Homeopathy: The Green Revolution's Quiet Healthcare Hero

Today's newspaper headline declares health care is in another crisis. Hospital administrators claim they suffer a shortage of primary care physicians and nurses, and are under the gun to install the latest technology to go paperless. Health insurance prices are skyrocketing while the government debates whether or not to tax our health care benefits. Insurance companies plague everyone with forms and referrals and refusals. Is there no such thing as affordable health care anymore? Why does it seem that the more we pay the less insurance companies will cover? For now, we appear to be stuck with themost expensive health care system in the world that's not working.

Other countries have smart cards to navigate their health care systems at much less cost, however we still fare much better when compared to government-run systems in those countries. We have little wait time for surgeries, fewer waiting lists, better technology and equipment and more hospitals. Americans are used to receiving the kind of health care most other countries can only dream about. These countries, however, have smaller populations and their governments are better able to manage the services and keep up with the demands of changing technology. I am not so sure there is any easy solution to a health care systems designed for a larger society that is not homogenous.

I have been an office worker in the health care field for eons, and I remember when health care did work well. I miss those days as much as anyone. Back in the "Stone Age," patients actually received a half-hour during an exam as compared to today's 7-1/2 minutes. Seeing your doctor today is more a race against time. Patients are often advised to write down their questions before coming to see the doctor so they can squeeze them in during the visit as best they can. Once upon a time, you could ask your doctor anything and there was a lively conversation, not the tight-lipped delivery of dispensing as little information as possible that predominates today. And your physician did not have to figure out what your insurance would or would not pay for, nor did he have to fill out no-two-alike incomprehensible insurance documents. Hospitals sent you itemized bills that ordinary people could understand.

Our body knows how to heal itself, what works and what does not. What did people do before there were hospitals, clinics and pharmacies on every street corner and before the FDA became so timid? People took care of themselves because they had to. There was a time when people did not run to their nearest hospital except for an emergency. When travel grew easier with the automobile, people began flocking to doctors and hospitals. Emergency rooms today are glutted with people who are not really in any kind of life or death distress.

My mother did not take me to the hospital when we moved into the country and I encountered my first case of poison ivy. Instead, I painted myself pink with Calamine lotion for a good part of the summer while suffering in silence. Since then, science has discovered that the poison does not spread, but is in fact an invisible oily residue left on the skin, and if you remove the residue promptly you avoid the allergic reaction. Of course, when I was a kid, all we had was Calamine and biting our nails so that we would not scratch and "spread" the rash. But by the next summer, I had learned to identify the shiny plant with three notched leaves and even submitted a science project that year to help other kids identify the dreaded foliage lurking in their backyards.

In today's technology-based world, we all need to be more attuned to what is in our environment. Call it awareness or consciousness or whatever, but we cannot exist in a bubble world any longer. Plants and animals and the balance of all things within the environment matter. We have no other place to go, no other planet to live on. And we need to know what poison ivy looks like because itching all summer really is a form of torture!

Hospitals rightly have their place if you break your bones, have a heart attack or get stung by a bee and can't breathe and we are grateful that the medical establishment is there for us when needed. On the other hand, there are plenty of minor inconveniences and chronic conditions that might be treated better if we were more educated. Part of the health care solution may be to rediscover some of the medicines that we have lost, such as homeopathy.

Homeopathy, developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), existed before hospitals and pharmaceuticals became so popular. At one time there were over 250 homeopathic medical schools, hospitals and clinics in the U.S. until they were systematically removed from our healthcare system by more powerful special interests.

Homeopathic remedies (in the form of little pellets or liquids) are very diluted natural substances and plants that work on the principle that "like cures like" (the Law of Similars). This is the same way vaccines work. Vaccines inject a watered down version of the flu virus into the body to signal the immune systems to get to work, and then when the big flu season starts, the body has already developed immunity. In effect, we take in a miniscule amount of toxic substance to counter a potential disease.

However, unlike vaccines, homeopathic remedies are very individual and do not assume "one size fits all." While certified practitioners are available for consultation, I learned homeopathy by studying it myself through book research and my own trial and error. Often a book will contain a questionnaire that will try to elicit exactly the right remedy, but you will have to judge for yourself how well the remedy works. It is safe to take one dose of a homeopathic remedy and see how your body responds. If after the first dose you do not feel anything at all, it could be the wrong remedy. Try something else.

There are no ill side effects when following the prescribed dosages, and the remedies are not expensive and easily available. Since 1938, all homeopathic remedies have been regulated and approved by the FDA in the same manner as non-prescription, over-the-counter drugs, which means they can be purchased without a physician's prescription. As with most medicines, the sooner you notice something amiss in your body and begin treatment, the better they will work.

Frankly, it is time for us to take our power back from physicians, specialists, insurance and pharmaceutical companies. We cannot just sit back and hope that they will save us from ourselves through hair transplants, Botox and extreme makeovers. We have to maintain our confidence, resourcefulness and autonomy in the midst of the uncertainty created by the media propaganda that pharmaceuticals will heal us and set us free.

There is a Green Revolution unfolding, propelling us towards creativity and finding solutions where there seem to be none, literally reinventing ourselves. Our new frontier is not Alaska or Australia or Antarctica. The new frontier is ourselves and how we look at our world: united, rather than conquered and divided. It is my hope that this Green Revolution will bring back homeopathy so that young people become familiar with common remedies, and then become parents who can treat their own children, giving us more than one way to heal ourselves and our planet.

Caroline NuStar is a freelance writer in Massachusetts.