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Homeopathy and the Bird Flu Crisis

Homeopathy and the Bird Flu Crisis 11NOTE: This article was written for the bird flu crisis of 2003-5 but as homeopathy is prescribed against symptoms rather than disease names or virus strains, the information in this article is still relevant for the symptoms of the bird flu, swine flu, or any-other-sort-of-flu.

Could the looming Bird-flu threat meet its match with a 200-year-old system of medicine? Ask any Homeopath and they will tell you, “Yes!” While the rest of the world is busily stockpiling anti-virals, Homeopaths have been carefully watching the symptoms of those already infected in order to cross-match them to existing homeopathic medicines.

Homeopathy is a system of medicine based on a natural law – the Law of Similars, or, “Like Cures Like.” First discovered and developed by a German scientist and doctor, Samual Hahnemann 200 years ago, there is renewed interest in it today for many of the problems that conventional medicine finds difficult to treat – like the flu, for instance. In France where homeopathy is well known, the largest selling flu treatment prescribed by doctors and practitioners alike is a homeopathic remedy. Those who have used it say it significantly reduces the severity and duration of symptoms, a claim substantiated by three independent studies.

Homeopathy has a fascinating approach to health. Rather than trying to chemically control symptoms, as conventional medicines do, homeopathy uses minute doses of naturally occurring substances to stimulate a self-healing reaction from the body. In this way, homeopaths say two things happen. First, the body is helped to remove its own symptoms, and second, it is strengthened to be more resistant to the problem in the future.

So, what of the Bird-flu – will homeopathy be able to help? Its medicines are incredibly cheap to produce so all countries could afford them, not just the affluent. They are easy to produce – the needs of a pandemic could be met in only a few days. And they do not require the identification of a virus before the process can start as symptoms alone are enough to determine treatment. Also, their distribution would be unhindered. Unlike vaccines and ant-virals, homeopathic medicines are prepared from naturally occurring substances that cannot be controlled by patents or vested interests.

Perhaps our best clue to the effectiveness of homeopathy is to look at its performance in the 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic. This flu swept the world, killing up to fifty million people in a pandemic similar to what experts currently fear. In his book, The Faces of Homeopathy, Julian Winston, historian, has included reports from doctors during this period. They reveal that almost 99% of those who received homeopathic treatment survived, compared to only two thirds of those treated conventionally.

Philadelphian doctors, for instance, treated 26,795 flu cases with homeopathy, with a death rate of 1.05%. This was in stark contrast to a death rate of 30% for those using the other medicines of the day. In another account, Dr T. A. McCann of Ohio reported that of the one thousand patients he treated homeopathically, all survived. Likewise, the National Homeopathic Hospital had no fatalities among its patients. Unfortunately, the same could not be said for those who did not receive homeopathic treatment.

Gelsemium was the main homeopathic medicine prescribed during this pandemic because the weakness, trembling and collapse that victims experienced were symptoms well treated by it. Homeopaths will tell you, however, that the looming pandemic may well need a different medicine – one that corresponds to the key symptoms of its sufferers. What homeopaths are confident of though is that homeopathy can be effective; past history and repeated successes with yearly flu epidemics attest to it.

Sample Cases of the Homeopathic Treatment of ‘Flu

Those unfamiliar with homeopathy are often surprised that homeopathic remedies can speedily relieve the symptoms of flu. In France, where homeopathy is well-known and prescribed by over 40% of French doctors, the leading flu medicine is a homeopathic remedy, Anas barbariae. Studies have shown it relieves the intensity and shortens the duration of flu symptoms better than anti-virals such as Tamiflu and Relenza – and without the side-effects.
Most homeopaths, however, would still prefer to treat the flu from a larger range of homeopathics. While Anas barbariae has a broad action over a large variety of flu symptoms, it is not so effective in the elderly and has to be prescribed within the first 48 hours of symptom onset. A homeopathic prescription that closely matches the symptoms of the individual sufferer, however, usually has an even better effect regardless of age or time. Examples of this approach can be seen with just some of the flu remedies in the following mini-cases.

A Belladonna Flu

Angie had the flu. It had been going around at work and had finally caught her. The surprise was how quickly it hit. At lunchtime, she had started to feel unwell. By 3pm she had such a high fever and severe headache that she was driven home by a colleague. Her face was red, her eyes “glassy,” and her pupils dilated. In spite of her high temperature, her hands and feet were icy cold. She wanted to lie down but it only worsened her throbbing headache and so she sat quietly on the lounge, her eyes shielded from the light. Any sudden or jarring movements made her feel as though her head was going to explode.
Angie received a dose of homeopathic Belladonna. Within the hour, her headache was eighty percent better and she had broken out into a sweat – her temperature was coming down. Angie needed two more doses of Belladonna when symptoms began to return to fully resolve her flu.
Belladonna type flu’s will have the following symptoms:
  • Rapid onset and high fever
  • Aggravation period at 3pm
  • Reddened and flushed face
  • Hot face and body with cold hands and feet
  • Glistening eyes with dilated pupils that are sensitive to light
  • Throbbing pains in head or throat
  • Head pain worse for lying flat or jarring; better for sitting upright.
Rapidity of onset is a key feature of Belladonna type flu symptoms. Unlike some other flu’s, rapidity of improvement is also notable when the correct prescription of Belladonna is made.

