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 Homeopathy: Homeopathic Remedies vs. the Placebo Effect 

25 March. Repeat IVP showed a single stone in the lower pole of the left kidney, with no further evidence of obstruction; second stone in the distal portion of the left ureter, near the uretero-vesical junction. No treatment.

15 November. Recently back on coffee; another episode of severe pain, this time in the LLQ, near the bladder. Gave NUX VOMICA 200,1 dose, and 6 x ii q.i.d.

17 November. Much improved; pain almost gone.

17 January 1977. Passed large stone, approx. 6 x 3 x 5 mm., conglomerate type. Feeling well in every respect. Refused IVP or further treatment.

The experienced homeopath will doubtless excuse the overly hasty, symptomatic type of prescribing that may well have prolonged and could have spoiled this case. I cite it merely as an example of how surgery can often be avoided, even in somewhat threatening situations.

CASE 6. Pelvic trauma.

27-year-old weaver, with documented yeast infection intermittently for the past 2 years, treated repeatedly with Mycostatin, with temporary relief.

23 June 1977. First visit. Constant burning in and around vagina, with pain on intercourse; labia flaming red, with sticky white substance clinging to the folds. No discharge. Gave SULPHUR 200, 1 dose.

1 July. Pain lessened, irritation gone. Still very dry on intercourse: "lovemaking has become an ordeal" (whereupon she wept bitterly). She stated that her symptoms had begun shortly after a car accident 2 years ago, in which she had been thrown from the car, and had landed on her buttocks. There was no fracture, but a large bruise appeared and took quite a long time to heal, during which time her present symptoms developed. Gave ARNICA 200, 1 dose, and 6x ii q.i.d.

22 December. Dryness totally gone, no other complaints; feeling well in every respect.

This case is memorable to me, first, because it shows very clearly the flaw of conventional prescribing, which is aimed purely at the microbial pore, the tissue changes, etc., without any thought being given to the unique history of this particular patient. Second, it illustrates how the homeopathic remedy can search back in time, through the life history of the patient, to locate and overcome chronic symptoms traceable, in this case, to mechanical trauma in the distant past.

3. Cases where the patient was extremely skeptical or hostile, or otherwise presumably insensitive to the placebo effect (e.g., newborn babies, animals, comatose patients, etc.), yet were cured or significantly benefited with homeopathic remedies.

CASE 7. Recurrent mastitis.

30-year-old gravida i pare i, who gave birth at home in February 1975, with the assistance of a doctor friend, who eventually performed a manual removal of retained placental fragments, after excessive traction on the cord produced sever postpartum bleeding and a placenta that was torn in several places. About 5 weeks postpartum, she developed severe mastitis, with high fever, which was treated successfully with Ampicillin, but recurred as soon as the drug was stopped. This time she was given Keflex, with the same result; even after a second course of Keflex, she developed yet a fourth episode within a few days. At this point she decided, somewhat reluctantly, to try Homeopathy.

6 May 1975. Temperature 102, pulse 120 per minute. The patient lay motionless in bed, as the slightest change of position brought on a violent headache and nausea. Even moving her eyes provoked a severe retro-orbital pain that was quite characteristic of all four episodes. Gave BRYONIA 200, I dose, plus 6 x ii q.i.d., but the patient would not hear of my leaving the house, so little faith had she either in me or my methods. I went to sleep there, it being already quite late in the evening; and, when I awoke the next morning, her temperature was normal, the breast was completely free of swelling or tenderness, and the headache and other pains greatly relieved. She was completely well within 12 hours, and her symptoms never reappeared.

CASE 8. Urethritis.

33-year-old mother of two children, complaining of vaginal discharge, itching, and constant desire to urinate.

26 July 1979. Patient appeared extremely agitated, suspicious, and hostile, especially when I told her that I was a homeopath and did not give sulfa drugs, antibiotics, etc., whereupon she became openly scornful, mainly because her symptoms were so violent, and she was in sue! hurry to be rid of them. (She had had them only for about six hours.) turned out that her illness had followed a violent, angry scene with herhusband, interspersed with several bouts of passionate lovemaking (they had until then been separated for 2 weeks), and culminating in his a nouncement that he had been exposed to gonorrhea in the course of his travels. There was considerable dysuria at the end of the stream. Cultures proved negative for VD. Gave STAPHISAGRIA 200, 1 dose, and 6 x q.i.d.

27 July. Symptoms virtually gone.

28 July. No symptoms of any kind. Needless to say, I had to call this pa- tient myself.

My only reason for reporting these two cases is to show you that the patient need not believe in you or the remedies for them to be effective. The second patient was as surly, ill-mannered, and uncooperative a patient as I have ever had The only reason she called me was that I had played volleyball with her hus- band. Neither of them had the vaguest idea about Homeopathy, or even knew that I practiced it; but she was sufficiently desperate to at least give it a try when I told her that I did not write prescriptions.

4. Cases where the patient, conversely, was cooperative, highly motivated, full of faith in me, and in Homeopathy, and presented a classic symptom picture, clearly indicating a well-known remedy (i.e., where the placebo d feet should have been maximal), yet the remedy had no effect whatsoever

This group is exactly the converse of the last, and cases of this type are, alas far too common to be particularly memorable, or toe require much elaboration I mention them simply to show that it is also possible for the remedies not to work sometimes, which could not happen unless they actually did work at other times. If the placebo effect had been the important factor, then surely these arc the patients who should have benefited from it, just as those of the last group are the ones who should not have; but in fact, just the opposite was the case.

