Editor’s Note: Bruce Barwell, President of the New Zealand Homoeopathic Society, editor of the internationally recognised journal Homoeopathica and a renowned homoeopath, passed away suddenly on Thursday, 29th May 2008, before we could publish this article. He will be sorely missed by patients, members of the Society and homoeopaths and friends from all over the world.
There are some medical conditions that seem to have too few potential homeopathic remedies from which to make a choice.
Colitis and Crohn’s disease are examples. In the heyday of homeopathy last century, differential diagnosis of inflammatory bowel conditions was rudimentary – and there is a sameness and lack of clear features to distinguish essential differences between gut symptoms reported by provers.
This means that even using such good books as Diarrhoea by James Bell and modern repertories, the conscientious prescriber will have patients who fail to benefit permanently from homeopathic treatment.
But I made a discovery 12 years ago that proved to be a big help to me in my practice, and I am now almost invariably successful in treating inflammatory bowel conditions. Here is how this came about . . .
In early 1985 I read in the “Scientific American” of November 1984, as part of an advertisement, this paragraph:
â€¢ Campylobacter fetus subsp. jejuni is associated with a colitis that can clinically and sigmoidoscopically resemble acute idiopathic ulcerative colitis. Stool cultures are in order for C. fetus before beginning nonspecific anti-inflammatory therapy. [The organism has been renamed Campylobacter jejuni].
The important point is that infection with this bacterium produces symptoms mimicking ulcerative colitis, a condition which in my experience sometimes failed to respond to what I felt had been as good a prescription as I could make.
To rephrase Hahnemann to a less emphatic statement: If something causes disease-like symptoms it may very well be a remedy for a disease with these symptoms, or ones very like them.
So in this instance a remedy made from Campylobacter jejuni might treat ulcerative colitis, as indeed any virus or bacteria might be used to treat a condition resembling symptoms it creates in infection.
Looked at in this light orthodox medical textbooks are full of ideas for homeopaths; and so are books on the chemical composition of plants and animals, of course.
For example, if you consider the effect of high levels of histamine in different parts of the body in reaction to allergy or insect bites and stings, there is a logic to giving Histaminum for conditions or symptoms resembling those of hayfever or sting and bite reactions.
But what of the case of epidermal growth factor, the humoral substance essential for successful wound healing? In my experience EFG 30c is not like Histaminum, but acts in potency to heal skin as it does in its naturally occurring form (as does Hypericum act the same in potency as it does in the herb but, for example, Opium acts quite the opposite, being used to treat numbness not cause it). Why is this?
Those two examples came from normal physiology; what of abnormal conditions? Emotional changes before normal menstruation have been attributed by some researchers to abnormal levels of prostaglandin F2 alpha. I have found this substance in potency (usually 12c) to be effective in nearly every case of premenstrual syndrome for which I have prescribed it. Similarly, abnormal levels of immunoglobulin E are found in atopy and Immunoglobulin E can be an effective medicine in potency for asthma with a history of eczema.
A quite spectacular example of the success of this line of thought happened in my practice recently: I gave a boy aged 4 with Klinefelter’s Syndrome, luteinising hormone in 30c potency because that hormone has abnormally high levels in XXY males. The boy, who had aggressive behaviour and a small poorly-articulated vocabulary, became well behaved, even polite, and astonished me by asking with clear diction “May I play with the toys?” only six weeks later.
One case is only an anecdote, and proves nothing, but I relate it in the hope that others will prescribe the same remedy and report good results, or otherwise, with it.
Utilising reports of toxicity and side-effects of conventional drugs has been a practice in homeopathy since it was employed by Hahnemann.
The best modern example of this is Othon Andre Julian’s /Dictionary of Homeopathic Materia Medica/ in which appear about a dozen drugs, the pathogenesis of which derives largely from conventional experience; Chlorpromazinum, Levomepromazinum and Sulfanilamidum being good examples.
In the older literature Antipyrenum is a splendid instance; a drug that was intended to rival aspirin failed in its ambition because so many of the people who took it developed serious urticaria – that is why it survives today as a leading homeopathic remedy for urticaria.
A drug does not have to have had a formal homeopathic proving to be used in this way, of course; the patients who took it were doing a kind of proving as they developed symptoms.
An example from my experience is the case of a man in his mid-thirties with mild psoriatic arthritis who had only short-lived benefit from remedies I had given him, so I gave him Methotrexate potentised to 30c. It was only little better than earlier remedies for the arthritic pains, that is, they went away for about three weeks then slowly returned; but the patient said it was wonderful for his sore tongue and very painful ulcers (which he had failed to mention).
