Also, it is widely recognized that most strep infections are left untreated, and yet, a vast majority of these people do not get rheumatic fever. Further, from 33% to 50% of the cases of rheumatic fever occur without sore throat symptoms. (21) A recent outbreak of rheumatic fever was reported in the New England Journal of Medicine. (22) Two-thirds of the children with this disease had no clearcut history of a sore throat within a three month period preceding the onset of their condition. Of particular significance, of the 11 children who had throat symptoms and who thus had a throat culture performed, 8 tested positive for strep. These children were prescribed antibiotics, and yet, each still developed rheumatic fever.
New evidence shows that antibiotics do help reduce the symptoms of sore throat faster than placebo. However, it is questionable if antibiotics should be used simply to relieve self-limited conditions. It is certainly understandable that antibiotic use be considered when there is a life-threatening condition. However, it is uncertain how effective they are in preventing one rare disease. It is also uncertain if it is worth prescribing these powerful drugs to mass numbers of children in the hope that a very small number might benefit.
Antibiotics should definately not be given routinely to children with suspected strep throat. Recent research has now shown that 60% of children's sore throats are virally caused for which antibiotics are useless. (23)
This evidence strongly suggests that alternatives to antibiotic usage should be sought for ear and throat infection. Homeopathy offers a viable alternative.
Homeopathic Treatment of Infectious Disease
When people think about the successes of modern medicine, they often assert that we are now living considerably longer than our parents or their parents. They also usually point to modern medicine's successes in treating the infectious diseases that raged during previous centuries such as the plague, cholera, scarlet fever, yellow fever, and typhoid.
Scientists and historians alike agree that these assumptionsare myths, pure myths. Scientists point out that we are now living longer than ever before, but this has not primarily been the result of new medical technologies. Rather, our lengthening life is mostly because of a significant decrease in infant mortality, which is the result of better hygiene during birth (hurray for soap!), better nutrition (the creation of cities has enabled more people to have access to a greater variety of foods, thereby decreasing malnutrition), and improvements in various public health measures such as sanitation, better sewage, cleaner water, and pest control. (24)
Even with all these considerations, the increase in life expectancy for adults has not been very significant. Statistics show that the average white male who reached 40 years of age in 1960 lives to be 71.9; whereas an average white male who reached 40 years of age in 1920 lives to be 69.9. The average white male who reached 50 years of age in 1982 lives to be 75.6 years, while the average white male who reached 50 years of age in 1912, survived until 72.2 years. (25)
Nobel Prize-winning microbiologist Rene Dubos noted, "the life expectancy of adults is not very different now from what it was a few generations ago, nor is it greater in areas where medical services are highly developed than in less prosperous countries." (26)
Historians remind us that conventional medicine was not at all responsible for the disappearance or decrease in the fatal infectious diseases of the 15th to 19th century. Antibiotics were not even available until the 1940s and 1950s, and no other conventional drugs were successfully used to treat most of the infectious epidemics of the past. Even mortality (incidence of death) from tuberculosis, pneumonia, bronchitis, influenza, and whooping cough were on the sharp decline prior to the introduction of any conventional medical treatment for them. An important exception was the decrease in the death rate from polio after the introduction of the polio vaccine.
A little known fact of history is that homeopathic medicine developed its popularity in the United States as well as in Europe because of its successes in treating the infectious epidemics that raged during the 19th century. Dr. Thomas L. Bradford's The Logic of Figures, published in 1900, compares in detail the death rate in homeopathic versus allopathic (conventional) medical hospitals and shows that death rates per 100 patients in homeopathic hospitals were often one-half or even one-eighth that of conventional medical hospitals. (27)
In 1849 the homeopaths of Cincinnati claimed that in over a thousand cases of cholera only 3% of the patients died. To substantiate their results they even printed the names and addresses of patients who died or who survived in a newspaper. (28) The death rate of patients with cholera who used conventional medicines generally ranged from 40 to 70%.
The success of treating yellow fever with homeopathy was so impressive that a report from the United States Government's Board of Experts included several homeopathic medicines, despite the fact that the Board of Experts was primarily composed of conventional physicians who despised homeopathy. (29)
The success of homeopathy in treating modern-day infections is comparable to its successes in treating the infectious diseases of the last century. It is common knowledge that homeopathic practitioners rarely resort to using antibiotics or other drugs commonly given for infectious conditions. Homeopaths, like any good medical professional, will use antibiotics when clearly necessary, but it is worthwhile having alternatives that work.
Homeopath Randall Neustaedter of Palo Alto, California, notes that acute ear infection is "a simple problem to manage with acute (homeopathic) remedies." (30) Common acute ear infection medicines are Belladonna (deadly nightshade), Chamomilla (chamomille), Pulsatilla (windflower), Ferrum phos (phosphate of iron), and Hepar sulph (Hahnemann's calcium sulphide).
