Our last month’s poll was –
Do you think homeopathic medicines like Nosodes, Sarcodes and those derived from poisonous sources should be strictly regulated, banned, or supplied on special license?
Yes: 22.3% 71 votes
No: 71.4 % 227 votes
Don’t know: 6.3% 20 votes
Total votes: 318
Whenever I really want to get frustrated at the state of the world regarding homeopathy, I make myself confront the issue of our remedies, their “safety”, and the Powers That Be. The notion of completely painless, danger-free healing is a seductive one, so attractive to all concerned that the idea sells the medicine in homeopathy better than any fully-fleshed documentation of “cure” ever did. In North America, our remedies and treatment are available to the public largely because of the promulgated belief that Homeopathic medicines are “side-effect free”, “safe” for all to use, and benign in every sense of the word, especially when compared to allopathic medicines or other alternatives such as inappropriately and irresponsibly promoted nutritional supplements and herbs. But the fact is we all know the “safe” part is conditional: as long as the remedy is homeopathic to the case and the patient, and as long as the analysis behind its selection and use is objective, thorough, and the result of the capable application of Hahnemann’s method, treatment is more likely to be “safe”. The arguments about nosodes and sarcodes being “different” from or more dangerous than other homeopathic remedies are moot, and yet they arise every so often and threaten to change public policy wherever we practice. Why does such a non-issue continue to surface?
January’s poll results on the question of limiting access to the “poison” and “disease” remedies provide an interesting overview on where our community stands. The results, in summary:
Out of 318 votes, the vast majority of responses favoured the “no” response to the question of limiting access to nosodes and “poisonous” source remedies (227 votes or 71.4%), and only 6.3% of our participants were undecided. The “yes” responses made up only 22.3% of the total number of responses.
Quite a number of the “no” responses demonstrated an awareness of the political reasons for such restrictions in access to remedies. Like many others who posted responses, H. Balasubramanian wrote:
“On one hand these people suggest that homeopathic medicine does not work and on the other hand they assume that homeopathic medicines may work dangerously. Isn’t it ironical! If it continues this way, these guys will soon put a ban on all mineral remedies too.
Why don’t these people realize that in crude form and in excess nearly everything can have toxic effects. Nearly every allopathic medicine has known adverse effects, yet they do not put a ban on them…”
There is a definite irony behind such a “ban” as so many of the vested interests in conventional medicine have been given the authority to dismiss Homeopathy as little more than “placebo”, or worse, quackery based on the ludicrous idea of sequential dilution and succussion (“there’s nothing in that stuff but milk sugar!”). Once we start talking about remedies made from cancerous tissue, gonorrheal discharges, or venom from the glands of snakes, though, no amount of dilution seems to calm the rancour and unrest. Dr. Balasubramanian is correct in stating that all things have the potential to be poisonous, depending on how they are used: the argument that minerals such as zinc or calcium are toxic can easily (and truthfully) be made, and these would easily become the “next” restricted remedies to follow behind the nosode wedge. The difference between medicine and poison is dose, after all; the Greek-derived word “pharmacology” means “the study of poisons”. Most of the “no” respondents, like Tanya Marquette, stated clearly that in the mindset of the conventional medical authorities, “homeopathic remedies are…nothing but…placebo, except when they are dangerous drugs”. Something must be off if the only poisons restricted on the market are the infinitesimally diluted ones Homeopathy uses to help make so many well.
Tanya Marquette continues on in her response to name some of the international forces and vested interests behind the push to limit access to homeopathic remedies (republished here in her own punctuation):
“unfortunately, all these battles we face are political/economic at base. a review of history makes this point all too clear. financial backing and lobbying is what is necessary in the current system of functioning. science is bought. the codex legislation surely demonstrates this. without the power of money, what is left is what is always left–people, the power of vocal numbers. every practitioner should have some written information on a hand out in their office. perhaps a petition, a list of phone numbers to call to express their opinion…”
I think she very correctly points out the need for all of us as practitioners to be aware of so many of the forces influencing our practice and our relationships with our patients and each other. We all stand the risk of imposed limitations if we don’t make ourselves aware of international corporate interests being given priority over everyone’s rights to sound, accessible medical treatments outside of the conventional medical model, and we do have to respond to the need to be vocal in our opposition, and to educate our patients to advocate on their own behalf as well. As Dr. Leela D’ Souza points out in her response, the impetus to create these restrictions stems from a “lack of understanding (about) how homeopathy works“. Certainly better education of the public as well as the Powers That Be could help keep such restrictive and destructive limitations at bay. Lets consider the perspective of Amy H. in her response, below:
“I think people should be responsible for their own health and their own choices. I want my options open if I am sick. I don’t want to be forced to see a practitioner. That is just extra money that I don’t need to spend and extra time talking that I may not need. I would like to choose to see a practitioner when I want to and takes(sic) homeopathy, herbs and/or supplements at other times.”
