There are many kinds of diversity we have been attempting to appreciate and honor in recent years. First, we have racial diversity, whose challenges and ramifications we are often painfully aware. Then there is the diversity of lifeforms on our planet, including animals and plants of all types as well as the elemental forces of fire, water, earth and air. Together they create and maintain the tapestry of global life. We also have religious and spiritual diversity, which is exhibited and supported (or not) in a wide variety of ways every place humans dwell. Then there is another kind of diversity that also has its great gifts and some challenges as well: this is therapeutic diversity (and choice).
As the child of a homeopathic doctor who grew up during a time when most people did not think it “cool” or “interesting” to be a homeopath, this is a type of diversity I am very well aware of. My father and mother made a brave choice after dad graduated from Cornell Medical School to pursue a more so-called alternative healing modality for his life work as a physician and researcher.
My parents in 1950s and 1960s Manhattan were friends with other alternative types of healers, some of whom hung out at our house and collaborated with my father. Before I was ten, I had met healers who laid on hands, others who read auras; I had been worked on by Ida P. Rolf herself and had had sessions of cranial osteopathy. In short, it was a childhood full of interesting people and experiences, but also one that could be rather uncomfortable at times, especially with my peers with whom I so wanted to fit in.
Many years later, when I was a mother of my own living far away in Chile, I happened to meet the youngest child of close neighbors in Riverside, Connecticut – where my parents moved when I was six. So unlike my family, this household of five children all excelled in sports and spent most of their free time at the nearby yacht club. When I realized who I was meeting, I told her that we had been neighbors in Riverside. I mentioned two of her older siblings, who had been closer to my age. She stared at me for what seemed like quite a while, apparently not recalling anything about the Stephenson family although you could see our large Victorian house from their property. Then, after a pregnant pause, she said, “Oh yes, you were the witch doctor family.”
Homeopathy is far from “witch doctor medicine”, even if many of us now recognize and acknowledge the powers of so-called ‘witch doctors’ to help heal some maladies. But Homeopathy is quite scientific in its own way. It was founded by a German, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), who was a trained physician disillusioned with such common medical practices of the day as purging, bloodletting, and the use of toxic chemicals. Drawing upon his observation that a South American tree-bark (cinchona) successful in treating malaria-induced fever, would cause similar symptoms as malaria in a healthy person, he developed the concept of “likes curing likes.” This is similar to how vaccinations works.
Homeopathy was widespread in the United States by the late 1800’s and was especially known for its success in treating the many disease epidemics rampant at the time — including scarlet fever, typhoid, cholera and yellow fever. In the early 1900’s, there were 22 homeopathic medical schools, 100 homeopathic hospitals and over 1,000 homeopathic pharmacies. Boston University, Stanford University and New York Medical College all taught homeopathy.
By the 1920’s, homeopathy began to decline in popularity, in part due to by the rise of modern drug companies and also because of pressure from the American Medical Association. When I was growing up, one of the worst words you could say around our dinner table was AMA or American Medical Association. My father often felt as if there was a sort of witch hunt being enacted against practitioners of most therapeutic modalities that were not standard allopathy. We continue to see this today in many ways, including what our health insurance will cover. Every time I choose to go to a homeopath for a consultation, I must pay out of my own pocket all the costs, even if in many countries around the world including many European nations (such as France), Mexico, India and other nations, homeopathy is widely practiced.
Homeopathy is just one of many healing possibilities available to choose from. In this area there are practitioners of acupuncture, ayurvedic medicine, naturopathic, chiropractor, herbalists, massage therapists, and more. I am guessing many of these healing modalities were not available in this region several decades ago. I, for one, consider this burgeoning therapeutic diversity positive for us all, whatever our own therapy choices may be.
Different than many of you, I have had to learn to make peace with allopathy as an adult. As a child, I was only inoculated using homeopathic methods and my mother often warned us of the dangers of pharmaceutical vaccines. She had some reason, because one of our cousins (her niece) Connie experienced such a high fever and adverse reaction to a DPT shot she received as a very young child that it caused her brain to fry, in a manner of speaking. She has been institutionalized ever since. I also met as a teenager a young man about my age in a wheelchair due to polio; he and his family were Christian Scientists and had refused the polio vaccine.
Life is all about trying to make informed choices, knowing that every choice has a risk involved. A few weeks ago, my sister and I had a long, heart to heart regarding the Covid-19 vaccine. We both came to the same conclusion: this is a pandemic and we would get the vaccine. At the same time, I contacted Julian Jonas, my homeopath (who used to write for the Shopper and now lives in New Mexico) and he recommended a homeopathic remedy to take before and after the shot to help mitigate any potential side effects. And, he promised me, “if that remedy does not help and you find you have other side effects from the vaccine that do not go away in a few days, homeopathy can help.”
I took that remedy – Thuja 200 C – before and after my first shot. The second one is scheduled in late May. I feel glad to have gotten the shot, and also glad that homeopathy offers help for the possible adverse reactions should I experience any.
Published in the Monadnock Shopper News, April 28-May 4 2021 edition