Karen Allen, CCH has been practicing homeopathy since 1993, with a focus on healthy endocrine and hormonal function, in support of conception and pregnancy, and to repair endocrine function that has been disturbed following pregnancy loss, birth, personal trauma, medical interventions or ill effects from contraceptives. Karen has authored two widely used homeopathic texts, The Repertory Workbook and the CHC Prep Guide. She is a past president of the Council for Homeopathic Certification, where she still serves as a board member. She is working closely with Homeopaths without Boarders – NA in the project to bring homeopathy to Haiti as a low cost, effective health care option for the people there. You can see more about her work and classes she teaches at her website: www.karenallenhomeopathy.com
Editor’s note: At the end of this interview are numerous pictures of homeopaths teaching in Haiti.
Vatsala: Natural disasters are as old as Nature itself. To keep the universe on a forward momentum, nature, with equal favor to all the three processes, is constantly engaged in creation, preservation and destruction. The hunger for 24/7 news is, however, a recent phenomenon. The news media have figured out that news, if not pure bad news, is not worth telling. So, you turn any news channel on, and all you hear about is a graphic description of everything that can ever go wrong with Nature and with human behavior. In this genre, the large scale natural disasters are broadcast with ferocious eagerness. A Tsunami strikes a coastal town, and within minutes you can see Anderson Cooper braving the 30foot tall waves in his khakis, standing inches away from the jaws of death, microphone in his hand, camera crew nearby, wind lashing at his rain parka and messing up his finely combed silvery mane … you get the idea.
What this pictorial feed of 24/7 bad news does to the viewers is that it prompts at least some of them to get moving and act. Governmental and public relief agencies rise to the occasion (not necessarily in that order). Donations in cash and kind start pouring in. Volunteers from all over the world stir out of their nests and descend upon the disaster zone, bringing with them the much needed help, support, and supplies. Red Cross medical and paramedical teams pitch tents, taking over the job of restoration of health and limbs to the injured. United Nations teams hover close by doing their bit. The armed forces come along and do a commendable job of restoring order and some normalcy to the disaster zone, while the politicians of every stripe go on helicopter tours viewing the disaster from a safe height.
A few days later another disaster strikes somewhere else. News teams and volunteer teams move on to the new site. And the cycle goes on. Six months, one year or a few years down the road, the collective attention has also moved on to the new disaster sites. The old ones are left to heal on their own and away from international headlines and spot lights. Some do. Some need ongoing help – and sometimes that is rather hard to come by.
Even before the news media took upon itself the job of informing the masses about natural disasters, epidemics and tragedies, homeopaths have been dealing with these issues. In the early 19th century, homeopathy, founded by Samuel Hahnemann (1765-1843), had secured good standing and position in almost all the countries in the western world, including the United States, where it was introduced in 1825 (1). Around then people knew the difference between ‘Apothecary medicine’ (lancet and calomel were the mainstay) and the medicinal uses of native plants. They preferred the natural medicine and regarded the apothecary medicine as ‘uniformly poisonous’. These choices made by the masses brought on the economic competition between conventional medicine and homeopathy, and by the 1840’s, this competition was turning quite hostile (2).
Then came the cholera epidemic of 1849, when William Holcombe used homeopathic remedies to successfully treat his cases, and had no deaths in his care, except that his best friend had taken conventional medicine for the same illness and died (3). For a similar cholera epidemic in London, the death rate in conventional medicine was 59.2 % as opposed to 9 % under homeopathic treatment (4). Homeopathy saw a further increase in use and popularity right around the Civil War (1861-65) even though homeopaths were totally excluded from the Union Army during the Civil War (5). Yellow fever was another epidemic in which homeopathy was found to be highly effective. Homeopaths had a number of remedies for each stage of the disease – fever, exhaustion and collapse – and the mortality rate in their care was just 5.6 – 7.7 % whereas, the conventionally treated population saw a steep mortality of 27 – 72% (6). Meanwhile during the 1813 epidemics of typhus fever, Hahnemann himself had treated 180 cases losing only two, and the death rate in conventional medicine was 30% (7). Similarly, for treatment of influenza during 1918 pandemic, homeopathy death rate was 1.05 % and the conventional medicine death rate was 28.2% (8).
