Friday, October 22, 2010

Post # 6: A question of healers ...

Note: this is my opinion only. My opinion is based on my experience. Don't do anything against your doctor or homeopath's advice.

I found it very interesting that the doctors in the Harry Potter series were referred to as 'healers'. What an insightful reference. After all, the people dealing with folks suffering with any type of sickness are aiming to heal their ailment. Or are they?

I have had a few jobs in different areas related to health which I feel had different objectives. I'm not sure that health industries today (and I am totally generalizing here) look at curing the underlying problem, but rather they are going for the quick fix. Solve the symptom and then the work is done. I think this should only be the case in emergency rooms, not the general attitude toward treating people. For instance you can't leave someone with a bleeding arm because that will need to be stitched up. I'm referring to long term, chronic illnesses, from something like someone suffering from acne for their entire life to someone with chronic back pain or headaches. In my experience, the medical attitude seems to want to cure the problem with some sort of pill or cream instead of trying to heal whatever is wrong on a deeper level that is the cause of these symptoms. The acne or headaches are the body's way of telling you something is wrong, and just hiding those symptoms isn't solving the problem.

I've come to think this way based on my experience with eczema. I had eczema on my hands from when I was a child until into my 20s, when I started seeing a homeopath (more on that later). I was taken to different doctors and was given tablets, steroid creams, had to cut nearly everything from my diet (an Easter without any chocolate when I was 8. Still bothers me) you name it. Nothing ever made it go away. And it was painful. I had it all year round and it would sporadically get worse with no seeming rhyme or reason. My palms and fingers would develop deep cracks and bleed ... and I could do nothing about it. My mom would slather my hands with the prescribed creams, wrap them in gauze then put finger cots or whole rubber gloves on to keep the gauze in place. And this went on for years, but it never healed.

One of my jobs during university was working in a health store. There I studied as a chartered herbalist (as if a degree didn't come with enough books!) to determine how herbs would help to cure a person, or their pet, of different issues, like using bladder wort if you have an under-active thyroid or chamomile to reduce anxiety. I found herbs and their abilities to heal the complaint amazing. Sure it didn't always work as quickly as a pill you'd get from the pharmacy but it did work, and the problems seemed to stay away. It was enough to pique my interest in hoping this was a way to deal with my eczema. And it kinda made sense to me too. I mean, of we were put on this earth, shouldn't the stuff we need to make us better be readily available?

Around the time I was learning all this cool stuff about herbs, my mom was introduced to a homeopath. I'd heard very little about homeopathy so was skeptical when my mom took my brother and I down to meet her. I could understand the herbs working because there was scientific studies done and Native wisdom to support their properties (did you know the Native Indians used to chew on birch bark to cure a headache? We know now that its where aspirin is derived from. Cool, eh? The Natives also advised that the first forests in Northern BC infested with pine beetle should just be burned, but the department of forestry knew how to deal with it in a more sustainable fashion. Or so they thought. Native wisdom is so rich) so the use of herbs was more ... measurable to me. Appealed to my scientific method of thinking.

Homeopathy is ... not. The remedies used in homeopathy are a diluted form of the original substance, and most remedies are derived from plants, minerals or animals. The plant/mineral/animal remedy is diluted so much that only the essence is left. So someone deathly allergic to peanuts could take the peanut remedy and it wouldn't harm them. Homeopathy works on the basis of like-treats-like to help the body cure itself; to remove whatever obstacle is preventing the body from working properly. For example, I used to have a stash of Nux Vomica for when I suffered from a hangover (it came in handy when I first moved to Ireland. The land of Guinness and all :). Nux vomica is the essence of strychnine. So while drinking alcohol is essentially poisoning your system, taking a poison remedy will help to cure you.

So while the idea of like-treats-like made sense to me, I struggled with how the actual remedies contained anything. In my job I analyze tablets that contain as little as 20 ug (1/100,000th of a gram) of an active ingredient, but as far as I know there has been no scientific support to show that there is any of the original substance present on the remedy and that its not just a placebo. This was going through my head when we went to the homeopath. How in the world were these things going to cure my eczema where all the drugs I had taken couldn't? The drugs were quantifiable, the remedies were not.

Not long after we started working with the homeopath my eczema started getting better. The homeopath identified that stress was a contributing factor, so we dealt with that. Its been years and while I still get a bit of eczema, mostly when I'm stressed, it never gets anywhere near as bad as it did. Its been a very nice 8 years without that pain and the cracked, bleeding hands. I took a leap of faith, mostly to please my mom, and it set into motion a revolution in the way our family looks at medicine. And we've never looked back. I have never taken a flu shot or any other vaccination as a society we've been told is necessary, and haven't had any problem. I guess this can be looked at like wearing a seat belt - you don't know you need it until 1 minute later - but I really feel that natural medicine is best for me. There definitely is a place for western medicine (antibiotics are literally life savers) but for things not immediately life-threatening, I like homeopathy.

Have you ever tried natural medicine? Do you think doctors are 'healers' or 'treaters'?


Jenn x

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post! Being trained as a nurse I see a lot of "band-aid" approaches to chronic illness. I agree with you that this is not ideal in any way... it drives me nuts actually! Lifestyle changes like stress management, exercise, eating health should be address much much more often! Look a little deeper and see what's actually the culprit.

    My family was into homeopathy when I was young (for a short-ish stint). I definitely fall into that skeptical category. How could something so insignificant and antagonistic heal? It's not rational! I have heard that it is very helpful for some people (like you and my SIL), which is great!... but I'm not sure it's for me.

    That being said I'm becoming increasingly interested in herbs for healing and using in home made beauty products.In fact, I'm hoping to get some ideas for doing a healing herb garden next year. Any suggested herbs I should grow?