judged that a particular immunisation is a preferred choice, and we go ahead and vaccinate a child, sometimes there are obvious short term problems afterwards. Homeopathic medicines can help to treat, what we refer to as, ailments from vaccination. This might be anything from a local reaction at the site of the injection which may be hot, red and painful and need Belladonna, to bruising which might be helped by Arnica, to local pain and discomfort which might be helped by Ledum, which is great for puncture wounds. If there are more long-lasting problems after immunisation then a dose of Thuja might help to sort things out.

Secondly, some people advocate giving a child his or her “constitutional” remedy to boost his or her immune system. The idea of a “constitutional” remedy is one which is chosen to match the character and characteristics of the person who is going to be treated. When given, it will stimulate the body’s systems of defence and repair. Think of it as a kind of tonic. If it works then the body will be in a more optimal state of health and therefore better placed to defend itself against infections.

Understanding your baby
Knowing that there is such a wide range of personalities and characteristics described in the homeopathic literature helps us to accept the uniqueness of our own children. How are they different? Begin to notice when they are most at ease and when they don’t feel secure. This might be different times of day or night. It might be about the social environment, for example, how are they with mum, with dad, with brothers and sisters and with strangers. What kinds of toys do they seem to enjoy most? Are they explorers and adventurers, or do they prefer to occupy themselves with a single toy? What do they seem to be scared of? What do you do to settle them down when they are upset? Noting these kinds of things quickly gives you a sense of their unique character. But homeopathy doesn’t stop there. The understanding of homeopathy is that we are unique in our whole beings and express ourselves through our whole beings. It really is a holistic understanding. So, noticing the physical features of your baby will help in finding the best remedies for them too. Are they hot children or chilly children? Are they sweaty? What is their normal sleep pattern and what position are they in when you check them in their cots at night? What foodstuffs do they refuse and which, if any, upset them? Do they like to drink, and, if so, what do they like to drink? As you build up the picture of your baby you’ll be struck by how different he or she is from your other children and from other people’s children. That uniqueness is a great thing.

If you are going to use any of the medicines mentioned, unless a specific dose is recommended by your homeopathic doctor, use a 30c strength and repeat the doses as often as is necessary. For babies crush one pillule between two spoons, add to a small amount of mineral or distilled water and give one teaspoon for a dose. The rule in homeopathy is to take a dose, experience the improvement, then if the improvement starts to decline, repeat the remedy. If a dose does not produce any improvement, then there is no point in repeating that particular remedy.

Bob Leckridge MBChB FFHom graduated from Edinburgh University in 1978 and worked as a GP until 1995 since when he has worked full-time as a Specialist in Homeopathic Medicine at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital. He teaches homeopathy internationally and is the author of Homeopathy in Primary Care. He became President of the Faculty of Homeopathy in 1998.

Menopausal symptoms

The menopause

Hot flushes, irritability, tearfulness – all problems that can be helped homeopathically, writes Anne Clover

Many patients speak enthusiastically of the help they have received from homeopathic treatment for menopausal symptoms as various as hot flushes, profuse sweating, mood swings, irritability and sleep disturbance. These reports are now supported by careful follow-up studies from NHS outpatient units in the UK of the benefits homeopathic treatment has afforded for such problems. A study conducted at the Tunbridge Wells Homeopathic Hospital in 1997 showed that around 300 consultations that year were for patients whose main complaints were focused on the menopause. The same study indicated that just over 70 per cent of the patients seeking this help reported an improvement.

A homeopathic pharmacy can offer a wide range of medicines that could be appropriate for patients with menopausal reactions. This is because of the emphasis placed in homeopathic practice on selecting a medicine suited to the overall profile of the individual patient. This means that we do not have a homeopathic HRT equivalent, or a single medicine that might apply for a lot of women with menopausal symptoms. Instead a prescription is chosen that relates to the individual profile of the patient seeking help.

A consultation for homeopathic treatment of menopausal symptoms may refer first to details of relatively focal symptoms such as excess sweating, flushes or sleep disturbance. The next stage of the review may then involve discussion of more generalised reactions such as mood changes, thought patterns and energy levels. For further clarification of the patient’s profile, questions are often asked about any particular circumstances that trigger the relatively focal or more generalised symptoms, and about her general health. All such data contribute to the review of her personal profile.

For instance, a patient with hot flushes may be asked if these occur mainly at a specific time of day or night; are worse in company or solitude; or seem to be made worse by particular food or drink.

Similarly for more generalised effects such as mood swings, information about factors that seem to make them better or worse can be very helpful for homeopathic prescribing. Such questions help clarify what we might term the individual patient’s reaction pattern. They are part of the individual’s profile and are an important aid for the selection of a homeopathic prescription.

To illustrate how such ideals can be applied in practice here are four summaries of reports from patients with the sort of detail that would be very useful for homeopathic prescribing. I admit there is a degree of “poetic licence” here as few patients would give their reports with as much detail, but they are offered to indicate the range of information needed for homeopathic prescribing. After each of them I summarise some of the further information that can assist the selection of a homeopathic medicine.

A 54 year-old woman
“Sorry to bother you, but these hot sweats are such a nuisance and I am fed up with them. I hate being a nuisance and having to take an appointment but I am near the end of my tether. These sweats have been bothering me for about eight years, they started just before my periods stopped and seem to have got steadily worse. They are especially bad in the evening and night, it is as if they well up from my feet. The sweat rolls off me. I feel so embarrassed. I just want to hide. Between these blasts of heat and sweat I get cold and shivery so I am opening and closing the window like a yo-yo. The family try to help or humour me but that makes it worse. I really wish they would leave me alone. They used to pacify me with a nice plate of cheese and pickle but even that annoys me now. I can still enjoy a good evening out dancing – that has always been my escape. But at other times I am just fed up and irritable – hardly surprising since I sleep badly. I often wake at 2 or 3am and cannot sleep again because I cannot stop thinking about everything. The family seem to avoid me in the mornings. That suits me, I am tired and worn out.”

Additional information

  • Despite tiredness, feels better for exercise, such as a session in the gym or a good long run. Often prone to restless fidgeting.
  • Other mood changes include, impatience; lack of enjoyment of most things, “even the grandchildren are a drag”.
  • Concerning sexual activity, definitely not enjoyed, can be averse to it.
  • Strong food or drink likes or dislikes – averse to fats, loves vinegar and enjoys a cold glass of really dry wine.

Prescription: consider Sepia 30c

A 46 year-old woman
“Thank you for seeing me. I especially like talking to a woman about these problems, I am a bit scared of the men. My problem now is hot flushes. I so easily get hot and flustered. My periods are a bit irregular, and I still get PMT but I phone my mum and she listens and helps me. It is the hot surges that bother me. Then I get shivery after it. It makes me feel really weepy. My female friends try and help, I like that. But sometimes I upset them because I get a bit moody or sulky. I don’t want to be like this, it really upsets me. I can’t seem to make my mind up about anything. I have never been confident, but now even the bit of confidence I had is gone. My friends say I cry easily, one of them called me a leaky tap. I felt really hurt. My moods seem to change so quickly. I try and hide it because I want my friends to stay with me, but I cannot help crying when I am really fed up. That makes some of them leave me and I really don’t want to be alone. I get frightened, especially in the dark evenings.”

Additional information

  • Usually a conscientious, timid, yielding person but if pushed can be very angry.
  • Enjoys a stroll in a light breeze. Gentle exercise helps, not too vigorous.
  • Highly sensitive, easily hurt and inclined to show her feelings.
  • Concerning food and drink preferences, hates fats, loves sweet things and is well known for her lack of thirst. Has a particular intolerance of pork.

Prescription: consider Pulsatilla 30c

A 58 year-old woman
“Thank you for seeing me today. I apologise for bothering you with something so trivial but these menopausal effects are a nuisance. I tried to keep it to myself, but I broke down in the Well Woman clinic last week when I was having the routine checks and the sister, who knows I am not supposed to have HRT, suggested homeopathy might help. So here I am. Sorry, I really should be able to contain my feelings. The flushes are a bit of a problem, but I am more bothered by the vaginal dryness and irritability. It has made it even more difficult for me to oblige my husband.

“Sorry, I don’t find it easy to talk about this. It all got much worse when Mother died a year ago. I have tried to keep going, but just do not enjoy life as I used to. The family said I coped well when Mum died, but I know I hid my feelings. It was, and still is, easier to cry alone. I cope okay at home but it is getting more difficult. I know I am snappy, then I regret it and feel worse. Sometimes I feel so anxious, I have no idea why, it just comes over me. One definite problem is noise, I really can’t stand it, so the grandchildren leave me feeling quite exhausted. I am sorry to have to admit all of this, it really is not me to talk about it, but it has all got too much for me.”

Additional information

  • A particularly low patch occurs about mid-morning, needs elevenses.
  • Does not want sympathy and is prone to suppress emotions but if pushed can show anger.
  • Reacts strongly to sea air, usually feels better for it, occasionally worse.
  • Concerning food and drink preferences, again, a strong reaction to salt, usually craves it but occasionally averse. Hates fat or slippery food, dislikes and feels worse for coffee, and usually shows a poor tolerance of alcohol

Prescription: consider Natrum mur 30c

A 54 year-old woman
“I saw your partner last week. He said he had tried everything he could think of for my hot flushes and nothing has worked, so he suggested I try homeopathy. So here I am. He looked a bit tired, I don’t think he had enough patience to listen to me anymore. But then I suppose I can be a chatterbox. My family have always told me so. Anyway, about these flushes. They are terrible. They are especially a problem whenever I wake up. Even if I have a catnap, which is rare, I feel awful when I wake up. I have slept badly at night for ages, but this has been much worse since these flushes got going in the last five years. So I feel exhausted and sleepy in the afternoon, but if I nod off I feel even worse.

“Excuse me while I loosen this blouse collar. I always choose loose ones, but this is not quite loose enough for me. I hate tight things anywhere, especially near my neck. I really envy people who can wear nice necklaces or scarves. Anyway, these flushes, they seem to surge up from my feet and leave my head feeling as if it will burst. And they always seem worse on the left side of my head. I have no idea why. Sometimes I feel a bit better if I have a really good sweat. It is as if I get something out of my system. But it does not last and these flushes soon come back again. I can’t even enjoy a nice sunny day, the sun soon makes me feel much worse. It really is not surprising that I easily get down in the dumps about it all and feel quite envious of friends who sail through the menopause without these problems.”

Additional information

  • Tends to be talkative, but ambivalent attitude to company. 
  • Can be easily offended, critical or suspicious.
  • Generally feels better in the open air.
  • In earlier years, PMT cleared as soon as her period started.
  • A marked tendency to laterality in that any symptoms she experiences are likely to be worse on the left side of her body.
  • After sleep, prone to wake feeling unrefreshed and generally worse for it.
  • Food and drink preferences – particularly enjoys oysters. Enjoys alcohol but is prone to feel worse after taking it. Likes sharp, acidic drinks.

Prescription: consider Lachesis 30c.

Dose
Patients should take a single tablet of the appropriate prescription three times in the first day then watch for a response. If symptoms improve, no repeat is needed while that improvement lasts. If similar symptoms recur later, the dose could be repeated. If there is no benefit, it is wiser to seek further advice from a homeopathic practitioner.

Anne Clover MB BS LRCP DRCOG DPM FFHom was a consultant at the homeopathic hospitals in London and Tunbridge Wells until her retirement from these posts in 1998 and 2001. She is now living in Cornwall and participates in homeopathic teaching based in Bristol.

Menopausal symptoms

What can we learn from the recent HRT scare?


Asks
Sara Eames

The recent publicity given to the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has left many women and their doctors unsure as to the best course of action to deal with menopausal symptoms. It is certainly disconcerting when perceived medical wisdom changes so rapidly, for until quite recently HRT was promoted as the answer to so many of the problems that we face, not only during the menopause, but as we age too.

First this year was the dramatic headline that HRT increased the risk of both breast cancer and heart attacks and then within a few weeks one of the chief investigators in this trial claimed that many women had come off HRT unnecessarily and the risks were not as bad as first reported. What are we to think and who should we believe?

History of HRT
The background to HRT is an interesting one. Initially only oestrogen replacement was given. However, after a while, there was fairly clear evidence that the use of oestrogen alone, while reducing menopausal symptoms, gave an increased risk of uterine cancer and so combined oestrogen and progesterone treatment became standard as this reduced the risk to the uterus. Unfortunately, it makes it far harder to study the effects of HRT as oestrogen and progesterone have differing effects on various organs and the picture of risks and benefits become more complicated.

Nonetheless there has been gradually increasing evidence that there are serious side effects from the combined treatment and there is little doubt now that taking combined HRT leads to an increased risk of breast cancer, heart disease, strokes and deep vein thrombosis. In the past there has been a lot of publicity related to the long-term health benefits of HRT, particularly to prevent osteoporosis (the thinning of the bones which can lead to repeated bone fractures and deformities of the spine), protect against heart disease and reduce the risk of dementia. This evidence is also thrown into question by recent studies which raise difficult questions both for doctors and concerned women.

How big is the risk?
Can we pick out people who are more at risk than others? Is the risk worth taking?

When can HRT still be recommended?
It seems to be a bit of a surprise to the medical profession, but not to homeopaths, that one treatment is not necessarily the best for everybody with the same condition. In weighing up the pros and cons of HRT for an individual person, the most important factors to take into consideration include the severity of the menopausal symptoms in the first place, the preferences of the patient and the medical history of both the woman herself and her family.

Some people do suffer horrendously from hot flushes, sweats, low energy and mood problems during the menopause and do not always respond completely to general lifestyle advice and homeopathic remedies. I have a few patients who have felt so ghastly that they would happily run the increased risk of serious disease later on in life as they felt that life was not worth living anyhow the way they were.

If a woman already has risk factors for breast cancer or heart disease, such as a personal or strong family history of the disease, or is a heavy smoker, then taking HRT would increase the risk further and should only be used as a last resort, for as short a time as possible. Indeed the most recent medical advice is that HRT should only be used for short periods of time, when menopausal symptoms are severe, and that it should not be used to prevent bone thinning or as a general “anti-ageing” treatment.

What can we learn from this recent confusion?
The first thing I thought about this recent publicity was that drug trials are not quite the scientific truth that we are lead to believe. Homeopathy has suffered recently from the criticism that there is not enough scientific evidence of its effect and yet what sort of real truth can these trials be producing if their findings and recommendations change every few weeks and leave us all confused?

It also seemed clear that statistics can be easily misunderstood. There were worrying headlines such as 30 per cent increased risk of breast cancer. At first sight this could be thought to mean that an extra 30 per cent of women on HRT will develop the disease. In fact it means nothing of the sort. Rather that 30 per cent more women will suffer from breast cancer than before. This is still quite a small number of women as the initial risk was very low.

We know a certain amount about the way each person regulates their hormonal balance, with a complicated series of feedback mechanisms, but there is, I am sure, even more that we do not know about the way this intricate system functions. It should therefore come as no surprise that by crudely manipulating the system by adding artificial hormones that there are far reaching and inexplicable results. It is a great example of the dangers of reductionist, allopathic medicine which tries to control and manipulate by prescribing substances, without under­standing the possible effect on all the different parts of the body. Any such treatment, when necessary, should be kept to a minimum.

HRT
Recently there has been even more discussion about various aspects of the recent trials and there have been some suggestions that the group of women who took oestrogen alone did not have an increased risk of breast cancer. It is now being recommended that women who wish to take HRT and have had a hysterectomy can safely be prescribed oestrogen. I find this intuitively highly worrying as the one thing that we do know fairly surely is that many breast cancers are sensitive to oestrogen, and that Tamoxifen, which is an oestrogen blocker is effective in helping to treat breast cancer. This is surely yet more evidence that we should not rely solely on the results of a clinical trial to change such serious medical recommendations.

Homeopathic treatment of menopausal symptoms
If your symptoms are not too severe it is well worth trying a simple, over the counter homeopathic medicine. If you feel there are other health issues as well, or you do not respond to the medicine, you should seek an appointment with a qualified homeopath.

Medicines which I have found to be very effective, taken as needed in a 12c potency, include:
 

  • Sulphur for burning flushes, associated with redness and skin eruptions and a craving for sweets.
  • Lachesis for frequent flushes with a bright red face, perspiration and a variable energy level, fluctuating from extreme exhaustion to over activity and talkativeness. It is often associated with the inability to stand tight clothing, especially around the neck.
  • Sepia for exhausting flushes with a lot of perspiration, but less change of colour. Often helpful when there is also back ache and a sense of the womb dropping down. A sepia person often feels worn out but picks up once they start doing things, such as exercise, especially dancing, and seeing friends.
  • Amyl nitrate is the medicine I have found best for bursting, throbbing headaches associated with flushes. Usually the upper body is very hot from the flushes but other body parts can be freezing at the same time.

     

 

Menopausal symptoms

After HRT


How homeopathy can help with menopausal symptoms by
Jenifer Worden

It may seem strange to be mentioning a form of treatment, Hormone Replace­ment Therapy (HRT), that is firmly planted in the field of conventional med­icine in a magazine for those interested in complementary therapies. However, although HRT has its detractors, it does still have a part to play in restoring well­being to women suffering from meno­pausal symptoms. The menopause is that stage of a woman’s life when her repro­ductive system starts to wind down, causing a wide range of symptoms, some of which can be very distressing and debilitating. The vast majority of women will start to experience the so-called “change of life” in their late 40s but symptoms may persist after a woman has passed her 60th birthday.

The main symptoms experienced are hot flushes, night sweats, bladder prob­lems such as cystitis and infections, depressed mood, reduced sex drive, for­getfulness and reduced concentration. For most women, symptoms will last two to three years, starting with an irreg­ularity of periods and ending with the periods completely stopping. After 12 months, a woman who has not experi­enced any periods is commonly said to have gone through the menopause and to be “post-menopausal”. Any vaginal bleeding after this time should always be reported to a doctor or practice nurse as it could be an early sign of endome­trial cancer (cancer of the womb).

As a GP I am often asked by worried women to carry out blood tests to see whether or not they are going through the menopause but such tests do have drawbacks. They only give a “snapshot” of the hormone levels a woman is expe­riencing at a certain point in time and are notorious for being returned from the testing laboratory as being within the normal range when the patient is quite clearly experiencing some or all of the symptoms of the menopause. Patients often feel let down by the results, which is why GPs tend to advise against these tests in general. The excep­tion to the rule is where a woman has a congenital lack of a womb or has had a hysterectomy with preservation of her ovaries. Changes to the menstrual cycle are not apparent in these women and early subtle changes of the menopause can be confused with a mild depression, perhaps leading to incorrect treatment of the underlying problem. In the end, the best way to judge whether a woman is going through the menopause is to lis­ten to her and to look at her as a whole which is the holistic approach.

Often all a woman will need at this point in her life is reassurance that her symptoms are normal and that she is not suffering from a mental illness. The ups and downs of teenage girls at puberty are echoed in women at the menopause but without the ability to scream and shout and to flounce out of the house, slamming the door. Instead, most women will either be looking after a family or working, which can lead them to feel­ing trapped emotionally and physically by their symptoms. Why some women sail through the menopause with the minimum of symptoms and others regard it as the worst time of their lives is not understood by the scientific com­munity and exactly what causes hot flushes is also somewhat of a mystery. Although we know that it is the reduc­tion of levels of oestrogen (the principle female hormone) that seems to be res­ponsible for hot flushes and night sweats, the exact means by which this happens is not clear. What is clear is that for women with debilitating symptoms and a markedly reduced quality of life, HRT can literally be a life-saver, increasing the hormone levels back up to normal and often having a dramatic effect, reducing symptoms to a more manageable state within a week or so of starting treatment.

The problem with HRT
So if HRT is so wonderful, why has it fallen from grace recently? The main reason is research showing that HRT could increase the risks of having a heart attack or stroke. The Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) study (2002) was carried out in the United States on a population of women ten years older than would commonly be prescribed HRT in the UK and who also had existing risk factors for heart disease. Although the older and less fit women in the research could have biased the results against HRT as they were inherently more likely to suffer from heart disease, the medical pro­fession was concerned enough by the results to significantly reduce their prescribing of HRT.

This course of action was backed up by the Million Women Study, funded by Cancer Research UK, which looked at an increased risk of cancers linked to taking HRT, principally cancer of the womb. It is estimated that at least 340,000 women stopped taking HRT after the WHI research was published and that of the 300,000 women esti­mated each year to enter the menopause, many will now look at alternatives to conventional treatment. The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) currently recommends HRT for the relief of debilitating vasomotor and urogen­ital symptoms (hot flushes, night sweats, cystitis, recurrent urinary infections, vaginal dryness) in women over 50 and for two to three years only, with an annual review of symptoms. Women under fifty (the most common age for the menopause), particularly those hav­ing hysterectomy with removal of the ovaries or undergoing an early (prema­ture) menopause can still be prescribed HRT as they are only receiving hor­mones that they would normally have.

All this has meant that a reasonable proportion of women over 50 in the UK have either stopped their HRT suddenly or have been persuaded by their GPs to do so, and in so doing, have landed right back into the menopausal symptoms that they were trying to escape from. Some women would have been started on HRT for treatment or prevention of osteoporosis (brittle bones) and may not have had any symptoms when they started treatment but certainly have now. HRT is no longer a recommended treat­ment in the UK for prevention of this disease and other non-hormonal treat­ments are widely available on prescrip­tion, in addition to the lifestyle advice of not smoking, maintaining a sensible body weight, regular weight-bearing exercise like walking and a dietary intake rich in calcium and vitamin D. The time that a woman takes to go through the menopause varies but is usually said to be between two to three years. I find that most menopausal symptoms peak about three to six months after stopping HRT, and will often be manageable about 12 to 18 months after HRT was last taken.

Homeopathic treatment
So if you are one of the unfortunate women who have to wear sleeveless t-shirts on the coldest of days and who sleep on a beach towel to save contin­ually changing the bed sheets, what can you do to make life more comfortable for you and those around you? In my experience, there is no single comple­mentary therapy or medication that works for all women and this is borne out by conversations with other doctors and therapists. There are, however, sev­eral homeopathic medicines which can be effective at relieving menopausal symptoms. It is especially important, however, to try to see a medical homeopath as a prescription will work better if holistic and tailored to the individual. Also, there are other problems that can affect a woman in her fifties, such as an underactive thyroid gland, which can mimic menopausal symptoms; thyroid problems can respond well to treatment so it is important to have this particular problem excluded professionally by blood tests and medical examination.

Feeling down
One of the commonest homeopathic medications that I prescribe is Sepia. This important gynaecological medicine is based on cuttlefish ink and can be really helpful where the feelings of worthlessness and lack of self confidence can damage a woman emotionally. These symptoms are all too common for some women in the menopause and may not be helped by a slightly dominant partner who may not understand or have patience with their symptoms. There is often marked depression and tearfulness which the partner can be irri­tated by and the whole relationship becomes strained. The woman often feels isolated and cuts herself off socially, withdrawing psychologically. Her fam­ily can find her distant and taking less interest in her appearance which are typ­ical symptoms of clinical depression. She feels worn out and sex is no longer of interest to her. She may no longer find her partner attractive, a situation she may find difficult to come to terms with, and the partner also. Tears are common in the GP surgery when telling of her problems and a feeling of desperation with the situation is apparent, sometimes leading to irritability. Frequent attacks of sweating which lead her to feel clammy on waking at night predomi­nate and often an unpleasant vaginal dis­charge, brought on by the hormonal changes she is undergoing.

For severe symptoms, I recommend either a daily dose of Sepia 30c but occa­sionally I find a weekly dose of 200c nec­essary for symptom relief. As well as using homeopathy in this situation, I also feel it is very important to encour­age my patients to undertake an activ­ity that makes them feel good about themselves, even if it is as simple as having a manicure or taking the dog for a walk. One must always treat the patient as a whole and helping her to feel better in a very general way will, in my experience, help the homeopathic med­ication act more efficiently.

Night sweats
One of the most difficult symptoms to relieve is the profuse sweating at night and it is in this situation that I use Lachesis. This is a remedy often asso­ciated with sexual jealousy and a pas­sionate nature but even the mildest woman can be helped by this medicine, particularly if her remaining menopausal symptoms have settled. Typically, a patient who can be helped by Lachesis wakes to her symptoms or suffers from them in her sleep. There may also be an element of irritability. A dosage regime similar to that of Sepia can be used.

Black cohosh has been recommended by herbalists for the relief of menopausal hot flushes but worries about possible toxic effects on the liver have led to some health concerns about this remedy, par­ticularly when combined with conven­tional medication. However, taken in the homeopathic form of Cimicifuga, this can be a useful remedy and without side-effects. Women who need this may tend to feel the cold rather than being hot all the time and have a tendency to depressive symptoms.

Bladder problems
There are numerous medications for bladder problems, including Causticum, Staphisagria, Berberis and Sarsparilla but a recently-discovered homeopathic medication called Adamas, based on dia­mond dust, can be used for frequency of urinating, associated with vaginal dry­ness. Reduced elasticity of the vaginal wall and a change in the acidity of the vagina are both symptoms due to low oestrogen levels. This is the reason for recurrent urine infections and difficul­ties with sexual intercourse at the menopause. Conventionally, these symp­toms can be treated with oestrogen creams or pessaries used vaginally with­out many of the risks of HRT per se, but not every woman wishes to do this. The Adamas can be used alone, or in com­bination with Sepia.

Weight-gain
Many of the best-known homeopathic medications can be used during the menopause such as Pulsatilla and Nat mur but Graphites is often overlooked. I have found it helpful where a woman perhaps has gained a few unwanted pounds over the period of the meno­pause, having previously been perhaps slightly overweight. She is generally mild in temperament but puts a brave face on things, a little like the Nat mur person. She has the weepiness of Pulsatilla but tends to be chilly where Pulsatilla is hot. Typically, Graphites like sweet foods, but occasionally dislike such foodstuffs which can seem to be at variance with their body shape. They may, or may not, have skin problems, such as a weeping eczema or psoriasis. A woman who does well with Graphites may well be very sensitive to music, weeping at her favourite piece.

A stage of life
One thing that I would like to empha­sise is the menopause is just a normal stage in every woman’s life, as difficult or as easy as it might be for an individ­ual. Regular exercise can help maintain brain function in older women, accord­ing to recent research and can also help with the physical symptoms of the menopause as can homeopathy. The role of soya (isoflavones) in the diet is not fully recognised but in countries such as Japan, where soya is a staple food, less than 25 per cent of women get hot flushes. It may be necessary to consume at least 25mg of isoflavones a day com­pared to the 1mg most UK women obtain through their diet. Some women do experience allergy type symptoms, such as swollen joints, with high levels of dietary soya so some caution is needed if making a drastic difference to one’s intake. A daily dietary allowance of 800iu of vitamin D and 1500mg of cal­cium is recommended to prevent osteo­porosis. This can be obtained either through eating oily fish two to three times a week and drinking at least half a pint of milk a day or through nutri­tional supplements. Alcohol and caf­feinated drinks can worsen flushing and irritate bladder function so a reduced intake is advised.

Although some women do undergo a fairly permanent change in their under­lying body temperature (thermostatic dysfunction), most women will experi­ence only temporary changes with the menopause. There is help available for this time of upheaval and the fact that it often coincides with children “flying the nest” or other life events does not always make it easier to manage. If you feel that your symptoms are adversely affecting your life and wellbeing, please do not hesitate to contact your GP or homeopathic doctor. Conventional web-sites such as www.menopausematters.co.uk or www.the-bms.org have more information about this inevitable, but not always welcome, change in our lives.

Jenifer Worden MBChB MRCGP MFHom is a part-time NHS GP in Ringwood, Hampshire and has a private homeopathic practice in Highcliffe, Dorset. She treats patients with a wide range of conditions and across the complete age range. 
  

labour and childbirth

For most women, homeopathic medicine can help enormously in the run-up to the birth of a baby and in avoiding or reducing some of the problems associated with labour, as well as in dealing with post-natal symptoms. This is the follow-up to the article ‘Common problems in pregnancy’, that was published in our Spring issue

False labour
Labour-like contractions may occur in the last few weeks of pregnancy and are felt irregularly, usually in the lower part of the abdomen. These are said to occur because the uterus (womb) is ‘toning-up’ in preparation for the birth. If the contractions become very frequent or regular, or if there is a ‘show’ of blood, the doctor or midwife should be called.

Symptoms: Contractions that occur early in the pregnancy. Pain shoots across the abdomen, causing doubling up.
Medicine: Cimicifuga

Symptoms: Contractions that occur in the last few weeks of pregnancy
Medicine: Caulophyllum

Symptoms: Pain goes up the back and into the hips
Medicine: Gelsemium

Symptoms: Colicky, cramp-like pains
Medicine: Viburnum opulus 

Dosage:  Use the 12c potency.Take every hour until the pains cease. 

Preparing for delivery
Taking Caulophyllum in the last weeks of the preg­nancy and Arnica before delivery will minimise much of the bruising and bleeding. Caulophyllum is also said to ‘tone up’ the uterus, helping to produce good contractions and lessening the chances of becoming over tired during labour.

Symptoms: Reduces the bruising and bleeding of normal labour
Medicine: Arnica montana
Dosage: Arnica should be taken in the highest potency you can obtain — the 10m potency powder form if possible. If not, use the 30c potency in powder form. If you cannot obtain a powder, simply crush one tablet for one dose. Take one dose at the start of labour and one during labour just before delivery. It is useful to take a 30c dose three times a day for three days after the birth of the baby.

Symptoms: Used routinely to help uterine contractions and to bring about a smooth delivery
Medicine: Caulophyllum
Dosage: Caulophyllum should be taken in the 30c potency — three doses on the same day each week from the 34th week onwards. There is no clinical evidence that this homeopathic medicine causes women to go into labour too early. This is specifically mentioned because Caulophyllum in normal — that is, non-homeopathic doses — may cause early labour. Used homeopathically, it is given to prevent premature labour and to help normal labour.

Symptoms: May help if there was heavy bleeding in a previous pregnancy
Medicine: Millefolium
Dosage: Millefolium should be taken in the 30c potency. Take three doses on one day in the last week of the pregnancy.

In early labour
A normal pregnancy lasts for 40 weeks. For a few weeks before the birth occasional painless ‘contrac­tions’ may be felt in the lower abdomen (see False Labour above). When labour proper begins, the con­tractions become noticeable but may be infrequent and irregular. As labour proceeds, they become more frequent and occur at regular intervals. They may also produce some discomfort. At first they are often felt in the back. The start of labour may be indicated by a small blood loss called a ‘show’.

At some stage the membranes in which the baby is contained will rupture, producing a loss of a watery fluid from the vagina. This is perfectly normal. The actual duration of labour varies tremendously, but is lengthier with a first pregnancy, so there is usually plenty of time in which to get to hospital or for the midwife to arrive if delivery is to be at home.

Symptoms: When the labour pains are frequent but irregular. A good remedy if restless, anxious and frightened and convinced of dying during labour
Medicine: Aconitum

Symptoms: Painful labour, with the pain starting in lower back and radiating to inner part of the thighs.The woman may be over-excited and angry, and resent being examined. Intolerance of pain
Medicine: Chamomilla

Symptoms: Spasmodic irregular pains in the small of the back. Feelings of exhaustion and being out of control
Medicine: Cocculus

Symptoms: Contractions are very painful but ineffective. The woman is restless and agitated.
Medicine: Coffea cruda

Symptoms: Intermittent, relatively painless contractions with little progress. Excessive tiredness
Medicine: Gossypium

Symptoms: Early labour pains in back
Medicine: Kali carbonicum 

Dosage: Use the 12c potency. Take every 30 minutes until relief is maintained. 

Immediately after delivery
The mother’s main problems after the birth will be related to bruising in the birth passage and surround­ing organs, such as the bladder and urethra.

With a prolonged labour, especially one that has caused much sleep deprivation, fatigue can also be a problem, but this is easily remedied by a good night’s sleep. The main problems after a birth by Caesarean section tend to be those that can occur after any surgical procedure.

Most of these complications are unlikely, however, if the woman has been treated with Arnica and Caulophyllum, as described above. See also the section on After-pains below.

Symptoms: Difficulty passing urine. Restless, sleepless and frightened
Medicine: Aconitum

Symptoms: Constipation. Rectum feels sore and anus itches. Even a soft stool is passed with difficulty
Medicine: Alumina

Symptoms: Problems passing urine
Medicine: Arsenicum album

Symptoms: Irritation of the vulva. Cramp-like pains occur in the uterus (womb), mainly at night
Medicine: Caladium seguinum

Symptoms: Retention of urine, especially after a long labour
Medicine: Causticum

Symptoms: Nervousness and restlessness
Medicine: Chamomilla

Symptoms: Excited, oversensitive and suffers from insomnia. Abdominal pains
Medicine: Coffea cruda

Symptoms: Painful piles
Medicine: Collinsonia

Symptoms: Flatulence and abdominal colic
Medicine: Nux moschata

Symptoms: Back pain
Medicine: Phosporic acid. Itching between the breasts. Apathy
 
Symptoms: Piles and anal prolapse occur
Medicine: Podophyllum

Symptoms: Total exhaustion and overheating
Medicine: Secale cornutum

Symptoms: To aid healing if there has been catheterization or an episiotomy
Medicine: Staphysagria

Dosage:  Use the 12c potency. Take three times a day for five days. 

After pains
These pains are similar to labour pains and may occur after childbirth. They are a result of the uterus (womb) contracting as it reduces to its size before the pregnancy.

The pains are more likely to occur to breastfeed­ing mothers as breastfeeding causes the pituitary gland to release the hormone oxytocin, which helps with milk production, and may also stimulate some uterine contractions.

Symptoms: Used routinely after all labours, especially if labour has been protracted
Medicine: Arnica montana

Symptoms: After pains with a headache, flushed face, nervousness, restlessness
Medicine: Belladonna

Symptoms: Soreness felt all through the pelvis, making walking and standing painful.
Medicine: Bellis perennis

Symptoms: Severe, cramp-like pains
Medicine: Camphora

Symptoms: Spasmodic pains occur which move across the lower abdomen, especially after a prolonged and exhausting labour. Quite specifically for after-pains.
Medicine:  Caulophyllum

Symptoms: Severe pain causing great irritability
Medicine: Chamomilla

Symptoms: Intense pains like electric shocks in the groin. Agitated and intolerant of pain
Medicine: Cimicifuga

Symptoms: Pains which feel as if they are in the intestines rather than the uterus
Medicine: Cocculus

Symptoms: Extreme pain causing sleeplessness
Medicine:  Coffea cruda

Symptoms:
Distressing after-pains after pregnancy that is not the first
Medicine: Cuprum metallicum

Symptoms:
Anxious, apprehensive, sleepless
Medicine:  Gelsemium

Symptoms:
Severe after-pains shoot down the thighs and are worse on the right. Pain appears to be in the rectum or the bladder
Medicine: Lac caninum

Symptoms:
Large blood clots may be passed. Much flatulence
Medicine: Nux vomica

Symptoms:
Pain shoots forwards from behind
Medicine: Sabina

Symptoms: Pain radiates upwards. A sensation of a weight in the lower bowel. Pelvic organs feel as though they are about to drop out
Medicine: Sepia

Symptoms: Use this if there are not other symptoms and no other homeopathic remedy seems to fit
Medicine: Xanthoxylum 

Dosage: Use the 30c potency. Take four times a day for two days after delivery. 

This article is taken from Homeopathy for Women by Dr Barry Rose and Dr Christina Scott-Moncrieff, published by Collins & Brown. 

Fertility problems

Mollie Hunton describes four cases where homeopathy has helped to produce a much-wanted baby

Problems with fertility seem to be becoming more common. Inability to become pregnant, recurrent miscarriage and babies born very prematurely all occur frequently nowadays. The vets report similar problems with sheep and cows and soil analysis of the ground that they graze shows severe deficiency or absence of vital minerals and trace elements like selenium, iodine and zinc. If crops are grown in similar situations it is likely that humans may be suffering from the same deficiencies. If so it would also account for the vast increase in cancer and heart problems, as selenium is an antioxidant. However, whatever the cause, homeopathy seems to be able to help women conceive and have healthy babies. For me it is a very rewarding part of my practice.

Sara
At 38 Sara had been seeing an infertility specialist for seven years. She was told that there was no obvious reason why she could not become pregnant. All her tests were normal and she was offered IVF. She decided to try homeopathy before embarking on that route. When I took her history I could not find any symptoms on which to base my prescription. She had not had any previous illnesses and was well in herself.

I asked about her family history. Her mother was well, but she did not remember her father. “What had happened to him?” I asked. “He died just before I was born.” “What did he die of?” TB. There was my only clue. I prescribed Tub bov 10M, three tablets in one day, and two months later she missed her period. Sara had a normal pregnancy and birth and subsequently had two more children without the need for any more remedies. This was a situation where the patient herself had no illness, but suffered from a problem passed on to her by her father which stopped her becoming pregnant. As her father had TB at the time she was conceived the remedy was Tuberculinum bovinum.

Kate
I first met this 37 year-old woman in general practice one evening as an emergency. She had had a miscarriage and had not stopped bleeding for seven weeks. A scan had shown that there were no remnants of the pregnancy left behind, but there may have been a fibroid developing. Not good news for a future pregnancy. I gave her some Sepia 30 and she stopped bleeding overnight.

Kate had a dreadful history. She had taken the pill for ten years, then stopped to try to become pregnant. In 1994 she had severe abdominal pain and was admitted to hospital, where an ovarian cyst was diagnosed after a scan. She had immediate surgery. A nurse told her she didn’t think she would be able to have children and this thought had stayed with her ever since and affected her deeply.

In 1998 Kate became pregnant for the first time. However she lost that baby at 14 weeks. She felt her world had fallen apart and she became panicky and constantly anxious. She was put on beta-blockers for a while by her GP, but these did not seem to help much. The following year she had a successful delivery but did not recover her usual happy mood and constantly lived in fear of something happening, either to the baby or the rest of the family.

When the baby was a year old she felt she would like another. She became pregnant again, but had a miscarriage at eight weeks, after which I first encountered her in the surgery. I followed the Sepia with a prescription for Ignatia 30c, which she found very helpful.

After this experience Kate developed severe anticipatory anxiety with a lot of physical symptoms. They were palpitations, feeling unable to take a deep breath (hyper­ventilation) which meant she sighed a lot, nausea and retching in the mornings, a feeling of blockage behind the sternum, panic attacks, fear of losing control, fear of dying, constant morbid thoughts, headaches, fear of a heart attack and fear of a brain tumour. She suffered frequent minor ailments like throat and ear infections and catarrh.

Kate appeared calm on the outside, but hid her real feelings from everyone. She could laugh, but never felt happy. She needed the windows open for fresh air. She was exhausted and always ready to cry. The Ignatia that I had given her on first meeting had helped, but this time I prescribed Natrum muriaticum 10M, three tablets in one day with some advice on anxiety management and abdominal breathing.

The effect from the Nat mur was immediate. She felt better for two days (probably from the therapeutic consultation), then had an aggravation for four days when she cried copiously. On the fifth day she woke and started to improve. Her physical symptoms went and she felt in control of her emotions again. She became pregnant immediately after taking the Nat mur.

Whilst pregnant Kate was mostly well apart from some minor problems, which cleared up on their own. She took Aconite 30c when there was some building work being done on the house, which was very stressful. I had also advised a change of diet before this pregnancy, which involved no sugar, and she changed to soya instead of dairy, as soya is a natural source of female hormones. Rebecca was born at term weighing 7lb 4oz. Her mum was 39 and had thought she would never have another successful pregnancy. She now treats the whole family with homeopathy and has regained her confidence.

Julie
This 30 year-old woman had a complicated menstrual history having started her periods at the age of 13 but only menstruating once a year since. At the age of 18 Julie had started the pill and taken it until the age of 26 after which she had not had any periods at all. The gynaecologist thought she had had a premature menopause and put her on HRT.

One of the main reasons for her periods disappearing was that at 21 she’d had a spell of anorexia and her weight dropped to seven stone. Her husband’s sperm count was also slightly low. After investigations, all of which were normal, she was told there was no chance of pregnancy without the fertility drug Clomiphene. Three cycles of that made no difference.

She’d also had a chronic cough with ear infections and mild hearing loss on the left side since she was young and had had lots of antibiotics. Julie was a fastidious lady who wept easily and liked to be appreciated. Her family meant everything to her and not to be able to have children was devastating. She suffered from anticipatory anxiety, liked the company of individuals but was shy in a crowd.

Problems with cycle control and absent periods seem to becoming more common. I have therefore devised a method of maturing the follicle with homeopathic remedies. The regime is easy: Oophorinum 30c (also called ovarian extract) one daily from day five to nine inclusive, counting the first day of a bleed as day one, and Folliculinum 30c, one daily from day 10 to 14 inclusive. Day 14 is ovulation day in a 28-day cycle. The Oophorinum matures the whole ovary and the Folliculinum matures the follicle. If there are no periods, a cycle is counted from any date. If the ovary does not produce a ripe follicle the egg cell cannot be released from it and there is no possibility of pregnancy.

This woman took both remedies plus three tablets of Pulsatilla 10M. She came back to see me two months later having had two periods, one after 35 days and the second after 18. Her temperature chart did not show an ovulation pattern. Her cough had cleared up for the first time ever. As she had a strong family history of cancer I gave her Carcinosin 200, three tablets in 24 hours. Julie did not come back again but after three months on this regime she became pregnant and delivered a healthy baby girl 14 months after her first consultation.

Lesley
At 32, Lesley had taken the pill for 12 years before trying to become pregnant for the last 18 months. During this time she had had a miscarriage at 12 weeks and one at eight weeks. Since then she had had irregular periods. As a child and teenager, repeated ear, throat and chest infections, had been treated with antibiotics as had her acne. She suffered from continuous thrush.

She was warm-blooded, intolerant of heat and sweated a lot. She slept well and her energy was good. There were two experiences of grief in her life as a friend had died just before she became pregnant for the first time and her grandmother had also died during this pregnancy. With such a history of antibiotics and her physical reactions I first prescribed Sulphur 6c three times a day for two weeks, then twice a day for two weeks then once a day until she came back to see me a few weeks later. Lesley must have ovulated at the time of the first appointment and she was already pregnant when I next saw her. In view of her previous history she was advised to have monthly scans by her gynaecologist.

The next time I saw her was when she was 16 weeks pregnant. Her recent scan was normal, but she had developed a cough. She was not keen to take any more antibiotics, and a few days of Pulsatilla 30c four times a day was very helpful.

I next saw her when she was seven months pregnant. The doctor had found sugar in her urine. She was advised to stop taking any sugar in her diet and prescribed Sulphur 6c three times a day as before. Four weeks later she told me that the urine sugar had gone, but she was worried that the baby was too big. She was advised to try a low glycaemic diet: no glucose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, lactose in milk and fructose in fruit. I also advised Sulphur 30c twice a day for a week plus Caulophyllum 30c daily (which helps to prepare the cervix for labour) and Arnica 200c to take every two hours during labour.

Lesley delivered a healthy, but large, baby girl after being induced at 39 weeks. She has kept off the sugar since and has subsequently had another baby girl without any problems.

Mollie Hunton MB BS DRCOG FFHom has been practising homeopathy for 25 years, until recently as a GP, and now in private practice. She is President of the Midlands branch of the Faculty of Homeopathy and teaches homeopathy to undergraduates at Birmingham Medical School. 
  

Endometriosis

Anne Coates talks to Sarah Bagnall about how homeopathy helped relieve her painful periods and Sara Eames describes the treatment she gave her for the condition

Sarah had been suffering from endometriosis and had been warned that she might have trouble conceiving naturally. Ever since her periods had started at 15, Sarah had had problems. “The first one was agonising. We got the doctor out in the middle of the night because we thought I had appendicitis. I was vomiting and I had diarrhoea. The doctor also thought it was appendicitis and it was only when the bleeding began the next day that we realised it wasn’t.”

The menstrual difficulties continued into her 20s. “My periods were investigated a lot. Eventually I had a laparoscopy in 1994 and was diagnosed with endometriosis throughout the abdomen. They said it might cause me fertility problems, as it was quite severe.

“Over a course of about four to five years I tried quite a few different hormone treatments that induce menopause and stop your periods. This wasn’t very nice – the side-effects were obviously quite nasty with night sweats and general hot flushes, excessive thirst, no periods, enlarged breasts and weight gain. My sleep was interrupted – I’d probably drink about two litres of water during the night and then have to get up for the toilet all the time!

“I had no periods for about eight months. This was followed by six months of periods that were bearable – not pain free – and then they gradually got worse until they were very painful. Then I had pain in between, pain on ovulation and I always had diarrhoea and vomiting – never very pleasant! My husband had only ever known me on some kind of hormone treatment – I was always a bit of a hormonal mess. Eventually, I said to the doctor that I didn’t want any more hormone treatment. The gynaecologist then talked about surgical intervention, which I didn’t particularly fancy and warned me that the quality of my eggs might be quite poor. He suggested that I should try for a child immediately.

“It was a bit of a shock to my husband Matthew and me because we didn’t really want to be pushed into starting a family when the gynaecologist told us we should. We wanted to do it in our own time. We actually made a decision then after a long hard talk about it that it wasn’t the right time for us.”

It was at about this time in 1998, that Sarah’s father, Ashley Reynolds, a BHA Trustee, suggested going to the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital. Sarah’s GP was supportive and after some initial difficulties she was given an NHS referral. Sarah, a nurse in the oncology department of a London hospital was very sceptical of homeopathy at first.

“I didn’t really think it was going to do anything but I was also quite desperate to control my symptoms without further hormone treatment. So I thought I’d give it a go and see. I certainly didn’t think it could help relieve the pain. To startwith it actually got worse – they say it often can – and for the first two or three months I thought I don’t want to carry on with this. But I did persevere and it did start to help.

“The first doctor at the RLHH suggested remedies to control the symptoms. At first they didn’t do much for the pain and then I went back and we tried to get on top of the bleeding, making it less heavy, and that seemed to help much more. The bleeding was a lot lighter and the pain was better. It continued to improve gradually over a six to eight month period to a point when I now only needed to take paracetamol. Prior to that I’d been taking ponstan, codeine and paracetemol. It was the homeopathic remedies that enabled me to reduce the painkillers. And I also wasn’t suffering with the diarrhoea or vomiting.”

Sarah was advised to start trying for a baby about a year later and this fell in with Matthew and Sarah’s plans. “We had made a decision to start trying in 2000 because I wanted to be pregnant by the time I was 30 so that if we did need extra assistance there was still plenty of time. I spoke to the homeopathic doctor about my problems with conception and she suggested monitoring ovulation which I did for about seven months. It was then that I realised I was only ovulating once every three or four months which was naturally not helping the situation. So the doctor then started me on something to stimulate ovulation and that seemed to do the trick. Within four months I was ovulating most months and then I fell pregnant about two months after that.”

Sarah had a normal pregnancy and although she had been told her baby was small for dates, Emily weighed in at 7lb 8oz on 6 August, 2001. During her pregnancy Sarah had taken homeopathic iron with great success. When she went into labour she did not use homeopathy but had gas and air and the use of a tens machine to control the pain.

So would she now consider homeopathy for Emily? “She’s already had homeopathic granules for colic when she was really little and I shall be trying the homeopathic teething granules. As I said I was sceptical about homeopathy but I’m so very glad that I tried it and I tell everyone about it. I know it doesn’t help everybody but it certainly benefited me. I’ve just had my first period after having Emily – it was totally pain free with no diarrhoea or vomiting. I couldn’t believe I was actually menstruating.”

“I am delighted both with my new grand-daughter and with the general improvement in Sarah’s well-being. Before I was appointed as a trustee of the BHA, I had little personal experience of homeopathy. Now I have seen with my own eyes what an effective form of treatment it can be. I am very pleased that my involvement and recommendation has helped Sarah and her husband Matthew achieve such spectacular results.” Ashley Reynolds

Sara Eames outlines Sarah’s treatment

Sarah first attended the homeopathic hospital in 1999. She had already been diagnosed as suffering from endometriosis and had tried a variety of painkillers and hormonal treatments. These had controlled some of the symptoms but had also produced unwanted side-effects. When surgery was suggested Sarah decided it was time to consider other ways of treating her problems.

As a senior nurse in charge of a large chemotherapy unit in London, Sarah was fairly new to the ideas of homeopathy but was willing to have a go. This is typical of many patients we see in the women’s clinic at the RLHH. Most have been down the route of conventional treatments first and then start to look for other forms of help when the therapies fail or have unacceptably large side-effects.

When Sarah first attended the hospital she met Dr Anne Bowden who took a full homeopathic history and prescribed an overall constitutional remedy. On review this treatment had reduced the terrible pain that Sarah had suffered each month. I took over her care and recommended an increased strength of the remedy, Lycopodium, which she had taken. This continued to be effective and I also prescribed a local remedy, Colocynthus, which helped further with the pain and heavy bleeding.

Early last year, although not completely “cured”, Sarah was suffering far less each month but was concerned as she was beginning to think that the time was right to start a family but knew that she was not ovulating regularly and had already been warned that conception could well be difficult because of her endometriosis. Many women are aware from the physical changes in their body when they ovulate and it is also easy to use home test kits for ovulation, which can be bought over the counter.

I suggested to Sarah a combination of Oophorinum and Folliculinum to be taken at specific times of the menstrual cycle in order to stimulate the ovaries’ function and encourage ovulation. Sarah began to ovulate each month and was delighted when she came back to the hospital to tell me that she was pregnant.

If a pregnancy goes well as Sarah’s did, I usually suggest an appointment about a month before the baby is due in order to discuss plans for the birth. Sarah had mild anaemia in her late pregnancy and I prescribed her Ferrum phos daily to help with this. I also suggested Bellis perennis which I use routinely to help with healing after childbirth.

I have recently seen Sarah and her baby and they are both well. I was especially interested when Sarah told me that her haemoglobin level had risen noticeably after she had taken Ferrum phos regularly. What is so fascinating about Sarah’s story is not only that her periods are less of a problem and that she was able to conceive naturally but also that we have an objective measure of some of the changes which occurred. So often homeopathy is said to be “only a placebo” but here we have a patient who was not expecting miracles from homeopathy and in whom we were able to measure that ovulation had been regularly established after the ovarian remedies and that the haemoglobin level in the blood rose after taking Ferrum phos.

Endometriosis is a strange condition. It occurs when the cells, which normally only form the lining of the womb, spread to other parts of the body, particularly the pelvis. These cells are hormonally sensitive and change each month with the natural variations in hormones. It is these changes in the cells outside their usual position which give rise to the severe pain of endometriosis.

This condition is extremely common but it is not clear if the incidence is rising or if it is simply being diagnosed more often now. It can be helped by homeopathy in many different ways. As in Sarah’s case the best approach is to try to prescribe the constitutional remedy – that is the remedy which suits her best as an overall person rather than being a specific cure for endometriosis. There are also local remedies which can be used for specific problems such as pain and heavy periods or to support a patient before and after the surgery which is so often necessary. Endometriosis is a common but complicated condition and it is important that anyone seeking homeopathic help is treated by a fully qualified homeopath.

Sara Eames BSc MB ChB DGM MFHom is the Director of Education and a physician in the women’s and children’s department of the RLHH. She also has a private practice in north west London.
 

Endometriosis

Mollie Hunton discusses the homeopathic treatment of a condition that affects so many women

Endometriosis is a gynaecological complaint that seems to be becom­ing more common. It is defined as the presence of endometrium (the lining of the womb) outside the uterus. The main symptoms are painful periods, heavy periods, pelvic pain, pain on inter­course, ovarian cysts and sometimes bowel symptoms. It currently affects two million girls and women in the UK.

So how does it occur? There are a number of theories to account for the condition which involves retrograde spillage of endometrium down the fallopian tubes during menstruation. The normal situation is that spillage is absorbed by the body, but in endomet­riosis it is not and so it sits around in the pelvis wherever it lands, often on the ovaries. That suggests that the immune system in the pelvis is not working well. As it can lead to blockage of the tubes and interference with ovarian function, it can also cause fertility problems.

Diagnosis is made by the gynaecol­ogist carrying out a laparoscopy and having a look inside the pelvic cavity. As this method of diagnosis is available now, it is readily used and as a result more cases are identified than 30 years ago when it was not available. It is car­ried out on teenagers who complain of severe painful periods and is often found at that age. The youngest patient in my first study of this condition was 13 when it was diagnosed in her.

Usually in conventional treatment, hormones are used to suppress men­struation – no periods, no endometrio­sis. It seems to work well in some people despite merely suppressing symptoms and for those people badly affected, laser surgery may be advised. However, a lot of people have side-effects to one of the main treatments, Danol. Others are not helped and for some women the symp­toms return after stopping the conven­tional treatment. For these women and those with fertility problems (the treat­ment means they have no hope of preg­nancy whilst on the medication) homeopathy is particularly useful.

Patient audits
As I was seeing a number of patients with endometriosis I decided to study their histories closely to see what I could learn. In homeopathy we are interested in everything about the patient so each person had provided a lot of informa­tion about themselves, including their past histories. This proved to be the most helpful aspect because it led me to a much better insight into their condition.

My first study of eight patients was to investigate whether homeopathic treatment was effective. The patients were seen in both general and private practice. I used the Glasgow Homoeo­pathic Hospital outcome score to assess the patients’ responses, where +4 is cure of symptoms, 0 is no change and -4 is death. From my results, all patients had considerable relief of symptoms, espe­cially of heavy periods, painful periods and pelvic pain. All felt very well in themselves. However, I followed them up afterwards and some had had relapses. I needed to find out why.

Homeopathic remedies prescribed were for pelvic pain of which Apis helped but Belladonna did not seem to. The most useful remedies were Folli­culinum and Oophorinum, both made from different parts of the ovary. These two remedies are given in a sequence that I worked out in studying this group of patients. One tablet of Oophorinum 30c is given daily from days five to nine inclusive and Folliculinum 30c is given, one daily, from days 10 to 14 of the men­strual cycle. The remedies are indicated where there is irregularity of the cycle, ovarian cysts or infertility. This regime is also used to good effect by other doc­tors as previously reported by Dr Sara Eames. I also prescribed Candida 30c, Carcinosin for one woman who had a strong family history of cancer, Lachesis, Pulsatilla, Sepia, Sulphur, Nux vom and Calc carb I prescribed for locals and for the constitutional remedy.

I noticed that endometriosis can occur at any age between puberty and the menopause and there was often a history of multiple repeated courses of antibiotics and recurrent attacks of thrush. Women experienced a lot of stress and often had poor diets high in sugar. I thought that this could be related to poor immune system function, poor or uncoordinated tubal and uterine motility function which would cause pain and what I came to call the “tough ovary syndrome”. This seemed to fit in with the observations of absent, poor or late ovulation. The ovum could not escape, or found it difficult, from an ovary with a tough capsule. In this sit­uation the regime of Oophorinum 30c and Folliculinum 30c were indicated, and in fact produced two pregnancies in three women who were trying. Why did the condition relapse? Both the people who became pregnant relapsed, one after stopping breastfeed­ing and both after relaxing their diets.

Second group
Encouraged by the information I dis­covered by auditing the patients I had already treated, I decided to do a second audit some years later. I wanted to find out what I had learned from the first audit and how this knowledge would affect my approach to handling the sit­uation in future. Also, could I learn any­thing more?

From the first audit I had learned that:

  • All the patients consulted me because of the failure of their medical treatment or because of side-effects from their medication.
  • Endometriosis responds well to the homeopathic method.
  • Pregnancy could be achieved.
  • Remedies needed to be prescribed on all levels: locals, nosodes, isodes and constitution.
  • Diet and supplements are very important.

The second group of eight patients had once again all been diagnosed by laparoscopy and all had their own vari­ation on the symptoms and signs. At this point I took an in-depth look at the Repertories – Synthesis and Cara – to see if I could find more useful remedies. It is quite complicated in that there are at least five rubrics (lists of remedies) that could be used for painful periods; for example in the “female” chapter – menses, painful and pain, uterus, menses before; and in the “abdomen” chapter – pain, site, menses before, pain, menses before or during and pain, cramping, menses before. It meant that case history-taking needed to be very exact.

It also made me look closely at the actual remedies needed to see how they related to the pelvic organs. I had not realised that the doctors who compiled the repertories knew so much. We know very little about ovarian pain and its causes, but these are frequently mentioned in the Repertory. We also think that pre-menstrual syndrome is a modern disease, but it is all there in the Repertory, which was first published in 1912. It helped to find unusual sym­ptoms, like “the more the flow, the greater the pain” which has only one remedy for it – Cimicifugia.

I had the feeling following up the first group of patients that this problem was more difficult than I had first envisaged. Over time women had returned with relapses. I decided to take a more care­ful look at the second group to see what it was that brought them back. The problems were likely to be that my pre­scribing had not been accurate enough, there were obstacles to cure or new problems had arisen which once again had depleted the immune system.

This analysis showed that painful and heavy periods were easier to treat and all patients felt better after the first consultation. Pelvic pain seemed more difficult to treat and was often the symp­tom that made people return for another consultation. The interesting thing which seemed to emerge was how many peo­ple had a history of frequent antibiotic usage from childhood. I therefore com­pared this group of patients with another group matched for age, but with differ­ent problems. Only one of the matched group had had antibiotics, whereas all the endometriosis group had. Relapses occurred after dietary lapses with sugar intake and with stressful life events.

The remedies I used this time fell into three groups:

Constitutional:
Sulphur and Nux vom seemed to be frequently needed in view of the problems with previous antibiotic usage. The question is, does being a Sulphur type of patient make you more likely to have a condition that needs antibiotics, or does having a lot of anti­biotics cause a Sulphur state?

Nosodes and isodes: remedies made from diseased tissue or harmful med­ication for example Oophorinum (ovar­ian gland) Folliculinum (ovarian follicle), Candida.

Locals: remedies for symptoms or signs – Lachesis for left-sided ovarian cysts or pain, Palladium for right sided problems.

Conclusions
Relapses follow stressful events and dietary lapses. Pregnancy is difficult to achieve if the patient is older; has had endometriosis for some time; has asso­ciated pelvic problems like fibroids; has a poor diet or has problems with alco­hol or cigarettes.

Treatment with homeopathy is on all levels, locals, generals, nosodes and constitutional, and is well worth con­sidering. No one became worse. Patients should be able to reduce or stop their conventional medication.

Anne’s story
Aged 37, Anne had had a laparoscopy and D&C and had been told she had endometriosis stage III (I is mild and IV is severe). She complained of severely painful, heavy periods with clots, pelvic pain and infertility. She had been pre­scribed Danazol which caused her peri­ods to disappear. This was no help as she wanted to become pregnant and time was running out. She had joined the Endometriosis Society and had read about homeopathy in their newsletter.

Previously she had been on the pill for seven years which would have masked the symptoms of endometrio­sis, so she only noticed the symptoms when she stopped taking it 18 months previously. In her teens she had had recurrent throat infections and had had repeated courses of antibiotics. She experienced recurrent attacks of thrush ever since. She also suffered from premen­strual migraine.

I advised Anne to follow a no-sugar diet to help the gut recover from Candida. (Thrush is yeast and only grows in the presence of sugar.) This means reading packets and tins for glu­cose, sucrose, maltose and dextrose. Fructose, a fruit sugar, does not seem to affect the Candida. Anne decided to stop taking the Danazol. I prescribed Candida 30c, one daily for 10 days and Sulphur 30c one three times in one day, every two weeks. I also suggested she take Magnesium OK daily because a high dose of magnesium would help with uterine and tubal spasm and there­fore pain, and omega oils (fish and evening primrose oils) which provide the raw materials to make prostaglandins – hormones which govern the contractions of the uterine muscle.

After four months Anne returned not having had another attack of thrush. She now complained of pain and numbness in both groins, heavy periods, bright red with clots. For the next cycle she took Oophorinum 30c daily on days 10 to 14, and Belladonna 30c as required for pelvic pain or migraine. The following month she became pregnant; her preg­nancy progressed normally and pro­duced a baby girl. She was delighted and breastfed the baby for a year. After stop­ping breastfeeding her symptoms returned and needed Oophorinum for three cycles to bring relief. She also took Lachesis 30c for her migraine and pelvic symptoms. A year later she had an early miscarriage followed by another normal pregnancy.

Julia’s story
Now aged 41, Julia remembers having recurrent thrush all her adult life. She had her first baby aged 25, who took a year to conceive. A second child then took eight years to conceive. Whilst hav­ing infertility investigations she had a laparoscopy which showed the endometriosis. Her left tube was blocked and her right scarred. She became preg­nant after treatment with Clomiphene which is a conventional drug to aid ovu­lation. She now complained of a left sided ovarian pain. She had a past his­tory of taking antibiotics for acne and Chlamydia infection (which scarred her tubes) and for recurrent cysts on the eye­lids. She had, unfortunately, been a chocoholic. She was fastidious, chilly and a worrier.

I prescribed Candida 30c one daily for 10 days then weekly, and Arsenicum album 10M one day’s dose of three tablets and Oophorinum 30c days nine to 14 of the cycle. Six weeks later she felt considerably better. The ovarian pain had considerably improved, but she had had a return of her old symptom of an infected eye cyst which had got better without the need for antibiotics. When next seen seven months later she had reduced the Candida tablets to monthly and had no pain from the endometriosis. She consulted about another problem.

