Acute vs. Chronic Homeopathic Treatment
Barbara Seideneck, CHom, CCH
The absolutely reassuring factor about homeopathic treatment is that homeopathic remedies are natural and non-toxic. Homeopathic remedies are available over the counter in most health food stores and many pharmacies. Their reputation of being harmless extends the invitation to “try” homeopathic remedies by going to the health food store, reading the indications on the label and hope for the best. It is astounding how often the remedies work so quickly and thoroughly when they were picked off the shelf for just a couple of symptoms listed on the bottle. It can be puzzling when the toddler screaming from right ear pain after just a few tiny globules of Belladonna suddenly falls into peaceful sleep. Especially, when the remedy is not a painkiller and was chosen for the indication on the bottle: high fevers.
It may be good to know that one homeopathic remedy can help with many different symptoms. There is just not enough space on a small homeopathic remedy bottle to list them all. Acute self-help books and the homeopathic materia medica (a large collection of books) list numerous conditions and symptoms that homeopathic remedies can cure. After reading a little more about Belladonna it becomes clear that this remedy is most helpful with combined symptoms of high fever, redness, dryness without thirst, and throbbing pains especially if they are in the right ear.
The immediate and really impressive beneficial action of a homeopathic remedy can best be observed in an acute situation, like the ear infection mentioned above. Remedies are unlikely to cause harm when used in low potency (6 C, 12 C, and 15 C), are not repeated too often (maximum every two hours) and only given for a short period of time (like a day). I would highly recommend having guidance from a self-help book when treating acute conditions with friends or family, for example:
Miranda Castro: Complete Homeopathy Handbook
Cummings/Ullman: Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines
Panos/Heimlich: Homeopathic Medicines at Home
Mothers, fathers, aunts and grandmothers have treated acute conditions at home (or in covered wagons) reaching back as far as the mid 1800’s. The early US settlers brought homeopathic kits with them from Europe to help themselves when confronted with critical illness and being without medical support.
Really, can everyone treat with homeopathic remedies? My answer is “yes” to first aid and acute treatment. Where chronic illness is concerned a certain level of homeopathic education seems necessary to understand the application of homeopathic remedies.
What is different between an acute and a chronic illness? This is how Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, defined acute illness in the 1800’s:
“Acute diseases are rapid illness-processes of the abnormally mistuned life principle which are suited to complete their course more or less quickly, but always in a moderate time.” (Organon of the Medical Art, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, 1996, adapted from the 1842 edition)
What we can draw from this old-fashioned definition is that an acute illness is characterized by symptoms appearing suddenly, getting stronger and then weaker until they stop. There is a definite beginning, a peak and a definite end to the acute illness.
Generally if a healthy person develops symptoms fairly quickly (for example: fever, cough, sore throat, stomach ache) we can assume that this is an acute illness; even when this person has experienced a similar condition before. In a case like this, first make sure the situation is not serious symptoms. If it is, contact a physician or a hospital. When you have a common acute illness at hand you would exclusively look at the current acute symptoms in a self-help book, for example: sensations during a fever (chills, perspiration, flushes of heat, location of heat), location of complaint (left/right sided, particular location in the body), character of pain (sharp, throbbing, dull, extending to a particular part of the body, etc.), sensitivities to the environment (cold, draft, heat of the bed, closed room etc.), times of feeling better or worse, thirst and appetite for particular foods.
Charts in homeopathic self-help books list particular symptoms and sensations and help with the choice of a homeopathic remedy. Remedies are selected to address a set of symptoms rather than a particular diagnosis. The sum of acute symptoms is used to determine the remedy for an acute illness.
Chronic treatment requires skill and knowledge of homeopathic remedies. Generally a chronic condition starts gradually, is indefinite, and increases over time. Often it is uncertain when the problem began. Usually there are periods when the condition is better and periods when it’s worse (e.g., allergy season). The illness weakens the system over time or makes the person more sensitive.
Chronic problems can be triggered by factors in the environment, stress, particular foods, long-term medication and can be hereditary.
Dr. Samuel Hahnemann writes in his book Chronic Diseases (published in 1896) that a chronic illness will not end until the underlying cause is treated. He lists the following possible causes:
· Inherited tendencies
· Suppression, medications, life style habits
· A compromised immune system, never well since a previous illness
· Life circumstances: being overworked, long-term exhaustion, malnourishment, poor living environment, shock, and grief
To get information about the points listed above and get to the bottom of a chronic disease (possible cause), a thorough homeopathic intake (case taking) is necessary. Homeopathic case taking is a fascinating process and a skill that can be learned.
To treat a chronic illness many factors are taken into account: susceptibility to particular diseases based on inheritance, dominant physical, mental, emotional symptoms experienced by the patient combined with a detailed personal history, health history and family health history. The information compiled during chronic homeopathic case taking is complex. In my opinion, the treatment of chronic illness is best left to professional homeopaths.
When a health problem occurs repeatedly, it can be difficult to differentiate between acute and chronic illness. Someone trained in homeopathy will usually know how to evaluate symptoms. If a seemingly acute problem later on turns out to be chronic, harm is rarely done by acute treatment. If chronic but seemingly “acute complaints” are treated acutely, the symptoms usually disappear for a while. When the same condition reoccurs, the originally used remedy will no longer work and a deeper acting (constitutional) remedy is required. With a remedy fitted to the overall health condition of the person (constitutional remedy), the present (acute) condition will get better and a long-term beneficial effect of the remedy can be expected.
I would like to demonstrate this with a very short case summary:
Some years ago a young woman came to me with a root abscess. She’s had two root canal treatments and two rounds of antibiotics. The infection was resistant and as a result, her submandibular glands were swollen, she was still in pain which irritated her a lot, she was very tired, couldn’t concentrate on her work, she was sensitive to draft and cold, and very angry that she had spent close to $2,000 on her tooth and hadn’t resolved the problem.
The acute situation called for the remedy Hepar Sulphur which she took for three days in a 30 C potency (medium strength). The infection subsided and was gone at the end of the three days. The healing occurred, as Hahnemann describes in the Organon as: rapid, gentle and permanent. When I spoke to the young woman again two weeks later, she told me that for a while she’s had stomach problems and didn’t find anything to help with that. And strangely enough, now after the homeopathic remedy for the tooth abscess her long-term stomach problems of heart burn, bouts of nausea and heaviness after eating were also gone.
All of these stomach symptoms – and a few more – are also listed with the remedy Hepar Sulph. One of the most characteristic symptoms of this remedy is an excessive irritability and sensitivity to cold drafts which she had experienced during the tooth abscess and also during her stomach problems. As you can see, one homeopathic remedy can help with numerous symptoms even when they appear in different areas of the body. Acute treatment is focused on the prevalent acute symptoms while the treatment of chronic illness addresses a larger (constitutional) set of symptoms, characteristic of the person experiencing them.