With such a stellar record of successful treatments during epidemics, it is only natural for the homeopaths to feel confident of their system of medicine and trust its efficacy and usefulness in the handling of natural disasters and emergencies (epidemics and pandemics being a part of the same process). They know that they can deal with these critical situations and that their system of understanding of the disease conditions and the arsenal of remedies at their disposal make them a formidable force for tackling natural disasters, epidemics, accidents and so on.
A quick review of application of homeopathy in emergencies and natural disasters in recent times shows that homeopathy has been used well during the man-made disaster of 9/11/2001 in the US (9), the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Japan (10), Hurricane Katrina (11) and so on. This list would not be complete if the work done by Homeopaths without Borders (HWB) after the January 2010 earth quake in Haiti is not included. Being a homeopath myself, I have been following the work of HWB with much pride. When Sally Tamplin, a US based classical homeopath with links to my dear teacher Misha Norland’s School of Homeopathy, Devon, UK, shared a hair-raising slide show of her and HWB’s work in Haiti, I made a pledge to keep an eye on this project and if possible meet with or talk to someone who has worked in Haiti to get a firsthand idea of what HWB (12) was up to in that country.
In a chance meeting with Karen Allen during the NCH 2012 conference, I learned that she had visited Haiti in connection with HWB’s ongoing work and it was only natural that I would ask her questions … why, when, what, who, where and how… Just imagine my excitement when I found that in the backwaters of earthquake ravaged Haiti, HWB has become the “little engine that chugs along and says it can”. This is the very reason I must share with you what I heard from Karen Allen.
Vatsala: Way back in January 2010, Haiti was struck by an earthquake that measured 7.2 on the Richter scale, took 316,000 lives, injured 300,000, made 1,000,000 homeless and destroyed 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings. It is 2012 now, two years later and Haiti is not in the headlines anymore. You are still visiting Haiti. What makes you want to go there now? What inspires you?
Karen: About eight to ten years ago, I was at a NCH conference and a few of us were sitting around speaking with each other. Carole Boyce, a British homeopath whom I admire, was talking about all the countries she had visited and worked in. That was very inspiring to me, but at that time my kids were little, I was raising them and growing my practice. Even though I considered Carole’s work very valuable, I could not do what she was doing. The time was not right for me. Presently, my kids have grown and left home. I have eased back from the leadership role of running a homeopathy school. So, when Holly Moonigian, the executive director of Homeopaths without borders, (HWB), suggested that I could work in Haiti, I said, “YES”. It is the right time for me now.
I am inspired by the project itself. About half of the population in Haiti has no access to basic health care. HWB asked us homeopaths if we could provide community service in the area of acute diseases, trauma, basic lesional complaints like acid stomach, vaginitis, sore back from over work, injuries, flu, dengue, and so on, and help the country with basic health education, and we were very willing.
As volunteer members of HWB, what we are trying to do in Haiti is to create a group of local Haitians who would be trained to provide basic homeopathic care. These people, with the training we would give them, would go back to their communities and give basic homeopathic care to the members of their community. What HWB has in mind is what we had way back in the 1880’s when the great American West was being formed. People from the East were traveling Westward with all their family and meager belongings piled into covered wagons. There were no roads, trains, buses or hospitals back then. But people carried a kit of a few homeopathic remedies and Boeninghausen’s pocket materia medica and repertory. If they or their animals fell sick or got wounded, as they invariably did, they knew how to read the repertory, find a remedy suitable to a condition and initiate a treatment. The situation in present day Haiti, especially after the January 2010 earthquake that turned the country into a pile of rubble, is no different than the situations that existed way back in the 1880’s… no running water, no electricity, no money, no availability of medicines, doctors and hospitals, no sanitation, not even proper housing and food for the masses that are still living a life that is totally shattered from the earthquake.