Mollie Hunton MB BS DRCOG FFHom teaches homeopathy to undergraduates at Birmingham Medical School. She is President of the Midlands branch of the Faculty of Homeopathy and has a private practice. 
 

Cystitis

Nipping cystitis in the bud

Dr Marysia Kratimenos and Keren Sall outline how homeopathy can alleviate this infection

Imagine having the need to go to the bathroom 20 or 30 times a day.

This is what a sufferer of cystitis goes through along often with a burning sensation accompanying urination. Very few women will escape the discomfort of this urinary tract infection. Around one in six women get cystitis each year. Women tend to suffer from it as they have a short urethra (the tube that passes from the bladder out of the body) and its opening is located to very close to the anus making it easy for bacteria from the anus to reach the bladder and cause an infection.

Symptoms can include one or more of the following: 

  • Stinging or burning sensation when you pass urine
  • The need to urinate more frequently and urgently, even if you pass little or no urine
  • General feeling of being unwell
  • Occasional blood in urine
  • Pain or tenderness in lower back or abdomen
  • Urine that is cloudy or dark coloured, and may have a strong smell.

Why homeopathy?
Homeopathy can be used successfully in tandem with conventional treatment with antibiotics. Homeopathy is help­ful in building up the constitution and so reducing the risk of recurrent attacks of cystitis. A homeopath will take a detailed history to ensure that a suitable homeopathic medicine is prescribed. A urine sample will be sent off for analy­sis in a laboratory and a preliminary inspection of urine carried out. A strong smell, cloudiness or the presence of small amounts of blood suggests a bacterial infection. As GPs using conventional treatment will usually wait for the results of the urine culture before prescribing antibiotics in cases of cystitis where there is no fever or obvious general illness, it is well worth trying a homeopathic rem­edy in the meantime to alleviate dis­comfort.

If your temperature is very high and you find your pain extends to the loins, beware as this may indicate the infec­tion has ascended to the kidneys and medical intervention must be sought urgently. Prompt medical attention is also warranted if there is blood in urine. Kidney infection can lead to the scarring of kidneys so immediate treat­ment with antibiotics is imperative.

A homeopathic consultation
Treatment with homeopathy comprises of a two-­pronged attack. Firstly to treat the infection, and secondly to improve general health, so averting further infections. The (deeper treatment) is best left to a professional homeopath. For an acute attack a relatively high potency, 30c should be taken. It can be repeated every hour, decreasing the frequency of the remedy as the symptoms improve. If there is no improvement after two or four doses, sufferers should seek pro­fessional homeopathic treatment.

The right homeopathic medicine

Aconite
This is prescribed if the symptoms come on very suddenly and without any warn­ing, often after a fright or exposure to cold. Diving into icy water may bring on cystitis. There is a lot of fear and this may lead to retention of urine. There is a sensation of pressure in the bladder and burning before urination.

Arnica montana
Arnica is useful for treating cystitis that follows bruising injuries of the perineum. It is therefore suitable for urinary prob­lems following childbirth. There may be trouble emptying the bladder and some involuntary dribbling.

Cantharis
This will help if you suffer from ago­nising pain before, during and after uri­nation. Each drop of urine will feel like scalding acid and there may be blood in it. Beside yourself with pain you will avoid drinking so you won’t have to pass urine. Cantharis was well known to the Marquis de Sade and his followers.

Nux vomica
This medicine is given when there is intense chilliness and the person feels very irritable with the cystitis. There is a constant urge to urinate and a sense that the bladder is full although tiny amounts of urine are passed. Nux vom­ica is ideal when frequency is the pre­dominate symptom. A constitutional Nux vomica is the typical Type A person­ality – driven, ambitious and very com­petitive, with a short fuse.

Pulsatilla
This is often prescribed for highly emotional and changeable shy young females. As their fluid intake is small they are more prone to urinary tract infec­tions. This remedy is also prescribed for older women who are soft and yielding in character. They have a tendency to cry while telling their tale and evoke sym­pathy in the listener. For them the pain is worse when urination is delayed, and after urination. The symptoms are change­able and the urine tends to spurt out.

Sarsaparilla
This medicine is used for infection when the pain comes on after urination. There may be some blood in the urine and severe symptoms of cystitis. Sufferers usually find it is easier to pass urine while standing up and there is tendency to urinary retention.

Sepia
Sepia is suitable for recurrent urinary tract infections, especially when there is a history of lots of antibiotic use and thrush. The woman often loses her libido, because sex is painful and she fears cystitis may result. The patient is often worn out by the recurrent infec­tions, so exhausted by the struggle to keep going that she cries when express­ing herself. Genital herpes may be also be present.

Staphysagria
Honeymoon cystitis responds well to this remedy, as do urinary tract infections that come on after pelvic examination, operation or labour. It is prescribed where there is suppressed anger and grief. The anger is hidden, the person appears mild tempered and gentle, yet there is often a history of abuse or deep sorrow. Cystitis occurs after sex and the pain is felt during and after urination.

Managing cystitis

 

  • Drink large amounts of water to flush out the infection.
  • Avoid tea and coffee as they can aggravate the symptoms.
  • Drink large amounts of cranberry juice or take tables of cranberry concentrate as they make the urine too acidic for the bacteria to thrive.
  • Likewise sachets of powder available at pharmacies work on the same principle. Some make the urine less acidic as they contain large amounts of bicarbonate.
  • Keep the bladder empty as holding on to urine will only make matters worse and encourage a more serious infection.
  • It is advisable to empty the bladder after sex to avoid infection.
  • Bathing and hygiene products such as talcum powder and perfumed soap should all be avoided as they irritate your urethra.
  • Don’t wear thongs or tight trousers; pure cotton underwear is best, as are stockings rather than tights.


    Marysia Kratimenos MB BS FRCS(ED) FFHOM is on the staff of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital where she is involved in stress clinics, general medicine, paediatrics and neurolinguistic programming. She also teaches on the MFHom course and has a private practice.

  • Breast Cancer

    When orthodox medicine has nothing more to offer…

     
    Elizabeth Thompson discusses the role of homeopathic treatment for female cancer patients

    At the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital (GHH) we are seeing an increasing number of people referred with a diagnosis of cancer. This reflects an increased interest in how complementary approaches to cancer care can support people at different stages of the cancer diagnosis. In the past four and a half years of working at the GHH, I have learned that the people coming to the hospital want different things from complementary medicine.

    Some people come when conventional treatments can no longer offer them anything to save their lives. This is a frightening time for them and although the homeopathic approach may not offer a cure at this late stage of their illness, it can often offer hope of a different kind. Sometimes it helps people to outlive the prognosis given to them by months or even years. Sometimes it helps them need less in the way of conventional medicine including pain killers and offers them continuing support despite progressive disease.

    As a doctor working in both conventional and complementary cancer care I have learned the importance of integrating these two perspectives. Ideally the doctor practising homeopathy would work as an integral part of a much wider team which would include family members, nurses, general practitioners, oncologists, surgeons, palliative physicians and other complementary therapists. It is disappointing sometimes to see that other healthcare professionals can be unsupportive of a person’s desire to use complementary therapies and for some people the knowledge that the team is not working together can cause doubt and insecurity.

    Some patients come at the beginning of their diagnosis wanting to support their bodies with gentler approaches and help themselves recover from some difficult and powerful treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. As well as using homeopathic medicines, the GHH also has experience in using Mistletoe which is given by injection and has been shown to stimulate the group of white cells whose numbers can be depleted during chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

    Other patients come when they have finished most of their treatments but may still not be feeling well despite being given the all clear by their doctors.

    In the past few months a team of us at the GHH have been carrying out a research study with women who have survived breast cancer but are having difficult menopausal symptoms. These women can not use Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and many of them are on a drug called Tamoxifen which can make symptoms such as hot flushes a lot worse.

    In a pilot study we looked at 45 women all of whom had difficult menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, mood disturbance, fatigue and joint pains. All of the women had had a diagnosis of breast cancer. The medical profession is realising that these symptoms can really affect quality of life but conventional approaches are limited. In particular HRT is not advised (because the hormones in HRT may stimulate breast cancer cells). About three quarters of the women in the study said they had found the homeopathic approach useful for their symptoms and satisfaction with the approach was high. In terms of persuading colleagues within medicine that the homeopathic approach is worth recommending, we can reassure them through research that people gain a benefit which makes a difference to them.

    Following on from this pilot study, further research at the GHH, funded by the Trust’s Homeopathic Research Committee, is looking at 80 women all of whom have hot flushes and have had a diagnosis of, and conventional treatment for, breast cancer within the last five years. Half of the women will have a consultation plus a placebo (dummy) medicine and half will have a consultation plus a homeopathic remedy to treat the hot flushes. We know that people can get well again under the influence of a placebo and we are expecting quite a lot of the women on placebo to improve.

    Knowing how many women get well with placebo helps us to know how many people we need to see if we wanted to show a difference between placebo medicines and homeopathic medicines and this could be a lot of women. We are grateful to all the women who are taking part and still need another 40 women to join the study.     

    Research of this sort is very important in helping us to clarify the roles of different complementary medicines in cancer care. The journey of dealing with a serious disease and the consequences of treatment can be a difficult one. I believe that complementary therapies can rise up to meet the person along this road and help restore wellbeing and confidence in their own bodies.   

    One wonderful aspect of the homeopathic approach is that it can be a very important opportunity to help someone re-evaluate their life and their health.

    Sometimes hurts in the past have never been healed and sitting with someone as they describe difficult experiences can be itself therapeutic. Combining this therapeutic listening time with substances from nature that gently stimulate the body’s own healing potential can be an approach that through patient demand and research we can demonstrate is really worth offering to many more people.

    Case Study
    A 62 year-old woman was referred to outpatients with a diagnosis of hot flushes. She had undergone a left mastectomy for breast cancer in November 1998. She had always had a fear that she might get cancer as her mum had died of it.

    She went on to describe the flushes: “They really drain me and take every bit of energy from me. They start in the tummy and come up and then I feel the heat in my face. I also feel depressed and I think a lot about dying. I fear death and I fear getting older. I have lost confidence and I don’t like to go into town. I feel everybody is walking into me. I don’t go out in the dark and I worry about how I am going to get to my work when it’s dark in the morning.”

    I asked if anything in her life besides the diagnosis might make her fear death. She then told me that as a young girl she had developed diphtheria and other people on her ward had died. In her past medical history she had had problems with her thyroid gland.

    She goes back to the flushes. “They waken me at night and I remember my dreams. I dream of a cemetery – it’s horrific with skeletons running towards me.” She has this dream recurrently.

    I remember a remedy which has this connection with skeletons and I go to my computer which confirms that there is a remedy called Crotalus cascavella which might be helpful. This is a snake remedy and homeopaths have used a similar snake remedy called Lachesis to help with menopausal symptoms.

    We are beginning to recognise the connections between different remedies in the same family and although Crotalus cascavella is not as well known as Lachesis I decide to prescribe Crotalus cascavella, the Brazilian Rattlesnake. Preparing the venom of the snake homeopathically makes it very safe to administer.

    Within days of taking the remedy, this woman felt her flushes subsiding. She also began to gain more confidence and was able to report that she no longer felt so frightened in the dark and had managed to go back to work. A year later she is feeling very well and in some respects better than she did before her diagnosis of cancer.

    Dr Elizabeth Thompson MRCP MFHom trained in home­opathy with the Homeopathic Physicians Teaching Group in 1992 and began working at the GHH in 1995 seeing patients with cancer in a research clinic. She and her husband, also a Member of the Faculty of Homeopathy, have three young children who thrive on love and homeopathy when necessary!

    Homeopathy for toddlers

    by Bob Leckridge

    Toddlers is a strange word, but it captures quite nicely the main characteristic of this age group. Babies lie quietly or they squirm and scream noisily, but you can be pretty sure that they stay where you put them. Then one day you look down at the floor or on the bed where you laid your child and they are somewhere else! Not far away, but they’ve definitely wriggled and rolled away from the patch where you placed them. With these first moves they are learning that the there is a world to explore. It takes a few months more but before you know it they are up on their feet, then “cruising” round the furniture, then launching out unsupported into the middle of the room.

    Each of these stages brings great joy to the parents. It’s like watching the emergence of a little person. It IS the emergence of a little person! It’s in these next few months that you will begin to see strong character traits emerge. The individuality of babies really begins to manifest in the toddler years.

    To use a homeopathic approach to health, this individuality is the key. Let’s look at some of the ways in which differences emerge. A fundamental characteristic is speed, or, pace, and this becomes clear, very quickly, once the toddler becomes a bit surer of his or her new-found ability to travel. Some toddlers are fast. They run everywhere. They never play with a toy for long and are easily distracted by others. They eat quickly, move quickly and never seem to stop.

    Other toddlers prefer a slower pace in life. They sit quietly for ages absorbed with a simple toy (or, even, frustratingly for the parents, with the packaging in which a gift has been wrapped!). They eat slowly and they move slowly. The faster ones may develop faster, acquiring new skills weeks, if not months, before their slower cousins. These differences can cause concern, but in most circumstances, they are just differences. It’s not that the faster ones will be necessarily smarter than the ones who prefer a more leisurely pace. It just seems that way if developmental milestones are being reached more quickly.

    What is normal?
    It’s important to understand that there is a wide variation in “normal” at this time and as a new parent you don’t have much prior knowledge of this. That’s why the developmental checks provided by GPs and health visitors are so useful. These professionals understand the range of “normal” and can give great reassurance, or, if necessary, spot problems early so that the child can have special attention and support. Without an acceptance of individuality, there will be pressure to expect all children to have the same pace, the same speed of development. This would be wrong.

    The tendency to medicalise life is huge in our society. Not being the same as someone else is not an illness. Homeopathy helps us to understand this. If toddlers have different characteristics then they will have different needs. The busy active ones need a different kind of attention from the quietly absorbed ones. What healthy toddlers don’t need is homeopathic treatment. There is a tendency, in some circles, to seek to prescribe “constitutional” medicines for toddlers (I raised the issue of “constitutional” medicines in the last article) – either to help them develop faster, or to try and get them to slow down. I think this is a mistake. It is misguided and it won’t work. If a child is healthy, then a homeopathic medicine won’t make a difference to them. It won’t change their personality. It won’t change their behaviour and it won’t make them healthier. However, as health is not a fixed state, this can be a hard judgement to make. What if a fast-paced child isn’t coping so well with life? Won’t a homeopathic remedy help them then? Well, probably, yes, it will.

    So how can a parent decide when their child needs treatment? There is a clear trigger point – concern. If you are concerned, anxious or worried about your child, then you are right to discuss this with a professional. If your doctor or health visitor has homeopathic skills they will be able to take a holistic view which focuses on the child overall and not just a disease view which leads to your concerns being dismissed in the absence of identifiable disease. However, if the professional you consult hasn’t been trained in the assessment of child development and child health, then they might either miss a problem, or medicalise a healthy child. This is why it is important to be sure your chosen professional has the necessary skills.

    Homeopathic treatment is an excellent choice for a child who isn’t coping well at this stage in life. This is exactly the right time to give a “constitutional remedy”. However, how are you to know they are not coping well? There are a number of possible ways. One of the key characteristics of this stage of life is growth, so a regular charting of the child’s height and weight on paediatric growth charts by your GP or health visitor enables them to detect a problem early when the “growth velocity” tails off (that is the speed of growth – which is actually more important than the absolute height and weight). Another clue will be when your child suddenly changes. His or her behaviour is “out of character” or different from his or her own normal. Parents are very good at spotting these subtle changes and this can alert them to an infection. Distress is another phenomenon which provokes a parent to seek help – either that their child is frequently distressed, or that their child is frequently distressing others!

    So, what about the more obvious problems, which are typical in this age group? Let’s consider possible homeopathic treatments of some of them.

    Temper tantrums
    “The terrible twos” is a famous phrase. This gives a couple of clues. First, two year olds can be problematic and, secondly, it’s two year olds (they are only two for a year!). Why are they “terrible”? Well, they have learned to “toddle” and now they have a whole world to explore. The concept of not having their needs met instantly is a new one to them. When they could only lie in their cots they would just scream and pretty much usually someone would turn up and attend to their needs. Now they have the possibility of going and getting for themselves and they are coming up against the fact that world doesn’t actually revolve around them after all.

    Let me describe a couple of explorer types for you. You might recognise someone. First, there is a hot child, who throws off their covers at night with the heat. They’ve got hot hands, and hot feet, and they sweat quite easily. They are interested in everything and never settle to anything for long. They have good appetites and like to eat tasty things – especially the things that parents say are bad for them! They are messy children, creating disorder everywhere as they go exploring. They are also great collectors and might start to hoard all kinds of strange things. In fact, they get quite upset if you try to throw anything away. They hate to get washed and can make a real fuss at bath time. These children might be troubled with eczema, with red, itchy patches on their skin. This is the Sulphur child.

    Now, let’s consider a different kind of explorer. This child may be an attractive child, with long eyelashes. They never sit still. They are always on the go. They don’t sleep so well as the Sulphur child, and they might wake up wanting something to eat. These children have a real stubborn streak. When they make up their mind to something it is hard to get them to change. They can have spectacular temper tantrums with quite a degree of destructiveness. They are always breaking toys and tearing books in their anger. They also have lots of fears and are especially scared of dogs, of the darkness and of thunderstorms. These children typically catch every cold which is going, and have chronic catarrh with swollen glands in the neck, and they have a tendency to chronic respiratory problems like asthma. This is the child who needs Tuberculinum bovum.

    These are only two examples of adventurous two year olds, but you can see that they have quite different characters, typically get different kinds of illnesses and are likely to get angry in different situations.
    Here are two general tips for dealing with the “terrible twos”. Two year olds need to explore. Playing with them with toys and games which interest them and encourage their exploration will help them to grow and mature. They also need structure. If the world has no boundaries then it becomes a chaotic and scary place. They respond well to rhythms of all kinds, so they can anticipate a structure to the day. A routine bed time is a good idea, for example.

    They also need consistency to their structure. If you are going to set a boundary, then do stick with that boundary, no matter the strategies of tears or destruction which your little darling might deploy to try to get you to move your boundaries. It is important, therefore, to have boundaries (rules, limits) which are reasonable and which you, yourself, can keep. It is also important that different family members stick to the same boundaries.

    Febrile convulsions
    Children between the ages of four months and four years can potentially have a convulsion when they have a high fever. This is very scary to witness, but is usually mercifully brief and ultimately harmless. After the age of four, this potential seems to go away. If your child has been diagnosed as having this problem, what can you do? The main preventative treatment is to control the fever quickly, so, in addition to the normal methods of preventing overheating in the room and sponging with tepid water, the classic homeopathic remedy in this situation is Belladonna.

    Belladonna, acutely, is most useful in sudden, high fevers. The child will become restless and agitated. They will probably have bright red cheeks, look and feel hot, and have a dry mouth and dilated pupils. They may even start to hallucinate and become a bit delirious. This is a classic picture of Belladonna. Make up a 30c potency in a glass of water and give a spoonful of the water to the child every few minutes until he, or she, starts to settle. Belladonna can produce a resolution to an acute fever faster than any other treatment I know. Some children have a tendency to high fevers and to febrile convulsion repeatedly. This is best treated with the child’s “constitutional” medicine which will involve a homeopathic consultation with your doctor.

    Croup
    Croup is another frightening acute complaint which typically occurs in young children. Its sound is distinctive, described as a “barking cough” because it sounds like a dog barking. It is very alarming and the child cannot breathe easily so quickly becomes distressed and agitated. The traditional treatment for it is steam. Sitting with the child in a steamy bathroom or kitchen often eases the cough and allows the child to settle down to sleep. However, if this cough doesn’t settle quickly the doctor needs to be called and the child may even have to be admitted to hospital.

    However, this is another situation where homeopathic remedies can work extremely well. There used to be a product marketed as “croup powders”. These were five numbered sachets which were to be given in sequence, starting with powder one. If this powder failed to settle the croup, the instruction was to move on and give powder two, then three. As the child began to settle at this point, the instruction was to alternate powders four and five until the situation resolved.

    Here is what was in those five powders. Powder one was Aconite, number two was Spongia and number three was Hepar sulph. Powder four was Spongia again and powder five was Hepar sulph again. This is still a good regime. Aconite is a great acute medicine, especially for sudden onset coughs with fever and agitation, maybe brought on by playing outside in a cold wind. It is said that Aconite should be given “with the first sneeze”. It is a good, early use, acute cough and cold medicine. Try it first and try it early.

    If this fails to relieve the cough within the first 15 to 30 minutes, then try Spongia. Typically, Spongia is indicated when there is some roughness or soreness of the throat, and it is needed when the disease has got a bit more of a hold than at the Aconite stage. If this fails to settle things within the next 15 to 30 minutes you should move on to Hepar sulph. This is most often indicated when the child is a bit toxic, with a high fever, chilly, irritable and sensitive to noises, to light, to drafts. It is quite common for parents to learn which of these three remedies is actually best for their own child and as each episode of croup commences to immediately give the one which typically works best for their son or daughter.

    Recurrent ear infections and glue ear
    Ear infections are probably the most common type of infection in this age group and they are often caused by viruses. This means that antibiotics will not be of any assistance. Ear infection can be quite sudden and very painful. You want to give something, which is going to relieve the pain quickly. Belladonna, which I mentioned earlier, is commonly indicated for ear infections. For it to be useful, the child should have a fever, probably redness to the face and/or external ear, be agitated and restless.

    Aconite which I also described earlier can be very useful if the infection comes on after exposure to cold, dry winds and if you catch it at the earliest stage. The Hepar sulph, also described in the treatment of croup can be indicated for the ear infections too, but, here, the child would be toxic, irritable and complaining of sharp pains sticking in the ear.

    Recurrent ear infections can lead to “glue ear”. This is where a sticky fluid builds up in the inner ear causing deafness. A great medicine for this is Pulsatilla. It helps best in children who are a bit shy, very sociable, and who love to be outside playing. When you see them asleep in bed, they may be lying on their backs with their arms stretched out above their heads. There are other medicines which may help this complaint, but, being a chronic condition, I would recommend you seek the professional help of a homeopathically trained doctor or nurse.

    If you are going to use any of the medicines mentioned, unless a specific dose is recommended by your homeopathic doctor, use a 30c strength and repeat the doses as often as is necessary.

    For toddlers crush one pillule between two spoons, add to a small amount of mineral or distilled water and give one teaspoon for a dose. The rule in homeopathy is to take a dose, experience the improvement, then if the improvement starts to decline, repeat the remedy. If a dose does not produce any improvement, then there is no point in repeating that particular remedy.

    Bob Leckridge MBChB FFHom graduated from Edinburgh University in 1978 and worked as a GP until 1995 since when he has worked full-time as a Specialist in Homeopathic Medicine at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital. He teaches homeopathy internationally and is the author of Homeopathy in Primary Care. He became President of the Faculty of Homeopathy in 1998.

    Homeopathy for young children

    Dr Christine Underwood and Keren Sall look at how babies and young children can be helped homeopathically

    Homeopathy is popular with parents as it offers them a way to treat their children for common illnesses without the fear of side effects of some orthodox medicines. It also allows parents of infants to help their child when there is nothing conventionally available. Homeopathy works very well because a child’s immune system is responsive and has not been subjected to the stresses and chemicals of everyday life which an adult carries with them.

    The following provides helpful guidance when choosing homeopathic medicines for a number of common childhood complaints. Please note that as with all over the counter medicines, if your child’s problems persist or worsen you should seek medical advice immediately and contact your GP or NHS Direct for help.

    Coughs and colds
    Coughs and colds occur when the immune system is weakened. Homeopathic medicines recommended for these ailments include Aconite 30c. One tablet should be given two-hourly for the first day and then one tablet of Ferrum phosphoricum 30c should be given daily until the child improves. This stops cold going onto the chest and prevents chest infections.

    Bryonia Linctus can also help with coughs. Check with the pharmacist that it is suitable for your child’s symptoms and age.

    Antimomium tartaricum should be used if the cough is in the child’s chest but they are too weak to cough and so you are desperate to cough for them. In such cases you may find the child does not want to look at anyone else or be touched.
    He/she prefers to be carried around.

    Teething
    Chamomilla is good for teething problems that are accompanied by a fever and where children insist on being carried and scream angrily when put down. It is available in granule, powder form and drops, and should be given to children two-hourly for a day. Drops are not recommended for babies under six months of age. Belladonna is recommended for children with swollen gums and a hot flushed face with wide staring eyes. Aconite should be given if the child tosses and turns even when asleep.

    Colic
    This is most common in the first three months. Colicky babies tend to pull up their legs to their chin, scream and turn red. The problem is thought to be caused by swallowing air, dehydration, a mother’s anxiety or something passed the breast milk.

    Chamomilla 6c should be used as a medicine to treat colicky symptoms if
    the child has green stools, is very irritable and wants to be carried around.
    It is also helpful if you give them a cuddle or feed but they don’t want it, and it is difficult to placate them as you don’t know what they want. The child’s abdomen may be distended and they have one cheek which is red and hot and the other pale and cold. If the mother is breast-feeding she can take the remedy herself to help the baby.

    Magnesium phosphate should be given if a baby or child draws knees up with pain and feels better if the tummy is rubbed.

    If the child wants to keep still and screams if moved then Colocynth is recommended.

    Fever
    A fever is usually a sign that the body is fighting an infection. Symptoms usually include restlessness, hot skin and a raised temperature. Aconite is recommended for child who has a fever, is agitated and fearful, or breathing rapidly or sweating.

    However, if the child has dilated pupils and is having nightmares or delusions then Belladonna should be given every two hours until symptoms improve Bryonia should be used to treat a child who likes to be left alone.

    Earache
    This can follow exposure to draughts and cold, windy weather. Give Belladonna if the child has fever and redness to the face or external ear. If the child has a pale face that flushes easily and sour burping gastritis try Ferrum phosphoricum.
    Give one pillule two hourly on the first day and then three times a day until symptoms improve.

    Nappy rash
    This can be a reaction to the substances contained in urine and faeces, or to the detergent used to clean non-disposable nappies. Use Calendula cream and Arsenicum album 6c if skin is hot and burning.

    If you are going to use any of the medicines mentioned, unless a specific dose is recommended by your homeopathic doctor, use 30c strength and repeat the doses as often as is necessary.  For toddlers crush one pillule between two spoons, add to a small amount of mineral or distilled water and give one teaspoon for a dose.

    Homeopathic medicines should be given 20-30 minutes before a feed.

    Dr Christine Underwood MFHom is on the Specialist Register.  She practises homeopathy at The Royal Victoria Hospital in Dundee.

    Keren Sall is the editor of Health & Homeopathy.

    Eczema in children

    Sara Eames describes how she treats this relatively common problem

    In the children’s clinic at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, eczema is one of the most frequent reasons for referral. It varies in severity from a few small patches to a severe skin condition which can cover most of the body.

    It appears to be an increasingly common condition and the allopathic treatments available are palliative rather than curative, and may be associated with long-term side effects. Severe eczema in a child can have a massive effect on the whole family. Complicated creaming and bandaging regimes are very time-consuming and children are often irritable and eat poorly as they feel so uncomfortable. Severe itching can interrupt sleep for everybody and children can feel stigmatised at school if their rash is visible. For all these reasons people often seek homeopathic help for their children.

    History taking is a vital part of the art of homeopathy and, as there are many possible causative factors in a case of eczema, which can effect the choice of a homeopathic remedy, it is essential to collect as much information as possible.

    Eczema is often linked with other allergic conditions so I like to find out as much as possible about any other medical problems in the child or his family and I also go into as much detail as possible about the pregnancy, birth and early life of the child.

    The choice of homeopathic treatment is a wide one as there are many remedies, which affect the skin, and a variety of treatment models which can be used. One of the most successful ways is to prescribe the constitutional remedy for the child, that is the remedy that fits the overall person, not just the local skin symptoms. Examples of remedies commonly used in this way include many well known homeopathic treatments such as Sulphur, Calc carb and Arsenicum album.

    There is often a strong family history of allergic conditions, or other diseases in a case of eczema. When Hahnemann was developing his principles of homeopathy he noted the strong predisposition to various disease types in different families and postulated an inherited explanation for this in his theory of miasms. This approach is still extremely relevant today and in the treatment of eczema it is often essential to consider this miasmatic approach and prescribe a relevant nosode. I find it very useful either when there is a clear family history of certain diseases or when a constitutional remedy seems to suit a child very well but does not produce a complete cure.

    There are many other treatment models which are useful for eczema. I find very commonly that parents have often already made some link between an event in their child’s life and the onset or worsening of their eczema. These can be a variety of things such as separation from a parent or carer, the birth of a new baby in the family, the introduction of new foods into the diet, a seemingly unrelated illness or vaccinations. The beauty of homeopathy is that there are remedies which are known to be useful in these situations and I find that when there is a clear aetiological link with the symptoms, homeopathic treatment is particularly successful.

    Thus Nat mur can be useful after a child has been separated from his mother, or a remedy made from the chickenpox virus can help if a child has never been well since having had that illness. If a baby’s eczema has worsened soon after a specific vaccination then he can be treated with a general remedy to help after vaccinations, such as Thuja, or with a specific remedy made from the vaccination itself.

    Local treatments
    As well as using a mixture of these overall approaches, eczema can be such a distressing condition that it can be really helpful to use local treatments as well. These can be in the form of homeopathic remedies based on the local symptoms. Examples of these would be Sulphur for a red, burning, itchy rash, worse for heat and water or Graphites for a crusty, cracking eczema which oozes sticky, honey coloured fluid. Local treatments can also be applied topically in the form of creams, ointments and tinctures. I find Calendula and Urtica urens a particularly helpful mixture.

    Lifestyle changes
    In combination with a homeopathic approach it is nearly always necessary to give nutritional and lifestyle advice. All children will benefit from a healthy diet based on fresh, additive-free foods. In addition, some children have severe allergic reactions to specific foods which need to be avoided in the short term and which can often be reduced by a combination of overall homeopathic treatment, improved nutrition and desensitisation, in the longer term.

    Case histories
    Two children whom I have recently seen at the RLHH illustrate the combination of various homeopathic strategies in the treatment of eczema.

    Steven age three was covered in eczema when I first met him. He had a very dry scaly skin, which bled profusely when he scratched it. He slept poorly at night due to the itching and always wanted to be in his parents’ bed, so none of the family was getting proper sleep. He had been treated extensively by his GP and local hospitals, mainly with steroid creams and repeated courses of antibiotics when the skin looked infected. He also had a tendency to get recurrent coughs and colds. In spite of all this he was an extremely lively, sociable boy who was popular at nursery, sensitive to others’ feelings and loved to be the centre of attention.

    He seemed a fairly typical Phosphorus child and a course of Phosphorus improved both his skin and his tendency to catch colds by about 50 per cent. When the dose was repeated and the strength increased, however, there was not much further improvement. His mother was applying Graphites ointment locally and was able to give up the steroid creams completely, but I still felt we could improve things further.

    He had a history of one grandparent having suffered from TB and his mother remembered that his cradle cap had worsened as a baby after his BCG vaccination. On the basis of this I prescribed Bacillinum, a mixed tubercular nosode, and the improvement continued. His skin is now virtually free of eczema and his resistance to colds much better.

    Jana, a six year-old twin girl, was behaving badly at home as well as suffering from eczema. She had skin problems virtually all her life and was in hospital at the age of one for this. All of the family had been traumatised by this event as Jana was petrified by the whole experience. The parents could still remember and visualise the fear on her face and vowed never to let her go into hospital again. Since that time her skin and behaviour had deteriorated. At home she was dictatorial, always wanted her own way and fought constantly with her twin, while at school she was well behaved even though her skin was itching a lot in the warm classroom.

    Based on her overall behaviour, the skin symptoms and the fact that she had been worse since a severe fright I prescribed her Lycopodium, which has been a tremendous help both to her and her family! Her behaviour at home started to improve within a few days of the first dose and her skin is now gradually improving too. She has also been able to stop her steroid creams and now uses Calendula and Urtica cream which suits her well.

    Eczema may at first glance seem a superficial condition but as can be seen it is often connected with a more complicated history. In my experience parents can be very good at deciding when to repeat a dose of a remedy or in the selection of a local remedy, but I would always advise a full homeopathic consultation with a well qualified practitioner to help with the treatment for the eczema.

    Sara Eames BSc ChB DGM MFHom is the Director of Education and a physician in the women’s and children’s department of the RLHH.  She also has a private practice in north west London.

    Spotlight on ENT by Jenifer Worden

    Problems of the ear, nose and throat are usually considered to be predominantly winter illnesses but this is not necessarily the case. Although more common through the months of October to February, infections of the ENT system can occur at any time and a GP probably sees more patients with these types of ailments than any other comparable illnesses over the course of a year. Also, children are particularly prone to ENT problems and this last winter, owing to the extended mild weather, has been an unusually fertile period for these types of viruses.

    Ears, noses and throats are incredibly complex and are designed to moisten air being inhaled and also to remove irritant particles such as dust and pollen.

    Ears
    The ear is divided into three parts. The outer ear, pinna, is the portion of the ear that can be seen. At the innermost part of the pinna is the tympanic membrane, eardrum, and behind that, the middle ear. The inner ear contains the balance mechanism, the cochlea, and connects directly via the auditory nerve to the brain. If the middle ear becomes inflamed due to an infection, then the resulting illness is called acute otitis media (AOM). Symptoms come on suddenly and AOM is diagnosed by the combination of earache, usually accompanied by a high temperature and general malaise plus signs of fluid in the middle ear. The usual indication of AOM seen by a doctor when looking into the external ear is that the eardrum, normally grey, dull and opaque like a piece of greaseproof paper, is red, shiny and bulging, because of increased pressure. If the fluid stays in the middle ear, it may thicken and lead to the condition known as “glue ear”.

    AOM is common and in the UK, about 30 per cent of children under three visit their GP with this each year. Until recently, the vast majority were prescribed antibiotics. However, without antibiotics, AOM symptoms improve in 24 hours in about 60 per cent of children and in 80 per cent within three days. If antibiotics are not given, about one in a thousand children will perforate their eardrum, a condition known as supperative otitis media.

    The evidence for the effectiveness of antibiotics in this condition is very limited despite their hitherto widespread use. The most effective conventional treatment has shown to be painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol which relieve the discomfort of the earache. Nowadays, GPs tend towards giving “delayed prescriptions” of antibiotics. This means the parent is given a suitable prescription with instructions about how long to wait for the condition to settle spontaneously and what signs and symptoms would indicate a worsening of the problem and necessitate giving the medication. This simple measure is reducing the number of unnecessary antibiotics given to children and so decreasing the numbers of GP consultations for medication side-effects, such as diarrhoea and skin rashes.

    In respect of AOM, there are familiar homeopathic remedies that can be used to treat it. Earache that comes on very suddenly, particularly after exposure to a dry, cold wind which is worse at night and with a high temperature but without sweating does well with Aconite. Ear pain with a less sudden onset but with hot, dry skin, as with the case with Aconite, but without restlessness and fear may need Belladonna. Both of these remedies can be given in 30c strength every 30 minutes for three to four doses. However, if the child does not respond after two hours, a change of remedy should be made. A word of caution; it is important that if the child becomes very hot or very drowsy, a medical opinion must be sought urgently.

    If the child suffering with AOM is miserable and whining, with ears which are hot to the touch, and they respond to cuddling and affection, then Pulsatilla may help. A cross, irritable child would probably respond better to Chamomilla.

    As previously mentioned, perforation of the eardrum can occur and if this happens, the discharge is usually thick, sticky yellow-green, not offensive to smell and is often described as bland. Pulsatilla 6c given three times a day until improvement is a good first choice whilst if the discharge is more watery and yellow in colour, it is worth trying Hepar sulph 6c at the same dose.

    Nose
    The passages of the nose are not simple tubes but consist of a complex arrangement of ridged “turbinates”. These have evolved to act as a very effective mechanism for cleaning the air we breathe in but are not without their problems. The nose links into large air spaces in the skull located above and below the eyes and behind the base of the nose. Normally these sinuses, as the spaces are known as, are filled with air and lined with a thin layer of skin (mucosa). The latter produces a thin mucus, or slime, which keeps the inside of the sinuses moist and healthy.

    If the sinuses become inflamed as a result of infection or irritation, the mucosa swells and produces more mucus which can become very thick and sticky. This viscous mucus tends to drain poorly from the sinuses which then become full; this causes an increase in pressure and results in facial pain. The pain of sinusitis is typically worse on leaning forward, as the fluid in the sinuses acts like a spirit level, and tapping over the inflamed sinuses with a finger increases the pain also. The discharge from the nose via the sinuses may be green if there is only inflammation, but in the case of infection, usually with bacteria, blood or pus-stained nasal discharge may result.

    Sinusitis can be very difficult to treat conventionally. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs), the “gold standard” of medical research, have failed to show significant benefit or effectiveness in prescribing penicillin-based antibiotics to sufferers of acute sinusitis (symptoms lasting less than four weeks). Neither are there any RCTs which show antihistamines, decongestants or steroid nose sprays to be particularly effective but these are still prescribed regularly by doctors wishing to help their patients. Nearly six million working days are lost in the UK every year due to sinusitis which gives an idea how extensive this problem is.

    Simple measures like steam inhalations can help the symptoms of acute sinusitis but it is important to note that if used alongside homeopathy, strong odours such as camphor or eucalyptus can antidote homeopathic remedies. As stated, acute sinusitis is defined as having symptoms for less than four weeks but chronic sinusitis sufferers will have symptoms for more than that, and therefore, a more personalised remedy based on the patient as a whole is usually more effective.

    A remedy that historically has been used for sinusitis is Kali bich, and although recognised to be one of the most effective treatments, the exact mechanism by which it works is unclear. It is prescribed where there are thick, sticky discharges, especially from mucous membranes, such as those of the nose, throat and lungs, hence its application in acute sinusitis. The nasal discharge is green, yellow or blood­stained and difficult to blow out and there may be sticky crusts in the nose or even ulceration.

    Hydrastis is a remedy used where the sinus discharge tends to go down the back of the throat rather than down the nose. It is often felt as a lump in the throat and this is technically known as post-nasal drip and together this combination is known as catarrh. Catarrh is a troublesome discharge and, like sinusitis, difficult to treat conventionally. There is anecdotal evidence that avoiding dairy products in one’s diet can reduce the incidence of sinusitis and post-nasal drip but no firm evidence as yet.

    Throat and tonsils
    From the nose, we will now consider the throat and the tonsils. The latter consist of lymphoid tissue and play a part in the immune response to infection in babies and children but are usually inactive by adulthood. The decision to remove tonsils surgically to prevent recurrent attacks of tonsillitis has been a fiercely debated issue between ENT surgeons over the years. Currently tonsillectomy is avoided unless a patient is suffering from at least four severe attacks of tonsillitis per year, requiring antibiotics to settle the symptoms each time and resulting in significant time off school or work, which is a far cry from the fifties when tonsillectomy was a relatively common procedure.

    Another distressing ailment of the throat is quinsy, which is an abscess on or around the tonsil. It is very painful and, if left, can be potentially serious. Anne, an elegant, well-groomed 75 year old whose looks defy her years, came to see me as she had become unwell following an earlier viral infection which she seemed unable to throw off. She developed a persistent cough and felt generally debilitated which resulted in quinsy and, despite prompt action by her GP with antibiotics, had to be admitted to hospital for incision and drainage of the abscess. Seemingly, she made a full recovery and so was distressed to develop a second quinsy two months later. Fortunately this one burst on its own but it left her very apprehensive about it reoccurring again.

    Anne is an anxious person who tends to worry about her health and she has had a series of serious illnesses over the years that have added to her apprehension. Now, after two attacks of quinsy, she was frightened to go on holiday in case she became ill again. It seems that Anne has always been of a nervous disposition although, paradoxically, she is able to perform on the stage, something she has done since childhood. However, with regard to her throat, she had reached the stage where she felt she had to look at it every day to see if another quinsy was developing and also needed to keep seeing her GP for reassurance. In addition, she was also troubled by asthma and irritable bowel syndrome, both of which were made worse by anxiety and an impending sense of anticipation.

    Other symptoms which led me to choose a remedy for this woman included her general activity described by her husband as “always running around”, a particular thirst for cold drinks and the fact that she did not sleep well and frequently woke around 4am. Despite being such a worrier, she still enjoyed a busy social life and had many friends. Occasionally, she would become tearful if one of her friends was upset.

    On the basis of a cancer operation in the past and her general sensitivity and fastidiousness plus her physical throat, lung and bowel symptoms, I prescribed Carcinosin as a single dose of 30c, followed by a twice daily dose of Phosphorus 12c. Phosphorus is a remedy with an affinity for throat and other respiratory problems, especially tonsillitis, chest infections and asthma. Patients who do well with Phosphorus are often described as being slim, pale-skinned and either dark or red-haired but this is very much a generalisation and should not be used as an exclusion factor from treating with this remedy. They have a lively disposition but a tendency to catch colds and coughs, suffer from bowel or liver complaints and to bleed easily. Chilliness is a feature of this remedy and a desire for cold drinks. They actively seek company and reassurance but can be surprisingly confident when asked to perform. Phosphorus is a homeopathic medication which often helps actors and musicians. Fears of thunderstorms and of being in the dark are two of the factors that make this remedy beneficial to patients who suffer from these anxieties. One question that is useful to ask when deciding whether or not to use this remedy in a child, is to enquire if the child needs to go to sleep with a light on. If the answer is a resounding “yes”, from either the child or the parent, then Phosphorus should be considered as an effective medication, particularly if the other symptoms fit the remedy picture.

    With Anne, I felt that her sympathetic nature combined with her sensitivity, social habits, nervousness and love of the stage, together with her physical symptoms fitted well with the prescription of a low dose of Phosphorus. To her delight, within a few weeks, Anne was feeling much more confident and had even managed to stop looking at her throat on a daily basis and was less aware of her asthma and had an increased sense of well­being. She continued with the remedy for several months before tailing it off and has had no recurrence of her quinsy to this day (almost seven years later) but takes the occasional short course of Phosphorus when she feels the anxiety is worsening or her throat feels a little sore, usually through the winter months.

    Hay fever
    One ENT condition that can affect all three organs is hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis to give it its technical term. It can affect a wide range of age groups from primary school-age children to middle-aged adults and appears to be increasing in prevalence, although the reasons for this are still not clear. The most popular theory at present is that the infantile immune system is less challenged by severe infections these days, due to immunisation and better health in general. This means that the body reacts more strongly against what should be a minor trigger, such as pollen, resulting in hay fever symptoms. The condition is diagnosed by a combination of sneezing, itching in the nose and throat, a blocked feeling in the nose and a profuse watery nasal discharge. Other symptoms may include itchy, watery eyes, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, tiredness and a sensation of pressure in the head.

    Hay fever can vary greatly, depending on local fauna, as these are the main triggers, but fungal spores in the autumn can also cause an attack. The season is usually said to start in the early spring with the emergence of tree pollens such as that of silver birch and finish with moulds in October. However, it most commonly affects sufferers between the months of May and August.

    A family history of allergy increases the risk of developing hay fever. The peak age of onset is in adolescence but it is increasingly common to find people developing symptoms in their 20s and 30s.

    Hay fever can be treated successfully with antihistamines but side-effects, such as sleepiness, may make that particular treatment less than perfect. Although there is a good selection of so-called non-sedating antihistamines, even these can cause drowsiness in susceptible patients. Therefore, because of its lack of side-effects, homeopathy can really come into its own in treating this distressing condition.

    One of the most successful pieces of homeopathic research examined the treatment of hay fever sufferers with a remedy based on a combination of hay fever triggers called Mixed pollens and grasses 30c. Dr David Reilly of the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital looked at the effect on hay fever symptoms of giving a daily dose of the above remedy and compared it to giving a placebo. The result of the study showed that homeopathy was significantly better than placebo in relieving the symptoms of hay fever and is a very powerful piece of evidence for the effectiveness of homeopathy in general. Mixed pollens and grasses 30c can be given on a daily basis at the first signs of hay fever and continued throughout the season.

    Jenifer Worden MBChB MRCGP MFHom is a part-time NHS GP in Ringwood, Hampshire and has a private homeopathic practice in Highcliffe, Dorset. She treats patients with a wide range of conditions and across the complete age range.

    Infantile colic

    Colicky babies seem to be inconsolable…but homeopathy can help says Dr Tim Robinson

    Infantile colic is a common problem in babies, especially up to around sixteen weeks of age. It is characterised by incessant crying, often inconsolable, usually in the evenings and often through the night. Having excluded underlying pathology, the standard advice given by GPs and health visitors is winding technique, Infacol or Gripe Water. These measures are often ineffective but for­tunately there are a number of homeo­pathic medicines that may be effective. In my experience Colocynth is the most successful; alternatives are Carbo Veg, Chamomilla and Nux vomica.

    Why colocynth?
    Recently I have treated two cases of infantile colic in my surgery. By coinci­dence they attended within a few days of each other. They both responded rapidly and spectacularly to Colocynth.

    Ruby
    Baby Ruby was presented to me at nine weeks old. She had been bottle fed from birth onwards. At four weeks she started to get colic; between 6­-9pm each evening she cried incessantly and inconsolably. She drew her legs up and was difficult to wind. She woke every 1­2 hours throughout the night, was difficult to feed and settle. At four weeks she was given Infacol which made no difference to her colic and made her gag each time she had it. I saw Ruby for her eight week check; by this time she had been suf­fering with her colic for four weeks con­tinuously. I prescribed Colocynth 30c three times daily before feeds.

    Sleep easy
    I reviewed her one week later and was delighted to learn that Ruby had slept every night since starting the Colocynth. The first night she slept eight hours and subsequent nights five hours each. She was now feeding and winding well. She was no longer drawing her legs up. I advised her mother to slowly wean her off the Colocynth but restart it in the same way if the colic returned. Ruby’s mother was so impressed; she looked so much happier and fresher. The nicest thing she told me was that she was now ‘enjoying’ Ruby so much more.

    Amelia
    The second case of infantile colic was young Amelia, also nine weeks old. She was breast fed from birth. At two weeks of age, she started to have colic. During the day she was unsettled, frequently cry­ing, drawing her legs up to her chest. She would only settle if she was being held. Each evening she would cry between 6pm and midnight. She needed frequent feeds to be pacified and didn’t want to be put down. She woke every night, at 1am, 3am and 5am. She would feed and fall off to sleep, but then wake as soon as her mother attempted to put her in her cot and so the cycle would continue.

    I deliberated between Colocynth and Chamomilla. I decide against the latter on the grounds that she did not have the angry, irritable features characteristic of Chamomilla. As before I prescribed Colocynth 30c three times daily.

    Dramatic change
    I reviewed her one week later. Amelia was ‘a completely different little girl’ according to Dad. Grand­mother also noticed a dramatic change in her, having seen her before and since the treatment. She was now settling after feeds, winding much more easily and hav­ing only brief bursts of crying during the evening. According to Mum, dur­ing the day she seemed ‘much happier and more contented in herself’. She now lay willingly on the floor, needed very little comforting or holding. Each evening she had fed frequently but was now able to be put down without screaming. She was now sleeping for long stretches; on three nights she had slept from 11pm to 6.30am. The difference in Amelia had been noticed the day following the start of Colocynth and had continued from then onwards. Having had six weeks of colic and crying on a daily basis, Amelia’s mother had certainly noted the difference, as had all the family! She her­self was familiar with homeopathic treat­ment (her pregnancy nausea and heart­burn was more effectively treated with Nux vomica than Gaviscon). She had already reduced the frequency of the Colocynth to twice daily and had con­tinued to enjoy its benefits.

    Reply to critics
    I wanted to share these cases for a num­ber of reasons. They reminded me of how helpful homeopathy can be in the GP setting for conditions in which there is no conventional treatment or when conventional treatment has been unsuc­cessful.

    Homeopathy critics would undoubt­edly say that infantile colic is a self limiting condition and the babies got better for that reason. I don’t deny that it is a self limiting but note that both of them, aged only eight weeks old, had suffered from colic every day and night over the previous 4­-6 weeks and had got better immediately upon taking the medicine. I’m sure even the staunchest critic would find this difficult to comprehend, explain and dismiss.

    No placebo
    It is clear that the immediate improve­ment couldn’t have been a placebo response. The babies did not know that they were receiving treatment with homeopathic medicine. At that age they are only just distinguishing faces and making eye contact. They are not old enough to visualise and comprehend the fact that they are having powdered remedies on a teaspoon twice daily.

    Equally I don’t believe that the mother’s behaviour, willing the medicine to work was somehow being transmitted and received by the babies.

    If our critics really wanted to be convinced that the response wasn’t placebo or natural resolution perhaps they should interview the mothers to hear their story, they couldn’t help being convinced.

    Dr Tim Robinson MBBS MRCGP DRCOG MFHom is a GP with a private homeopathic practice in Dorset

    Coughs and sneezes spread diseases…

    Lee Kayne offers advice on complementary therapies for winter ailments

    The common cold is caused by a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. Symptoms typically appear one to two days after infection and last around a week, varying in type and severity but generally including sneezing, sore throat, runny or blocked nose, cough, headache and sometimes, especially in children, fever. The symptoms will generally resolve themselves and it is usually possible to continue with one’s daily business, especially with the help of allopathic or complementary therapies.

    Influenza is also a viral infection and, although a vaccine has become available in recent years, the large number of different strains means that flu is still widespread. It is characterised by sudden onset with fever, extreme fatigue, muscle soreness as well as some or all of the symptoms of a cold. These symptoms can last up to two weeks and usually require the patient to rest completely for several days. Flu is responsible for many deaths each year and can be dangerous in very young or elderly patients and in those with an existing chronic condition such as diabetes or asthma. If flu is suspected in such cases or in any case where there is a prolonged high fever, the doctor should always be consulted.

    Colds and flu spread more easily in the winter months due to the cold weather – we tend to spend less time outdoors and turn the heating up indoors. This, together with close contact with others in the home, at school, at work or on public transport creates a perfect environment for the spread of a virus. And the bad news is, there is no cure! So we must concentrate on alleviating the symptoms and strengthening the body’s natural defences.

    Conventional treatment
    Allopathic treatments for cold and flu symptoms are widely available and include painkillers for relief of muscle aches and pains, sore throat, fever and headaches; nasal sprays or decongestants for a blocked nose; antihistamines to dry up runny nose and eyes; and cough suppressants.

    Combination medications containing two or more of the above are also extremely popular due to both their convenience and economical nature. Such treatments do however have limitations. Many over the counter medicines, including some painkillers and decongestants, are not suitable for children or patients taking prescription medication – a pharmacist will be able to assist you in the appropriate choice. Additionally, these medicines treat a general group of symptoms, without considering the patient’s individual needs or specific type of symptom.

    Homeopathy
    Remedies may be taken safely by any patient including babies and those taking prescription medication without concerns regarding side-effects or interactions. Because homeopathy takes into account the overall picture – a person’s emotional makeup and general health, the type of illness and specific “modalities” that make the symptoms better or worse – two patients presenting with the same complaint, such as a cold with fever, might very well be given different homeopathic remedies. For example, in treating a fever, Aconite or Belladonna might be recommended in cases of sudden onset, although Ferrum phos or Bryonia may be more appropriate if onset is gradual and depending on the modalities.

    However, in a patient who is emotional, weepy and maintains that the symptoms improve outdoors, Pulsatilla may be more useful.

    For flu, Gelsemium is often the remedy of choice, especially in symptoms characterised by shaking, chill and sore, aching muscles especially in patients who dislike cold and damp.

    The table below summarises the major remedies useful in the acute treatment of cold and flu symptoms.

    General symptoms Remedy
    First signs especially after a chill, thirsty, possibly anxious. Aconite
    Sudden onset, high fever; hot, red, throbbing headache, sensitive to light, noise. Belladonna
    Streaming nose (possibly eyes too), sneezing, clear discharge often thicker after 24-48 hours, prefers
    to suffer alone and shuns sympathy.
    Natrum mur
    Headache, pains all over, irritable, nauseous, (also good for a hangover!). Nose congested with little
    discharge, chilly – cannot get warm, even in bed.
    Nux vomica
    Established symptoms, headache, shivers, fatigue, aches and pains, alternating hot and cold, sore
    nose, very sleepy.
    Gelsemium
    Very thirsty, sore muscles/bones, headache, worse on movement. Eupatorium perf
    Fever, catarrh, burning nasal discharge, sneezing. Arsenicum iod
    Slow onset, mild fever, worse at night, better for cold, nosebleeds. Ferrum phos
    Catarrh in nose with thick discharge, ears feel blocked, worse at night, better in fresh air and with attention from loved ones. Pulsatilla
    Dry, painful cough, worse at night, thirsty – often most effective as a linctus. Bryonia
    A specialised combination remedy for the prevention and treatment of colds and flu. Often prescribed by homeopathic doctors for at risk patients. Influenzinum/Bacillinum

    However, self-prescribing is often difficult and the advice of a health professional trained in homeopathy will always provide the most appropriate treatment and most effective outcome. This is especially important if receiving other homeopathic treatment from a qualified practitioner.

    In Europe and America, a very popular homeopathic product called Oscillococcinum can be bought over the counter for the prevention and treatment of colds and flu. This product is not licensed for general retail sale in the UK, but might be obtained with a doctor’s prescription.

    Other therapies
    Aromatherapy oils can also be very good for relieving many of the symptoms of colds and flu, if used appropriately and after seeking professional advice. Oils can be used in an inhalation or diluted in a carrier oil such as almond or grapeseed for use in massage. Peppermint and eucalyptus oils can be used to clear the head, unblock the nose and ease muscular aches and pains. Peppermint oil can also be placed in a hot footbath to help draw toxins from the body. Tea tree oil is used for its intrinsic anti-viral properties and to boost immunity and lavender oil is good for easing headaches, muscle aches and pains and soothing chesty coughs. For adults, add a few drops of oil to a bath, vaporiser or bowl of hot water and inhale. For children or babies, a few drops in a cup of warm water placed above the radiator in their bedroom at night can work wonders.

    Herbal remedies, vitamins and supplements also have much to offer. A number of studies have shown that taking zinc and vitamin C during a cold can actually shorten its duration by as much as 50 percent. The herb echinacea can boost the immune system and help prevent infection from taking hold if taken regularly.

    Home remedies
    Even so much as mention a runny nose or sore throat within earshot of my grandma and she’ll promptly whip up a batch (or seven) of her famous chicken soup! If we consider some of the key ingredients, we begin to realise that the use of this traditional remedy actually has some basis in fact. It has a high salt content and, as we know, gargling with salted water helps to destroy bacteria and ease symptoms of a sore throat. Onions and garlic (theAllium remedies in homeopathy) are also excellent for colds.

    While in the kitchen, ensure your cupboard is well stocked with honey to coat a dry, scratchy throat, lemon and other citrus fruits for their vitamin C and antioxidant properties and cinnamon for its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Tea prepared with these ingredients (or a “hot toddy” containing one other important Scottish ingredient) is very soothing and helps to promote a good night’s sleep. Perhaps Grandma really does know best after all!

    Lee Kayne PhD MRPharmS DFHom(Pharm) is a community pharmacist in Glasgow.

    Baby and toddler health

    From fevers to teething, Jenifer Worden describes how she treats infants and small children homeopathically

    New-born babies can appear vul­nerable and fragile creatures yet they quickly grow into sturdy and occasionally troublesome toddlers, as any weary parent can tell you! One of the most rewarding tasks of being a GP is being able to reassure the worried new mother that her baby will make a full recovery from its illness. However, the scariest times that I have experienced as a doctor have been with seriously ill chil­dren. When babies and toddlers become unwell, they can do so rapidly, but can also recover just as quickly.

    There are certain situations when a sick child should always be seen by a doctor urgently, by emergency ambu­lance if necessary, such as:

    • a persistent high fever with constant vomiting or diarrhoea;
    • a rash which does not go pale when a glass is held firmly on it;
    • a floppy child;
    • one not responding to your voice con­sistently;
    • an unconscious child.

    However, if a child has a raised tem­perature but is able to chat to you or respond in a normal way and is eating or drinking to a certain extent, then your local GP surgery or out-of-hours serv­ice should be able to help you.

    Doctor’s surgeries these days will often offer a telephone consultation first, as simple advice regarding ways to help a sick child can be given in this way. It also helps the doctor decide how urgently the child needs to be seen and an appropriate appointment made for later that day or whenever it is needed. This should mean parents avoid wait­ing for long times in a crowded waiting room with a sick, miserable baby.

    Contrary to popular belief, no harm will come to a feverish baby or toddler from being taken out in the cold to visit the GP; it actually helps as the cooler air outside helps reduce the child’s temper­ature and that makes the little one feel better. This tends to make examination easier by the GP as the child is not so fractious and makes it much simpler to make an accurate diagnosis. As a doc­tor, I have had many experiences of try­ing to look in the ears of a very fed up and hot one year-old and parents find it very hard to hold a struggling baby who is determined not to let anyone near it. A more comfortable and happier child will co-operate much more willingly.

    Homeopathic treatment
    So how can homeopathy help with a child that is unwell? How can such an old-fashioned therapy be so relevant in today’s technological age?

    Well, as I have just been discussing fever as a symptom, it would seem a good place to start. There are a number of homeopathic medications that can be safely given to a feverish child, either as a sole therapy or as a holding measure whilst waiting to see the doctor. It is important to mention that all homeo­pathic medicines can be given alongside any conventional medications that a baby or toddler may also be taking, either regular medications for an on­going complaint or medicines given just for that illness, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen syrup.

    The normal temperature of a child is the same as that of an adult, 36.8 degrees centigrade, and a simple cold or tummy upset will often cause what doc­tors refer to as a “low-grade” fever of 37.5 degrees centigrade or less. A bac­terial ear infection may cause a higher temperature of 38 to 39 degrees centi­grade. A temperature of 40 degrees centi­grade which persists for longer than an hour or so could indicate a more serious infection needing urgent medical assess­ment. A fever as a response to illness is a good sign as it shows the immune sys­tem is working correctly. Yet fever often seems to worry parents, perhaps because of the association of a high temperature with serious illnesses such as pneumo­nia or meningitis; such severe infections are relatively rare. Fevers are part of a child growing up and there is increasing evidence that simple infections help prime the body’s immune system to fight off more serious illnesses. So it is not necessary to avoid every bacterium or virus, as the manufacturers of disinfec­tants would perhaps have us believe. Temperatures can be easily checked by a forehead thermometer, easily obtained from pharmacies.

    Fevers
    The most commonly used remedy for fever in a child is Belladonna. This med­ication is produced from the deadly nightshade plant and is suitable for con­ditions that come on suddenly and severely and then subside as quickly. A high fever develops, with burning skin, with a hot head, often radiating heat, whilst the feet and hands are cool to the touch. The baby or toddler looks hot or flushed, with a slightly glazed look in their eyes; the toddler may appear deliri­ous and babble incoherently. Their skin feels dry to the touch and they either refuse all drinks or want to drink inces­santly. I used this remedy very success­fully with my own daughter when she was little, with a 30c tablet being given every two hours until she was better. This is a typical picture of fever due to simple viral coughs or colds. It is impor­tant to add that if a homeopathic med­ication does not appear to be helping, then it is advisable to use conventional medicine. However, as a doctor, I would advise that parents try to avoid any over­the-counter medication containing a sedative as this could possibly disguise symptoms due to a worsening illness and makes assessment of a sick child diffi­cult by the health professional.

    Teething
    Chamomilla, from the wild chamomile plant, is another medicine to keep close at hand in the medicine cabinet if you are a parent or grandparent. As well as being recommended for ear infections, and the associated illness, it is invalu­able for teething symptoms. Teething in itself does not cause a temperature, but very often accompanies a cold or cough, so results in a very unhappy baby or tod­dler with a sore mouth and low grade fever. The child often has one very hot cheek and, unlike the Belladonna pic­ture of fear and delirium, is very frac­tious and angry. First of all, they want to be picked up, and then they want to be put down. It is hard to placate them as they do not know what they want; the only thing that will help is either to carry them or to rock them. A good rule of thumb when deciding whether your ill child will benefit from Chamomilla is that if they make you feel cross and angry and just looking at them throws the child into a temper tantrum, then Chamomilla is a good remedy to start with.

    Colds
    Carrying on with the theme of fever, as previously mentioned, one of the most common reasons for me to see a baby or toddler in my GP surgery is a sim­ple cough or cold, what is referred to in medical practice as an “upper respira­tory tract infection” or “URTI” for short.

    Real colds in very young babies under the age of three months are rela­tively unusual, as they still have immu­nity to infections passed on to them in the womb from their mother, although they can become snuffly with an excess of nasal mucous, particularly if their nasal passages are narrow.

    Until the age of five or six years old, children get between six to eight colds a year, and as each cold can last up to six weeks, then it becomes apparent that most little ones can spend a lot of time with a runny nose and feeling under the weather. The frequency of colds and the associated symptoms is a major cause for concern with parents, especially first time ones and I hope the above figures for normal children go some way to reas­suring readers of this article. If a child does seem to be suffering from an excess of viral infections, but is continuing to grow normally (which tends to rule out a serious underlying problem) then a professional medically qualified homeo­path can help with a constitutional remedy, one based on the child as a whole, rather than just on the symptoms of the acute illness.