If the child gets treated with antibiotics and then has recurrent ear infections, homeopathic treatment generally takes more time but is often curative. Such recurrent problems, Neustaedter asserts, require the homeopathic "constitutional approach," the approach where a homeopathic medicine is prescribed based on the totality of present symptoms as well as on an evaluation of the patient's past history. While it is common for parents to prescribe successfully for acute ear infections, it is recommended that children receive professional care for recurrent ear infections or for any chronic condition.
Homeopaths have also found great success in treating a wide variety of other bacterial infections. Throat infections are commonly treated with Belladonna (deadly nightshade), Arsenicum (arsenic), Rhus tox (poison ivy), Mercurius (mercury), Hepar sulph, Lachesis (venom of the bushmaster), Apis (bee venom), or Phytolacca (pokeroot). Boils which result from bacterial infection are often successfully treated with Belladonna, Hepar sulph, Silica (silica), Arsenicum, or Lachesis. And styes, which usually result from a Staphylococcus infection, are effectively treated with Pulsatilla (windflower), Hepar sulph (Hahnemann's calcium sulphide), Apis (bee venom), Graphities (graphite), and Staphysagria (stavesacre).
Homeopathic Treatment of Viral Conditions
Conventional drugs at least relieve the symptoms of bacterial infection; however, there is little in conventional medicine has to treat most viral conditions. Since homeopathic medicines stimulate the body's own defenses rather than directly attack specific pathogens, homeopathy again has much to offer in the treatment of viral diseases.
In recent research on viruses that attack chicken embryos, 8 of the 10 homeopathic medicines tested inhibited the growth of the viruses 50 to 100%. (31) This research is of particular significance because conventional science knows only a very select number of drugs that have antiviral action, and none of these drugs are as safe as the homeopathic medicines.
Homeopaths commonly treat people suffering from acute and chronic viral conditions. People with viral respiratory and digestive conditions, viral infection of the nervous system, herpes, and even a few with AIDS have reported significant improvement using homeopathic medicines. Sometimes this improvement is dramatic and immediate, though most of the time there is a slow, progressive improvement in the person's overall health.
British physician Richard Savage notes, "While the search goes on to find specific antiviral preparations which are free from side effects, homeopathy can be used effectively to treat patients in four ways:
1) Prophylaxis to generate resistance to the infection;
2) Treatment in the acute illness to reduce the length and severity of the illness;
3) Restoration to revitalize the patient during convalescence; and
4) Corrrection of the chronic sequelae to restore the patient to his former state of health." (32)
Homeopaths have found that their medicines can prevent and treat various infections. There is not much research demonstrating the efficacy of the homeopathic medicines in preventing viral conditions, though there is some evidence that the medicines can be used to prevent other infectious diseases. Homeopathic microdoses can be used as immunizations; for instance, a single dose of Meningococcin 10c (a homeopathic preparation of Neisseria meningitidis), 18,000 people in Brazil were immunized in 1974. The immunized group had significantly less meningitis infections than a control group. (33)
In the 1800s homeopaths commonly used medicines to prevent or cure what later came to be understood as bacterial or viral infections. Aconite and Ferrum phos were frequently given at the early onset of fever and aches as a way to prevent influenza. Belladonna was the most common medicine for preventing or treating scarlet fever, and Camphora (camphor) was the major medicine used to prevent or treat cholera. The dramatic success of the medicines in the prevention and treatment of these dread diseases gained homeopathy a large following.
Homeopaths commonly find that successful treatment of acute or chronic disease with homeopathic medicines often leads to stronger and healthier people who do not get severely or recurrently ill. During the late 1800s many life insurance companies offered lower rates to people who went to homeopathic physicians because actuarial statistics showed that homeopathic patients were healthier and lived longer. (34) There is also a record that these life insurance companies paid out larger sums of money to homeopathic patients since they lived longer than those under conventional medical care. (35)
2) Treatment of Acute Illness
One of the additional advantages of using homeopathy in treating viral conditions is that homeopathic medicines can be prescribed even before a definitive diagnosis has been made. This is because homeopaths prescribe based on the totality of symptoms, and laboratory work is not always necessary to find the correct medicine. Since some viral conditions are difficult to diagnose even after laboratory tests, one is often able to cure people with homeopathy before a conventional medical diagnosis can be made.
Antibiotics are only helpful in certain bacterial infections, and since viral diseases are particularly common, conventional medicine offers little help. In comparison, homeopaths often successfully treat acute viral conditions such as the common cold, virus-induced coughs, influenza, gastroenteritis (sometimes called the "stomach flu"), and viral hepatitis.