Larry Malerba, DO, DHtis a classical homeopath, osteopathic physician, and educator whose mission is to build bridges between holistic healing, conventional medicine, and spirituality. He is the author of Green Medicine: Challenging the Assumptions of Conventional Health Care and Metaphysics & Medicine: Restoring Freedom of Thought to the Art and Science of Healing. He has written articles for GreenMedInfo, American Holistic Medical Association, Huffington Post, MindBody Network, Natural News, Reality Sandwich, Homeopathy for Everyone, Homeopathy Today, and more. Dr. Malerba is board certified in Homeotherapeutics, is Clinical Assistant Professor at New York Medical College, and past president of the Homeopathic Medical Society of the State of New York.
Katja Schütt: Welcome to Hpathy, Dr.Malerba. We look forward to you sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us. You challenge mainstream’s medicine’s simplistic approach to medical treatment and embrace a wholistic approach to healing. Can you tell us about your philosophy of “green medical care“ and how you came to develop it?
Larry Malerba: Thank you, Katja, for this opportunity to talk with you and Hpathy. I always wanted to write a book but had never gotten around to it. One day, while talking to a friend about my ideas, he stopped me in mid-sentence and insisted that I needed to write a book. Within days of our conversation I began writing what would eventually become Green Medicine.
Having been inspired by Richard Grossinger’s Planet Medicine, I wanted to write about my own grand vision of medicine and healing, about the problems inherent in modern medicine and what it could be if it were to incorporate a more holistic understanding. I realize that there are very few new ideas under the sun and, so, what I call my grand vision is really just my interpretation of ideas that I have picked up along the way. It’s the way you put the ideas together that counts.
To me, the green in Green Medicine signifies an ecological perspective, not in the sense that medicine should be all about environmental health, which by the way is an important issue, but in the sense that medicine is most effective when it takes a whole systems approach to healing. That’s what ecology is all about; it is a multidisciplinary science that takes into account many factors that impact the ecosystem.
Of course, homeopaths know that orthodox medicine is an outgrowth of the polar opposite perspective. Its reductionist approach blinds medicine to the bigger picture. Modern medicine has gotten lost in the details, so to speak. Conventional medical thinkers have deluded themselves into believing that holism is neither realistic nor attainable. This delusion has also led to the belief that science itself is reductionistic by its very nature. Of course, this is completely false. Reductionism, along with materialism, and others, are what I call the –isms of medicine—the dogmatic beliefs that form the constricted worldviews of orthodox medicine and mainstream science.
Green Medicine is my attempt to set the record straight regarding the flawed thinking of mainstream medicine. It proposes a greener, more inclusive perspective that incorporates body, heart, mind, and spirit into our understanding of health, illness, and healing.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that in the early stages of writing the book my wife awoke from a dream one morning with the message that I was to use the title Green Medicine. I must admit that I greeted the suggestion with a lack of enthusiasm, but I thanked her for her input. Months later, I was wrangling over the prospective title with the publisher, North Atlantic Books, but we couldn’t come to an agreement. One day the phone rang and it was my editor. She was excited about an idea for the title. She asked, “What about Green Medicine?” Needless to say, I couldn’t argue with the synchronistic significance.
Katja Schütt: Oh, that’s really a nice example of the coincidental occurence of events that are causally unrelated. What role does homeopathy play within your concept of green medicine and your book?
Larry Malerba: Homeopathy is the primary influence that runs all throughout Green Medicine. It may not be so apparent to the average reader unfamiliar with homeopathy. However, that was my purposeful intention. I did not want the reader to know that he or she was reading about homeopathic philosophy and practice. Although it is a philosophy of holistic medicine book, it is heavily informed by homeopathy, which is right there between every line, from first chapter to last.
I knew that I didn’t want to write just another homeopathy book. I wanted to reach a wider audience. While I was writing Green Medicine, I told various friends and colleagues that I was writing a “stealth homeopathy” book. I wanted to write a homeopathy book that non-homeopathic people would read. But I knew that the very word, homeopathy, can be the kiss of death to those who carry preconceived notions about our great healing art. I concluded that Green Medicine is just the kind of title that might appeal to a broader spectrum of readers. I do not focus openly on homeopathy until Chapter 15, The Alchemical Key. By that time, the reader has almost finished the book. Green Medicine is really a homeopathy book in disguise.
The effectiveness of my stealth strategy was confirmed when my patients told me how well it resonated with their experiences of homeopathy, and when others who knew little about homeopathy contacted me to compliment the book or to ask for help with their health problems.
A warning to all the strict classicists out there—Green Medicine is not just about homeopathy. It incorporates ideas from a wide spectrum of sources. In fact, I had also hoped that the book would address one of the issues that I find to be problematic within the homeopathic community, which is that as a whole we tend to be somewhat critical of all things non-homeopathic. On the one hand this is perfectly understandable. When one comes to realize the depth and power of homeopathy, all else pales in comparison.
On the other hand, it is unfortunate because one cannot openly say such things without potentially alienating those who use other holistic modalities. It tends to isolate us from the rest of the world. The power of homeopathy can be intoxicating to the ego and there is no doubt that the homeopathic community suffers from a good bit of egocentrism. This, however, is unbecoming, undiplomatic, and not conducive to good relations with our holistic and allopathic counterparts. I firmly believe that the homeopathic community needs to develop a sense of humility in order to be able to play well with others.
Katja Schütt: Yes, a strong community is indispensable to make things happen, and by satisfying our basic need to belong it is contributing to health per se. How did you become involved with homeopathy ?
Larry Malerba: I applied to osteopathic medical school thinking it would be a bit more holistic than M.D. school. When I started at Des Moines University, I quickly discovered an elective homeopathy course taught by a professor of family medicine. Dr. Kirby Hotchner recommended that his students purchase Kent’s Repertory, Boericke’s Materia Medica, Vithoulkas’ Science of Homeopathy, and a remedy kit. He also gave us a photocopied version of Vithoulkas’ “Stolen Essences” in a binder. We medical students learned by practicing on each other, prescribing for acutes.
My wife and I happened to discover an unusual item at a yard sale while we were hunting for stuff for our new apartment in Des Moines. To our amazement, it was the framed diploma of a graduate of the University of Iowa Homeopathic Medical School, dated 1896! There was also a framed picture of the school’s graduating class. Now homeopathy was new to us, so we didn’t understand the great significance of these items. I was just a poor student with scant resources. I regret to this day that out of thriftiness I chose to purchase only the diploma. The diploma has been on display in my medical clinic for many years. When I think back about it, I want to kick myself for having let that class photo slip away from me. Alas.
After Dr. Hotchner graduated at the top of his class from Des Moines University Osteopathic Medical School, they later recruited him to come back to teach. He agreed under one condition; he wanted to be able to teach and practice homeopathy. All patients scheduling appointments at the University Family Practice Clinic were asked whether they wanted conventional or homeopathic treatment and Dr. Hotchner would accommodate them accordingly. I spent my summers and every free moment I had during medical school shadowing him at the clinic.
As I became more experienced, he allowed me to take chronic cases and to provide follow up care. It was a truly unique circumstance to be able to learn homeopathy at an allopathic medical school. It enabled me to compare homeopathic and allopathic care side by side in the same clinic. Needless to say, it was no contest! I am forever indebted to Dr. Hotchner and to Phil Robbins, DO, a homeopath from Ohio with whom I also did a summer internship.)