What you may not know about holistic medicine

Frequently asked questions about this treatment method

Homeopathy is one of several disciplines used by holistic-oriented veterinarians. Due to its “unusual” nature, it is often misunderstood by many practitioners and therefore discounted as a worthless therapy.

This article addresses some of the more commonly asked questions about homeopathy.

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a healing modality developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700s. He was appalled by medicine’s goal then of getting the bad out through techniques such as bleeding, leeching, and inducing vomiting and diarrhea, He realized that some substances in diluted forms would cure the diseases the substances caused, if taken at full strength.

The roots of homeopathy go back to Hippocrates, Paracelsus, and the Mayans, Chinese, Greeks, Asian and American Indians and Egyptians. All used the philosophy “like cures like.”

Hippocrates and other Greek physicians observed that if a person chronically ill with one disease was infected with a more severe disease that had similar symptoms, the chronic disease would disappear upon recovery from the acute, stronger disease.

All older medicinal systems that have persisted through the ages share recognition of an underlying energy component described as prana, chi, spirit or another name.

Hahnemann was the first to create a well-organized system of medicine capable of treating most ailments, even treating the underlying tendency to become ill. His book “The Organon” explains the principles and philosophy of homeopathic practice and is still the primary text for homeopathic students today.

Though based on human work, homeopathic medicine works well with animals. The potentized—diluted and succussed—medicines are tested on healthy people, and the details about the symptoms produced are recorded in Materia medica.

Why do some doctors and patients choose homeopathy?

For the same reason they choose any naturopathic modality. Many people are frustrated with chronic diseases. Rather than simply treat disease, homeopathy seeks to cure it. This means the symptoms of the disease are gone and the patient feels better and has no new symptoms. Ideally, no further treatment is necessary. If a cure is not achieved, further treatment with homeopathy or other modalities can be prescribed.

Is homeopathy a standalone therapy?

Homeopathy is a holistic discipline. Other principles of good health, such as diet, exercise, reduced vaccinations, decreased use of conventional medications and chemicals, and removal of stressors, are part of the process of restoring health.

Veterinarians who practice homeopathy have found it to be a gentle, safe and effective medical system that offers a true cure to many patients. I typically combine it with several integrative modalities for the best results.

Where is the proof behind homeopathy?

Before answering that important question, it’s equally fair to ask where is the proof for any therapy that doctors use in practice?

America Veterinary Medical Association guidelines recognize that most therapies that veterinarians use have not been subjected to rigorous clinical trials but rather based on extrapolation from other species or other uses and on clinical expertise.

With this in mind, if it’s fair to use conventional therapies without “proof” via clinical trials, it is equally fair to use holistic therapies without “proof” via clinical trials. Having stated this, studies have shown the safety and efficacy of homeopathy, as have numerous case studies in private practice.

When I started using holistic therapies, it was hard for me to get on board with homeopathy because I doubted it could work. After doing more research—and, more importantly, after I started using homeopathy in my practice and seeing positive results when other therapies, including conventional medications, failed to help my patients—I became a believer.

How can homeopathy work if the amount of the original substance in the homeopathic medicine is so diluted as to not be detectable?

The concept does seem to defy logic and our traditional understanding of pharmacology, especially when homeopaths claim the remedies work via “energy” medicine.

However, current studies in nanopharmacology—particles from 1 to 100 nanometers in size that behave as a whole unit—have detected nanoparticles in homeopathic dilutions using high-resolution imaging techniques. These particles have enhanced bioactivity and effect bodily changes via physiological rather than pharmacological means.

Finally, keep in mind that like with pharmaceuticals, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the constituents and methods of preparation of homeopathic medicines.

How does the basic understanding of homeopathy, “like heals like,” actually work?

Like heals/cures like is the principle of homeopathy and basically means that a remedy (homeopathic medicine) that in normal (or high) doses might cause illness or death can cause healing or cure when given to the patient in tiny doses. This concept follows the toxicological principle of hormesis, a biphasic dose-dependent response whereby a low dose causes a positive effect but a higher dose causes a toxic effect.

What are the benefits of treating animals with homeopathy?

There are many benefits. First, some pet owners are looking for veterinarians versed in holistic therapies, so the doctor offering homeopathy meets the needs of an expanding client base.

Second, the treatments tend to be more cost effective than traditional therapies.

Third, the goal of homeopathy is complete cure—or, if this is not possible, at least a return to as much health as possible—rather than making the patient temporarily “feel better.”

Fourth, since many clients use the services of a homeopath themselves, they naturally want to offer their pets the same therapies.

Finally, clients prefer treating their pets with the safest therapies possible, and naturopathic therapies tend to be much safer than conventional treatments.

Many veterinarians believe that for us to retain the trust of the general public we have to ensure that the treatments we offer are based on evidence. How does homeopathy fit into this concern?

Again, many therapies we use lack hard evidence, but veterinarians are still allowed to use them. Naturopathic therapies should not be treated differently in this regard.

Since homeopathy, in the hands of a knowledgeable veterinarian, is unlikely to harm the patient and is devoid of the side effects that may occur with conventional therapies, there is no harm in using the therapy if that treatment is most appropriate for the patient.

Remember that many patients treated with integrative medicine have failed to respond to multiple conventional therapies administered by numerous veterinarians.

Homeopathy or similar natural therapies often are the only therapies that have not been tried, and when they are tried they often result in a positive response and even a cure. For me, this is the best proof that these therapies work.

Rather than lose the trust of the public, which is likely if integrative therapies are spoken of negatively by my colleagues who have failed to help the patient, my usage of these therapies results in immediate client trust when their sick pets improve.

Homeopathy offers exciting treatments for all our pets, but it requires dedication to learn and apply properly.

As my colleague and homeopathic mentor, Christina Chambreau, DVM, CHC, likes to say about homeopathy, “True healing can be observed when the animal feels better at a deep level with increased energy and emotional stability while the body’s symptoms slowly resolve in an orderly fashion.”

Dr. Shawn Messonnier is a speaker, author and owner of Paws and Claws Animal Hospital in Plano, Texas. 

Sparks, Md., holistic veterinarian Christina Chambreau, DVM, contributed to this article.

Originally published in the January 2017  issue of Veterinary Practice News. Did you enjoy this article? Then subscribe today! 

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