A Bryonia Flu

Russell was feeling unwell. Two days ago, he had developed a sore throat and runny nose. Initially he had been hopeful it may have been a passing cold but one by one, the symptoms of flu appeared. Now he had a severe headache and was wet with perspiration from his fever. Everything hurt and from time to time chills would run along the right side of his body. Whenever he moved, the aches and pains worsened – even breathing hurt. For the most part Russell just wanted to lie still in bed. His wife said that he was extremely irritable. Whenever she went to check on him, he would snap at her to leave him alone. Russell also complained of being very thirsty. Every so often, he would swallow large glasses of water to relieve his dryness.
Russell was prescribed homeopathic Bryonia. Unlike Angie’s flu, Russell’s symptoms had developed slowly over a few days. This feature, along with other aspects, indicated that Russell would need a different remedy to Angie and that his return to health would be more gradual. Within two hours of taking a dose, Russell was starting to feel a little better. By six hours, he was able to move around without everything hurting. His fever hadreduced. By the following morning and some three doses later, Russell declared himself 80% better. The following day saw all symptoms resolved and Russell was able to return to work.
Bryonia type flu’s have the following symptoms:
  • Slowly progressing symptoms with severe aching.
  • Symptoms worsened by any movement – the person wants to keep still.
  • Symptoms often worse on the right side of the body.
  • Intense thirst and desire for large amounts of water at infrequent intervals.
  • Severe headache in the back of the head and forehead.
  • Very irritable and wanting to be left alone.

A Rhus-toxicodendron Flu

Shilpa’s flu had started after being caught in the rain on a cold day. Her symptoms were in marked contrast to those of Russell. While Russell’s aches and pains were worse when he tried to move around, wandering about relieved Shilpa’s discomfort. In fact, she was quite restless. Russell had felt irritable but Shilpa felt unusually anxious. She was also thirsty for sips of warm drinks, rarely cold ones. Any sort of coldness seemed to trigger a chill. Blisters on her lips had also developed with the fever.
Shilpa was successfully prescribed the homeopathic remedy Rhus toxicodendron, a remedy known to treat her distinguishing symptoms. One day later and after six doses of the Rhus, Shilpa was completely free of flu symptoms. The blisters on her lips healed over the next few days.
Flu symptoms indicating the need for Rhus toxicodendron include:
  • Aching restlessness.
  • Stiffness that improves with movement and stretching.
  • Fever that starts after being chilled.
  • Shaking from drafts or uncovering.
  • Throat pain and general discomfort better for sipping warm drinks.
  • Anxiety and anguish.
  • Herpes or fever blisters on lips.

A Gelsemium Flu

Max could hardly lift his head. He was unwell with the flu and exhausted. His eyelids were half-closed and his face was flushed a dusky red. Max had started to feel unwell with a sore throat four days ago and had slowly deteriorated since then. He was now drowsy and weak and it was an effort for him to sit up let alone stand. His arms and legs would tremble with the effort. Max’s fever alternated with severe chills and rigors (shuddering). The back of his head ached and the pain radiated over the top to his forehead. In spite of the fever, Max was generally thirstless. When I examined him, I found his tongue to be thickly coated and yellow. Because of his exhaustion, Max spent most of his time sleeping when left alone.
Max made a gradual recovery after a prescription of homeopathic Gelsemium. By the end of the day, the headache had resolved and he only had a low-grade fever. His energy levels had improved and though still feeling weak, he no longer trembled on trying to do something. It took another two days before Max was completely well but this was a significant improvement for this type of flu. Many of his friends were still recovering some weeks later.
Gelsemium-type flu’s will have the following symptoms:
  • Marked weakness, debility and sleepiness.
  • Trembling and heaviness of limbs and head.
  • Eyelids drooping or closed – unable to open fully.
  • Occipital headache radiating to the forehead.
  • Chills running up and down the back.
  • Mental fogginess and dullness.
Gelsemium, the remedy from the final case, was the remedy that was so successfully prescribed during the 1917 Spanish Flu pandemic. This was because the symptoms Gelsemium is capable of treating closely match the symptoms of that pandemic where up to 50 million people lost their lives.

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