The Homeopathic Approach to Asthma
Bronchial asthma affects about 3 million Canadians, about 30% occurring in children under 18 years of age. The prevalence of this condition has increased more than 60% since 1982, the suspected cause being growing populations in polluted city centers, and new housing that is poorly ventilated. Inhaled corticosteroid therapy is the cornerstone of conventional asthma management.
Homeopathic medicine offers a gentle yet powerful way of addressing health care needs that can complement what you are already doing, and perhaps help reduce the need for chemical medication. Homeopathy is most successful when treatment is directed at the whole person, not just the condition. To help with asthma, a homeopathic physician needs to understand what makes you unique, different from others who have the same condition. How does the asthma affect your energy, moods, appetite, sleep, etc? When did your asthma first start, and what were the stresses in your life when it first began? How did you react to those stresses?
By highlighting stressful experiences associated with the onset of an illness, the homeopathic physician gains insight into the nature of a person's coping style. Once we understand your coping style, we can choose something from nature that has an affinity to your nature, helping you develop resistance to inherited or acquired predispositions. In that sense, homeopathic medicine is akin to a vaccine, except that we tailor the treatment to the whole person rather than just the condition.
The following case study from my clinic illustrates the holistic nature of the homeopathic approach, and the emphasis placed on personality. A 12 year old boy, George (a pseudonym) is brought to me in May of 04 for a homeopathic consultation to help him with his asthma. He is a lean and lanky boy of average height, who strikes me as serious, or perhaps shy, but who nonetheless participates throughout the interview, attentively engaged in answering any questions when asked. He is a middle child, with a sister a few years younger, and a brother who is considerably older and who has already moved out of the house.
George has been on steroid inhalers for 2 years, his asthma starting starting shortly after the family moved from Montreal to Ottawa. Medication helps him with his breathing, but his mother would like to see him be asthma and drug-free, and has heard that homeopathic medicine can help.
In common with other asthma sufferers is that George's asthma is worse with exercise, like running or cycling. He belongs to a cycling team, and is often lagging behind as he can't catch his breath. He doesn't mind the asthma so much, except that it slows him down, and he doesn't like to slow the rest of the group down, fearing they'll be upset with him.
When I ask him to talk more about his fear of upsetting others, his mother tells me he's very sensitive to other people's feelings, including his younger sister's, feeling like he's done the worst thing possible when he makes her cry. He then says, “If my sister's mean to me, I get her back even worse than she got me” (as he tells me this, I notice George has tears in his eyes). When I ask him to tell me what he's feeling at this moment he answers that he's sensitive to hurt, his and others. “I don’t like to hurt others. I know what it feels like to be hurt. It hurts me when I get hurt, and I don't want others to feel hurt.” He shares with me that he wears glasses, and that he used to be called names at school. It would upset him, and he'd walk away, or would try to ignore the teasing. “If someone pushes me around, it makes me feel really weak, that I can’t do anything about it. My sister can be really mean to me, and at times it feels as if she doesn’t care for me at all (Silent tears roll down his face as he's telling me this). She sometimes says to me that she hates me. It's upsetting, and I go to my room and cry.
His mother describes him as very empathetic. When his aunt (his mother's sister) died of cancer last year, George felt very sad for his mother. When he would see her crying, he'd sit down next to her, comforting her, being nice in any way he could think. “He's the kindest, when anyone’s hurting”.
When asked to talk more about what was happening in his life when asthma first started, his mom says that the move to Ottawa was particularly hard on him, that he missed his friends a lot and felt very lonely in Ottawa. As he made new friends his loneliness subsided, but not so his asthma.
Homeopathic understanding of what is medicinal in a substance is based on provings, experiments conducted on healthy volunteers. The physical and emotional side-effects that a substance being proven can produce in healthy volunteers are the symptoms it can cure in the sick. A substance becomes medicinal to the individual case at hand when it can mimic the physical and especially the emotional symptoms of that individual. Like a vaccine tailor made to the individual, a homeopathic medicine stimulates the patient's own defenses, harnessing them to develop resistance to inherited and acquired predispositions.
George has a very sensitive nature, which he manifests by crying easily. This is what sets him apart from others who suffer from asthma, and what a homeopathic physician will use to arrive at a prescription.
The proving of Pulsatilla (the homeopathic preparation of the wind flower, a common perennial in many Canadian gardens) is known to produce and is therefore know to heal the following symptoms:
After he received his homeopathic medicine, I didn't see George for 5 months, until his mother brought him back again in November, when he reported being asthma-free ever since the start of his homeopathic treatment, this despite having been more active than ever with playing football and mountain biking. He has had no wheezing whatsoever and has not needed puffers since his homeopathic medicine. George's confidence has also changed dramatically. He became involved in leadership activities at school, volunteering to be a peer helper, and has become a spokesman against bullying, accompanying teachers to student conferences. His relationship with his sister can still have rough moments, but there are fewer quarrels. “She doesn't bug me as much, though she hasn't changed at all. I'm still annoyed by her, but I react differently. I'm not as sensitive to feeling hurt, not as upset when feeling not liked.”
It has been over a year since the last visit, and George is still symptom free and independently healthy, needing neither conventional nor homeopathic medicine!