Homeopathy in general practice
As a GP who uses homeopathy in clinical practice I’m often asked when and for what do I prescribe homeopathic treatment? Homeopathy can be helpful for pretty much any condition, whether as the main treatment, as a complement to a conventional treatment to speed up the healing process, or to lessen the side-effects of a pharmacological medication. It can be helpful in the treatment of emotional problems, physical problems and for multi-morbidity patients. I find it an invaluable tool in my GP’s toolbox and regularly see the benefits of homeopathy in the patients I treat.
Before prescribing a homeopathic medicine, I first ensure the patient does not need a referral to a specialist or emergency intervention. Then l ask myself a number of key questions. Would the patient be better off using conventional treatment or would it potentially be more harmful? Is the patient amenable to trying homeopathy? And does a remedy present itself? Only if the patient is presenting with symptoms that immediately trigger a picture of a remedy I know well and they are happy to try homeopathy will I prescribe it.
Common acute conditions
There are many conditions for which I have found homeopathy to be effective. Firstly, I use homeopathy to treat those common acute conditions that GPs encounter on an almost daily basis. Most patients presenting with coughs, colds and stomach upsets require no conventional treatment as their symptoms will improve over a short period of time.
There are, however, a multitude of symptomatic treatments available to suppress symptoms, both on prescription and over-the-counter. Most symptoms experienced by patients in this context result from the body’s attempt to eliminate the infection. Our immune systems have spent thousands of years refining this response; therefore it seems counter-intuitive to suppress it.
For these types of acute conditions homeopathy can work with the body to support it. For instance, homeopathic Arsenicum album (arsenic) is a classic remedy for diarrhoea and vomiting that can be taken alongside essential oral rehydration. And in influenza I’ve found Eupatorium perfoliatum (ague or feverwort) to be very helpful if the patient is suffering with bony pain.
Maternity care I also regularly use homeopathy for a range of pre- and post-natal conditions. I’m finding there are growing numbers of expectant and new mothers preferring to avoid conventional medicines where possible. Unless it is clinically imperative for a pharmacological intervention, I will always consider homeopathy first and have successfully prescribed the homeopathic remedy Nux vomica (strychnine) for women suffering from morning sickness. Problems associated with breastfeeding such as mastitis have also responded well to the classic remedies Belladonna (deadly nightshade) and Phytolacca (pokeweed), while I have found Urtica urens (dog nettle) effective in switching off the milk supply to prevent engorgement when the mother stops breastfeeding.
Another group of patients for which homeopathy can be helpful is those who frequently appear in GPs’ surgeries presenting with a whole host of “functional disorders”. Despite undergoing the full gamut of blood and hospital tests, no abnormality in the body is found. Nevertheless, these “heart sink” patients are clearly suffering from pain and discomfort, which is blighting their lives. This is understandably frustrating for them, for they know full well something is awry but there is no medical evidence for this.
Sometimes conventional medicines can be useful, but once again they are symptomatic treatments which may also produce unpleasant side-effects, resulting in the patient feeling even worse. Homeopathy affords me another approach in trying to help these patients. It doesn’t work for them all, but I’m frequently surprised at how many it does help.
The beauty of homeopathy is that it combines mental and emotional symptoms with physical symptoms. When the right remedy is found it appears to stimulate the body to recognise how it is being dysfunctional and corrects this, with no suppression, just a correction of the underlying disturbance. Thus homeopathy not only eliminates unwanted symptoms, it dramatically improves a patient’s overall well-being.
At a time when the medical profession is being encouraged to prescribe fewer drugs, I find homeopathy can help me fulfil this edict, as it enables me to reduce the number of painkillers and other drugs I’m prescribing. This is particularly true for older multi-morbidity, polypharmacy patients who are often taking huge amounts of medication.
Contrary to what most homeopaths will tell you, I believe homeopathic treatment does have side-effects – positive side-effects! It fosters an enhanced doctor patient relationship. The process of eliciting the relevant information to select a remedy enables me to better understand the patient’s condition and helps me to get to know them better. And the patient, seeing that the doctor is interested in the idiosyncrasies and detail of their disease, finds themselves heard and understood. In short, since training in homeopathy I enjoy my job as a GP and my relationship with patients so much more.
Dr Gabriella Day BSc, MBBS, MRCP, DCH, MRCGP, MFHom