    Coughs
    These are one of the main reasons for me to see a baby or toddler in my GP surgery. A good remedy for the chesty type of cough that often seems to follow a cold and which can be heard in class­rooms and supermarkets up and down the country in the winter months is Pulsatilla. The reason I mention super­markets is that when my children were little and off school with a cough I would take them shopping with me. It seemed that every other child had the same per­sistent cough and that up and down the supermarket aisles, the same wan faces were looking out over the top of the shopping trolleys.

    If the ill child is oversensitive and tearful when unwell, wants to be looked after and made a fuss of and is very clingy with a need for constant cuddles, then Pulsatilla will probably help, espe­cially if they feel worse in a warm room and want the window open for fresh air. Thick yellow catarrh runs from their nose, and they often have a concurrent conjunctivitis. The cough associated with Pulsatilla is worse at night on lying down, preventing or disturbing their sleep. One noticeable feature of Pulsatilla is that it is very difficult to persuade the children to drink; even when not ill, they are often relatively thirstless.

    If the cough is dry and of the tickly type, which exhausts the child or a hard, barking cough made worse by laughing or talking, then it is worth considering Phosphorus. Like the Pulsatilla children, Phosphorus children are sensitive, but tend to feel the cold rather than the heat and are very thirsty, especially for iced drinks. They love ice cream when they are ill and can be troubled with nose bleeds when suffering from a cough or a cold. Their cough may be triggered by a change of atmosphere or temperature. The cough associated with the Phos­phorus remedy can be similar to that of asthma, with wheeziness, and an older toddler may complain of some chest pain due to constriction of their airways. Phosphorus children are normally intel­ligent and affectionate but can be easily tired and liable to become moody.

    Bryonia, made from white bryony, was one of the first remedies tested, (proved) by the founder of modern homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann. Coughs that respond well to Bryonia tend to come on after exposure to the cold and are dry, like the Phosphorus cough. There is also thirst for cold drinks but children doing well with Bryonia will tend to be more irritable and dislike being moved. They prefer to be left alone in the quiet, whereas Phosphorus child­ren want company. Colds may travel down to their chests and result in a wors­ening of asthma, if it is a pre-existing condition.

    Over-the-counter medicines
    Many parents use cough medicines bought from the pharmacy but these are often ineffective and were taken off the prescribing list for family doctors by the government some years ago because of this fact.

    A cough is the natural response of an inflamed throat or infected lungs to the presence of swollen tissues, phlegm or pus and so it is necessary to treat the underlying cause rather than the symp­tom. A soothing cough medicine, such a home-made honey and lemon syrup, can help reduce the dryness of a sore throat but is largely ineffective with a chesty cough due to phlegm dripping down the back of the throat. This is par­ticularly true on lying down at night.

    Decongestant cough medicines, designed to treat chesty coughs, are cur­rently recommended only for children aged two years old and over, following recent safety scares in the US. Labelling will be changed by the UK suppliers of such medications by October 2008, advising that cough medicines should only be given to children under the age of two after consulting a doctor – even more reason to use homeopathy for sick children with minor self-limiting illnesses as detailed above!

    Jenifer Worden MBChB MRCGP MFHom is a part-time NHS GP in Ringwood, Hampshire and has a private homeopathic practice in Highcliffe, Dorset. She treats patients with a wide range of conditions and across the complete age range.

    Top 5 reasons we visit the vet

    Vet Holly Mash gives you advice on how to keep your pets healthy with homeopathy

    Animals are brought into the small city practice where I work for all sorts of reasons, ranging from the minor torn nail, to the true emergency. It is this variety of work that makes the job so interesting; you never know what may come through the door next! In this article I have described the ‘top 5’ reasons that people bring their pets into my clinic, alongside suggestions for supportive homeopathic remedies for each condition. With an ever-expanding medicine chest of homeopathic remedies, there is not room here to explain how each one may be used; only the most commonly indicated ones are illustrated. This ‘top-5’ should give you a glimpse of the great scope for using homeopathy as part of an integrated approach to your pet’s health care.

    1. Allergies and skin conditions
    The most common symptoms of allergies in pets are skin conditions characterised by itching and scratching. These allergic animals are especially affected during the summer months, and can make themselves red, sore and sometimes even partly bald by licking, chewing and scratching at themselves. Sensitivity to flea bites, components of their diet, or even house dust mites are the most commonly cited causes of allergy. However skin diseases can also be due to parasites, such as mites and fungal infections, (ringworm). This is why veterinary diagnosis of the complaint is important, so that the correct treatment can be used. To get a lasting cure in cases of allergy it will be necessary to seek the advice of a veterinary homeopath so that they can prescribe a constitutional remedy for your pet.

    However, for first line treatment and in mild cases of skin conditions the following remedies may be helpful.

    Natrum muriaticum Often indicated for flea allergic dermatitis in cats. The coat will be greasy and matted, and areas of fur loss symmetrical. The skin will be dry and flaky. The patient may have a history of grief (a rescue cat for example).

    Rhus toxicodendron For a rash where the skin is bumpy and red, and where there is intense itching, especially in bed at night. The symptoms are worse in damp weather. Prolonged scratching causes the skin to become thickened and discoloured.

    Sulphur Our most important ‘skin’ medicine. Particularly indicated for “hot”, “itchy”, “smelly” patients. The skin will feel warm to the touch and have an offensive smell. The coat will be unkempt and dirty looking, the skin unhealthy. Bathing, and heat will aggravate the symptoms.

    2. Coughs
    Dogs and cats can suffer from coughs as a result of upper respiratory tract infections, heart conditions, and physical obstructive causes, as well as for a range of other factors. The severity, nature and any other symptoms that the animal is showing will help the vet diagnose the cause of the cough, and hence the appropriate treatment. One of the most common conditions in dogs is ‘kennel cough’. This is an infectious tracheitis (inflammation of the throat) that is characterised by a hacking, retching cough, in an otherwise healthy dog.

    The following are homeopathic medicines that may be useful for cats or dogs suffering with mild respiratory symptoms. You will notice that it is important to pay attention to exact nature of the symptoms that your animal is showing in order to be able to pick the medicine that best matches them.

    Antimonium tartaricum For a rattley, chesty cough, that although sounds wet, is non-productive, (as the mucus is so hard to expel). With retching and salivation, and weakness.

    Arsenicum album
    Often useful for asthma in cats. For a wheezy, dry cough. The discharges from nose or eyes will be watery and burning to the skin. The patient will be restless, anxious and thirsty, (for frequent small sips of water), and will seek the warmth. The symptoms are worse at night.

    Drosera Often indicated for Kennel cough. Used for harsh, forceful, hacking coughs where there is retching. Worse lying down at night, and better when out in the open air.

    Spongia tosta
    For croupy, barking coughs, often likened to the sound of a saw going through wood. Drinking warm water will relieve the cough. The patient may be fearful and anxious. It is often used for coughs associated with heart disease

    3. Sprains and strains
    Whether it is just a mild sprain after an injury, or chronic arthritis in an elderly animal, homeopathic medicines are an excellent choice of supportive treatment for musculoskeletal conditions. They can help ease the aches and pains, as well as promote recovery from an injury. In many cases they will help ease the symptoms and help restore function. Using the guidelines below to match your animal’s symptoms, you can see how there are several homeopathic medicines that are beneficial to gently support your pet.

    Arnica
    The first choice medicine for injuries to muscles and joints. The patient will be restless and not want to be fussed over or touched. May find it difficult to get comfortable in bed.

    Bryonia alba Complaints are worse for any movement, so the patient will want to stay still. They feel better lying down on the painful area to provide a firm pressure and hence prevent any movement. Will be worse in warm weather and better in wet weather. (This is opposite to the indications for Rhus tox).

    Rhus toxicodendron An important medicine for arthritic pains. Where joints are stiff after exertion and on first getting up after rest, but much better after continued motion. They will also be noticeably worse after a long walk. Much worse in cold, damp weather.

    Ruta graveolens Used for joint pains after injury. Also for tendonitis and ligament strains and sprains. The patient will be better after initial movement and worse in the cold and damp.

    4. Vomiting and diarrhoea
    The common causes of digestive upset in pets range from the effects of scavenging rotten foods, to viral, bacterial and parasitic infections, to the Labrador puppy that has eaten your socks! Hence the symptoms can be equally varied depending on the nature and severity of the problem. It may just be the occasional retching of a fur ball (in cats), to the serious, profuse vomiting and diarrhoea associated with some viral infections. Therefore it is clear that if the symptoms are serious or prolonged then your pet will need checking by the vet. For those animals with mild symptoms the following homeopathic medicines can prove useful. It is also common to rest the animals gastro- intestinal system by withholding food for 24 hours, (water only), followed by the re-introduction of a bland diet. (It is not recommended to withhold food from puppies or elderly dogs).

    Arsenicum album
    Watery diarrhoea passed after ingestion of rotten food, or fruit. Typically passed with much straining, and it may contain blood. Vomiting and diarrhoea may occur at the same time. Patient will be restless, anxious and thirsty for small sips, with a desire to be warm.

    Nux vomica Indigestion and digestive complaints after over-eating or rich foods. The patient is often nervous and bad tempered. Feel better when warm, and will feel worse in the mornings. There is bloating and flatulence. Diarrhoea may alternate with consti- pation, with much straining in either case. There may also be vomiting.

    Phosphorus Sudden onset complaints. A great thirst for cold water. Water and food may be regurgitated back within minutes of drinking or eating. Stools and vomit may contain blood. Diarrhoea will be pale and watery and there will be abdominal pain.

    Podophyllum For gushing, profuse, watery diarrhoea that is offensive smelling and may be greenish in colour and contain mucus. The diarrhoea may occur in the morning, and the stools firm up by the evening.

    5. Cystitis
    Cystitis is the inflammation of the bladder that causes pain on urination. In cats and dogs with cystitis the symptoms include straining to urinate and more frequent attempts to urinate. There may also be blood in the urine. The causes of cystitis in cats and dogs are often different. In the dog it is commonly due to a bacterial infection. Whilst in cat’s cystitis is frequently part of a complex and multifactorial condition called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD). Although in most cases the cause remains unknown, it is widely understood as being related to factors such as stress, anxiety, obesity, neutering and diet. The most serious problem associated with cystitis in cats and dogs is when there is a blockage to the urethra, so that they are unable to pass any urine at all. This is an emergency where life-saving veterinary treatment is required. Therefore veterinary attention is advised if your pet is showing any signs of cystitis, however mild. Homeopathic treatment for cystitis is another excellent example of where remedies can complement conventional care.

    Aconite Used early on, where the only symptoms may be an increased frequency in attempts to urinate. The animal may be fearful and restless.

    Cantharis Commonly indicated for acute cystitis, where there is much straining to urinate. Urine is passed drop by drop, sometimes tinged with blood. The patient may cry when urinating.

    Equisetum Used for frequent urination, but with little straining. The passage of urine does not relieve the symptoms of discomfort. The pain may extend down the right flank.

    Sarsaparilla
    For pain and straining that is worst at the end of urination. The patient may prefer to stand (rather than squat) when attempting to urinate.

    Each of these medicines can be used in animals at a potency of 12 or 30c, at a dose rate that will vary to match the speed of onset of the condition. For chronic, ongoing conditions (such as arthritis in the elderly) dosing twice daily for several weeks at a time may be appropriate. For acute conditions, such as a sudden onset skin rash or in cystitis, dosing every few hours for 3 or 4 doses is more appropriate.
    It is important that you take your pet to the vets if they are unwell. The advice offered here does not replace veterinary care.

    Conclusions
    It is clear that pets suffering from the most common complaints that I see in practice could often benefit from homeopathic treatment to help resolve their symptoms. Two other important points about homeopathic treatment have also been illustrated in this article. The first is that the mental and emotional aspects, rather than simply the physical symptoms of the patient, are taken into account when choosing the right medicine for them. For example the animal that may benefit from a dose of Nux vomica to clear up their digestive complaint is likely to be touchy and irritable. Whereas the animal that needs Arsenicum Album will be restless and anxious. This is the essence of ‘holistic’ treatment, considering the mind and the body as parts of a whole. The second point is that the same remedy may have been listed as the treatment for more than one condition.

    For example Arsenicum album under respiratory as well as gastrointestinal complaints. This illustrates the other important feature of homeopathy; treat- ment of the patient and not the disease. Therefore the ‘Arsenicum Album’ patient, whether they have a cough or an upset tummy, will be restless, anxious, and chilly, with symptoms that are worse at night. According to Hahnemann using homeopathic medicines to treat the every-day ills as outlined here, will help to prevent the occurrence of long term, chronic conditions. Using homeopathy in animals is a gentle, natural way of stimulating their own self-healing mechanisms to restore health and vitality.

    Holly Mash BVSc VetMFHom certIVAS MRCVS, is a fully qualified veterinary surgeon who specialises in homeopathy and acupuncture. She runs complementary medicine clinics in Bristol and London (www.hollymashvet.com). Holly is also a tutor on the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital’s professional training course.

    Grass roots homeopathy

    Holly Mash discovers why farmers make natural homeopaths

    How often do you read “official” guide­lines that are not just supportive of homeopathy, but go further and insist that homeopathy must be a key part of first line treatment? So I was surprised and delighted to read in The Soil Association’s rules and regulations for organic farmers that farmers should use complementary therapies, including homeopathy, as a first choice, preferably with professional veterinary guidance.

    As The Soil Association is the lead­ing certifying body for organic farmers, regulating over 70 per cent of organic produce in the UK, the potential influ­ence of homeopathy was huge. So I donned my wellies and went out into the country to see how these strong guide­lines were being met in practice. And, after visiting several farms, it soon became clear that it wasn’t just the organic farmers who were getting behind homeopathy and finding it useful. I dis­covered that many of the skills involved in good, traditional farming are actually the same as those essential in every competent homeopath! So are we all would be farmers or are farmers the new homeopaths?

    Organic farming
    Reflecting the UK’s growing appetite for chemical-free food, the numbers of organic producers have been increasing dramatically. The organic farming sec­tor is burgeoning by over 30 per cent per year with annual spending on organic goods reaching the £2bn mark. One spin-off from this “commercial” explo­sion has seen the farming community increasingly looking for ways to keep conventional medicines and other chem­ical treatments to a real minimum. This was certainly the motivation for several of the farmers I met who had signed up for the “Homeopathy at Wellie Level” training course that I attended at Broad-field Farm in Gloucestershire.

    Talking to farmers who had, for some time, been treating their stock themselves through homeopathy, I could see that it empowered them by placing value on their deep, often life-long, understand­ing and knowledge of their stock. The result was that they were able to pick up and act on signs of ill health at an early stage so that illnesses were less likely to develop into serious problems. Most highlighted this as a key factor switch­ing them on to homeopathy.

    A dairyman told me that homeopa­thy “allows you to treat more emotional or psychological problems in the cows – things that there is no conventional treatment for and things that the vet might laugh at you for mentioning!” He pointed to the very grumpy cow that used to kick and be very agitated in the parlour. “She has been a different ani­mal since her dose of Staphysagria!”

    In an industry where farmers are paid according to the quality of their milk which is assessed and graded, it is interesting to note that across the board it is the organic producers who are in the top band – the crème de la crème!

    As well as its positive effects on health and welfare, using homeopathy can also be financially rewarding for the farmer, for two immediately evident rea­sons. Firstly, reducing the use of con­ventional veterinary medicines and treating livestock homeopathically will reduce the problems of “withdrawal periods” – the specified period after every conventional drug treatment when milk or meat from the treated animal cannot go into the human food chain.

    Secondly, through basing his year-round animal welfare programme on homeopathic principles, the farmer can gear routine veterinary intervention towards sampling and diagnosing par­ticular infections and problems and is able, as a result, to carry out more intel­ligent and targeted treatment. This will inevitably save money as drugs will ulti­mately only be used to treat affected ani­mals rather than as a “blanket measure” across the whole herd.

    So the idea that better health and welfare, through homeopathy, comes at a high cost and is therefore uneconomic is wrong, quite the opposite is true. Healthy, homeopathically-treated farm animals will cost the farmer less to keep and will produce higher quality and increased yields of milk and meat, and higher fertility rates – bringing them in a higher return. It seems to me that a very strong case can be made that, for the farmer, using homeopathy is more economical.

    The health and productivity of live­stock are at the heart of life on the farm, and talking to farmers it was soon clear that to many of them homeopathy is an important tool in their disease preven­tion strategy. As Karl Barton, Farm Manager on The Goodwood Estate in West Sussex says, “For organic farmers ingenuity, good management and home­opathy are their principal weapons against disease.”

    Observation is the key
    Of course, one of the guiding principles of homeopathy is “treatment of the indi­vidual not the disease”. So one might wonder how on earth can this be put into practice on the farm, where one ani­mal in a yard full of other animals looks very like another? Anyone who knows farmers won’t be at all surprised to learn that they know the individual animals in their stock in just the same way that you would be able to detect when your child has earache brewing, or if your dog just “wasn’t himself”. As Liz Best says of her cows, “You see them slightly off colour before you see anything else.”

    Just as with “people patients”, ani­mals give the farmer clues into their indi­vidual characters all the time. He just needs to look and listen. Observation is always the key. As Hahnemann wrote in footnote 2 of The Organon: “Treat according to the patients’ symptoms. We do not need to look for invisible causes. Cure only the observable symptoms.”

    At Liz Best’s farm the twice-daily routine of gathering the milking herd together is generally a relaxed affair, with the radio playing and the milking machines humming. The cows know what they are doing and what is going to happen and you almost feel, watch­ing them, that it is a bit like a mothers’ meeting – a chance to gather and gos­sip! There are the pushy ones, the impa­tient ones, the naughty ones and the ones that stay at the back and stamp their feet. Some cows hurry out of the parlour, some amble, some stumble – they are showing us their different characters and weaknesses at every turn.

    After spending just a few minutes watching a barn full of cattle or a field full of sheep you can start to pick out individual characters – that one at the back who is easily spooked or the inquis­itiveness of the calf that comes right up to you. And if you watch for long enough you may observe drinking habits and notice whether they drink for a long time at once or just a few sips. You can notice whether a particular lame animal walks better on the soft straw or on the hard yard; or whether the cow who seems to be breathing heavily is leaning against the wall for support. Obser­vation is the key.

    Cows are very much creatures of habit. If the one that always comes into the parlour on the left side at the begin­ning of milking suddenly hangs back and comes in on the right side at the end, this will be a big marker to the dairyman, he’ll know something is sure to be up with her! Farmers will know when a particular individual is unwell by picking up on sub­tle signs such as the cow that stands on her own at the back of the herd, or the sow that is on her own in the hut.

    They will also understand how any change in routine or weather can have a huge impact on their animals, affect­ing normal behaviour patterns and sus­ceptibility to disease. It may equally be the change of herdsman or the approach­ing thunderstorm that can cause anxi­ety and set off a case of dormant mastitis in the sensitive individuals. As Karl Barton at Goodwood explains, “All beasts know when they’re in trouble… they know by instinct what’s going on.”

    Simple observation – but it does take years of experience to learn to notice all these things. The “homeopathic” skill starts when the farmer begins to trans­form these common sense observations into useful and hence valuable signs!

    As I said, I met several farmers look­ing to get started, on “Homeopathy at Wellie Level”, a three-day course for farmers to learn the basics in homeop­athy. It provides the farmers with a solid grounding in basic homeopathic prin­ciples and remedies and confidence to realise that they already have plenty of the skills and intuition that makes them natural homeopaths – it may be that they just don’t realise it yet!

    Holistic approach
    On a working farm, homeopathic reme­dies are most commonly used to treat whole groups of animals, rather than individuals. This goes a long way in pre­venting problems at times of higher sus­ceptibility and hence disease risk: for instance during transportation, at calv­ing and weaning, or when the stock has to be rounded up for veterinary treat­ment. It is well known, for example, that the stress of transporting cattle can be a precipitating factor to the development of pneumonia (so called “shipping fever”). In such instances, doses of Aconite before the journey to help com­bat the stress and shock can be an easy step in helping prevent such problems.

    Another everyday use of an acute remedy on the farm is that of Ignatia. This can be given to dairy calves (and their mothers) when they are separated at two days old, for they are surely griev­ing. Further examples are the blanket dosing of all calves within a group with Pulsatilla – as a treatment for Scours (diarrhoea), or the use of Caulophyllum to dose all animals who are experienc­ing difficulties giving birth.

    But perhaps the most common way in which homeopathy is used on the farm is the use of remedies called nosodes as an holistic approach to herd health. Nosodes are remedies made from the bugs responsible for particular dis­eases, taken from samples of infected tis­sue or discharges from affected animals.

    Karl Barton told me that by using a rotavirus nosode for a recent outbreak of the disease at Goodwood he did not lose a single animal. “I would have expected to lose about three per cent of the calves if I had had to use conven­tional treatments.” The use of such remedies has to be of particular interest in the current climate in farming where there is the constant threat of epidemic diseases such as Foot and Mouth and now Blue Tongue. (However I should point out that both of these diseases are notifiable – which means that farmers may not attempt treatment and must report it to DEFRA – so are not applicable to homeopathic treatment under current legislation in the UK.)

    Perhaps it is self-evident that with the number of organic farmers increas­ing, homeopathy’s significance in the sphere of veterinary medicines is grow­ing in importance. But returning from my farm visits, re-reading my notes, and reflecting on The Soil Association’s “homeopathy as first choice” rule and its practical application in the burgeon­ing organic sector, perhaps one of my most interesting discoveries was the increase in the use of homeopathy in the non-organic sector, reflecting Liz Best’s comment that she’d “still be using home­opathy even if I wasn’t organic”.

    Not only quite a boost for the home­opathic movement, but positive-sound­ing stuff for a medical system which seems to suffer more than its fair share of nega­tivity in the human and domestic animal field. Maybe the last word on why home­opathy is proving to be such a hit on the farm should go to Liz Best who, when I asked her why she was using homeopa­thy simply said, “It’s less trouble!”

    Holly Mash BVSc VetMFHom IVAS MRCVS qualified from Bristol University in 2001, and worked in mixed practice for a year before specialising in companion animals. In 2003 she worked in a hol­istic veterinary practice in Sydney and studied traditional Chinese medicine gaining her IVAS acupuncture certification. Holly became a VetMFHom last year and is enjoying treating her expanding case-load in both Bristol and London.

    First, know your animal

    John Saxton explains the importance of ignoring animal stereotypes when treating them homeopathically

    The secret to treating animals – and people – successfully is observation, and knowing what they are like normally. In selecting the correct remedy you need to know the changes from how your animal usually acts. For example if your animal doesn’t generally like to go near the fire, and suddenly wants to hug the fire, then that is significant when it comes to prescribing.

    So the first thing that you’ve got to do is clear your mind of stereotypes and start looking at the individual animal. Secondly, you’ve got to know what the norm is with the individual animal. Take persistent vomiting for example. Animals, especially cats, tend to vomit as a normal thing with a much greater frequency than a doctor would find acceptable in one of his or her patients. A cat that vomits regularly is no big deal, but a person who vomits regularly would be taken very seriously. This is another example of how, as a vet, you’ve got to know your species, and you’ve got to know what the norm is.

    I was recently speaking to a lady who was having a problem with her cat spraying in the house. It transpired that this behaviour had started after the introduction of a new kitten to the house. To that lady, the cat spraying in the house was a problem. To the cat it was a normal response to the introduction of a stranger into the pack. Spraying is a territorial act, and it’s normal feline behaviour. It is very difficult to adapt animals to what we demand for our own social convenience. However various remedies – Staphisagria, Lachesis and Nat mur – can be tried, based around the resentment, jealousy, territorial aspects but the response may be poor or only temporary because the cat is essentially behaving naturally.

    Everyone who has a dog knows that at some time or other the dog will have diarrhoea. A whine and a wet nose in your ear forces you out of bed, you stagger downstairs, open the back door and throw the dog out, wait for it, close the door and send the dog to its basket. Now as good homeopathic owners, that is no longer acceptable. When the dog nuzzles up, you should spring wide awake, and immediately record the time, because the time of the diarrhoea is very important. If the dog has diarrhoea at 2.00am, you should immediately be thinking about giving Arsenicum album.

    So you’ve noted the time, you’ve rushed downstairs and you’ve anxiously examined your best carpet to see if the dog has made a mess. This gives an indication of whether the animal has been able to hang on to its motion, or whether when it’s got to go, it’s got to go. Then you need to go outside with the dog because we want to know whether the diarrhoea is liquid, does it shoot out like water, is there any mucus in it, is the animal straining, is there blood in it?

    The point is that in the conventional world, diarrhoea is just diarrhoea. Treating homeopathically, we are looking for very small differences, and it’s often small differences that can give you the clue to the remedy that the animal needs. For instance, a dog’s got violent diarrhoea. It’s been a bit off colour all day, but now it’s really unwell, and it’s 9.00pm. That time factor sets you thinking about the remedy. If the dog has a diarrhoea that is minimal during the day but gets worse at night, you may need Merc sol. Merc sol is worse from sunset to sunrise. The homeopathic vet will take you seriously when you note these signs but your conventional vet is unlikely to.

    Another thing you check is heat. One of the symptoms calling for Arsenicum for example is burning pains, particularly in the abdomen, but which are relieved by heat. You can test whether this is the case for your dog by putting a hot water bottle (suitably wrapped up of course) on your dog’s abdomen. If you find that the dog looks peaceful and relaxes, it’s another indication that you’re relieving the pain and, all other things being equal, the dog needs Arsenicum.

    Touch is also important. Hepar sulph for example is indicated in those who are very sensitive to touch. You’ll sometimes notice this in animals who are normally very friendly but who back away from you when they are ill because they are scared stiff of being touched. If an animal suddenly develops an aversion to being touched after an injury, Arnica may be indicated.

    I can’t stress too strongly that in homeopathy you do not talk about one remedy for one condition. Some books present the subject in this way and you quickly get the impression that if the animal has a temperature it needs Belladonna, if it has diarrhoea it needs Arsenicum. It’s what I call cookery book homeopathy. Using homeopathy in this way won’t work. Bear in mind for example that Arsenicum, whilst good for diarrhoea is also useful for some skin conditions amongst other things. You have to think broadly. Arnica, which we think of as a specific remedy for bruising, is also a very good support remedy for failing hearts. So if you’ve got an old dog who’s puffing and panting in the heat, you’ll try Belladonna in vain. What the dog could benefit from is a dose of low potency Arnica, which will support the whole system. It’s well worth considering it as a general support remedy.

    We also have to consider the mental symptoms of animals. And this is where it really does get interesting because a lot of people think that we just cannot guess at the mental symptoms of animals. You would obviously know if you had an aggressive animal. At the other end of the scale you can get very submissive animals, who are Pulsatilla types – the ones who roll over at the drop of a hat and are very affectionate.

    However, those are personality types. The mental effects are the changes in normal behaviour you note in the animal, for example grief and resentment. These can both be very marked on the physical and behavioural level. One of the great remedies when it comes to anger and resentment is Staphisagria. A lot of cats that develop pustular skin conditions and hair loss respond well to Staphisagria, and you can often trace these problems back to neutering. These conditions are not always as our conventional colleagues believe, due to upsets to hormone levels or allergies, but due to resentment at being neutered. These symptoms occur more often in male cats, but can be found in both sexes. Staphisagria may help in these situations, but you may find that the cat’s resentment is a normal reaction to its treatment, and therefore you may only get a limited response to the remedy. Other remedies may be tried on a constitutional basis.

    We get an awful lot of trouble with young teenage girls, in the animal sphere I mean. Obviously it depends on the type of veterinary practice you have, but I regularly see horses that are sold as perfectly docile and placid who suddenly become vicious – biting, bucking and kicking – when they get to their new homes. This can often reach the stage where the owners return their horse and ask for their money back.

    The story here is almost invariably the same. This young pony or horse has been bought for the young teenage daughter who has spent all her Saturdays and all her holidays caring for it, grooming it and riding it. Suddenly boys are more interesting, and the horse gets less and less attention, until the father finally says, “I’m not going to pay for a horse that you’re no longer using,” and the horse is duly sold. But the horse is unhappy with its new owners because it has formed an attachment to that girl and is suffering from grief. And this is typical of Nat mur which tends to work in most of these cases. Another case I remember from last year was a cat that was referred to me with chronic cat flu, a typical upper respiratory tract infection. This animal had already been seen by another vet and been prescribed the usual antibiotics. They were not getting very far with this treatment. The cat was brought to me and I looked at the history preceding the onset of the syndrome. In this case, the girl who owned the cat had gone off to university. From the animal’s point of view, she had departed for no valid reason. Animals have their own priorities, and in a lot of cases, they’re more sensible than ours. The remedy I used for this particular cat was Ignatia, another useful remedy for grief, and the ’flu cleared up beautifully.

    When you’re looking at your animal, you’ve got to be extremely careful about interpreting what you see with regard to an animal’s mental characteristics and not impose a human interpretation on your pet’s behaviour. You must know and understand your species.

    This article has been adapted from a talk given by John Saxton at the Homeopathic Trust supporters’ event held in London in September 1999.

    John Saxton VetFFHom is in companion animal practice using primarily homeopathy, but also some acupuncture. Most of his work comes through referral. He teaches on the Homeopathic Physicians Teaching Group course in Oxford and examines for the Faculty of Homeopathy as well as being involved with the education side of the International Association for Veterinary Homoeopathy, both teaching and examining in Europe.

    Rabbits, hamsters, guinea-pigs…

    John Hoare advises on looking after the small furries

    The British have a reputation for being an animal-loving people. It was estimated that in 2003 almost half the households in the UK had a pet of one sort or another. While I was gath­ering related details, I was surprised to find that goldfish were by far the most numerous: but of the mammalian species, as one might expect, cats topped the league at 9.2 million, dogs came second at 6.5 million, and the runners-up were the small furry creatures. There were 1.1 million rabbits, 860,000 hamsters and 730,000 guinea pigs kept as pets in the UK in 2003. Their popularity is most likely due to a combination of their being comparatively cheap to buy and to keep, the fact that they can be kept in a relatively small place without the need for long walks twice a day (dogs), or the risk of road accidents and fights (cats), while cynics would say that their short life­span means that Mum is not left as their sole carer for too long once the initial novelty of looking after them has van­ished from the children.

    Lifestyle
    This article is not meant to be a com­prehensive guide to keeping small furry pets. Rather it is intended to be an aid to maintaining them in a state of good health, using homeopathic principles and medicines. Hahnemann in Aphorism 3 of the Organon instructs us, when treating disease, to “know the obstacles to cure and how to remove them, so that recovery is permanent”. These obstacles, he tells us later are such factors as bad housing with poor ventilation, a poor or inappropriate diet, a lack of exercise and fresh air, physical and mental over­exertion, continuing emotional stress and so on. The corollary to all this is that we must provide good food, good accom­modation and suitable exercise if our pets are to remain healthy. The detail of these factors is beyond the scope of this article, but libraries are full of books on what they call “animal management” and for those who are computer enthu­siasts there are numerous websites dedicated to educating the new carer of all the species of small furry creatures currently kept as pets.

    It is, alas, only too true that having a healthy lifestyle does not fully prevent disease states from developing. Accidents will happen, and one’s genetic inheri­tance makes one more or less suscepti­ble to certain types of disease. No one is immune to accidental injuries from one’s own actions nor to the results of the actions of others, be they deliberate or not, whilst “sickly creatures” with poor constitutions are liable to develop disease conditions in spite of a theoret­ically perfect lifestyle.

    Medicine box
    Carers of all species of animals should therefore have a medicine box so that they can apply first aid measures follow­ing accidents, and when simple diseases occur. Here I must remind you that the contents of the medicine box are for first aid only. If your charge is seriously injured, or if its illness does not respond quickly to your treatment, then veter­inary attention should be sought. Ideally, this advice and assistance should be from a homeopathically trained veterinary surgeon. These are, however, rather sparse on the ground. If you are in a bar­ren district, take the advice of the local veterinary surgeon. You can always supplement his conventional treatment with homeopathic remedies if such sup­port is needed.

    Where there is illness rather than injury you must remember that rabbits, guinea-pigs etc are “prey species” and therefore hide any weaknesses for as long as possible to prevent themselves being identified as easy prey by a pre­dator. If the first remedy that you try does not appear to be working, it is better to seek veterinary advice early on than to persevere with remedy after remedy in the hope of finding the right one while the patient deteriorates.

    Giving remedies
    The administration of homeopathic remedies to the small furries is difficult. It is hard to get tablets, crushed or not, into their mouths. Tablets can be powdered and the powder dissolved in the contents of their drinking bottles, but do not fill the bottle more than two-thirds full. Do not be too worried if the tablets do not dissolve completely. If you succuss the drinking bottle (bang the bottle and its medicated contents ten times on a hard-covered book), all its contents will be potentised and the patient will receive a small dose every time it drinks. It is as well to wrap the body of the bottle with brown paper to keep light out, as there is a suspicion that light can degrade a potentised solution.

    First aid
    Getting back to the medicine box, what should it contain? It is unlikely that a small furry will be involved in a road traffic accident. They can be, and often are, dropped; they are sometimes squashed in doors and occasionally they get bitten by other animals. The medi­cine box should therefore contain most of the common vulneraries.

    Shock is bound to be present after any trauma. This means that Aconite should be given immediately. I pre­fer Aconite 30c and it can be adminis­tered as a powder (crushed tablet) if the animal is badly shocked.

    This should be followed by Arnica 30c where there is bruising from falls, being squashed or bites that have torn the skin badly. Ledum 30c can be given if the bite is a seemingly small, but painful one, such as a cat bite.

    Calendula 30c will help all open wounds to heal and should be combined with Hypericum 30c if it is on a limb or the tail. Hypericum, you will remember, aids nerve pain especially in crushed extremities.

    I have seen dogs and cats that have had hot fat spilled on them after trip­ping their owner up in the kitchen. I have not seen it in a house rabbit, but no doubt it has already occurred. In this case give Aconite initially and then Cantharis 6c. If treatment is still needed on the second day, change to Causticum 30c.

    Do not forget that you are giving first aid and that veterinary advice should be sought if the injury is severe or if there is no quick response in a lesser one. You can always support any conventional treatment with homeopathy.

    If any wounds turn septic, then Hepar sulph 6c can be given initially where there is a lot of pain.

    Teeth
    All the small furry creatures can develop overgrown teeth and this adversely affects their ability to eat. This means that their teeth have to be trimmed, and your local veterinary surgeon can do this for you. A general anaesthetic is often needed in rabbits and guinea pigs in order that a good job may be made of trimming or filing them down. In this case Aconite may be given to help pro­tect against the shock of the handling that is involved, whilst Arnica can be given the day before and after to reduce any bruising. Making good quality hay available in the diet can help prevent the overgrowth from developing in the first place.

    Skin problems
    All the species are liable to develop skin troubles. These are usually associated with parasites of one kind or another. Since homeopathic remedies are unable to kill any living organisms, it is usually best to get a veterinary surgeon to check for parasites and, if they are present, then to use a conventional parasiticide sup­ported either by a suitable local remedy, or preferably by a well-chosen constitu­tional remedy. You will almost certainly need the assistance of a homeopathic vet to find the constitutional remedy.

    There are a multitude of remedies used for skin problems. In general, Merc sol 30c is useful for acute wet eczemas, and Graphites 6c if there is a honey-like pus present, often under a thick scab or crust. Arsenicum album 30c is indicated in dry, itchy skin conditions with lots of scales or “dandruff” in animals that need to be very warm and are restless espe­cially in the late evening, whilst Sulphur 30c is more suited to animals that pre­fer to be cool and have hot, red itchy skins. Creams and tinctures made from Calendula and Hypericum are available. Do remember to dilute tinctures before use though. I use five drops in half a wine glass of cold boiled water. Creams tend to matt the fur, whilst lotions can be dabbed on carefully or even brushed on. Calendula helps skin healing whilst Hypericum helps to reduce any associated pains. Lotions and creams containing both remedies, known as Hypercal, are also available and this makes a good general pur­pose skin application.

    Abscesses
    These are fairly common in these small creatures and are usually the result of fighting. These may need to be lanced by a veterinary surgeon, but homeo­pathic remedies can be used to support the antibiotics that the vet will almost certainly prescribe. If the abscess is very painful Hepar sulph 6c or 30c can be given; whilst if the abscess is not painful, as is often the case in rabbits, Silica 6c or 30c should be used. It should be noted that many “cold” abscesses around the head of rabbits are actually based on a bad tooth. This means that no amount of antibiotic or homeopathic remedies will cure the abscess until the offending tooth has been dealt with by a veteri­nary surgeon. If one of your pets keeps developing abscesses then its immunity can often be strengthened by using Echinacea 6c for a five to seven day period.

    Enteritis
    All species may of course develop enter­itis, with its common sign – diarrhoea. Any case of diarrhoea that persists for more than 48 hours should be seen by a veterinary surgeon. If you think that the cause could be a sudden change in the diet, or too rich a diet, Nux vomica 6c can be tried. If bad food is suspected, the stools are foul-smelling and brown in colour and the patient is restless and drinking a little and often, then try Arsenicum album 30c. Should there be blood in the stool and the patient drool­ing saliva, Mercurius corrosivus may be indicated, while Sulphur 6c can be tried for diarrhoea that has an offensive odour and only occurs in the morning. Phos­phoric acid 6c or China officinalis 6c can help patients to build themselves up again and recover their strength.

    Gerbils and hamsters are prone to developing a form of diarrhoea which “scalds” the skin around the anus, the belly and tail. This is known as “wet tail” and is usually fatal in a few days if left untreated. Stress factors are involved in its development – usually weaning but sometimes with a change of owner/atten­dant. Capsicum 30c can be very effec­tive in such cases but veterinary advice should certainly be sought for the poor creatures.

    Diarrhoea in rabbits and guinea-pigs that have access to the garden in sum­mer can be the cause of “fly strike”. In this case the diarrhoea soils the animal’s fur. This attracts blow flies which lay their eggs in the soiled fur. When the eggs hatch out into maggots, they begin to eat the flesh of the rabbit. Often this is not noticed until bits of skin begin to fall off. Veterinary help will certainly be needed to clean the area and remove every last maggot. When the wound has been cleaned Hypericum and Calendula can be put in the drinking water (as described above) while diluted Hypercal tincture can be used as a dressing.

    Eyes and ears
    Eye and ear conditions are relatively rare except that caused by mites in rabbits’ ears. Veterinary advice should be sought early on in all cases, and the treatment supported by diluted Hypercal tincture in the case of ears, and diluted Euphrasia tincture for eyes.

    And finally
    The small furries can be a source of great happiness for a growing family and I hope that this short article will help you to enjoy their company as much as pos­sible for as long as possible. Don’t for­get however that all life is mortal, and there may well come a time when Ignatia is required, not by the pet, but by the carers. I wish you good luck and much hap­piness while you care for your charges.

    John Hoare BVSc VetMFHom CertIAVH MRCVS has been using homeopathy in general veterinary practice since 1988 and now runs a small referral-only practice in Axminster. He teaches at the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital and is currently the President of the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons.

    Homeopathy – that’s placebo, right?

    Nick Thompson ponders the sceptics and recalls some of his veterinary successes

    I’ve just come across a really interest­ing piece of work by a French researcher called Montagnier1. He and his co­workers found that some bacterial DNA sequences are able to induce electro­magnetic waves at high aqueous dilu­tions. At ‘dilutions’ as high as 18x (1018), they found that there were recognisable signals detectable. Agitation of the preparations (succussion in homeopathic language) was found to be essential to the dilution process. The signals were obliterated by heating and freezing the solutions. Although homeopathy is not mentioned in the article, I thought this was pretty interesting research. Luc Montagnier is no backwater crackpot. He co­-discovered a virus you may have heard of – HIV. And got a Nobel Prize for it in 2008.

    This turned my mind to the incred­ible scepticism there is towards homeo­pathy. I often say to people that, in a way, I wish I’d never found it; my life would be so much simpler and I’d prob­ably be a whole lot (monetarily) richer. But I did, and I’m incredibly grateful that I did. But I still have to deal, daily, with articles in the press, reports on the BBC, and jibes from conventional col­leagues at conferences. So the Montagnier paper, among others published recently2, may be the first chink of light in the orthodox armour. A way to silence the sceptics and to allow professional com­munications between conventional and homeopathic veterinary colleagues, for the benefit of our patients. I hope so.

    But why be sceptical? Veterinary homeopathy is alive and well and pro­ducing incredible results. They may be individual cases, not large double blind placebo controlled trials, they may be ‘miraculous’ cures, without before and after data, but they are happening every single day throughout the world. I began to reflect on some of the amazing cases I’ve seen over the years.

    Pip, a 14 year­old new forest pony, was an early homeopathic miracle for me. He presented with what they call “sweet itch”, an allergy to midges. He’d had it all his life and would itch for ten months of the year. His grey, thickened, cracked skin, by June, would make him look like a rhino. No orthodox medi­cines seemed to work. Come to that, my first prescription of Arsenicum album and Culicoides (the midge in a nosode) didn’t touch him, either! I was gutted, as was the owner, Susan, who had put so much faith in the medicines.

    I persuaded Susan to let me have another look. This time, on repertori­sation, I concluded Sulphur. The change, when dosed daily with the Culicoides nosode, was almost instant. It was April, so he was itchy, without massive thick­ening yet. Within two weeks he was no longer itchy. Susan couldn’t believe it. To be honest, as a vet homeopath in training, nor could I. We continued dos­ing and managed to reduce to twice weekly dosing, but any less frequency would see break through scratching. Susan forgot to re­order his remedies when his first prescription ran out. He started itching immediately, but when, after a week, the new remedies came through, he stopped again, right in the midst of the midge season. He’s been fine ever since.

    Another lovely example of homeo­pathy saving the day was with Anja, a nervous 18 month­old Vizsla bitch. She hadn’t had her first season, unlike her four other sisters and her mum who’d all come into season aged ten months or so. Since this sororal pheromone storm she’d been “not quite herself”, jumpy, hysterical and suspicious. Her vet had diagnosed “low progesterone”.

    He’d spoken to a specialist at Bristol University who predicted she’d never come into season, therefore. Her owner was not to be so lightly discouraged and gave me a ring. Having had a few years prescribing by this time I knew that homeopathy is fantastic for any horm­onal condition*. Cushing’s disease, hormonal alopecia and old age incon­tinence I’d seen all clear up beautifully, so I was keen to work on Anja.

    We prescribed Nat mur as a consti­tutional for her in a 1M potency. I also used Folliculinum and Progesterone at a 30c potency for a more local, or patho­logical, prescription. I’ll often do this – treat the whole animal and support a particular organ or system at the same time. It seems to work for hormones, but also for liver, kidney or skin prob­lems, to give just a few examples. Within two weeks, she became a little puffy around the vulva, a sure sign that some­thing was happening. We thought this was it, but she calmed again.

    What told me that we were definitely going in the right direction was that she was happier in her own skin; less jumpy with people entering the house and not sleeping in a tiny ball – content to lounge like a normal sleeping dog. She became clingier and began to worsen after her weekly Nat mur dose, so we switched to Pulsatilla. Within a month she had her first season, normalised her behav­iour and melded with the pack again. That was in February 2007. She’s been fine since without any remedies.

    A final example I have to tell you about is Zephyr. He’s a four year­old Occicat – looks a bit like a fawn tabby Burmese, if you like. He was being bullied by his brother – the other cat in the house. His response, being a rather passive and malleable sort of chap, was to internalise his frustration and resent­ment and lick his back for comfort. This is quite common in some nervous cats when they can’t express themselves. He eventually started licking dappled bald patches all over his rump, poor boy. When I saw him, it soon became appar­ent what was happening. Cats are really vicious to their own kind. They make children in a playground look like angels!

    Staphysagria is the king of resent­ment remedies. I prescribed Staphysagria 200c twice daily for five days and asked to be rung in a month. Disaster! He was licking more! His symptoms and his behaviour were, though, exactly as before. I decided to be a little more aggressive with my dosing and we went for twice daily dosing for two weeks. This did the trick. A two week check showed his coat to be slightly less bristly (with all the licking) and his behaviour had mellowed. He was actually retali­ating toward his brother for the first time in his life, too!

    I increased the potency of the Staphysagria to 1M and advised dosing just when he needed a boost. He con­tinued to improve, showing a normal coat within a few months. He needed dosing every few weeks, once with the 1M. Six months later, his owner rang me to say the remedy didn’t seem to be working any more. I sent her Staphysagria 50M and said dose as before. All was well after this. Now he just needs a dose once in a blue moon.

    What is really interesting about this case, and his owner only told me this after we’d been consulting for a few months, is that she had been putting a drop of the liquid remedy on her fin­ger to dose him every time and her sense of smell had returned. She’d lost it about 15 years previously when she was work­ing in a very stressful office environ­ment that she hated, or “resented” you could say…

    There we go – another three cases to add to the mountain range of anecdotes of homeopathic miracles. No doubt the sceptics will sneer at these as well. Homeo­pathy is placebo, after all, isn’t it?

    *Specialist advice should always be sought from a vet trained in homeopathy in cases of chronic or complicated conditions.

    References:
    1.  Montagnier L, Aissa J, Ferris S, Mont­agnier J­L, Lavallee C (2009). Electro­magnetic Signals Are Produced by Aqueous Nanostructures Derived from Bacterial DNA Sequences. Interdis ­ciplinary Sciences: Computational Life Sciences, 1: 81­90.

    2. Various:
    a. Witt CM, Lüdtke R, Baur R, Willich SN (2009) Homeopathic treatment of patients with chronic low back pain: A prospective observational study with 2 years’ follow­up. Clinical Journal of Pain, 25:334­339.
    b. Witt CM, Ludtke R, Willich SN (2009). Homeopathic treatment of patients with chronic sinusitis: A prospective obser­vational study with 8 years follow­up. BMC Ear Nose Throat Disorders, 9(1):7.
    c. Demangeat J­L (2009) NMR water pro­ton relaxation in unheated and heated ultrahigh aqueous dilutions of histamine: Evidence for an air­dependent supramole­cular organization of water. Journal of Molecular Liquids, 144:32­39
    d. Piltan D, Rist L, Simões­Wüst P, Saller R (2009).Test of a homeopathic dilution of Aconitum napellus. A clinical, ran­domized, double­blind, controlled cross­over study in healthy volunteers. Forschende Komplementärmedizin, 16:168­73.

    Nick Thompson BSc (Hons) Path Sci BVM&S VetMFHom MRCVS is based in Bath and he offers referrals in veterinary homeopathy, acupuncture, natural nutrition and herbal medicine.

    www.holisticvet.co.uk

    Keeping a check on your pet’s coat

    Skin on mammals has many functions and when things go wrong homeopathic treatment is very useful, says John Hoare

    Skin is a complex organ that has a multiplicity of functions. For a start it covers the animal, and it is at the surface of the skin that the animal comes in contact with the outside world. It also has a role to play in the maintenance of a steady internal temperature, by sweating in hot conditions and by constricting the surface blood vessels in cold weather.

    It is also an organ of excretion; the sebaceous glands associated with the hair follicles excreting minerals that are surplus to requirement in the sweat. Changes in the contents of the sweat can alter the “micro-climate” of the skin, which can lead to the colonisation of the skin by abnormal bacteria, or make the skin more attractive to insect and fungal parasites. It follows then that the internal and external causes of skin disease are actually more important than the identity of the colonising organism. If the primary cause is corrected, then the body will throw off the infection without the need for pharmaceuticals. There may however be occasions when the problem is so severe that a little help is needed.

    Because the skin is on the outside it is readily observable. Thus very early signs of skin disease are easily seen by the owner. Is it any wonder then that skin problems are some of the commonest ones seen by veterinary surgeons and also some of the most difficult to treat successfully?

    When a conventionally trained veterinary surgeon has difficulty in curing a skin condition, he usually starts to look at the skin in greater and greater detail, making tests for abnormal bacteria, fungi, parasitic insects, and for allergies. The homeopathically trained vet will stand back and look at the patient as a whole being as well as at the skin. He knows that the outer trouble may be the first manifestation of a chronic disease that can go on to affect the whole of the animal. He also knows that the mental/emotional state can be the true cause of the visible skin trouble and will attempt to build that into the prescription, treating the patient as a totality. The totality is often the same as the patient’s constitutional medicine but this is not always so.

    The owner too when treating his pet must take the same approach as a homeopathic vet and treat like with like, addressing the whole symptom picture if possible. There is of course the proviso that if the pet’s condition is painful or if it is in great distress it should be taken to the vet sooner rather than later. When eczemas and allergies are suspected, the homeopathic medicine given should be chosen to match the visible lesions (spots pimples, ulcers etc) as closely as possible and a simple attempt made to cover any mental symptoms that are present. When there are injuries it is sufficient to concentrate on the type of injury because the trauma itself is the most important part of the totality.

    Do remember though that skin problems can be very difficult to sort out. If your pet’s skin is not responding, don’t persist for too long before seeking the help of a homeopathically trained vet.

    Some useful medicines
    Sulphur
    Probably the greatest skin medicine that we know, Sulphur is useful when the skin is dry, red and very itchy. Humans describe the itch as “voluptuous” because it feels so good to scratch the lesions. If there are pustules or ulcers present, the pus is yellow; think of sulphurous emissions from volcanoes or hot mud pools. With the redness of the skin there may be redness of the eyes, mouth and lips, ears and anus.
    The itch is made worse by heat. This is shown by the animal avoiding the heat of the sun if possible, scratching more in warm rooms than cold, and if covered by a blanket at night. Animals needing Sulphur tend to look untidy and may have a greasy, smelly coat.

    Sulphur can cause severe aggravations. Do not use any potency above 6c without the advice of a homeopathic vet. Sulphur 6c can be given up to four times a day but should be reduced as an improvement begins. If there is any sign of an aggravation, then stop at once.

    Psorinum
    Made from the fluid taken from a scabies vesicle, Psorinum is similar to Sulphur in its action on the skin. The patients are again dirty, smelly animals, but they are very chilly. They seek heat as much as Sulphur patients avoid it.

    Psorinum is one of the remedies that are best used in the 30c potency. It can take a little while before the effects of one dose are seen. Therefore you should give a maximum of three tablets in one day and wait at least 10 days before repeating it. Even then if there are signs that changes are occurring wait even longer before giving another dose.

    Arsenicum album
    This is derived from white arsenic (arsenic trioxide) and is associated with dry itchy skins where there is a lot of dandruff which may be fine white scurf or large “bran flakes”. The skin itches so badly that the animal may scratch itself until the skin bleeds. Unlike Sulphur and Psorinum, these animals are fastidious about keeping themselves clean when they are well, and Arsenicum cats will often be seen grooming themselves. They tend to be nervous, anxious animals. All their symptoms tend to be worse at around midnight. They are very chilly animals and will hog the fire or radiator.

    With Arsenicum it is best to give one 6c up to four times a day for no more than five days, and then wait to see what happens, or a 30c twice daily for three days and then wait a while.

    Natrum mur
    A valuable medicine for many conditions, the origin of Natrum mur is sea salt. When Nat mur is required the skin has a greasy feel to it, the fur tends to form small clumps, and dandruff starts to form. The clumping tends to start at the tip of the tail and move forward along the back like an arrowhead, then crusts develop on the head, and itchy ulcers form on the face and lips. At the same time there can be an “egg-white” like discharge from the eyes and/or nose. The lesions are worse for heat and for consolation (they want to be alone in their sadness) and better for open air or the application of a cold flannel.

    Natrum mur has a strong mental attachment to “Ailments from Grief”. If this is put together with the nature of the lesions described above, one can see that it is useful in flea allergies that develop in cats and dogs that are kennelled, or in cats in households from where children have left home or where someone has recently died.

    If there is obvious grief in the history, give one 30c twice daily for up to three days: if not, use 6c up to four times daily for five days.

    Staphisagria
    This medicine, made from the seeds of the plant delphinium staphisagria, the wild raisin, is associated with dry itchy eczemas that may result in thick crusts and scabs. The lesions tend to start in the groin and work forward along the abdomen, and then jump to the neck and head. They are better for warmth.

    The mentals of Staphisagria are (suppressed) grief, indignation and resentment. It therefore has a great part to play in the treatment of allergies that develop after neutering and kennelling. It should be used as is Nat mur.

    Graphites
    Traditionally made from the black lead of the finest English drawing-pencils, this remedy is associated with rough hard dry areas of the skin, that go on to develop a sticky exudates. The discharges are described as being corrosive, glutinous and yellow. They often develop a crust and the discharge oozes from under it. These lesions can be very itchy, and are usually found on the inside of the joints such as in the armpit, groin, the inside bend of the elbow, and also behind the ears. Graphites is also associated with thick deformed nails, cracks in the pads of the toes, cracks in the nipples and in the mouth, and with some forms of cysts. Warmth, particularly that of the bed can make the itching worse, and cold damp air also makes things worse.

    Try using one 6c, twice daily for up to one week.

    Traumatic skin injuries
    Shock
    Aconitum napellus (monkshood) is the main medicine for shock and it is usually the first medicine to give after any accident. It can be given in any potency, and as frequently as it is needed. If the effects seem to be wearing off, repeat dose.

    Bruises
    Arnica montana (leopard’s bane) is the main medicine for bruising. It also has a mild anti-shock and an antiseptic action. The main point of Arnica is that the patient does not want to be approached, let alone touched. The pain makes them feel restless and they have trouble getting settled. Again use a 6c or 30c as frequently as is needed to make the patient comfortable.

    Bryonia alba (white bryony ­wild hops) is sometimes needed. In this instance the injury hurts whenever the patient moves, but is better for steady pressure on the injured part. The patient then lies perfectly still, with the most painful part underneath it. This helps to keep it still and also prevents it from being touched by anyone else. Again use whatever potency is available as often as it seems needed.

    Cuts, grazes, open wounds
    Calendula (marigold)stimulates wound healing. Open wounds can be cleaned with a 10 per cent solution of Calendula tincture, dressed with Calendula cream, and Calendula 30c can be given twice daily. This will speed healing greatly.

    Hypercal is a combination of Calendula and Hypericum. It is available both as a tincture and a cream. It is more appropriate than Calendula alone when there is a lot of nerve damage such as occurs when feet and tails are shut in doors.

    Staphisagria has a great reputation for knife and sword wounds. It is very useful for assisting operation wounds to heal, especially if there is poor/slow healing particularly after neutering.

    Burns
    Cantharis is good when blisters form or are about to form. Use 30c four-hourly as needed.

    Insect bites
    Apis mellitus should be used if a cold, wet flannel soothes the bites.

    Urtica urens should be used if the animal resents the cold bathing. In both cases use a 30c tablet every 15 minutes, or as needed.

    Abscesses
    Hepar sulph is used for abscesses that are hot, painful and extremely sensitive to the slightest touch. If pus has just started to form, then a 200c, three times a day should prevent the abscess from developing. If the abscess is well formed, 6c, four times a day will stimulate pus to form and the abscess to burst, whilst relieving the pain.

    Silicia can be used in the same way for “cold” abscesses that are painless and slow to develop.

    John Hoare BVSc MRCVS VetMFHom, who takes referrals only at the Coombefield Veterinary Hospital, Axminster, qualified as a vet in 1965. He began studying homeopathy in 1988 and has found it a very effective form of medicine that he used as much as possible in general vet practice.

    Homeopathic Jazz

    Vet Nick Thompson describes how homeopathic intervention saved the life of a seriously ill horse

    Jazz was perhaps the most gentle, unassuming and easygoing mare I’d encountered in a long while. But sadly she was far from well and presented with a veritable catalogue of health problems. These included autumn and spring parotiditis (where the salivary glands swell), longstanding neck and hock arthritis, allergic respiratory disease and a recent sudden onset of polyarthritis (an immunological condition where all the joints are inflamed). Her parotiditis was worse in autumn, but became aggravated more on damp days, as were her various arthritic problems.

    Conventional medicine had done well. Since she was three years old Jazz had had treatment for these and numerous other complaints. Without it she would not have survived. But in September 2007 her vets were left shaking their heads when confronted with Jazz’s latest list of problems. And as the summer warmth receded and the early autumn weather became increasingly damp, Sarah, the horse’s owner, was getting more concerned by the day.

    Although Sarah was a dedicated, loving and caring owner, she had reluctantly come to the conclusion that if her horse’s joints or its glands flared-up again she would have no alternative other than to put Jazz to sleep. But Sarah is not the quitting kind and, possibly as a last attempt to save her horse’s life, she contacted me by email.

    Treatment
    Reading through Sarah’s 3,616-word email (I told you she was dedicated) I became familiar with Jazz’s history. Impressed by her commitment to her horse’s health – and because I could see very strong factors affecting the animal’s condition – I decided to see if homeopathy could help.

    I considered the case: worse for damp, worse in autumn and spring, worse for cold, worse for standing still. This indicated to me that Rhus toxicodendron would be a good first medicine while I thought about the complexity of the case. Then I added a blood auto-nosode which is a homeopathic medicine derived from the patient’s own substances in accordance with homeopathic guidelines, in this case blood taken from Jazz and potentised to 30c. Rhus tox 200c and the auto-nosode were given twice daily for the first two weeks.

    The blood autonosode is an interesting therapeutic option. I was first introduced to it when working for Mark Elliott MRCVS (Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) in Chichester in the mid 90’s. I use it where the patient appears to have a viraemia, a medical condition where viruses enter the bloodstream, and where there are non-specific or variable complications of a disease. Dressage and event horses are often subject to immense athletic pressure and very restrictive management (little turnout, high cereal feeds, frequent competition stress, frequent vaccination) and frequently present with chronic fatigue symptoms. These include persistent lethargy, poor exercise tolerance, anaemia and longstanding abnormal white blood cell counts. Conventionally these cases are very difficult to treat. Nevertheless, I have found that blood nosodes, supported by homeopathic medicines to treat the symptoms of the illness along with medicines prescribed in accordance with the patient’s psychological and physical characteristics (constitutional prescribing), can turn them around remarkably.

    We saw this with Jazz. Within seven days she was noticeably brighter in herself and her salivary glands and fetlock joints were less puffy. Sarah, to her amazement, even saw Jazz cantering when turned out into the school arena (we had to be careful of her access to grass). Even her wheezing was reduced.

    Continued improvement
    In November we decided the improvement in Jazz’s health had plateaued using the Rhus tox 200c. Although her improvement had stopped, her condition was not regressing. We increased the potency of the Rhus tox to 1M and added Dulcamara 30c, as it became apparent that dampness was major aggravating factor for her symptoms. Using this combination of homeopathic medications, Jazz continued to improve throughout in winter. From this point on, she didn’t look back. She suffered no significant aggravation the following autumn and went from strength to strength.

    Today Jazz is able to do light work, hacking out and even has the flexibility and musculoskeletal integrity to do some schooling. She has had mild flare-ups of parotiditis, but these are resolved with a modification of the homeopathic treatment or just increasing frequency of her treatment during these periods.

    For me this case is a really striking example of how relatively simple homeopathic medicines can transform complex, chronic polysystemic disease. The prescription was easy: the results were miraculous. And Jazz continues to charm all who meet her, human and equine alike.

    Holistic care and management for rabbits

    Veterinary surgeon Stuart Marston looks at how adopting a more natural approach to looking after rabbits can make them healthier and happier pets.

    Holistic, holism, whole-ism and similar terms are often bandied about without a clear definition as to what is meant by them. A basic definition of holistic is the concept of considering the whole animal rather than an individual system or part of the body and how it interacts with its environment. Holism addresses all the factors associated with a living body from its environment to nutrition; from mental welfare through to the internal and external stresses placed upon it. A holistic approach favours the care, management and treatment of illnesses by natural means i.e. not through chemicals, antibiotics or processed foods.  The concept is simple – the application probably more difficult as a change in mind-set is required.

    The public perception of words like holistic, green, natural is that the product, food or whatever is better and safer for the animal, and not produced in an artificial or “manufactured” way. This is often far from the truth. Large companies have latched on to the holistic ethos and label many of their products with words usually associated with the natural approach to health and diet, but in reality these products are as “manufactured” and derived as they ever were and contain additives, preservatives and non-organic ingredients.

    It is generally known that rabbits can be very sensitive to many commonly used medicines – both veterinary prescription preparations and off-the-shelf products, so all should be used with care. Rabbits are probably the third most common pet in the UK and many are kept in cages – often alone. Their anatomy and digestive system is markedly different to cats and dogs. But it is not within the remit of this article to give a detailed description of biological facts or a comprehensive list of the diseases that afflict rabbits; rather it is an attempt to encourage an awareness of the pet rabbit as a living entity with all that that it involves.

    Diet
    In the author’s opinion, many of the disease states and problems associated with pet rabbits can be laid at the door of management. The most important item is without doubt their food. Rabbits eat grass. That’s it. They will eat a few vegetables, a few weeds etc. but they are designed for – and do best on – large quantities of fresh organically produced grass. Grass provides all the nutrients, vitamins and a large percentage of the water requirements a rabbit needs. Any grass or hay produced commercially will almost certainly have been artificially fertilised and as such contains substances bad for the rabbit. All year round hay (dried grass) and straw can be used with available fresh water. Greens and root vegetables like turnips, mangles, carrots and swedes can be added in limited quantities.

