Dr. Corey Weinstein has been practicing medicine and studying homeopathy for 43 years and currently has a busy practice in San Francisco. He served as Vice President of the American Institute of Homeopathy and is associated with the California State Homeopathic Medical Society. A longtime advocate for human rights for prisoners, he currently works with the American Public Health Association and the WHO Health in Prison Project. Dr. Weinstein also studies classical music and plays clarinet with several groups, including the Chamber Musicians of Northern California and the jazz band, The Westwood.
AS: What first inspired your journey to homeopathy? Where did the journey lead you?
CW: There were two influences that put me on the road to the study of homeopathy and the understanding of health and disease from a natural medical point of view. I went through medical school with the usual ignorance and prejudices about homeopathy. But I met three radical pharmacists while working in a free clinic during my first year of medical practice in San Francisco. They taught me that the drugs in use had at least as much to do with profit as benefit to people. Coming of age in the 1960’s it was clear to me that US medicine was biased by class and race and full of lofty egos and predatory businessmen. But I had thought that the therapeutics were the best in the world. That was the first chink in the armor. Then I met my Latina grandma, Josephina Torres. She was the loving grandmother I never had and took care of all of us at the free clinic. When she suffered a severe ankle sprain I treated her with the standard ankle wrap and aspirin with codeine. On my walk home that evening I thought, “What have I done?” Surely I gave the correct medicine, but aspirin is an anti-inflammatory and will inhibit the structural healing of the tissues of the ankle and codeine will mask the pain. I knew Mrs. Torres was sure to use that numbing to stand at the stove the next day making the enchiladas I loved so much as a thank you gift. So by doing what was standard I had injured my grandma. That emotional conflict caused the next and most important thought. “Hasn’t humankind come up with anything better for the treatment of sprains?”
To answer that I began to look into various forms of healing and found an A to Z book by Linda Clark. Homeopathy seemed odd, but the most scientific of all of the methods to study, and I decided to learn more about it. That led to joining a study group and beginning my lifelong education. Along the way I’ve met many interesting and also unusual people that have enriched my life and been solid partners on this wonderful road.
Through the Bay Area Homeopathic Study Group I helped organize the Hering Family Health Clinic in Berkeley, a community clinic serving the full spectrum of health troubles and of incomes. Finally I began a private practice in San Francisco that I have enjoyed for the last 27 years. Homeopathy has kept me in medicine. I think I would have done administrative public health otherwise. But homeopathic practice leads me to delve into the details of peoples’ lives and that remains endlessly fascinating and rewarding. I feel truly blessed to have been given this privilege and opportunity.
AS: Yes, it really is a privilege to do this work. As you honed your skills over the years, were there experiences or observations that changed how you practiced? How is your approach different today?
CW: My study of homeopathy began with the Bay Area Homeopathic Study Group headed by Randy Neustadter and Dana Ullman. We studied what is now called Classical Homeopathy and is basically a Kentian approach after the great Chicago homeopathic physician James Tyler Kent. Our case taking was scrupulous and we searched for the generals, mentals, modalities and particulars with special attention to the PQRS (peculiar, queer, rare and strange) which often individualize the case and therefore the remedy. And we used Kent’s strategy of using ascending potencies to encourage and deepen healing. Members of the group went to India to study and attended Vithoulkas’ seminars in Greece.
Once Hering Clinic was running we invited teachers from the east coast and from India to come and share their ideas and skills with us. One Indian doctor, Dr. Meyta was presented the clinic’s 10 most difficult failed cases and he found useful remedies for 8 of them! He did his magic by enthusiastically interviewing the patients and finding details and nuances that had been overlooked in otherwise excellent case taking. While I studied with various masters and took many seminars I never adopted whole anyone’s strategies as the correct way. I continue to see each successful practitioner’s approach as something to add to my tool kit in the service of my patients. Our great teachers have wonderful and creative ways to study and remember Material Medica, to use the Repertory, to use the interview and to categorize both illness and remedies. My goal is to try to fit the right approach to the right patient and the right time, using as many tools as are appropriate.
AS: Even with a wide choice of remedies and approaches, obviously we don’t solve all the cases. What part if any do exposures to vaccines, drugs, heavy metals, GMO foods etc. play in this?
