Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Homeopathy--alternative medicine or New Age nonsense?

I was recently reading a book on the New Age and came across the information that homeopathy has "occult" connections.  This, apparently, from the fact that the founder of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, believed that all illness was basically an imbalance in what he referred to as the "vital force".  In fact, homeopathy is among the therapies listed in the pontifical document, Jesus Christ, Bearer of the Water of Life, along with polarity massage, crystal and psychic healing and reincarnation therapies.  Of course, chiropractic, herbal medicine and 12-Step programs are also mentioned, leading me to believe that the paragraph in question does not condemn every one of these practices outright, but only means to point out, in relating care of the body to New Age practices, that the New Age makes use of many of these. 

I have no doubt that anise seed is good for digestion, or that ginger alleviates nausea.  These remedies have been around practically forever, and are well established.  In Germany, where I grew up, many herbal remedies are available at the Apotheken (pharmacies), and doctors frequently prescribe a natural remedy before moving on to conventional medicine.  My grandmother took Baldrian (valerian root) for her nerves, and it was available just about anywhere.

Again, I know many people who have obtained great relief from chiropractic care, including Bret, whose back and neck were badly messed up after being rear-ended in a minor accident.  I do not doubt that a chiropractor can be helpful, although I tend to stifle a smirk of disbelief when claims are made that chiropractic can do everything from cure chronic ear infections to clearing up acne.  And if your chiropractor starts a session by moving over your prone body with a crystal pendulum, it is time to find a new chiropractor!

On to my experience with homeopathy.  Even though I went through a period in my life before my conversion where I was fairly deep into the occult and New Age, I pretty much drew the line after herbalism when it came to health.  I never gave much credence to such things as crystals, aromatherapy, Rolfing (I still need to look that one up--sounds really goofy) and what not.  I'm not one for esoteric cures. 

I first came across homeopathy when my firstborn was a teething baby, and I found a recommendation for Hyland's Teething Tablets in a parenting magazine.  They were (are) available at Wal-Mart.  Not exactly the neighborhood Occult Paraphernalia shop.  Unlike herbal remedies, which I could not use on an infant for fear of overdosing or causing an allergic reaction, these tablets were safe for babies.  And they worked!  And homeopathic chamomile seemed to soothe an agitated and over-tired infant to sleep.  So I bought a little case with remedies for some of the most common ailments--digestive troubles, diarrhea, sleeplessness, bruises and bumps, insect stings and so forth, and over the past 10 years or so, I have been happy with the results. 

I have noticed that some things work better than others.  We haven't had much success with the tablets when it comes to cold symptoms or allergies, although the homeopathic cough medicine does help for a couple of hours at a time.  And I can say right off that I use the tablets very little myself, as little things such as mint in one's toothpaste and caffeine can interfere with the medicine.  I have used Hyland's Nerve Tonic, and it does seem to help somewhat. 

Which raises the question, is the effect a placebo effect?  Are my nerves calmed because I read the words "Nerve Tonic" on the label and my nerves obey the suggestion?  Well, I would have to say no, as most of the time we use these remedies on children who are very young.  Arsenicum Album seems to do the trick on diarrhea for all my kids.  And Nux Vomica seems to quell queasiness.  And this winter I administered homeopathic Belladonna for a sudden-onset fever, and behold, Gemma's fever went away! 

But now for the caveat:  I would never treat any dangerous symptoms with homeopathy.  With a fever, I will try the mildest cure first (and one can get no milder than homeopathy), but if that doesn't work in a given time, I am running for the acetaminophen!  I would never use homeopathy to treat any serious health condition.  I use it for those daily little pains and ailments that come inevitably in a house full of children.  For tummy-aches, head-aches, growing pains and ear-aches; for queasiness, gas, bee stings and tempers.  And they work most of the time.  And the best part about it is that the remedies are so harmless that when Dominic sees me giving a dose to his brother and says, "I have a tummy ache, too," I can safely pop a tablet into his mouth, knowing that if does no good, at least it will do no harm. 

I know nothing of this "vital force" business, and I don't know how or why homeopathy seems to work for us.  I am too easily bored by scientific explanations of things (as my kids can bear witness to my "Because-that's-the-way-God-made-it-and-if-you-care-to-look-it-up-you-can" answers to their scientific questions).  I only know that God is the power behind all healing, whether it be chamomile tea, homeopathy or chemotherapy, and unless the Catholic Church condemns it outright, I will continue to use it. 

In looking for some Catholic perspective to support my view, I found this very thorough--almost exhaustive--blog post by someone who had even more to say on the topic than I.  You can also find articles to support an opposing view.

16 comments:

  1. Nadja

    I stopped homeopathy a few months ago - someone from 4real asked if they could mail me an article about its involvement with New Age philosophies. (I have lost the article - it was from a Catholic magazine - possibly something to do with Miles Christi?) - the article was very scary. The things I am missing are the Hylands ear stuff and the Oscillo for flu.