5. Cases where the patient developed sulking new symptoms peculiar to or characteristic of the homeopathic remedy.

CASE 9. Premenstrual tension.

43-year-old lady, with long-standing history of premenstrual symptoms.

7 November 1979. First visit. Feels well 3 weeks out of 4. About 7 days prior to the onset of the period, she has painful, lumpy breasts, ravenous appetite, nervous irritability. Very haughty. Loves hot drinks; intolerant of dry, spring winds, and of dry weather generally. Most symptoms worse on waking. Gave LYCOPODIUM 200, 1 dose.

10 January 1980. Next period after meds. came on only 2 days after the onset of her symptoms, which were quite mild; and all of them were right-sided, which was unusual. Only the right breast was tender; in addition, there was aching and stiffness of the neck on the right, which was quite new, and an earache on the right side, which she had not had since she was a child. In the midst of these complaints, she felt quite well, and has remained so since.

This type of case is quite common and, to my mind, represents perhaps the most direct and convincing evidence we can have that it is the remedy, rather than simply the suggestibility or the desire of the patient to be healed, that is doing the job. The provings of LYCOPODIUM, the club-moss, show it to be a markedly right-sided medicine. When all is said and done, it is this correspondence between the experimentally proved symptoms of the remedy and the actual symptoms of the patient that distinguishes Homeopathy from all other methods of treatment. So, when you see new symptoms appearing in the course of a treatment, and these symptoms are characteristic or proved symptoms of the remedy you have given, you can be virtually certain that the remedy is acting, whether curatively or otherwise.

I have often heard it said that it is the appearance of a classic aggravation, followed by amelioration, or the curative response in accordance with Hering's Laws of Cure, that constitute the surest proof that the remedy is acting. But I have seen typical aggravations and curative responses according to Hering's laws following conventional drugs, surgery, acupuncture, faith healing, placebos, and even in the course of spontaneous cures without any treatment whatsoever. These are simply curative reactions, and cure is always miraculous in the sense that it can always occur or fail to occur, whatever modality we use.

6. Cases where the remedy actually did harm, or at least appeared to catalyze a destructive process in the patient.

CASE 10. Rectal fissure.

27-year-old photographer, with 4-month history of rectal pain and bleeding, diagnosed as a rectal fissure, and recommended for surgery. Past history of migraine (last episode 2 years ago); amoebic dysentery; recurrent prostatitis; and chronic irritation of the eyes, with redness, soreness, and crusting, for which he had used mercuric oxide ointment 3 times a week for the past 5years.

9 October 1975. First visit. Rectal pain most severe after prolonged sitting. Gave NITRIC ACID 200, 1 dose.

21 October. Pain, bleeding almost completely gone within a few days after the medicine; felt revitalized and full of well-being. After 1 week, the original symptoms had reappeared, and had gradually regained their former intensity Also, in the past 24 hours, the soreness of the eyes had increased, and then were occasional brown "floaters" in the field of the left eye. Gave NITRIC ACID 200, 1 dose.

22 October. Left eye totally browned out: can see only fuzzy blotches. Local ophthalmologist made tentative diagnosis of retrobulbar neuritis; patient scheduled for full neurological workup at UNM Medical Center, Albuquerque.

2 November. Returned from hospital with diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. Very large blind spot in left eye, surrounded by grey penumbra; can see some light peripherally. Also quite a lot of fuzziness now in the right eye.

20 November. Right eye almost back to normal. Left eye almost totally blind, except for a narrow, crescent-shaped arc at the periphery.

31 December. Condition unchanged.

I present this case lest you assume, as I think most of us do, that the homeopathic remedies are innocuous, which is, after all, essentially a euphemism for 'ineffective'. To be sure, such cases are extremely rare; and the safety record of Homeopathy, compared to the conventional method, is quite extraordinary. I would also agree that the remedy in this case undoubtedly only elicited a tendency that would have come to light eventually even without it. Nevertheless, I must continue to live with the fact, as must the patient and his family, that he would have been much better off had he never consulted me in the first place.

So, if you will but take the trouble to practise Homeopathy, you will quickly see that the remedies do actually work, although we do not yet really understand how they work, which of course keeps it interesting. At the same time, we can cheerfully agree with those who say that we are using the placebo effect, if by the placebo effect we mean the simplest model of the healing process itself, the patient's own healing effort. This is fundamentally what healing is all about. This often succeeds whatever modality is used, and whether the physician attempts to cooperate with it or not. In the words of Paracelsus

"The art of healing comes from Nature, not from the physician; for every illness is inherent in our nature, and every illness has its own remedy within itself. We could not be born alive and healthy were there not a physician already hidden in us." *

Paracelsus, Selected Writings,
translated by N. Guterman.
Bollingen, pp. 50, 76. passim.

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 About The Author
Richard Moskowitz MDRichard Moskowitz was born in 1938, and educated at Harvard (B.A.) and New York University (M.D.). After medical school he did 3 years of graduate study in Philosophy at the University of Colorado in Boulder on a U. S.......more
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