Impossible Cure: Selections from Chapter One

PLEASE NOTE: The following excerpts from Chapter 1, Impossible Cure: The Promise of Homeopathy by Amy L. Lansky, PhD, are under copyright. No copying or distribution of this material is allowed without permission of the author.

Copyright (c) 2003 By Amy L. Lansky, PhD


Chapter 1. Homeopathy Revealed

"Aude Sapere"
("Dare to Know")

- Samuel Hahnemann, MD
Title page epigraph, The Organon of the Medical Art, 1810 [Hahnemann]

It may seem unbelievable, but it's true. My son was cured of an incurable illness with a form of medicine that supposedly contains nothing -- at least according to conventional scientific thought. But, as history has repeatedly shown, the accepted scientific and medical wisdom of an era can be wrong.

It all began in January of 1995. I was a computer scientist leading research projects for NASA. My husband Steve also worked in the computer industry, as a researcher for Apple Computer. I had done my doctorate work at Stanford University in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and since that time, both Steve and I had been active participants in the whirlwind of technology and innovation that is Silicon Valley. As we labored away in our cloistered research labs, friends and acquaintances were busy starting companies destined to become household names.

I also just happened to be a fairly knowledgeable devotee of modern medicine. An avid "Dr. Mom," I slept with a medical reference, the Merck Manual, on my night-table. As I poured over this tome in the wee hours of the night, Steve would often ask, "Amy, why don't you just go to medical school?!"

Our two young sons, Izaak and Max, were six and three years old at the time. Naturally, we took their health needs very seriously. We would never hesitate to go to doctors when a problem arose, and we would invariably follow their advice without question. Unfortunately, we were also in the midst of a medical crisis. Our younger son Max was inexplicably afflicted with autism. This tragic and supposedly incurable disorder dramatically limits a child's ability to communicate and connect with others. And for some reason, it is mysteriously striking more and more children each year. Given the limited options for treatment, we were coping as best as we could.

By January of 1999, only four years later, everything had changed. I was now the mother of two sons progressing nicely through grade school. Max was no longer autistic -- he was bright, talkative, and sociable. His autism had been cured with a controversial medicine of the past -- homeopathy.

There were other changes as well. After two decades of research work, I had left computer science completely. I was now a student, editor, writer, and promoter of homeopathic medicine. The rest of my family was healthier than they had been in years. We used homeopathy as our primary mode of medicine and viewed conventional medicine as appropriate only in life-threatening or time-critical emergency situations. I would no longer dream of doing things I had done routinely for years -- suppressing fevers with aspirin or acetominophen, coughs with cough suppressant, skin problems with cortisone, or combatting ear infections with antibiotics.

What happened?

This book will reveal to you my own journey of discovery and healing, as well as that of my family and many friends. My goal is to share with you some surprising and truly revolutionary information that I have learned about the medical philosophy and healing power of homeopathy. In general, I have found that most Americans know very little about this form of alternative medicine. Though many people have heard the term "homeopathy," most confuse it with the use of herbs or think it is some kind of catch-all term for natural or holistic medicine.

Of course, homeopathy is holistic (i.e., it understands and treats disease as a whole-body phenomenon) and homeopathic remedies are derived from natural sources. But it cannot simply be equated with these concepts. Homeopathy is a very distinct and complete system of medicine based on a simple principle of healing called the Law of Similars. This law states that   a disease can be cured by a substance if that substance can cause, in a healthy person, symptoms similar to those of the disease. In fact, that is what the word "homeopathy" literally means -- similar [homeo] suffering [pathy]. While other holistic healthcare systems may be based on other principles or on accumulated experience and folklore, homeopathy, by definition, is the system of medicine based on this one cardinal principle.

As a medical discipline, homeopathy is certainly much better-known and better-accepted in other countries than it is in America today. It is widely practiced in Europe, India, Pakistan, and Latin America. In France, it is estimated that 32 percent of family physicians use homeopathy [Bouchayer]; in England, 42 percent of physicians refer patients to homeopaths [Wharton]. Homeopathy is integrated into the national healthcare systems of many countries, including Germany, India, Brazil, Mexico, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom. Indeed, homeopathy is one of the four most widespread approaches to medical treatment in the world, alongside traditional Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, and conventional medicine [Poitevin].