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  2. Well, I will keep my comment brief, because I am ignorant on this subject... obviously, after reading your post! It never occurred to me that by using homeopathy that we were doing anything new age. There are certain products (mostly by Hyland's and Bach's) that I have found to work very well and feel more comfortable giving my children. Like you, I would never hesitate to take my children to their pediatrician or use conventional medicine... but, honestly, I never knew there was any controversy at all. For myself, the indigestion tablets and the nerve tonic (I use for PMS) work wonders. I guess I will be doing some research! +JMJ+

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  3. Do send me the article if you can find it. I do respect your opinion (one of only a few I truly trust!), but I feel pretty confident about this. I have a lot of experience with various occult philosophies (although not homeopathy), and I know that herbalism could well be on the "hit list" as well, as Wiccans and the like make a thorough use of it. But I'm willing to bet that even our Holy Father, from Bavaria and of an earlier generation, makes use of at least some herbal remedies.

    I have seen a direct co-relation between some things and the way the Enemy can make use of them to lure people into the New Age (I dare say even parts of the Catholic charismatic movement can put certain people at risk), but as I am looking only at the effect of healing, for which I give thanks to God and not some effect on our "vital force", I really do feel quite safe from demonic influence.

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  4. We too have found great relief from using a chiropractor, although I am very cautious with some of his tactics. Excellent post! Thanks for sharing.

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  5. Nadja - I will email the person who sent me the article to ask where she got it from - I just cannot find it.

    I know when I read the article I thought it was totally OTT. But then I obviously thought about it because I slowly started to cut down on homeopathics.

    One of the things I remember is that the article mentioned how many people think homeopathy is the solution to all ills. And I think of a couple of my extended family members - huge homeopathy medicine chests - pop pills for everything.

    I am hugely into alternative medicine. A chiropractor saved my life when the twins were born and my spine was all crooked - BUT by the same token the same chiropractor was responsible for me ending up in the ER with a different problem altogether. I want to learn about herbal medicine - it was used by saints and in the Bible.

    Our general family rule is "treat ugent conditions with conventional medications, get chronic conditions under control with conventional medicine, but try and use herbal/alternative medicine to keep healthy and reduce the need for conventional meds"

    I am sure your use of homeopathics is fine. I still have Hylands ear treatments in the house - I think I would prefer this to antibiotics - though we are making more use of olive oil/mullein/garlic drops for this too.

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  6. I am with you on you "family rule" and this is pretty much the way we do things as well regarding matters of health.

    I also teach the children that suffering is just a part of life, and I do not hand out a remedy for everything. A lot of times my answer to an evening headache is simply, "Go to bed. Take the ice-pack if you need it!"

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  7. I am not really a big supporter of most of those homeopathic things...I think most of it is harmless really-- but I don't think much of it really helps (just my op) which is why medicine developed because those old fashioned remedies didn't work realiably or good enough in the first place...

    I think God gave us the ability and minds to develop medicine to help us not hurt us. But alot of people see modern medicine as hurtful. I don't think there is anything inherently evil in either one. Certain things work better than others on both sides.

    I do notice that a lot of people that are really really into homeopathic stuff seem also to be very new age/occult or athethist....Maybe its just my personal experience but of the people that i know that are non-believers belive in all this stuff like its their own religion. It seems to attract certain people that refuse to believe in God but easily believe in the power of some root or herb.

    I think its their attempt to put power into their own hands.

    I guess what I am saying is that I do agree that it can open the doors to occult activity, for most of it though every now and then its ok, nothing wrong with medicine either, just use good judgement either way.

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  8. I think, Kim, that you are spot-on with the comment, "I think its their attempt to put power into their own hands." That is what the entire New Age movement and all occult practices boil down to.

    I haven't met anyone personally who treats homeopathy like some kind of religion, but I am sure those who do are out there.

    As I said, I have had pretty good results using the remedies for mild complaints in my kids, but I also use conventional medicine and some herbal tinctures and teas. When I have a headache or bad backache, I use acetaminophen. If my milk supply is down, I use Mother's Milk Tea. If Gemma is teething, I use the Teething Tablets. Common sense is the key.

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  9. God made the herbs from which homeopathic remedies come, and God gave mankind the intelligence to figure out how to use them for healing. By this logic there is nothing inherently evil in using them. However, you had it right "common sense is the key;" all things in moderation. Likewise, any good thing can be abused, which is precisely what the New Age/Occult groups do - they cease worshiping God and begin to worship God's creation. In that vein it's a short trip from praising God for His creation to Pantheism to New Age to the Occult.

