Saturday, November 03, 2012

Something to prove there's something in the water

Early morning cycling over the Van Brienenoordbrug
and Rotterdam's Nieuwe Maas River
For a few years now, I've been using homeopathic remedies for minor ailments and the usual round of cough colds and flu that beset most of us during the colder months of the year. I've long believed that pumping people full of antibiotics and fabricated drugs could not possibly be good for us although I think we can all be grateful they are there for the more serious illnesses. It doesn't escape me that diseases like bubonic plague that wiped out huge sections of the population at one time just don't happen today. Firstly, hygiene is much better and secondly a course of antibiotics would cure it anyway - simply and effectively. We are very lucky to have them for the more serious illnesses.

Nevertheless, I much prefer to treat 'conditions' as opposed to illnesses homeopathically. The idea that problems like sinus congestion and eczema can be treated more effectively by looking at the whole person and their personal tendencies rather than as individual symptoms just makes sense to me. That being said, I admit I have resorted to conventional medicine when I haven't had time to investigate my problems by following the homeopathic route.

Just recently, though, I've read a book that has reinforced my thinking about the importance of homeopathy. The book was written by a school friend of mine, Sue Lanzon. I haven't seen her since we were about sixteen or seventeen, but I do remember her very well. Sue was one of those serene souls who exuded tranquillity. I don't know if she was really - serene and tranquil that is - but that's what she conveyed - that along with wit, intelligence, great creativity and grace. So, it wasn't really a great surprise to learn that she'd become a homeopath when we bumped into each other on Facebook; nor was it a surprise to learn that before she became a homeopath, she'd been a professional photographer following an art school education. It all fitted with my memories of the school Sue.

However, I've also learnt that Sue is committed to her profession with more than usual dedication. Homeopathy is under fire in the UK. Homeopaths are frequently presented as quacks and their treatment is often dismissed as a useless con. It's claimed that it only works if you believe it will and that largely speaking, the remedies act merely as a placebo. I don't know how the critics manage to justify this when it comes to animals, but there you are. They do.

In any event, Sue's response to the critics was to write a collection of short stories about her life as a homeopath. As I understand it, the stories are fictional but built around events that are true. During each of these stories, she explains a homeopathic principle and treatment by first describing a fictional scenario which leads into the explanation of the homeopathic persona represented in the story and the reason for the 'like cures like' treatment.

I have just finished the book and loved it so much I have ordered three more copies to give as Christmas presents this year. It is just so beautifully written. The stories are intimate, moving, sincere and compelling. The writing is stunning in its clarity and poise. One story in particular, Dirty Bargains, literally moved me to tears. I caught myself, more than once, wishing that I had written this paragraph, that phrase, this sentence. Truly lovely. In fact, if I could, I would make everyone I know read it.

Added to the sheer beauty of the stories, the homeopathic insights have been a real eye opener for me as regards a member of my family. I was so excited when I read the story that gives the book its name, I actually got up and danced. This book has explained a problem that has been puzzling us for years. My relative is a 'sepia' patient. Not only that, someone recognised it years ago and called her a 'cuttlefish', but we didn't see or make the connection then. She went to visit a homeopath and the remedy is already showing signs of very positive results. It feels like something of a miracle.

Water is part of my life, so for me
Something in the Water is aptly named

 Looking east from the bridge. How often I wish
I could be on those boats going too

The book is called Something in the Water. It is published by Winter Press and it can be found here if you are interested. I hope you are. It's more than worth it, and is definitely one to keep. I'm keeping mine, that's for sure!


  1. What is the connection between sepia and cuttlefish, especially when referenced to your relative's illness?

  2. firstly Val, your photos are stunning.

    I work with a woman who is whole heartedly hands down, without a doubt, a homeopath. She lives by it. So I am a little familar about it all, I believe it has its place. I like to use natural remedies first, but will use conventional if needed, although I don't like them.

  3. I actually don't know that much about homeopathy, but would love to know more. I just tend not to go to the doctors, just work through it, not the best idea sometimes!!!!

  4. Dale, that's a bit difficult to explain in a short space like this, but sepia is the ink produced by the cuttlefish to obscure its presence when faced with danger. It's where we get the colour from too. Homeopathic patients who need treating with sepia display a variety of characteristics that mirror in some way the behaviour of the cuttlefish.

    Grace, you sound much like me! After reading Something in the Water, though, I will be more proactive about using homeopathy.

    Fran, homeopathy has worked for me. I have suffered a lot from sinusitis and catarrh. It's in my family. We all have it to some degree.The homeopathic remedies for this have helped to reduce it dramatically so that I don't need special diets or anything like that now. So yes, it works for me! I don't like going to doctors either :)

  5. You would think that homeopathy would be a little more respected if only for the fact that most drugs are synthesized from something occurring in nature to begin with. I would rather treat myself holistically than with manufactured drugs, and often find something natural can work as well if not better than prescriptions. Right now, I am on a lavender tea kick to relax and get myself to sleep . Seem to work though it tastes vile. :)

    Thanks for the book recommendation.