On consulting textbooks I found a photograph of a mouth so inflamed and raw it looked as if the person depicted had gargled with boiling acid – this was to show a common effect of having Methotrexate treatment for cancer or psoriatic arthritis.
Here is another point to ponder, why is it most herbs act much the same in potency as in mother tincture but very few orthodox medicines do this? One exceptional orthodox medicine potentised which I use is the 200c of procaine penicillin which I often give for both pain relief and antibiotic effect after tooth extraction.
The article opened with the example of an acute infection producing symptoms like those of a chronic one, an example from long established homeopathy is Hippozaenum, the nosode of the horse-infecting germ Actinobacillus malle which rarely affects humans, but in potency is a useful remedy for chronic ozaena with papules and ulceration in the frontal sinuses, pharynx, larynx and trachea; and/or the worst forms of bronchitis which seem soon to be fatal.
Digressing a little, I think it can be said nosodes act in three different ways, and specific nosodes tend to fall into the same category of action whenever they are used:
â€¢ Often the well-selected nosode will be sufficient to effect a cure – for example Escherichia coli in urinary tract infections, especially of small girls.
â€¢ Sometimes it will change symptoms to ones less distressing to the patient and much more easily prescribed for – Glinicum in sciatica, Flavus or Medorrhinum in chronic ear, nose and sinus conditions.
â€¢ And sometimes it will act as a reaction remedy because following its administration a seemingly well-indicated remedy which failed to do anything previously will produce good results if given again – this is especially notable with Tuberculinum and Carcinosin. (As yet another aside, I speculate that many remedies made from elements of low atomic number, chemicals of the Krebs cycle, and shotgun-blast complex chemical mixes like mineral-spring waters and Ichthyolum, Aethiops antimonialis, Calcarea stibiato-sulphuratum, Slag (Aluminium silico-sulphocalciticum?), Aqua maris, Vermicultum, etc, are also reaction-provoking remedies – I use them increasingly so in my practice).
Returning now to the point where I came in . . . just as Campylobacter jejuni infection mimics non-specific and ulcerative colitis, even to the nausea; so Yersinia enterocolitica produces a fake Crohn’s disease complete with ulceration of the ileum and colon and acute bloody diarrhoea; and Clostridium difficile produces pseudo-membranous colitis, with on-for-a-few-days off-for-a-few-days watery or porridgy stool.
Experience with using these nosodes prescribed on little more than the sketchy symptomology given here, where seemingly-well-indicated remedies have failed or there were no symptoms of any better value than the above in 100 or so cases, leads me to offer two cases as examples in the hope that it may be of some help toward successfully treating difficult gut conditions.
It would be good to be very familiar with the contents of Bell’s book before using any of the three nosodes I have named, or any of their close relatives. Also consider the possibility of an emotional etiology, as someone called Dr. Vernon M. Smith of the University of Maryland is quoted as saying (in a book of interest to homeopaths. “Biotypes” by Joan Arehart-Treichel [Star/W.H.Allen, 1981]): “The gastro-intestinal system is unparalleled among the systems of the human body in its susceptibility to disorders arising from, or aggravated by, emotional disturbances.”
Here are two exemplary cases . . .
The patient has had ulcerative colitis badly for over 40 years.
Frequently hospitalised, and almost constantly on medication.
J., female, born 193l.
Hepatitis at 8.
Wed wife-beater at 21, marriage lasted 4 years.
Ovarian cyst and appendix out at 24, complicated by haemorrhage (maybe has von Willebrand’s) and gas gangrene; colitis started not long after.
Hysterectomy at 30 for cervical cancer.
Gall bladder out, for stones, at 47.
Septic hip at 55 – had hip injury as child. Slight bladder prolapse.
Nightmares if sleeps on back.
Mother and mother’s mother died of Alzheimers. Father and two of J’s sisters alcoholics.
Now heavy rectal bleeding, pain sigmoid, alternating diarrhoea and constipation, stool colour switches from light to near black.
Hypothyroid – on Thyroxin.
High cholesterol (was 10, after year on Zocor still 8.7).
Glaucoma (Cetaprin Nova [emepronium], presumably for bladder, made eye pressure rocket).
Allergies, etc: Petrochemicals, iodine, fish (hives), bee and wasp.
Health food shop glucosamine sulphate nearly killed her – manufacturer said it was made from crustacean shells. Once dived out window after given an amphetamine.
