Sunday, January 29, 2012

How Does 'Like Cures Like' work with Homeopathy?

Like cures like? How? 

Homeopathy is well known for its cornerstone principle- that like cures like. Homeopaths prescribe on the 'similimum'- that substance which would make a healthy person ill, will help cure one who is sick with those exact symptoms. 

For example: syrup of Ipecac is used to induce vomiting. Homeopathically prepared Ipecac can be curative for those suffering from relentless nausea and vomiting. 

The whole idea of similars was refined and cultivated into an elegant medical modality by Samuel Hahnemann, the father of Homeopathy. Its origins, however, are much older, and not only that, we are surrounded by examples of 'like curing like' in unique and surprising ways. I often find myself looking out for examples in our everyday world that reinforce the use of a similar substance, force, or expression as a means to success, solving a problem, or simply making something happen. I'll share a few here in this post- please comment on your own observations and experiences. I'd love to hear them. 

A Fable of Similars 

windThe Sun and the Wind were in an argument over who was the most powerful. In the heat of the argument, the Wind spied a traveler walking down the road in a coat. Ah ha! he thought. Here is my chance. He challenged the Sun to a duel- the force who could cause the man to remove his coat would be declared the stronger. The Sun readily agreed. 
Eager to prove his might, the Wind began to blow, first with a light breeze and then steadily stronger. The man buttoned his coat and then wrapped it tightly around himself as the Wind whipped up a gale around him. Collar up to his ears, the man sought shelter from the strength of the Wind. Exhausted, the Wind backed off and the Sun took his turn. Steadily, he beamed warm rays on the man who lowered his collar and as the rays of sunlight shone steadier on his shoulders, he unbuttoned his coat. sun
The Sun and the Wind watches beads of sweat break out on the man's brow and in short order, he took off his coat and flung it over his shoulder, shaking his head at the oddity of the weather. 
In Aesop's Fables, this story is meant as a moral tale heralding the strength of gentleness and kindness over force. One could debate that point, but i use it here as an example of Similars. 
Remember that the body is always seeking homeostasis. When temperature is out of balance, our systems kick in to right that balance, cooling when we are too hot, heating up when we're cold. 

Some Similars of Physics...

In September, RadioLab, a public radio production, did a story on Lincoln Beachy, an early pilot from San Francisco. Beachy had no experience as a pilot, but worked as a mechanic at air shows. One day, he got his big break: a star pilot got hurt, and Beachey leaped in to take his place. He shot upwards, 3,000 feet into the air...and his motor failed. He went into a nose-diving spin that no pilot had ever survived. And he did what no pilot had ever done: he turned into the spin, regained control, and landed safe and sound. (

What Beachy did was what the Sun did in the Aesop fable- applied the same force to a problem to fix it. In this case,  instead of trying to get *out* of the spin like most pilots had done, thus plunging to their deaths, Beachy did the Similar. And survived. Not only that he went on to become a flying superstar, inventing aerial feats such as figure 8's and vertical drops. 

In discussing these 'similars' with my husband,  he provided examples from his own experiences snowboarding, surfing, and mountain biking. In a gravity sport where you need to turn and you're heading downhill, one's inclination may be to pull back- lean away from the mountain-  but in fact, this is the wrong approach. Instead, you need to lean into the turn, over your bike and enter the field of gravity in order to maintain control.
 This is not only an beautiful example of similars, but also can be applied to principled of dosing. If you take the actual substance (lean too far in) you'll crash or get out of control. Lean back (apply the opposite) you will find yourself spinning out. Maybe you won't crash, but you won't be succeeding at your sport either. By applying just the right amount of the similar- lean into gravity- you can hit the sweet spot. 

Why Vaccines are Not Similars

Inevitably when people hear about the idea of like curing like, they think, 'like vaccines, right?' But in fact the action of vaccines is nothing like that of homeopathic remedies and provides an excellent frame for understanding how they *do* work. 

The aim of vaccines is that by introducing a killed virus of an infectious agent into the body's immune system, the immune system will create antibodies that will then 'remember' the virus, should one come in contact with the same wild virus out in the world. The antibodies will already be made and the individual will not contract the disease because the body is already prepared to fight it off. 

Does this work? Sure, it does. Not 100% of the time and not in such a pure, simplistic way. For one thing, you are not sick when you get a vaccine- which is not a virus from one disease, but typically 2-4 different strains, mixed with a cocktail of biological and chemical agents that would never come with inhaling or ingesting the wild virus. Bypassing all of the body's preliminary defense mechanisms (nose, mouth, skin, etc...), a disease state is inflicted on the system. The body needs to mount a defense to throw that disease off. Maybe you will encounter that disease again, maybe not. Maybe it will protect you, maybe not. The bottom line is: the individual did not have meningitis, or the flu, or polio, or measles, etc... when a vaccine was given for that condition. 

(this is a very deep and broad topic that i am going to keep fairly superficial to keep with why vaccines are not 'like curing like'.) 

A homeopathic medicine, on the other hand, is only given when someone is demonstrating symptoms that call for that specific remedy. A child shows symptoms of chicken pox: rhus tox, or antimonium tartaricum, or pulsatilla or whatever remedy matches that child's symptoms will be given. The remedy matches the body's own defensive actions, ie; itchy blisters, a cough, a fever, etc...  and assists the vital force in throwing off the disease. It does not take the disease away. It does not give your body a disease it did not already have. It simply energizes and aligns your own vital force so that it can do the job it is already doing: healing. When one has pulled through the illness, true antibodies for a real virus, conferring life-long immunity have been established. The same cannot be said for vaccines. 

Like curing like is not a Homeopathy-specific idea. It has ancient roots, and if we open our eyes and awareness, the examples are all around us. 

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