    Rabbits have permanently growing teeth that need to be continually ground down by chewing if they are not to overgrow and/or distort. This is why they need to chew such a lot. Pelleted food cannot provide the chewing, and no matter how sound nutritionally, is quite unsatisfactory. Pelleted food was originally developed in the USA for feed-lot rabbits in order to grow them as quickly as possible to slaughter weight. It was never designed for long-term feeding and anyway the rabbits did not live long enough for the negative effects to develop. Some breeds of pet rabbit may live up to thirteen years, so the way they are fed is very important to their longevity.

    Health and environment
    Rabbits are by nature sociable animals. They do much better if they have company, preferably other rabbits but humans will do. The older notion that a guinea pig was a good companion for a rabbit has largely fallen out of favour. Problems can arise when keeping rabbits together. Aside from the obvious reproductive proclivity, there are health issues. Female rabbits need to breed in order to maintain the health of their reproductive tracts. Pathology can be found in the uterus of does at less than a year old. If they are not intended for breeding then ovariohysterctomy is advised. The use of anaesthetic and the stress of surgery do carry some risks of course, but they are outweighed by the potential benefits for the long-term health of the rabbit. Neutering males is also a sound practice. Reproduction is prevented and there is generally a much lower incidence of inter-male aggression provided adequate space is available. Although it could be argued that surgical neutering is not holistic, it does benefit the overall health status of the rabbit in the broad sense.

    Housing and their environment affects the well-being of rabbits. They need to feel safe or otherwise they become stressed. They need a place to sleep away from their toilet area and space to exercise. A small hutch with little room to move is not satisfactory. Excellent modular rabbit housing is now available on the market, along with exercise/play products similar to the hamster tube facilities in concept. The “runs” are not sealed at the bottom so the rabbits can get access to grass. Being enclosed, they are safe from predators and escape proof; movable so fresh grass can be accessed, as well as providing space for the rabbits. This type of hutch can be purchased as a “starter kit” and then tubes, hides and nesting areas can be added later.

    Many owners keep their rabbits in the house and there is in fact a House Rabbit Society. There website at www.rabbit.org has a large database with much advice on keeping pet rabbits in doors. Precautions, of course, have to be taken when keeping a rabbit in the house as they love chewing wires! Thankfully products are available to protect furnishings, wiring etc.  To avoid any unfortunate toilet accidents rabbits can be trained to use a litter tray and these are commercially produced too. Rabbits are active animals who like to chew, scratch, dig, leap and throw. These needs have to be catered for by providing toys which can be either purchased or homemade. Boxes of shredded paper offer good entertainment, as well as hanging mobile toys, balls, old hand towels, ramps covered with carpet running to different levels in the house or climbing runs (the ones made for cats can be just as good for rabbits). All this helps maintain the mental health of the rabbit; for a bored rabbit is miserable and prone to vices such as aggression and self-trauma, or it can become depressed and susceptible to illness.

    Holistic therapies
    There is a range of holistic treatments suitable for rabbits including herbal medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, reiki, chiropractic, Bach flower remedies and aroma therapy. However, it’s important to know that the rabbit is not suffering from a serious underlying condition before any of the complementary/holistic therapies are used.

    In the UK it is an offence for anyone except a veterinary surgeon to undertake diagnosis and/or treatment of animals other than their own, so the possibilities open to lay persons (i.e. non-veterinary surgeons) are limited to the supply of products for the owner to use on their own animals. These products mainly comprise of homeopathic preparations, some herbal products and Bach flower remedies. Due to the sensitivity of rabbits, essential oils can be dangerous and are best left to suitably qualified veterinary surgeons to administer.

    Rabbit owners ideally should have a first aid kit for their animals. Rabbits can move from mildly ill state to a terminal condition very quickly. A digital rectal thermometer, a heat pad, some alcohol wipes, a styptic pencil (useful to stop nails bleeding) and some bandages would seem to be the minimum. There are also several books available to owners offering advice on common health conditions.

    Some of the common ailments that can be helped with first aid before a veterinary surgeon is consulted are: fright/stress, shock, torn nails, fight wounds, overgrown nails, ocular discharges, conjunctivitis, faecal accumulation around anus, bloat, electrical burns and spinal injuries.

    Herbal remedies
    Herbal preparations vary in their active ingredient levels and should always be used with caution. Herbal does not always mean harmless. Some preparations can enhance the action of conventional medicines and so should only be used under veterinary instruction in that circumstance.

    • Euphrasia – conjuctivitis
    • Blackberry/Raspberry – diarrhoea
    • Ginger – general digestive aid
    • Chamomile – conjunctivitis
    • Apple cider vinegar plus Olive oil – ear mites
    • Raspberry leaves/extract – assists labour
    • Willow bark – general pain relief
    • Garlic – helps removal and prevention of internal parasites
    • Arnica tincture – bruises injuries
    • Rosemary – exhaustion/weakness/depression (fresh is best)
    • Echinacea – enhances immune system “antibiotic” properties
    • Marigold – slow healing wounds, strains/bruising
    • Comfrey – stressed rabbits; also excellent for promoting bone healing

    Homeopathy
    Homeopathic remedies are readily obtainable. They can be provided without prescription and are safe to use along with conventional treatment or herbal preparations. There are some licensed veterinary homeopathic preparations available – Arnica, Aconite, Arsenicum album, Belladonna, Nux vom and Rhus tox.

    Homeopathic remedies have no side-effects and rabbits respond very well to them. Some remedies and the associated conditions that lend themselves to the use of homeopathy are:

    • Arnica – injuries, bruising
    • Aconite – shock, stress. Trips to the vet/boarding. Acute onset of any condition
    • Arsenicum album – restlessness. Acrid nasal/conjunctival discharges.
    • Belladonna – fevers. Agitation. Acute onset pain. Acute inflammation
    • Nux vom – digestive upsets. Inappetance (lacking the desire to eat). Low faecal output. Overeating of unsuitable food.
    • Rhus tox – musculo-skeletal problems. Strains/sprains. Damaged muscle.
    • Apis mellifica – conjuctival swelling. Vulval swelling post-partum
    • Caulophyllum – pre, during and post-partum. Helps with birth and uterine contractions.
    • Ignatia – issues of abandonment or bereavement. Loss of companion, weaning a litter.
    • Sepia – female temperament problems relating to reproduction. Aggression, rejection of litter.

    This list is not exhaustive and many other ailments can be helped with homeopathy. Owners should always consult their veterinary surgeon if in any doubt. A sick rabbit can deteriorate very quickly and delay could be fatal.

    Acupuncture
    This is a very useful therapy and helps many musculo-skeletal problems. Only a qualified veterinary surgeon is able to perform this.

    Reiki
    This form of healing is practiced by many people. It is gentle and free from side-effects. To the author’s knowledge as long as the practitioner has the permission of the attending veterinary surgeon this therapy can be undertaken by non-veterinary surgeons.

    Chiropractic
    This form of therapy involves manipulation of the vertebrae and muscles. It can be hazardous to the rabbit if applied by an inexperienced practitioner, so should only be undertaken following a referral from a veterinary surgeon.

    Bach Flower remedies
    These were developed by Edward Bach. They address the mental state rather than the physical. They are safe and can be used alongside any of the other therapies including conventional medicine. Some of the remedies used and their indications are:

    • Chicory: possessiveness – bedding food etc.
    • Gentian: dependency – does not like to be left.
    • Walnut: does not like change – hutch, house etc.
    • Rescue remedy: pain, shock and distress.

    Aroma therapy
    As mentioned above, this form of therapy is best used by veterinary surgeons qualified in its use or by referral from a veterinary surgeon. Rabbits are highly sensitive animals (i.e. their use in laboratories) and the concentrated oils can prove dangerous even in low amounts.

    Managing rabbits holistically can be challenging but there are plenty of opportunities for owners to do this effectively, and I hope they will find the advice I’ve offered in this article will help them to achieve this.

    Stuart Marston. B.Vet.Med. Vet.MFHom. MRCVS

    This article first appeared in the Pet Gazette

    Epilepsy in dogs and cats

    Homeopathy has a major role to play, writes John Saxton

    The first problem to overcome in treating epilepsy is the fact that we are dealing with a condition that, in most cases, has very violent symptoms. The salivation, muscular spasms, sometimes involuntary howling that can occur, together with the incoordination of the recovery period, produce an understandable state of revulsion in many owners, compounded by a feeling of helplessness, especially when they witness it for the first time.

    This has two consequences with regard to treatment. The first is that there can be an undue concentration on the presenting symptom rather than on the whole picture, and an undue emphasis in treatment on preventing further fits at any price. Hahnemann laid great stress on the fact that disease can only be cured “if the physician clearly perceives what has to be cured… in each individual case of disease”, and this applies to epilepsy just as much as to any other condition. True epilepsy is not an acute condition but is part of a chronic disease pattern, in many instances what Hahnemann referred to as a “one-sided disease”. The really successful approach to its treatment is constitutional.

    The second consequence is that accurate observation and reporting of the exact symptoms of a fit can be difficult. In one sense this is not as important as it may seem, as many of the features are local or common symptoms, but useful information can be obtained from this area of the picture.

    Another factor affecting the disease picture is that many cases that present for homeopathic treatment are already receiving conventional anticonvulsant drugs. These may be failing to control the situation adequately and/or there may be concerns over the side effects of their long-term use. One of the commonest drugs used is phenobarbitone and one of the other standard medications, Mysoline, is broken down in the body into barbiturate. Long-term use of these agents can pose a strain on the liver. In addition, from the homeopathic point of view, this approach represents a degree of suppression of the case, with all the problems that that implies. However, in spite of this it cannot be stressed too strongly that such treatments must not be withdrawn suddenly, and any changes must take place under veterinary supervision. However homeopathy right from the start gives the best chance of a cure.

    More cases of epilepsy are seen in dogs than in cats. Cats, unlike dogs, are a species that cannot synthesis the amino acid Taurine and hence care is taken to add it to their diet. One of the effects of Taurine in the body is as a controller of nervous impulses, and supplementing the diet of dogs to give higher levels can raise the threshold at which fits are triggered. Although not homeopathic, its use can be beneficial in the overall management of a case. Other ways of reducing the susceptibility to fits involves the use of herbal preparations, which can be helpful on occasions.

    In some ways the cases where there is complete control of the fits by conventional medication are the most difficult. The picture is distorted and also the assessment of progress following a remedy is extremely difficult. Other changes in the body, usually behavioural, may give an indication of some action by the remedy, but a reduction of the medication is often the only way of ascertaining any beneficial effect. In contrast those cases where there are still some fits occurring do offer a yardstick by which to judge progress.

    Because we are dealing with a chronic disease, often treatment will throw up symptoms in other areas as the whole case is revealed. The major systems that are associated are the skin and the bowels, and there may be a “see-saw” between the symptoms.

    The question of potency is an important consideration when prescribing the constitutional remedy. This is one of those conditions where the last thing we want is an aggravation! Hence caution is advisable and more moderate potencies are often initially employed, even in those cases where the indications for a particular remedy are strong. Of course in any acute episode where a remedy is being used to control a fit then high potencies are very useful, as there is a high-energy output from the condition at that time.

    The causes of epilepsy are many and it would not be appropriate here to consider all the factors that can possibly be linked, but one in particular is worthy of mention. That is vaccination. It is well documented that vaccinations, both primary and boosters, can on occasion produce convulsions. No animal with a history of convulsions, from whatever cause, should be given a vaccination without very good reason. Silica, having both convulsions and “ailments from vaccination” in its picture is extremely useful here.

    Homeopathic treatment falls into two types. One is the full constitutional approach, aimed at obtaining a complete cure as this offers the best hope of success. Sometimes an “acute” remedy is used in addition. The other involves a compromise with the use of both homeopathic and conventional medications. The aim here is to use homeopathy to reduce the dependence on heavy medication, thereby increasing the safety margins and improving the quality of life for the patient.

    Case histories
    Coco was a four-year-old golden retriever. She had had several fits over the previous three years, but these had been fairly mild and “very occasional”, with a quick recovery. No conventional treatment had been given as the fits were mild and infrequent. However, the latest two fits had been more severe and frequent, and although apparently recovered she now appeared “not quite her usual self”.

    The fits had lasted about five minutes. There was no incontinence or howling, just a general spasm of the whole body with the head thrown back over the right shoulder. She had been vaccinated regularly with no apparent ill effects and there were no other health problems, only a behavioural inconvenience. Coco had lived with three other neutered bitches all her life and was friendly towards them. However, she would frequently mount any one of them, and if they protested run off and hide.

    Originally her owner had planned to breed with her and so she was not neutered as a puppy. Her seasons had been regular but abnormally mild. Neutered at around 21/2 years of age did nothing to change the sexual behaviour. She was wary of other dogs and if approached would initially “freeze” and escape at the first opportunity. If she finally got to know another dog she was friendly and playful. Her appetite was steady, preferring dry food, and not drinking as much as her companions. She liked cuddles from the owner. She was tolerant of heat but was happy to let others be near the fire.

    She was given Pulsatilla 200c for three days, with Cicuta virosa M in case of an attack. She was re-presented two months later having had a mild fit. The Cicuta had not been given. The owner reported she was “more like her old self”. Pulsatilla 200c was repeated. She has had no more fits and is now more confident with other dogs.

    Zeberdee was a seven-year­old sheltie, an epileptic for three years. There was no known family history of epilepsy. The first fit had occurred within 24 hours of a booster vaccination. His only other health problem was chronic eczema and he had had kennel cough. He was on a high dose of phenobarbitone four times daily but the fits still occurred every three weeks. During them he would hyperventilate, be on his side with legs thrashing about in an incoordinated manner, salivate profusely, and pass urine. There was usually one scream before the fit. All but the last fit had occurred at night. He recovered in about an hour and was then ravenously hungry, being very sensitive to noise during that time. His owner had given Bufo 30c on two occasions and this had increased the intervals to five and eight weeks respectively, but he had now reverted to his three weekly pattern.

    He was described as friendly to dogs and ladies but wary of men. He liked to play but disliked being cuddled. He was frightened of thunder, fireworks, and very wary in a crowd. He disliked the fire and preferred to be outside in all weathers, but would lie in the sun. His appetite was always good, his thirst normal, and he did not suffer from flatulence. Treatment was started with a combined vaccine nosode 30c, for four days. This was followed by Lycopodium 200c for two days. There were then two mild fits, each lasting about one minute, and each six weeks apart. He was reported as being more confident with men but otherwise unchanged. Lycopodium 200 was repeated. There were no more fits for five months, then one violent one daily for three days. Hyoscyamus 30c stopped the sequence and Lycopodium M was given for one day. There have now been no fits for over a year and his medication has been withdrawn. His eczema has also improved.

    Some of the most useful remedies in the epileptic situation

    Aconite
    Useful for both attendant and patient! The sudden onset fits the picture, and fear is sometimes seen just prior to the fit.

    Belladonna
    Another remedy where suddenness is a feature, together with the violence of the convulsions. There is great sensitivity during the fit, and the slightest external stimulus will keep it going. The attack usually involves a single fit rather than a cluster. As the acute of Calc carb, it is often of use where that is the indicated constitutional remedy.

    Bufo
    This has the reputation of the keynote of fits occurring during sleep. In actual fact the link is to night and sleep combined. The other feature is worse in a warm room. There is often a howl at the start of the fit.

    Cicuta virosa
    A distinctive feature here is that during the spasms the head is thrown back and to the side, so that the muzzle rests on the shoulder blade facing towards the tail.

    Cocculus
    A very useful remedy, its connection with vertigo gives it its place in this context.

    Hyoscyamus
    Related to Belladonna and Stramonium, this is also an excellent “local” remedy. Its picture is characterised by excessive movements of the face, both prior to a fit and at other times.

    Kali brom
    As Potassium bromide this is used as a conventional anti-convulsant, and it is also employed as a homeopathic remedy. The timing of the fits is often linked to oestrus, and there is marked excitement before they start.

    Nux vom
    Together with Ignatia the main ingredient is strychnine. These two, together with the remedy Strychninum have a role to play.

    John Saxton BVetMed MRCVS VetFFHom qualified in 1964 and five years later started his own practice in Leeds, concentrating on the small animal side. He became interested in homeopathy in the late 1970s and was awarded his Fellowship in 1996. He teaches regularly in the UK and examines in veterinary homeopathy for the Faculty of Homeopathy.

    Case study: chronic cat flu

    Katie Whitcomb shows just how detailed a history it is possible to obtain about an animal during homeopathic consultations

    Tonni is a Korat, an ancient Thai breed of cat recorded there in the 14th century, mainly coming into the UK from the 1960s and being accepted as a breed here in the 1980s.

    The word Korat means good fortune in Thai and it is also the name of a region. As a breed they are sensitive and affectionate like their neighbours the Burmese. They are quiet, sweet, intelli­gent and playful, forming strong bonds with people. Apparently they are trained from birth to accept noise.

    They are upmarket cats, usually blue-coated and the hair is described as being silver-tipped. When they are stroked, the hair doesn’t moult easily, so they are said to be better for people with allergies.

    The rescue cat
    Tonni lives with Susan, a night nurse and her husband, Peter, who has bronchi­ectasis which is why they got their first Korat, Ted, a year before when he was four months old. Tonni was a “rescue”. She came from a North Wales breeder whose 13 cats were dispersed after her death, via a rescue cattery in Rutland where Tonni stayed just three days.

    The day after she arrived at her new home, she was taken to the vet for a check up and was given a first vaccina­tion, wormer against tape and round worm and a spot on flea control on the back of the neck. The vet noticed that she had been recently neutered.

    Three days later she was back at the vets very poorly with snuffles and she had started retching. The vet noted sneezing and nasal discharge, classic signs of cat flu. The vaccination does not cause this, but in a cat that is stressed and already harbouring cat flu virus at the time of vaccination, we often see these symptoms.

    At this point Susan rang Tonni’s pre­vious vet in Wales who could find no record of Tonni ever having been vaccin­ated although her kittens had been. She had however been treated for flu several times and had needed courses of anti­biotic each time with additional anti­inflammatories to help with appetite.

    To cut a long story short Tonni was yo-yoing to and from the vets over the next six months with flu signs and retch­ing. During this time she had five courses of antibiotic, one with steroid, one with non steroidal anti-inflammatory and a course of anti-emetics and an injection to stop stomach bleeding. She was never well enough to have the second part of the flu vaccination course.

    Homeopathic consultation
    Tonni came to me to be seen for a homeo­pathic appraisal with a complaint of chronic flu. Susan and Peter brought me an A4 sheet of observations and inform­ation. From that and discussions with them I learned the following.

    Although Tonni seemed to prefer women, she had been the favourite cat of the breeder’s husband. She had been a breeding queen in an indoor cattery. She had no idea of play until introduced to Ted whom she accepted almost from the start although he hissed at her initially. Now she lets him take the lead but will grab him by the back leg and give him a nip if he pushes his luck. He is a bully but backs off when she swipes or nips. She also likes playing with a furry stick and ping pong balls but is not so keen on catnip mice.

    Both cats go crazy at night when the lights go out, tearing around madly. The cats often sleep curled up together at the top of their floor-to-ceiling climbing frame. She likes being stroked and hav­ing her tummy tickled but was reluctant to be picked up. She would sit on Susan’s lap when she sat down and put her feet up. However in surgery she decided to grace Peter’s lap. She sleeps on Susan’s bed, under the bedspread if it’s cold. She sleeps a lot more than Ted. They need to keep the bungalow warm otherwise Tonni’s snuffles worsen.

    She doesn’t mind the noise of the vac­uum cleaner and has to be removed from its path. She’s not afraid of thunder whereas Ted climbs up the curtains if it as much as rains hard. She is patient with young children but moves away if they get too boisterous.

    When she is ill she can’t eat, gets very lifeless with a greasy coat, has rapid weight loss and last time she dribbled a lot as well. She was given anti-sickness treatment after she had brought up five lots of bile in one evening, mainly yellow but occasionally black suggesting some stomach bleeding.

    There is not much discharge from the nose, it is not from either side par­ticularly and there is never any blood in the discharge which hardly has any colour or smell. Susan had been using a eucalyptus vapour in the room, which we now needed to stop as the strong smell could spoil the homeopathic treatment.

    Tonni’s snuffles are worst first thing in the morning between 4.30 and 5.00. She snuffles until it warms up. She is worse when it is foggy or damp and she doesn’t like draughts. Her back feels cold when she is ill. Her throat has never been recorded as very sore. We presume it is throat pain which makes her retch. Certainly when she gets anti-inflam­matories she starts eating.

    At one point she had had to travel to a home with a big window overlooking a churchyard because Susan was called to nurse there in an emergency. When Tonni looked out on to people gathered for a funeral she got very upset and hissed. Presumably she was not used to crowds.

    In the summer when the bungalow door is left open with just a screen across, she goes and hides if people look in and talk. She is scared of some new people. She doesn’t like the car. Her attitude to dogs is not known.

    When Susan and Peter nip out for the paper she is quiet but Ted yowls. The couple went away for six days and their daughter stayed over except when she was out at work. Ted minded more than Tonni. He got the lid off the cat biscuit tin and she ate biscuits then that she would normally refuse. She can be a thief.

    Tonni has a good appetite when well, but if she eats too quickly she coughs and splutters and is sick; she normally can’t cope with dry food. She likes wet food and has a quarter sachet four times daily: poultry, lamb or beef but not fish. When well she puts weight on easily. She licks left over muesli and likes milk which she is not allowed. She doesn’t lick people or appear to crave salt. She is not thirsty (unless she has dry food) except when she is on steroid. She urinates quite often, but it is not smelly. She produces rather hard stools once or twice a day.

    We don’t really know her attitude to bathing as she has never had a bath but the default setting for cats is dislike. Asked if she liked music I was told it had no effect on her.

    Summing up
    Homeopathic vets tend to ask people to sum up their animal’s character in a few words, as their actual choice of words can be quite revealing. Asked to do this Susan replied, Tonni is a lady, gentle and polite, laid back, sweet-natured.

    During the consultation she came out of her box to explore, rubbing up against us all, scent marking us. She went behind the desk to explore but came out of her own accord. She only sneezed once in that hour. I had her on my knee and she made minimal fuss, but I had to put her on the table to examine her throat, which after all that, was un­remarkable. Her mouth was fine, there was nasal congestion but no discharge, eyes clear, conjunctivae a bit pale. No gingivitis or halitosis. There was upper respiratory noise but the chest was clear. Coat was good and she was a little over­weight.

    The treatment
    I wanted to give Tonni something so I dispensed Silica 30c, one twice daily for five days and said I would repertorise the case and be in touch.

    My thought was that Silica suited such a ladylike cat with a chronic sinus problem.

    Silica is a remedy to consider in chronic infection/sinusitis, a condition we often see in Persian cats who have very flat faces and small nostril open­ings and thus can’t throw off flu.

    Although not anywhere near as dis­advantaged as Persians, Korats do have a flat forehead and a short nose as breed characteristics. This can become an obstacle to cure. Also she was chilly, heat loving, draught hating. Susceptible to draughts on the back comes up in Silica and Susan mentioned how cold her back felt when she wasn’t well. Then she had had an ailment from vaccination, though arguably the condition was Never Well Since Flu.

    I tend to think of Nat mur as the constitutional remedy for cats as they are not pack animals, tend to be loners and are very sensitive, particularly to grief involving the one person to whom they have formed an attachment. But the Thai Korat is obviously a cut above the UK moggie, and my questioning any­way really ruled out Nat mur. Looking up some rubrics, which were no doubt biased by my intuition and my limited knowledge I still agreed with myself.

    Silica fits the totality of symptoms and is also the constitutional remedy of the patient, and although not Ted’s remedy, I expect it is the constitutional remedy of a lot of Korats.

    Later I talked to Susan as promised: she told me Tonni had really hated the return car journey and this made her breathing much worse. She had respond­ed well to the Silica but had started to snuffle when they stopped it. I feel this is a strong indication that the remedy was working as I had not instigated management or dietary changes. I sug­gested that we put her back on Silica twice daily and reduced it to once daily as soon as she seemed okay.

    When she was really better I wanted to start her on the Cat Flu nosode and Chlamydia nosode 30c, twice daily for three days, weekly for six weeks and then fortnightly.

    Nosodes should always be given under the supervision of a vet.

    The follow-up
    It became obvious that Tonni was still tending to snuffle a bit whenever it was wet or windy. We were never getting her well enough to dispense with the Silica.

    So I suggested we try the nosode while she was still on Silica. Because of the reaction she had to vaccination the owners were wary of the nosode, so we agreed to give just one dose and watch the response, and this was okay, but we have not got the nosode regime going as well as I had hoped.

    Now I have clouded the issue of a remedy cure with additional isopathy. This is a chronic case – not only is the flu chronic, there has been suppression with steroid, antibiotics and non­steroidals which some homeopathic vets think are more suppressive than steroids. This cat was also relieved of most of her genital system, a further suppression probably being spayed around the time of her owner’s death. Think grief. Then she was separated from 13 cats she knew and sent away from home. Further grief. As if that stress were insufficient she was then hit with wormer, spot on flea treat­ment and flu and enteritis vaccination by a strange vet all in one day. Chronic­ally suppressed cases like this often need more than one remedy to unravel them fully, let alone cure them.

    A sceptical organic farmer I know complained to me saying that when his cows got better it didn’t mean the remedies worked. At least this case had been having a rocky ride for a long while, and has much improved in the six months following the remedy. Anyway, we don’t claim remedies heal, we only say they help the body to heal itself.

    Tonni has needed only two short courses of antibiotics since we started homeopathy, no other supportive anti­inflammatories were needed on these occasions.

    One relapse followed a repeat visit to the sick lady living by the churchyard, an unavoidable but known stressor. The argument against the remedy being the helping hand to the healing process would be that the stressors regressed considerably anyway and this is true. She got over the spay, the move and she no longer had to make kittens and kitten food from her body’s resources.

    However, this effect was of gradu­ally gathering momentum. Despite the respiratory distress on the way home, she started to pick up in a few days. Then when the remedy stopped she regressed and improved again when it was recommenced. Reasonable proof of remedy action.

    There is as yet no full cure. The anat­omy of the nose may pose some obstacle to recovery. Anyway Susan and Peter are delighted, Tonni is more confident and even went outside during the summer and she is less affected by bad weather. All three of us know that the Silica has helped.

    The therapeutic effect of the con­sultation was also marked. Before when their cats were unwell Susan and Peter were just transporters – “have to take the cat to the vet” – now they are part of the “cat get well and stay well” team. They have come to appreciate that they do know a lot about their cats, and can now take responsibility for decision-making, albeit with advice from vets. This has given them confidence, and they in turn have made me more confident of my homeopathy. So the dynamic was shifted by the holistic effect of both the conversation and the remedy.

    Katie Whitcomb BVSc MRCVS VETMFHom is a Bristol graduate who has always worked with companion animal patients. She now takes homeopathy referrals in Suffolk and London and also works as a locum for colleagues when needed.

    Caring for cats

    John Saxton gives the low-down on treating our feline friends homeopathically.

    In some ways cats are the most mis­understood of the species commonly kept as domestic pets. There is the ongoing (but essentially friendly) dis­pute between dog lovers and cat lovers, between those who value what they see as the closer bond that they can develop with a dog, and those who admire what is interpreted as the more independent nature of the cat. It is, of course, possi­ble to love both and, contrary to pop­ular myth, it is possible to keep both in the same household without World War Three breaking out.

    The number of cats in the UK is ris­ing as a percentage of the total pet pop­ulation, but there are many factors involved in this shift, not all of them con­nected to a deep psychological attach­ment to the species. Perceived cost is one, and the changing patterns of human lifestyle another: the independence of cats is often seen as an easy option in that “they can look after themselves” and “they are not so demanding as dogs”.

    In fact both species are pack animals and both have highly developed but dif­ferent social structures. The cat is not intrinsically a loner, as is often imagined; it is rather that the nature of their social order is based on a degree of individual activity and freedom of action within the pack that is not found in dogs. Those people who keep both a cat and a dog will often say that “the cat keeps out of the dog’s way”, but this is not usually through distain or fear. Two or more cats in the same household will often avoid each other in the same way. Close obser­vation as they move around will reveal that they generally move at different lev­els: one cat will stay on the ground, another will travel along the backs of the furniture, along the work surfaces etc, even to the same destination. When living with a dog, of course, it is the cat which goes to the higher levels. This pat­tern of individual movement is an instinctive behaviour pattern for the cat within its pack structure. Blocking it can create social tensions.

    Independent does not mean anti­social. Cats have a highly developed sense of social responsibility and one way that they show this is by helping to feed the pack. The mouse laid at the feet of a horrified owner is not an aesthetic or hygienic time-bomb, but in fact rep­resents a high expression of feline citi­zenship. To have this effort continuously rejected may be as hurtful to the cat as a child’s rejection of a well cooked meal is to her mother.

    It is often said that Natrum muri­aticum is the cat’s basic constitutional type and it is true that many Natrum mur cases are seen in cats. However, the other major constitutional types are also well represented in the species. The con­nection with Natrum mur is generally made because this remedyis regarded as representing a person who is aloof and a loner, fitting the cat’s perceived over­riding trait. However, the essence of Nat mur is of withdrawing emotionally (and sometimes physically) in order to avoid further mental hurt after some initial unpleasant experience. It is possible that many of the Nat mur cases that are seen have been pushed into that state because of the owners’ failure to understand their emotional needs. Nat mur has, at its root, a need to be loved and appreciated, and this may be denied if the cat is thought of as being intrinsically inde­pendent and self-sufficient.

    Similarly there may be social attach­ments and interactions involving cats that are not obvious to the casual observer. Cases occur where the death of one cat, apparently hated by another, leads to grieving in the survivor worthy of losing the love of its life.

    When trying to assess the constitutional remedy for your pet, remember that “cats will be cats”. It is variation from the species norm that is significant; just because your cat catches mice with great gusto does not mean that it can­not be a gentle Pulsatilla type.

    What conditions are cats prone to, and what homeopathic remedies can be useful? In addition to Arnica, Aconite, Calendula, Rhus tox (and Rescue Remedy), which have the same uses as in other species, other remedies can be helpful in specific feline conditions. Use a 30c unless otherwise indicated.

    Aggression
    A truly aggressive cat is a fearsome sight and opponent! There are some inher­ently nasty individuals which social adjustments alone do not calm. Belladonna at 200c or 1M can help in these situations.

    Bites
    These are regular occurrences and it is not only the belligerent un-neutered tom that receives them. Hepar sulph is an invaluable remedy. In high potency (200c) if given early, it will prevent the formation of an abscess. Ledum is a rem­edy for puncture wounds, which is what a bite is, and can be of use if given early, maybe alternating with Hepar. If the bite is a few days old and an abscess has already started to form, Silica will help to accelerate its formation and rupture, and ensure good drainage of the wound. Gunpowder is a much underused rem­edy and is useful for wounds with low-grade infection that do not heal.

    Trapped toes and tails
    These can easily happen under feet, doors etc. Hypericum has a major indi­cation here for bruised and damaged nerves. If the affected area goes cold fol­lowing the injury, this is an indication that the blood supply may have been damaged, and Secale may be of use.

    Urinary problems
    Some cats seem prone to repeated attacks of cystitis, without obvious cause. Cantharis is useful for acute attacks where there is much straining, pain and blood, but Causticum or Pulsatilla may be required for more chronic cases.

    Cystitis may be linked to a build up of small stones in the bladder (gravel) and occasionally this will cause an acute blockage. Professional help will be required in these cases, but as an emer­gency measure a few doses of Sarsa­parilla may give some relief.

    Cats also get their share of kidney problems and one potential trigger for both that and bladder stones is that sometimes cats do not drink enough. When their food is dry, many do not increase their fluid intake enough to compensate. This tendency is accentu­ated in Pulsatilla cats, as they both pre­fer dry food and do not feel the need to drink. Any sudden and marked increase in thirst in a cat should always be taken seriously. It is advisable to consult a pro­fessional in these cases, but Apis mel, Nat mur, Phosphorus, Mercury and Lycopodium are all of great use in kid­ney problems.

    Respiratory problems
    Respiratory problems tend to involve the upper part of the system, and bron­chitis, sinusitis and chronic nasal infec­tions are often seen. These may arise following an outbreak in the area or, on occasion, following vaccination. Remedies to consider are Pulsatilla when the discharge is whitish, Kali bich when it is thick and yellow, Silica in chronic cases where the discharge is white and Nat mur which shows a thinner more watery discharge rather like egg white. Arsenicum album as a constitutional type is seen in cats (think of the excep­tionally neat, delicate cat, moving grace­fully and always cleaning itself) and this is another remedy that is useful for res­piratory conditions. Thuja may be con­sidered if there is an obvious link to vaccination.

    Gingivitis
    A common condition in cats that can be one of the most difficult to clear. The first thing to check, especially in the older animal, is the teeth. No remedies are going to help if dental work is required. Once that or other general con­ditions have been eliminated, Merc sol is a possibility where there are red ulcer­ated gums, much salivation and bleed­ing ulcers. In some cases Merc cyanatus may prove more effective. Hepar sulph should be considered where there is much pain on eating, and Carbo veg can help in the milder case.

    Skin problems
    These are seen regularly in cats and many of the symptoms can be traced to mental causes. Ringworm can be a symptomless condition in cats and can be tested for by means of a simple cul­ture from a few hairs. Bacillinum is a major remedy for this condition, but Sepia may be called for.

    The conventional diagnosis of “mil­iary eczema” or “flea bite eczema” is often made for those cats exhibiting dry, irritant scabs on the legs and/or body, possibly with areas of hair loss. Although cats can become infested with fleas, often no “visitors” are ever found. This does not stop the conventional world prescribing large and regular quantities of anti-flea treatments, usu­ally to no effect! The underlying cause frequently lies in the emotional sphere, with the origins being traced to some upset in the cat’s environment and change in the pack dynamic. Nat mur and Staphysagria are the two remedies of most use here, both having elements of grief, mortification and suppressed anger in their pictures.

    Problems with anal glands are occa­sionally seen, although these tend not to be as common as in dogs. They may be associated with other health problems, notably skins. Hepar sulph for infected and Silica for blocked glands are indi­cated. The glands should not be removed surgically except in extreme circum­stances; they are one of the “safety­valves” of the body.

    Eyes and ears
    The external ear is part of the skin and, as with anal glands, can be part of a more general problem. Mercury where there is ulceration in the ear, Tellurium when there is a strong fishy smell to any discharge and Silica for chronically inflamed ears are all useful. Haema­tomas, where the ear flap fills with blood, can be treated with alternating doses of Arnica and Hamamelis: this may take time to resolve and the amount of discomfort the animal is in must be considered before deciding to continue this treatment.

    Remember Euphrasia for watery runny eyes and Argent nit for infected conjunctivitis. Cat fights will occasion­ally result in scratches to the cornea. Aconite, Ledum and Symphytum are useful first aid treatments, but profes­sional help should be sought in these cases.

    Spraying
    This is a social/hygienic problem not a health hazard for the cat. Changes in emotional balance are usually the cause rather than urinary problems. It is easy to tell the difference between spraying and cystitis: with cystitis urgency and pain are seen, whilst with spraying there is deliberation in the choice of target, and the same few spots may always be involved. A new arrival in the house­hold, or even just locally, can trigger the behaviour. Cases have been known where the break-up of a relationship has started it – the cat was obviously fonder of the departed ex-partner than the owner was!

    Staphysagria is often the indicated remedy, as it addresses the resentment aspect of the situation. Hyoscyamus may help also: this is often explained as being a manifestation of the lewdness found in the remedy picture and in many cases these cats will deliberately spray while they are being watched. (Interestingly, in the James Herriott era there was a standard “cure-all” veterinary prepa­ration for a wide range of urinary com­plaints whose major ingredient was Henbane, the source material for Hyoscyamus).

    The above, of course, is not exhaus­tive. Cats are complicated yet reward­ing pets and patients, well worth the necessary expenditure of effort.

    John Saxton BVetMed VetFFHom Cert IAVH MRCVS has been using homeopathy for just over 25 years. He currently runs a homeopathic referral practice near Leeds, as well as lecturing both at home and abroad for the Homeopathic Professionals Teaching Group. He was also President of the Faculty of Homeopathy.

    Behavioural problems in pets

    Lise Hansen explains how homeopathy can help

    There are currently an estimated 15 million dogs and cats living in British homes. The majority of these animals are much loved pets, increasingly treated as equal members of the family and, as we all know, capable of hugely enriching the lives of their human owners.

    Sometimes, however, the picture is not quite so idyllic. It is a sad reflection of this that one of the most common reasons for an animal to be brought to the vet to be put to sleep is behavioural problems: we kill almost as many healthy dogs and cats because they cannot adapt to the lives we expect them to live, as we euthanise ill, suffering or old animals. This is clearly a huge problem which manifests in many different ways and for many different reasons. We could be talking about dominant and uncontrollable dogs, fearful dogs that may become aggressive, dogs that become destructive or howl if left alone, cats that defecate in the house, the list is very long indeed. The list of possible reasons for these problems is equally long. Sometimes what we perceive as inappropriate behaviour is actually completely normal behaviour for the species in question, the human lifestyle we try to squeeze them into being the real problem. Inexperienced owners may choose an inappropriate breed for their circumstances, fail to socialise them at a young age or to offer sufficient exercise and stimulation. Problematic traits may be created through in-breeding. Physical disease or emotional trauma can also result in behavioural changes.

    I am not an animal behaviourist but as a vet and a homeopath I work within the area of animal behaviour both when examining the behaviour of a physically ill patient requiring homeopathic treatment and in cases where an animal is brought to me specifically for homeopathic treatment of problematic behaviour.

    Understanding the patient’s character and behaviour is at the core of classical homeopathic prescribing. It will often be the subtle and seemingly irrelevant changes in behaviour that point to the curative remedy even in serious physical disease. Physically healthy animals are brought to me for homeopathic treatment of a wide range of behavioural problems. Sometimes the best approach is careful education of the owner, possibly combined with a referral to an animal behaviourist. In a few sad cases of potentially dangerous animals, the only responsible action is to recommend euthanasia or the handing over of the animal to a more experienced handler. In most cases, though, homeopathy can play an important role in solving distressing and frustrating conflict between animals and their humans. Most cases of serious behavioural problems need professional, individualised treatment. However, there are some common problems that are often easily treated and that may be solved without the need to visit a veterinary homeopath. Below are a few examples that you may recognise.

    Holiday stress
    If you know from past experience that your pet tends to pine, refuse food or suffer from bouts of physical illness whenever you go on holiday without them, there are several steps you can take to ease their stress. If your pet has been going into a kennel or cattery, consider looking for someone who will care for them in your own home. This can be a friend staying in your home or someone coming in twice daily to check on your pet, feed them and provide exercise and human company. This arrangement is often much less stressful, certainly for cats and in many cases also for dogs, who may cope much better with your absence if they can be in their home environment. Finally, giving a dose of Ignatia 30c when you start packing, then leaving the remedy with the carer to give a few more doses in your absence, can make a big difference, especially in the animal that is noticeably distressed, restlessly pacing, whining and looking for their owner.

    Anger and resentment
    Some dogs and cats appear to be managing just fine during your absence but seem deeply affected and indeed affronted and disinclined to forgive you once you return home. Many owners can testify to a distinct cold shoulder when they return to greet their pet. A surprisingly common manifestation of this reaction is the cat that starts going to the toilet in very inappropriate places, often choosing their unfaithful human’s clothing or bed as a good place to express themselves. The most commonly listed homeopathic remedy for “resentment” is Staphysagria, and I must say that I can think of very few cases of cats behaving in this manner as a reaction to being abandoned by their owners (even if only for a weekend) where Staphysagria wasn’t the curative remedy. If the cat in your life seems to be saying “How dare you leave me?” try giving a daily dose of Staphysagria 200c for two to three days immediately on your return, or, if you know from past experience that the problem starts while you are away, give one dose prior to departing and get whoever is looking after your cat to repeat it a couple of times while you are away.

    The re-homed animal
    For some animals the hurt of being abandoned goes much deeper and requires more individual treatment and attention. I am referring to the many dogs and cats that are rescued or re-homed every year. While it is certainly a thoughtful and worthwhile gesture to offer a home to a homeless adult animal rather than a cute and innocent eight-week old puppy, I would never recommend this as an option to inexperienced pet owners. These often very traumatised animals are much more likely to suffer both from behavioural issues and from physical disease. In my experience the latter often manifests as chronic allergic skin conditions or recurring urinary infections. It is worth noticing that these patients are generally very responsive to individualised homeopathic treatment. Below is an example of how stress resulting from past trauma can continue to cause problems several years after re-homing.

    From monster to pussycat
    Ben was a very angry and traumatised adult cat. His current owner had taken him on from a cat charity a couple of years previously. At the time they had been told that this was Ben’s last chance. He had already been returned to the charity three times as his various new owners quickly realised that they had taken on more than they could handle. If he were returned again, he would be put to sleep. Apparently his last placement was with a woman who had called the police in a panic as she was afraid to leave her bedroom because she was under attack from a very vicious Ben!

    Initially Ben’s behaviour in his current home was equally dramatic. He decided that the hallway in the flat was his territory and he attacked anyone who tried to move from room to room through his hallway. Even several years later, Ben’s owner could show me the scars arising from this period as he recalled with a shudder how he used to have to put on leather trousers and arm himself with a towel or a broom before he could contemplate fighting his way to the bathroom.

    Ben was thin, unable to relax let alone play, constantly on edge and ready to strike. Slowly, however, Ben began to trust his new owner who, in spite of constant attacks, stuck by Ben, fed him and waited. When I first saw Ben, a few years later, he was very different. He no longer attacked people unprovoked. He could still draw blood if a friendly game with his owner got out of hand, but generally he was approachable, even affectionate most of the time. Unsurprisingly, Ben had a real reputation in the neighbourhood, where he would regularly beat up other cats. Indeed he himself carried the scars of many bloody battles. Most of them, I am sure, provoked by him.

    Ben’s owners came to me because of his recent habit of urine-spraying in the house. Unfortunately extensive travelling, sometimes for weeks at a time, had become an unavoidable part of Ben’s owner’s job. Ben was never left alone as there were always other members of the household staying with him. However he had started spraying indoors, initially only during and particularly after these periods of abandonment.

    Increasingly, though, this behaviour had taken hold and Ben would now spray in the house nearly every day. Whenever he didn’t get fed on time or didn’t get let outside as soon as he demanded, he would vent his anger by spraying on the new sofa right in front of his frustrated and long-suffering owners. It seems to me that having finally built up trust in a human being, Ben was still painfully sensitive to what I think he perceived as being let down and abandoned.

    Based on a full analysis including many other features of his case, I prescribed Nux vomica. The effect was immediate. Ben didn’t spray in the house at all for a few months. With time, the problem returned when his owner went away for too long, and we developed a system whereby Ben’s family would administer a few doses of Nux vom if his favourite person was away for more than a week.

    At subsequent visits, his owners would describe how he always reacted to the remedy by sleeping for one or two days as if he had been drugged, always a nice confirmatory sign that the remedy has hit a “sore spot” and will go on to do good. During the initial treatment Ben’s character changed dramatically as he let go of much of his past hurt. His owner once said to me that he had become so sweet and happy whereas before he was always “like a grumpy old man with a hangover and a headache” who may be nice to you as long as you do what suits him but still remains irritable and quick to lash out. A perfect description of Nux vom, often called the number one remedy for hangovers!

    Professional help
    Many rescued animals settle down happily in their new homes and never present a problem – just as many animals that never suffer any obvious stress in their lives develop serious behavioural or physical health problems. Thankfully, homeopathy can help them all.

    Animal owners can do much to alleviate common problems. However, the vast majority of behavioural problems will not be suitable for home treatment. Treating your own animal with homeopathic remedies based on general advice from one of the many books on the market, is most likely to have no effect at all – except perhaps challenge your belief in homeopathy. Trying out one remedy after another by simple working through a list of possible remedies can even have a detrimental effect on your animal. It is clearly important to seek the advice of a qualified veterinary homeopath. Individual treatment is the very essence of homeopathy. We are all unique individuals – humans, cats or dogs – and we should be treated as such.

    Lise Hansen DVM MRCVS CertIAVH PCH is a veterinary surgeon and homeopath who has had a practice in north London since 1998. Last year she also joined a holistic practice in south London where she treats animals for one day a week. For more info visit www.alternativevet.co.uk. For a homeopathic vet in your area go to www.bahvs.comor consult the BHA website.

    All creatures great and small

    Like their owners pets of all types can suffer from anxieties which often respond well to homeopathic remedies, says Francis Hunter

    At the beginning of the 80s, when there were no specific courses on homeopathy for veterinary surgeons, I attended the five modules of teaching at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital to learn about medical homeopathy. I was fascinated to study from the perspective of the doctor rather than the vet. It was the mental or emotional symptoms that particularly interested me. In a lecture on this subject no less than 60 such symptoms or “states of mind” were outlined with the relevant remedies that might be useful to treat such problems.

    These conditions ranged from absentmindedness, delusions or imagination, despair, through industrious and morose, offended easily or over sensitive, to tearful and taciturn. None of these examples and many others on the list could really be applied to animals. This does not necessarily mean that such states of mind do not exist in animals, but rather that we cannot identify or recognise them. It was only when studying such subjective symptoms as these that I thought how rewarding it would be to be a doctor, rather than a vet, and be able to help so many people with the gentle and effective form of treatment which is homeopathy.

    With animals it is necessary to study the more objective symptoms presented and to observe the animal really closely. It is also important, from careful questioning of the owner or keeper of the animal, to try to build up as complete a picture of an animal’s nature and temperament as is possible. In other words, as with treating humans with homeopathic remedies, it is taking the full case history that is so necessary.

    So of the 60 human states about 15 can be recognised with some certainty in animals. These could be found in a Repertory under the following headings: anger/bad tempered; anxious/fears/easily frightened; cheerful/happy; desires company/dislikes being alone; refusal to eat; excited; grief/sadness; hysteria/fits; indifference; jealous; moody/mood swings; obstinate/stubborn; resentment; restlessness/unable to settle; sensitive to noise, touch; suspicious.

    Before discussing anxiety or any other particular state of mind we must consider the general nature of the group of animals concerned. The dog for instance is a pack animal and much of its behaviour is related to this fact. For a pack animal to be separated from the rest is loneliness indeed and may well cause slight or even extreme anxiety. A dog barks because it hears or senses something out of the ordinary, to summon the aid of the rest of the pack to help. A dog wants the security of the pack around it.

    The rest of the pack, as far as a dog is concerned in a household of two for instance, is the owner who should also most importantly be the “pack” leader. A dog expects to be subservient to the pack leader and if such a lead is not forthcoming the dog adopts the position of leader and tries to dominate the owner. Dogs are usually delighted to see their owners after they have been left for even a short spell of time, because it is the return of the pack leader and hence security. The reason the greeting is just as great after an absence of ten minutes or ten hours is probably because animals do not have the same conception of time passing as we do.

    Cats on the other hand tend to be loners and behave differently. If you have been away you are quite likely to get the cold shoulder for a while, for having had the audacity to be absent and not attending to them when they demand it. Horses and cows are herd animals, where there is usually a “pecking order”, but this is in no way as strong as the pack instinct.

    So we come to anxiety itself. One definition of anxiety is: a state of uneasiness or tension caused by apprehension of something about to happen; worry, fear, danger. In acute cases this anxiety state may be manifested by physical symptoms such as shaking or trembling, or feelings in the pit of the stomach due to release of adrenaline. The adrenaline release initiates the basic instincts that can be seen to some extent in humans, but in a more evident form in animals: the “fight or flight” state of affairs. In animals anxiety, worry, fear or pain are all ultimately resolved by one of these two factors.

    It is important for example with dogs to try to define the cause of the anxiety or fear in a given situation. Suppose a dog is frightened of the noise and size of big vehicles and traffic generally. It is a mistake for the owner to sympathise and pat the dog to try to allay its fears. That only reinforces the problem. What the dog requires is fearless leadership from the head of the pack (the owner) who should walk along briskly, pulling the animal a little if necessary, to reassure it that the pack leader is not afraid.

    The remedies for treating anxiety or any of the other states mentioned above are exactly the same as those that might be used to treat people. This concept is often quite difficult for people to accept, but for the most part the remedies available to treat any illness, disease or emotional state are equally suitable for any animal. Dosage is another problem that often arises. The fact is that with our homeopathic remedies we are dealing with infinitesimal amounts of “energy” and so the relevant size of the animal is not of concern. Indeed the dose is the same for a mouse or an elephant. What we often term as “exotic” pets or animals, such as fish, small mammals (gerbils, hamsters and the like), tortoises and terrapins, tiny birds (canaries and budgies) and even frogs and toads all respond equally well to homeopathic remedies and at just the same dose as for bigger species. Fish for instance are easily treated by dissolving the remedy in their water tank.

    Remedies for anxiety and other emotional states
    Rescue Remedy is the first remedy to consider for any state of anxiety. This is one of the Bach flower remedies and so I suppose is not strictly homeopathic, but they are usually considered under the same heading. Rescue Remedy is a combination of five of the flower remedies: cherry plum for anticipatory fear; star of Bethlehem for shock, or the after effects of it; Impatiens for agitation/impatience; rock rose for terror; and clematis for unconsciousness or that “detached” feeling that often accompanies trauma or shock. Several drops daily in the fresh drinking water for a few days at times of impending stress or anxiety can do a lot to allay simple fears and worries.

    Arnica too is a good remedy not only for the effects of trauma or physical damage but it also has strong mental symptoms in its make-up. In my opinion every household in the land, even if they do not want to embrace the whole of homeopathy, should keep both Arnica and Rescue Remedy in the medicine cupboard. They would soon find a use for them and the considerable benefits also.

    The following are some of the situations that may cause anxiety or fear in animals: being left alone, also loneliness – wanting company; the dark; thunder and loud noises such as gunfire, traffic and fireworks; enclosed spaces or even open places for some animals; crowds – too many people or other animals; travel; atmosphere (usually owner related); and fits. In my work as a veterinary surgeon it often occurs to me, and I occasions to people who might accept it and not take offence, that owners might do well to take a few doses of the same remedy that has been prescribed for their animal!

    Argent nit – silver nitrate – prepared by trituration of the solid in the first place.
    Keynote: anxiety/agitation – a state of perpetual agitation or apprehension of what may be going to happen. Fear and nervousness especially towards other animals. Probably the most useful remedy to give before shows and events. For humans it is strongly recommended before going to the dentist or taking the driving test! Suggested potency 6c or 30c.

    Gelsemium - yellow jasmine – prepared from the outer layers of the fresh root.
    Keynote: fear – “stage fright” or emotional excitement; abject fear, shaking with fright. Gelsemium lacks the tense agitation of Argent nit, but is more suited for real or perceived fear. Suggested potency 30c.

    Lycopodium
    – club moss – prepared from the spores or the whole plant.
    Keynote: anxiety – extremely active and must be kept occupied (Collies for instance). Diffident – outwardly mild and apparently even-tempered but can “blow-up” with provocation. Suggested potency – high. This remedy is most beneficial when it is used constitutionally and is best prescribed by a homeopathic physician.

    Aconite - monk’s hood – wolf’s bane – prepared from the whole plant, including the root, just as the plant begins to flower.
    Keynote: Shock – for fear and agitation after an accident or trauma of some kind. Aconite has a very fast action, which does not last for long, so it may need repeating for a few doses as necessary. Suggested potency 30c.

    Arsenicum album – white arsenic – prepared from triturations.
    Keynote: fright from fear of being left alone. Suggested potency 30c.

    Pulsatilla - the wind flower or meadow anemone – prepared from the whole fresh plant.
    Keynote: the animal that is lonely if left on its own and especially a dog that barks all the time that it is left. Suggested potency 200c given twice daily for 2-3 days and not repeated too often.

    Kali phos - potassium phosphate – prepared from the solution.
    Keynote: timid, easily frightened. Suggested potency 6c.

    Francis E. Hunter MRCVS VetFFHom was a founder member of the Association of Homoeopathic Veterinary Surgeons and served as the Vice President from its inception in 1982. He was Chairman of the British Homoeopathic Association from November 1996 to July 2000. He is also the author of People are Pets, published by and available from the British Homeopathic Association.

    Homeopathy for animals

    In these extracts from Francis Hunter’s forthcoming book, we look at the treatment of respiratory conditions

    It is essential to remember that it is our responsibility, as the keepers of animals, to consider at all times their health, comfort and general wellbeing. The remedies suggested in this article are for the most part general treatments for immediate use and for use when the disease or condition is not serious or life threatening. They are also useful for more chronic problems when prolonged treatment may be required.

    Good living conditions and plenty of Tender Loving Care are just as important and necessary in the treatment of animals as they are with humans. Good nursing and careful attention to detail are as vital as drugs or homeopathic remedies in assisting the recovery from any illness or unwelcome condition.

    Please note that for each condition described, there is clear guidance on whether you should seek veterinary advice before administering any homeopathic remedies.

    Flu (Influenza)
    Veterinary diagnosis and involvement is advisable. There are few conventional drugs on the market to treat viral infections; homeopathic remedies, carefully chosen to match the particular symptoms of a flu infection, can be very effective in alleviating the condition.

    Flu as we know it in the human occurs in rather a similar manner in both horses and cats, but uncommonly in other domestic animals. Symptoms are variable, often sudden in onset, and include a high temperature, loss of appetite, coughing, sneezing, running eyes and nose and sometimes stiffness in the back and other joints. Dullness, shivering, increased rate of breathing and panting may also be apparent. The animal may show increased thirst.

    • If flu is suspected give Aconite 30c 4 times at hourly intervals. Change to another remedy matching the presenting symptoms, once the diagnosis is confirmed.
    • In acute cases where signs of fever are apparent: Belladonna 30c 4 times at hourly intervals and if improving every 4 hours for a further 3 to 5 days.
    • If symptoms appear similar to human flu: Gelsemium 30c 4 times daily, every 4 hours for 3 to 5 days until symptoms subside.
    • Flu symptoms plus a dry harsh cough brought on by movement: Bryonia 6c 3 to 4 times daily for 3 to 5 days.
    • Respiration noticeably increased, short and gasping with niggling, tickling cough, worse in cold air: Phosphorus 30c 3 to 4 times daily for 3 to 5 days.
    • Streaming eyes, appears hot and thirsty, throat often affected too: Allium cepa 30c 4 times daily, every 4 hours, for 3 to 5 days.
    • Painful joints, stiffness, restlessness; eased by slight movement: Rhus tox 6c 4 times daily for a few days until symptoms subside.

    Cat Flu (Feline Influenza)
    Immediate veterinary attention is required. The disease is caused by viruses, usually complicated by a secondary, mixed bacterial infection. The viruses involved are feline calicivirus (FCH) and feline viral tracheitis (FVR), also known as feline herpes virus (FHV). Cat Flu may be due to a single virus or to a combination of both. FVR causes the more serious condition.

    Main symptoms, similar to those of human flu, with sneezing and running eyes and nose. The discharge may be clear and watery to start with and, as the infection progresses, it becomes thick and yellow in colour. There can he a high temperature, loss of appetite, coughing and ulcers in the mouth. In cases of FVR infection, deaths may occur from dehydration and bronchopneumonia. Those who recover may become persistent “snufflers”. The signs of FCV are usually less severe, but include ulceration on the tongue, palate and nose area. FVR cases may show ulcers on the cornea of one or both eyes.

    Conventional vaccines to control this disease are widely used in breeding establishments and catteries with apparently few side effects.

    Homeopathic nosodes are also available for the prevention (sometimes for the treatment, too) of cat flu. Their use and dosage regime should be discussed with a homeopathic vet. See also symptoms and medicine above.

    Catarrh
    Veterinary diagnosis may be required in the first instance. Homeopathic remedies are very useful if the condition becomes chronic.

    • Catarrh, the term used to describe an inflammation of a mucous membrane accompanied by a free discharge, often accompanies infection and if not treated promptly may become chronic and difficult to overcome.
    • Watery, acrid (stinging) discharge which makes the nostrils very sore, worse in cold air: Arsenicum album 30c 2 to 3 times daily for 5 to 7 days.
    • Yellow discharge accompanied by infection and very sensitive to pressure or even touch in the region of the nose: Hepar sulphuricum 30c twice daily for 5 to 7 days. Repeat after a week if necessary.
    • Discharge is thick, sticky, stringy and yellow or greenish-yellow in colour; crusts may form in the nose; useful in ongoing cases: Kali bichromicum 30c twice daily for 5 to 7 days. Repeat after a week if required.
    • Chronic catarrh with mouth breathing; recurrent tonsillitis; discharge thick and white, sometimes with nose bleeding: Kali muraticum 6c twice daily for up to 4 to 8 weeks if necessary.
    • Blockage of (mostly) right nostril; green scales in nostrils; much thick, yellow discharge in the morning: Pulsatilla 30c 3 to 4 times daily until improvement.
    • For the chronic, persistent, longstanding case with a white, pus-like discharge: Silica 30c morning and evening for 5 to 10 days or longer if necessary.

    Sinusitis
    Veterinary diagnosis is advisable. Homeopathic remedies are useful to treat this condition, especially recurring cases.

    • Sinusitis is the inflammation of the sinus. There are a number of different sinuses in the body, but the ones referred to in this article are the three bony cavities inside the skull. These are maxillary sinuses found in the cheeks on either side of the nose, the frontal sinuses, which are smaller, situated over the upper part of the eye socket and just above the base of the nose, and the ethmoid sinuses which are placed at the back of the upper part of the nose.
    • The sinuses are lined with a moist mucous membrane – sinusitis occurs when the lining becomes inflamed and the cavity becomes filled with mucous discharge (catarrh). Sinusitis may be acute following an upper respiratory tract infection or else become chronic, after frequent bouts of inflammation. The colour and nature of any discharge produced can be very helpful in selecting the best remedy.
    • Discharge is acrid and makes the nostrils very sore: Arsenicum album 30c once daily for 5 to 7 days.
    • Infection present, nose region sensitive to pressure or touch: Hepar sulphuris 30c twice daily for 7 days.
    • A useful remedy for ongoing cases with a thick string-like discharge: Kali bichromicum 30c twice daily for 5 days and repeat after a week if required.For the chronic longstanding case with a white pus-like discharge: Silica 30c morning and evening for 5 to 10 days.
    • Thin watery discharge like white of egg; much sneezing; recurrent bouts of sinus infection; coughing may be apparent: Natrum muriaticum 30c 3 times daily 5 to 7 days until improved.
    • Chronic sinusitis and catarrh with mouth breathing; recurrent tonsillitis; discharge thick and white, sometimes bleeding from the nose: Kali muriaticum 6c twice daily for up to 4 to 8 weeks.
    • Particularly if the right nostril is blocked; green scales in nostrils; much thick, yellow discharge in the morning: Pulsatilla 30c 3 to 4 times daily until improved.

    Tonsillitis
    Veterinary diagnosis and/or treatment is advisable if the symptoms persist, or the animal is in apparent discomfort or pain.

    • The tonsils’ function is to act as the first line of defence if an infection enters the body through the mouth or nose. Less severe cases, if caught early, and chronic cases respond very well to homeopathic remedies without having to resort to antibiotics.
    • Throat red and glowing; swallowing obviously painful; animal feels hot and feverish: Belladonna 6c or 30c every 2 to 3 hours up to 4 doses, then 4 times daily for a few days until improved.
    • Sore throat; tongue appears swollen and is often coated yellow; increased thirst and salivation; offensive smell to the breath: Mercurius solubilis 6c or 30c 3 to 4 times daily for a few days until improved.
    • Chronically infected tonsils; throat sensitive to touch, off colour and often irritable: Hepar sulphuris 6c or 30c 3 to 4 times daily for 5 to 7 days and repeat treatment when necessary.
    • Frequent and chronic bouts of tonsillitis; tonsils and glands in the throat region always enlarged: Baryta carbonica 6c or 30c 3 to 4 times daily for 5 to 10 days. Repeat when required.

    Coughs
    Homeopathic remedies are very effective for treating coughs. Veterinary attention may be necessary if symptoms persist.

    There are many causes, such as irritant substances, smoke and fumes, but most coughs arise as the result of infection.

    • The first treatment to consider is Aconite 30c every hour for 4 doses before moving on to another indicated remedy.
    • A good all-round remedy, if the cough is obviously worse for movement and warmth: Bryonia 6c 3 to 4 times daily for 3 to 7 days as required.
    • If there is fever, sweating, excitement and a full pulse often accompanied by dilated pupils: Belladonna 30c 4 times daily for 5 to 7 days.
    • Spasmodic cough, worse in the open air and accompanied by retching or vomiting sputum: Ipecacuanha 6c 4 to 6 times daily until improvement.
    • Persistent, rattling cough, with phlegm which is difficult to bring up and wheezy chest noises: Antimonium tartaricum 6c 3 to 6 times daily until improved.
    • For a spasmodic chronic type of cough with much retching and barking: Drosera 6c or 12c 3 to 4 times daily for several days.
    • When the cough persists after an attack of bronchitis or pneumonia: Arsenicum iodatum 6c 3 to 4 times daily for 3 to 7 days until improved.
    • For a tickling, hard, dry, persistent and obviously painful cough: Phosphorus 6c 4 times daily until relief.

    Kennel Cough (Infectious Canine Traceheobronchitis)
    Veterinary diagnosis is advisable.

    Often developing during or following a visit to a boarding kennels, or to dog shows or anywhere else where dogs congregate, the principle organism causing kennel cough infection is the bacteria Bordertella bronchiseprica, but a number of different viruses may also be involved. In addition there may be a combined infection, further complicated by the presence of other bacteria, leading to secondary infection.

