Cancer is such a pervasive and formidable condition that the capacity to treat it is perhaps the most important yardstick by which a therapeutic modality can be measured. While ‘the’ cure for cancer remains as elusive an objective as the alchemist’s pursuit of gold, there are numerous therapies, many of them relatively unknown to the population at large, that have proven effective in treating various manifestations of the disease.
Broadly speaking though, almost all of these treatments can be categorized into one of two approaches. The first aims to remove or destroy cancer cells, usually by aggressive intervention. This is best represented by conventional oncology, which employs surgery or the introduction of toxic elements into the body.
The second regards the body’s potential to heal itself as the ultimate form of cure. The goal is to stimulate a living organism to eliminate malignant tissue by restoring itself to a healthy state. This not only removes the malignancy, but also addresses the underlying cause that produced it.
As a homeopath, I have always been intrigued by this latter approach in general, and the possibilities of treating cancer with homeopathy in particular. While a handful of tiny white pellets containing highly diluted solutions of natural substances may not seem adequate to address something as aggressive and life threatening as cancer, there is both historical and contemporary evidence that, in fact, homeopathic remedies can be quite effective.
Even the most cursory search of the homeopathic Repertory – an essential compendium used by all homeopaths that correlates a huge list of symptoms with the remedies used to treat them – reveals that there are hundreds of references to cancer and tumors, as well as hundreds of homeopathic remedies used to cure them. The literature is also full of case histories where a cancer has been successfully treated.
In an earlier year, it was not unusual for homeopaths in this country to be the primary caregivers in cases of cancer. The great practitioners of the 19th century all had experience with it. As but one example, Dr. Arthur Hill Grimmer, a Californian who lived from 1874 to 1967 and practiced for 57 years, was renowned for his prowess in this regard. His unpublished work “Remedies That Have Cured Cancer” contains his experiences with nearly 100 remedies.
But today the situation has changed dramatically. For the most part, homeopathy is not regarded as a primary treatment for cancer in the United States – even amongst most homeopaths themselves. This is due to a number of factors, not the least of which is that much of the knowledge and experience of our elders along with a comprehensive educational system was lost when the institution of homeopathy, the colleges and hospitals as well as the medical status of its practitioners, was dismantled throughout the first half of the 20th century.
But that is not to say the tradition is totally lost, at least outside the United States. For instance, Dr. Prafull Vijayakar of Mumbai, India is renowned as the ‘Lion of Homeopathy’ for his work with serious pathological conditions including cancer. An astute scientific thinker, his school of ‘Predictive Homeopathy’ has integrated many concepts of traditional homeopathy and modern physiology, especially embryology and cellular biology.
He relies on a very precise, what he calls ‘mathematical’, approach toward prescribing a single dose of a remedy and patiently observing how its action affects the organism, moving through the various organs and systems like a wave rippling across the water. I was fortunate to learn something of this method when I had the opportunity to have Vijayakar’s colleague, Dr. Narendra Mehta, personally review several of his own cases of successfully treated brain tumors.
Another Indian homeopath, A.U. Ramakrishnan has developed both a very unique technique and a considerable international reputation for his work with cancer. The son of a physician from the southern city of Chennai (formerly Madras), Dr Ramakrishnan devoted himself to treating cancer after several family members died of the disease.
Frustrated that traditional methods of using homeopathic remedies were ineffective in the case of his own family, but confident that homeopathy would be effective if properly prescribed, Ramakrishnan set off on his own path to create a methodology that calls for frequent repetition of specially chosen remedies that are alternated usually on a weekly basis.
This peripatetic soul travels the globe continually, rotating through a series of cities, usually staying at a nearby airport hotel for a week or two to treat patients before moving onto the next spot. A number of years ago he gained a considerable following in this country. This was in part the consequence of dramatic positive results he attained treating the mother of an American homeopath with pancreatic cancer. He not only has a prodigious appetite for work and travel, but possesses an unfailingly optimistic disposition, which no doubt augments the efficacy of his treatment.
Yet another methodology for treating cancer has been developed by Dr. Prasanta Banerji, a third generation homeopath from the city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. His reputation is such that nearly 1000 patients appear at his clinic every morning for consultations. The efficacy of his treatments has drawn the attention of both the American National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland as well as the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas.
On one level, Dr. Prasanta Banerji is a homeopath with a prodigious appetite for service, overseeing the treatment of nearly a thousand people, many of them extremely poor, who flock to his clinic in Kolkata (formerly ‘Calcutta’), India daily. On another level, he is the developer of a highly effective and inexpensive homeopathic protocol to treat cancer that has drawn the attention of physicians and scientists from around the world, including those at the National Cancer Institute and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in this country.
But to fully appreciate the scope of his work, it is necessary to perceive it from a larger perspective, one that looks back several centuries and encompasses the history of the British empire in India, otherwise known as the British Raj.
As Indian cities go, the city of Kolkata is a relative newcomer, dating back only to the late 17th century when a company of British merchants, the East India Trading Company, established a trading post there. As the empire grew, the triumvirate of Bombay (now known as Mumbai) on the western coast, Madras (now known as Chennai) to the south and Kolkata, which lies on the eastern coast in the state of Bengal, were the major mercantile ports of the company.
By the mid-18th century, the British held sway over the subcontinent both by establishing their control over the native rulers and people, as well as largely driving out other European imperialist powers such as the French. (The “French and Indian Wars” of the American Revolution was the North American campaign of this worldwide struggle between France and England.)
A successful campaign against the Prince of Bengal who attacked and briefly held Kolkata, further consolidated British power. Over time, the role of the merchants of the East India Company became conflated with that of governmental overseers and administrators and Kolkata became their capital city. They ruled over India for a century more, until another conflict with their subjects in 1857, known as the Indian Mutiny, became the impetus for the British government to formerly assume control over the subcontinent, leading to the dissolution of the East India Company a decade or so later.
It was around this time that a social movement began in the eastern state of Bengal, with Kolkata as its epicenter. Known as the “Bengal Renaissance” it was a time of intellectual, political and creative ferment when a group of Indian intellectuals and cultural figures – social activists, writers, religious leaders, artists and scientists – sought to merge the influence of European thought and culture as introduced by the British, with their own classical traditions.
The Bengal Renaissance has been characterized as a period of awakening, similar to the European Renaissance, that lay the groundwork for a transition from medieval to modern society. Along with an outpouring of art and literature, it promoted ‘rationalism’, social equality and political independence.
The origins of homeopathy in India can also be traced to this era. Originally introduced by German missionaries who treated the poor for free, it began to be taken up by Indian practitioners. Of note, an aristocrat named Babu Rajen Dutta, became an adept student and practitioner of homeopathy who successfully treated a number of the leaders of the Renaissance movement.
One such patient, a man named Vidyasagar who had been relieved of debilitating migraines by Dutta’s prescriptions, was so enamored of homeopathy that he and his brother, Ishaan Chandra, began to study it themselves. True to their social ideals, they established free clinics for the poor in their native villages. Chandra’s son, Pareshnath, continued in this tradition, treating not only the poor, but also some of the most notable names, such as Prime Minister Jawharlal Nehru, in a now free India.