“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
The practice of homeopathic medicine is often a lengthy process. Most homeopaths spend an hour or two with a patient on the first visit. The initial evaluation involves mainly taking the patient’s history and a minimal physical examination. Practitioners gather information to understand the patient as completely as possible. First we note all the symptoms of the presenting complaint in great detail. We ask what makes the complaint better or worse, what time of day (down to the hour) it is the worst, what seems to bring it on, and whether it is associated with any other symptoms, especially if the connection doesn’t seem to make any sense. Then we want to understand the patient’s general physical makeup: whether he is usually cold or hot, how he sweats, what foods he craves, and so on. A major portion of the interview is devoted to understanding the patient’s psyche. Since most physical disease is caused by inappropriate reaction to stress that builds tension and is therefore released in the form of symptoms, a homeopath must understand this aspect of the patient in depth. A keen understanding of what drives the patient, what particular things the patient finds stressful and how he or she reacts to these stresses, holds the key to finding that patient’s cure.
Once the data is collected, the essence of the remedy may be clear and the prescription is given. More commonly, however, we must “repertorize.” To repertorize, a practitioner refers to a repertory, a cross reference of all the symptoms in the Materia Medica. You may recall that the Materia Medica lists various remedies and their characteristic symptoms as seen in provings. There are several Materia Medica books written by different authors. Besides the proving symptoms, they also include those symptoms cured with these remedies in the author’s practice.
The homeopath uses the repertory to find those remedies that have in their picture all the symptoms that are significant in the patient’s case. There are usually very few remedies that have all the significant symptoms. Then the practitioner refers back to the Materia Medica to determine which remedy will fit the patient best. This is a tedious process, although computer programs to assist the practitioner have been developed in the last few years. Even with computer assistance, however, only a skilled practitioner can determine which symptoms are significant.
Once a remedy is selected, it may be given in one dose or in a series of doses. Patients are always scheduled for a follow-up visit anywhere from two days to two months later. These follow-ups are very important. They allow the practitioner to evaluate the response to the remedy administered. The patient is not in a position to make this judgment. A patient may feel better and decide he or she is cured, or the patient may feel worse and decide the remedy is not working. Either judgment may be completely inappropriate. An apparent improvement may not be moving in the right direction; an apparent worsening may be a therapeutic aggravation. Only the practitioner can evaluate the case objectively, always keeping Hering’s Law of Cure in mind (the explanation of Hering’s Law is in the next chapter).
Typically, for chronic conditions, I see a patient for a follow-up in about a month. During that follow-up visit we decide if the remedy is correct. If it is, we continue with it and the next follow-up is usually in two to three months. If the remedy was wrong, we note the symptoms again, I select a new remedy and schedule another follow-up in a month.
Some Illustrative Cases: By the time my son was three and a half, we had moved 6 times across 3 continents as I pursued my studies. When he turned three, we were staying in Bombay, India. All of this moving was starting to have a negative effect on him. He was fearful and clinging desperately to his mother. Whenever my wife would leave the room, he would scream at the top of his lungs.
After taking the case, I gave him Stramonium 1M (Remember, this is 102000 dilution. There is definitely nothing of the original substance left in the preparation). Stramonium is a poisonous plant which, when given to healthy people, causes overwhelming feelings of fear, something like what a child would feel if left alone in the woods with wild beasts. It is not difficult to see why he would be so terrified when you consider his state of mind at the time of the prescription. The remedy produced a remarkable change. Within two days after the dose (he was given only one dose) he allowed my wife to leave him in the room alone. He then began exploring the house, going up to the second floor, going outside, etc. He even began talking to strangers.
Another intriguing case was a woman in Bombay. She was suffering from aches and pains diagnosed as fibromyalgia. Even before taking the case formally I was able to observe her at home. One incident struck me. Her refrigerator once broke and she asked me where to go to have it fixed. This was a bit unusual, as she was the native and I the foreigner. She just did not feel capable of taking care of it herself. Later, when I took her case she told me she was rather shy and didn’t like to go to parties for fear of looking stupid and being laughed at. She received Baryta Carbonica 1M. This is carbonate of barium, the stuff we drink when we have our stomachs x-rayed. When taken in homeopathic form, this stuff produces a feeling of being stupid, incapable and dependent. These patients are usually very shy and fear they will be laughed at. Children requiring this remedy will often hide behind furniture while in the doctor’s office. Within two weeks after the dose, this patient had no more pains. She has improved tremendously on all levels since then.
In both cases, the patients had feelings inappropriate to their situations. My son was afraid when there was nothing to be afraid of; the woman felt stupid when she was actually quite smart. This is what we look for when taking homeopathic cases: things that don’t make sense or don’t belong, reactions out of proportion to the situation, strange things. That’s why the initial interview may seem so strange to some patients: it may appear that the doctor is not much interested in the patient’s original complaint. On the contrary, we are very interested, but the appropriate remedy may be determined by other seemingly unrelated symptoms. Sometimes the clue is provided by a mental-emotional symptom, as in the case above. Sometimes it’s a strange physical symptom. Once I cured a case of abdominal pains and indigestion, guided by the patient’s strange predisposition to get sneezing attacks when exposed to bright sun. You just never know what will turn out to be the most important clue in the case.
Sometimes a clue is provided by a patient’s dream. Dreams are where our feelings can often be seen most clearly, not clouded by the conscious mind. For example, I was treating a girl with asthma. When I could find no good clues in her case, I asked about dreams. She described quite a sad state of affairs. She was always alone in the dreams, there were no other people there, neither her parents nor friends. She was very lonely there. She sounded quite sad when talking about it. This type of “orphan” feeling which is usually suppressed in the waking state but comes out clearly in dreams, is characteristic of Magnesia Carbonica (magnesium carbonate). One dose of 1M cured the girl of asthma and she became more cheerful.
Occasionally, knowledge of homeopathy may help a doctor deal with patients who don’t even need a homeopathic remedy. Every doctor has seen numerous patients suffering from insomnia. Upon taking a more careful history, we discover that many of these patients drink a couple pots of coffee per day. To a homeopath, these patients are proving (see the chapter on proving) coffee and should cut its intake immediately. Of course, any reasonable physician will conclude that. Sometimes it is not so clear that a patient is experiencing a proving of some substance (you can also call it a side effect, or poisoning). One of my more interesting cases was a 95-year-old physician who was complaining of having very disturbing dreams. He would dream of finding himself in some strange place, unable to find his way home. This was the most peculiar symptom in his case. I looked it up in the repertory and found that Glonoinum (nitroglycerin) was one of the remedies listed. I reviewed the patient’s medication list and saw that one of his daily medications was Nitrobid, a long acting nitrate preparation, similar to nitroglycerin. We replaced Nitrobid with another drug and the dream problem resolved.