Imagine a singer’s worst nightmare – not being able to sing. Madeleine’s beautiful soprano voice had been enjoyed by thousands, but for the past seven years she had been plagued by sinusitis. The constant collection of mucus over her vocal chords had ruined her voice and every month or two she would succumb to throbbing pains in the centre of her forehead and around her eyes and nose, which could last from days to weeks. If Madeleine bent forward, the pain was excruciating – it felt as if the top of her head was going to fly off.
Madeleine’s sinusitis was only partially relieved by nasal sprays and tablets. Occasionally she would have to resort to antibiotics to bring the more persistent infections under control, but they would never break the cycle. Every few weeks another episode would begin, accompanied by a stringy, yellow-green, discharge from her nose and a putrid taste at the back of her mouth. Madeleine’s sinusitis seemed to be triggered, and made worse by pollen in the wind. As spring and the August winds approached, life was often unbearable and led to frequent sick leave from work.
Madeleine had been taking the birth control pill for five years and since stopping the Pill two years ago had experienced irregular menstrual periods. They were up to seven weeks apart, rather than the usual four. Before she began taking the Pill, her menstrual cycle had been regular. Now, when the period started Madeleine would experience a heavy, dragging pain, “as though everything was going to fall out”, but the most unpleasant sensation was the feeling of icy coldness in her abdomen. To complicate matters further, for a few days prior to each period, the muscles in the lumbar region would become stiff and tight causing pain and difficulty in moving easily. Madeleine was receiving manipulative treatment for this from another therapist. She told me that she also experienced cramping in her feet and calves in bed at night.
Madeleine’s partner reported that she worried a lot and brooded over problems. Madeleine agreed. In her worrying she would become irritable and withdraw. Although Madeleine didn’t like being this way, she found that she couldn’t help becoming annoyed at her partner when he tried to comfort or hug her in this state, sometimes snapping at him or pushing him away. She also said that she had to be careful that her energy levels did not fall or she would slip into “black” moods where she felt absolutely exhausted and unable to do anything.
When a person is in a state of ill-health they can experience imbalances in many areas – not just physical. This is why you will find that homeopaths are also interested to hear about food cravings and aversions, sleep positions and patterns, reaction to different forms of weather, phobias and fears, and so on. From questioning Madeleine on some of these, I discovered that she loved chocolate and sour flavours – she could easily eat a block or more of chocolate a day and would actually drink vinegar by the teaspoon. She also told me that she felt excited by thunderstorms, fearful about spiders and anxious that she may end up in poverty. For this reason she had always worked hard to try and protect herself from this happening. Madeleine said she was happiest when at work. While these symptoms may sound diverse, they all gave me important clues to the remedy that would be able to help Madeleine.
I gave Madeleine a single dose of dilute Sepia before she left my clinic, with strict instructions to phone me in three days to report her reaction. With Madeleine’s history of allergies and changeable emotions I suspected that she was sensitive and would react strongly to homeopathic remedies. When Madeleine phoned me three days later and told me what had happened I was pleased I had done this.
Twenty minutes after taking her diluted dose, Madeleine felt a “fizzing sensation” at the root of her nose followed by a marked increase in sinus pain. She also felt hot, flushed, and irritable. These symptoms continued for several hours until the afternoon when, in the middle of doing her work, Madeleine realised that she no longer had any sinus pain, her nose was clear, and she could smell the food she was cooking -something she had not been able to do for several weeks!
I told Madeleine to take another, even more dilute dose of the Sepia, but only if the improvement she was experiencing began to lessen. Her sensitivity was such, that unnecessary repetitions of the remedy would aggravate the very symptoms we were trying to treat. Keeping these instructions in mind, Madeleine only took one more dose before her first follow-up appointment two weeks later.
At this appointment, Madeleine spoke of how pleased she was with the improvement. Her sinus pain had returned once but resolved rapidly on taking the second dose. She had had one menstrual period between the two consultations and felt that the abdominal heaviness and icy sensation had been a little improved. Best of all, she could now sing without her voice breaking from mucous in her throat. I again instructed her to only take another dose of the remedy should symptoms start to relapse rather than improve. The next appointment was made for a month later.
Three weeks later I received a phone call from Madeleine. She was concerned that her remedy no longer seemed to be working and came to see me the following day. She told how she had only needed one more dose of the remedy in the space of two weeks because everything had been going so well. Her sinuses had been problem free and there had been no post-nasal drip or unpleasant build-up of mucous. Her mood had been more positive and she felt calmer and less anxious. At her last menstrual period the heavy abdominal feeling and usual symptoms of iciness in her abdomen had been much improved. Her back had also felt a lot looser. Then, without warning, everything had gone wrong. Over a few days she had gone from feeling happy and confident to “dark” and irritable. In spite of taking another dose of her remedy, her sinuses had become blocked and infected and her back was a lot tighter, causing her to wake at night from the discomfort.
I was at a loss to explain her sudden deterioration – until Madeleine placed a supplement container on my desk and asked, “Is it OK to take this with the Sepia?” This supplement, with the best of intentions, had been sold to her by the therapist working on her back tightness. It was a “Women’s Formula” containing a mix of herbs, vitamins and minerals. At the bottom of the ingredient list, were two homeopathic remedies, one of which was Sepia, the very remedy I was prescribing for Madeleine in dilute and infrequent doses to cater for her sensitivity. Madeleine had been taking this supplement twice a day, every day, for the past week! It was a case of too much, too often, and too strong.