    The cough is usually an irritating, niggling dry and persistent one. A distinguishing feature of kennel cough is that it is little heard while the dog is still, but is brought on by any sort of movement. The dog may not appear to be ill if the infection is a mild one and it may keep eating and behaving normally, except for some discomfort from the repeated bouts of coughing. In the more acute form of kennel cough the animal may be off its food and obviously ill with a temperature and running eyes and nose. Such a case needs to be examined by a vet, who may prescribe antibiotics to lessen the risk of bronchitis or pneumonia, especially in an older or weaker animal.

    • In the mild case if the cough is accentuated by any kind of movement: Bryonia 6c 3 to 4 times daily for 5 to 7 days until improved.
    • If the cough is dry, spasmodic and accompanied by retching; particularly if Bryonia is not helping after 2 or 3 days: Drosera 6c 3 to 4 times daily for 5 to 7 days.
    • For the more severe case with breathing difficulties, wheezing and incessant coughing; worse in the open air and when accompanied by retching or bringing up of mucus: Ipecacuanha 6c 3 to 4 times daily for 5 to 7 days.

    Bronchitis
    Veterinary diagnosis is required. Homeopathic remedies can often be used beneficially on their own in chronic cases and also in conjunction with antibiotics in the very acute cases.

    Bronchitis is an inflammation and probably also an infection of the bronchi and bronchioles that supply air to the lungs. The airways become inflamed and swollen and also partially blocked with thick, fluid exudates. These further reduce their diameter and prevent sufficient oxygen reaching the lungs. The respiration rate increases with panting and possibly rasping noises, often accompanied by a troublesome cough.

    • In the early stages: Aconite 30c every 15-30 minutes up to 6 to 8 doses.
    • Follow with Belladonna 30c 4 times daily until improved if the animal is feverish and panting or sweating and obviously distressed.
    • When any movement seems to worsen the condition and there is a dry nagging cough causing discomfort, increased thirst is usually noticeable: Bryonia 6c 4 times daily until improved.
    • High fever, dry cough, wheezing respiration, extreme prostration, restlessness, great thirst: Arsenicum album 30c 3 to 4 times daily until improved.
    • Useful in early cases with a deep, racking cough, which worsens in cold air: Phosphorus 6c 2 hourly up to 6 doses until improved.
    • Rattling of mucus but little expectoration (coughing up), sweating, drowsiness and debility, rapid short, difficult breathing, gasping: Antimonium tartaricum 6c 4 times daily until improved.
    • For chronic cases when there is much discharge from the nose and mouth. Kali bichromicum 30c 3 times daily for as long as necessary.

    Pneumonia
    Consult a veterinary surgeon at once if pneumonia is suspected. Delay may mean the death of the animal.

    Homeopathic treatment is effective and can be used in conjunction with conventional medicine.

    Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs. There are a number of different types caused by infection with viruses or bacteria and has a sudden onset with raised temperature, noticeably increased pulse and respiration rate, panting, difficulty taking breath in, breathing heavy and gasping, loss of appetite and dullness are apparent. There may be a painful cough and a yellow (purulent) nasal discharge. In extreme cases a bluish tinge will be seen on the lips, the mucous membranes covering the gums and the tongue as the tissues become starved of oxygen. Collapse and death may soon follow if treatment is not started immediately.

    • Any of the main symptoms above: Aconite 30c, in the early stages dose every 15-30 minutes up to 6 or 8 doses.
    • Belladonna 6c 4 times daily until improved follows Aconite well if the animal is feverish and panting or sweating and obviously distressed.
    • Any movement seems to worsen the condition and there is a dry nagging cough causing discomfort; increased thirst usually noticeable: Bryonia 6c 4 times daily until improved.
    • Useful in early cases with a deep, racking cough, which worsens in cold air: Phosphorus 6c 2 hourly up to 6 doses until improved, then 4 times daily for 3 to 5 days if improvement maintained.
    • Dry, paroxysmal cough, persistent and choking; pneumonia and pleurisy together; yellow discharge and possibly bleeding from the mouth and nose: Drosera 12c or 30c 4 times daily until improved.

    Pleurisy
    Veterinary diagnosis and treatment required.

    Pleurisy (pleuritis) is an inflammation of the pleura, a membrane covering the surface of the lungs and also lining the rib cage. Main symptoms, superficial, rapid and difficult breathing, the chest wall is painful to the touch, and laboured abdominal breathing is apparent.

    • In the early stages, difficulty breathing with the slightest movement: Aconite 30c every 15-30 minutes up to 6 or 8 doses.
    • Any movement may be painful and there may be a dry nagging cough, thirst may also be increased: Bryonia 30c 4 times daily until improved.
    • Apis 6c and Bryonia 6c may be given alternately if there is fluid present and breathing is hurried and difficult. Dose hourly using 2 doses of each remedy (4 doses in all). Then give 2 doses of each remedy, alternately, for a few days until improved.
    • Rattling sounds with little coughing and difficulty breathing, rapid and short, grasping: Antimonium tartaricum 6c 4 times daily until improved.
    • Dry, hoarse, choking cough, worse in cold, dry weather; wheezing, “asthmatic” breathing; chest definitely infected: Hepar sulphuris 6c or 30c 3 to 4 times daily for 5 to 7.

    This extract was taken from Everyday Homeopathy for Animals (£20) by Francis Hunter, Beaconsfield Publishers Ltd, March 2004.

    Francis Hunter MRCVS, VetFFHom was a founder member and vice president of the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons. He was Chairman of the BHA from November 1996 to July 2000. He is also the author of People are Pets.

    University challenge

    Sara Eames discusses remedies to help new students cope with being away from home – and suggests a few for parents too

    When children grow up and leave home there are all sorts of chal­lenges and changes to be con­fronted, both by the children and their parents who may feel left behind. Fortunately homeopathy can come to the rescue in many ways both for physic­al and emotional problems. This is a particularly pertinent topic at this time of year when so many teenagers are embarking on their university careers.

    It is well known that all life events, however pleasurable, come with extra stress and the time when offspring flee the nest is no exception. In fact it is often only one of many important changes happening at the same time. Parents are often taking stock of their own lives and relationships and may also be encounter­ing physical deterioration and illnesses for the first time. This is often com­pounded by the caring for or loss of elderly parents and some are unfortu­nate enough to have to contend with redundancies, financial worries and the stark reality that they will not progress further in their careers. Add to this mix­ture a teenager who might well have been rebellious and a worry for a num­ber of years and who then suddenly dis­appears and it is not hard to see why problems can occur.

    Although there are these multiple challenges this transition time can also be very rewarding. Relationships can be developed and strengthened and new plans can be made for the next stages of life. More space in the house can often be an advantage and I have yet to meet a parent who seriously misses the old take-away boxes and dirty washing strewn around the house, or the dis­turbed nights when children come home later than planned. Most of all however must be the satisfaction of slowly real­ising that your children can actually manage on their own and to see them maturing and planning their own futures.

    Remedies for the teenagers
    I thought it would be useful to suggest a small box of remedies which can be prepared for children when they leave. Even if they don’t need them all them­selves I have often seen children brought up on homeopathy offer remedies to their friends as well.

    The most important remedies for an individual are the ones that they have responded well to in the past, so if your child is lucky enough to have found their constitutional remedy that has to be in the box, and it’s not a bad idea to give a dose a week or so before they leave so that they are in good health for the chal­lenges ahead. Similarly if they have some remedies which always help in acute sit­uations, such as early stages of infections or for anxieties, then these should be included too.

    Otherwise it’s probably best to think about the sort of problems your child might encounter and put in some of the more common remedies that can help. When students first arrive at university they are usually thrown in to a fairly manic programme of activities. They meet the people who they will live close to and study with and are offered all sorts of entertainments and diversions, usually by folk who want them to sign up and join things and part with their money. The average first year student will drink and spend far too much in the first few weeks away from home. How­ever during this same time they will have to navigate their way through often com­plicated registration processes and make choices about modules which can have quite an effect on their whole university career. It is not uncommon for students who arrive late, or unprepared for the registration process, to find their first choice modules already full. That’s a really disappointing start, so if you can it’s probably a good idea to try to get your child to think about what they want to do and where they will have to go.

    Probably the most useful remedy for the first few weeks will be Nux vomica, the homeopathic standard for over indulgence of all sorts. It can also be an anxious time and Rescue Remedy can be a great help. Other more specific anxiety remedies can include Silica which is useful in a shy child who finds it daunting to meet and talk to so many new people, Lycopodium which is indic­ated where the person looks confident on the outside but is petrified that people will discover his inadequacies and Arsenicum album for someone who has a tendency to be a perfectionist and will become more restless, anxious and meticulous when under stress.

    In spite of all the activity, many students have periods of home-sickness, especially if it their first time away from home. This is quite normal and a few phone calls and the passage of time are usually enough to see them through. Remedies which can also help include Capsicum, Ignatia and Phosphoric acid. Others may find it hard to sleep with all the frenetic activity around and Coffea is the remedy which can help with sleep­lessness from over-stimulation.

    Once the initial excitement has worn off there are the new challenges of time management with much less structured academic work, learning to look after oneself, survival on a small income and new relationships to be explored. All stu­dents will manage some of these better than others. For the student who finds it very hard to organise themselves, get out of bed and make it to their lectures in spite of good intentions a dose or two of Sulphur can work wonders. Others may find it hard to join in with the general swing of things at university and start to feel that they are missing out on the fun. They can become rather resentful, self-pitying and withdrawn and then Nat mur can often make things much easier.

    Academic challenges can also cause problems. Many teenagers who go on to university are used to being one of the high fliers at their school and can find it hard to adapt to being more average amongst their new peers. Again Arsenicum or Natrum mur can be useful, depend­ing on how the person reacts and another very useful remedy in this sit­uation is Lycopodium. For them it is extremely important to be seen in a good light and they have particular difficul­ties in accepting a slightly less perfect view of their achievements.

    The average student does not have a lot of money or time to be spent on cook­ing and looking after themselves, especially now that self-catering is more common, so as well as homeopathic remedies it is a good idea to pack a good multi-vitamin and mineral supplement which they might remember to take at least some of the time! “Freshers’ flu” is a common occurrence due to the com­bined pressures of a new environment, hectic lifestyle and mixing with many new and different people, so vitamin C and an immune booster such as ecchi­nacea can also be a great help.

    Case studies
    James aged 19 has gone straight from school to university. He has always been a sociable and successful boy, keen on sports and able to pass exams fairly easily. After two months away from home he is finding life a bit more of a struggle. He has made good friends since he started at uni, but is gradually miss­ing more and more of his classes. He fully intends to go to them, but each morning stays in bed. He is already behind with his coursework, but seems incapable of doing anything about it. He is sharing a flat with three others in a hall of residence and his room is becom­ingly increasingly chaotic. When his parents visited him, they were concerned about him and brought him to see me. He gave an extremely plausible account of what he planned to do to improve things, but somehow I doubted that he would. I prescribed three doses of high potency Sulphur and within a week he was able to get out of bed by nine in the morning. In fact he felt so much better in himself that he now takes the Sulphur himself when needed and it has not been necessary to see him again.

    Emily a 20 year-old girl has had a year off after school which was spent working and travelling. She had a serious relationship while on her gap year which did not last when she returned home. Since going to uni she has become rather more withdrawn and has not socialised much. She is feeling rather sorry for herself but does not talk to anyone about it as she hates people to feel sorry for her. She has also devel­oped headaches around her period time. I have treated her parents in the past and her mother rang me. We managed to persuade her to talk to me on the phone as she was not in London and I prescribed her high potency Nat mur. There was not an immediate response, but gradually over the next two months she became more engaged in university life and when she came to see me on her next vacation, she seemed to be coping much better and I gave her another course of the Nat mur which she was to take if she began to feel worse again.

    Both these cases reminded me of how a timely dose of a homeopathic remedy can make a tremendous differ­ence to the life of an individual.

    Remedies for parents
    When children leave home parents can react in as many varied ways as their children, but there are a few basic reme­dies which can often help. Ignatia is the classic remedy for acute loss and grief and may well help if you are feeling weepy, or have a very changeable reac­tion and are finding it hard to sleep at night.

    There are often mixed feelings when children leave and some parents feel angry that they have been left and that their children only contact them when they want something. Staphisagria can often help then. Others may feel purely abandoned and be very weepy and then Pulsatilla can really change things.

    Some parents can feel relieved when they have a bit more freedom again, but don’t enjoy it too much as a large per­centage of children come back home after they have finished at college and can’t afford to live independently!

    Sara Eames BSc MB ChB DGM MFHOM is the Director of Education and a physician in the women’s and children’s department of the RLHH. She also has a private practice in north west London.

    Enlarged tonsils

    Jeni Worden describes how she treated a toddler with worrying symptoms homeopathically

    Baby Cerys was fast asleep in her mother’s arms when I first met her in March 2002. She looked like a small but unwell cherub as she continued to sleep whilst her mother, Jenny, explained what was wrong.

    Cerys, then 13 months old, had been ill on and off since she was aged just four to five months old. She had never been well since having a croup-like cough, which had then progressed to wheezy breathing, like that of asthma. After that initial illness, Cerys had gone on to develop a cough, which her mum described as similar to that of whooping cough. Her GP had been so concerned by this cough that a special swab taken from the back of the throat called a “per nasal swab” had been taken. This is one of the only ways that whooping cough, pertussis, can be diagnosed but fortunately for Cerys, this swab showed no evidence of this long-lasting infection. However, since that time, Cerys had been ill recurrently, having no more than five or six weeks of health at a time in between episodes of distressing symptoms.

    These symptoms started with what seemed to be a simple cold. Colds are common in children of pre­school age and most children will suffer from six to eight colds a year, each one possibly lasting for up to four to six weeks at a time. This is the reason why most toddlers and nursery age children seem to have perpetually running noses.

    However, poor Cerys suffered from complications, in that, when she had a cold, she vomited as well. This was obviously a very worrying symptom for her mum and not helped by the fact that Cerys often wheezed when she was unwell. Although Cerys was a very normal little girl in between being ill, her mother found the frequency of Cerys’ symptoms distressing for her daughter and very worrying for herself and her husband.

    Their GP had been supportive, referring Cerys to a consultant paediatrician for specialist advice about her condition. He had seen her about six weeks before I saw her and the GP had helpfully sent me a copy of his clinic letter. In it, he had mentioned how large Cerys’ tonsils were and commented that they almost met in the middle of her throat. He noted that her breathing was “noisy” on the day she was seen but that this was not causing her any apparent distress. There was no obvious infection in her chest when examined.

    The consultant thought that when Cerys caught a cold, the resulting increased mucus secretions caused irritation at the back of her throat and combined with her already enlarged tonsils, made the enlargement worse. This resulted in her coughing, as her throat tried to clear itself and then vomiting. Vomiting with a cough in children is much more common than in adults as they do not have the same degree of muscular development in their diaphragm and gullet that adults have. This makes it easier (unfortunately) for children to regurgitate their stomach contents when being sick.

    The wheeze that Cerys experienced was probably because of the cold virus making the small airways in her lungs much more irritable than usual. This results in the airways narrowing for a short time, causing a wheeze that can be easily heard.

    The advice of the consultant was that there was no significant conventional treatment that could be advised at the time but that he would keep Cerys under review in his clinic in case her symptoms did worsen.

    Cerys’ parents, although appreciative of the consultant’s advice, wanted to help their daughter in any way that they could. Their GP was more than happy to refer them to me for further help as we had been colleagues when I was an NHS GP.

    Cerys was still asleep as I took both a homeopathic and conventional medical history from Jenny. Although troubled by pregnancy-related nausea and sickness whilst pregnant with Cerys (her first regnancy), Jenny had been otherwise well. However, the vomiting symptoms had reappeared towards the end of her pregnancy, resulting in her being admitted to hospital with dehydration two weeks before erys was due. Cerys was finally born five days late by a Ventouse extraction.

    There were no apparent problems related to Cerys’ diet, although her dislike of lumpy food was very marked. Jenny described Cerys as a busy, happy, laughing baby when she was well. She liked to be ut-doors.

    The only area where Jenny had any trouble with her daughter when she was well was that Cerys woke frequently in the night. She loved to be cuddled and this was in fact the best way to get her to sleep, specially if combined with a rocking movement.

    Although not normally a clingy child, she was just starting to be wary of strangers, which I would regard as a normal developmental milestone for this age group. Cerys had been walking for just over a month when seen and was saying simple words.

    Physically, apart from being a very appealing child, she tended to get hot and could perspire easily.

    Cerys had woken up by this time but was still very sleepy and it was difficult to assess her properly. She had been ill in the night, hence her unscheduled nap. Taking her physical symptoms and her episodes of being unwell since her attack of that croup-like cough when she was just four months old, I prescribed Spongia and Baryta carb 30c, one to be taken daily. I arranged a review appointment for Cerys in six weeks time.

    Imagine my delight when a very different little girl came running in to see me three months later. The appointment had been delayed as Jenny was pregnant again and suffering from severe sickness once more. Cerys had had no episodes of ill health since last seen and she looked very happy, exploring my consulting room and chatting non-stop at the same time. She had seen her consultant in the intervening episode who had been amazed at the reduction in the size of her tonsils and equally pleased with her progress. Since starting the homeopathic treatment, and as the size of her tonsils reduced, Cerys also started to enjoy lumpy food. I didn’t change the medication and arranged a follow up appointment for October 2002.

    Cerys had a single episode of illness before her appointment but still looked well when next seen. She was also due to see the consultant. In view of this recurrence, and because Cerys was occasionally wheezy when she missed a tablet, I felt that perhaps a deeper acting remedy would help.

    I prescribed three tablets of Phosphorus to be taken over a 24-hour period, in view of her combined problems of tonsillar and chest symptoms in such a happy, engaging child.

    Cerys has remained well since last seen apart from one virus infection that did not result in her becoming as ill as she has been in the past. She was reviewed by her NHS consultant who was happy for her to stay on her homeopathic medication and has arranged not to see her again until Spring 2003. Jenny and her husband are delighted with Cerys’ continued good health and all three of them are looking forward to the birth of a new baby soon.

    Dr Jeni Worden MB ChB MRCGP MFHom was an NHS GP in a group practice in Christchurch, Bournemouth for ten years before leaving to expand her medical homeopathic practice in February 2001. She also practises at the Centre for the Study of Complementary Medicine in Southampton and still does GP locums to keep her skills as a conventional doctor up to date.

    Homeopathy for teenagers

    by Bob Leckridge

    When children go to school they begin to learn how to interact with other children. There are great pressures in the playground to conform and to be included in the group. Throughout primary schooling, this socialisation is a strong feature. Once children grow into their teenage years, they become aware of quite other pressures too. At various stages in life, human beings ask themselves the question “Who am I?” This is often associated with the birthdays which end in “0” – especially later in life, where 30, 40 and 50 are seen as “significant” birthdays sometimes associated with the “mid-life crises”. The seeds of these crises lie in the teenage years because this is the time of life when we begin to ask profound questions.

    Teenage tensions
    Not only are teenagers subject to pressures to belong, in the same way as they experienced when younger, but they are beginning to become aware of the need to know them­selves as individual and unique. This is a real tension. How can you affirm your uniqueness and yet at the same time not be rejected by your peers?

    Happily, one of the ways emerges naturally because all the teenager’s friends are experiencing exactly the same tension. This leads to them identifying with sub-groups of teenagers with common interests and common ways of behaving. We can see this in apparently paradoxical ways. For example, one particular style adopted by some teenagers these days is that of the “Goth”. If you see one of these kids in the street with their parents, you wonder if the child has been parachuted down into this family unit from outer space! With their black clothes, chains, heavy make-up, they just don’t look like they fit! They do look quite unique. However, somewhere in town, there will be a corner, a street or a park where these children gather. When you see a crowd of twenty or thirty “Goths”, they don’t look so unique anymore – they all look the same! This is a good example of how teenagers are beginning to identify more with other people of the same age as themselves than they are with their families.

    Developing these new connections and trying to separate themselves to some extent from their families is the basis of much of the disturbance, which occurs at this time in life. In addition, families, or more specifically, parents, represent authority and control. As teenagers try to separate themselves from the family controls they can become overtly rebellious. In fact, a general rebellion against authority of all kinds is quite common during these years. This rebelliousness can have quite a destructive or even violent quality in some teenagers.

    However, these teens are still children too. They still need to love and be loved and they still have plenty of playfulness and curiosity. In fact, just as children are often more imaginative than adults, so we see that teenagers have active imaginations and can often be highly idealistic.

    At best then, this is a time of first love, of intense, passionate relationships, a time of high ideals and of a drive to discover new ways of experiencing life. At worst, the tensions produce self-doubt, fed by broken relationships, lost loves and disappointments, which lead to melancholy and even depressive or self-destructive experiences.

    Hormonal changes
    These issues are not, however, the only ones facing teenagers. We change all the time. Our bodies are always changing. We see this most obviously in the first couple of decades of life where little children quickly grow taller. Not only are their bodies growing and maturing however, so are their personalities. We watch our children develop new skills week by week throughout the first years of life, and this development continues apace throughout the teens. However, there is the addition of a crucially important element at this time – the sex hormones. Puberty brings about enormous changes in the shape of these children’s bodies. Boys’ voices “break” and they begin to develop body and facial hair. Girls begin to menstruate and to develop breasts and body hair. In addition the surging hormones impact on the skin and many teenagers experience the sufferings of the plague of acne.

    Amongst the common health problems in these years, therefore, are skin complaints, menstrual difficulties and emotional/ behavioural problems.

    Homeopathic intervention
    In the conditions, which are strongly physical, like acne and menstrual problems, homeopathic medicines can help stimulate the healing system to deal with the hormonal changes naturally and so reduce the harmful impacts on the body that produce these problems. In addition, however, reading the narratives of some “constitutional” homeopathic medicines which are commonly indicated at this time will not only help the teenager holistically but will help his or her parents to understand them better. A “constitutional” medicine is one, which closely matches a wide range of features in the patient’s experience. Not just particular symptoms, which are being experienced but sensitivities and ways of coping also. Here are some of the more common ones. Maybe you will recognise a teenager you know in one of these descriptions.

    Helleborus
    These are children who are often described as “unusually compassionate”. This can make them stand out from others and even seem a bit eccentric. They have their own ways of doing things, but because of their caring attitude this difference is not generally perceived by others as a bad thing. If these children are struck with self-doubt then things begin to change dramatically. They start to close down and withdraw.

    What kinds of events might produce this change? The grief of the loss of a loved one – not necessarily a death in the family, but the loss of the first love. Moving house, particularly to another area altogether where they have to make new connections and new friends. At this time they can become significantly homesick. Or it might be a physical event, like a head injury. This closing down state is typified by moroseness, grumpiness and ill-temper.

    They lose all their motivation and say that nothing interests them any more. Expressions of sympathy and attention just seem to make them worse by making them more aware of their distress. This state is accompanied by a slowing up, seen not only in apathy, but in a slowing of their speech. They are reluctant to talk, speak slowly, if at all, and even seem to think slowly. Throughout this they maintain that strong sense of individuality and express that through dress. Often what they wear, others find strange, or “inappropriate”. They can become quite obsessed with death and dying and withdraw into their own imaginary worlds.

    Cina
    Cina children are bright, imaginative and fun when well, but we rarely see them in this state. When they become unwell they develop a real dissatisfaction with everything, which is expressed through what are typically described as “ugly” moods. When upset, rather than withdrawing like the Helleborus children, these children make a noise about it. They complain and they complain loudly. They are in a very uncomfortable state where they don’t want to be ignored but they don’t want attention either – really, there is no pleasing them!

    These are children who can develop tics and spasms, or even epileptic type “absences”. They, too, have active imaginations and can become quite disturbed, especially at night, when they are active dreamers and will talk or even scream in their sleep.

    Tuberculinum
    In previous articles we have seen that Tuberculinum can be a common remedy in young children and even toddlers and here in the teenage years it is also common. The typical teenager who needs this remedy is restless, stubborn and very rebellious. They can be quite malicious, or even destructive when they are angry. They are continuously kicking against any idea of authority and yet are highly idealistic, even romantic, in their thinking.

    These are the kids who identify with political revolutionaries, and who, in times past, would put up posters of Che Guevara and Chairman Mao on their bedroom walls – not so common these days! They might identify with other “rebels”. The punk rock movement attracted a lot of these kids (although it also attracted many other teenagers who needed quite different homeopathic medicines!). Despite their anger and their restlessness, they still have many fears and these might be quite specific – dogs, thunderstorms, darkness, for example.

    Skin problems
    Acne is common to both boys and girls but is more common in the boys. This is because it is particularly provoked by the circulating testosterone levels, which make the skin more greasy and oily. The pores become blocked and infected and so we see the full range of spots, from black-heads, to red swellings, to pus-filled eruptions ,which cause teenagers such distress. In more severe cases, there can be many spots over the face, the forehead, the chest and the back, and the most severe ones are quite destructive of the skin leaving deep pits and scars. Whilst even in its milder forms acne can cause great distress, in its most severe forms it leaves permanent scarring.

    The orthodox treatments for acne centre around the use of antibiotics, used either in short courses to fight the larger, more painful lesions, or in low doses over longer periods of time to treat chronic acne. The homeopathic approach is to try and stimulate the person’s own healing system to reduce the sensitivity in the skin to the circulating hormones. One good way to do this is to give them their “constitutional” medicine but this is very difficult to work out if you are the parent. It is best to have a full consultation with a homeo­pathic doctor if you want to take this approach. However, there are some common medicines, which may be indicated on the basis of some of the features of the acne itself.

    For treatment of the bigger spots, which might even be small abscesses, Hepar sulph can be indicated. This is where a lot of pus has gathered, the patient feels chilly and irritable, and there is considerable swelling and tenderness. They might find that putting a hot cloth against the sore bit helps. At an earlier stage to this, where there is just redness, heat and swelling but no pus yet, then Belladonna might be more useful, especially if the patient is agitated, restless and fevered.

    When we considered the problems of children in an earlier article, we looked at Sulphur as a common medicine for the restless, inquisitive, messy and disorganised child. Certainly, many teenagers’ rooms look like “Sulphur rooms”! They are messy and chaotic and as they develop many passing fancies with a disposition to collect things, their rooms are really full of “stuff”! These tend to be hot, sweaty teenagers who love nothing better than fast food, like burgers, pizzas and chips. They often have quite bad skin with many red, itchy and hot patches and spots.

    Silica is a common remedy in acne. The Silica child tends to be a bit chilly, sensitive, shy and very concerned to do well at school. Indeed, a fear of failing can cause many problems for these patients around examination times. Their skin is unhealthy and injuries, scratches and inflammation easily become infected with the infections grumbling on for long periods of time. These skin problems are not as dramatic as in the Hepar sulph or the Sulphur states but seem to be more chronic. These are also sweaty kids with particularly offensive foot sweats.

    Kali bromatum is another common acne medicine. This is more commonly indicated in some of the more severe cases of acne, especially with lots of itchy lesions, which are worse before each period. These children are often low in energy, sleepy and worried about not getting on well at school. They are afraid they are not as clever as their friends.

    Period pains
    In the early years of a girl’s periods, there are commonly problems with painful periods and with very irregular periods. In most cases, both of these problems settle down in time and the body adjusts naturally. However, in many girls the problem is severe enough to cause them to lose time off school and to generally make their lives miserable. Almost the only treatments on offer from the doctor are painkillers and, sometimes, the oral contraceptive pill. Both of these approaches use drugs on a frequent, or even semi­permanent basis, and most people would really rather try to find a more natural solution. Here homeopathy has a role to play, in trying to stimulate the natural regulatory systems and resolve the problems without drugs.

    One of the most commonly indicated homeopathic medicines for period pain (dysmenorrhoea) is Magnesium phosphoricum (Mag phos). This is indicated when there is severe colicky abdominal pain which forces the girl to bend over or curl up so she can press on the sore part and where the pains are relieved by holding a hot water bottle against the affected area. This is quite common in girls who are sensitive, in fact, maybe even oversensitive to things. They are easily disturbed by scary or violent things on TV and are oversensitive to pain.

    Another medicine for dysmenorrhoea is Chamomilla. This is indicated when the girl become extremely irritable with the pain, crying out and shouting out and demanding attention. It is a common remedy for the teething infant, but is often forgotten as a medicine for these girls with their dysmenorrhoea.

    Lachesis is often indicated for period pains which are worse in the run up to the period each month but which go away very quickly whenever the bleeding begins. It is indicated in girls who have fiery tempers and who react increasingly aggressively as the period approaches. They are also likely to complain of feeling bloated and have swollen painful breasts in the premenstrual days. Everything instantly gets better when the period begins.

    Pulsatilla is a good medicine for girls whose periods tend to be very erratic, sometimes coming too early, sometimes too late. The pattern is constantly changing. This is really a key feature of Pulsatilla – the variability of the symptoms. They become very weepy and emotional before their periods and need to have company and sympathy to feel well. These girls are typically quite shy, although they are very sociable and respond well to the attentions of their friends and family.

    Another homeopathic medicine, which can be useful at this time in a girl’s life is China. This is a good remedy for girl’s who get really exhausted after a heavy period. Their periods tend to be heavier than average and are really quite debilitating so that they often lose time off school because they are just so exhausted. In this state they feel very physically weak and can be quite tremulous. This is an oversensitive state, and they are oversensitive to lights, to noise and even to smells.

    There are, of course, many other problems, which can be experienced by teenagers, but these descriptions of teenage behavioural changes and some medicines for acne and period problems are all very common patterns and I expect you will recognise at least one of them in a teenager you know.

    These can be very difficult and challenging years, but your teenager needs two things from you more than anything else: to know that you still love them (no matter what!) and to feel secure – home can be a safe haven in these troubled times. You might be amazed how your children change when they enter their teens, but the vast majority emerges at the other end of the teens as balanced, and very likeable young adults!

    If you are going to use any of the medicines mentioned, unless a specific dose is recommended by your homeopathic doctor, use a 30c strength and repeat the doses as often as is necessary. The rule in homeopathy is to take a dose, experience the improvement, then if the improvement starts to decline, repeat the remedy. If a dose does not produce any improvement, then there is no point in repeating that particular remedy.

    Bob Leckridge MBChB FFHom graduated from Edinburgh University in 1978 and worked as a GP until 1995 since when he has worked full-time as a Specialist in Homeopathic Medicine at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital. He teaches homeopathy internationally and is the author of Homeopathy in Primary Care. He became President of the Faculty of Homeopathy in 1998.

    Starting school

    How your child settles at school may depend on his or her homeopathic type. Jenifer Worden discusses six medicines which may help and advises on how to tackle some of the physical ailments reception children face

    Every parent must dread the first day of school; we do our best to make it sound so exciting and yet in our hearts, even the calmest of us worry about how our child will cope. I was lucky that both of my children settled in very well to their reception class at primary school but I well remember my daughter going through a spell of crying at her play group when I left her to go to work at the GP practice next door.  I hated walking out of the door, having disentangled her little fingers from my coat and hearing her cry, “Mummy, don’t go!” The fact that she apparently stopped her tears almost the minute I walked out of the door did not help me feel any better about leaving her and certainly did not make me enjoy my morning surgery. Fortunately, after a very short time, she reverted to her normal cheery self when I left and is now a confident 17 year-old who assures me that she never misses me when she is away on school trips. I miss her, but smile as I wave her off!

    So what problems can our children face when they start school and what can we do to help them? There are the physical, such as coughs and colds, head lice (nits) and threadworms, and the psycho logical, such as negative behavioural problems including biting others, temper tantrums, refusal to make friends and toileting and sleep disturbances.

    I would emphasise that the majority of children settle into school perfectly well and that the teaching staff are very experienced in helping even the most unwilling little one to join in the fun.  Parents can help by ensuring that their child is used to being away from them for a little time prior to that important first day, whether it is time spent with grandparents or other relatives, or in a pre-school or nursery. Children have a natural separation anxiety around 18 months to two years when they can be very unhappy to leave either parent but will normally pass through this stage as part of their normal development.

    If they have never spent some time apart from a parent or carer prior to starting at school, then settling into a classroom of 25 other children without Mummy or Daddy nearby is going to be difficult. If, however, you do run into problems, there are homeopathic medicines to get your child back into the swing of things. I will discuss the psychological problems first, in terms of how each homeopathic remedy picture will show itself in your child’s behaviour, and will finish by mentioning homeopathic medications for the physical problems.

    Not every child will fit into one of the following remedies but I have given the six most common medications that I use in my practice. It is always best to treat the child as a whole when looking at psychological or behavioural problems and this is where seeing a homeopathically qualified healthcare professional can be so helpful for parents and carers. It can be very difficult to analyse your own child at times and an independent view on matters can always help. I had my daughter down as a Pulsatilla for ages when in fact she was much more of a Phosphorus but it took a consultation with a medical colleague for me to realise this.

    Calcarea carbonica

    Typically, the child who needs Calcarea carbonica will be the type who takes some time to learn, with poor recall and often reaching their developmental milestones, such as walking and talking, later than other children. They may spend some time on a task, such as a jigsaw or other puzzle, and may do the same puzzle again and again, showing patience and a methodical nature. Some Calcarea carbonica children can be very clever but be misjudged academically as they take so much time to gain the information they need. If interrupted, they can be very obstinate and do not like changing their plans. They like to categorise and to complete tasks and can sustain a temper tantrum for some time if thwarted in doing this. Such children can be strong characters and it is a brave adult or child who tries to outstare them!

    Because of this obsession with finishing a task and their methodical nature, they can be loners at school and may become sad and withdrawn if they do not make friends quickly. This aspect of their character emphasises their many natural fears which include the dark and insects; not the child to tell a scary story to unless you want to be up in the night dealing with an upset, clingy youngster after the inevitable nightmare. They tend to be too hot at night, throwing their covers off, and also prone to sleepwalking. Calcarea carbonica children tend to suffer from frequent catarrhal conditions, such as coughs and colds and middle ear infections. They like starchy food but often dislike slimy food or milk. They are prone to constipation but can have diarrhoea after drinking milk.

    Should this sound like your child and they are having problems settling into school, try a 30c dose daily for a week or so. As a homeopathic GP, I tend to prescribe a “one-off” dose of three tablets, 200c 12-hourly but would suggest this higher dose is only used after advice from a homeopathic healthcare professional.

    Pulsatilla

    In contrast to Calcarea carbonica, the Pulsatilla child is gentler and more clingy and fearful. They often stay close to their parent or carer in the consulting room and although they may want to play with a particular toy, will only do so if Mum or Dad sits on the floor with them. They have a core weakness that makes them sensitive to a perceived possible abandonment by a parent and this sensitivity can play a major role in the child’s psychological make-up.

    Pulsatilla children are often shy and cry easily, often needing to be held when upset in order to avoid continuous tears. They can be very reserved in new environments, such as a classroom, but become sociable when their confidence returns, or if they are befriended by another child and led to join in with the others. Although quiet in a formal meeting, in their home environment they will chat away unless someone has upset them. If this is so, they will mope and cry.

    They are excellent at finding the right behaviour to get what they want from an adult or another child as, psychologically, this gives them the attention and security that they crave. The situation that can break this submissive mode and willingness to please is the birth of a sibling, when the older child can feel left out and unloved. At this stage, the Pulsatilla child can demonstrate jealousy, irritability (particularly with aggression towards the new baby), obstinacy, regression to more childlike behaviours (such as bed wetting when previously dry) and a tendency to develop physical symptoms such as tummy pains and headaches.

    Feeling a loss of their security can also happen with the start of school; they can compensate by being incredibly helpful at school but turning into a different, and angrier, child at home, blaming the parents for sending them away from the home environment.

    Sympathy always helps the Pulsatilla child. Like the Calcarea carbonica child, they suffer from chesty coughs and colds and middle ear infections. They love foods containing fats, such as pastry and ice cream and have to be encouraged to drink – the camel of the homeopathic world.

    Natrum muriaticum

    Neatness and tidiness is a result of the Pulsatilla child’s desire to please, whereas the Natrum muriaticum child is driven to keep their toys and room tidy. They are usually nicely dressed and these children sit confidently in the corner of my room, playing quietly with the toy box or engrossed with a picture book whilst their parents talk to me. They are often very polite and a little reserved. It can be difficult to hear their answers to my questions as they are not the type to shout and this can cause problems with making friends at school.

    They tend to have a few good friends and can lack confidence in groups, which makes team games a chore. Although calm on the outside, they are incredibly emotional on the inside, being sensitive to criticism and hating to make mistakes, for fear of others laughing at them. Unlike the Pulsatilla child, the Natrum muriaticum youngster does not cry easily and can often only do so alone. Putting an arm around them in sympathy only makes them cry harder. They choose activities which they can do on their own, such as reading, and can make the family pet or neighbours’ pet their “best friend”.

    You can see how starting school can be laid with pitfalls for the sensitive and uncertain Natrum muriaticum child unless they already have a friend in the same class. Although Natrum muriaticum is not a remedy associated with angry outbursts, they can bear a grudge and can do so for some time! Quietly addressing their fears of not being good enough can go a long way to helping these little ones find their place in the class. It can then be possible to avoid the headaches and skin problems, such as eczema, that can plague such children.

    Sulphur

    The Sulphur child can be all over the place in the surgery and is usually the most active in the consulting room. Paul Herscu, a prominent US homeopath, who has written several excellent books on the homeopathic treatment of children, talks about four types of Sulphur children: the happy-go-lucky, who are exuberant “show offs” and are natural leaders of groups, hating subordinate roles; the irritable, who are nasty and negative and are the rarest type of Sulphur; the hyperactive, who are the ones who break the rules and are messy, not caring about what people think of them; and the cerebral, who are like a messy Natrum muriaticum.

    Sulphur children can be very intelligent and independent, not always the easiest qualities in a four or five year old starting school, when a teacher is trying to encourage compliance! Unlike the Natrum muriaticum, Sulphur children are not the smartest of dressers, not being bothered by wearing matching socks and also careless with their possessions. Put labels in everything a Sulphur child owns or it may go “walkabout”! Sulphur kids prefer to socialise rather than do class work, which again can cause discipline problems, especially as they can appear quite indifferent to reprimand. They have little need for sleep and often have excess energy before bedtime, which is probably why I have more consultations for behaviour problems with such children than any other group. Physically, they can suffer from infected eczema and problems with loose bowel movements.

    Phosphorus

    Another group of children who can be sociable and pleasant to deal with are those responding to Phosphorus. They are well-mannered and expressive. Initially shy, they soon gain their confidence and are able to talk to everyone easily. They like to be the centre of attention and occasionally can appear precocious with their dealings with adults. Their enthusiasm can sometimes spill over into severe anticipation, with symptoms resulting from excitement. Concentration can sometimes suffer as a result.

    Like Pulsatilla, they can weep easily and are probably the most fearful of all the children discussed in this article. The dark, thunderstorms and monsters or ghosts are the most notable of their common fears. Such fears often lead them to complain of nausea or tummy aches. Nightmares as a result of an overactive imagination are common and they often need the comfort of a parent in the room to fall asleep. If in a situation they feel comfortable with, they can be real performers and it is no coincidence that this is the remedy often suiting actors and artists. Unlike Pulsatilla, these children love cold drinks and will suck ice cubes for pleasure!

    Tuberculinum bovum

    My final emotional remedy is Tuberculinum bovum. It has links with hyperactivity and intelligence and has some features of Sulphur. I have found it a very useful medication where there is an element of mischievousness, such as encouraging another child to do something naughty then acting the innocent and therefore avoiding any blame.

    Children doing well with this remedy are often slim in build and pale complexioned with long eyelashes. They can have poor concentration and do not like strangers or new situations, so one can see why starting school so often can worsen their behaviour and cause problems both with teachers and carers. They can be phenomenally restless, even at night, and are said to grind their teeth in their sleep. The toy box gets emptied out in a flash but each toy only played with for a short time before moving on to the next. Such children can be irritable and contrariness can result. Despite their energy, they dislike being alone and also animals. Wetting the bed can be a common problem.

    Physical ailments

    With regards to the physical problems due to starting school, recurrent coughs and colds must be the most troublesome. Every community develops its own immunity and, for most small children, this is usually just the people they live with and possibly some close relatives or their childminder. When they start school, they meet all sorts of viruses which they are not immune from. This is why they seem to have continual colds in reception class and also to suffer more with each infection than previously.
    Most schoolchildren under the age of seven will have up to eight colds or upper respiratory tract infections (URTI) per year, each lasting four to six weeks and three of which will be severe enough to need some time at home. Fluids and conventional medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol syrup are fine to relieve a high temperature (more than 38°C) but mild fevers will do your child no harm. Constitutional remedies based on their personality and general symptoms are probably the best way to treat a child who is becoming run down with recurrent infections.

    A high temperature without any specific symptoms can be treated with Belladonna 30c four to six hourly as needed, or Aconite (at the same dose) if the symptoms come on rapidly with a sore throat and thirst for drinks. Spongia can be used for croupy coughs or Ipecacuanha for a cough with spasms so severe that the child ends up vomiting.

    Threadworms and head lice

    I am often asked if there is a homeopathic cure for those two common infestations, threadworms and head lice. Although Cina is often cited in older homeopathic books as being effective against worms, I think that the modern conventional treatments, such as piperazine, are more reliable.

    As having head lice is not an illness and the lice do not cause any disturbance to the body as such, one would not expect homeopathic medicines to work against them. The time-consuming method of using a nit comb to comb through the hair after shampooing and then applying conditioner, which damages the eggs and removes the adult lice, and repeating the treatment every other day until at least two washes without any wild life apparent is still the most efficient way of getting rid of these pests.

    There are insecticidal shampoos but resistance is building up to these and they are becoming less effective, so I try to steer clear of them unless absolutely necessary. It can be difficult if your child’s best friend does not have such methodical parents, as this can mean your child keeps getting reinfected, but the summer holidays arrive eventually and this usually sorts the problem out in my experience.

    Jenifer Worden MB ChB MRCGP MFHom is a part-time NHS GP in Ringwood, Hampshire and has a private homeopathic practice in Highcliffe, Dorset. She treats patients with a wide range of conditions and across the complete age range.

    Spotlight on Skin

    The skin is the body’s largest organ; an average person’s skin weighs 4kgs (9lbs) and covers an area of 2 square metres (22 sq feet). These figures are not so surprising when we enumerate the skin’s many functions. Some are fairly obvious: protection against chemicals, radiation, microbes etc; preserving a balanced internal environment by keeping us warm, preventing us from drying out; and the sensation of touch in all its variety. But the skin has less obvious functions: subcutaneous fat is a major reserve of energy, vitamin D is synthesised in the skin when exposed to ultra-violet light. The skin also has important social and sexual functions: it secretes pheromones which play an important role in sexual attraction, while the hair and lips play a more conscious social and sexual role.

    The skin has two main parts: the superficial epidermis whose thickness ranges from 0.1mm on the eyelids to 1mm on the soles of the feet. The epidermis contains no blood vessels, its most superficial layer is the dead, dry horny layer which is constantly shed, contributing to the dust in our homes. The dermis lies beneath the epidermis supporting and nourishing it and providing immunity and other functions.

    What’s more, skin problems are common: surveys suggest that 20-30 per cent of us have a skin problem which deserves medical attention, but that most of us do not see doctors about them, preferring to treat them ourselves. Skin problems are among the commonest reasons for which people, especially children, seek homeopathic treatment. Of course, as always with homeopathy, it is important to be sure that homeopathic treatment is appropriate – it is for many forms of skin disease, but there are important exceptions. The most conspicuous is malignant melanoma. This is an aggressive form of skin cancer whose incidence is increasing (although fortunately it remains rare) because of greater sun exposure and thinning of the ozone layer. The warning signs are a “mole”, which grows, bleeds or is irregular in shape or colour. It is better to be safe than sorry, and have any such skin lesion removed surgically.

    Eczema
    Also known as dermatitis, eczema is among the commonest forms of skin disease, and it often responds well to homeopathic treatment. It affects up to 20 per cent of schoolchildren and seven to eight percent of adults. Children tend to grow out of it and the majority improve greatly by their mid-teens. It is an inflammatory condition in which patches of skin become red, inflamed and itchy. The affected areas may also be covered in small, fluid-filled blisters. There are a number of different forms of eczema.

    The commonest form is atopic eczema, an inborn condition which usually starts before the age of two, and may continue to flare up throughout adolescence and adulthood. “Atopy” means an inherited tendency to allergies, including eczema, asthma and hay fever. It runs in families and is getting commoner for reasons that are not entirely clear. A currently popular theory, known as the “hygiene hypothesis” suggests the reason is basically that kids today are too clean (try telling that to the mother of an average eight year-old boy!). It is based on the observation that children who grow up on farms and the younger children of large families are less likely to be atopic. The theory is that such children are more likely to be exposed to certain kinds of bacteria and that this stimulates their immune systems to mature. But not all the scientific evidence agrees on this and the jury is still out.

    Contact dermatitis is caused by contact with a substance to which an individual is sensitive, such as nickel, rubber or various plants. It can occur at any age. Nickel is one of the commonest skin sensitisers – it can usually be spotted by the areas it affects: earrings and jean buttons often contain nickel.

    Seborrhoeic dermatitis occurs in adult and infantile forms. In babies it is often known as cradle cap because it affects the scalp, although it may also affect the nappy area. The adult form usually affects the face and scalp.

    Finally varicose eczema occurs mostly in older people, as the name suggests it is often linked to varicose veins: the blood stagnates in the lower legs resulting in a poor supply of oxygen and nutrients. The skin becomes dark, itchy and inflamed. If left untreated the skin may break down, forming an ulcer.

    Psoriasis
    This too comes in several varieties, but all involve reddened areas of skin covered in large, adherent silvery scales. The basic problem is excessively rapid division of the horny cells of the epidermis, probably provoked by inflammation whose cause is currently unknown. Psoriasis tends to run in families; it most commonly comes on in late teenage or early adult life. It can be triggered by some medicines, including antidepressant, antihypertensive and antimalarial drugs, and infections with streptococcus bacteria.

    The main types of psoriasis are:

    • Plaque psoriasis: the patches appear typically on the knees, elbows, lower back and scalp. Unlike eczema, the patches often appear on the extensor (outer) sides of knees and elbows. The nails may develop small pits, or more serious deformity.
    • Guttate psoriasis, where the patches are scattered, small and roundish, may follow a streptococcal infection, typically a severe sore throat.
    • Pustular psoriasis, a severe but rare type affecting mostly the palms and soles.

    Homeopathic treatment
    From the point of view of prescribing homeopathic treatment, eczema and psoriasis can be considered together. They nicely illustrate some of the principles of homeopathy: one of three homeopathic medicines will help in many cases, but the treatment must be individualised if it is to succeed. The three medicines are: Arsenicum album, Graphites and Sulphur. Homeopathy is holistic: to treat a skin problem, one has to look at the whole person, not just at their skin.

    Traditionally we homeopaths classify the “whole” in three parts: the “locals” (in the case of a skin problem this means the characteristics of the skin problem), “mentals” (including the personality and psychological features of the person) and the “generals” (physical features of the person as a whole). In terms of skin symptoms Arsenicum album and Sulphur are quite similar: intensely itchy rashes which burn after scratching. Rashes likely to respond to Arsenicum tend to be in small, roundish patches and flakey, while those which respond to Sulphur typically occur in large, red areas, but these distinctions are often not clear-cut and it is often difficult to be sure which medicine is indicated on the basis of the “locals” alone.

    However, there are marked differences in the types of people who respond to these medicines: the typical Arsenicum patient is tidy, fastidious, rather anxious (mentals) and feels the cold excessively (generals). Sulphur patients are the very opposite: often untidy, they tend to be extroverts who relish a good argument (mentals). They are often warm-blooded (feel the heat) and particularly have hot feet (generals). But having said that, one has to be flexible.

    Graphites cases can often be recognised by the character of the rash alone: it tends to crack, and ooze clear or yellowish, sticky liquid when scratched. The rash often affects particular areas such as behind the ears or nipples, in women the eczema may get worse around the monthly period; while the mentals and generals may not be particularly marked.

    There are a number of other important medicines for psoriasis and eczema: the deep acting “constitutional” (whole person) medicines include – apart from Arsenicum album, Graphites and Sulphur – Arsenicum iodatum, Lycopodium and Sepia. The two Arsenicums are typically used for guttate psoriasis: the plaques tend to be small, rounded and flakey. Arsenicum album may also be very helpful in pustular psoriasis. Arsenicum iodatum has less of the constitutional features of Arsenicum album and even may be positively hot-blooded, but these patients frequently also have severe hayfever and other allergies, affecting the eyes particularly.

    In contrast to Graphites, local characteristics of skin problems which respond to Lycopodium and Sepia are not very specific and these medicines are prescribed mostly on the basis of the mental and general features. The type of person who typically responds to Lycopodium clavatum is reserved or shy, and there may be underlying anxiety or depression. They frequently have stomach problems. Odd but characteristic features include a sweet tooth and a bad period in late afternoon, feeling better later. It can be useful for a range of skin problems including psoriasis and acne.

    Sepia officinalis is most often indicated for women. Typically the patient is emotionally flat, fed-up and snappy with her family and partner. She resents others prying (as she sees it) into her problems and may hide her feelings. Often, as with Graphites, the problem seems to have come on following some event of a woman’s reproductive cycle, such as the start of a girl’s periods, childbirth and menopause. There is usually loss of sex-drive. An odd feature is the temporary improvement from exercise (dancing, working out). Again it may be useful for many skin problems including psoriasis and eczema.

    However constitutional homeopathy is not the only kind of homeopathy and unless one of the “pictures” described above really seems to fit, is perhaps best left to a practitioner. There are a number of “small” homeopathic medicines which work well prescribed on characteristic symptoms, sometimes called “keynotes”. These include Petroleum (made from crude oil). The keynote for this medicine is the marked deterioration in winter. It is very useful for children who get thick cracked skin of the knuckles in winter. Many patients helped by this medicine have told me that, although they have been prescribed steroid creams, they find Vaseline just as effective and use it rather than steroids. Vaseline is, of course, made from Petroleum! A favourite medicine of mine for gardeners’ contact dermatitis is Rhus venenata. Typically these are keen gardeners who get a very itchy, blistery rash, presumably from contact with a plant, although it is usually difficult to work out which one. The keynote here is that the only thing that relieves the itching is bathing the hands in very hot water.

    Acne
    Most teenagers have some acne and it can cause great emotional distress at an age when many are very self-conscious; it is much less common in other age groups. Linked to androgens, male sex hormones, that are present in both boys and girls, acne vulgaris, as this type is known, affects particularly the face but may also appear on other areas, especially the upper back, chest, shoulders and neck. It is caused by the overproduction of a natural grease called sebum, which is secreted by glands in the skin. Sebum normally drains into the hair follicles and flows out through the follicle openings on the skin surface, lubricating the skin and keeping it supple. But in acne, excess sebum blocks the follicles by hardening into plugs. Bacteria multiply in the blocked follicles, causing the surrounding tissue to become inflamed.

    Less common forms of acne include occupational acne, which may result from exposure to certain industrial oils; and drug-induced acne, often caused by steroids. Rosacea is a related condition occurring most often in middle aged women. The main problem is dilatation and instability of the blood vessels. It does not usually cause black- or white-heads.

    Homeopathic treatment
    Two of the most commonly indicated homeopathic medicines are Sulphur and Silica. And again it is illuminating to compare and contrast the local, mental and general features. We looked at the Sulphur type before. The main local feature of acne which responds to Silica is that the pustules never seem to discharge: they sit under the skin for weeks without bursting, often forming cysts. The Silica constitutional type is very different from the Sulphur, like the Arsenicum type they are usually chilly and feel cold even in a warm room. They tend to be pale and thin, with fine hair and weak, ridged nails. They will often mention that their hair has changed, becoming finer and falling out since they have been ill. Their hands and feet are cold yet clammy. Mentally they complain of feeling tired and washed out and yet are stubborn and “niggly” even sometimes obsessional.

    Pulsatilla is another medicine which may be very helpful in acne, particularly (but by no means exclusively) in girls when crops of spots develop in the premenstrual period. It is prescribed mostly on constitutional grounds – the characteristics of the person rather than the name of the disease. Typically Pulsatilla types are mild tempered or sweet-natured, and indecisive. They are often weepy, crying when they talk about their problems, but quickly cheered up by a few reassuring words (unlike Sepia patients who may also be weepy when talking about their problems, but they resent probing and discussion – the best thing is to move on to another topic). Strangely, although the Pulsatilla type easily feels cold, she likes fresh air (provided she is well wrapped up) and hates stuffy atmospheres.

    Other medicines which may help in acne include Kalium bromatum; with this medicine the sufferer complains of poor sleep, often disturbed by bad dreams. They may be mentally slow, have difficulties with memory and thinking and be fidgety. Calcarea sulphurica has large yellow pustules which are slow to heal, as with Sulphur they may be itchy. Acne spots which respond to Hepar sulph are very sensitive to touch or painful as they erupt.

    Lachesis is the most commonly indicated homeopathic medicine for rosacea. Typically the rash is dusky red and worse in hot atmospheres. The onset may be associated with the menopause, but if before the menopause, it usually gets worse before the period and eases quite abruptly when the bleeding actually starts. The typical Lachesis patient is talkative and may be suspicious or jealous. An odd symptom is that they hate tight clothes, especially round their necks – polo necks, scarves etc.

    As usual with homeopathy, individualisation of treatment needs a skilled practitioner. However, I am against being too precious about this: the use of a homeopathic complex consisting of several of the homeopathic medicines most likely to be indicated is often helpful and very unlikely to do any harm. The most commonly used “complex” for acne, well worth a try if a good homeopath is not available, is Sulphur, Silica and Carbo vegetabilis, combined in a single pill often known as SSC.

    Dose
    As a general rule, all these medicines should be started in a dose of two pills of the 6c dilution, twice daily. “Aggravations” – a temporary flare-up of the problem at the beginning of treatment – are quite common with homeopathic treatment of skin problems. They are generally considered a good sign, indicating the treatment is provoking a reaction. If you get an aggravation you should stop treatment until it has completely settled down, don’t be in a rush to restart. You may get another aggravation on restarting, but normally it will be less severe and will die out altogether after three or four stop-start cycles. In terms of creams and other topical applications, Calendula (marigold) cream is often used by homeopaths for eczema, it has a gentle soothing action. It is often helpful in “weaning off” steroid creams, gradually substituting Calendula for them.

    Peter Fisher MA MB BChir FRCP FFHom is the Clinical Director, Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, editor of Homeopathy and is Homeopathic Physician to Her Majesty The Queen.

    Homeopathy for school children

    by Bob Leckridge

    The previous article in this series considered the issues and problems of toddlers. Let’s now consider the next stage of life, which is marked by a very significant moment: the first day of school. This is such a big event for children and for their parents that it tends to be remembered for a long time. One common experience of this day is the sight of many small children running smiling, laughing and shouting into the playground, whilst a line of mums and dads stands at the school fence, wiping away tears. In such a situation, the children don’t need any homeopathic help, but the parents might need something to help them overcome their separation anxiety!

    This scene highlights two important factors to be considered before treating any child with homeopathy. One of these factors is the observation that children are often more resilient than their parents. It’s a fact of life that the illnesses which children experience seem to both appear and disappear more quickly than the illnesses which adults experience. If a key asset in health is the ability to adapt, by which I mean the ability to cope with change, then children usually demonstrate a better underlying state of health than adults do. This is not just a quality that determines the speed of onset of illnesses, and the speed of recovery, but it is a quality that marks children out as different from adults.

    If we are to understand another person, then we have to put ourselves in their shoes. As adults, we often forget that. We tend to consider our children as little adults. They are not. They are different. This leads me to the second factor to consider, which is that children live within a social environment. That social environment is the family and home, but once they start to attend school, the environment expands to include their peers and teachers. This is a crucial difference at this stage in life. For the first time, the child is having to live within, and to cope with, two social environments, which only slightly overlap – the environment of the family and that of school. When we try to understand a child’s experience, then we have to consider both the family milieu and the school one.

    Frequently, a child might behave quite differently in the two environments. This can lead us to the possible homeopathic remedies for them. A key characteristic of the child who may need Lycopodium, for example, is that they are very well behaved at school and very badly behaved at home. This comes about because children who need Lycopodium are in awe of those who are in authority and do their best to please them, but when they are around others whose authority they do not accept, they can become quite difficult, bossy, or even dictatorial. Remember the old saying that “familiarity breeds contempt”?We can see this occur in children who don’t accept the authority of their parents but do accept that of the teachers.

    Anxiety and fears
    Lycopodium is also one of the remedies that are useful for the anxiety felt in anticipating something. Anticipatory anxiety is a common problem experienced by school children. The child who needs Lycopodium experiences their anticipatory anxiety in their stomachs with, not only tummy pains, but with a lot of wind and bloating. The key feature, however, is the contrast between their behaviour at home and that at school.

    Another very common issue for school children, which is likely to indicate a particular remedy, is the fear of failure. There are some children, often rather delicate-looking children, who are quite timid and hardworking, who have a huge fear of failure. These children have anticipatory fears around examinations and tests. They are children who are usually performing well at school but under the pressure of being tested can become either become very anxious and fearful, or can suffer from repeated minor infections with catarrh and swollen lymph glands because their immune defences are lowered by the effects of anxiety. These children, who need Silica, are typically rather slim, chilly children who perspire easily, and, in particular, can have very smelly, sweaty feet.

    Another school stress, which can produce anticipatory fears, is that of some performance, like the school play. The children who take part in these plays are often pretty outgoing, positive children, but, when it comes to the day of the performance they can develop one of two common patterns of anticipatory anxiety. The first is the upset tummy, with loud rumblings and diarrhoea. These children will often need several visits to the toilet on the day of the school play. They will be very tremulous and often they will develop a craving for sweet things and sugar (although that might be a difficult symptom to spot in most children!). Argentum nitricum is the best remedy for them.

    The other common pattern is of stage fright. This happens when the child is well rehearsed and ready to perform, but then, at the last minute, they are paralysed by fear and can either not physically climb up onto the stage, or stand there, rigid, unable to speak. If they can be coaxed over this, they will perform beautifully. A useful homeopathic remedy in this situation is Gelsemium.

    Refusal to go to school
    There are some children who become so averse to school that they just refuse to go. This can only be helped if you can manage to understand what the underlying issues are. The chances are it is not the school as such which is the problem. Rather it will be some issue related to the social environment of the school.

    One of the reasons for school refusal is anticipatory anxiety. As you will have seen from the descriptions of the remedies Lycopodium, Silica, Argentum nitricum and Gelsemium above, the physical symptoms may actually give you a clue about the nature of the psychological issue underlying the child’s distress. However, this approach also demonstrates the importance of taking the time to understand what the child may be anxious about.

    There are other major reasons for school refusal. One of these is bullying. Children can find it very difficult to talk about their experience of being bullied and the problem might only manifest itself through illness. Staphysagria is a very commonly indicated remedy for a child who is being bullied. The key features which should lead you to think about it are noticing that the child bottles up his or her anger which can then explode briefly from time to time. In between the explosions of anger they can appear to be very sweet, happy children. Indignation is the other key feature of the state which indicates the need for Staphysagria. The child will use the phrase “It’s not fair!” or “I don’t deserve this!”

    One not so common problem I’ve seen appear in this situation is alopecia areata, which is a condition of the scalp where the hair falls out in patches. This can be a very distressing problem but it usually rectifies itself over a number of weeks or months. It’s thought to be caused by stress sometimes and I’ve certainly seen children with this complaint who then revealed that they were being bullied and whose hair re­grew quickly and completely after a dose of Staphysagria. While we are touching on the subject of the hair, another use for Staphysagria is in the treatment of head lice.

    Head lice can be a very stubborn problem in school children so it can be worthwhile trying a dose of Staphysagria orally to see if the body can throw off this little pest (a single dose of 30c should be sufficient).

    The bullying or aggressive child
    Of course, the child who is doing the bullying should be considered too. We all think “my child would never do that!” but what can we do when it turns out that our child is the one doing the bullying? Bullying, like all behaviours, needs to be understood if it’s going to be modified. Mostly, bullying is about power, or the need for attention, rather than being about wickedness. I mentioned Lycopodium earlier on, and you can see from that description how easily this situation can develop into bullying. In other words, it may not be that the child is “bad at home and good at school”; it may be, rather, that they are pushing their weight around with younger and weaker children. The child who needs Lycopodium often has a big issue with feeling they have their appropriate place in the power hierarchy and they might even have been bullied earlier in the school, but now that there are smaller and weaker children around, the older Lycopodium child starts to act like a little dictator.

    Another remedy that is frequently indicated for children who are bullies is Tuberculinum bovinum. The Tuberculinum child is usually restless and always on the go. In fact, it is a common remedy for children who have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Along with this they have very strong wills and can be very stubborn. They are actually quite afraid of many things, particularly dogs, darkness and thunderstorms, but there is often a nasty, destructive streak, which shows itself in quite malicious destructiveness.

    A third possible remedy for a child who is bullying is Apis mellifica. These children are industrious, busy children at school who have quite a different energy from their classmates. They like to organise everyone and can be very bossy. Think of the queen bee. This is how they are. They can also be very jealous children. This might be when the bossiness turns to bullying. Just as the queen bee will admit no rivals into the hive, so will the child who needs Apis be competitive and engaged in power struggles for dominance in the classroom.