3/9/97 Clostridium perfringens 30c
30/10/97 Calcarea stibiato-sulphuratum 30c
13/11/97 Leptandra 30c
late/l l/97 Momordica 30c
After Momordica cholesterol sunk to 4.
Phoned her 23/2/98. Marvellous, she said. Ate lot of roast pork at weekend. Stopped Zocor – going to get cholesterol test. Still on Betoptic for glaucoma.
The Clostridium was prescribed on the history of gas gangrene. It made a big improvement, but no clearer prescribing symptoms emerged, with the exception of haemorrhoids becoming more prominent and painful and bleeding.
Calc stib-sulph is a somewhat empirical prescription for blood pooling plus ulcerative colitis. It is also a reaction remedy for such conditions as haematoma which fail to respond to other remedies seemingly better indicated. I first learnt of it in a German-language simplistic repertory distributed in the Netherlands by VSM about 15 years ago.
Leptandra has alternating light and near black stools. The dark stool is not necessarily coloured by blood.
Momordica for urgent loose stool and a feeling of gas in the gut, often in the splenic flexture.
A woman of 28 with Crohn’s disease half her life. Frequently hospitalised. My first contact with her was with her phoning from hospital in the middle of one of the worst episodes of the disease. She was scheduled to have a colostomy in four days. She was bloated-looking from high dosage of Prednisone.
N., born 1968.
Sick all life. Gut problems from 14.
Menarche at 13, periods very painful.
Bleeding from bowel, with lot green mucus, ‘like elephant snot’.
Crohn’s plus unspecified inflamed-bowel condition.
Gas ‘smells like acid’. Distended abdomen.
Very white tongue. Prone to mouth ulcers.
Herpes buttocks and peri-vaginal.
Gut worse spices, oils, milk, vegetables beyond very small quantity – ‘gassy ones’ the worst.
Iridologist once told her to stop wheat, sugar, dairy which did good but ‘was too hard’. Beer gave hives when aged 21-23, so rarely has it now; craves coffee, cigarettes, alcohol.
Relations with mother always bad. Sister was parents’ darling and unkind to her. Brother wastrel alcoholic from mid-teens. Father’s side of family prone to bowel cancer.
History of ‘poisonous’ relationships from 14. Had son at 22. Often wakes crying. Dreams of mother being horrible to her, usually reliving actual events.
Skin very sensitive – laundry powder, cheap jewellery, chlorinated pools.
N was on Asacol, Zovirax, Prednisone 30mg when first seen.
She was in such a bad way she was scheduled to have a colostomy when I first saw her.
11/3/96 Magnesia carbonica 1M
Unloved, apthae, white tongue, gassy, stool ‘green scum like frog pond’ is Bell’s phrase.
This remedy did a lot. The operation was cancelled. Next step was bid to reduce food allergies.
27/3/96 Okoubaka 30c, a remedy for food allergies causing gut symptoms, gave little benefit.
3/4/96 Symptoms returning – but mixture of green and red mucous stool. Strong smell. Colicky. Podophyllum 30c did wonders. Specialist said gut almost perfect, but found stomach ulcers (from Prednisone?). early 5/96 Astragallus 30c, a remedy for the ill-effects of Prednisone, especially bone erosion, but also gastric pathology. Later, Ornithogallum 3x, an empirical stomach ulcer remedy. Constipated. Bad period pain.
21/5/96 Viburnum 30c, for severe menstrual pain with constipation that seems to add to the discomfort.
Late/6/96 Stool long and of small bore. Vivid dreams.
Late 6/96 Phosphorus 0/3Q. Q potency chosen for fear of opening imperfectly healed lesions and starting bleeding. About a month later much better apart from food indiscretions. Told to stop wheat, tobacco, coffee. Herpes now minor.
15/11/96 Angry at parents, especially mother, but not to her face. Staphisagria 1M. Much better for months, then gut pain, diarrhoea, etc. Not smoking, though diet advice, admitted to be beneficial, followed for only 2-3 weeks. Herpes very bad.
15/3/97 Yersinia enterocolitica 30c, because remedies given have not been of permanent benefit. Nosode good, but months later Croton tiglium 30c – for diarrhoea plus herpes.
Rang February 1998. New baby. ‘Guts get crook if I eat the wrong stuff’ but eats it anyway and takes Prednisone at whim. Herpes flares up if Prednisone dosage goes above a certain level and she then takes Croton tiglium.
Seen by gastro-enterologist in March1998; the best he had ever seen her in the 9 years he had known her, he said.
From the Homoeopathica Journal, February 2002, New Zealand Homoeopathic Society www.homeopathy.ac.nz