To understand why this would be so, you have to understand the underlying principle of Homeopathy. Homeopathy treats by a natural law called the Law of Similars, often described as, “Like treats Like”. Homeopaths know that if a substance can produce a set of symptoms in a healthy person, it will also be able to trigger a healing reaction in a person unwell with similar symptoms.
A very simple example of this law can be seen with the homeopathic use of onion. Most of us will develop a streaming nose and eyes on chopping an onion. If somebody was to see a homeopath with these symptoms, (as in a case of hayfever), they would be given the potentised preparation of onion, Allium Cepa. Typically, their symptoms would be relieved within five minutes – a demonstration of “Like Cures Like”.
Another example can be seen in the unknowing use of the Law of Similars with Ritalin or Dexamphetamine by conventional medicine. The amphetamine in dexamphetamine is not called “speed” for nothing. Healthy people given either of these two substances will produce symptoms of restlessness and racing, scattered thoughts – the very symptoms experienced by many hyperactive children. Yet when these medicines are given to ADHD children, many will have a reduction in their hyperactivity. The drawback is that these children will also be vulnerable to the unwanted side-effects of these medicines because they are given in chemical doses rather than in a safe potentised form. (Unfortunately, Ritalin and Dexamphetamine are also prescribed in a “one size fits all” approach, making no allowance for the different symptom complexes of hyperactivity in different children. This is why some respond well and others do not. Homeopathy, on the other hand, has about 200 remedies for the treatment of hyperactivity, depending on the symptom complex the child experiences – much better results are achieved.)
Madeleine was prescribed the homeopathic preparation of Sepia because her symptoms were similar to those produced by it during its homeopathic drug trials. When prescribing a homeopathic remedy, the potency, size of the dose, and frequency of repetitions must be matched to the patient’s sensitivity so that a healing response is triggered rather than existing symptoms aggravated. About ninety percent of the population are of average sensitivity and so will generally respond well to a wide latitude of potencies, amounts, and frequency of dose repetitions. The remaining ten percent, like Madeleine, can be ultra-sensitive and care needs to be taken when prescribing for them. If given in too large or too frequent a dose, a remedy will create in them the very symptoms it would normally produce in a healthy person. This is called a “homeopathic aggravation” and is exactly what happened to Madeleine. Fortunately, aggravations are usually short-lived, of nuisance value only, and stop when the remedy is stopped.
Madeleine’s reaction to her first dose showed that she would need careful management. Even though it had been modified to cater for her sensitivity, she still had a mild aggravation before improvement began. Nobody could have foreseen however that she would then inadvertently begin dosing herself with the same remedy from a seemingly harmless supplement! Within a short space of time she was having an aggravation. All her symptoms started to return and she felt worse. The dose she was receiving had gone beyond stimulating a healing response and was producing the very symptoms it was capable of treating.
I explained to Madeleine what was happening and advised her to stop taking the supplement. I reassured her that within a few days all her worsening symptoms would resolve and she would again go on to improvement. In fact, she did not have to wait that long. The following afternoon I received a phone call telling me that her sinuses had cleared and she was starting to feel well.
Madeleine made excellent progress after her setback. With infrequent doses of Sepia her menstrual cycle became regular and problem free. The symptoms of abdominal heaviness and coldness completely disappeared and she reported she was nowhere near as grumpy prior to the onset of her periods. In fact, her whole mood generally became lighter and sunnier and she was a lot less anxious. Her energy levels improved and she no longer suffered from cramps in bed at night or lumbar stiffness before her periods. Best of all, with no sinusitis, post-nasal drip, or excessive mucous collecting in her throat, she regained her ability to sing clearly.
Sepia and What it Can Treat
The homeopathic remedy, Sepia, is prepared from the ink of the cuttlefish. It is frequently prescribed for hormonal imbalances, particularly in women. These imbalances may affect libido, menstruation, menopause and maternal impulses and may be triggered or worsened by taking the birth control pill. Young people who respond well to Sepia will often be affectionate, energetic and excitable. With increasing age, however, they can become weary and exhausted. They will feel irritable and resentful about the demands others make on them, especially demands from the family. As a result, they will withdraw, perhaps using work as an escape, and avoid physical contact and affection. Depression may also develop. Some of the physical symptoms that may be experienced by someone in a “Sepia state” are: anaemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, constipation, endometriosis, menopausal flushing, migraines, miscarriages, premenstrual tension, psoriasis, sinusitis, uterine prolapse, and varicose veins.
A Final Word – Buyer Beware
Increasingly, manufacturers with very little knowledge of homeopathy are putting homeopathics into their products on the basis of, “there are no chemicals in homeopathy – you cannot poison anyone”. As a result, remedies are starting to be seen in everything from supplements to toothpaste!
While homeopathy is incredibly safe for babies through to the elderly, one still needs to take into account the “Law of Similars”. A homoeopathic remedy is capable of producing energistically-based symptoms in a person who is unusually sensitive, if the remedy is taken more often or for longer than needed, or if the potency (strength) is not appropriate for what is being treated. These energistic symptoms are called a “homeopathic aggravation” and this is exactly what Madeleine experienced. The good news is that a homeopathic aggravation is not common, is usually of nuisance value only, is completely avoidable, and stops when the remedy is stopped.
Homeopathic products should have clear instructions on what they are for, of when to take them and when to stop. They should not be included with herbs, vitamins or toothpastes where you will be getting unwanted daily dosages. If you are purchasing a product from your health food store or another therapist, check the label and if you have any concerns, refer to a homeopathic practitioner for accurate advice.
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