Reprinted with permission from The Tidings, Southern California's Catholic weekly newspaper (June 27, 2003)
In this age of anxiety about the safety of vaccines, hormone replacement therapy and, even, fillings in teeth, it's no surprise that people are trying alternative forms of medicine such as homeopathy, a natural system of medicine that has been practiced in the U.S. since the early 1800s.
Lauren Feder, M.D.,, a Catholic convert and specialist in homeopathic medicine practicing in Beverly Hills, lectures widely on the benefits of homeopathy. "Since the late 20th century, there has been a vast increase of interest in homeopathy," said Feder, who was successfully treated in her 20s by a homeopath for a thyroid condition. Using homeopathic remedies, she was able to discontinue the daily medication she had been taking since she was a teenager.
When her father, an ear, nose and throat specialist, suffered a stroke seventeen years ago at the age of 52, Feder left her residency at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles to pursue her growing interest in homeopathy, sparked by the "amazing results" she had experienced personally and with her patients.
"My father's stroke made me realize that life is short," said Feder. "I realized how much I enjoyed alternative medicine because it placed more emphasis on respect for the body and its natural healing process." She explained that she felt traditional medicine was lacking in basic foundations of prevention.
"I found myself wanting to send my patients to an acupuncturist or homeopath for treatment. My first choice for a child's sore throat was not antibiotics, because of the side effects including weakening of the immune system," Feder said.She explained that traditional medicines, including prescription drugs as well as over-the-counter medications, produce effects that are different or opposite from those of the disease being treated.
In contrast, homeopathy works on a principle based on the "law of similars" where minute doses of substances are used that, in large amounts, could cause symptoms of disease.
Homeopaths spend an hour-and-a-half to three hours during a client's first visit, assessing aspects of general health and personality. The cost ranges from $200-300, with a higher charge for longer visits. Remedies are individually tailored to each person. They can be in quick dissolving tablet, pill or liquid form and are reasonable in price. For example, a remedy usually costs less than $10, averaging between $5 and $7.
According to Feder, she has successfully treated patients for such conditions as asthma, chronic fatigue, infertility, menopausal discomfort, recurrent ear infections, skin infections and thyroid problems. Approximately 60 percent of her patients are children, including children with disabilities such as autism and attention deficit disorder (ADD).
"I don't say my (homeopathic) way is the only way," said Feder, who will also prescribe traditional medicine if she thinks it is warranted. She will consult with other MDs as needed and also serves as a consultant for doctors interested in homeopathy."I have MDs calling me for information because their patients demand it," said Feder.Her website, www.drfeder.com, features several articles on natural health that she has written, including "Using homeopathy to heal after circumcision," which was published in the April 2003 issue of Homeopathy Today. Currently, she is in the process of writing a book on natural family medicine and parenting, and lectures frequently on the benefits and risks of immunizations.
A German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann, is credited with organizing homeopathy into a scientific and medical system in 1789. European immigrants brought homeopathy into the U.S. where it was widely practiced. Currently, there are 1,500 homeopathic remedies available in the U.S. according to Jay Borneman, Chairman and CEO of Standard Homeopathic Company, a 100-year-old manufacturer of homeopathic medicine in Los Angeles.
A fourth generation Catholic homeopath, Borneman said he got into the family business "when the Jesuits got through with me" in 1987 when he graduated from St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia with masters' degrees in chemistry and business administration. He has seen an increase in his company's sales of homeopathic medicine "year after year" for the last 15 years, particularly in the over-the-counter Hyland's brand sold at chain drug stores.
"Sociological factors during the last 10 years are causing interest in homeopathy to intensify," said Borneman. "More and more people realize that some standard medications can make them sick." Borneman estimates that, while only two to three percent of Americans may currently go to a homeopathic specialist, many more buy over the counter homeopathic products such as Hyland's teething tablets or Hyland's leg cramps with quinine, the number one selling product in its category according to the manufacturer.
Homeopathic remedies, made from various plant, mineral and animal substances, are prepared through a series of dilutions and succussions so that all that is left in the medicine is the "print" or the essence of the substance.For example, the homeopathic remedy Allium Cepa (red onion) is used to treat runny noses and watery eyes from a cold or hay fever, the very symptoms it would cause if one were cutting a red onion in the kitchen. All remedies are FDA approved.
Homeopathic practitioners believe that suppressing symptoms is a method of treatment that causes the disease and its underlying causes to be forced inward. For example, it is not uncommon, according to Feder, for a child who has been treated with a standard prescription of cortisone for eczema to begin having symptoms of asthma. The homeopathic practitioner recognizes that a suppressed disease can appear somewhere else in the body, often with graver consequences.
Irene McConville, 52, a breast cancer survivor, is one of a growing number of Americans who use both traditional and alternative therapies in fighting disease. A month before her cancer surgery seven years ago, McConville underwent acupuncture and aromatherapy treatments and also practiced meditation and visualization. After surgery, at the advice of a friend, she went to a homeopath for depression as an alternative to taking anti-depressants.
"I was astonished at how all-encompassing it was. I didn't realize that homeopathy deals with everything: mental, emotional and physical health. The gifted homeopath totally shifted my life," said McConville. Her depression lifted after three months, and she felt empowered to leave her teaching career and embark on a study of homeopathy at The American University of Complementary Medicine in West Los Angeles where she now interns in the school's clinic as a second-year student.
"There's 200 years of empirical data of what remedies work with what personality type," said McConville. "It's not that the remedies are doing the (healing) work, it's that they balance the body to stimulate healing."And, in response to some critics that the remedies are merely placebos, McConville said that the remedies work in animals and infants who are incapable of psychological suggestion.
Joyce Frye, 53, DO, MBA, FACOG, president of the American Institute of Homeopathy practicing in Philadelphia, agreed that the remedies are not placebos and estimates that 60 percent of the medications she prescribes to her patients are homeopathic. Frye became a homeopathic practitioner after her 12-year-old son came down with kidney failure and was prescribed three different blood pressure medications that weren't curing him. The next day after receiving a homeopathic remedy, the boy's blood pressure was normal and he shed 10 pounds of edema fluid within eight days said Frye.Frye sees interest in homeopathy expanding exponentially at the grass roots "patient" level. "We're coming much closer to finding the mechanism of action," said Frye. "The remedies work by giving off energy, similar to radiation. When we can find a way to measure that, skeptics will turn around," she declared.
- The American Institute of Homeopathy was established three years before the American Medical Association. The AIH was started in 1844 and the AMA began in 1847.
- A statue of homeopathy's founder, German doctor Samuel Hahnemann, stands in Washington D.C. at Scott Circle NW. It was erected and commemorated June 21, 1900 with U.S. President William McKinley in attendance.
- Homeopathic medicines are regulated as drugs by inclusion in the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. They are available as prescription and non-prescription. If a remedy is regulated as a prescription item, it is necessary to have a written prescription from a physician to obtain the remedy. For more information on the Standard Homeopathic Company, visit its website: www.hylands.com
- Depending on location and type of licensure, homeopathy is in the scope of practice of many medical professionals. For more information on homeopaths around the country, visit the AIH website, www.homeopathyusa.org, or the website of The National Center for Homeopathy, www.homeopathic.org.