    I always find it helpful to ask a child’s parents to describe what they notice about their offspring when they are playing with other children. The child who needs Apis will be the boss, the organiser. They are not followers! These children can be particularly engaging and their personal self-esteem is usually pretty high. They can be quite precocious and will communicate with adults in surprisingly adult ways. The kinds of illnesses these children experience are consistent with what you might expect from a bee sting. They tend to get allergic conditions, like eczema and urticaria (heat spots or “nettle rash”), or hot, red swellings from infections.

    So, both Tuberculinum bovinum and Apis may be useful remedies for the hyperactive children who are very restless and unsettled. Other remedies to consider in hyperactivity are Sulphur and Tarentula hispania. Sulphur is a good example of the inquisitive, disorganised type. These children can appear to have quite a short attention span due to their insatiable curiosity. They are fascinated by everything and typically move quickly from one interest to another. This leads to them being very restless and messy. Like many typical boys they are so fascinated with the world that they neglect things like cleanliness and personal hygiene. They are the “champion dirt collectors”. In fact, collecting is what they like to best. They are great collectors of many things – not just dirt! They might collect comic books, trading cards, toy cars, stamps, the list is endless. These collections absorb them because they are enthralled by everything in their world. Their curiosity knows no bounds. This can lead to them being very restless and unsettled and having difficulty in seeing things through to conclusions – on their way to one goal they are distracted off down some other path! As you might guess by now, such active types have faster metabolisms and this makes them likely to be hot children who really don’t feel the cold as much as others do.

    Spider remedies
    Similar to Apis in terms of industriousness, but different in most other aspects, are the spider remedies. The best known of these is Tarentula hispania. The child who might need this remedy tends to be restless and a bit on the thin side. They are very busy. They like to pay attention to details and often excel at mathematics. This is another good question which I usually ask. “What is your favourite subject at school?” The child who needs Tarentula usually says “maths”. They also like working with their hands and will be good at needlework, knitting, construction games and so on.

    They are more irritable than the other children we’ve considered so far, though, and when they don’t get things their way, they can become quite violent, lashing out by kicking or biting. However they respond beautifully to music. Not any kind of music, but music with a strong rhythm. When music with a beat starts to play, they will want to be out of their seats and dancing. They also like an audience, and, unlike the children with the anticipatory fears, they will take every opportunity to get up on the school stage and perform. More than one little girl I’ve treated with Tarentula, has had medals for winning disco dancing championships!

    In homeopathy we use many other spider remedies and one other common one is Theridion. This is a remedy which is particularly useful for travel sickness as these children are very sensitive to movement and vibrations. However, there is an interesting symptom which they often have which is about a particular food preference. I remember once asking a little five year-old boy if he had any favourite foods. He replied, “Bananas! Bananas, bananas, bananas! I’d eat ALL the bananas in the world!” Well, it wasn’t hard to spot his food preference! The children who respond well to Theridion often have such a strong craving for bananas.

    Specific conditions
    There are many diseases which might appear in childhood, but most children are fundamentally healthy. Maybe the commonest problem is recurrent infections such as ear infections (see the last issue of Health & Homeopathy), coughs, colds and tummy upsets. Homeopathic medicines can be very useful in treating these minor, self-limiting diseases and you can ask your pharmacist for advice in these situations.

    One of the commonest chronic problems, which we see in children referred to the homeopathic hospitals, is eczema. The possible homeopathic treatments for eczema include all the remedies discussed in this article so far and many others which might be indicated by a particular child’s pattern. This is a difficult condition to treat without professional help so I’d always recommend that you see a homeopathic doctor if your child has troublesome eczema.

    Asthma is probably the second most common problem amongst children attending the homeopathic hospitals and it is often a related condition to eczema. It requires specialist treatment even more than eczema does.

    If you are going to use any of the medicines mentioned, unless a specific dose is recommended by your homeopathic doctor, use a 30c strength and repeat the doses as often as is necessary.

    School children can take homeopathic medicines in the same way as adults do (see page 34). The rule in homeopathy is to take a dose, experience the improvement, then if the improvement starts to decline, repeat the remedy. If a dose does not produce any improvement, then there is no point in repeating that particular remedy.

    Bob Leckridge MBChB FFHom graduated from Edinburgh University in 1978 and worked as a GP until 1995 since when he has worked full-time as a Specialist in Homeopathic Medicine at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital. He teaches homeopathy internationally and is the author of Homeopathy in Primary Care. He became President of the Faculty of Homeopathy in 1998.

    Eczema in children

    Sara Eames describes how she treats this relatively common problem

    In the children’s clinic at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital, eczema is one of the most frequent reasons for referral. It varies in severity from a few small patches to a severe skin condition which can cover most of the body.

    It appears to be an increasingly common condition and the allopathic treatments available are palliative rather than curative, and may be associated with long-term side effects. Severe eczema in a child can have a massive effect on the whole family. Complicated creaming and bandaging regimes are very time-consuming and children are often irritable and eat poorly as they feel so uncomfortable. Severe itching can interrupt sleep for everybody and children can feel stigmatised at school if their rash is visible. For all these reasons people often seek homeopathic help for their children.

    History taking is a vital part of the art of homeopathy and, as there are many possible causative factors in a case of eczema, which can effect the choice of a homeopathic remedy, it is essential to collect as much information as possible.

    Eczema is often linked with other allergic conditions so I like to find out as much as possible about any other medical problems in the child or his family and I also go into as much detail as possible about the pregnancy, birth and early life of the child.

    The choice of homeopathic treatment is a wide one as there are many remedies, which affect the skin, and a variety of treatment models which can be used. One of the most successful ways is to prescribe the constitutional remedy for the child, that is the remedy that fits the overall person, not just the local skin symptoms. Examples of remedies commonly used in this way include many well known homeopathic treatments such as Sulphur, Calc carb and Arsenicum album.

    There is often a strong family history of allergic conditions, or other diseases in a case of eczema. When Hahnemann was developing his principles of homeopathy he noted the strong predisposition to various disease types in different families and postulated an inherited explanation for this in his theory of miasms. This approach is still extremely relevant today and in the treatment of eczema it is often essential to consider this miasmatic approach and prescribe a relevant nosode. I find it very useful either when there is a clear family history of certain diseases or when a constitutional remedy seems to suit a child very well but does not produce a complete cure.

    There are many other treatment models which are useful for eczema. I find very commonly that parents have often already made some link between an event in their child’s life and the onset or worsening of their eczema. These can be a variety of things such as separation from a parent or carer, the birth of a new baby in the family, the introduction of new foods into the diet, a seemingly unrelated illness or vaccinations. The beauty of homeopathy is that there are remedies which are known to be useful in these situations and I find that when there is a clear aetiological link with the symptoms, homeopathic treatment is particularly successful.

    Thus Nat mur can be useful after a child has been separated from his mother, or a remedy made from the chickenpox virus can help if a child has never been well since having had that illness. If a baby’s eczema has worsened soon after a specific vaccination then he can be treated with a general remedy to help after vaccinations, such as Thuja, or with a specific remedy made from the vaccination itself.

    Local treatments
    As well as using a mixture of these overall approaches, eczema can be such a distressing condition that it can be really helpful to use local treatments as well. These can be in the form of homeopathic remedies based on the local symptoms. Examples of these would be Sulphur for a red, burning, itchy rash, worse for heat and water or Graphites for a crusty, cracking eczema which oozes sticky, honey coloured fluid. Local treatments can also be applied topically in the form of creams, ointments and tinctures. I find Calendula and Urtica urens a particularly helpful mixture.

    Lifestyle changes
    In combination with a homeopathic approach it is nearly always necessary to give nutritional and lifestyle advice. All children will benefit from a healthy diet based on fresh, additive-free foods. In addition, some children have severe allergic reactions to specific foods which need to be avoided in the short term and which can often be reduced by a combination of overall homeopathic treatment, improved nutrition and desensitisation, in the longer term.

    Case histories
    Two children whom I have recently seen at the RLHH illustrate the combination of various homeopathic strategies in the treatment of eczema.

    Steven age three was covered in eczema when I first met him. He had a very dry scaly skin, which bled profusely when he scratched it. He slept poorly at night due to the itching and always wanted to be in his parents’ bed, so none of the family was getting proper sleep. He had been treated extensively by his GP and local hospitals, mainly with steroid creams and repeated courses of antibiotics when the skin looked infected. He also had a tendency to get recurrent coughs and colds. In spite of all this he was an extremely lively, sociable boy who was popular at nursery, sensitive to others’ feelings and loved to be the centre of attention.

    He seemed a fairly typical Phosphorus child and a course of Phosphorus improved both his skin and his tendency to catch colds by about 50 per cent. When the dose was repeated and the strength increased, however, there was not much further improvement. His mother was applying Graphites ointment locally and was able to give up the steroid creams completely, but I still felt we could improve things further.

    He had a history of one grandparent having suffered from TB and his mother remembered that his cradle cap had worsened as a baby after his BCG vaccination. On the basis of this I prescribed Bacillinum, a mixed tubercular nosode, and the improvement continued. His skin is now virtually free of eczema and his resistance to colds much better.

    Jana, a six year-old twin girl, was behaving badly at home as well as suffering from eczema. She had skin problems virtually all her life and was in hospital at the age of one for this. All of the family had been traumatised by this event as Jana was petrified by the whole experience. The parents could still remember and visualise the fear on her face and vowed never to let her go into hospital again. Since that time her skin and behaviour had deteriorated. At home she was dictatorial, always wanted her own way and fought constantly with her twin, while at school she was well behaved even though her skin was itching a lot in the warm classroom.

    Based on her overall behaviour, the skin symptoms and the fact that she had been worse since a severe fright I prescribed her Lycopodium, which has been a tremendous help both to her and her family! Her behaviour at home started to improve within a few days of the first dose and her skin is now gradually improving too. She has also been able to stop her steroid creams and now uses Calendula and Urtica cream which suits her well.

    Eczema may at first glance seem a superficial condition but as can be seen it is often connected with a more complicated history. In my experience parents can be very good at deciding when to repeat a dose of a remedy or in the selection of a local remedy, but I would always advise a full homeopathic consultation with a well qualified practitioner to help with the treatment for the eczema.

    Sara Eames BSc ChB DGM MFHom is the Director of Education and a physician in the women’s and children’s department of the RLHH.  She also has a private practice in north west London.

    Coughs and sneezes spread diseases

    but homeopathy can alleviate the symptoms, writes Jenifer Worden

    I would like to consider several homeopathic remedies and how they can combat winter colds and ills. However, before I do, I would like to state that, as a doctor, I support vaccination for influenza for the vulnerable and senior citizens.

    In my experience, working as a GP in a practice with one of the highest populations of patients aged over 65 years in the UK, our annual flu vaccination campaign has meant that I inevitably see far fewer cases of influenza than I did when I was doing my medical training in Manchester where older patients were less numerous. There will always be individuals who have a naturally strong constitution and who have no need for vaccination against flu, but being vaccinated does not prevent homeopathy helping alongside to ward off those winter ailments.

    Whilst the object of this article is to discuss homeopathic remedies for colds and flu and general winter ailments, we should consider why we catch these in the first place. Obviously, there are many opportunistic viruses that are contracted when we are suffering from something else. As a doctor, I see this frequently and the reason we catch these secondary infections is because our immune system has been weakened in combating the first and in this weakened state is not able to resist the onset of the second.

    Low immunity and lifestyle
    What causes the lowering of our immune system? The short answer is many things! Stress and tiredness not only caused by physical exertion but also by simple lack of sleep and general worries of a material or personal nature. So, what can we do to improve our chances of not catching these viruses in the first place? Well, by improving personal hygiene which I have covered at the end of this article, and by boosting our immune system. Twenty years as a GP have shown me that glib statements to patients on lifestyle changes do not necessarily produce results. If you are in debt or have personal relationship difficulties, it is impractical for a doctor, and indeed probably impossible, to try to correct these but the inescapable fact is that stress weakens your immunity and can reduce your ability to fight off winter illnesses. Therefore we should look at those factors which can be changed, or things we can take to help raise our resistance.

    Most practitioners today believe that a lifestyle which includes a balanced diet of fresh fruit, vegetables and salads combined with regular physical exercise is better than a diet high in fat and a sedentary lifestyle. Smoking and alcohol in excess not only reduce the ability of your immune system to fight off infection but is foolhardy in the extreme. However, even with the best diet and a relatively stress-free life, we will, all of us, inevitably catch a cold or influenza.

    So, how can homeopathy help in this instance? I have chosen four remedies that I regularly prescribe for winter ailments.

    Aconite
    One of the remedies most frequently used in winter is Aconite and it is usually recommended when symptoms of a cold come on suddenly, typically after exposure to a dry chilly wind. There may be a severe headache, which is often described in the terms of fullness, or heaviness and may be centred on the left temple and is usually throbbing in nature. The face is typically flushed, hot and red with dry, sore and bloodshot eyes. The throat is normally red and dry with a sensation as if something were “stuck in the throat”. From this, it may be understood that these symptoms of heat and dryness, affecting the left side of the body, with an acute sensitivity to cold winds or draughts are those which may be successfully treated with Aconite.

    This remedy may also be used to treat a painful, dry, hacking cough which manifests itself with a feeling of tension and pressure in the left side of the chest. Here a word of caution however: symptoms that persist for more than two to three weeks, or increase in severity, despite the administration of a homeopathic remedy, must be investigated as a matter of urgency by a healthcare professional.
    Nevertheless, homeopathy may be used alongside all conventional medication, will not interfere with antibiotics nor will antibiotics stop homeopathic remedies from being effective.

    Gelsemium
    A remedy that is recognised and accepted for use in colds and similar ailments is Gelsemium, which is made from yellow jasmine. The symptoms for which this remedy is ideally suited are feelings of weakness and a trembling sensation in the legs and an all over tiredness. Also, it is very beneficial for people who feel apathetic, lethargic and who want nothing more than just to lie quietly, undisturbed. The tiredness that lingers after influenza, or a similar viral infection, responds well to Gelsemium. Many sufferers of these types of illnesses describe a headache as if a very tight elastic band has been put around their heads and again this common, but distressing symptom, may be helped by this remedy. Whilst Aconite suits patients who feel hot and burning, other patients who experience shivers and chills, accompanied by deprivation of sleep caused by the mind being unable to relax will do well with Gelsemium.

    Allium cepa
    This is a homeopathic remedy that has proved itself in the treatment of a simple cold which presents with a nose that issore and constantly drips and with eyes that water. As this remedy is based on red onion, it should be no surprise that the symptoms which are induced by exposure to it are those which the remedy can help to alleviate. The top lip of the mouth can become red and sore, and sneezing is a major problem. A further symptom is an annoying tickle in the throat which is usually very sore and accompanied by a hoarseness of the voice. For these symptoms and a hacking, tickling cough, Allium cepa will probably suit.

    Euphrasia
    By now, almost everyone will be aware from experience that with almost two hundred recognised rhinoviruses, the symptoms, although generally similar, have subtle variations; a running nose may be the predominant feature of one, whereas a blocked nose may be the symptom of another. One virus may produce a sore throat and another a mild but burning earache and it is because of these subtle variations that the homeopathic remedies that are recommended also work in slightly different ways. An example of this is Euphrasia, eyebright, which in many ways works like Allium cepa, with the difference that this is suggested for an infection that inflames and reddens the eyes, accompanied by catarrh. Other annoying and distressing symptoms which are associated with flu and cold-like viral illnesses are painful joints and aching muscles which can be debilitating. Whilst the remedies discussed so far will all help in some way to alleviate these, when they are severe, Eupatorium perfoliatum is recommended.

    Hygiene
    Now at the risk of stating the obvious, I would like to conclude by making a few remarks on personal hygiene. To the best of our knowledge, viruses are spread by airborne contamination and touch. Nevertheless, whatever the route, simple precautions can help to protect against these irritating and sometimes unpleasant conditions.

    Well, what do I mean by hygiene? I mean that to protect yourself from viruses that are spread by touch, avoid direct physical contact such as kissing and shaking hands. However, if for any reason, contact is unavoidable, make sure you wash your hands as soon as possible and resist touching your nose and face.

    Avoiding air-borne viruses is much more difficult because of the close proximity of people to each other, particularly in the modern world. It is hardly practicable to walk around wearing a surgical face mask so therefore we must ask ourselves how the sufferer can help prevent the further spread of such a virus. One simple way is to ensure that rather than sneezing into the environment, whenever possible, you sneeze into a handkerchief or disposable tissue.

    You may well think these precautions are obvious. Yes of course, they are but it is amazing just how many people forget these simple steps when trying to avoid catching a virus or indeed to prevent it spreading it further.

    However, all of us catch colds and flu, more so when modern life crowds people together on trains, buses, planes and in offices where the air conditioning system merely circulates the viruses. We cannot avoid them and whilst uncomfortable, annoying and sometimes distressing, they should not, with care, develop into anything more sinister. Homeopathic remedies can and do help to alleviate some of the more irritating and annoying side-effects of these viruses and help a patient to feel more comfortable and, in their own way, help to return the sufferer to full health.

    Jenifer Worden MBChB MRCGP MFHom is a part-time NHS GP in Ringwood, Hampshire and has a private homeopathic practice in Highcliffe, Dorset. She treats patients with a wide range of conditions and across the complete age range.

    Homeopathic treatment of children

    Many of us first experience the potential of homeopathy when treating ourselves or our families. We usually start with some simple remedies for minor problems such as bruises. However, as Bob Leckridge points out, the potential for homeopathy is much greater and it is a useful treatment for many of the more chronic and more serious problems that occur in childhood . . .

    The problems I see frequently in the outpatients’ department of the homeopathic hospital where I work include asthma, eczema, behavioural and sleep problems (including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Aspergers and Autism), epilepsy and bowel problems such as chronic constipation. Homeopathy can often provide answers to these problems where other approaches have failed. It is in the treatment of chronic children’s diseases that I have experienced a greater potential for homeopathy. It can be used where there are no other even partial solutions available. It can also be used successfully in partnership with the necessary drugs such as inhalers, steroid creams or anti-convulsants and can lead to significant reductions in the need for these types of drugs.

    In practising medicine with children, improvements in their symptoms can have consequences which go way beyond the relief of the suffering of the individual child . The impact of a child’s daily sickness or disorder on a whole family and even on a whole class of schoolmates can be enormous. If a sleepless child begins to sleep through the night, the parents can be better rested and better able to deal with the day’s problems. If a disturbed child settles and becomes calm then the learning experience of the whole class can be improved.

    I once saw a three-year-old girl who was referred to me because of frequent infections. In fact she had already had two admissions to hospital for treatment of pneumonia. I always greet children with a smile but this little girl who looked very sulky only scowled back at me. I commented to mum, saying “She’s not very happy, is she?”

    Mum replied that she had actually never smiled. Never in her life. Not once. She also said that she was very clingy to mum but would never let dad hold her or cuddle her. Even as a little infant she would cry if dad held her. Dad was upset but couldn’t do anything about it. Mum also told me that her daughter was very lazy about walking. She would cry to be lifted up and carried after just a few steps. If left sitting in a room she would be in exactly the same position when mum returned, waiting to be picked up.

    These observations and comments led me to consider the teaching of Jan Scholten of Holland whose approach to the mineral remedies has been invaluable in my practice. People who walk about permanently dissatisfied, are never happy, who walk around as if they have a bad smell under their nose, may need one of the ammonium salts. Children who have difficulties with their fathers, who are a bit slow or lazy and “just sit” may require one of the carbonate salts. Putting all this information together raises the idea of the remedy “ammonium carbonicum”. I gave this girl a 30c of ammonium carbonicum.

    When she was brought back to see me two months later she came skipping into my room with a beautiful smile. Apparently she had been smiling since the day after the remedy and, what’s more, she lets dad pick her up now and even goes to him for a cuddle. Happily, the presenting problem of recurrent infections was also resolved and she managed to get through the winter without any chest infections for the first time in her life.

    Finding the best homeopathic medicine for any individual is a matter of seeing the clear distinguishing pattern in the individual. In adults this is often complex and difficult because they have learned to hide symptoms. In children, as in the case of the little girl who never smiled, the picture is often right in front of the doctor as the child demonstrates their pattern with vivid behaviour or speech.

    Let me give you another example of this. At the Sick Children’s Hospital in Glasgow I saw a little girl who was born with a brain defect. She had frequent full-blown fits, did not sleep through the night and her behaviour was extremely difficult. When her mother brought her into the consulting room she was already screaming and objecting violently. In the first few minutes she thrashed around on the floor shrieking, kicking and trying to bite anyone who came near. As I watched, and as mum tried unsuccessfully to calm her down, the little girl actually bit a piece out of her own clothing. It was impossible at this stage to have any significant conversation with mum or to obtain a “homeopathic history”.

    I turned to my repertory and looked up the rubrics “Shrieking”, “Kicking”, “Biting”, “Biting her clothes” and “Convulsions”. The only remedy to appear in all these rubrics was “Tarantula hispania”. I then asked mum what she normally did to try and settle her daughter when she was so upset and she said that sometimes she could hold her and the other thing which helped was music. This is in fact a strong feature of the remedy “Tarantula hispania”. I only managed to ask another few questions because of the little girl’s distress but I had already seen all I needed to see. I gave her a dose of “Tarantula hispania” in a 30c potency and asked her mum to bring her back in a month.

    The next visit was strikingly different. She came into the room happily and sat on a chair next to her mum, eating a packet of crisps throughout the whole consultation. Over the next few months not only did her behaviour settle, but she began sleeping right through the night with increasing frequency, her anti-convulsants were withdrawn by the paediatricians, and she eventually became fit-free.

    There are more and more cases of hyperactive children these days. Homeopathy has an excellent role to play here. The spider remedies (like Tarantula hispania) are common in the restless hyperactive children. The other, “Belladonna”, is probably one of the most common families and includes remedies like Stramonium, hyoscyamus and Belladonna itself. Indeed, this latter group is more commonly indicated in those with more violent behaviour disturbance.

    Acute conditions
    Homeopathy is a safe and effective form of treatment for a wide range of childhood problems and illnesses which are difficult to treat with orthodox medicines.

    Most parents would benefit from a knowledge of a small range of remedies which may be of use in common mild childhood ailments. Best known include the Colocynth for infant colic. There is a simple test to predict whether or not Colocynth will help. If the colic is relieved by firm pressure on the baby’s tummy then it is more likely that Colocynth will be effective. You can see this by noticing if the baby settles when held against the parent’s chest, looking over the shoulder, or held facing the floor with the tummy supported by the parent’s arm.

    Chamomilla is the great remedy for teething and again it is more likely to be effective if you notice that child has one red cheek, is angry and fractious and settles when carried around.

    Belladonna is great for the sudden fevers where the child gets a red face, dilated pupils, dry mouth and is agitated. It is particularly effective for the fevered child who is hallucinating.

    Aconite, Spongia and then Hepar sulph is a well established sequence of treatment for croup. Aconite at the outset, especially if the croup comes on suddenly after exposure to dry cold winds. Spongia follows well if the croup progresses and there is redness and soreness of the throat. If the croupy cough becomes loose and moist sounding and the child is more irritable then Hepar sulph may settle the problem.

    Bob Leckridge FFHom is the President of the Faculty of Homeopathy, and a specialist at the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital. He qualified as a GP in 1978, and began his training in homeopathy in 1982.

    Is it just a phase they go through?

    Unhappy children and teenagers respond well to homeopathic treatment, writes Keith Souter

    At one time society recognised that moodiness was a normal part of growing up. Children and teenagers would have bad patches, but it was assumed that they would pass through them without any outside help. In recent years this perception has changed and an increasing number of children and adolescents are being treated for depression. Indeed, in the UK in 2003 over 50,000 children were prescribed antidepressants and over 170,000 prescriptions were given in the year to people under the age of eighteen. Currently, it is estimated that up to five per cent of children and up to 20 per cent of adolescents are depressed.

    There is concern about this, however, since research has shown that the older antidepressants have no effect on the under-eighteens. Perhaps more significantly, some research suggests that the newer selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may be dangerous for young people.

    Changing society
    Society has changed dramatically over the last 50 years. In the 50s children were brought up in a more disciplined and authoritarian culture, with the view that they would eventually go to work in order to produce prosperity for the country. In the 60s there came a change in society with more emphasis on permissiveness and freedom, so that since that time people have become pleasure-seeking consumers.

    With a changing economy has come greater mobility, a breakdown of the extended family, increasing numbers of families where both parents work so less time is spent together. And of course, family break-ups have become more common.

    There is an interesting effect from all this change. Increased consumerism has meant that there has been a strong trickle down effect, in which children have been allowed greater access to the adult world. They have computers, internet access, mobile phones. Thus the boundaries between childhood and adulthood have become blurred and children have become viewed as small adults. Because of this, it may be that moodiness and various behaviours that were once considered normal are now considered abnormal and thereby deemed worthy of treatment.

    In conventional medicine, however, depression seems to have become a catch-all diagnosis for unhappiness, sadness and moodiness. Since children tend to be regarded as little adults, one can see how the adult diagnosis has been extended to include children. As a result, it seems that antidepressant prescribing for young people has increased.

    The role of homeopathy in sadness and moodiness
    In homeopathy we look at the individual’s experience of life. It is this which determines the treatment that is given. The emotions are of paramount importance in selecting a remedy and, because of this, emotional states respond very well to the correctly selected remedy.

    Homeopaths have been treating unhappy, moody and sad children and youngsters for many decades. In my practice I have found that many remedies help unhappy youngsters.

    I find it helpful to look at the pattern of unhappiness in the context of the whole picture that is being presented to me. Very often the individual comes because of some other reason, the unhappiness or moodiness giving colour or tone to the picture. The following thumbnail descriptions of a few of these remedies may give some indication of how they may help to ease the burden of unhappiness.

    Shy and scared

    When a child or teenager seems excessively shy and unhappy there are a number of remedies that come to mind.

    Johnnie, a young four year-old was brought to see me by his parents because they were concerned that he seemed unhappy, was easily moved to tears and was shy beyond measure. He would hide when people came to the house and he had a trick of pulling his jumper or tee-shirt over his head, so that strangers couldn’t see his face. They were also concerned that he seemed slow to learn things and that he would burst into tears if pressed too much. Apart from that he was troubled with recurrent sore throats which were always associated with large neck glands.

    This is very much the picture of Baryta carb. These youngsters are shy, tearful, fearful, slow in many ways and often respond to infections by developing large glands. This remedy in 30c potency every month transformed Johnnie into a much happier young lad and markedly reduced his attacks of tonsillitis.

    Helen was a 14 year-old who was also shy and had many fears. She was unhappy with her life, her appearance and her friends. She told me that all sorts of things made her cry and that she would cry no matter who was present. She admitted to getting peeved with other girls and a bit jealous that they had boyfriends. She was plump, but pretty. Cuddles and reassurance from her mum made her feel better, as did being outdoors. Her mother worried that she did not drink enough water, despite continued urging to do so.

    This is a good picture of Pulsatilla. And indeed, a few doses of Pulsatilla at monthly intervals helped her to see the positive aspects in her life.

    A quite different picture emerged with Rebecca, another shy teenager who was brought along to see me because of recurrent headaches. She was extremely slim with long, lank hair. She described having “hammering headaches” that came on when she was studying or working on her computer. As we talked, she gradually opened up and it became clear that she also felt sad a lot of the time, especially around her periods. Quite unlike Helen, she was worse when people tried to cheer her up and she hated attempts to give her a cuddle. Indeed, she admitted that she might cry when she was alone, but never in front of anyone. She confessed to having a passion for bacon sandwiches.

    This picture, including the desire for salty things indicated that Natrum muriaticum might work well for her, which indeed it did.

    A dose every month before mid-cycle alleviated the headaches and cleared up the premenstrual sadness.

    Stroppy and irritable
    While the first group respond to the world by drawing inwards, this group present a picture that seems directed outwards, to produce a stroppy attitude.

    Young Henry was a plump, rosy-cheeked five year-old who was brought to see me by his mother because she just found it so difficult to handle him – almost literally. “He’s so stubborn!” she exclaimed despairingly. “Nothing pleases him.” And she described how he would have tantrums, where he would want something, yet not want it when it was given. It worried her that he would never let her hug him, for that would send him into another paroxysm of tears and rage. She positively shuddered when she told me about his nose-picking, which he spontaneously demonstrated to me. Henry didn’t just pick his nose, he bored into it!

    And this is a picture of Cina, which comes from worm seed. It is, incidentally, reputed to be a remedy par excellence for worms in children. For Henry it was a great settling down remedy. And after a few months it even seems to have helped with his nose-picking, which although not gone, is now apparently infrequent.

    Mark was a thin, black haired 16 year-old, who came along with his mother. He was sullen, very flat in his mood and snappy towards his parent. He was concerned about a crop of large warts on both hands. They were unsightly and bled at times. Over-the-counter preparations had not worked and he worried about them. “I haven’t got cancer, have I?” he asked earnestly. At this his mother explained that he was forever worrying about his health. Mark swiftly rebuked her, then to me: “I bet you can’t do anything!” he said, challengingly. “Nothing works.”

    Here we have moodiness, snappiness, pessimism and fear over health, all key features of Nitric acid. And it proved to be the right remedy for Mark, over a couple of months clearing the warts and helping his outlook and attitude.

    Weighed down
    Here I mean that the individual seems weighed down with woe.

    Sam certainly seemed weighed down with woe beyond his years. He was a small nine year-old who seemed to have a real “poor Sam” attitude. His mother told me that he brooded a lot of the time. Falling out with a friend, not being picked for a team at school, losing a toy – these were all things that he had fretted about in the past, and which caused him to “mope”. His mother also told me that he frequently complained about things always happening to him. And at that point Sam concurred, somewhat peevishly. “Well it does! Just like those sore ears I get.”

    And here is Aurum metallicum, from gold. Woe, negativity, dwelling on disappointments and a tendency to catarrh, ear and throat infections. It certainly helped to introduce a little glitter into Sam’s life.

    Calcarea carbonica is another remedy that may help youngsters who seem sluggish and weighed down with cares. They are often large, plump, chilly folk who seem slow in many ways. They can be clumsy, nervy and unwilling to compete with others, in case they show themselves up.

    Reactors
    In this sense the individual may well have undergone or experienced some major trauma, be that physical or emotional.

    Charlotte was brought along to see me at the age of six because she had become almost inconsolable after the death of her pet rabbit. From the description her mother gave me I could see that she had what I call “the three Ss”. She would sit, sob and sigh. Charlotte even confessed that she was worried about having another pet in case it also died. Ignatia, one of the great remedies for loss, took away her fear, eased her sadness and she stopped weeping.

    Finally, Adam a 13 year-old came along with his parents. They were concerned because he seemed to have become moody, obsessive and had developed a compulsion to check doors, windows and the home telephone. It became clear that all of his problems had started after he had watched a horror video at a friend’s house. It had affected him badly and he had developed obsessive-compulsive behaviour, whereby he thought that if he checked doors, windows and the telephone three times, then everyone would be safe. This reaction to some stark visual stimulus is a key feature of the remedy Mancinella, which had an excellent effect on Adam, clearing his moodiness, fear and compulsions over three months.

    Homeopathy has much to offer when youngsters feel unhappy or sad. By matching up the remedy to the emotional pattern it is ideal for calming the troubled waters of the mind.

    Keith Souter MB ChB FRCGP MFHom MIPsiMed DipMedAc is a part-time GP in Yorkshire. He also has a private holistic medicine practice and is a newspaper columnist as well as the author of Homeopathy for the Third Age and Homeopathy: Heart & Soul.

    Bladder problems

    Cleve McIntosh discusses three common issues: infections, incontinence and bedwetting, and their homeopathic treatment

    Bladder problems are common and can be a challenge to even the most competent GP or specialist. Many will not resolve completely using con­ventional treatment alone. Homeopathy offers tremendous relief to those who have not found help elsewhere and should often be used first because of the absence of side-effects.

    Infections
    Bladder infections, also known as urinary tract infections (UTIs) or cystitis, are extremely common. At some time in their lives up to 20 per cent of women will have a bladder infection. Most are uncomplicated causing mainly dis­comfort and inconvenience. Common symptoms include burning urine, lower abdominal pain, needing to urinate more often than usual (frequency) and feeling as if you will leak if you don’t get to the toilet when the urge to urinate comes (urgency). To confirm the diagnosis, rapid analysis of urine can be performed using a urine dipstick test or a sample can be sent to a laboratory for analysis. If a bladder infection is caused by bacteria, laboratory analysis will usually identify which it might be. Some women have persistent symptoms of a bladder infection, but no sign of infection on urine analysis. This poorly understood condition has various names, including “spastic bladder” or “urethral syndrome”, and responds very well to homeopathic treatment.

    In young children below the age of two bladder infections can be difficult to diagnose. Symptoms are non-specific and include fever, vomiting and not gain­ing weight. Bladder infections in young children may need further investigations to exclude a structural abnormality pre­disposing to bladder infections.

    Homeopathic treatment
    Bladder infections respond well to homeopathic treatment, which focuses on assisting the body to fight the infec­tion and enabling it to get on top of future infections. When antibiotics are used routinely to treat uncomplicated bladder infections, the person is more likely to develop recurring or chronic bladder problems needing repeated courses or long term anti-biotics. Anti­biotics should be reserved for compli­cated infections such as those affecting the kidneys and in vulnerable patients, such as those with diabetes, abnormal kidneys or pregnant women. Many blad­der infections will improve after a few days just by drinking more water, tak­ing vitamin C and garlic capsules. Cranberry juice, stinging nettle and dan­delion teas are also helpful.

    Recurrent cystitis can be prevented by emptying the bladder as soon as the urge is felt. It is also important to empty the bladder before putting pressure on it, such as during sex or cycling.

    Staphysagria is very useful for treat­ing “honeymoon cystitis”, a term used to describe bladder infections which develop after having sex. When needing to urinate, the woman might feel she has to get to the toilet as fast as she can or else she might leak. At an emotional level, there may be suppressed anger and resentment. However, this is often so deep that the person is unaware of it, and the only clue to the homeopath might be, for example, an abusive rela­tionship that they are trapped in.

    Infections characterised by an intense, scalding pain when passing urine may be helped by Cantharis. There may be blood in the urine and there is a sensa­tion of not being able to fully empty the bladder or the rectum. Unexpectedly, the irritation of the bladder may increase sexual desire in the person.

    Bladder pain which comes on sud­denly and intensely, with an extremely urgent need to pass urine, points to Pulsatilla. The person may crave open air and moving about, and feel worse indoors. Generally, they dislike fatty or rich foods. Emotionally, they may be very affectionate and crave physical closeness and become tearful or weepy.

    Case study
    Four year-old Sue had developed recur­rent bladder infections eight months before, soon after her younger sister was born. Her mother had taken her to numerous specialists and she had had various tests. For the previous five months she had been on antibiotics continuously and there were no bladder or urinary symptoms. She was a very clingy and needy child who always wanted to be held. After four weeks of Pulsatilla 30c once daily, there was little change. At her next consultation, it emerged that she was often bullied at her pre-school, so her prescription was changed to Staphysagria 30c daily for four weeks. Her mother stopped her antibiotics and she has not had another bladder infec­tion in the last two years.

    Incontinence
    Incontinence is the leakage of urine when one does not mean to urinate. It affects about five per cent of women and can have an enormous impact on the social life and emotional health of those who are affected by it. There are various types of incontinence, all of which can be made worse by bladder infections, which should be considered before a diagnosis is made.

    Stress incontinence
    Leaking urine when one coughs, sneezes, runs, lifts something, laughs or does any­thing which increases the pressure on the bladder inside the abdomen is the most common form of incontinence. Men who have had prostate surgery and women who have had many children or are post-menopausal are more at risk. Effective non-drug treatment includes pelvic floor exercises and weight reduc­tion in those who are overweight. Hormonal therapy, medication which acts on the nerves controlling the bladder and surgery are also used.

    Homeopathic treatment
    Natrum muriaticum is good for stress incontinence. The person might also have vaginal dryness and pain on inter­course, with an aversion to sex. Many of the symptoms might be worse from direct or bright sun and around 10am. There may also be a marked craving for or dislike of salt. The symptoms may develop after grief, particularly where the person feels sad yet unable to weep or move on.

    Apis is valuable for stress incontin­ence that is better in cooler weather. It may be associated with bladder infec­tions with severe burning pain when passing urine. People needing Apis may feel generally worse when hot. They enjoy exercise which makes them feel better. They are active, vital people who may be jealous and controlling.

    Urge incontinence
    Urge incontinence – leaking urine when one has a need to urinate but doesn’t get to the toilet in time – can be a symptom of “overactive bladder syndrome” when one needs to urinate often and without much warning. It is a complex condition in which the bladder muscle contracts before it is full.

    Overactive bladder syndrome may improve by cutting down on foods and drinks containing caffeine, such as chocolate, tea, coffee and cola. “Bladder training” – trying to gradually increase the time between wanting to pass urine and actually urinating – is also helpful.

    Homeopathic treatment
    Sepia is a very important remedy in older women in particular where urge incon­tinence is associated with a sensation of the uterus prolapsing, “of everything falling out below”. There may also be an itchy, sore vagina with a white dis­charge. Chilliness, sensitivity to cold and feeling better after aerobic exercise are also common.

    Nux vomica patients have frequent urging yet are unable empty their bladder satisfyingly. Like Sepia, they are chilly and sensitive to cold. Their symp­toms may be worse for periods of over­work or indulgence in alcohol, over­eating, tobacco or coffee. They can be impatient, irritable and pedantic, yet very hard working.

    Case study
    At 23 Lindi had been having bladder problems for several years. She had an urgent need to pass urine every half-hour during the day, yet was only able to pass very little urine each time. She wet her bed every night and woke up many times to pass urine. During sex, she would always leak urine, despite having tried to empty her bladder beforehand. She was very emotionally closed and revealed little about herself. If she was upset about something she would with­draw to cry alone. After three weekly doses of Natrum muriaticum 200c she only needed to urinate every four hours and was able to pass a satisfying amount each time. She then took Natrum muri­aticum 1M weekly for eight more weeks. The frequent need to pass urine during the day completely resolved, she no longer wet her bed and she only woke up once each night to urinate. She had no leaking during sex either.

    Bedwetting
    When discussing nocturnal enuresis, bedwetting, it’s important to remember that children learn to control their bladders at different ages. At least 15 per cent of normal five year olds and seven per cent of normal seven year olds are still wetting their beds, and a smaller percentage of these children continue to wet their beds well into adolescence. Unless they are severely learning disabled or have a neurological illness, all child­ren will eventually stop wetting their bed regularly. In young children, it may be appropriate to wait before starting treat­ment while using a waterproof mattress protector. In older children it is better to actively treat the problem – bedwetting can be very distressing to an older child and may affect their self esteem and cause psychological prob­lems later. In addition, parents have extra work washing sheets and getting up at night, which may cause exhaus­tion and resentment.

    In most children who are wetting their bed, no cause will be found. It is very rare to find a physical problem in a child who is growing normally and doing well at school. For peace of mind, getting a medical opinion can be valu­able in excluding the easily treatable, rare or serious causes of bedwetting.

    Pain when urinating, pain in the kid­ney (which is felt in the back on the side just above the waist), fever or blood in the urine are all symptoms which may suggest a problem such as an infection of the urinary tract. Bedwetting accom­panied by increased thirst may be caused by diabetes. Bedwetting in a child who was previously dry needs to be carefully assessed, as there may be emotional stress (at home or at school for example) which brought on the bedwetting.

    Conventional treatment
    Parents may be offered conventional drugs to treat bedwetting. However, it is important to be aware of their side-effects and limitations in order to be able to weigh up the benefits and risks. Desmopressin, if used every night, is effective in reducing bedwetting. How­ever, it does have a long list of side-effects and as soon as it is stopped, the bed-wetting recurs. Tricyclic antidepressants are sometimes also used as one of their side-effects is urinary retention. They are much cheaper than desmopressin, but can cause behaviour problems and rarely, but tragically, fatal heart problems.

    Bedwetting alarm
    The most effective treatment is the bed-wetting alarm, sometimes called the enuresis alarm or the bell and pad alarm. Bedwetting alarms provide a long-term and drug-free solution. Within six weeks most children will be completely dry and stay that way. It requires commitment and careful supervision, but it has a higher success rate than conventional drugs and the child has the confidence of knowing they are unlikely to wet their bed again and do not have to rely on drugs.

    There are a variety of bedwetting alarms available, but the basic design is that of an alarm, which is linked to a tiny sensor in the underwear that is trig­gered as soon as the child starts passing urine. It is best if the child and a parent share a room for a few weeks while using the alarm as sometimes the child will be so deeply asleep, that they are not woken immediately by the alarm yet the parent will definitely wake up. The parent then needs to wake the child straight away to take him or her to the toilet to finish passing urine. The child’s brain soon learns to wake the child automatically just before he starts to urinate.

    Homeopathic treatment
    Homeopathic medication is effective and safe although it should only be used in conjunction with or after a bedwetting alarm has been tried.

    Causticum is a useful remedy for numerous bladder problems, including bedwetting. The child may describe dreaming of urinating when they wet the bed. They may be sensitive to the cold and draughts and feel generally better in rainy, cloudy or damp weather. The child may be very intense, sincere and sym­pathetic and have strong feelings about justice or ecological issues. As adoles­cents, they may become idealistic and rebellious. They may have a stammer and show slightly obsessive tendencies of checking and rechecking tasks.

    Mercurius symptoms are all worse at night. Children needing Mercurius are sensitive to minor changes in tem­perature, both hot and cold. They per­spire at night and salivate, even drooling onto the pillow. Bad breath and a metal­lic taste in the mouth are also typical. The child may be withdrawn and shy, but sometimes is also precocious.

    Beside wetting their bed, children needing Baryta carbonica will sometimes have recurrent sore throats and tonsil­litis. In between throat infections, their tonsils may remain massively enlarged. They may also have swollen lymph glands in the neck. They may lack self confidence, can be quite anxious and need constant reassurance. They may have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, but without hyper­activity.

    Case study
    Margaret, at 16, had been wetting her bed almost every night since birth. She seemed intense and serious. She would wet her bed within a few hours of retiring and she preferred overcast weather. Unfortunately the family was living in poverty and could not afford a bedwetting alarm so she was managed purely homeopathically. She was given Causticum 6c every evening. Within a month she was only wetting her bed every fifth night and she seemed more relaxed and friendly.

    Cleve McIntosh MBChB(UCT) DMH(SA) MCFP(SA) MFHom is a specialist family physician and homeopath in private practice in Acornhoek, South Africa. His practice reflects the exciting diversity of cultures in South Africa. He lives on a farm on the border of the Kruger National Park with his wife Belinda, also a family physician studying towards her MFHom, and their toddler son Samuel.

    A change of personality

    Mabel Aghadiuno describes how persevering with a medicine had beneficial effects for her young patient

    Sammy first came to see me with his mother last spring at his GP’s request. His mum was quite desperate and did not know what else she could do for her son. The problem centred on his outbursts of anger. During his fits of temper he would wreck his room and even break things that were quite dear to him. His anger was spiced with spitting, striking and swearing. He would also call his mum a “bitch” and be very difficult to handle. His mother would have to resort to restraining him physically if she could but this was becoming an increasing challenge. He was doing what all boys of 13 do – grow – and he was thus becoming too strong for her. Sammy’s child psychiatrist prescribed him Ritalin but his mother reported that this only seemed to make his behaviour worse. The angry outbursts could occur every day or sometimes several weeks would pass before anything of any moment occurred. In between the outbursts Sammy was generous, helpful and good to his younger brother.

    Unfortunately Sammy’s behaviour was disruptive at school too. He was suspended and the special needs school was now speaking of excluding him permanently. I looked at the two people who were in front of me: Sammy who was rather nonchalant and wore a set frown on his forehead with a puzzled screwed up facial expression and his mum whose face was taut with concern to the point of real anguish.  I asked Sammy first what the problem was. He commented with a slow, slurred drawl that he did not have any. He sat on the chair quite quietly and I found it hard to believe that he was capable of the violence which his mum had reported. His sad story then unfolded.

    Sammy’s history
    Sammy was knocked down five years before and he suffered severe brain damage. He was in coma for four months and while in coma his eyes were wide open and he just stared. He showed no signs of recognition of his family and it was unclear whether or not he could hear. He lost his memory and had to re-learn for example what a cup was. He could no longer control his bladder and he was unable to hold a conversation because he simply no longer possessed any vocabulary – in effect he had become like a baby.

    Gradually he started to move his arms and legs and then the slow painful road to recovery began. He remained in a rehabilitation unit for eight months and should actually have remained longer but homesickness made him ask to leave.

    Conversation with Sammy consisted of only a few sentences in response to my questions. The vocabulary was simple and I was conscious of trying to be as clear as possible in order not to emphasise even more that his speech was inappropriate for a boy of his age. In fact he tended to get very frustrated because he could not express himself as quickly and as adequately as he wished.

    The accident had left him with very bad weakness and spasticity of his arms and legs. His gait was slow and he tended to drag his feet along the floor. There were also problems with his balance and he staggered. The GP had pointed out to me that Sammy had absence seizures.

    As well as the angry outbursts since the accident Sammy had developed a predilection for play with younger boys and liked the toys of his younger brother. He had periods when he expressed the desire to kill himself and he felt down because he did not have any friends. His mother commented that he also seemed to have lost his inhibitions and looked at pictures of semi-dressed women without any embarrassment or compunction. Prior to the accident there had been no history of developmental problems or of epilepsy and his health had been good.

    The history of head injury and of the childlike behaviour made me wonder about Cicuta virosa. The reversion in his behaviour seemed to me the thing that was particularly characteristic of his case. Other features were the coma following head injury, the fact that he had ailments since head injury, the angry outbursts and the absence seizures. I also had to consider his habit of swearing, spitting and striking.

    I repertorised the case so that my bias towards Cicuta might not exclude remedies, which could be potentially more helpful. Arnica, Helleborus, Nat sulph, Opium, Stramonium and Hyoscyamus were also suggested on repertorisation but it seemed to me that Cicuta best fitted his case even though the florid epilepsy picture which it described in the materia medica was lacking in Sammy. He was supplied Cicuta 200c to take daily for three days to be followed by Cicuta 6c daily for as long as necessary.

    Follow up
    Sammy returned two months later and his mother commented that the “school had noticed a big improvement in his behaviour”. He was “a lot calmer”. There was an incident where someone hit Sammy. Normally he would have responded with equal gusto “but he accepted the apology” and did not react. His mother commented that the improvement coincided with his taking Cicuta.

    At home his younger brother still “wound him up” and a tantrum would ensue but Sammy seemed to be coming out of the tantrums much quicker. He would be in the middle of one and then “come down” becoming suddenly “sweet”. His mother was amazed as she and her husband had been told that “he wouldn’t be able to control situations since the accident”. I gave his mother a supply of Cicuta to take in case there was any relapse. She ranked his improvement at 50 to 70 per cent.

    Three weeks later Sammy returned with his mother and she reported deterioration in his behaviour following Cicuta 200c once he stopped taking Cicuta 6c daily. He was a lot more defiant and could not control his tantrums, which were lasting for 20 minutes, at all. Other people had noticed this deterioration in his behaviour. I instructed Sammy to recommence Cicuta 6c daily.

    Two months later Sammy’s mum phoned to say that he had settled down and was doing quite well back at school. There had however been some difficult moments over the school holidays but generally he was better. I suggested that Sammy continue on Cicuta 6c daily taking Cicuta 200c if there was a general relapse in his behaviour.

    Last October Sammy came to see me. His mother reported that he was excluded from school for a day. His behaviour was destructive and he punched a pupil and one of his teachers. In the house he was constantly arguing with his brother. I had noticed a mischievous glint in his eyes at different moments when he came to see me. He certainly had been mischievous! He got angry with his brother at the slightest remark he made and relished getting him into trouble. Sammy seemed to take great pleasure in telling me that his brother was his “natural enemy”. He was being obstinate and uncooperative at home. The intensity of Sammy’s violence and aggression came across from the history, which his mother had given me. I wondered if I really had given Sammy the correct remedy and then opted to prescribe Stramonium.

    Two months later his mother explained that Sammy had been hitting the other children at school. He was only “slightly better” since taking the Stramonium. He seemed “to go out of his way to wind his brother up and he was wilfully being a nuisance”. He used the most colourful assortment of scurrilous words with which to insult his brother and the other family members. He also took great pleasure in seeing his brother cry and added that he hated his father and brother. Sammy said he was a great fan of Elvis Presley and that Elvis talked to him during the night.

    I thought that his mischievousness and obstinacy might have called for Tuberculinum. Five weeks later his mother reported that he was “quicker to calm down”. He seemed to get worse initially but then he got better. He had “not really” been striking his mother and he was playing better with his younger brother. He let his brother come into his room – usually forbidden territory – and they managed to watch a video together amicably. He was also “a wee bit more alert” in that he was making jokes and being witty.

    Unfortunately this improvement did not last long. His tantrums began to increase again and the school was threatening to exclude him. He lost his temper frequently but was quick to apologise. His mother with hindsight thought he was a lot better on Cicuta.

    At the beginning of last year I decided to repeat Cicuta at the slightly different potencies of 200c, 1M and 10M taken over three days whenever he has a relapse and to continue with the daily dose of 6c daily. His mother reported a month later that he was much better and his behaviour at school had improved. Four weeks after this he “had not hurt anyone once”. He was playing well with his brother at home, he was “very pally” with him and was “very good” at school. The school holidays passed off without any incident and this was usually a difficult time for everyone. I suggested he continue on Cicuta taking the high potencies if there was a relapse.

    During the past year he has had some minor setbacks but in his behaviour generally he is much better. He is calmer and during the summer holidays he made a good friend.

    The remedy
    Cicuta belongs to the Umbelliferae family and its common name is cow bane. It is also known as water hemlock. Clarke in his Dictionary of Materia Medica has identified these as some of the characteristics of this remedy:
    He confounds the present with the past.
    Discontent and ill-humour.
    Forgets his own name.
    He thinks himself a young child.

    According to homeopathic literature Cicuta has been used successfully in the past to cure cases of cerebrospinal   meningitis and also epilepsy. Violence is apparently a leading feature as are some of the classical features of epilepsy.

    Sammy’s case taught me that you have to persevere with a remedy once it seems to stop working, using it in different potencies until you are finally convinced that it is not working. Only then might you consider trying a different remedy.

    Mabel Aghadiuno MBChB MSc MRCGP DGM MFHom practises at the Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital as well as taking homeopathic clinics for Lothian PCT. She also works in general practice for Glasgow PCT.

    A child’s periodic table

    Bob Leckridge describes how homeopathic metals can help children with behavioural problems

    When children start school they are thrown into quite another world from that of the family. Not only do they need to form multiple relationships of different kinds with classmates and teachers but there are many new pressures for them to deal with – managing to achieve certain standards of mental and physical performance, pleasing the teachers, conforming to regulations and rules and so on. In addi­tion to that not only will the physical environment of the school be unfamiliar to them but the social and cultural envir­onment will be completely new, and often quite challenging, too. So it’s no surprise that problems start to appear in children who up till now had perhaps been quite healthy and well-adjusted. This is because in life we are contin­ually subjected to what has been termed “stress”. By stress we really mean anything which challenges a person, a challenge to which the person has to react. We all adapt to everyday changes, but adaptation does not always run smoothly! Under the pressure to react and change, we either grow or we get sick. It’s important to understand this otherwise “stress” gets a completely negative press. When we are provoked in positive ways we are stimulated to grow, to stretch beyond our existing limitations and to mature. Too much provocation of course produces harm and there can be a fine line between the stress which encourages development and that which precipitates illness. A well-chosen remedy, prescribed correctly by a healthcare professional who has learned homeopathy, can tip the balance to stop a stress being harmful, but more than this, it can actually turn it into a stimulus to growth and development. A good homeopathic prescription will not just relieve sickness, it will also stimu­late the child to grow and mature.

    The homeopathic approach really gives us the chance to take different, and hopefully better perspectives on people. We can see that “symptoms” are just the manifestation of a failure to cope with whatever has challenged or injured a person, and we can also come to under­stand why a particular person develops a specific pattern of illness. From this point of view, the materia medica of homeopathic remedies is like a book of wisdom which throws light on dark or confusing times. The majority of reme­dies we use are prepared from plants but the next largest group are prepared from minerals. In particular there are a number of common metals which, as homeo­pathic remedies, are invaluable in treat­ing children’s behavioural problems and illnesses.

    Alumina
    The child who needs homeopathic alu­minium is a confused child, who lashes out because of violent impulsiveness. These outbursts really surprise people because normally the Alumina child is quiet and gentle. In fact they might seem extremely biddable because actually they have had their natural character sup­pressed usually by a very dominant par­ent who has repeatedly told the child that whatever their wishes are they are not going to get what they want. This erodes their self-confidence and they can be very scared of sharp things and of the sight of blood. However, there remains a strong tenacity, almost obstinacy, in their character. This is most evident in the characteristic they have of not being hurried. It’s impossible to hurry them. This is not because they want to go slowly though, it is because they just can­not seem to go as fast as even they them­selves would want to. Inside they feel hurried but they can’t make their actions go fast enough so they end up making lots of mistakes. This shows in class especially with difficulties in reading and writing practice. Their inner hurried feel­ing also leads to physical restlessness, with fidgety hands and feet, and even in some cases to sleepwalking. You might find them anxiously wandering from room to room at night rubbing their tightly closed eyes.

    Argentum nitricum
    This remedy is made from silver nitrate and is most commonly used to treat anticipatory anxiety. There are many possible remedies for anticipatory anx­iety and Argentum nitricum will only work well when the features match and the circumstances are right. Key indica­tions are the physical symptoms of shaky hands and legs accompanied by a shaky tummy. These children will describe the typical butterflies-in-the-tummy feeling and might have to run back and forward to the loo with diarrhoea. They are hot children who easily feel overheated and when they get anxious their sweet tooth becomes quite excessive. They crave sugar and sweet things but when they eat too much of them it makes them feel worse and upsets their tummy more. The most important thing for these children is their performance. These are children who can be great performers, whether in music, drama or sport, but they tend to be so bound up in the importance of performing well that each event becomes quite an ordeal for them. If they don’t do well they really feel quite lost! By lost, I mean as if they are all alone in the world. They are over-excitable and impulsive children which can mean they are great fun, or that they are hard to contain.

    Aurum
    Fortunately, gold is not a commonly indicated remedy for children, but sadly, in this day and age of increasing psy­chological pressures on children, depres­sion, even severe depression which drives a child to attempt suicide, has become more common.

    The child who needs homeopathic gold is often a very industrious, hard­working and ambitious child. They might have an over-developed sense of duty and responsibility and can easily feel guilty that they are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. They do have a strong sense of their own unique­ness but this can lead to feelings of being alone and cut off from others. They are hugely over-sensitive to contradiction which can result in explosive outbursts of anger and violence. Their tendency to over-sensitivity extends to almost all environmental stimuli – noise, music, smells and touch, all of which they can find overwhelming. When they cannot manage to progress, in particular when they are contradicted or frustrated, they are likely to see everything as hopeless and black, a catastrophy. This is when they tumble into deep depression.

    Cuprum
    Homeopathic copper is often indicated for children who have difficult behav­ioural problems. They tend to be fiercely independent children, never asking for help. As you might imagine this makes them rather headstrong, or even obsti­nate. They have great abilities to be focussed and hard-working, really stick­ing at tasks and always playing by the rules. However in situations where there are confrontations either with other chil­dren in the class or with a teacher who antagonises them they tend to blow up both verbally and physically, lashing out with a sarcastic tongue, mimicking peo­ple and playing tricks on them and even lashing out destructively, biting, or spit­ting. They are also breath-holders when angry and can turn spectacularly blue in the face during these temper tantrums.

    Ferrum
    The Ferrum child has a will of iron. This can result in them being both bossy and intolerant to contradiction. They have a tendency to be physically robust or a bit overweight and their bossiness means they always want to be in charge. These are often very self-confident children, the leaders in the class, not the follow­ers. They are typically hard workers who will really stick at things but they suffer from a certain lack of flexibility or adaptability. They can be rather over­sensitive, being easily provoked. When challenged they will either stand their ground or fight. A common response to a challenging situation is either to flee or fight. In the case of Ferrum they will always fight. These kids don’t run away from things. However, if there is too much chaos around, and particularly if other children are being especially noisy, the Ferrum child will try to find solitude away from the others. These children are often very anxious about family members, worrying that relatives they actually feel responsible for might become seriously ill or die. The focus for this might be a younger sibling or, in cases where one or other of the parents is suffering from a chronic, incapacitat­ing illness to the extent that there is a degree of role reversal and the child has to be a carer, the focus is on the parent.

    Platina
    Platinum is a very expensive metal and the indications for its use homeopathi­cally are centred on this sense of being special. Actually it is more than being special, these children are likely to feel both superior to others and cut off from others. They are difficult to make con­tact with and might even have been diag­nosed as autistic, or suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome. One little girl I successfully treated with Platina was known by her family as “Little Princess” and she ruled the household from her bedroom at the top of the house. Despite her slight physical appearance, her strength of will really dominated the whole family and she would tell every­one else in the house what to wear each day. This strange sense of superiority seen in these children can even lead, as it did in this particular child’s case, to a refusal to play with any children who are not smaller than them. The Platina child is easily bored and will shut her­self in her room saying everything is bor­ing and uninteresting. This is a deep kind of dissatisfaction with things. They need to have routines and to feel that they are able to impose their will to the extent that they can control their surroundings. One focus for this might be eating. Lots of children are fussy or picky eaters, but the child who needs Platina takes this to quite another level. They may not only refuse to eat all but particular foods but they often have a strange insistence on the position of food on the plate. For example it is common for them to insist that no two kinds of food on a plate touch each other.

    Plumbum
    The child who responds to homeopathic lead is equally insistent on routines and order. But their need for order is more compulsive than in the child who needs Platina. In fact, they will describe feel­ing compelled to sort things out, get things done, and get them done in just the “right” way (by which they mean their usual way). This can make them rather rigid and they are children who particularly don’t like change or having to do anything new. The other aspect of the child who needs Plumbum is a kind of contrariness. They actually love to do what they’ve been forbidden to do and if they are then permitted to do it they quickly find they’ve lost interest. This means they are really susceptible to par­ents’ tried and tested management tech­nique of “reverse psychology”. In addition to this, these children often present with a combination of restless­ness, poor memory function and mood swings. This combination can, as you might imagine, result in considerable learning difficulties. A physical problem which these children often have is col­icky abdominal pains which make them double up and are relieved by applying firm pressure and local heat.

    Zincum
    Homeopathic zinc is most commonly indicated for the constantly restless child. These are the greatest of fidgets. I can always spot them in the waiting room (or even on the train!) because their feet just never stop moving. It’s like watch­ing perpetual motion! These are often awkward kids, again of an Asperger’s Syndrome type, who find it hard to make connections with the other chil­dren, often have a dominating father and are harbouring a lot of frustration and anger. As is almost always the case with suppressed anger, it tends to come burst­ing out with great vehemence and vio­lence which, of course, makes it increasing difficult for them to fit in socially. They are also over-sensitive children, particularly to noise and to voices. In most of the children who are very restless we also see an instability of mood and the Zincum child is no except­ion. In fact their mood swings can be quite marked, oscillating between feel­ing down and feeling cheerful, anger and shyness, and anxiety and contentment.

    Bob Leckridge MBChB FFHom is a specialist in Homeopathic Medicine at Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital. He teaches homeo­pathy internationally and is the author of Homeopathy in Primary Care. He was President of the Faculty of Homeopathy from 1998 to 2005.

    Children behaving badly

    Child behavioural problems can result in psychosocial disorders, habit disorders, anxiety disorders, disruptive behaviour and problems with sleeping. The symptoms often vary in frequency, range and intensity; for some children the problem is short-lived and requires no or little medical intervention, but severe behavioural problems can impair a child’s development as well as bring the parents to the point of despair. Nurse Patricia Donnachie recounts one particular case where homeopathy provided both the child and the parents with hope after conventional treatment had been ineffective.

    Child “A” was four-years-old when he was referred to me by his GP. He had been diagnosed with high function autism due to the fact that he had once had speech but then regressed to being uncommunicative. The child had previously been seen by a consultant genealogist who had diagnosed a missing gene. This, however, was not thought to be the reason for the child’s autism or the cause of the serious developmental and behavioural problems he was exhibiting.

    The parents had tried numerous conventional treatments with no result. Both parents are professional people and felt unsure as to what to do next but knew they had to explore every possible avenue in an attempt to help their child. Even so, asking their GP for a referral to me came more out of desperation than a passionate belief in the curative effects of homeopathy.

    Desperate parents
    At the first appointment I went out into the waiting area to call the patient and his parents into the consulting room and was met by a riotous scene. Child “A” was running around the room making lots of noise, although making no physical or eye contact with anyone, while his poor parents were trying desperately to keep him under some kind of control. Finally we entered the consulting room but the child remained in a hyper-active state, not sitting still at any point during the consultation. He also made no eye contact and answered no questions from either myself or his parents. In the consulting room there is a small area set aside for children where they can play with a selection of toys and puzzles, but Child “A” showed no interest in playing whatsoever.