It’s clear that the need for widespread, comprehensive public awareness and education about homeopathy is huge. Lately, I’ve encountered a number of people who share Amy H’s opinion and I have to say it’s one that really scares me, simply because it is bred on the idea that alternative medicinesâ€”like herbs and nutritional therapies with supplements– can be practiced by anyone, without training of any kind. It’s sad that people feel they are “forced” to see a practitioner because the money and time “don’t need to be spent”. I don’t believe people would feel comfortable with the idea of performing life-altering surgery on themselves or their family members without any training, yet they feel they ought to be able to use herbs or potentized remedies or supplements without trainingâ€”and to me, herbs, supplements, and potentized remedies are just as powerful as surgery, and just as demanding of skill and case management. Medical treatment of any kind always involves much more than just “the medicine”. If I were to become sick with a chronic disease of any kind, I would want to know that the process of becoming well again would be overseen by a qualified, objective and analytical practitioner: without that partner in place, all I could do to myself is bring about harm. I can’t forget the old saying, “The doctor who treats himself has a Fool for a patient”. Ideally, I would like to see people have all the access they need to purchase remedies and supplements and herbs when they need treatment, but I would also like them to be well aware of the fact that the use of such medicines requires a great deal of education and training too. In the best possible scenario, Amy could buy Carcinosin whenever she wanted to, as long as she knew enough to find a Homeopath qualified enough to prescribe the remedy to her, and then manage her case as it unfolds to make sure she actually becomes well from the treatment. As unlikely as it seems, Amy H’s “no” argument is at the very root of the majority of the “yes” respondents’ replies, exemplified in this post by Jamie Taylor, below:
“Yes, medicine should be regulated as should Homeopaths. We desperately need a National/International register with agreed standards. These standards would then allow free access to medicines needed homeopathically. We do not want anyone experimenting with medicinal agents. Medicinal agents, whether nosodes, sarcodes etc should only be applied when there is certainty of curative action or for proving purposes. Who should regulate? This is difficult, because if Homeopaths regulate themselves they could always be seen as prejudiced and who in politics truly understands the world of Homeopathy and the standards that should be set?”
Well, as for the questions of who should regulate and the problem of “prejudice”, conventional medical doctors self-regulate all over the world, in politically powerful organizations which all exhibit extreme prejudice in terms of self-determination and the protection of their own rights as medical doctors. Dr. Bhatia reiterates this sentiment in his post below:
“I think the work of creating guidelines for the manufacture and sale of homeopathic medicines should be left to homeopathic organizations. And no medicine should be banned till it is proven to be a health hazard. There should always be an international enquiry before any restrictive action is taken. And the restrictions should not be more than making the medicine available on prescription or a warning label (for very low potencies) – just the way they do with conventional medicine“.
One of the things which make me hopeful for the future is all the evidence that the creation of these kinds of national and international Homeopathic Organizations is inevitable, given the freedom and connection homeopaths all over the world now enjoy with technology. I no longer just see the “threat” of globalized corporate interests, I also see the immense possibilities brought to us by things like the internet, and the enrichment we can make out of our shared experiences as practitioners and continuous learners of Homeopathy. The potential for us in terms of research, data collection and sharing, education, and accessibility has never been greater for us as Homeopaths, and our numbers can only continue to grow as we become more unified in what we do as practitioners. Perhaps we can begin to see some of the changes we’d like to bring about take place, and much of the misinformation that’s “out there” in the world be replaced by better education, and better drug marketing practices of our remedies and methods. Bans on certain remedies serve no purpose for homeopaths or their patients: if public safety were really the concern, we’d see information dissemination become a priority before any ban on substances became legislation anywhere. Personally, I think some current labeling on the packaging of homeopathic remedies is far more dangerous than any nosode or poison can ever be, under any circumstances. Imagine how much pain and suffering could be avoided if we could pressure some of the best known Homeopathic labs in the world to stop printing “one-size-fits-all” dosing instructions on the sides of their tubes, or restrict them from selling polypharmacy concoctions as over-the-counter “Homeopathy”. Such small things would make a tremendous difference in real public “safety”, and go a long way towards making the public that much more aware about, and open to, what we do.