by Jan Scholten
Homeopaths are frequently asked questions like “can you treat bronchitis” or “does homeopathy help for migraines?” The answers are often “that depends on the whole picture”, “it is different for each patient” or “we have several remedies like a, b and c for that”. The answers are often given hesitantly, as if the homeopath isn’t sure of his case. They give the impression of something vague and unsure. Why is this? Is homeopathy something so unreliable that it cannot even answer such a simple question straightforwardly? The answer is that the problem lies in the question.
The question “Does homeopathy help for migraines?” is a problem because it assumes that migraines are a diagnosis. From the point of view of homeopathy a migraine is only one symptom in a complex of symptoms. It is a symptom of many different diseases. This may sound trivial, but another example may make it clearer. In the medieval ages “fever” was seen as a diagnosis. The doctor would diagnose a patient as having a fever. Now we know that fever is not a disease, but a symptom of many different diseases.
The same is true for virtually all “diagnoses” in regular medicine: bronchitis, hay fever, asthma, pneumonia, dementia, depression, sleeplessness, heart infarction, diabetes, Parkinson, cystitis, cancer. Homeopathically they are not diagnoses, but only symptoms of a deeper disease.
An example can clarify this distinction, the example of plant identification. Suppose that we had a much simpler classification of plants, organized around the color of the flowers. We would have yellow-flower, red-flower, rose-flower and more. When someone would ask a botanist “Do you know yellow-flower”, he would be confused. The botanist could answer, “Yes I know many yellow flowers”, or “That depends on the other features of the yellow-flower”, or “I know sunflower, or do you mean dandelion or buttercup?” The answers of the botanist would look vague, unsure and hesitant. It would look very much like a homeopath trying to answer the bronchitis question.
Classification of diseases
The discrepancy originates from the difference in classification. The class “yellow-flower” isn’t a real class for the botanist. For him yellow flowers are just a superficial feature or a symptom that can be found in many different kinds of plants.
The same is true for the discrepancy in diagnosis between regular medicine and homeopathy. For example the regular diagnosis ”bronchitis” is a symptom of the homeopathic diagnosis “Calcium phosphoricum”. Calcium phoosphoricum is the state of someone having a fear of not being interesting for others. They fear that others see them as stupid, not clever and have nothing interesting to say, so they will have no friends. In school they study hard to overcome that idea of being stupid, so they develop abdominal pains and headaches, especially around examinations. They have lung problems, bronchitis and pneumonia. They have homesickness, desire for spicy, salt and fish and a fear of thunderstorm.
In this example we see that the regular diagnosis is just a symptom in a homeopathic diagnosis.
The second difference is that no symptoms are excluded from diagnoses. Disease is empirically observed as a whole, also the symptoms of the mind which are included and regarded as essential. In the Calcium phosporicum diagnosis we saw those features in the form of the fear of having no friends. In contrast, regular medicine sees mind symptoms more as artifacts of the body machine. From a homeopathic perspective a whole range of symptoms are artificially excluded from disease by regular medicine.
Another aspect of the difference is that the homeopathic classification is based on the natural expression of diseases: in the form of intoxications. These come from natural substances in the world in the form of minerals, elements, plants and animals and are the basis of disease classifications. Sulphur, a natural element, is an example of a homeopathic disease.
In essence the homeopathic diagnosis is the same as the treatment. The remedy that cures is the diagnosis. A patient cured with Sulphur had the “Sulphur disease”. This is obvious from the homeopathic law of similars, “Diseases can be cured by remedies that can produce the same kind of disease”. The consequence is that in homeopathy there is not a pathology book separate from the pharmacology books, as in regular medicine. In Homeopathy there is a Materia Medica, which is at the same time a classification of diseases (a pathology book) and a pharmacopoeia.
This kind of diagnosis is often not satisfying to the patients. Our society is not attuned to say, “I have a Sulphur disease”. For most people this is meaningless and it will be seldom accepted as excuse for their suffering. Homeopathy is yet to be accepted by mainstream society; its knowledge is not well respected.