How do you treat a burn? Almost everyone, if you ask them for the first response required in the treatment of a burn, will tell you, “Put it in cold water…”.
In my first year of homoeopathic training a general discussion led the lecturer to describe a treatment for burns. He explained that he had been dining with a friend who had burnt herself and had immediately, to his horror, held the burnt area of her hand in the heat of a candle for a little while. The friend had then explained to him that the normal treatment of using cold water was ineffective, but that the application of heat to a burn meant that it would not blister, and although it did hurt more on the initial application it healed far more quickly and painlessly thereafter. This she demonstrated a little while later when he saw to his amazement that the burned area was not even red and she was experiencing no pain.
His explanation was that left alone a burn, ‘burnt’, as in the vital force would produce heat. By applying cold water this burning effect was reduced and the vital force had to summon even more heat. If instead we assist the vital force by applying heat the job would be done more quickly.
This is really nothing more than elementary homoeopathy… like cures like… similar similibus curentur…. And yet some in the group were surprised, and some argued that this would be dangerous with anything other than a very slight burn…
Some of us tried this out when the opportunity arose, and I personally discovered that holding an accidentally scalded part in hot water for a little while did indeed improve things to a remarkable degree. The theory was tested more thoroughly when, about year later, whilst working in a fish and chip shop, I slipped and my left hand plunged into the chip fryer up past the wrist. I ran (screaming!) into the kitchen and turned on the hot tap. The plug was in the sink and the sink began to fill. At the same time a couple of concerned customers had run into the kitchen to see if they could help. One of them noticed that I was running the hot tap and tried to ‘help’ by explaining that I had turned on the wrong tap and attempted to turn off the hot and on the cold. In my pain I had to prevent them and also explain what I was doing. This meant that my hand remained in the water for a longer period than it would perhaps, had I been left alone (this is relevant later…).
The next day, my hand had no evidence of the burn whatsoever! The customers who had witnessed the incident were amazed!
Last year (Sept 2007) I received a phone call from one of my daughter’s friends. In the background I could hear my daughter crying and obviously distressed. She had apparently scalded her hand with double boiled water. The drive to the friends’ house took about half an hour. On my arrival I gave her Canth 200c. She explained that she had ‘done the hot water thing’ but that it hadn’t worked. She was in a lot of pain and was obviously distressed.
I took her home, but was concerned as she seemed in so much pain. She was also very angry. The accident had been caused by the friends’ dog, who had become amorous with her leg as she was pouring the water into a cup. She was angry with the dog and was saying that, ‘dogs like that shouldn’t be kept as pets!’ this was a ridiculous thing to say, there was nothing wrong with the dog really, and it was also extremely unusual for her. I gave her Caust 200c, which did ease the pain and she seemed to settle, was no longer angry with the dog and was able to laugh about its antics, but I was still concerned. Her hand had produced a sizable blister and she was still in pain. I was also confused as to why the hot water had not relieved the pain as it had with my own, perhaps more serious, burn.
I remembered seeing Hahnemann’s article ‘On the Treatment of Burns’ in the book ‘The Lesser Writings’. I re-read the article and realised the mistake we had made. I also understood why my burn had had a different result.
The problem was, it seemed, the time that the hand had been exposed to the heat. My hand had been immersed for a considerable amount of time whilst I engaged in discussions with the concerned customers, whilst my daughter had merely put it in and taken it out.
Hahnemann’s advice is that the heating should continue until there is no more pain. He recommends the use of alcohol and/or oil of turpentine, neither of which I had at my disposal, but I deduced that it was the ‘heat’ that was the important ingredient.
I explained this to my daughter and we spent the next three hours with her hand in hot water. At this point I should explain that I do not mean scalding hot! The temperature is what I would describe as ‘hand hot’, the temperature that a normal hand understands as ‘hot’ but not unbearable. Because of the time delay I didn’t ask her to simply plunge her hand into water of this temperature. We began with tepid water and by removing some and adding some we increased the temperature over a period of half and hour. She then kept her hand in the water until the pain stopped. This took several hours.
Over the next few days I suggested to her than she often return her hand to the warm water, particularly if she felt any pain, but also in order to prevent it from drying.
I was concerned as the blister was ‘impressive’, although after the initial hot water treatment she was in very little pain. She described the sensation as a ‘discomfort’ rather than ‘pain’. There had been criticisms of my treatment of it, with various people suggesting that she should have taken it to hospital to have it ‘treated properly’. I sought support or advice from ‘Homoeopathy’ but could only find instructions to ‘immerse the part in cold water and seek medical attention’, in addition to the obvious remedies.
She heroically and carefully kept the blister whole and continued to ensure that it did not become dry.
In addition to the hot water I gave her a bottle of Canth 30c, in medicinal solution, from which she took a teaspoonful daily for a few days, after succussing the bottle 6 times.
After 6 days the blister seeped of its own accord and I instructed her not to remove the covering it had left. I gave her a couple of doses of Calen 30c, again in medicinal solution and succussed prior to repetition, and a couple of days later the layer of dead skin came free on its own. Eleven days after the scalding there was just a little pink discoloration of the new skin and this was the only evidence that the event had occurred.
Just for the record, one the first night I did offer to take her to the local hospital, Homoeopathy is my choice and I do not force my opinion on my children, but she is 19 and her response was ‘why would I want to go there? You and Hahnemann can fix it!’ I’m just very glad that I took notice of my lecturer and also had the article to hand to work out what we had done wrong.
Today there is no evidence that her hand had ever been injured in this way. There are no blemishes and no sensation changes. She is a little more careful when handling hot water though!
The article, ‘On the Treatment of Burns’, written by Dr. Hahnemann in 1816, is a poignant reminder that our work as homoeopaths extends beyond the search for the correct remedy. It is in the basic understanding of the maxim ‘similar similibus curentur’ and the application of treatment that consistently responds to the needs of the vital force. I have reproduced the article here and whilst I hope than none of you will ever need to employ it, I hope it serves you as well as it did me should you have to.
Sadly, I feel pressed to add, due to today’s climate of legislative suppression, that I am not personally advocating, nor instructing anyone to adopt these methods in the treatment of serious burns. I am of the mind that the current suffering of burns victims could be greatly reduced, and also am wondering if there is anyone who would take up Dr. Hahnemann’s challenge today?
ON THE TREATMENT OF BURNS
Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, 1816.
(From the Allg. Anz.d. D., No. 156, 1816. In reply to Professor Dzondi’s recommendation of cold water in the same journal, No 104).