Stephen Malthouse, MD
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and scienc.
Just because we can't measure the qi (chi) of acupuncture with laboratory instruments or see the "vital force" of homeopathy with the naked eye doesn't mean that they don't exist. Clinical evidence and growing amounts of scientific research attest to the fact that these therapies work even if we don't know exactly how. After all, we didn't know how aspirin worked until the mid-1950s. Vitamin C, given to sailors in the form of limes, allowed Britain to create a vast empire, and yet it wasn't until the 1920s that chemists discovered the ingredient in limes and lemons that prevented scurvy.
A growing skepticism of the dominance of science over personal experience has freed people to think (and feel) for themselves, rather than wait for the researchers to get around to saying it's okay. Modern medicine's failure to effectively treat chronic illnesses plus its own role as a potential cause of disease have encouraged many patients to look for a more sophisticated, comprehensive type of medicine.
The energy medicines that are prominent today include homeopathy, acupuncture, qi gong, therapeutic touch, magnetotherapy and, of course, intercessory prayer. These therapies go beyond the biomechanical model of medicine taught in most Western medical schools. In fact, they often go beyond atoms, molecules and space.
Jacques Benviniste studied ultra-high dilutions (beyond the possibility of any molecules of the original substance being present) of allergens that still set off an allergic reaction in human cells. The scientific community could not accept this as possible, but the research has since been replicated. Prayer has been shown in repeated experiments to improve the outcome after heart attacks, even when the subjects did not know they were being prayed for and the prayers were being sent from the other side of the continent.
Homeopathy uses plant, mineral and animal substances made into solutions and then diluted (and succussed or vigorously shaken) to a point where no molecules of the substance remain. These remedies act by stimulating the defence mechanism of the patient to correct itself, much like a tiny catalyst will allow a chemical reaction to continue to completion. The symptoms of the patient are considered to be an ineffectual attempt by the body to heal itself. Whereas conventional medicine tries to suppress these unwanted symptoms, homeopathy interprets them as a cry for help. Once the language is understood, a boost in the right direction can cure. Sometimes the effect of one dose of this submolecular medicine can act for three years or longer without being repeated.
Submolecular medicine? Infinitesimal doses? Impossible, you say. Not according to a 1997 review published in the prestigious Lancet medical journal of 89 randomized controlled trials of homeopathy. This meta-analysis concluded that homeopathy did indeed work. In Nicaragua and Nepal, three separate studies showed that homeopathy improves the outcome when treating acute childhood diarrhea, the leading cause of pediatric morbidity and mortality worldwide. Recently, the fourth in a series of studies using homeopathy to successfully treat allergic rhinitis has been published in the British Medical Journal. The list of clinical and scientific evidence for the application of homeopathy continues to expand rapidly, despite lack of research funding and in the absence of a "scientific" explanation for how it works.
Like Cures Like
Homeopathy is a good example of the way in which energy medicine individualizes the treatment. The patient's signs, symptoms, appearance, medical history and personality are all taken into account before prescribing. The diagnostic label, for example "rheumatoid arthritis" or "asthma," does not dictate the medicine used. (There may be 50 or more possible remedies for one disease entity.) Rather, it's the way in which the patient expresses the disease that tells the prescriber what to do. This is very different from orthodox medicine where everyone with the same diagnosis tends to get the same medicine.
In homeopathy, if a wasp sting causes redness, swelling and a stinging/burning sensation, the patient might be prescribed the remedy Apis mellifica. If the wasp sting is pale, with minimal swelling, the practitioner would probably prescribe Ledum palustre. Homeopaths have a saying for this individualized choice of medicine: "Treat the patient, not the disease."
Like good detectives, homeopaths have deduced the method of applying homeopathy without knowing how it actually works. In 1790, Samuel Hahnemann, MD, the founder of homeopathy, took repeated doses of quinine and developed the symptoms of malaria. At that time quinine was recommended for the treatment of malaria. From this and further experiments, Hahnemann deduced that, "what can cause symptoms of a disease in a healthy person can cure that same disease in a sick person."
In other words, like cures like (Law of Similars). This principal has been confirmed by clinical experience over the last 200 years and is the basis of homeopathic practice. Homeopathy has accumulated more than 2,500 medicines in its pharmacopoeia; compare this to the limited scope of the 50 or so conventional drugs in common use.
Some doctors are beginning to notice the obvious advantage of homeopathy. It's the most popular post-graduate medical course in the United Kingdom.
Critical analysis is valid and essential. However, we are in the infant stages when it comes to energy medicines like homeopathy. There are profound healing forces acting here that go beyond our current level of scientific explanation. We need to observe keenly and keep our minds open to the possibilities.
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."