  6. I think it is good to explore Homeopathy and natural remedies.
    Just keep the conventional on the back burner if needed.

  7. Anne Marie, I totally agree, and good luck with the Lavender Oil. What a shame that something with such a nice scent tastes horrid!

    Grace, that's my policy too :)

  8. I'm almost with you on this, Val - in the sense that it makes much more sense to treat people rather than symptoms. It's an approach that underlies Chinese medicine and ayervedic approaches as well as homeopathy.

    But there's a hidden scientist in me that wishes they would go through the same rigorous research processes of conventional medicine, with proper pilot studies and trials. It's hard to get one's head round the theory that water has memory (which underpins much of homeopathy), but if they can get the science to prove it - as opposed to a wealth of anecdotal evidence - I think they'd benefit both patients and themselves.

  9. Jo, I do understand where you are coming from, but I also understand that holistic treatment is virtually impossible to prove scientifically. However, the fact that it cannot be proved in a test tube, does not mean, for me anyway, that it is invalid. My daughter is a qualified pharmacist but she is also a believer in natural/alternative therapies. This is partly because she knows that science doesn't always get it right, despite the rigorous testing; partly because most drugs are, as Anne Marie says, synthesised from naturally occurring substances anyway, and partly because mineral imbalances in our bodies can cause problems that result in behaviours and symptoms that are not apparently related to the imbalance. As homeopathy and natural medicine address the causes rather than the symptoms, and she believes that prevention is better than cure, she subscribes to alternative medicine despite the lack of science. By the way, most homeopaths here in the Netherlands are also qualified GP's. I think that might be an interesting comment on what they themselves have experienced as doctors.

    I am neither a doctor nor a pharmacist, so I can only repeat what I have been told and heard, but I have certainly benefited from it.

    Dale, yes, but there are many who don't :)

  10. Great news on the book as I have purchased it for a close relative! Will be excited to hear what they have to say! I didn't want to open the package so sent it without a peek, although it looks very interesting!

  11. I've never been a fan of over taking medication either. It just seems like it would become less affective with time.

    I've never understood why some people would choose to be so down on homeopathic remedies either.

  12. I have tried homeopathy but it didn't help me. Neither did herbal tinctures or my GP's drugs. I know see that it was extreme stress causing my problem and I've since learnt to control that in other ways. I haven't ruled out homeopathy but I am still a little unsure about it.

  13. Thanks, much appreciated. i just wanted to respond to Jo's comment - there are numerous studies/trials of homeopathic remedies, but you have to search for them. The most interesting ones, i think, are the ones done on large numbers of farm animals. However, the insistence that the only way a healing method can be measured is by a double-blind random placebo clinical controlled trial does not fit with any holistic system. Medicine is not a science, and the fact that it is now regarded as only having validity if it can be measured in very narrow parameters is another example of the creeping corporatism which seems to be pervading every aspect of our culture.

    Sue Lanzon

  14. Val and Sue - I take your points. Randomised control trials are impossible for holistic approaches, which makes it impossible for you to satisfy my hidden scientist. And I don't dismiss any holistic approach simply because they can't hold such trials.

    But I have been educated to ask scientific questions, and approach any result (and this includes many medications 'approved' by companies such as GSK) with a 'yes, but...' response.

    I don't see any approach as having all the answers, so we should all do what works for us!

  15. Jo, that makes you an excellent critical thinker... since CT is a subject I'm teaching at the moment, I can appreciate your standpoint completely :)

    As you say, we have to do what works for each of us, but I have to confess my scepticism is much more targeted towards the pharmaceutical companies who largely operate on what makes the most profit for them rather than what is best for the patient. I worked in medical insurance for many years and learnt to have a healthy disrespect for the big pharmas (despite my daughter having studied as one) :)

    Anyhow, it is always an interesting debate. In the end, though, I just prefer not to load myself up with chemicals when something natural works as well even if it takes a bit longer to act.

  16. Val, I'm equally skeptical about companies that don't publish all their research studies, only those that support the results they are looking for.

    But Steve Jobs took a complementary approach to cancer (including an organic veg diet and coffee enemas to purge his system of toxins) in preference to surgery and chemo. And he died.

    There's no one solution. And maybe, whatever approaches we use, it pays to be a bit humble about it all - bodies are wonderful, mysterious things, and we can ask questions forever and never understand them completely!

  17. I take your point, Jo, and you are right that the body is still full of mysteries. I think I should also mention that my trust in homeopathy is geared more towards conditions rather than diseases, which is what I hope I said in the first part of my post. After all, cancer is something much more virulent and invasive than sinusitis, eczema and other allergies. I would certainly seek more specialist advice myself in that situation and also for acute, potentially life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia or viral diseases such as meningitis. My interest in homeopathy is based on prevention as much as cure and the belief that we can restore many imbalances with it. However, I accept fully that we can never know when something much more deadly is going to strike, and also that sometimes, it is just our number that's on the ticket. Thanks very much for discussing it so openly, Jo. I also like it that this kind of debate can be aired in a friendly and open minded fashion.

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