    The parents told me their son had recently started at a nursery. A good programme of learning had been organised and the staff were very supportive; but the child’s disruptive behaviour was a real problem and the staff were now beginning to question whether they could be of any real help. The parents felt as if they were being pushed into sending their son to a school for children with special needs. Despite this they still hadn’t abandoned hope of getting him accepted into a mainstream school and wanted help in getting him to a point where they would have that option. By the time the consultation was over the parents were exhausted and the room looked like a wild party had taken place.

    Baryta carbonica
    Having listened carefully to the parents and observed the child I set about finding rubrics or headings that accurately encapsulated Child “A’s” symptomology. In my opinion these were an over sensitiveness of all senses; difficulty with speech; not reacting react well to strangers or change; and finding social interaction very challenging. From this I was able to decide upon a course of treatment and prescribed a homeopathic medicine called Baryta carbonica in a 30c dose. Baryta carbonica (Barium carbonate) has traditionally been used in treating children with development problems both mental and physical, and who may also have difficulty learning.

    Eight weeks later child “A” came back for review. The parents said they had noticed a change in their son and although they were still having problems, the behaviour was different. The child was no longer constantly running around and the parents felt they were much more able to interact with him. He was also now maintaining eye contact with them, but with no one else. A report from the nursery was also encouraging as it said that Child “A” was coping better with the education plan, concentrating more and seemed more willing to join in. I recommended child “A” continue taking the Baryta carbonica on a weekly basis.

    A further eight weeks elapsed before the next follow-up consultation. For the first time child “A” made eye contact with me and even answered one question during the consultation. The parents told me the nursery had reported that the child was meeting all expected goals and that they were reviewing the teaching plan, as it was felt they needed to focus on areas that child “A” was enjoying, while still working to help him improve in other areas. The nursery staff had also said how much happier they were with Child “A’s” concentration levels and behaviour. Once again I recommended a continuation of the treatment and arranged to see the patient again in three months.

    School days
    At the next follow-up appointment, the parents informed me they had decided their child should be placed in a mainstream school that offered a good support network, which their local education department were happy to provide. Furthermore, Child “A” had now started to play computer games and was interacting more with others, although somewhat bizarrely he had also acquired an American accent. Although the parents and their family GP were at a loss to explain this phonological development, they were more concerned that child “A” had begun to have some twitching episodes. The parents were unsure as to the cause of these episodes but felt they were worse when the child was under pressure. I advised the parents to continue giving their son the Baryta carbonica but to increase the dose to twice a week when the twitching episodes occur.

    Child “A” started school and initially experienced some problems relating to fellow students and adjusting to the new routine, which resulted in problems with his concentration and behaviour. However, since the routine has become more settled, the twitching has reduced and Child “A” is now coping well with the demands of school. With this improvement the patient is now back to taking the homeopathic medicine once a week and improvements, although less dramatic, continue to be seen.

    Progressive improvement
    Despite the parents being delighted with their son’s progress, they will freely admit it has not all been plain sailing. Child “A” is being taught in an assisted learning programme and at one point he was only able to go to school in the mornings due to a lack of teaching support. Thankfully this has now been rectified and he can now attend school full-time where he is joining in with others and making friends.

    From time to time his behaviour can still be a problem in as much that his attention span is not as good as it could be. But if he is interested in the subject being taught he is much more able to cope with the lesson. Furthermore, he continues to enjoy computer games and has developed good eye contact. Overall the parents have seen a dramatic improvement in their son’s behaviour and concentration levels, and believing the improvement is progressive they are continuing with the homeopathic treatment.

    Childhood behavioural disorders
    There is a range of childhood behavioural disorders that can have many causes including inconsistent or contradictory parenting, family or marital problems, child abuse, neglect, overindulgence, injury or chronic illness, and separation or bereavement. But generally the problem has more than one specific cause. Symptoms will also vary and include aggression, anxiety or depression, poor mental performance, as well as physical problems. Constant disruptive behaviour, problems with sleeping and habit disorders such as tics – the involuntary, repetitive movements of muscle groups usually involving the head, the neck and hands – can also be indicative of a child with a behavioural disorder.

    A number of medical conditions can also result in a child having behavioural problems.

    Autism is a lifelong condition affecting how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people, and how they make sense of the world around them, resulting in impaired development. Children with autism may also display an increased, or sometimes reduced, sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours. Some people with autism live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and therefore require a lifetime of specialist support.

    Asperger syndrome is a form of autism and a lifelong disability. It affects how a person processes information, relates to other people and makes sense of the world. It is sometimes described as a “hidden disability” because it is difficult to tell that someone has the condition from their outward appearance. People with Asperger syndrome have what is often referred to as “the triad of impairments”. These are social communication, where listening to conversation is like trying to understand a foreign language; social interaction or a difficulty picking up social clues and knowing what to do when they get things wrong; or social imagination where they have problems guessing what other people are thinking. While there are similarities with autism, given the right support and encouragement, people with Asperger syndrome can lead full and independent lives.

    ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is characterised by the inability to attend to tasks. The child will often avoid sustained mental effort resulting in them constantly making careless mistakes. They will have difficulty in playing quietly and be very fidgety.  They will also display an impulsiveness that causes them to shout out answers and frequently interrupt others. An ADHD diagnosis is made when these symptoms are witnessed both at home and school and are impeding the child’s functioning. They should also have been evident before the age of seven years and present for more than six months. Between 3 and 7 per cent of school-age children are diagnosed with ADHD.

    Parents of a child who has developed behavioural problems are naturally concerned how their child’s educational and social development will be affected. The demands that the child can make on its parents can also be exhausting. Sadly, there is no quick fix for what can be very complex neurological and psychological conditions, and making an appointment to see a GP is the first step every parent should take if concerned about their child’s behaviour.

    Patricia Donnachie RGN DHPNC FFHom(Nurse)

    Asthma

    Homeopathy has an important part to play, writes Mabel Aghadiuno

    Asthma is a very common condition affecting five per cent of the population at one stage of life. In the Western world, up to ten per cent of children have the disease. It is certainly not confined to our epoch – Seneca the younger, a powerful Roman leader and historic figure of the theatre, described his asthma as his “last gasp”. However, he was something of a celebrity during his age and his demise was certainly not due to asthma!

    In asthma the bronchial tubes narrow and this makes it more difficult to breathe. Symptoms that occur in asthma are chest tightness, coughing, wheezy breathing and shortness of breath. These symptoms may simply occur when the body has to work harder – such as on walking quickly, going upstairs or running. House dust may provoke an asthma attack if there is a history of allergy as may exposure to cat, dog or horse hair. People who suffer from hay fever may find that they get asthma-like symptoms too. It is helpful to find out if the asthma is caused by an allergy as this can offer some direction that treatment with homeopathy may pursue. Asthma patients may have a personal or family history of hay fever and/or eczema, as these conditions tend to exist together.

    Conventional treatment
    In terms of conventional treatment, the medication available can offer reasonable control of symptoms. Bronchodilator inhalers (available on prescription) such as Salbutamol (Ventolin) and Bricanyl (Terbutaline) are designed to act on the muscles of the airways and help the air flow through. You could think of the airways as tunnels, which narrow down when there is asthma. The bronchodilators are the workmen which widen the tunnel allowing greater flow of air (the traffic). There are also steroid inhalers such as Becotide (Beclomethasone) and Pulmicort (Budesonide) which you could imagine to be the workmen who do the maintenance work in the tunnel preventing the build up of debris or do things which keep the tunnel nice and wide – they act by reducing the inflammation. If used well and if the asthma is not severe, inhalers such as Becotide can do a good job. If someone has asthma and they are already on conventional medicine I would strongly recommend that they do not stop their medication or alter it without deciding this together with a doctor. Stopping medication can result in a flaring up of the asthma and this may be confused with a homeopathic aggravation, or worse, it could be potentially very serious.

    Nevertheless sometimes people do not like the thought of taking these drugs and of the side effects that can occur. The side effects of Salbutamol are generally mild and steroids used short term rarely cause problems but the long term use of steroids even if inhaled may lead to potential problems if large doses are used. Initially homeopathic treatment may be used alongside conventional treatment but eventually we wish for a reduction in inhaler use and hopefully we can wean the patient off them provided that homeopathy gives a result as good or better than that obtained with inhalers.

    Homeopathic treatment
    So what homeopathic medicines are available to treat asthma? Asthma like any other condition can be treated with homeopathy at various levels. The ideal would be to find the treatment, which reflects the Similimum of the case (or as near to the Similimum as possible). By Similimum, I mean the remedy that best matches the person not just in terms of his symptoms but also in terms of his psyche and the way that he relates to other people and to life generally. This would offer a deeper prospect of healing. However finding the Similimum may not always be possible and there are many remedies which may be given for the symptoms of asthma. There are also remedies that can be given for the causes of allergic asthma (homeopathic preparations of house dust mite, grasses and pollens etc). Asthma is a condition for which I would highly recommend professional treatment – I would not advocate self-treatment. Here are the outlines of a few remedies, which may be helpful in the treatment of asthma.

    Blatta orientalis
    This is the large dark Oriental cockroach. As a species, cockroaches are night-active insects and most live in damp places. Interestingly, asthma sufferers who benefit from this remedy may complain that their condition is worse in mouldy, damp environments. There may also be an allergy or sensitivity to moulds, mildew and rotting leaves. This group of people comment that exertion and ascending tend to aggravate their symptoms although this can be a general finding in asthma. The combination of obesity and asthma indicates that Blatta orientalis is a remedy worth considering.

    Ipecacuanha
    If asthma is associated with nausea and/or vomiting then Ipecacuanha could be indicated. This remedy is obtained from the dried roots of a creeping shrub, Cephaelis (or Psychotria) ipecacuanha, which is native to Brazil but cultivated in other tropical climates. Emetine, the active principle of Ipecac, is obtained from the bark or the root. It is a powerful poison that produces vomiting and is sometimes prescribed to relieve the stomach of some other poison. Traditionally Ipecac is used as an expectorant in the treatment of bronchitis or croup, stimulating bronchial secretions to make coughing easier. In terms of homeopathy Ipecac patients present with a constant cough with gagging and vomiting. The chest may rattle and the patient complains that the symptoms are worse in warm humid weather and that heat generally makes her feel worse. She therefore may prefer sitting up by an open window to get some air. The hands and feet are cold and perspire profusely. Ipecac is recognised as a remedy for childhood asthmatic crisis. Prompt medical intervention is obviously indicated well before a child reaches this stage of illness.

    Lobelia inflata
    Lobelia inflata (Indian tobacco) derives from a common American plant, which has small blue flowers and inflated capsules. The “inflation” of the capsules could serve as a symbol of the type of asthma that this remedy helps. Asthma can be a frightening experience especially when you feel that you are not getting enough air into your lungs. As with many other conditions, this can lead to hysteria and panic. Panic can lead to working unnecessarily hard to breathe and this can result in “over-inflation” of the lungs. With this type of asthma, the shortness of breath is far out of proportion to the wheeze and therefore the amount of narrowing of the airways that there actually is. The patients who need Lobelia can feel a sensation of constriction or a lump in the chest. It can also be helpful when an asthma attack occurs during labour. Drafts and cold or damp tend to make the asthma worse while slow deep breathing make it better. Strangely, rapid walking also improves things.

    Antimonium tartaricum
    This, like Ipecac, was used traditionally in medicine as an emetic. It was also used as an expectorant helping the production of catarrh from the chest. It was used in the treatment of several diseases.
    but because the side-effects were frequent and toxic this eventually limited its use. Fortunately, the doses that are used in homeopathy are infinitesimally small so it can be administered with some benefit. This remedy can be useful in children and in the elderly, especially where the asthma is associated with infection and a lot of mucus. The mucus causes a coarse, wet sounding rattling noise both on breathing in and out. The patient may say that he feels generally better when he is fanned but he also might be rather irritable and wish to be left alone. There are also some other symptoms such as breathlessness, which is worse from heat and lying, but these are not really very specific.

    Sambucus nigra
    This can be helpful particularly in childhood asthma. The elder is one of the most mysterious plants in British folk tradition. Traditionally feelings about the elder were ambivalent – some considered it the friend of witches and were extremely superstitious about even bringing the wood into the house. However, the elder was also used for its protective and curative effects – protection against witches, for warding off flies and curing warts. The remedy Sambucus nigra is prepared from a tincture of the leaves and flowers. There was a legend that if you fell asleep under elder flowers, the scent would poison you and you would never wake up. Perhaps there is some truth in this if homeopathy will cure what it will cause. The patient who might benefit from Sambucus wakes up in the night with a frightening sensation of suffocation and may even have cyanosis (blueness of the face). There can be severe spasms of the respiratory airways so it is very frightening. These patients are worse at midnight or from midnight to 3am. The asthmatic attack may be associated with marked perspiration, especially on waking.

    Natrum sulphuricum
    This is a very useful remedy for asthma in both children and adults. The asthma may stop at puberty and reappear later from the 30s onwards. The asthma may even appear in association with a period of grief. It tends to be worse at 4am or between 4 and 5am. Damp weather – be it cold or warm – makes it worse, as does fog and storms. It may also be worse before menstruation. At times, there can be rattling and greenish mucus.

    Medorrhinum
    This can be very valuable in the treatment of childhood asthma, particularly where asthma and eczema may also be combined. The shortness of breath is reputed to be better when the child kneels on the bed curled up with the chest touching the knees (knee-chest position). Wet weather makes the asthma worse but being at the seaside improves it.

    Tuberculinum
    This is a useful remedy for asthma sufferers as it helps build up the immune system to try to prevent recurrent colds and chest infections which may precipitate asthma attacks.

    “One-liners”, which may direct towards a particular remedy, are:

    • Wheezing improved by belching: Carbo vegetabilis
    • Cough improved by taking cold drinks: Cuprum metallicum
    • Asthma symptoms improved at night by lying: Euphrasia
    • Cough worse from eating: Kali bichromium
    • Marked sneezing that makes asthma attack worse or provokes an attack; coughing causes tears: Sabadilla.

    Finally asthma sufferers include many famous people from the past and present day. Beethoven, Charles Dickens, Che Guevara, John F Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Collins number in their ranks. Besides having asthma in common, they all led or lead active, full, varied and energetic lives – the ultimate aim for all asthma patients.

    Mabel Aghadiuno MBChB MSc MRCGP DGM MFHom has been practising homeopathic medicine for some years, previously at the Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital and also in Edinburgh. She currently works in the Bromley homeopathic clinic and also treats patients privately.

    Allergy: a modern epidemic

    how homeopathy can help, by Sarah Buckingham and Jacqueline Mardon reviews one of her cases

    Many people are genetically pre­disposed to allergies – this is known as atopy and you often see allergies such as eczema, asthma and hay fever running in families. Atopy is becoming more common and the rea­sons for this are not entirely clear. One theory is that people have much better health these days and the body’s immune system doesn’t have a lot to cope with, so goes into “overdrive” in response to normally harmless substances.

    There is some evidence to suggest that those who have grown up with lots of brothers and sisters are likely to have had numerous infections in childhood which their immune systems have had to fight off and so have simultaneously built up resistance to allergens; so per­haps the trend towards smaller families is a factor.

    Other possible contributing factors include increased pollution in the atmos­phere and the use of chemicals in food, medicine and household products. Whatever the cause, more and more peo­ple are becoming susceptible; an esti­mated three million people in England alone now consult their GP each year about an allergy-related condition.

    What is allergy?
    Allergy is a heightened or altered reac­tivity of the immune system to exter­nal substances. Conditions that are caused by an external agent or “aller­gen” include eczema, allergic asthma, urticaria (hives), hay fever and peren­nial rhinitis (all year round hay fever-like symptoms). The most common allergens are house dust mites, pollen from trees and grasses, cats, dogs, milk and eggs.

    An allergic person’s immune system believes allergens to be damaging and so produces a special type of antibody (IgE) to attack the invading material. This leads other blood cells to release further chemicals (including histamine) which together cause the symptoms of an allergic reaction. A reaction can be caused by inhalation, swallowing, injec­tion, or contact with the skin, eyes or airways. In mild cases there may be slight itchiness or reddening of the affected area. In serious cases anaphylactic shock can occur, where the body’s immune response is so extreme that it causes low blood pressure, constriction of breathing and sometimes even death. But this subject is too complex to be covered here.

    Treatment
    Conventional medicine often involves taking antihistamines or steroids to manage symptoms. A huge range of products is also available over the counter. These may be useful but can also have unwanted side-effects like drowsiness, need to be used continu­ously and are not effective in all patients.

    By contrast, homeopathic medicine stimulates the body’s own defence sys­tem to cope with exposure to allergens, rather than suppressing the allergic symptoms. Often, treatment doesn’t have to be taken continually – for exam­ple, a homeopathic medicine taken before the start of the hay fever season can protect the patient through the whole season, reducing the need for antihistamines.

    There are a number of ways in which homeopathy can be used to help allergy sufferers.

    Local prescribing
    Medicines are prescribed based on the patient’s actual allergic symptoms, for example runny nose, itchy eyes, sore throat. This is known as “local” treat­ment and can be achieved in a standard GP appointment or even through self-prescribing, although it’s probably best to visit a homeopathic doctor to get the correct medicine, as you are less likely to pick the right one off the shelf first time.

    Constitutional prescribing
    Constitutional treatment in homeo­pathy is slightly different. It is based on a more in-depth consultation which takes into account not only the allergic symptoms but also the patient’s indi­vidual way of coping with the disease. This may involve looking at aspects of the patient’s lifestyle, eating habits, med­ical history and state of mind to achieve a complete picture of the individual.

    Isopathy
    Isopathy is similar to homeopathy, but the treatment is selected solely on the basis of the patient’s proven allergies (as shown by skin testing, for example). It involves giving a patient the substance to which they are allergic in a homeo­pathic potency.

    It is best to arrange a consultation with a homeopathic doctor so that they can tailor treatment to you as an indi­vidual. Each of the five NHS homeo­pathic hospitals takes referrals for allergy; the hospitals in Glasgow and London have specialist allergy clinics.

    The allergy crisis
    The health service is struggling to pro­vide adequately for allergy sufferers. While it’s thought that the government is keen to devolve allergy care increas­ingly to GPs, there are concerns that not enough GPs are trained in allergy to be able to provide adequate treatment. A report by the Lords Science and Technology Select Committee last year found that there is “a severe shortage of allergy specialists” in the UK and that clinical services “lag behind” others in Europe.

    The report recommended “robust research” into complementary treat­ments for allergy. This echoes a report on CAM published by the same com­mittee in 2000, which advocated the creation of a stronger research infra­structure for complementary therapies. At the time the Department of Health allocated limited funds, but none went towards research in homeopathy. This is disappointing, especially in view of the potential for savings on conven­tional medicines such as steroids.

    To date, 13 randomised controlled trials have been carried out in allergy, nine of which had positive findings, clearly demonstrating that the area needs further investigation. There is, of course, no need to convince those patients who have used homeopathy with success. Their own positive expe­riences are proof enough for them that homeopathy works. At Bristol Homeo­pathic Hospital, a six-year study of patient outcomes found that 89 per cent of under 16s with asthma reported improvement and 75 per cent felt “bet­ter” or “much better”, as did 68 per cent of eczema patients under 16.

    Homeopathy clearly has an impor­tant role to play in allergy treatment. The current burden on the health sys­tem could be alleviated if more GPs were trained in homeopathic medicine or were able to refer to a homeopathic clinic or hospital. More reasons why homeopathy is a vital part of the NHS and should remain there.

    Case study

    Jacqueline Mardon describes the treat­ment of one of her allergy patients:

    Allergy is a fascinating and satisfying area to work in homeopathically. There is great variety in the way people can present, and a challenging potential to significantly make a difference to their lives, particularly as there are often not a lot of options open to them. A diverse group of patients is seen at the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital Allergy Clinic. As well as asthma, eczema and other atopic conditions, I also see people with food sensitivities and intolerances and people with multiple sensitivities who are often desperate.

    A strong and sensitive lad
    Joe, an 18 year-old lad, was referred by his GP with longstanding atopy prob­lems in the form of asthma, eczema and allergic keratoconjunctivitis (severe inflammatory eye condition). Even with several months of immunosuppressant treatment (with corticosteroids and cyclosporin), he had flare-ups every few weeks. His parents were concerned about the impact on his confidence and life, particularly since he was due to leave home shortly for university.

    Joe has reddish-blond hair and is tall and bony with a very inflamed com­plexion and extremely dry, unhealthy-looking skin with cracks and excori­ations. He came to the clinic with his mother and seemed quite reserved, rather downcast, self-conscious and polite. He did not look at me much.

    His skin problems started at 18 months-old with scratching behind his ears and itchy eyes. He is described by his mother as intuitive and sensitive to people, just as she is. He had an unfor­tunate experience of being bullied at pri­mary school and had to move school, which resolved the problem. When he was eight, his mother was away from home during weekdays for two years. He missed her a lot and was anxious about it. He is the youngest of four sons and the only one still at home. Two brothers have eczema.

    Joe’s skin condition is aggravated during really hot weather. He has a big appetite and is averse to fish, shellfish and spicy food. At the age of two he had a very rapid onset of his face and eye­lids swelling up and his lips puffing up with shellfish. If he puts fish like salmon to his mouth, he has spots on his tongue within a few minutes. He can only tol­erate tuna, either fresh or tinned, which he likes. He loves fruit, salads, choco­late, meat and mild curry. He’s had a dental brace for 18 months.

    He has had surgery to his corneas and treatment with steroid eye-drops from the age of seven until he was 14. There was concern that he might develop cataract, which can be a com­plication of this. Since then, he has Opticrom eye drops and antihistamines.

    When his skin flares (usually affect­ing his inner elbows, under his neck and behind his knees), his eyes can flare up too. The inside of the lids can swell up and feel gritty and there is a yellowish-green discharge. It may be hard to open his eyes when he wakes up and the left eye is slightly worse.

    He has tried food exclusion diets with no real benefit. Recent skin prick tests showed reaction to horse hair, cat fur, pollens and a big reaction to house dust mite. Blood tests have shown lev­els of response to house dust mite “off the scale”!

    His asthma is fine now and he takes a regular inhaled steroid, is not prone to chest infections and manages to perform sport, which he loves, to a high com­petitive level. He loves to shake hands at the end of the match. His mother says he is a gracious sportsman. He says he doesn’t like partying all the time!

    Treatment
    Joe is clearly distressed and embarrassed about his highly visible problems. He is anxious to relieve his eye symptoms and I did consider a local or pathological remedy. For keratoconjunctivitis, Silica, Ruta, Thiosinaminum or Graphites might be indicated. However, I felt the first approach with a prescription should be the constitutional remedy Natrum muriaticum, for which there seemed strong grounds in terms of his appear­ance and demeanour and also the his­tory of separation from his mother, which had affected him and may have coincided with the experience of being bullied at school. I chose to give Natrum Muriaticum as 30c, 200c and 1M poten­cies and then as daily LM1 drops. I also gave concurrent isopathic desensitisa­tion with House Dust Mite, also in the LM1 potency, just a few drops twice a week. The LM potencies are much less likely to cause aggravation, an impor­tant consideration in such a sensitive and atopic individual.

    Two months later
    Joe returned on his own to tell me his eyes had been good, the best for a while with no bad days since his last visit. His skin had been quite dry and itchy. He appeared much more relaxed (in retro­spect and in contrast I realised how tight he had been) and his skin generally less red. His neck was a bit blotchy, perhaps an indicator of his emotional sensitivity.

    He had left home and started his uni­versity course three weeks before and was returning to see his parents every weekend. He had managed to stop all his medication except the Opticrom. He felt he had had a good initial response with the homeopathy with his eyelids and was pleased about this.

    I gave Natrum muriaticum as LM2 and House Dust Mite as LM2, in the same way as before. He also told me his new accommodation was nice and he had “allergy sheets”.

    Six months later
    His skin had been generally good with a slight recent irritation on his back after he wore rubber and fibre gloves to garden. His eyes had been fine, with some itching the previous week going to bed and redness on waking, which lasted a couple of hours. He noted that this was when the birch pollen count was high, to which he is known to be sensitive. His studying was going fine and he had exams soon. He saw the ophthalmolo­gist again who said his eyes are stable. Joe thought his eyes had been bad only a very few days since starting university. My impression was he seemed more relaxed and his skin was very calm. I gave a slight increase to LM3 potency for Natrum muriaticum and House Dust Mite.

    Five months on
    When I next saw Joe he had spent time in the summer with his parents who had moved to an old and dusty house. His skin got worse and he had two courses of antibiotics for impetigo. Since return­ing to his new student flat which is clean, his skin was much improved! He told me his ophthalmologist had been thrilled. He was told that no one exam­ining his eyes now would think anything had been wrong with them! He now has an annual follow-up for his eyes.

    I gave Natrum muriaticum alone, as LM4 potency, and advised he could try tailing this to use every two days or less, with the option to increase again if needed. I offered a review for six months.  It has been very instructive to meet Joe and understand something of his experience of this relatively rare and dis­tressing condition of allergic kerato­conjunctivitis. Certainly, there was a change in environment and many life circumstances, but homeopathy and isopathy played a part in the dramatic improvement in his long-standing con­dition and he certainly seemed to lighten and blossom too.

    He actually became less competitive in his sport and seemed happy that it did not seem to grip his life so much. He had been promoted to a higher team, but actually found it too much of a strain and enjoyed the second team more. He seemed more playful and life was more fun.

    Perhaps he will even end up party­ing longer, despite his original assertion!

    Jacqueline Mardon MBBS MPhil MRCGP MFHom is a specialist in homeo­pathic medicine at Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital, where she also runs the allergy clinic.

    The Hyperactive child

    Marysia Kratimenos explains how the holistic approach of homeopathy can help with severe behavioural problems

    In recent years there has been an explosion in the number of cases of hyperactive children and those with attention deficit. Over two million children in America are currently on medication for ADHD, that is one in every 30 children. Ciba Geigy, who manufacture Ritalin, the “drug of choice”, would have us believe that this is due to “heightened awareness”. Some paediatricians totally deny that the condition exists at all and, instead, blame the symptoms on other reasons, such as food sensitivity or environmental factors. The truth is probably a combination of both these extreme views. We are all more aware of behavioural issues with certain children, and the boundaries between children “playing up” and “pathological” behaviour is very blurred.

    Diagnosis
    Part of the problem is that the guidelines for making the diagnosis of attention deficit with or without hyperactivity are ill defined and subjective. Some children with the condition are dreamy and “away with the fairies”. Others seem to resemble a juvenile Attilla the Hun. And conventional medicine lumps them all together under the umbrella of ADHD!

    And their treatment? Ritalin, an amphetamine. Speed. A stimulant to treat over-activity. Inadvertently, the Law of Similars, a fundamental  homeopathic principle has been borrowed by the very doctors who believe it is illogical and unscientific.

    To diagnose ADHD doctors use a checklist of symptoms. The more symptoms that are ticked and the longer they have been present, the more likely a diagnosis of ADHD. The symptoms are already deliciously vague, and then one has to consider whether they are “maladaptive and inconsistent with the developmental level”.

    The criteria for inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity are all listed separately and depending on the score in the three groups one is either labelled as having attention deficit with or without hyperactivity and impulsive behaviour. Most children will avoid, dislike and be reluctant to do their homework, lose things necessary to do the homework and conveniently turn a deaf ear to parents’ entreaties to get on with it, whilst cheerfully working out how to get to the next level in Pokemon. Sound familiar? That combination of behaviour patterns scores four points on the inattention criteria! According to these criteria most of the children I see in the clinic have ADHD to greater or lesser degree and I score full marks! It is little wonder that the condition is being diagnosed so frequently.

    There have always been children with challenging behaviour, but the method of treatment and the diagnosis is ever changing. Some of these children are very difficult todeal with from a parenting point of view and in my opinion the parents need as much support as the children. I often hear mothers say “It’s so hard to love Johnny, I do try but…” and as you watch the little darling demolish the room with the efficiency of a tornado, you are filled with understanding.

    Parents have a bad enough time dealing with this sort of behaviour without having someone (who usually has no children) telling them it’s all their fault! There are many ways that the parents can improve the situation, once they know how. It should always be born in mind that in the meantime they are doing the best they can in a very difficult situation.

    Causes
    No one knows what causes attention deficit and/or hyperactivity. There are numerous theories ranging from it being hereditary to it being a result of the highspeed world in which we live. It is well known that ADHD is more common in single parent families. This may be due to the fact that the hyperactive father cannot sustain a relationship or it could be due to the lack of a suitable male role model for the developing child.

    As with most diseases the cause is probably due to a variety of factors. Our parents not only provide us with genes, they also show us how to behave in relation to the world. Whether we are aware of it or not we tend to copy our parents. There are many other role models, some real, others fictional, that will influence a child’s development. Bart Simpson is the ultimate parent’s nightmare child and yet children all over the world are glued to the television, fascinated by his antics and copying them to a greater or lesser extent.

    Modern life is fast and furious. We have lost the stillness and the tranquillity in the pursuit of a better job and achieving success in a materialistic sense. With women having to work, the decline of the extended family and the sense of community, children are often parked in front of the television or computer for hours on end. They no longer play those imaginative games or escape into a book; there are no outlets for their creativity. School is very competitive in preparation for the big world. Little wonder that some children escape into dreamtime instead of completing their maths homework. And
    others get fired up by all the extraneous stimulation, and end up racing around like the cartoon character, Roadrunner.

    Parents often notice that certain foods make their children even more active. Foods and drinks can, and do, act as stimulants. Colourings and preservatives, sugar, fizzy drinks can all increase activity. Many parents dread children’s parties as the junk food is guaranteed to bring out the worst in their children. With homeopathic treatment this sensitivity to food often disappears, but it is often useful to avoid the foods until there is significant improvement.

    Homeopathic treatment
    Unlike conventional medicine, homeopathy seeks to treat each child as an individual. There is no homeopathic Ritalin. Each child is assessed as the unique person they are. The remedy must reflect everything about the child. A detailed history is fundamental to the correct choice of remedy. The homeopath will ask about the health of the child and the family, the pregnancy and delivery, early development, vaccinations, life events, schooling, favourite foods, drinks to mention just a few points. The more information gathered, the easier it is to find that tailor-made remedy.

    Often apparently trivial information will lead to the remedy. Sometimes a drawing made by the child holds the key to the cure. I have seen a dreamy child with so-called attention deficit paint beautiful pictures of fairies and mushrooms. The remedy that brought the child back to Earth was Agaricus muscarius, the classic toadstool. Another child that responded to Tarentula drew UFO’s resembling a spider.

    In some cases the onset of the behavioural issues dates to a specific life event. Vaccines may lead to sleep disturbances and behavioural difficulties. There has been much reporting of the possible but as yet unproven association between the MMR vaccine and autism. And what is autism? In my opinion it is the ultimate detachment from “reality”. Dreamtime becomes the only world some of these children know. Many of them are truly gifted in a creative way. There are numerous examples of the “idiot savant”, the autistic person who can play musical instruments with absolute genius.

    Using homeopathy, the adverse effects of vaccines can be overcome, whilst retaining the protection from the infectious disease. Ideally, I prefer to prepare the child for vaccination with a remedy and to space out the vaccines. Injecting a two month-old baby with polio, tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, HIB, and now meningitis C germs, albeit in a modified form, is a huge strain on an immature immune system.

    Homeopathy considers every factor, from the genetic component to specific possible causes. The aim of treatment is to stimulate healing at the deepest level, and to allow a gentle return to health. Ritalin and related drugs act by suppressing the symptoms. One common complaint is that the children feel and act doped-up, and they lose the good side of their hyperactivity. There is a positive side, which we aim to retain with homeopathy. It is as important to nurture the creative spirit, the imagination, the energy, and the curiosity that these children often show as it is to remove the unacceptable behaviour patterns. So many of these children have wonderful gifts. Homeopathic treatment balances these qualities, so that the child can fulfil his or her true potential.

    Ritalin does not allow that to happen. Being a chemical drug it is subject to many side effects. Many children experience headaches, stomach aches, high blood pressure, drowsiness and blurred vision. It has to be taken every four hours, and when the drug is wearing off the children often become even more unmanageable. The Food and Drug Administration has shown that in animal studies Ritalin causes liver cancer. For all these reasons, I feel it is well worth taking time to explore other possibilities.

    Looking at diet, lifestyle, environment and family dynamics can well be extremely beneficial. Psychological support is essential for both child and parent(s), whether this is in a formal context such as Behavioural Therapy or Neuro-Linguistic Training, or informally with a support group.

    Homeopathy offers a safe gentle healing, and may be combined with other therapies and treatments. I have often used it even when the child is on Ritalin. As the child improves, the dose of Ritalin can be lowered and gradually withdrawn, with the knowledge and consent of the other health practitioners involved.

    Two excellent books on the market can provide additional information on the subject. Dr Christopher Green of Toddler Taming fame has written a useful book Understanding ADHD – A parent’s guide to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in children.

    Dr Green does come out in favour of Ritalin, but if you keep an open mind on that subject there is a lot of wisdom and humour in the book. Ritalin Free Kids by Judyth Reichenberg Ullman and Robert Ullman gives a deep insight into the homeopathic treatment and is very highly recommended.

    Homeopathy provides a safe, effective method of treating behavioural problems in both adults and children. I  may be combined with other treatments as needed. The change brought about can be dramatic and brings benefit to the child, parents, family, school and social group.

    In 1995 Marysia Kratimenos MB BS FRCS(Ed) MFHom joined the staff of the RLHH, where she is involved in stress clinics, general medicine, paediatrics and neuro-linguistic programming.

    Top 5 reasons we visit the pharmacist

    In the fourth of our five-part series, homeopathic pharmacist Lee Kayne looks at the top five reasons why people visit a pharmacy in relation to homeopathic treatments.

    Introduction
    Pharmacists are the most accessible of all healthcare professionals, seeing more patients than all the other professions put together and are available – with no appointment needed – to offer advice on all aspects of healthcare including homeopathy. Homeopathy is a holistic form of medicine where the patient’s symptoms, history, temperament, behaviour and emotional state are considered by the doctor. This involves a long consultation that can last for over an hour to ensure the correct medicine is prescribed, but over the counter (OTC) remedies are also available. Many local pharmacies will stock a range of around 30 homeopathic medicines, known as polychrests, all of which have a wide spectrum of activity and can be used to treat common conditions, based on the symptoms alone without the need to individualise carefully. The pharmacist will also be able to obtain other medicines upon request.

    Some pharmacists and pharmacy technicians may have specialist training in homeopathy and others will have acquired their own knowledge and experience of homeopathy in practice and so are able to offer advice on a wide range of conditions. In this article, I will share the top 5 reasons that a member of the public might visit a pharmacist for homeopathy.  In common with my colleagues who have previously submitted articles for this series, most of these reasons are symptom related. However, and perhaps unique to pharmacy, the number one reason people consult a pharmacist about homeopathy – or indeed any health related issue – is not for a medicine but for advice.

    1. Advice and information

    Pharmacists are experts on medicines, so it is not surprising that we have become the first point of contact for many people wanting information about homeopathy.

    Is it safe?
    The patient’s first concern is whether homeopathy is safe. There are two aspects to consider here;  is the medicine itself safe (intrinsic toxicity) and is it safe to use homeopathy in the circumstances presented (extrinsic safety). Homeopathic medicines are very dilute, containing minute quantities of active principle, in some cases such small amounts that we cannot detect them with methods that we have available today. For this reason, adverse reactions and interactions between medicines do not occur as they do for many conventional medicines and herbal remedies. Occasionally, however, a medicine which is prescribed correctly will initially cause a slight worsening of the symptoms, which is known as an aggravation. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but should it occur, the medicine should be discontinued to allow the symptoms to return to the previous level and then restarted at a lower dose.

    What can it treat?
    The conditions that lend themselves to OTC treatment are mainly acute self-limiting conditions including coughs, colds, allergies, etc. Colic and teething in infants and sports injuries are other examples of situations where homeopathy is useful. Generally speaking, homeopathic medicines are not strong enough to eliminate invaders to the body and so cannot be used alone in the direct treatment of infections, although they are very useful in alleviating the symptoms and can be taken quite safely alongside conventional medication from your doctor. Homeopathy is also rarely effective where there is a physical deficiency of some kind in the body, e.g. vitamin, mineral or hormone; again this is because the medicines are given in such small quantities. Some serious, long-term conditions can benefit greatly from homeopathy, but these are not available OTC, and you must first seek a consultation with a homeopathically trained doctor. org).

    Does it work?
    This is a difficult question and one for which there is no answer brief enough to include here. Suffice to say that, despite what the sceptics would have you believe, there is considerable evidence that homeopathic medicines work. However, due to the individualised nature of homeopathy, it is not possible to conduct randomised controlled clinical trials (RCT) in the same way as for conventional medicines. In homeopathy, one size does not fit all and a number of different medicines depending on the individual symptoms of each patient may be offered. Thus a patient-orientated approach to assessing outcomes is required, which is not widely accepted by the scientific community.

    How does it work?
    The honest answer is that we really don’t know exactly how homeopathic medicines work. But this is not unique – there are many conventional medicines that have no established mechanism of action and there are even uncertainties about common medicines like paracetamol. All we can say is that the medicines assist the body in responding to symptoms to bring a person back to their own individual state of “wellness”.

    How do I take homeopathic medicines?
    Homeopathic medicines are available as liquid and solid (tablets and capsules) oral dosage forms and also as topical creams, ointments and gels for application to the skin. Dosage forms should not be touched (the active ingredient is on the outside of the dosage form) but shaken from the bottle into the cap and placed on or under the tongue without touching. Liquid dosage forms may be dispensed directly on to the tongue or into a small amount of water for drinking. Other considerations are as follows:

    • Store medicines only in the original container, at room temperature and away from strong-smelling substances.
    • Medicines should not be taken within 30 minutes of food, drink, tobacco, toothpaste, other medication etc. If taking more than one homeopathic medicine, allow 5 minutes between each.
    • Medicines in solid forms should be sucked or chewed. Hold liquid medicines in the mouth for 15 seconds before swallowing.
    • Medicines should not be used beyond the expiry date printed on the label and any spilled medicines should be discarded.

    What potency and dosage should I use?
    The 6c potency is the most readily available OTC potency and the dosages below refer to this strength, but for first aid and acute use the 30c potency can also be used and indeed is preferable if available.

    For first aid treatments
    In this context we are not talking about only injuries resulting from an accident, but the immediate treatment for conditions like shock, diarrhoea, flu, stage-fright, etc. Depending on the severity of the condition, administer the dose every fifteen to thirty minutes for a maximum of six doses.

    For acute treatments
    After the first aid dosage suggested above, treatment may continue three or four times a day for five to ten days. Sometimes, in less severe conditions, this dosage is used first and is then reduced on improvement. If symptoms show no signs of improvement within 48hrs or indeed begin to worsen, you should make an appointment to see your GP. If you are in any doubt, consult your pharmacist immediately.

    For chronic treatments
    Here the term “chronic” does not mean long-term medical conditions such as heart disease, asthma or depression, for conditions like these must be treated by your GP. However, non-acute conditions like a sprained ankle that has been troubling for a couple of weeks or longer; seasonal allergies; a bad back that gives a rheumatic “twinge” in wet weather; or a troublesome cough following a bout of flu are suitable for homeopathic treatment. Here a twice daily dose might be suggested with a review after four to six weeks. I cannot overstress that here I am not talking about long-term medical conditions such as emphysema or chronic heart disease.

    Should I stop my other medicines while taking homeopathy?
    Homeopathic medicines will not interfere with conventional medicines and I always advise that under no circumstances should anyone stop taking prescribed medicines without consulting their doctor first.

    How do I know which homeopathic medicine to use?
    For simple self-limiting conditions you can base your choice of medicine on two or three main symptoms known as “keynotes” e.g. mental and physical exertion and bruising (Arnica)  or hot flushed appearance and sudden headache (Belladonna), seeking the advice of a pharmacist or using a reputable reference book as necessary to find the most appropriate medicine. This approach to acute prescribing is rather different to the more classical approach used by a homeopathic doctor who will want to know a lot more information about you and your condition before making a decision on how to treat you. Pharmacists will not prescribe for long-term conditions in an OTC situation unless they have undertaken advanced postgraduate training and, even then, will never treat a condition if they feel that homeopathy, the OTC pharmacy environment or indeed both are inappropriate. A pharmacist may feel that conventional medicine is a better option or that a GP should be consulted. If you asked for homeopathy and this is the answer you receive, please do not be disappointed or even angry – your safety and well-being is our primary concern. Sometimes the complementary approach of homeopathy plus conventional medicine works better than either one alone.

    2. Colds and Flu

    Colds and flu spread more easily during the winter as we tend to spend less time outdoors and turn the heating up indoors because of the cold weather. This, together with close contact with others in the home, at school, at work or on public transport creates a perfect environment for the spread of a virus. And the bad news is – there is no cure! The virus and its associated symptoms will not be defeated until the body produces antibodies against it and antibiotics usually have no effect, so we must concentrate on alleviating the symptoms.

    Because homeopathy takes into account the overall symptom picture, two patients presenting with the same complaint might very well be given different homeopathic medicines. For example, in treating a fever, Belladonna might be recommended in cases of sudden onset, especially if a sore throat is one of the symptoms; whereas Ferrum Phos may be more appropriate if onset is gradual. In a patient who has a lot of catarrh which improves outside in the fresh air, Pulsatilla may be useful; but a patient who cannot get warm might be better with Nux Vomica. For the very first symptoms of a cold (sneeze number one) take Aconite and for more established symptoms like headache, shivers, aches and pains, Gelsemium is usually the medicine to take.

    3. Mother & Baby

    During pregnancy most prescription, OTC and even herbal remedies must be avoided as they can pose a risk to the developing baby, but homeopathic medicines are safe for both mother and baby and can be very effective in treating a wide range of pregnancy-related ailments. Nausea and vomiting is extremely common in early pregnancy and contrary to popular belief does not only occur in the morning! For nausea and retching but little vomiting use Nux Vom but for unremitting nausea and vomiting Ipecac might be better. For nausea specifically relieved by eating, Sepia might be the medicine to use. In labour, Arnica can be taken before and after to reduce the internal trauma.

    From around 3-16 weeks of life, nearly all babies will exhibit some symptoms of colic and, while there is very little in conventional medicine to help, homeopathy has a few tricks up its sleeve! The most commonly employed medicine is Colocynth, especially for the baby that draws their legs up, likes to be carried and seems to gain some relief from firm pressure to the abdomen. For a baby who does not want to be picked up but has wind with diarrhoea, Chamomilla might be more suitable (this is also the medicine of choice for teething). Where there is a lot of wind but no other symptoms and the baby is generally happy, Carbo Veg might be best.

    Sleep disturbances in babies and young children is another extremely common problem that can be the bane of many parents’ lives. Passiflora is a good medicine for babies who have no trouble getting to sleep but wake repeatedly during the night or wake too early in the morning, for no apparent reason.

    Dosages for children are generally half that of adults. For babies, tablets can be crushed or an alternate dosage form such as soft tablets, powders, granules or crystals might be better. A pharmacist or pharmacy technician will be able to advise you on this.

    4. Anxiety & Stress

    Stress is triggered by different things in different people and symptoms vary. Physical symptoms may include headache, stomach upset, trembling, sweating and trouble sleeping; while emotional symptoms can include feelings of panic or anxiety, irritability, tearfulness and lack of concentration. Homeopathic medicines will not cause drowsiness or impair performance and are very useful for acute symptoms. But people suffering severe stress, panic attacks or whose symptoms continue for more than a few days should always seek treatment from a GP.

    Aconite can be good for general symptoms of stress with no specific focus. Argent Nit is better for fear, anxiety or “nervous tummy”, specifically before an event, perhaps an exam, a performance, first day of school, or even a wedding! However, in cases where someone is paralysed with fear (stage-fright), use Gelsemium instead. Ignatia is the medicine of choice for people who are very emotional and often tearful, particularly following bereavement. And  insomnia due to anticipation of an event will often respond well to Coffea.

    5. Injuries, aches and pains

    Trips, slips, sports injuries and simply overdoing it in the garden can lead to painful muscular injuries. Such injuries can often be treated homeopathically with Arnica as a tablet, cream or gel. However, there are a number of other options, especially where there is no obvious sign of bruising. Joint pain and soft tissue injuries respond well to Rhus Tox, particularly where the painful joint is stiff at rest but becomes more flexible on movement. Conversely, if the joint is worse with movement, Bryonia should be your choice. Strains and sprains, “pulled” muscles and “stretching” injuries of tendons and ligaments respond to Ruta Grav. Recently I have had great success treating sports injuries (some of which were my own) with RRA, a combination of Rhus Tox, Ruta and Arnica, taking the 30c potency three times a day while also applying Rhus Tox and Ruta Gel twice a day. The massage action of applying the gel assists in further reducing the discomfort associated with muscle injuries.

    For cuts and abrasions the affected area should be cleaned with running water and perhaps an antiseptic wipe before applying a solution of five drops Calendula mother tincture in a small amount of water. For lacerations and crush injuries such as jamming fingers in a door or drawer, Hypericum is the homeopathic medicine to use. These two mother tinctures are often combined (Hyper-Cal) to make a very useful application for wounds and scars after dilution in water. It can also be mixed with warm water in a slightly stronger solution (ten drops to 100ml) and used as a mouthwash or gargle, especially useful after dental surgery (for more on homeopathic dentistry see Health and Homeopathy January 2010).

    Finding a homeopathic pharmacist
    Nearly all pharmacies will stock a limited range of homeopathic medicines and most pharmacists will have a basic understanding of homeopathic theory and practice via undergraduate or postgraduate teaching or from one of the books on homeopathy published by the Pharmaceutical Press.

    There are also a number of pharmacists who have received specialist postgraduate training in a course accredited by The Faculty of Homeopathy. Successful completion of introductory training enables pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to become Licensed Associates of the Faculty of Homeopathy and use the qualification LFHom(Pharm). Pharmacists who go on to complete more advanced training achieve the qualifications DFHom(Pharm) and MFHom(Pharm), the highest level of training. To find a homeopathic pharmacist with Faculty qualifications, visit the British homeopathic Association’s website at www.britishhomeopathic.org. All members of the Faculty of Homeopathy are bound to practice within the competence of their profession and their level of training and qualification in homeopathy.

    Lee Kayne PhD, MRPharmS, FFHom is Pharmacy Dean of the Faculty of Homeopathy and also Chief Pharmacist at Freeman’s Homeopathic Pharmacy in Glasgow

    First aid

    Carol Jackson discloses what remedies she keeps close to hand and why

    When setting up a first aid kit, it’s important that you are famil­iar with the remedies it con­tains. If you need a materia medica to use the products it’s not “first aid”! When I first became interested in homeopathy I set up a first aid kit using my tutor’s recommendations. The vast majority of the remedies I never used; but then she was a doctor and my kit was purely for personal use (family, friends, my pets and myself). So my advice is only put in what you think you will need and can use confidently.

    I’ve been a bit selfish with this choice; most of the remedies are the ones I have in my own kit and I’ve chosen 20 as that’s how many fit in the cases! Joking apart, to be first aid it must be readily accessible and portable. My kit consists of two leather cases with elas­tic retainers inside which hold 7g tablet bottles. I take them everywhere with me, including to Everest Base Camp where they stood me in extremely good stead!

    So let’s consider the remedies I’ve chosen and their uses. You may like to laminate the reference guide overleaf (see PDF version of this article) and keep it with your kit, or better still write a summary in your own words.

    Aconite napellus
    For shock; but only the obviously pan­icky shock. It won’t help the “strong silent types”. They will respond better to Arnica. If the person has suffered an injury, alternate the Aconite with Arnica for the physical trauma; try not to give the remedies concurrently as they work best when given alone. The remedy should be given as soon as possible in as high a potency as possible. My kit contains 1M Aconite for extreme shock; I keep the lower potencies for influenza, colds and high fevers which occur suddenly and are often brought on by exposure to dry, cold winds.

    Apis mellifica
    For bee or wasp stings, and any allergic reaction to a bite or sting which causes swelling, redness and pain. The affected area will be hot and very sensitive to touch; there may be general stiffness and constriction due to the swelling. The majority of urticaria cases (allergic skin rashes) respond to Apis. Remember red, swollen, hot: the pain is often described as burning or stinging. Apis can also be used for sore throats and rheumaticky joints with the familiar constriction, red­ness and stinging pain. Using 30c every couple of hours till the pain subsides is a suitable dose.

    Argentum nitricum
    Stomach upsets. The rushed and hurried diarrhoea, sickness, bloating, flatulence and headache you might get from nerv­ous anticipation. It’s wonderful for pre-driving test, or pre-flight nerves. In fact it can be used for “pre-anything” nerves, especially public performances involving speaking or singing, where the victim gets splinter like pains in the throat. Give 30c twice daily for “pre­anything” nerves, 30c every couple of hours for stomach upsets.

    Arnica montana
    Trauma. Well all the books label this as the “traumatic remedy par excellence”, and that just about says it all. Give it as soon as possible, in as high a potency as possible for acute conditions. Lower the potency for conditions that started after a trauma but were not treated with Arnica at the time. My kit contains 1M Arnica, but I use 30c and sometimes 6c or 6x for conditions which have been allowed to develop over a long period.

    Think of the remedy when a person says they are fine but doesn’t want you to touch an injured area, even if you can­not see any damage. Remember it can be used for mental traumas as well as physical injuries. Again the patient will say they are fine when that’s very unlikely! I’ve had good reports from patients using it for jet-lag.

    Arsenicum alb
    Food poisoning, especially from fruit or water. The person will be very anxious and not easily pacified. They will be cold, unable to get warm though the stomach pains would be described as burning. I’ve found it useful for severe heartburn; especially that which occurs at night when you get anxious about not being able to sleep. Indeed Arsenicum does have “worse at between 2 and 4am”. Give 30c every couple of hours.

    Belladonna
    Illnesses that come on suddenly and vio­lently, resulting in throbbing pain, red­ness and swelling characterise Belladonna. I’ve used it more in children than adults; the child is often in a positively vile temper. Perhaps it’s just easier to spot in chil­dren who don’t modify their behaviour to fit expectations. Ear problems are especially prevalent, the sufferer will lit­erally be driven mad with pain. It was particularly useful in measles and almost specific for scarlet fever, though these illnesses are no longer common. Most sunstroke responds well to Belladonna, with appropriate re-hydration therapy, of course. Give 30c every couple of hours as necessary.

    Calendula
    Abrasions and cuts. I give it orally and sometimes use the pillules to make up a solution to bathe any wounds. The solution is wonderful for cold sores and mouth ulcers, and can be mixed with Hypericum, if the sore is very painful. The mixed solution is good for bathing minor burns or scalds. Don’t put anything on a major burn. I use 6c pillules and give them orally twice daily; use a solution as required.

    Cantharis
    Major burns. It goes without saying that really severe or extensive burns must be seen by a doctor, but Cantharis often takes away the pain and stops the skin cracking. I’ve used it in bad sunburn; alternate with Belladonna if sunstroke is an accompanying factor. Cantharis can be used in cystitis but the occasions when it is the correct remedy are few and far between. The burning pain is extremely severe (not just stinging), and there may be bleeding present. Cystitis of this severity is best treated by a doc­tor. Give 30c every two hours.

    Carbo veg
    Stomach upsets. Particularly caused by rich foods, wine and general “high” liv­ing. The stomach will be greatly dis­tended, with much flatulence and colic. The patient feels cold and lifeless but they want to be fanned and must have fresh air. They are better for belching. Carbo veg is useful for any case where the patient “lacks” oxygen and can be given in suspected heart attacks, where the patient is blue and lifeless. Make sure you give an aspirin and call an ambu­lance as well.

    Hepar sulph
    Abscesses and suppurating wounds which are very, very painful. The patient won’t even tolerate puffs of air across the wound. Hepar sulph aids the body to expel infections, but serious wounds should be checked by a doctor. I have used this remedy for a dental abscess, when the patient wouldn’t take the antibiotics the dentist prescribed. Well the abscess did recede allowing the tooth to be removed; but please make sure dental problems are seen by a dentist. Give 30c three times daily.

    Hypericum
    Painful injuries where nerves are dam­aged. Think of crushed fingers and stubbed toes. It works like an anaes­thetic, so can be used for any painful injury. Like Calendula I sometimes dis­solve the pillules and use the solution to bathe wounds or as a mouthwash for mouth ulcers. I have 30c pillules in my kit. Give every two hours for wounds.

    Ledum
    Puncture wounds and blunt trauma to the eyes. It’s the first remedy to think of with puncture wounds; it helps to pre­vent tetanus. Alternate it with Hypericum if the wound is painful. The odd thing with Ledum injuries is the patient may feel cold, or the wound may be cold, but the pain is eased with cold compresses.

    Ledum is almost specific for blunt trauma to the eye; it helps to prevent bruising. If the eye is already black, Hamamelis would probably be better. I have used it as a prophylactic for some­one who was having eye surgery. They didn’t have any bruising at all; the sur­geon was amazed. Give 30c two or three times daily.

    Nux vomica
    Stomach upsets, headaches and hang­overs caused by over-indulgence. This patient isn’t like the Carbo veg patient. He, and more than not it will be he, enjoys rich foods and high living. Nux vomica patients normally tolerate this lifestyle well. They are lively, work hard, play hard and as a result can be ratty and bad tempered! They certainly aren’t the lifeless, limp individuals who profit from Carbo veg. Give 30c every cou­ple of hours.

    Phosphorus
    Bleeding wounds/nose bleeds. Phos­phorus stops bleeding virtually instant­aneously. I have used it for my nephew’s frequent nose bleeds and helped a col­league with very heavy periods, but make sure that any unexplained bleed­ing is investigated. Give the highest potency you have every 15 minutes. I carry 1M pills.

    Rhus tox
    Bruised, sore muscles and joints. This patient has stiff, sore joints and muscles but is better for movement. In fact they can be restless and unable to find a com­fortable posture. If a person is not bet­ter for gentle movement, Rhus tox probably isn’t the right remedy; think about Ruta or Arnica instead.

    Rhus tox can be used for skin con­ditions that present like “poison ivy” rashes, for example chicken pox and shingles. Give 30c two or three times daily. If the injury is more chronic or the patient is very infirm, 6c would be a bet­ter choice.

    Ruta grav
    Strained joints and ligaments. Ruta can almost be considered to be “chronic Rhus tox”. If the patient is not better for movement it will help more than Rhus tox. Ruta helps with ligaments and ten­don injuries, where Rhus tox is more muscular; but the boundaries are not clearly marked. I would try Ruta first for cases of repetitive strain injury. Give 30c two or three times daily. If the injury is more chronic or the patient is very infirm, 6c would be a better choice.

    Staphysagria
    Lacerated wounds. It can be used pro­phylactically for open surgery. Keyhole surgery would be better with Ledum. Give 30c two or three times daily.

    Sulphur
    Skin conditions. Sulphur is wonderful for itchy urticaria which the patient scratches until it bleeds. The skin will be red and “unhealthy” looking. They are worse for bathing, being wet and from the heat of the bed. Go very carefully with potencies. Skin conditions are noto­rious for flare-ups. I keep 6x in my first aid kit and dose as and when required for acute conditions.

    Urtica urens
    Skin conditions. As the name suggests this is useful for urticaria, but only the sort that produces little vesicles and/or raised lumps like nettle rash. It’s great for “prickly heat”. Urtica can be used for minor burns and scalds as well. Burns that sting like nettle rash, but where the skin is not too sore to touch. Give 30c two or three times daily.

    20th remedy
    Now if you’ve been following closely you’ll see there are only 19 remedies – true. That’s because I think it wise to include your own constitutional reme­dy in your kit. For me it’s Sepia; I used to take it specifically for “female stuff”, now I only need to use it occa­sionally for those times when I don’t “feel myself”. It seems to ward off minor problems and elucidates any­thing more serious.

    Of course there may be other con­ditions you want to cover specifically, travel sickness, altitude sickness, period pain. It comes back to my initial advice, make the kit your own.

    Potencies
    A word about potencies. Basically, give what you’ve got. I was taught the rem­edy is the key for the lock, the potency is how hard one turns the key. If you have access to the potencies I’ve sug­gested so much the better, but the right remedy is the important factor.

    Carol Jackson MRPharmS DFHom (Pharm) is a community pharmacist. One of the first group of pharmacists to pass the diploma exam for the Faculty of Homeopathy, Carol advises her customers on homeopathy and promotes it to the other health care professionals she works with.

    Over the Counter (OTC) medicines

    Buying homeopathic medicine without extensive investigation goes against the classical approach but, says Steven Kayne, homeopathy is well suited to this while Lee Kayne runs through the remedies most often prescribed over the counter in treating self-limiting conditions

    One of the most important things about OTC homeopathic medicines is that people can take them in the confident knowledge that they are not going to experience a toxic reaction, because they are highly dilute. Sometimes patients do get an initial aggravation, and there is much discussion as to whether this constitutes an adverse reaction or not. It is true that if you take the right remedy in the right potency, occasionally the condition may become slightly worse before it gets better. If you don’t use the remedy as it is meant to be used or if you are not treating a condition that you can self-treat, then you are likely to put yourself in the position of allowing your condition to progress unchecked.

    Conditions to treat
    The sorts of problems that lend themselves to OTC treatment are mainly acute conditions (eg coughs and colds, allergies etc). Teething in infants or sports injuries are other examples of situations that may respond. Homeopathy is not very good for treating bacterial infections directly, apart from cystitis that often responds to a number of medicines, including Berberis or Cantharis. Generally speaking homeopathic medicines are not strong enough to eliminate invaders to the body. However, we can certainly treat the low, washed-out feeling that you get when you have a bacterial infection. This is an ideal situation to use homeopathy alongside conventional therapies. Homeopathy is also rarely effective where there is a shortage of vitamins, minerals or a hormonal imbalance in the body, again because the medicines are given in such small quantities. So, there is no homeopathic iron tablet as such. A homeopathic medicine may be able to help with associated symptoms but not rectify an iron deficiency directly.

    Using homeopathy with other medicines
    Orthodox medicines like steroids, found in some asthma medications, may reduce the effectiveness of homeopathic medicines. However homeopathic medicines do not inactivate orthodox medicines at all.

    We always advise that under no circumstances should anyone stop taking prescribed orthodox medicines without consulting their doctor first.

    Dose
    There are three levels of dosing appropriate to self-treatment:

    • First Aid Level – this includes the first treatment given for an acute problem, as well as first aid for an injury. In this situation, we would recommend 2 tablets every 15 minutes to 2 hours depending on the severity on the condition for about 6 doses. Children should be given one tablet as a dose in all cases.
    • Acute – this is a condition that you have had for a few days (ie sneeze number 52 or 53 as opposed to sneeze number 3 or 4!). For this, I would recommend taking 2 tablets 3 times a day for 7-10 days. If the condition is not substantially better, advice should then be sought.
    • Chronic – here I am referring to conditions that lend themselves to self-treatment, for example a person who still has a bruise after sustaining a blow or knock six weeks ago. This does not apply to long-term medical conditions. An appropriate dose would be 2 tablets twice daily for about 4 weeks.

    Potency
    Generally, the rule for OTC medicines is: the more acute the condition, the higher the potency. This may be very different from what you see in textbooks or are told by classical homeopaths but experience shows that this approach works well. Typically, 6c is used for chronic conditions and 30c is used for acute conditions.

    Dr Steven Kayne FFHom (Hon) is Hon Consultant Pharmacist at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital and Pharmacy Dean to the Faculty of Homeopathy. His new book on Complementary Therapies will be published later this year.

    Dr Lee Kayne is principal pharmacist at Freeman’s Homeopathic Pharmacy in Glasgow.

    The travelling homeopath

    Steven Kayne advises on what to pack for first aid on holiday

    Many people shy away from using homeopathy in first aid situations believing that one needs considerable skill and time to choose the right medicine. While this may well be true in managing complicated or long standing (chronic) cases it is possible to use a number of homeopathic medicines more easily in less complicated conditions, including those associated with travel.

    A drug picture is a list of symptoms that emerge when a homeopathic medicine is given to a healthy volunteer (a procedure known as “proving”) and provides a guide to its therapeutic use. A few medicines, for example Arnica and Belladonna, may be chosen on the basis of a highly abbreviated drug picture comprising just two or three key indications, allowing them to be used quickly and effectively when administering first aid. In this context I am using the term “first aid” to mean “first treatment” for any problem, rather than restricting it to physical injury resulting from an accident.

    Useful medicines for the traveller
    Some useful homeopathic medicines to consider taking with you when travelling are summarised in the table in the PDF version of this article.

    In addition to the medicines listed in the table there is one other that might be particularly useful for people who suffer from exposure to the sun. It is called Sol; the mother tincture is made by exposing an alcohol/water mixture to direct sunlight for five hours. As well as taking the medicine (see below for suggested dose) it would be appropriate to follow the usual precautions of sitting in the shade, wearing a wide brimmed hat and using high factor sunscreen.

    If you have any doubts on how to use the medicines or do not see the condition for which you require assistance do not hesitate to seek advice from a suitably qualified pharmacist or homeopathic practitioner.

    Dose forms and levels
    The table shows three different oral dose forms – tablets, pills and granules – all of which are convenient for travelling. Liquid forms of remedies are also available to be taken by mouth. These are called liquid potencies and usually come in special dropper bottles to facilitate placing three to four drops directly on the tongue or into a glass of water to be sipped.