CW:There are many influences on people’s health: everything from birth and family history to injuries, toxicities and irritants and allergies, including lingering effects of prior illnesses, traumas and early life experiences. I’ve always taken the approach of treating what I see. In other words, in using homeopathy it is the symptom picture that defines the best remedy to be used. It is quite rare that the illness pattern created by a single insult or injury predominates in the expressed totality of chronic illness. More commonly the illness is a mixture of distresses that have accumulated over the years. Though certainly there are times when the person is “never well since” a particular moment. But more often I find it hard to make the intellectual choice of using specific antidotes in complex cases. After all what is the most important? Can we know the lynchpin of a particular syndrome? Overall I find that the innate healing intelligence is much more capable than my superficial understanding of its inner workings, to figure out how to begin and sustain a healing effort. Just as there are no two illnesses that are alike, each healing effort is unique.
While the idea of illness appearing in discrete layers might aid in teaching basic homeopathic theory, it is rarely that simple. If illness was that proverbial onion, it would have a variety of spikes of varying widths and heights, piercing through the outer most layer…. spikes that have emanated from other layers. I have found the most effective – though not universally successful- strategy is to take into account all that is seen on the surface, knowing that some are old and deep and some more superficial. And then I weight the array of symptoms with the Kentian paradigm for case analysis (general, mental, modalities, particulars, disabilities, etc.). During my 40 years of practice, I have attended people with dramatic alterations of health from vaccines (rarely), medications, and toxicities, but never from GMO foods. But even the “never well since” case is fraught with complexities, like was the influence due to the drama of the trouble, the toxicity or even the treatment? These are issues that make homeopathy a challenging and lifelong study with great rewards for those that apply themselves.
AS: You practice in San Francisco, which is one of the more progressive cities. How has the acceptance of homeopathy in S.F. changed over the years, if at all? Do you find the medical community any more receptive?
CW: I have been practicing homeopathy in the Bay Area full time for 37 years, and in San Francisco the past 27 years. During that time I have seen standard physicians become more respectful to their patients who choose to do homeopathy. A few even refer patients to homeopathic doctors or practitioners. But I am not aware of the medical community actually being interested in homeopathy or natural medicine. It is just that medical practitioners have learned to be less aggressively intolerant, so as to not insult their patients.
As the few doctors who have practiced in San Francisco reach retirement age, we are not being replaced by doctors coming up. Some physicians are using first aid and acute care remedies and superficial constitutional care. But we don’t have a group of doctors developing homeopathy here. Certainly part of the reason is that we have not fashioned our practices and lives to carry out this important responsibility, and that is our failing.
So tolerance in San Francisco and patient choice would benefit from well-trained homeopathic doctors setting up practice here.
AS: Would you say that we need to make inroads at the level of medical schools? Or, is there another solution to generating more physician homeopaths?
CW: There are two positive trends in medical education that are important to support. The first is the new homeopathy school in Arizona (AMCH). It is a medical school and will be training physicians for the first time in 80 years. The second is the interest among medical students in integrative medicine. Students are more open to homeopathy than are faculty. There are often lectures and even symposia on complementary medicine and it is important to find and support the students who have that interest, and to give them opportunities to see homeopathy being practiced. Developing preceptorships and the like would be very useful and could be done through existing organizations like the AIH and the National Center.
AS: The medical community and our society seem unable to accept the impact of energy on physiology. Is it important to finally explain homeopathy?
CW: As a practicing physician I don’t have much interest in finally understanding the physical basis of our medicine. I see it working. But it would help us to have a well codified explanation through water chemistry or elector-magnetics or the like. There is of course some simple explanation for the medicinal action that we observe on patients and on chemical, plant and animal models. Actually, harder is to understand what the remedies do to stimulate a healing effort by the patient. This is very complex and may well elude our understanding for a long time. These effects are both subtle and powerful.
AS: Homeopathy can be quite consuming. How do you relax when you’re not practicing homeopathy?
CW: Homeopathy is a hard master. Effective practice requires time and continual study. Many hours are spent after clinic, studying cases and learning more. But it is rewarding beyond any toil. I have found my music to be a great way to relax, refocus and enjoy myself. I’m an amateur clarinet player and play with friends in jazz and klezmer groups and with my temple choir. Study, rehearsal and composing are great ways to turn my attention away from the daily grind of patient care and be absorbed in another universe of meaning. That and my home and social life keep my life in harmony. Of course my life partner, Patricia is the one I turn to for comfort, solace and joy.
AS:Throughout this interview I’ve felt your sense of harmony and balance about homeopathy, and it’s clear that extends to your life. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you for sharing with us today.
Visit Dr.Corey Weinstein at his website: http://www.coreyweinsteinmd.com/Home_Page.html