We are demanding evidence of science in all areas of life. Some of the research carried out is high quality and finally reveals what we may have suspected for years on a range of topics. However, in some cases, when quality research is provided, the scientists with the biggest voices don’t like it unless it suits their desired outcomes or assists their backers’ financial status.
Is all of this truly about the science or is it, particularly in the case of homeopathy, about a subject that they actually don’t understand at all? We know the dilution process in homeopathy is a problem. Some people are prepared to just say ‘we don’t know how it works, we just know it does’ but in the current climate this is not sufficient and shouldn’t be.
Homeopaths have been saying for years that homeopathy is way ahead of its time and that it’s not a case of ‘it doesn’t work because it’s too dilute’, it’s more a case that we either still don’t know or we don’t have the right equipment to work it out. Only recently I have seen homeopathy termed ‘the first nanomedicine’ (1) because finally modern scientific instrumentation, specifically the transmission electron microscope, is sensitive enough to finally see the remaining (and evidently active) particles (2) in a homeopathic remedy.
I don’t understand a mentality that says ‘if we don’t understand or like your science then it doesn’t work and we’re going prove it doesn’t by any means. Then we are going to try and deprive everyone of the health benefits associated with this system of medicine’.
Certainly the research on the evidence and effectiveness of homeopathy is out there with a swathe of really good studies (3). Research is a buzz word in the homeopathic industry as elsewhere and new studies are continually being undertaken. If homeopathic researchers are going to provide research for scrutiny then they are obviously aiming to provide the highest possible quality, knowing the scrutiny it is likely to come under.
So where does art fit into all of this?
When I was at homeopathy college in the early 90’s we always talked about the art and science of homeopathy as a whole concept. Many of our homeopathic texts (4) talk about the art and science required to practice homeopathy effectively and while the focus these days is fully on the science, the reason our modality often doesn’t fit into the standard research paradigms is because of the art which is also required for a successful outcome.
To me art is the more thoughtful and individual way of looking at a case, which comes with experience. It’s understanding that you can’t take one remedy and give it to everyone who presents with asthma. Therefore you can’t easily set up a research protocol to look at using one remedy to treat a whole bunch of people, because we already know that’s not always going to produce sensible data. This in itself causes a problem with conventional science because we can’t always fit homeopathy into the gold standard of a randomized double blind placebo trial. There are however plenty of other ways to set up a research study that do suit homeopathy (5).
We look at everyone as an individual and we look for an individual remedy for each case, as well as an individualised potency and individualised repetition of dose. Everyone is different, every remedy has many different aspects, every patient will react differently to a remedy. The art is managing this. It’s understanding what a remedy is actually doing, when to give more, when to give less, when to change remedies, when to take a break and when to counsel a patient (or send them for counselling) rather than give them another remedy. And it applies to acute prescribing as well – something which I always try to teach in my workshops and which some people get and some people struggle with.
Therapeutic Goods Administration also plays their part in fitting homeopathy into a box by requiring us to put specific directions on the label of an over-the-counter remedy. The general idea is to take a remedy until improvement begins and then stop and wait, but this is a bit vague for the regulations! We are often brain washed by conventional medicine to believe that taking a medicine once, twice or three times a day is what has to happen for a medicine to work. And that brings us to the question of suppression which is yet another blog!
For me the art of homeopathy is what makes the therapy holistic and the science interesting. It means that every patient is like a new puzzle waiting to be put together to reveal the remedy which is going to match the picture and bring improvement.
This doesn’t make homeopathy airy fairy! It makes it a well balanced, holistic system of medicine. We use left and right brain thought processes in every case. It requires the homeopath to be an unprejudiced observer with every patient. We can’t make a 5 minute judgement in a chronic case, give every asthma patient the same medicine and send them away with repeat prescriptions. We need to understand them to get to the core of the issue, and believe me there is always ‘an issue’ behind every chronic illness.
After so many decades of suppressing these issues with conventional treatments, chronic disease is at an all time high. One only has to be part of a Facebook community or visit a support network for conditions like arthritis or MS to see that people understand what they need to do to heal. They want more than 5 minutes with their GP or Specialist, they want to understand why they have cancer or depression and why their child is suffering allergies or bed wetting. They want to talk, be heard and be part of the process.
The public sees health as more than science and yet it seems to be ramming down our throats that without good science (largely judged by conventional scientists) there is no validity and no chance of success. They seem to say that success without science didn’t really happen.
Life is about art and science: about finding joy in nature, music and in love, about experiencing and understanding our emotions and ourselves. In this day and age it’s about the amazing things that science comes up with to make our lives easier. It’s about life as a whole and not just its parts. We are all whole human beings, warts and all. We need a system of medicine that wants to know all of this because it’s important and relevant to the individual and the therapy. We need a system of medicine based on the whole to bring about healing. Science may finally be catching up with homeopathy!
(4) Kent, JT. The Art and Science of Homeopathic Medicine 1900. Available: http://www.amazon.com/The-Art-Science-Homeopathic-Medicine/dp/0486424189