Homeopathy is also a proven medical system. Hundreds of double-blind placebo-controlled studies have been conducted over the past few decades, especially in Europe and India. They have proven that homeopathic remedies are indeed effective medicine. Wayne Jonas, MD, former director of the Office of Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, is one of the active American medical researchers studying homeopathy. He has co-authored a book about homeopathic research studies [Jonas&Jacobs] and was also a member of a research team that analyzed 89 double-blind studies of homeopathic treatment; they found that homeopathy was, on average, more than twice as effective as placebo [Linde]. Jonas's work, as well as several other research studies, will be discussed at length in Chapter Seven of this book. That chapter also takes a deeper look at just how homeopathic remedies might work. For now, though, let's take a closer look at what homeopathy is all about.

Homeopathy's Prominence in 19th-Century America

Ironically, homeopathy was quite familiar to Americans of the 19th century. In the late 1800s, there were over twenty homeopathic medical schools in the United States. Homeopathy stood alongside allopathic (conventional) medicine and eclectic medicine (similar to today's herbalism or naturopathy) as one of the three accredited and accepted branches of medicine in this country. In fact, America was the world's leader in homeopathy at the time.

Where did homeopathy come from? Unlike many other alternative therapies that have become popular in America today, homeopathy is a Western medical system. It was developed by European physicians of the early 1800s who were discouraged with the results of the accepted medical practices of their time. A whole community of these homeopaths made their way to the United States in the 1830s and built strong practices and medical societies. In fact, the very first medical association of any kind in the United States was a homeopathic medical association -- the American Institute of Homeopathy, founded in 1844.

Many of America's homeopathic medical schools still exist today, though all were converted to allopathy (conventional medicine) in the early 1900s. For example, the highly respected Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia was named for the founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, MD. The study of homeopathy was still required at this school up until 1940, and homeopathic electives were taught until 1955. Other existing medical schools that began as homeopathic medical colleges include New York Medical College, the Boston University School of Medicine, and the medical school at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor [Winston].


It is amazing that a medicine that was such an intrinsic part of 19th-century America became nearly forgotten in the twentieth. Pioneers carried homeopathic medical kits as they travelled across the continent. Indeed, homeopathic remedies were often the only effective medicine available to them. The first American domestic manual (a medical reference for use in the home) was a homeopathic reference -- The Domestic Physician, published in 1835 and written by Constantine Hering, MD, the father of American homeopathy.

Several American presidents, politicians, and the social elite of the late 1800s and early 1900s also used homeopathy. It was particularly favored by members of the new Republican party that swept into Washington in the 1860s. To this day, a statue of Hahnemann stands in Washington, D.C. -- one of the only monuments in that city dedicated to a non-military or non-political figure. Erected in 1900 at the intersection of 16th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, its site was selected personally by President McKinley so that it could be seen from the White House. An avid supporter of homeopathy, McKinley was also the guest of honor at the monument's opening ceremony [HomeopathyToday].


Homeopathy's popularity in the United States grew rapidly during the 1800s despite vigorous political and social opposition from allopathic physicians. This was largely because of its superior results. In the late 19th and early 20th century, homeopathic physicians and hospitals were known to have greater success in treating epidemics than their allopathic counterparts -- for instance, in the 1832 cholera epidemic. In the deadly flu epidemic of 1918, the "Great White Plague" that claimed over a million lives, homeopaths had a death rate of only 1.05 percent, whereas, overall, allopaths had a death rate of 30 percent -- with reports of 60 percent not uncommon [Perko]. The charity hospital on Wards Island in New York City had the lowest percentage of deaths in that city. It was overseen by New York City's health commissioner (and later U.S. senator) Royal Copeland, MD, who used homeopathy for all cases [Winston].

Unfortunately, for reasons political, financial, and social, homeopathy was attacked and suppressed in the United States. The American Medical Association (AMA) was formed by the allopaths in 1847, partially in response to the threat of homeopathy. Its charter implicitly forbade members to associate either socially or collaboratively with homeopaths. Throughout the mid and late 1800s, the bans on contact with homeopaths escalated, and several allopaths were expelled from medical societies upon failure to comply.


