LAWS OF CURE
"Either you're going to stimulate healing, which
takes time for the body to repair itself,
or you're going to relieve symptoms with
some kind of medication - whether it's homeopathic
or allopathic doesn't matter. But you can't cure
and palliate at the same time."
Richard Pitcairn, D.V.M., Ph.D.
A few weeks ago a
reader called Tiger Tribe to ask if we had heard of a particular
homeopathic "drainage remedy." We didn't know anything about it, and the
reader said, "Well, it's homeopathic. It certainly can't be harmful, can
Dr. Richard Pitcairn's
answer to this question is simple - any homeopathic medicine, prescribed
without an understanding of the healing process, can potentially be dangerous.
"You can often do more damage with homeopathy than you can with allopathic
medicine," he told us during a series of conversations over the last several
months. In addition, he feels that combination remedies, mixtures of proven
and unproven remedies represent a seriously flawed and dangerous departure
from what he considers good homeopathic practice.
That anything homeopathic
could be considered dangerous might come as a surprise to those who see
homeopathy as an exercise in delusion and who attribute apparently curative
results to the placebo effect. But to those who have witnessed truly remarkable
homeopathic cures in animals and people, it should come as no surprise.
Any medicine with the kind of power homeopathy demonstrates must certainly
have the potential for misuse.
"The central issue,"
Dr. Pitcairn told us, "is understanding the difference between treating
palliatively or even suppressively and treating in a curative way.
"Any time you put
a medicine in an animal's body and that medicine has a resemblance to
the disease process there are three possibilities. (1) Symptoms are relieved
temporarily - and when the symptoms return, the asprin or antihistamines,
for example, may have to be repeated, and each time you need to increase
the dosage. This is called palliation. (2) The symptoms of the disease
are suppressed permanently but the disease remains uncured or gets worse.
This is, of course, called suppression. (3) The animal moves towards cure
in the manner described by homeopathic literature."
When D. Pitcairn talks
about a "resemblance to the disease process," he is referring to the basic
law of homeopathy, similia similibus curatur, or "like cures like."
In other words, a healthy person, given a particular medicine day after
day, would ultimately develop a certain set of symptoms as his vital force
responds to the medicine. This set of symptoms can resemble a disease
state, and a homeopathic practitioner, studying the symptoms of a person
or animal, can find a remedy which most closely matches the case. By way
of the law of similars a cure is achieved.
The basic understanding
of homeopathy is important to grasp because it points out the need for
provings of the homeopathic remedies. Healthy people, given the
remedies, record the symptoms they experience, and homeopaths use these
sets of symptoms to prescribe.
"The problem with
combination remedies," Dr. Pitcairn told us, "is that we don't know what
they do in terms of a historical proving, and we can't accurately match
them to the condition of the animal. So there is no way to prescribe them
"Even stranger to
me is the use of a number of potencies of the same remedy in a given combination
remedy. There isn't a tradition of or evidence for using multiple potencies
like this. If I give a 30X remedy to an animal and he reacted poorly to
it, one way to antidote it is to give a lower or higher potency. So these
combinations are very strange. I don't know where the idea came from,
but it's not homeopathy."
Returning to the issue
of palliation versus cure, Dr. Pitcairn told us, "These combination remedies
are often being used in the home and being used for what in most cases
is chronic illness. When a reaction takes place and the person doesn't
understand the course of a cure, they may switch remedies or repeat the
original remedy. The result is most likely to be palliative or suppressive.
They will have what appears to be a temporary improvement, just like cortisone.
But later the animal will be worse in some way.
"We see this frequently
in our practice; animals who have been treated with homeopathic drugs
a few weeks before and now coming in with kidney failure. And most people
think that the use of the remedy is unrelated to the development of the
disease. They'll say, 'My cat was better on this remedy for a while, but
now he's changed,' when actually what we are seeing is the result of symptom
suppression by homeopathic medicine.