    Medicines for insomnia may be taken half an hour before retiring and again during the night if necessary. Medicines for motion sickness should be started two hours before travel and taken every two to four hours until the journey has been completed. There are different medicines depending on the mode of travel.

    Anxiety about travelling can often be allayed either by choosing a suitable homeopathic medicine (see table) and using the dose regimes suggested below or using another option – Rescue Remedy. This is a mixture of five flower remedies – Cherry plum, Clematis, Impatiens, Rock rose and Star of Bethlehem. Four drops of the liquid may either be placed directly on the tongue or diluted with water and sipped, four times daily as necessary. There is also a spray available.

    Jet lag may prove troublesome particularly if you are travelling for a relatively short period across several time zones. In many overseas countries there are conveniently packaged proprietary homeopathic
    products for jet lag available in airport shops, but none of these is currently licensed for sale in the UK. The main medicine to consider is Arnica. When being used for jet lag Arnica should be taken in the 30c potency every two hours on the day of travel and the following day if necessary; for longer journeys the medicine may be taken every four hours or as often as practicable.

    The 6c potency of Sol mentioned above can be taken prophylactically commencing five or six days prior to departure, at the acute level of dosing (see opposite) rising to the first aid level immediately prior to departure and then reverting to the acute level for the remainder of the trip.

    For other conditions there are two dose levels that may be used:
    First aid level: one tablet or pill (or a salt spoon sized dose of granules) of 30c potency should be taken every 15 minutes to two hours (depending on the severity of symptoms) for six doses. Relief is usually obtained by this time, but it is possible to repeat this regime if necessary.

    Acute level: if the condition continues to persist then it would be appropriate to move to the acute level of dosing. Here the 30c potency is given three times a day for up to seven days. If progress is not being made or you are unhappy at any stage then seek professional advice.

    Mother tinctures should be diluted before application by adding ten drops to half a tumbler of water. In countries where the water supply may be suspect freshly boiled and cooled water should be used. Calendula for gargling should be similarly diluted.

    Topical preparations should be applied sparingly twice daily. If the surface skin is deeply lacerated you should seek medical help.

    Taking your existing medication with you
    You should always take with you any medicines that you need on a regular basis and make sure that you keep them in hand luggage in case your flight is delayed or your main bags go missing. Medicines bought abroad may have similar names to those available in the UK but are often prepared to different standards or even have different ingredients.

    Use of homeopathic medicines as “vaccines”
    From time to time requests for “homeopathic vaccines” are received from people who are visiting areas where the risk of disease is high. Those patients who do choose to use homeopathic medicines in place of conventional travel vaccinations and for malaria prevention should be aware that there is no evidence that these provide any degree of protection. Such measures are, therefore, likely to be unacceptable to travel insurance providers. The Faculty of Homeopathy does not promote this methodology, being of the opinion that there is currently no evidence at all to support its use.

    Effects of X-ray exposure on remedies
    It is not unusual for travellers to ask if their homeopathic remedies are likely to be adversely affected by X-ray security machines at airports. The intensity of the rays used in these machines is relatively low and remedies are unlikely to suffer any deterioration during the three or four exposures an average holiday might involve. However, if repeated exposure is likely, on an extended business trip for example, then it might be prudent to request a hand search although these days this might well meet with a curt refusal. The traveller should be careful not to arouse suspicion – homeopathic remedies look remarkably similar to certain drugs of abuse! On more than one occasion I have been disturbed from my slumbers by an irate customs officer telephoning to seek assurance that the innocent-looking granules found in someone’s case were not something more sinister.

    Further information
    Further information for the serious traveller may be found in a comprehensive book written by Colin Lessell. World Travellers’ Manual of Homoeopathy (available from BHA Books, Glasgow) gives a fascinating insight into the myriad ways in which the unwary traveller may be infected, infested, stung, bitten or envenomed, quite apart from the common ailments resulting from fatigue, sprains, heat and cold. Happy travelling!

    Steven Kayne PhD FRPharmS FFHom (Hon) was a community pharmacist in Glasgow for more than 30 years. He is currently Honorary Consultant Pharmacist at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital. The second edition of his book Homeopathic Pharmacy will be published by Churchill Livingstone later this year.

    Fly “BHA”

    by Dr C.D.G. Johnson

    Allow me to indulge in a short spell of make-believe by introducing you to a little-known airline – the “British Homeopathic Airways” or “BHA” for short. It should not be confused with the parent association, or that other airline with a rather similar sounding name, which claims to be the largest airline in the world.

    The “BHA” can claim to be the oldest airline in the world, having offered first class service (just the one class I hope you will notice); none of this business-executive, club, or economy – for some 200 years.

    It has also one other inestimable advantage over all other airlines, for it offers highly effective treatment for the various ills that sometimes accompany this mode of travel, as part of its service.

    Fear of flying
    Perhaps the problem that is uppermost in many people’s minds is the fear of flying. This may be induced by a fear of heights, of crowds, of being closed-in, or the fear that inevitably something will go wrong. They may not be sure exactly what will happen, while others may be very precise in their forecast of disaster(s) about to occur. If this fear is shared by you, then fly “BHA” with confidence, for help is at hand, for that and other ills.

    In alphabetical order, the following remedies are effective. But please remember to gather as much information as you can before making your choice of remedy. Observation, when detailed and accurate, is more rewarding than asking questions, but do not forget to question the person, to confirm your observations.

    Aconite
    They suffer agonising fear of death, for they are convinced they are about to die and know exactly when that will be.

    They also fear crowds, even touching passers-by. Fear is etched on their face, be they sitting moaning quietly to themselves, gnawing their fists or biting their nails.

    They are frightened by the intangible, the unreal. Their face is pale usually, but can alternate between pallor and redness. Their skin is dry and hot. When they stand up they experience dizziness, which is momentary. They are impatient; therefore any delays in take-off make them restless and worsen their fear. They cannot keep still and they have a marked thirst for sharp acid drinks. There is obvious mental and muscle tension.

    All symptoms are worse at night, therefore avoid night flights if possible; and particularly worse for light and sound. They can be quite angry and quarrelsome.

    Argent nit
    The person requiring Arg nit will start to be fearful a few days before the flight as they have anticipatory apprehension. Invariably they experience frequency of bowel movement, though the motion is not necessarily loose.

    In the departure lounge they will be worse for hot, stuffy atmospheres, and will try to find solace in eating sweets: if this is excessive it will result in loud belching, much to their embarrassment.

    In the ’plane, they will choose an aisle seat for they need an easy escape-route because they suffer from claustrophobia.

    They will sit looking fixedly in front of them, particularly on take-off and landing, for they have a fear of looking down to the ground, from a height, and they have an urge to jump from a height.

    Arsenicum album
    They are the “Hercule Poirot” character for they are very neat, dapper, precise people. Their symptoms are markedly worse between midnight and 3am, also from cold and damp.

    They suffer a strong fear of being left alone. This is shown when their travelling companion leaves them temporarily; they become restless and anxious. They are plagued with an excessive fear of death, which may be felt to be imminent, but unlike Aconite, they are unable to foretell precisely when death will occur. As a result, they become inconsolable and despondent.

    You will notice that they are having some difficulty with their breathing, have a cold sweat and they are liable to faint. Surprisingly, at such times, they can appear stupid and dim-witted.

    Borax
    They have a fear of downward motion, particularly during landing and descent. The “fasten seat belts” sign precipitates symptoms, which may be dizziness, earache, nausea, pain below the left rib-margin, increased flatus and an urgent need to “pass water”.

    They are excessively nervous, being startled by the least sound.

    Lycopodium
    They also have anticipatory fears like Arg nit but there is no bowel frequency. This results in forward planning to the “nth” degree, but they are still worried that something will go wrong. As a result of all this mental effort they will be worn out before the start of the journey and will look it.

    They are forward planners because of their considerable apprehension and their avariciousness – they do not want to spend 10p where 1p will do. Other remedies are indicated for “forward planners”, but the reasons for this will be different.

    Lycopodiums are born worriers; they worry if they are not worrying about something for “something might be wrong”.

    They have a pale, sallow complexion with a deeply furrowed brow. They are afraid to be alone, like Arsenicum, but hate crowds. When ill, they are difficult to manage and are liable to be haughty.

    They love sweets, like Arg nit, and hot dishes but not coffee. They are forever hungry but easily satisfied, for they are easily bloated, particularly from bread, which then leads to painful flatulence.

    Their worst time of day is 4 to 8pm, so try to avoid late afternoon flights. Long-haul flights are a problem to them for they are unable to “cat nap”, and will be bad tempered if woken from sleep.

    They lack vital heat so are chilly people. But you may well see them loosening their clothing when uneasy, for tight clothing aggravates them.

    Airsickness

    Arsenicum album
    In addition to my previous comments, they experience a bitter taste in the mouth after any food or drink, with frequent eructations, even to regurgitation of acid matter, accompanied by nausea, which is better for lying down. They have an unquenchable thirst for cold water, acid drinks (eg fruit juice or coffee), but they drink it in sips.

    After food or drink they may experience violent vomiting, with burning abdominal pain (better for extra warmth) and this may often be accompanied by diarrhoea, which is usually simultaneous to the vomiting.

    Belladonna
    The person needing Belladonna is agitated, restless, tossing about, mentally excited, mistrustful, and fearful of approaching death. Despite this they may sit looking dejected.

    They experience a loss of taste and appetite, but are excessively thirsty though unable to swallow even a drop of liquid. They have nausea and an inclination to vomit on beginning to eat (more so at night) or retching or violent vomiting, or retching but unable to vomit, much as they might like to.

    Borax
    This is indicated for nausea and vomiting during descent, or flying through turbulence.

    Coca (Cocaine)
    (Editor: this can only be obtained from a specialist homeopathic pharmacy) It is indicated for altitude sickness, which may occur soon after reaching cruising height, or during the flight at this altitude. The sickness is accompanied by a tight headache, a band across the forehead.

    They can feel faint, have ringing in the ears, can become aware of their heartbeat; they may even be deaf. Despite a diminished appetite and a dry mouth, they crave alcohol. The stomach feels empty but there are very forceful and painful eructations.

    Cocculus
    They complain of a “sick headache”, with nausea and perhaps vomiting, with light­headedness and feeling faint.

    They have a loathing for food; even the thought of food or smell of food cooking produces nausea (Colchicum autumnale also has this).

    They need time to think, act and move. They are worse for least movement (Bryonia), being jostled, bumped or jarred.

    Nux vomica
    The Nux vomica patient has a very marked sensitivity to noise, light, smells, draughts (they are easily chilled), food and to people’s behaviour. In fact, very little pleases them.

    Their stomach action is erratic resulting in excessive retching and eventually vomiting.

    This situation is often brought about by overwork, with shortage of sleep, and over-indulgence in both food and drink prior to the journey. Therefore, on the flight, they should have only light meals and very little alcohol. Observe, rather than ask questions, for the reaction to the latter is likely to be hostile!

    Petroleum
    The person appears dazed (Cocculus). They have an occipital headache, and following take-off, with looking at the tarmac and other objects moving by, they will experience dizziness. There is an “all gone sensation” in the stomach.

    Travel may well produce a daytime diarrhoea.

    They are better for warmth, and a darkened room, and particularly, if surrounded by warm air. The movement of the plane aggravates their symptoms.

    Tabacum
    Those needing Tabacum are exhausted, deathly pale, have a cold sweat and severe nausea.

    They are very much better for open air, if possible, dark, and peace, with fresh air (from overhead ventilation), and eyes covered (eye mask).

    Jet-lag
    Cocculus 30c, one tablet twice a day for the two days before and after the flight, and every two hours the day of the flight.

    It definitely works, as my family and I can testify, as can many of my patients.

    Potency
    30c for all the suggested medicines.

    Dosage
    It is according to need, except for Cocculus in treating jet-lag, as outlined above. The need may be once every 15 minutes for three doses, then two-hourly for 24 hours, followed by three times a day for three days; or only three times during the journey and the day following.

    Summary
    I hope you can see now how much help homeopathy can be for some of the trouble that may attend flying, and that you will fly “BHA” in the future.

    Editor: “BHA” travellers note – drink plenty of non-alcoholic beverages; eat modestly – don’t take everything put before you; and move about on long-haul flights, when possible.

    Homeopathy for the over 60s

    by Bob Leckridge

    More and more people are living well past the age of retirement. Average living conditions and improvements in the treatment of infectious and other acute diseases are generally held to be the main reasons. This is resulting in an increasing percentage of the whole population being “elderly”. However, many “elderly” people are really pretty healthy and lead very active lives.

    Here is the first problem. How do we refer to the over 60s? “Pensioners” doesn’t seem quite right because there is an implication that someone who has been pensioned off has been sidelined or abandoned. The medical term, “geriatric”, has become quite derogatory. Indeed, I once heard a doctor who specialised in the treatment of older people saying that he thought we should abandon the term “geriatric” altogether. He no longer wanted to be known as a “geriatrician”. He proposed we use the term “elderly” instead and claimed this would allow him to rename his speciality as “elderology”. An “elderologist”, he said, would look after his patients in a ward known as “Eldorado”! I think he was joking. “Senior citizens” seems somehow quaint now and the modern “grey panthers” is positively ghastly.

    Maybe part of the difficulty lies in the fact that not everyone over 60 is the same. Isn’t it interesting that in this series on the seven life stages, the last one is the only one which applies to an age group stretching for more than two decades? Should we really consider people in their 60s to be the same as people in their 90s? For the purposes of this series we will and I am going to get round the labelling problem by making this article be about the “over 60s”.

    It could be argued that what this age group has in common is that they are the people with chronic illnesses. This is a fair observation. Most chronic diseases are due to degeneration of tissues and of body functions. When something degenerates, its healthy efficiency is lost. This is an age of losses. Other diseases are more destructive than degenerative, such as cancer and heart disease. However, being over 60 isn’t all about degeneration and destruction. It can be about previously unexperienced independence and freedom – the independence of having only choices about your own life to make, having moved on from family responsibilities, and the freedom from work commitments of time, energy and effort.

    Flow
    The concept of flow is an interesting one when we think about health. A healthy person has the experience that life is flowing smoothly and one of the characteristics of illnesses in the over 60s is a disturbance, or even loss, of flow.

    At a physical level there may be an impedance of flow because of painful joints due to arthritis. Bryonia is a commonly indicated homeopathic medicine for arthritis. The patient who responds best to Bryonia usually feels quite restless. They would like to move but every small movement is painful and so they have to try and keep very still. Indeed they might even hold the affected part or press it against a firm surface to gain relief.

    Pulsatilla, on the other hand, is more commonly indicated when continued, gentle motion relieves the pain. Continuous changeability is the most important feature to remember when thinking of Pulsatilla. The person’s pains continuously change. Their right knee might be painful in the morning but by afternoon it’s their left elbow and by the following day it’s moved again to the right ankle. Literally, it’s all over the place!

    In between is Rhus tox which is indicated when the patient is very restless but finds the first movements very painful as the joints stiffen up with rest. Once they get going, continued movement actually relieves the pain. Rhus tox, by the way, is the classic medicine for patients who get sore when the weather gets cold and damp. Homeopathic medicines cannot arrest the wearing out of the joints but in stimulating the body processes of self-healing and repair, it can ameliorate much of the pain and stiffness.

    Constipation
    Another physical problem caused by loss of flow is constipation. It isn’t a subject people like to talk about but the word constipation is used in several different ways. For some people it means they can’t manage to empty their bowels daily, whilst for others, although they can go every day, it is always painful. Calcarea carbonica is a common homeopathic medicine for older people because almost all of its indications are about slowing up. It can be very useful in chronic constipation, but most typically in people who are really not that bothered about that problem. Some will even say they actually feel worse when their bowels move so they almost prefer being constipated. In these patients it seems that all bodily and mental processes have slowed up. They are chilly, usually overweight and do everything slowly.

    Another common medicine for chronic constipation is Silica. This is indicated in patients who have to strain hard to pass a stool and who can have a lot of rectal pain (frequently associated with having an anal fissure). Like Calcarea carbonica, this is also indicated when there is a rather deficient metabolism which shows itself in Silica in chilliness, sweaty feet and a tendency for scratches, cuts and infections to take a long time to heal up.

    Prostate problems

    In older men another flow problem is caused by the prostate gland becoming enlarged and slowing up the flow of urine. It is important to have this problem checked out by a GP because it can occasionally be due to cancer of the prostate gland. However, it is much more commonly due to what is called Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy, which is just a simple swelling of the prostate gland. Sabal serrulata is a commonly indicated homeopathic medicine for this condition. Usually when this medicine is useful the prostatic hypertrophy is associated with a degree of impotence.

    Chimaphila is another common treatment for the swollen prostate gland, especially where the patient has discomfort which leads him to complain of a sensation as if he is sitting on a ball.

    Isolation
    The problem of flow being disturbed at this age is not just a physical one but it is also a mental and a social one. In fact, pain and stiffness in the joints, or having to run frequently to the loo, can have significant impact on a person’s social life preventing them from managing to leave the house and so resulting in them becoming isolated and withdrawn. This can lead to depression which just compounds the feelings of being cut-off.

    There are a number of possible homeopathic medicines which might help to alleviate some of the social or emotional isolation by stimulating the person’s healing system, which, in turn, helps them to cope with their changed circumstances. Pulsatilla, mentioned earlier as a common arthritis medicine, is also useful in alleviating these problems because the person in the Pulsatilla-type state will be feeling abandoned and weepy. They will long for company and feel better when others commiserate or sympathise with them. Magnesium carbonicum can also help if the person is feeling very isolated and has become very sensitive to cruelty, to sad stories and especially to violence on the TV, to the extent that they may have to switch the set off when the news comes on. The people who benefit from this medicine will likely complain that their pains are unbearable and will have a tendency to flares of anger which pass very quickly.

    Mental slowing down
    If the brain starts to have flow problems it shows with impaired memory, poor concentration and difficulty holding on to a train of thought. These problems are of course worst in dementia but they can occur to some degree in almost all older people. Medicines such as Petroleum, Alumina and Baryta carbonica are each commonly indicated as a treatment for people with such mental slowing. We tend to think of memory as being a single skill but in fact people who have developed dementia have shown us that different people develop more or less difficulty with different types of memory loss.

    Homeopathy illustrates this well and so helps us to make a better understanding of people with dementia. The typical patient who needs Petroleum will have memory problems which are mostly to do with spatial orientation – they will get lost when they go out into surroundings which should be familiar to them. Alumina is indicated for anxious people who feel hurried a lot and who cannot remember what they have just said and Baryta carbonica is for those who become a bit childish in their old age. It’s indicated for people who have problems finding the right words to say, and who go off home and leave their purchases in the shop.

    Sleep problems
    Another common interruption of flow in the brain is that of sleep function. For many older people sleep just does not flow as easily as it used to. This is partly because as we get older we actually need fewer hours sleep at night whilst we also develop a pattern of cat-­napping through the day. Coffea cruda is a treatment for insomnia where the problem is due to a constantly active mind. These people just can’t get to sleep because of the continuous flood of thoughts in their overactive minds.

    Passiflora is a particularly commonly indicated treatment for sleeplessness in older people who may be generally a bit weak but may have no other significant problems. Of course if the reason for the insomnia is pain then the cause of the pain must be dealt with directly. For example, some people suffer from disturbances of sleep because they have night cramps. If this is the case then a dose of Cuprum metallicum each night before retiring may solve the problem.

    Grief and loss
    Apart from all these disturbances to the easy flow of energies and functions, once people are over 60 the other common difficulty they experience is how to cope with loss. When loved ones or friends die it is normal to experience grief. However, it becomes a significant problem if the suffering continues for a long time or becomes so severe that normal life is overwhelmed. Psychologists have described four stages to the grieving process. Initially there is shock. The person just can’t really take in what has happened. The full significance has not sunk in. This stage typically only lasts a few hours and gives way to a time of distress where the mental pain is very acute. This is typically a very unstable time with rapidly changing mood swings and outbursts of tears. This may either be accompanied by a period of anger, or may progress into a period of anger with the anger being felt towards both to those who cared for the person who has died in their last illness and towards the deceased person themselves. The final stage is of resolution and acceptance which is really the most obvious phase of coping with the loss.

    Homeopathic medicines do not numb pain or take it away artificially and the process of bereavement is normally a healthy one which, although distressing, does not need any kind of medical treatment. Everybody actually copes with bereavement in their own unique way and a homeopathic medicine may only be required if it is felt that they need help to move on at any stage.

    Almost any homeopathic medicine can potentially be useful in resolving grief if it is prescribed on the basis of the individual’s distinctive reaction. However, there are two medicines which are the most commonly indicated. Ignatia is frequently the best medicine for those experiencing overwhelming suffering in the acute, or early, stages of grief. These are people who may be just completely numbed and unable to speak or eat or do anything. Or they may be in the stage of acute pain with rapid mood swings, suddenly bursting into tears at any moment, followed immediately by laughter. It can be a useful medicine at the funeral when emotions are at their most acute and unstable.

    Natrum muriaticum is mostly indicated for people with chronic grief who are stuck, anxious, withdrawn and constantly looking back and dwelling in the past. How long is it before we would consider grief to have become chronic? Well, there is no definitive number of weeks. It is more an issue of the extent to which the person seems to be overwhelmed and stuck. If they are beginning to become ill themselves because of it then they may need the help of Natrum muriaticum.

    Positive factors
    The situations I have described here paint a rather bleak picture of being over 60. So let’s wind up the series by considering the issue of health rather than disease because there is no reason why being over 60 should inevitably be equated with suffering and loss. We tend to take our health for granted. It is something we don’t even think about until it isn’t there any more. However, the whole process of considering the principles on which homeopathy is based gives an opportunity to consider health in its own terms and a well chosen homeopathic medicine can help to promote health at any age.

    Health can be considered to have three characteristics. It is the ability to cope with change – not to just put up with change but to adapt, develop, mature and become able to thrive in changed circumstances. Secondly, it is the ability to be creative, in the sense of being able to come up with novel solutions to our personal difficulties and of being able to express our true uniqueness in life. Thirdly, it is about engagement. As well as being individuals we are social beings. It is important for us to be in relationships where we are loved and loving. Being involved with others and with our world gives our lives purpose and without purpose it is hard to find a reason to get up in the morning.

    Considered in this way, the well chosen homeopathic medicine can enhance all three of these healthy characteristics – adaptability, creativity and engagement. At all stages of life such good health can help us to grow, whether physically, mentally or emotionally, and it is through good health that we overcome disease. This is a very different way of viewing life because the more common view in our society is that health is achieved by eliminating disease. This is one of the reasons why homeopathy is so satisfying – it focuses on health rather than becoming sidetracked into an obsession with disease. We are all different and we all have our own unique ways of coping. Recognising this uniqueness can be the answer to the puzzle of how to have good health at all stages of life.

    If you are going to use any of the medicines mentioned in this series, unless a specific dose is recommended by your homeopathic doctor, use a 30c strength and repeat the doses as often as is necessary. The rule in homeopathy is to take a dose, experience the improvement, then if the improvement starts to decline, repeat the remedy. If a dose does not produce any improvement, then there is no point in repeating that particular remedy.

    Bob Leckridge MBChB FFHom graduated from Edinburgh University in 1978 and worked as a GP until 1995 since when he has worked full-time as a Specialist in Homeopathic Medicine at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital. He teaches homeopathy internationally and is the author of Homeopathy in Primary Care. He was President of the Faculty of Homeopathy from 1988 until February 2005.

    Homeopathy for the 40s and 50s

    by Bob Leckridge

    Throughout this series I’ve focussed on transition and change as well as considering some of the specific diseases which occur quite commonly at each stage of life. Homeopathy is based on a whole life approach where the aim of treatment is to try to stimulate the body’s healing system to do its job. The healing system is not only the body’s defence, it is also the capacity to deal with change. In biological terms this is known as “adaptation”. Any changes in the circumstances of our lives, whether physical, emotional or social, demand that we respond by adapting. Sometimes this is a process of regaining our balance, or of holding steady in the face of some stress, but at other times the adaptive response is more about growth or development. This can result in life seeming to be never the same again. The changes can be so substantial, and the responses of the individual can be so deep and so wide-ranging, that really the word “transformation” is the most appropriate one to describe what has happened. We tend to think of transformation as being a positive phenomenon, but while it may be fundamentally positive, it can also occur in the midst of painful or disabling symptoms which transform someone’s experience of life in anything but positive ways.

    Homeopathy and chronic illness
    Dr Hahnemann noticed in his practice that many of his patients who had recovered quickly from acute diseases did not seem to make such a full recovery from other illnesses. This led him to develop a whole theory about chronic illnesses. His theories were quite advanced at the time, but since his day we have discovered much more about human health and disease so we have to adapt his original insights. For example we now know about the role of micro-organisms (eg viruses and bacteria) in causing acute infectious disease and we have discovered the genetic codes which are the main causes of some chronic diseases. We have also developed our knowledge of the nurture side of the “nature versus nurture” debate. What I mean is that we have increased our understanding of the environmental and social causes of chronic disease.

    Most chronic diseases are more common in the second half of life, so people in their 40s and their 50s are the very people most likely to have the experiences of developing and dealing with many different kinds of chronic problems including heart disease, cancer, arthritic diseases and diabetes.

    The vast majority of patients referred to the NHS homeopathic hospitals are referred with chronic diseases. This is partly because almost all of the drug treatments and surgical operations available for patients with chronic diseases don’t actually address the issues of healing or coping. They either just suppress symptoms or remove diseased tissue. As homeopathy works by stimulating the body’s natural system of self-repair and self-recovery then a well-chosen remedy has great potential to improve a patient’s quality of life. This can be experienced as an increase in energy, in well-being and as a reduction in disturbing or distressing symptoms. It is not uncommon for a patient with a condition like multiple sclerosis to say after homeopathic treatment that their loss of sensation, or their leg weakness, or whatever, is no better but that they now feel much more able to cope with their illness or disability. Alongside feelings of well-being and good energy this really is what health is about. In this context it would be reasonable to say that whatever the chronic disease it is worthwhile including homeopathic treatment.

    However, some chronic diseases are due to natural ageing of cells and tissues and others are caused by an inability of the body to pro­duce particular important hormones. Two examples of this latter state are diabetes and hypothyroidism. These are both common problems at this stage of life and both involve failure of particular organs to produce necessary body chemicals. In the case of diabetes, there is a failure of insulin production from the pancreas and in the case of hypothyroidism there is a failure of thyroxine production from the thyroid gland. Homeopathic remedies cannot produce what is not there so in such diseases the best which can be hoped for is that the organs which are not working properly are stimulated to work better and/or the person can be helped to cope with the change.

    A homeopathic remedy might improve both energy levels and the amount of well-being experienced by a patient with such a problem, but they will probably still need to take artificial supple­ments of some kind – insulin injections or sugar-lowering drugs in the case of diabetes and thyroxine in the case of hypothyroidism. It’s a sad fact that simply achieving “normal” levels of chemicals like insulin or thyroxine will not necessarily be all a patient needs to feel well, so homeopathy can in fact produce a better outcome for such patients than can be achieved through drugs alone.

    The menopause
    A particular hormonal problem at this time of life only affects women and that is menopause. Really, the menopause should not be considered to be a disease. It is a natural part of a woman’s life. Trying to not have a menopause by taking artificial hormones in the form of HRT for the rest of a woman’s life has been shown to cause many problems, including increasing the risk of several life-threatening diseases. However, the time around the menopause is undoubtedly one of the most significant periods of fundamental change in a woman’s life. Some women seem to sail through without any major difficulty but others experience profoundly unpleasant symptoms. It isn’t clear why experiences are so different. For some it is menopausal flushes which are the main problem, but for many there is a more fundamental issue.

    Trinny and Susannah in What Not To Wear focussed on menopausal women in one of their TV shows. It was an extremely moving programme and showed very clearly that for many women this period of life feels like a time where they disappear from the world. This is due to a whole host of reasons including loss of libido, tiredness, loss of roles in life (with the children growing up and leaving home) and a profound loss of sense of self as an attractive, sexy woman. It is a challenge to the very essence of personal identity as a woman. In the TV programme the problem was tackled at the level of care about personal appearance. This isn’t a trivialisation because there is no doubt that giving up on these issues is often a feature of depression.

    However, it is likely that a deeper level of help is needed – changing your clothes and your make-up just isn’t going to be enough! The homeopathic approach is ideal in this situation as it takes into consideration every aspect of a woman’s experience, from flushings to low self-esteem. There are no simple homeopathic solutions to this problem however. There isn’t any “homeopathic HRT”. Instead a homeopathic doctor will try to find a constitutional remedy for each woman.

    Nevertheless let me just say a little about some of the features of commonly indicated remedies for this problem. Sulphur, as a homeopathic drug, is a medicine for people who are hot. They often stick their feet out of their beds at night because they feel so hot. They tend to feel worse in hot conditions and get flushes of heat when moving from a cooler atmosphere into a warmer one. They are usually restless people but they are not very focussed. They tend to become quite disorganised, untidy and even messy. These are often people who choose to wear bright colours which clash with each other. You can spot them at the bus stop! Their physical problems often include eczema and bowel upsets like chronic diarrhoea. Indeed, there is a strange significant symptom which often indicates the need for Sulphur – diarrhoea driving the patient out of bed quickly in the morning.

    There are several other homeopathic medicines prepared from salts of Sulphur and these too can be commonly indicated at this time. Sulphuric acid, for example, includes the features of flushing seen in Sulphur itself but more severely. These are people who are always hurrying here there and everywhere and they complain that other people around them are not moving quickly enough. They do everything quickly – eating, writing, and talking. They tend to have lots of tremulousness and are also very irritable.

    Natrum sulphuricum, another sulphur salt, is a medicine which can be indicated for the depressed woman with flushes. In fact, the woman who needs this may be profoundly depressed, even to the point of having suicidal thoughts. These are patients who also have trouble with asthma and they are especially sensitive to damp conditions, often saying they feel much worse when the weather turns bad.

    The loss of oestrogen around the menopause also increases the risk of brittle bones (osteoporosis) but there are a number of things a woman can do to reduce the likelihood of this. Not putting too much stress on the bones by not getting overweight is a good help, as is regular, moderate exercise; stopping smoking is another big plus. In addition, a good constitutional homeopathic medicine can result in an optimising of the whole body’s function so, theoretically, it can also help to maintain the health of the bones.

    Gall bladder and heart problems
    At medical school, students are taught that the people most likely to get gallstones are those who are “female, fat, fertile and forty”. This is a bit cruel but it highlights the people most likely to have gall bladder trouble – women in their forties who have had children and who are overweight. There are homeopathic medicines which can both help to relieve the pains of gallstones and even help the body to expel them. The medicine, Calcarea carbonica, which we looked at in a previous article has these characteristic features, especially when the patient also has the typical symptoms of an underactive thyroid gland. More specific treatments include Berberis which is a great remedy for the typical sharp, burning, well-localised colicky gall bladder pain.

    Another of the major diseases which turn up at this point in life is heart disease. Angina is the name given to the tight chest pains caused by the heart muscle being deprived of oxygen (usually because of hardening of the arteries). If you develop this you will definitely need to visit your GP but if you have already been given a diagnosis of angina, and the doctors have decided to try to control it with pills, then you may find the additional use of homeopathic medicines to be beneficial. This is not a situation where you can self-prescribe but included in the list of homeo­pathic medicines which are most commonly used to try to treat angina pains are Cactus grandiflora which has the typical tight chest pain described as being like a band of iron constricting the chest, often accompanied by palpitations, and Latrodectus mactans which is indicated where there is pain radiating down the left arm and accompanied by coldness of the hands.

    Cancer
    This has become the dread disease of our times. Yet it really isn’t helpful to think of cancer as being a single disease. There are two things to bear in mind with cancers. Firstly, cancers of different types behave differently and, secondly, every individual is different. One of the worst things a doctor can do is to tell a patient they have a certain number of months or years to live. No doctor can predict this accurately for any particular patient. It is guesswork based on the experiences of others.

    Patients with cancer can benefit from homeopathic treatment in a number of ways. It can be helpful at any stage of the disease to reduce painful or disturbing symptoms. Homeopathic medicines are non­toxic and don’t cause troublesome side-effects the way that orthodox drugs do. Again, at any stage it is useful to boost the body’s healing system resulting in improved energy levels and improvements in well -being. Thirdly, homeopathic medicines can reduce the unpleasant side-effects of powerful treat­ments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy. However, there is yet another, I believe even more significant use for homeopathy in the treatment of cancer and that’s in the growth of self-understanding and awareness which comes about by being enabled to tell your full story to someone who understands. Just that experience itself can improve a person’s quality of life. It’s this point which I’ve made repeatedly throughout this series. Homeopathy is about more than just some medicines for some symptoms. It is a way to improve self-awareness, and therefore, self-understanding. This is what brings about the transformations in life which can occur in the course of homeopathic treatment.

    Major challenges
    A characteristic of the typical challenges of this life-stage is loss; it’s about endings. It may be because a man or a woman is confronted with what is known as an “empty nest” where the children have grown up and no longer need the kind of parenting they had needed over the best part of twenty years. Or it may be a man’s or a woman’s realisation that they are never going to have a child. The time has passed. This is, of course, much more likely to be an issue for a woman than a man because a man may still father a child later in life. On the other hand, it may be the end of a professional or working life. Many people have experienced redundancy or enforced early retirement in their 50s and, particularly if it feels as if this was indeed enforced rather than chosen, it can precipitate depression. These losses in relation to family or work are particularly significant because of their impact on self-identity. We each have a sense of self, constructed from various different sources.

    The roles we play in life are especially important in defining the way we see ourselves. Traditionally it has been said that a woman defines herself through her relationships and a man defines himself through his work. This is still true of older people but society has changed so much over the last 50 years that this view is now out-dated. However, the areas of relationship and work are still the most important ones for both men and women in defining how they see themselves. This is why a loss of sense of self as a parent, potential parent, or as a professional person has such a huge impact. There is no doubt that these times demand major changes and so it is no surprise that under such stress people have increased vulnerability to a whole host of diseases. It is also no surprise that depression is common at this time.

    Depression is often a complex condition and most people need professional help. There is a multitude of homeopathic medicines which may be indicated in the treatment of depression but a couple of common ones which cover this sense of emptiness and loss of self or loss of personal power are Aurum metallicum and Stannum metallicum – that is, gold and tin. Aurum is a medicine which is indicated for black, deep, even suicidal depressions. This kind of depression comes from a loss of personal power and is most likely to occur in those who lose positions of power. Stannum is often indicated when there has been a loss of status and is accompanied by feelings of emptiness and hollowness which may be experienced in the chest or in the head and may also be accompanied by loss of power in the legs.

    You will see, even from these small descriptions, that every homeopathic medicine has its unique and specific features and indications. This is the beauty of homeopathy. It is based on the characteristics and the situations of an individual’s experience and it treats not just part of a person but the whole person. This means the effects can be wide-ranging and profound. These medicines can help you to transform your life.

    If you are going to use any of the medicines mentioned in this series, unless a specific dose is recommended by your homeopathic doctor, use a 30c strength and repeat the doses as often as is necessary. The rule in homeopathy is to take a dose, experience the improvement, then if the improvement starts to decline, repeat the remedy. If a dose does not produce any improvement, then there is no point in repeating that particular remedy.

    Bob Leckridge MBChB FFHom graduated from Edinburgh University in 1978 and worked as a GP until 1995 since when he has worked full-time as a Specialist in Homeopathic Medicine at Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital. He teaches homeopathy internationally and is the author of Homeopathy in Primary Care. He became President of the Faculty of Homeopathy in 1998.

    The prostate, homeopathy and Sabal serrulata

    The prostate, homeopathy and Sabal serrulata by Brian Kaplan

    The first thing that should be said about the prostate is that it is one of the most mispronounced words in the entire English language. So many people pronounce it as “prostrate” which of course means “stretched out on the ground” – nothing to do with the prostate gland. Most men know very little about the prostate and a survey once showed that 89 per cent of men didn’t know where the prostate was located. Embarrassingly studies have also shown that women know more about the prostate and prostatic problems than men!

    So what exactly is the prostate? It is an important walnut-shaped organ about the size of a golf ball, which surrounds the beginning of the urethra at the base of the bladder. And as everyone knows, only men have prostates. Its main function is to produce about 25 per cent of the semen in every ejaculation. This prostatic secretion protects and nourishes the sperm (produced by the testicles) and helps to prevent the urethra from becoming infected. It thus plays an important part in the male reproductive system. The prostate can be examined by the physician putting an index finger in the rectum – a slightly uncomfortable, but not painful medical procedure. Examination can reveal if the prostate is enlarged or hard in places. The prostate gland can be affected by three major types of problems.

    Infection (prostatitis)
    Acute prostatitis is caused by a bacterial (and occasionally viral) infection usually as the result of a sexually transmitted disease such as gonorrhoea or sometimes as a complication of a urinary tract infection. Treatment is to identify the offending bacteria and prescribe the appropriate antibiotic. I see no place for homeopathy in the treatment of acute prostatitis.

    Chronic prostatitis is more mysterious and troublesome to treat. Initial treatment in orthodox medicine is with antibiotics but even surgery is resorted to on occasion. I believe that homeopathy is well worth trying before resorting to the rather drastic option of surgery. Such treatment should only be attempted by an experienced homeopathic doctor.

    Cancer
    Prostatic cancer is the most common cancer affecting men. In the UK, 27,000 new cases are diagnosed and over 10,000 men die of this dangerous cancer. It is much more common in elderly men with 80 per cent of cases occuring in men over 65 but it is not uncommon in men as young as 40. If left untreated it can spread to other parts of the body such as the spine and cause death. Rectal examination may or may not give a clue to the diagnosis. Fortunately there is a simple blood test that can screen for the level of prostate specific antigen (PSA). Levels above 10 do not prove cancer but indicate further investigations to be necessary. (Initially a repeated blood test and then a biopsy). There are those who believe all men over 40 should be screened for prostatic cancer but economic factors make this impossible for most of the world’s population. Even in prosperous countries, this severe (but often highly treatable) cancer goes undiagnosed because of ignorance. In his column in The Times 17 May 2004, Dr Thomas Stuttaford points out that 90 per cent of British men do not know the function of the PSA test (fortunately, 70 per cent of British women do) and he informs readers that a new help-line dedicated to prostate problems has just been set up, aptly called Ignorance isn’t bliss (020 8582 0248).

    The management of prostatic cancer should always be in the hands of a qualified urologist. It may comprise surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy and drugs. Homeopathy can be used in conjunction with these treatments but never instead of them. This is a serious and potentially lethal disease and needs to be treated with the utmost respect.

    Enlargement (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy or BPH)
    This is the most common problem affecting the prostate as it will eventually affect every man if he lives long enough! The enlarging prostate starts to press on the urethra and slowly obstruct it. BPH can present with any of the following symptoms all of which gradually increase if nothing is done about it:

    • a feeling that the bladder never completely empties;
    • a desire to pass urine much more frequently;
    • waking at night to pass urine (nocturia);
    • difficulty in getting started when urinating (hesitancy);
    • pain when passing urine or blood in the urine;
    • poor flow of urine.

    Orthodox treatment of this condition is with drugs in milder cases and surgery in more severe cases. The main drug used is finasteride, which can sometimes slow down the enlargement of the prostate. There are two types of surgical operations for BPH: removal of the prostate or boring a hole in it to ease the flow of urine, an operation known as a transurethral resection or TUR. The drugs can of course have side effects and the surgery almost always has a downside. Removal of the prostate prevents normal ejaculation and can result in impotence, especially in older men. TUR usually does not affect potency but often results in retrograde ejaculation (into the bladder instead of out through the penis), which obviously has an effect on a man’s sex life. However I believe that homeopathy has a big role to play in the treatment of prostatic enlargement.

    The homeopathic medicine Sabal serrulata is an excellent and specific treatment for BPH. When I first studied homeopathy a quarter of a century ago, Sabal had been used for many years for this condition. It was also used by herbalists who knew it by the name saw palmetto or serenoa repens. Native Americans have been using the berries of this plant for urinary tract problems for many centuries. It also once had a good reputation as an aphrodisiac but alas no more! The early American homeopaths of whom many were “eclectic” physicians had knowledge of the world of herbs and quickly included Sabal serrulata into the homeopathic materia medica, where clinical experience made it the most well-known specific homeopathic remedy for BPH. At the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital I was taught to use it in mother tincture rather than in potency. As results have been rather good with this form of the remedy, I have never changed although I have heard of homeopaths getting good results with various potencies.

    After making a diagnosis of BPH, I take a full homeopathic history in the usual classical way. My aim is to find a remedy that suits his constitution and prescribe this remedy in a high potency as well as Sabal serrulata in mother tincture. So a typical case may receive Lycopodium 200c three doses in the first 24 hours followed by six drops of Sabal serrulata mother tincture three times a day. Such an approach is consistent with the French homeopathic methodology known as “drainage”. I am a classical homeopath and don’t use this approach routinely at all; in fact Sabal serrulata is one of the few homeopathic remedies I prescribe in this way.

    Brian Kaplan MBBCh FFHom has practised as a homeopathic doctor for over 20 years. In 2001 he published the critically acclaimed The Homeopathic Conversation. He was elected as a Fellow of the Faculty of Homeopathy in 2002. His website is www.drkaplan.co.uk

    Spotlight on Men’s Health

    by Jonathan Hardy

    It is interesting to consider the following facts:

    • Men, on average, live for six years less than women.
    • Over 90 per cent of convicted acts of violence are carried out by men, and nearly 70 per cent of the victims will be men.
    • At school, around 90 per cent of children with behaviour problems are boys, and over 80 per cent of children with learning problems are also boys.
    • Men comprise over 90 per cent of the prison population.
    • Approximately three-quarters of the unemployed are men.
    • A leading cause of death amongst men between 12 and 60 years of age is self-inflicted death.
    • Men and boys commit suicide four times more frequently than women.
    • Monday is the most common day for a man to commit suicide and 9.00am on a Monday morning is the most common time of death for men other than through a suicide.

    D.H. Lawrence’s poem Healing gives an insight into why these facts are relevant:

    I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections.
    And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly, that I am ill.
    I am ill because of wounds to the soul, to the deep emotional self…

    Fathers and sons
    A 38 year-old man came to see me several years ago. His chief complaint was moodiness. His bad temper was not only making him unhappy, but also his wife and children. In fact, as is often the case with homeopathic referrals, his wife was the chief motivator behind him seeking treatment with me. His was quite a familiar story.

    “I was brought up in a very Victorian home, with a Forces background. It was very strict and disciplinarian and that’s the way I tend to be with my children, and it creates so much friction with my wife. I can’t communicate with my children – I see my eldest son, who is 12, as a threat to the way I want to run the house. My wife’s always telling me off for frowning – I focus so intensely I find it very difficult to relax.”

    This man also had epilepsy with occasional fits which would always begin with cramping in the right hand which would progress to a tonic-clonic convulsion. This led me to the homeopathic remedy Cuprum, which fitted his personality very well. Cuprum individuals tend to be serious and intense. Cuprum is a major remedy for cramps and convulsions, but Cuprum people tend to be cramped emotionally as well. They are both self-critical and critical of others. Someone needing Cuprum has a feeling of being attacked and having to defend oneself and of beginning to lose his strength and control. As a result, there is a great need to maintain order through rules and regulations. The remedy solved many problems, both physically and emotionally, for him and family life became much better. He said to me: “I’ve started to bond with my children and not see them as a threat!”

    Being a real father is essential for personal happiness, the wellbeing of one’s children and the health of the wider society. Many behavioural problems in children, delinquency in youths and criminality in adults come from the lack of proper fathering of our children. In his book At My Father’s Wedding John Lee describes four kinds of defective father. There is the father who would be “king” who is aloof and does little more than administer punishments and pardons. There is the critical father who is full of put-downs and nit-picking. There is the passive father, who gives up all responsibility and power to his wife and provides no role model of the masculine attributes for his children and there is the absent father, who may be a capable, even powerful man, but is never there.

    Psychologists have identified “under­fathered” boys. They fall into two distinct types. One is over-macho: aggressive in dress, pastimes and attitude. The other is under-confident and often depressed – frequently suffering from bullying and fearful to try new things. A good father needs to be present to do things with his son. He needs to be a firm but safe disciplinarian. He needs to be involved with sons – and daughters as well – to admire them, teach them self-sufficiency and give them positive affirmation of their value and worth.

    Infertility
    For some men, of course, the problem is not being a father – infertility. A couple came to see me some years ago very distressed. They had been told that they would never be able to have a family because the husband had no viable sperm. Repeated tests had shown no live sperm in his seminal fluid. The couple were desperate to have children and came to me on the urging of the wife’s mother who is a great champion of homeopathy. When I am treating infertile couples I like to carry out hair mineral analyses to check for trace mineral deficiencies and excessive levels of toxic metals. These can cause low sperm counts, foetal abnormalities, miscarriage and other causes of infertility. With nutritional regimes and carefully prescribed vitamin and mineral supplementation these imbalances can be corrected. I also take the case homeopathically of both man and woman in order to select an appropriate homeopathic remedy. The correct medicine will improve general vitality but in addition certain remedies have very specific affinities for the reproductive organs and can sometimes restore normal function to a malfunctioning or diseased sexual organ.

    To return to the story of this couple – the woman’s case was unremarkable homeopathically but the man’s case sticks in my mind. He was fair-haired, very quiet and mild-mannered and somewhat shy. He was very sensitive to a number of things: criticism, warm, stuffy rooms and fatty foods (which gave him diarrhoea).

    A theme of sensitivity makes one think of a plant remedy since sensitivity can be seen as the central issue in most plant cases. The timidity and sensitivity to fats and warmth led me to Pulsatilla on a constitutional level but I was especially excited about this prescription for him since Pulsatilla is known to have a special affinity with the testes – for example it is listed as a remedy for pain, inflammation, induration, swelling and even cancer of the testes. A remedy is much more likely to be effective when it has both an affinity with the target organ and the general state of the patient and I was therefore cautiously optimistic that homeopathy could indeed work a “miracle” for my patients. The telephone call came a few months later – “We’re pregnant!” and sure enough a beautiful, healthy baby girl was born to a very happy couple and grandmother.

    Other remedies which have a marked affinity with the testes include Clematis – another member of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup) family along with Pulsatilla; Aurum (gold) and Mercury (both members of the gold series in the Periodic Table of elements which is known as a group to have an affinity with the reproductive organs in both men and women); Rhododendron and Agnus castus.

    Aurum is known for atrophy, inflammation and swelling of the testes and for undescended testes in boys. Mercury is indicated especially in cases of orchitis (inflammation of the testes) following after mumps (inflammation of the parotid salivary glands). Pulsatilla is also commonly needed for this unpopular condition.

    Rhododendron is another remedy for atrophy, induration (hardening) and inflammation of the testes. It has a special affinity for the right testis and is also indicated in delayed puberty in boys. In a case of Rhododendron one can expect to find the keynote symptom of the remedy – sensitivity to thunder­storms: these patients are frightened of thunder but can also sense its approach through the worsening of their symptoms before the storm-symptoms such as diarrhoea, headache, toothache and rheumatic pain.

    Agnus castus is an interesting remedy. One of its common names is chaste tree and it has been considered since ancient times a herbal treatment to encourage chastity. Even now in Italy the blossoming branches of the tree are laid in the path of novices as they enter a convent to become nuns. Hahnemann’s homeopathic proving of Agnus castus confirmed the folklore reputation of the plant with symptoms such as decreased or absent sexual desire, impotence and coldness and shrivelling of the penis. I have had several patients who have complained of this symptom picture and they have had cause to be very grateful to the chaste tree!

    For those not familiar with homeo­pathic principles the apparent paradox here is explained by the central tenet of homeopathy: similia similibus curentur – like treats like. Those symptoms which a substance will produce when taken in material doses will be removed from a diseased person suffering with the same symptoms when the substance is given in the form of a homeopathic remedy that is diluted and succussed to produce a dynamic medicine.

    Impotence
    A man of 56 came to see me. “I’m worried I’m going to have another breakdown (this had happened some years previously). I’m just feeling so stressed again. I wake up in the morning feeling so anxious. If there’s something I don’t want to face at work I find ways to avoid it. A while ago I just broke down in floods of tears and I had to have some time off. Now if someone comes to the door or the phone goes I make myself scarce. I’ve been having panic attacks. I’m having problems with impotence.”

    He was indeed worryingly close to a breakdown. In addition he had significant problems with indigestion and flatulence. He had joint pains and was not sleeping well. It is so common that, when we get ill, we are affected on all levels of our being: physically, emotionally and mentally. I felt that Lycopodium would be a good medicine for him. Lycopodium is a remedy strongly indicated in people who lack confidence even though the ability is there. They have the tendency to run away from problems. Nearly always an individual needing Lycopodium will have some kind of digestive upset. A few doses of Lycopodium worked miraculously for him. Not only did he feel much happier and able to take problems easily in his stride, but all his physical complaints cleared up.

    Sexual health
    Homeopathy is appropriate for all aspects of men’s sexual health, including sexually transmitted diseases. Of course it is important that patients have the necessary conventional investigations and treatments but it has been well known to homeopathic physicians for generations that conventional treatment of any infection does not necessarily remove the whole disease but only the superficial symptoms. The underlying disease process can remain and even be exacerbated by the suppression of the superficial manifestations of the disease such as discharge or ulceration. Indeed there are a number of homeopathic remedies which are specifically indicated in cases where a symptom complex has developed subsequent to the superficial treatment of sexually transmitted diseases. They can have dramatically beneficial effects in cases of serious chronic disease.

    Prostate problems
    Problems with the prostate gland are very common. The prostate gland surrounds the neck of the bladder and the urethra. It is partly muscular and partly glandular and about 2 x 4 x 3cm in size. A number of pathological processes can affect this gland which secretes a fluid that forms part of the seminal fluid.

    Inflammation of the prostate may occur often as the result of gonorrhoeal urethritis. This is accompanied by discomfort and pain in the perineal area and, if severe, with mild malaise and chills. A number of homeopathic remedies can treat this, both in the acute and chronic phases. Notable amongst them are Apis, Pulsatilla, Thuja and Chimaphila – this less well-known remedy is characterised by the sensation of swelling in the perineum as if sitting on a ball.

    Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy (BPH) is a non-malignant enlargement of the prostate due to excessive growth of prostatic tissue. It is the most common benign neoplasm of the ageing human male and is present in 50 per cent of men by the age of 60. By age 85 about 95 per cent of men will have microscopic evidence of BPH. Symptoms include nocturia (frequent urination during the night), a sudden desire to urinate that is difficult to delay (urgency), difficulty in initiating urination, urination that starts and stops, diminished force of urinary stream, and a feeling that the bladder is not completely emptied after urination. The hypertrophy may eventually be sufficient to prevent passage of urine from the bladder, causing acute urinary retention.

    My first post as a doctor was as a junior house surgeon on a urological ward. Most nights we would have elderly men admitted as emergencies with acute retention. They would appear as if nine months pregnant with hugely distended bladders and in extreme discomfort. My job was to insert a catheter to relieve them and they were always extremely grateful! After an episode like this, it would be usual for the patient to have the excess tissue surgically removed, most commonly by a procedure called transurethral resection of the prostate. Recent advances in surgical technique which spare the nerves mean that the previously common side-effects of impotence and urinary incontinence are much less frequent. If symptoms are less severe medicines can be used which reduce the size of the prostate.

    It is necessary to differentiate Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy from prostate cancer which is a malignant neoplasm, usually adenocarcinoma. It is the most frequent cause of cancer in men and the second leading cause of death in men. There may be no early clinical signs or symptoms of cancer of the prostate and therefore early detection is difficult symptomatically. There are tests, however, which include blood analysis of prostate specific antigen (PSA), periodic digital rectal examination (DRE) and use of transurethral ultrasound (TRUS) to provide information about the size and shape of the prostate. If tests are positive and the cancer cells are believed to be confined to the prostate, several options are available: radiation therapy, radical prostatectomy and watchful waiting. Men with prostate cancer that has spread beyond the prostate are treated with hormone therapy.

    Homeopathic medicines exist which can complement the conventional treatment of cancer of the prostate. These include Conium, Thuja, Sabal serrulata and Hydrangea. Homeopathy can effectively reduce levels of prostate specific antigen (a situation for which there is no conventional treatment). If the PSA is marginally high Thuja can be used and if it is very high Conium is more appropriate.

    Conium is hemlock, a plant of the Umbelliferae family. It is a major homeopathic remedy for cancers of a number of types, including cancer of the prostate, breast, bones, ovaries and uterus. The disease is often associated with a gradual paralysis and weakness in the individual on all levels, mentally, emotionally and physically.

    Thuja is the remedy prepared from the arbor vitae tree, a member of the conifer family. It has a strong affinity with the genito-urinary organs and is known as a medicine for tumours, both benign and malignant. There is normally some rigidity and obsessiveness in the Thuja personality and a feeling of fragility. The patient may be quite closed but well-mannered and polite.

    Sabal serrulata is prepared from the herb saw palmetto which is also prescribed as a herbal medicine for prostatic hypertrophy.

    Hydrangea has a strong affinity with the urinary organs and an influence on fluid balance, which is interesting since gardeners will know that Hydrangea is an extremely thirsty plant. It has been used for both benign and malignant enlargement of the prostate.

    Jonathan Hardy MA BM MFHom has been practising homeopathy full-time in Hampshire since 1985. He obtained a degree in zoology before studying medicine and has a special interest in animal remedies.

    The male mid-life crisis

    When men reach a certain age they sometimes behave out of character, writes Brian Kaplan

    Have you ever heard of a happily married man who “found himself” and “ran off” with his secretary? Of course you have. Most probably he was between 45 and 59 years old. Now, if he’s lucky, his children still talk to him, but as for his ex-wife who used to be the love of his life… Or maybe you know a middle-aged man who just had to have an affair that apparently nobody knew about, until he got caught? Or the 50 year-old guy who feels a lot better since he was prescribed antidepressants for the first time in his life? Or the guy who suddenly “lost it” at work, did some­thing outrageous and got fired?Or the successful financial advisor who gave it all up and finally found happiness in landscape gardening?

    The so-called male mid-life crisis takes many forms but they are all merely variations of the same theme. Many men seem to wake up one morning in their mid-forties to mid-fifties and start ask­ing themselves some basic questions about their lives.

    Practising classical homeopathy for over 20 years means that I have heard hundreds of these stories. In most cases they were not the reason the patient con­sulted me. The man may have come to see me for just about anything. In classical homeopathy, in contrast to orthodox medicine, the doctor must ask the patient not only about his illness, but about his whole life. This means talking about job satisfaction, his marriage, relationships with his children, hobbies and hopes and dreams. When a patient senses the holis­tic approach of classical homeopathy he knows intuitively that he should not hide these sorts of stories from you.

    I think it entirely possible that home­opaths hear more of these life stories than both general practitioners and psy­chotherapists. General practitioners are often too busy to ask about anything except the presenting problem. Psycho­therapists do ask their clients about their life story; however they hear far fewer life stories because by necessity they see far fewer patients than most homeo­paths. Few psychotherapists see more than 30 patients a week and then they see the same patients again and again for many weeks. Homeopaths however, see patients monthly and seldom for more than five or six visits a year. We homeo­paths may be the health professionals that hear the most life stories of all and some of these are those of the man in a so-called “mid-life” crisis.

    What is “mid-life”? What is “middle­aged”? Is it an exact age or is it a state of mind? A friend of mine declared him­self “middle-aged” at 36. He said that he got on a bus and realised that half the people were older than him and half younger. He thus concluded that he was middle-aged. I don’t think there is an exact age. I’ve seen some pretty old 15 year-olds and some sprightly, young 75 year-olds. Youth, middle and old age are certainly chronologically age-depend­ent but they also have a lot to do with state of mind. And as we know, home­opaths pay a lot of attention to the state of mind of their patients.

    Obviously there is no “best remedy” for male mid-life crisis. In order to think of possible homeopathic remedies, it is necessary to look at some of the main issues that can contribute to this syn­drome. These are the five main areas of concern that often seem to come up: sense of mortality, marriage, family, work and leisure.

    Sense of mortality
    At a certain point in every man’s life, he realises that he is going to die. The moment may arrive with a deterioration of health or even something as trivial as male-pattern baldness. For religious people, this sense of mortality may not be a problem. For many others however, it can be frightening and lead to the ques­tion: “Have I done what I needed to do with my life?” If the answer to this is negative (as it almost always is), then this can lead to a fear of death and con­sequent anxiety and depression. Remedies that have “fear of death” can then be thought of:

    Arsenicum album: fear of death, predicts early death, fastidious, tidy people who tend to be miserly.

    Kali arsenicosum: especially if there is a fear of heart disease (much more prevalent these days with all the pub­licity on coronary heart disease).

    Phosphorus: for more open men who are interested in the arts and love physical and mental reassurance and sympathy.

    Marriage
    Men in fulfilling, happy marriages are less likely to suffer from this syndrome than men who feel trapped in loveless, sexless marriages or who are half of a couple who only live together “for the sake of the children”. Sex may be far less frequent than before and his wife may be struggling to come to terms with the changes in her physiology due to the menopause and the end of her repro­ductive years. His libido and ability to perform sexually may also be ebbing a bit due to age, fatigue, pressure at work and loss of confidence. Remedies to con­sider are:

    Nux vomica: successful, powerful men who like to burn the candle at both ends and may well see an affair or two as the “solution” to their problems. May be critical of their wives and family.

    Lycopodium: men who have a problem with commitment anyway, and now that life is going through a hard phase, start to wonder if they married the right per­son in the first place. Also candidates for an affair. On the other hand they may be starting to experience some symp­toms of sexual dysfunction.

    Family
    It can be quite daunting for a man to see his children leave home. He might sud­denly realise that the best opportunities for spending time with them have now gone and start to regret not making more time for them. This makes us think of remedies for grief and loss:

    Natrum muriaticum: silent grief. Everything bottled up inside. Aversion to sympathy and will seldom seek counselling or advice of his own accord.

    Aurum metallicum: grief that manifests as deep depression. May even think or talk of suicide. Usually suits successful, powerful men who distract themselves from their grief by becoming work­aholics.

    Work
    Few jobs are guaranteed these days and men feel far less secure in their place of employment. This lack of confidence gets worse as they get older and “new blood” is brought into the company. They may feel they could lose their job at any time. They may also question what meaning their job has in their life and start to wonder if they are doing the right job at all. Fear of poverty can be a useful rubric here:

    Bryonia: fear of poverty, irritable and con­stantly and pessimistically talking about business.

    Staphisagria: repressed anger, resentment, sudden outbursts of anger, high sex drive, tendency to masturbation. Useful when there is resentment at not being promoted or doing the work they hoped to be doing.

    Aurum metallicum: for men who avoid fac­ing the many challenges of middle age by “throwing themselves into their work” and becoming workaholics. These men tend to be successful (gold standard)people and often very wealthy. They may look quite contented to col­leagues and friends but inside they feel deeply depressed and may even enter­tain suicidal thoughts.

    Leisure
    Men who work too hard to have any hobbies or leisure time are more vul­nerable to a mid-life crisis. As retirement looms they have every reason to become fearful. Other men might look forward to playing more golf or spending time with the grandchildren but if a man never had time for these in the first place, then it’s unlikely they have been nur­tured enough to generate real enthusi­asm. The word and symptom “apathy” comes to mind:

    Phosphoric acid: apathetic, listless, in­different and settled despair. He has little enthusiasm for anything.

    Time running out
    Of course the remedies listed above only represent a small percentage of the many ways men with the male mid-life crisis may present to a homeopath. There is, however, one symptom in the repertory that epitomises the struggle these men are engaged in. It is in the Mind section of the repertory and is: Fear of being unable to reach his destination.

    As life reaches its mid-point, it starts to dawn on some men that they may never realise the dreams of their youth. Time is simply running out and this fills them with dread. The main remedy for this symptom is Lycopodium, and indeed I have found it an important treatment (but by no means a panacea) for the male mid-life crisis. It is possi­ble, however that men who always needed Lycopodium as a constitutional remedy have a higher incidence of this syndrome. Lycopodium has a fear of the challenges that life throws at us and the mid-life and increasing sense of mor­tality is a big challenge for anyone to have to face.

    How useful is homeopathy in treating male mid-life crisis?
    In my experience, homeopaths can be of great use to these men. Unlike ortho­dox medicine, homeopathy really encourages people to talk about their whole lives. Just speaking to an empathic listener about the vicissitudes of this crisis can be of great therapeutic bene­fit. Many men may turn up their noses at counselling and psychotherapy but may be prepared to reveal all to a doc­tor who is prepared to listen. Homeo­pathic doctors tend to be “listening doctors” so the homeopathic consult­ation process itself can be very helpful for sufferers of this syndrome. In addi­tion, the prescription of the right home­opathic remedy can be just the tonic these men need.

    This article was first published in the Spring 2003 issue of Health & Homeopathy.

    Brian Kaplan MBBCh FFHom has practised as a homeopathic doctor for over 20 years. In 1987 he edited Dr Gibson’s Studies of Homeopathic Remedies with Marianne Harling and in 2001 he published the critically acclaimed The Homeopathic Conversation. In 2002 he was elected as a fellow of the Faculty of Homeopathy.

    Homeopathy in practice

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