Homeopathy was a threat to allopaths not only because of its therapeutic successes, but also because homeopathy's ranks were filled with MDs who had abandoned allopathy for homeopathy. They were rebels from within the fold. In contrast, eclectic physicans were primarily lay (non-MD) practitioners who posed less of a threat to the allopathic establishment. This legacy of acrimony between homeopaths and allopaths is forgotten by the American public today. But the history remains.


Homeopathy Returns

Today, in a world dominated by a medical establishment that is increasingly technological and yet also increasingly unsatisfying, homeopathy is finally making a comeback. In the early 1970s, several young American doctors, most of them from the San Francisco Bay Area, were frustrated with the inability of allopathy to cure chronic disease. In the afterglow of the Sixties, they rediscovered the forgotten texts of the 19th-century homeopaths -- and their discovery was revelatory. They saw in the old medical art the potential for a new way.

These aspiring new homeopaths quickly realized that there was no time to waste; they sought out the few remaining homeopaths in the United States and studied with them. They also made their way to Europe to study with teachers there, where homeopathy had remained a small but flourishing community. Indeed, it was the royal families -- particularly the British royal family -- that still championed homeopathy. Several of these young doctors also travelled to India, where homeopathy had become a popular medicine for the masses. Largely due to their efforts, as well as a growing interest in homeopathy among other kinds of alternative practitioners, a renaissance in American homeopathy began to emerge.


What you will find in this book

To date, most popular books about homeopathy have focused on the curative powers of specific homeopathic remedies or on the treatment of specific ailments. In contrast, the primary goal of this book is to introduce you to homeopathy's way of thinking about health, disease, and cure. You will also read many amazing cure stories -- the homeopathic experiences of my own family, as well as the experiences of many other people, suffering from a wide variety of ailments. This book will also provide guidance to you if you decide to seek homeopathic care for yourself. You will learn what to expect and how you can best benefit from homeopathic treatment.


Chapter 2 begins with the story of Samuel Hahnemann, MD, the founder of the homeopathic system. It includes colorful detail about his life and the times in which he lived, and provides insight into the tenacious and brilliant nature of his mind -- a mind that never stopped searching for a true path to cure.

Ultimately, it was Hahnemann's tenacity that led him to discover the central tenet of homeopathy, the Law of Similars. As mentioned before, this law states that if a substance can cause the symptoms of an illness in a healthy person, it can cure those symptoms in a sick person. For example, suppose that a particular substance, X, is given experimentally to a set of healthy test subjects. During this test, X is found to temporarily cause symptoms of asthma such as tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing. It is also found to cause other physical, mental, and emotional symptoms -- for example, certain kinds of digestive problems, headaches in a particular location and at particular times of the day, and a feeling of depression each day after lunch. Now, suppose that we have an actual asthma sufferer, Ms. Jones. If Ms. Jones experiences the same kinds of physical and emotional symptoms that X caused, X has the potential to cure her asthma as well as her other matching symptoms.

The Law of Similars essentially defines what homeopathy is. The word "homeopathy" (sometimes spelled "homoeopathy") literally translates to "similar suffering." In the example above, substance X is homeopathic (i.e., causes a similar state of suffering) to the disease state of Ms. Jones. Therefore, X has the potential to cure (i.e., remove) this state, not just control or palliate its symptoms. A homeopath, by definition, is a practitioner who treats people according to this principle.

After exploring the context in which the Law of Similars was discovered, Chapter 3 brings you back to today's world and reveals to you my own family's homeopathic experiences. The story of my son's amazing cure from autism is fully described, along with anecdotes about the healing of other friends and family members. These healing stories, along with others provided throughout the book (and especially in Chapter 9), illustrate the philosophy and principles of homeopathy in practice.

Chapter 4 then asks you to take a step back and consider some fundamental questions. What is health? How and why does disease develop? What are the signs of true cure? Homeopathy views the body and mind as an integrated dynamic unit rather than as a set of individual plumbing parts. This body/mind unit is seen as a physical and energetic system that acts as a whole, responds to stimuli, and changes over time. By carefully observing how patient health tends to evolve over time, homeopaths have been able to gain a deep understanding of how disease develops and how it recedes. As a result, they are more able to accurately assess a particular patient's present state of health, as well as the success or failure of treatment.