"Hahnemann made it
very clear in the first paragraph of the Organon of Medicine,"
Dr. Pitcairn went on to tell us: "He said that the mission of the physician
is to cure the patient. He said this to remind us that the purpose is
not to palliate or suppress symptoms because that is harmful.
"So it's with this
understanding that we should prescribe any medicine. The remedies shouldn't
be applied in terms of giving temporary relief, especially when you're
dealing with chronic disease. Not only can you do harm if you prescribe
this way, but you can cloud the symptom picture in such a way that it
becomes difficult for even a good homeopath to understand the nature of
the original disease."
We told Dr. Pitcairn
that the common complaint we hear about classical homeopathy is that it
is too slow in action and that people don't have the time to wait to see
if a remedy will work.
"That issue is a watershed,"
he told us. "What we are talking about hear is the difference between
any kind of treatment that results in healing and improvement of health
and treatment that relieves symptoms temporarily.
"This is the big difference
between homeopathy and allopathy; the allopaths are very good at giving
quick relief, without improving the level of health - in fact, the level
of health seems to worsen over time. But if you want to achieve a truly
curative response, you must expect that this will take time. Either you're
going to stimulate healing, which takes time for the body to repair itself,
or you're going to relieve symptoms with some kind of medicine - whether
it's homeopathic or allopathic doesn't matter.
"If the point of view
is that we don't have time for this kind of slow but true healing, then
we have to look deeper and ask ourselves what we are doing here. Are we
keeping animals for our convenience? Are we saying that we're too busy
to care if their level of health is truly good and that disease is not
just superficially covered up? It becomes an ethical question.
"The problem with
combination remedies and with poor homeopathic prescribing is that they
are used to treat chronic illness in a palliative way. It may work and
work quickly, but we can also say that antibiotics and steroids work.
The problem is not whether these other approaches work or not, the problem
is what the long-term consequences are.
"It's always been
appealing to people to find some kind of quick solution. That's the way
of our society. We want a quick solution and we end up feeding commercial
foods and using steroids and other things because we're in to much of
a hurry. When you start compromising for the sake of speed, then you're
back in the mainstream, rushing along like everyone else.
come to our veterinary practice with this kind of expectation of a quick
cure and with little time to spend. We had a case just this week. The
client had moved here from the east coast and was referred to us by a
"homeopathic veterinarian." What the client expected was to give a two
sentence report and get a new prescription within an hour. The client
started complaining and wondering why the process was taking so long,
why we were asking so many questions! We didn't want to speak poorly of
the veterinarian who referred this client, but in fact he had misrepresented
homeopathy by cultivating this kind of quick-cure attitude.
"The most common
scenario we see with other practitioners is that if they hit upon a curative
remedy, they quickly avoid waiting for the response to unfold because
they mistakenly think that the remedy is making things worse. They don't
understand the difference between palliation and cure; they are looking
for instant relief. And when they don't get that palliation, they become
"It's really a philosophical
problem. Most people in our society, as I said before, are raised with
the expectation that medical treatments should be quickly palliative.
When that doesn't happen they become anxious. It's a misguided assumption,
but unfortunately it's the pervasive and dominant concept. So it's confusing
when someone comes along and says 'true healing isn't that way,' but it's
really just common sense. If an individual has been getting sick for years,
you can't expect them to be well in just a few days or a few weeks. It's
going to take a year or more of gradually rebuilding their health. How
fast can the body heal itself? If someone breaks a bone, you wouldn't
expect it to heal in two or three days. We have to have the same understanding
in the case of chronic disease.
"The great issue for
us as human beings is to understand the difference between going deeply
enough to really deal with a problem and superficially glossing over it.
That's a difficulty throughout our society, whether it be in the area
of politics or the area of medicine. We have an opportunity now, with
the renewed interest in holistic medicine, and especially in homeopathy,
to deal with these issues. Because from my experience, homeopathy, as
discovered and developed by Hahnemann, is what makes the difference between
curing and not curing."
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