    Additionally, "all Fords are vehicles, but not all vehicles are Fords." The fact that most or all Occult practitioners abuse homeopathy, and even that some avid practitioners of homeopathy slip into the Occult, does not, of itself, mean that homeopathy is a slippery slope into the Occult. It does, however, mean that one should use due caution when using homeopathy, and it sounds like everyone in this discussion thread is doing just that.

    Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

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  10. Thank you, Father! I'm glad you are still lurking around out there!

    Pax Christi tecum!

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  11. I really appreciate Father's comment. I tried looking around a little last night on the internet but could not keep eyes open! I felt better after reading his comment this morning. +JMJ+

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  12. We received a case of Fennel. This is the globe fennel, or Italian fennel. I am not sure how to prepare it, or if eating a lot of it could be bad/or not so good for me. We tried sauteeing a little last night. I'm not sure about that licorice flavor.

    Any ideas on this?

    I do not use homeopathic remedies, but know of many who do benefit from them and the Father Matt is so right. Homeopathy is often used for wrong purposes, but doesn't have to be used that way and has many benefits.

    I think this is the first post I have read on this and I hope it inspires more folks to speak up about using these natural remedies.

    Mrs. D

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  13. Oh, I envy you, Mrs. D! I love Italian fennel! Yes, it has a bit of a licorice taste. Try quartering a couple of bulbs, then slicing and sauteing. Combine it with the ingredients I have in the recipe for Penne with Italian Sausage. Or quarter it along with new red potatoes onions and carrots, toss with olive oil, kosher salt and minced garlic, and roast the vegetables with a well-seasoned pork loin. Roasting brings out a mellow sweetness.

    I'm hungry!

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  14. I read all the posts on 4real and was disheartened, because so much seemed so... superstitious. Attributing supernatural powers to natural things.

    God created chamomile and lavendar and valerian, and when He did, He (in His wisdom) gave them those helpful properties. Just because some OTHER people come around later and try to co-opt it into an occultic world view doesn't change the fact that He endowed THAT herb with that property.

    I think one only errs when one starts buying into the "energy balancing" and "vital force" and "chi" nonsense so prevalent in alternative medicine. In which case, it is not the thing, the herb or technique, that is the problem but the underlying man made philosophy that is being imposed upon it.

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  15. Homeopathy is NOT New Age. Given the origins and religious background of Hahnemann does not mean it's evil. Pharmaceutical companies have a far more insidious and evil history, including connections with the Nazis. You can read for yourself here:
    http://www.theopenscroll.com/pharmakeia.htm

    It does not make sense to claim Homeopathy is New Age because it's basis is in a universal life force which belongs to a non Christian belief system known as pantheism. And should not be used by Christans for this reason. What about all the prescription medicines people take? Many were developed by those with non-Christian beliefs but I don't see any of this being discussed in the pros and cons of utiilizing Homeopathy.

    On one of the attached documents, Is Homeopathy New Age? uses Quackwatch as a reference! Quackwatch disses anything not pharmaceutical and is funded by those companies. So is WebMD. Aetna was sued for using Quackwatch as a reference to deny health insurance claims. They lost the case big time. No one uses Quackwatch as a real scientific reference anymore.

    http://www.theopenscroll.com/pharmakeia.htm

    There is the argument of homeopathic dilutions being a placebo, energy left - therefore not valid. See this article on scientific research on the dilution:
    http://www.naturalnews.com/031210_Luc_Montagnier_Homeopathy.html

    I used to work in a medical lab so am well versed in dilutions for allergy shots, etc. In the medical lab, a serial dilutionof 1:10 corresponds to a homeopathic dilution potency of 1 X. A 1:100,000 serial dilution is a very high potency, ie 1 MM. Based on your allergy test results, the more allergic you are the more highly diluted the allergy shot is.

    God made us with the ability to discern and reason. We have to use that ability here in making the determination on utilizing Homeopathy. Same for Acupuncture which existed long before Christ was born, depending on the source, has been proven to be a valid science.

    The way I see it, Medicines do kill, cause suicides, etc. Right into the hands of Satan. Why give Satan the satisfaction of addiction to pharmaceutical drugs and or Suicide.

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  16. This is a catch 22....I believe that what Father said is true and St. Hildegard of Bingen was known for her natral remeies. She utlized plants and herbs for the benefit of the sick and was good at it. She had prophetic visions of God and was a cloistered nun. I doubt she dabbled in the occult although she was occused of it because of her remedies. We have been utilizing herbs and plants for healing for a long time, in fact Blessed Mother of Agreda (Mystical City of God) speaks of how knowledgable the Blessed Mother was of herbs and plants for healing purposes. The occult always has a "high" worship of these natural things. WE must be extremely cautious though because of this fact. I would never take anyone I loved or didn't love for that matter, to a homeopathy practioner. One would never be able to know what his practices are in private.
    Deos Gratia- Regina

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