For example, suppose that a patient's gastrointestinal problems seem to have been cured by some treatment. How do we know if this person has been truly cured and is becoming healthier, or is actually getting sicker in the long run? Rather than viewing the patient's gastrointestinal problems in isolation, a homeopath will watch to see what symptoms arise next. What if the patient next develops a deep depression that was never experienced before? Or, alternatively, begins to manifest skin problems that had occurred two years ago? These two outcomes would mean completely different things to a homeopath. The development of depression would be a sign of deepening disease and therefore unsuccessful treatment of the gastrointestinal problems. The return of old skin problems would be a sign of return to greater health. The reasons why this is so is the subject matter of homeopathic philosophy -- the primary topic of this chapter.

Next, Chapter 5 focuses on the singular nature of disease. Not only is each person a dynamic, holistic entity, but he or she is unique. Because of this, each patient will express their sickness in their own way -- through the lens of their personality, their habits, and their unique state of being. This is easy to see on an emotional level. Everyone knows that a person falls sick, they will tend to react in a way that is individual to them. Some people withdraw, some beg for consolation, some become fearful, some go into denial. Everyone is different. Individualization occurs on a physical level as well. For instance, some people feel better when lying down and wrapped up in blankets. Others are relieved by moving about or from a nice cool breeze.

Of course, most people have unique peculiarities, even when they are well. For example, they may have food cravings and aversions, a preferred sleep position, or a particular pattern of sweating. Some people dress warmly, even on a hot summer day. Others run around in shorts in the middle of winter. Each person has a unique psychological approach to life as well, influenced by their experiences and the adaptations they have made to survive those experiences.

It is specifically this unique physical/mental/emotional gestalt that a homeopath is looking for when they try to find a matching remedy for a patient. Although the typical symptoms of a patient's diagnosed disease are taken into consideration, these symptoms carry less weight in making a homeopathic prescription than they do in making an allopathic prescription.


How did Hahnemann develop homeopathy as a complete system of therapeutics? Chapter 6 takes us back once again to the early 1800s, the time in which Hahnemann and his growing group of followers expanded the homeopathic system. The chapter begins by describing how the ultradilutions of homeopathy were discovered and how Hahnemann developed principles for administering them. These include the use of the single remedy (only one remedy at a time) and the use of the minimum dose (the smallest amount necessary). Chapter 6 also briefly describes various schools of homeopathy that have developed over time and how they differ from one another.

Next comes Chapter 7, a chapter that will be of particular interest to the skeptical or scientifically-minded reader. It begins with a description of several scientific studies that support homeopathy's efficacy. It then addresses the question: How does homeopathy work? The current answer is, we don't really know. But recent research studies seem to indicate that electromagnetic effects may be involved, and that the structure of water in homeopathic ultradilutions may actually carry a characteristic electromagnetic signature. If this is true, it doesn't matter if there is no molecule of original substance left in a remedy; some form of signature of that original substance may be present.

Even though the action of homeopathic remedies remains unexplained, most homeopaths have developed a variety of models or ways of understanding how they operate. Most of these models rely upon a construct called the vital force or dynamis-- a concept analogous to Chinese medicine's qi or Indian medicine's prana. The vital force is considered to be an energy that animates each living creature and is the place where physical, mental, and emotional problems originate. Thus, a physical symptom -- for example, a tumor -- is viewed as the end result of a disturbance in the vital force, not as the root cause of disease in itself.

It is also in this dynamic realm that the remedies are considered to operate. Somehow, they are able to restore an adaptability that the vital force has lost, and enable it to function normally once again.


At this point, you will have come to understand much more about the history and philosophy of homeopathy. Chapter 8 will then describe the experience of homeopathy -- what it's like to be a homeopathic patient. A person coming to a homeopath for the first time will be surprised to find that this experience is much more like seeing a psychologist than a physician. An initial appointment typically takes one or two hours. During that time the homeopath will try to elicit as much information as possible about the patient's psychological and physical state and how it evolved over time. Their goal, of course, is to understand the patient's symptoms deeply and completely enough to enable the selection of a remedy that is homeopathic or similar to their state.

Because of this, a good homeopathic patient is one who facilitates the process by conveying as much information about themselves as they can -- habits, fears, eating habits, sleep position -- you name it. Indeed, information that would seem irrelevant to an allopath -- a peculiar fear of dogs, a nail-biting habit, or the exact hour that symptoms tend to occur -- can be critical to the selection of a homeopathic remedy. In fact, the more unusual or striking a symptom is, the more likely it will lead to the simillimum -- the precisely matching remedy for a patient.

Chapter 8 also covers the line where allopathy and homeopathy inevitably meet. Some patients cannot be taken off their allopathic medications. And sometimes allopathic treatment is completely appropriate and necessary, even from a homeopathic point of view. Luckily, homeopaths are almost always able to work with patients under these circumstances, in collaboration with the treating allopath.

This chapter will also provide you with guidance in navigating through the homeopathic healing process. Many people come to a homeopath with longstanding chronic problems, after years and years of unsuccessful allopathic treatment. Ironically, such patients often expect to be cured quickly and easily, overnight. It is important to remain realistic. A disease state that has developed over several years will occasionally yield quickly to homeopathic remedies, but usually not. The process of homeopathic cure often has many ups and downs. For all of these reasons, homeopathic patients need patience, confidence, and sufficient education about homeopathy to determine if their case is truly progressing and is being handled appropriately.

This brings us to Chapter 9, chock-full of amazing cure stories. While the entire book is sprinkled with anecdotes of homeopathic cures, this chapter provides several additional stories that will hopefully convince you further that homeopathy is a complete and effective system of medicine.

So where does homeopathy stand today, and where should it be going? This is the focus of Chapter 10. Among the many challenges facing the American homeopathic community are the low numbers of well-trained classical homeopaths and the lack of educational facilities for training homeopaths in a complete and proper fashion. On top of this, little or no insurance coverage is available for homeopathic treatment, and there are very few states in which the practice of homeopathy, as a discipline in its own right, is truly legal. All of these problems must be addressed if homeopathy is to grow and flourish in this country, alongside the many other alternative therapies increasingly being used by Americans today.

The consumers of health care in the United States and around the world deserve the right to control how their bodies are treated and which form of medicine they choose. It is time for the powerful medical monopolies to be broken. In the 19th century, homeopathy, an inherently energetic system of healing, was perhaps before its time. Now that the philosophical ramifications of modern physics and quantum reality are beginning to enter our collective consciousness, it may finally be time for homeopathy to take its rightful place as a leading energy-based medicine of the 21st century. Indeed, homeopathy may be one of the only truly effective means we have for overcoming chronic disease and restoring our mental, emotional, and physical health. Shouldn't we have it available to us?

As Hahnemann said, "Aude Sapere"-- Dare to know! So, read on and find out more about the fascinating and revolutionary world of homeopathy and how it could bring dramatic healing into your own life.

References Used in this Excerpt:

[Bouchayer] Bouchayer, F.,"Alternative Medicines: A General Approach to the French Situation," Complementary Medical Research, 4:4-8 (1990).

[Hahnemann] Hahnemann, Samuel, Organon of the Medical Art (Sixth Edition), Edited and annotated by Wenda Brewster OƕReilly, Based on translation by Stephen Decker, Birdcage Books, Redmond, Washington (1996).

[HomeopathyToday] Homeopathy Today, Volume 18, Number 7, p. 16 (July/August 1998).

[Jonas&Jacobs] Jonas, Wayne B. and Jennifer Jacobs, Healing with Homeopathy, Warner, New York (1996).

[Linde] Linde, K., N. Clausius, G. Ramirez, D. Melchart, F. Eitel, L. Hedges, and W. Jonas, "Are the Clinical Effects of Homoeopathy Placebo Effects? A Meta-Analysis of Placebo-Controlled Trials," The Lancet, Volume 250, pp. 834-843 (September 20, 1997).

[Perko] Perko, Sandra, The Homeopathic Treatment of Influenza: Surviving Influenza Epidemics and Pandemics Past, Present, and Future with Homeopathy, Benchmark Homeopathic Publications, San Antonio, Texas (1999).

[Poitevin] Poitevin, B., "Integrating Homoeopathy in Health Systems," Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 77(2), pp. 160-166 (1999).

[Wharton] Wharton, R., and G. Lewith, "Complementary Medicine and the General Practitioner," British Medical Journal, 292, pp. 1490-1500 (1986).

[Winston] Winston, Julian, The Faces of Homoeopathy, Great Auk Publishing, Tawa, New Zealand (1999).