A Look at Northfield Medicine: Homeopathy—An Rx for Our "Sick Care" System?

Could homeopathy help with health care costs?

There’s a quiet revolution going on in medicine, and southeast Minnesota is at its epicenter. While a national debate rages over health care options and costs, many here are quietly turning to what is often called alternative medicine to supplement, if not supplant, more conventional therapies.          

Partially driven by consumer demand, such venerable medical establishments as the Mayo Clinic have begun incorporating aspects of integrative medicine in their treatments, and spreading the word via their websites and newsletters. Last year the second, updated edition of The Mayo Clinic Book of Alternative Medicine was published. Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, regularly spreads the gospel to his and Oprah Winfrey’s viewers.

What is complementary and alternative, or integrative, medicine?  It includes such modalities as homeopathy, naturopathy, traditional Chinese medicine, herbalism and nutritional-based therapies such as Ayurveda, according to the American National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). It differs from mainstream, American Medical Association-dictated medical practice in that:

• Based on quantum, versus Newtonian physics, it views the body as a dynamic energy system, not as a bio-machine.

• It believes that emotion and spirit can influence illness or health via energetic and neuro-hormonal connections among body, mind and spirit.

• It seeks to re-balance the body to maximize wellness, rather than “fix” illness.

Though it is said that integrative medicine has had only limited clinical study, scientific investigation is beginning to address this gap, and the boundaries between it and more traditional practices is beginning to blur. Seventy-five percent of Americans older than 18 have used some form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).  Medical schools are breaking free of the AMA mold:  60 percent of the nation’s medical schools now include CAM courses in their curriculum.

Northfield is noted as a progressive community, and nowhere is this more noticeable than in the number of holistic practitioners; a local publisher puts out an annual guide to help keep track of the myriad masseurs, chiropractors, Reiki masters and acupuncturists in and around our city limits.

Northfield Patch will present a series of profiles of local integrative health practitioners, explaining what they do and exploring the ways in which Northfield is weaving a new web of holistic health care that is more inclusive, less intrusive—and abundantly available in our backyard.



Could Homeopathy heal our health-care system?

These days, just paying those inflated health-care premiums in enough to make you sick.

What if there was a medical treatment that tailored itself to your specific needs, had no side effects, and could not just quell your symptoms—whether acute, as with a cold, or chronic, like cancer—but improve your overall health at a fraction of the cost of traditional care?

Homeopathic medicine touts itself just as that—and more people are opting for it.

Homeopathy is an alternative medical science based on the concept of our bodies as energy fields, strongly tied to mind and emotions. This energy, also called prana or chi, must be maintained in balance, or disease occurs.

Practitioners stress that it complements rather than replaces traditional, allopathic medicine, which is best for catastrophic injuries or illnesses. Homeopathy treats the whole person, not just his symptoms, and is better at preserving wellness, preventing of illness, and at treating chronic conditions.

“There is much more awareness about health, and our personal responsibility for it,” says Sujata Owens of homeopathy in Northfield, which has been here for 22 years. “Many more are coming to us, and to our website, shopping for answers." 

Seeking an alternative

The revival of interest in homeopathy has come as health-care costs rise and consumers recognize the limitations of drugs and surgery to deal with the epidemic rise of the “Western diseases:” obesity, diabetes, stroke and heart disease. And Western medicine has no help for the constellation of autoimmune ailments—including chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, endometriosis—that has risen along with the level of toxins in our environment.

“My tag-line is that I’m nurturing you to greater health,” says Owens. “It’s a journey into completely understanding a person, taking time to learn what makes this person unique.”

Visits to Vital Force are not your typical 20-minute rush job.

Owens’ clients fill out a 28- page case record that covers a genetic and personal health history, the patient’s body type, food sensitivities, current physical, emotional and mental symptoms—even their dream history.  Patient visits are lengthy and treatments are individualized to each person; different people with the same condition might receive different treatments.

This is because homeopathy operates on a completely different theory of disease. Traditional Western medicine sees sickness as an invasion of physical symptoms. Success in treatment is judged by the abatement of symptoms.

While homeopathy regards these symptoms as important clues to imbalances in the body that cause disease, it understands illness as multidimensional and complex, unique to the individual, and most likely more mental and emotional than physical in origin.

A history of homeopathy

Homeopathy, which was the primary medical modality in the United States until well into the 20th century, was established more than 200 years ago by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who was horrified by medical practices of his time, which were often brutal and more harmful than helpful.     

Hahnemann articulated two main principles:

  • The principle of similars (or “like cures like”) says a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people. Though this principle traces back to Hippocrates, it was further developed by Hahnemann after he repeatedly ingested cinchona bark (a popular treatment for malaria) and found that he developed the symptoms of the disease. He theorized that if a substance could cause disease symptoms in a healthy person, small amounts could cure a sick personal who had similar symptoms. 
  • The principle of dilutions (“law of minimum dose”) states that the lower the dose, the greater its effectiveness. In homeopathy, plant, animal or mineral substances or diluted down in a stepwise fashion and shaken vigorously in water in a process called potentization. This process transmits the energetic healing “information” from the original substance to the final remedy—usually a small sugar pill.  Most homeopathic remedies are so dilute that no molecules of the healing substance remain:  it’s the “healing memory pattern” that stimulates the body’s immune system.

By contrast, allopathic medicine treats a patient’s symptoms with chemical substances that neutralize the symptom. For example, if you have a runny nose, you are given an antihistamine to dry it up. But you still have a cold, and it may take longer to recover, as the drug weakens the body’s own immune system.  

Pracitioners say homeopathy is so useful for self-limiting acute conditions such as allergies, asthmas, digestive problems, ear infections and headaches that patients can learn to treat themselves with a home first-aid kit of standardized remedies.  

But Owens says the majority of her patients come with chronic conditions that traditional medicine has failed to improve.

“With chronic conditions, your best ally is homeopathy—nothing else even comes close,” says Owens. “People come to me totally fed up with the prescription drug route. They’ve been on drugs for years, but their disease has worsened because if symptoms are merely suppressed by medication, they go deeper into the body and mutate to other systems.”

Healing mind, body, spirit

Owens says that most of her clients are already health-wise with respect to lifestyle.   

“By the time they get to me, they have usually already dealt with nutrition and exercise. If they still have food allergies or sensitivities yet undiscovered, I’ll have them make a weekly log of foods to check for these,” she says.

(Diet is particularly important, according to Owens, because certain substances such as nicotine and caffeine can render homeopathic remedies ineffective).

Once all potentially harmful substances are out of the system, clients are ready to move on to improving their spiritual health.

Such practices as meditation and yoga aid in “connecting to the spiritual intelligence that governs health,” says Owens, an experienced yogini and meditator.

Homeopathy has its detractors, given that it’s difficult to get consistent scientific results for a modality that is so individualized in its approach. 

“We don’t even try to explain how it works,” says Owens. “We know it works, and there are double-blind, controlled studies that show empirically that it heals, and that’s the proof we can give you.”

She has scores of satisfied clients in Northfield, and her website is a virtual cornucopia of insights into homeopathy, instructions for using homeopathic remedies, and blogs supportive of a healthy lifestyle.

“If you have been chronically ill and nothing has helped, just give me a try for a year,” she says. “Let’s see if we can get you better naturally.”

dave April 15, 2011 at 12:41 PM
It's pretty disgusting that these people exploit the sick and dying with their outdated and disproven mythical nonsense. "Though it is said that integrative medicine has had only limited clinical study...." Yes that's correct, 'limited study' because any effects are extremely limited too. However it doesn't stop a small army of unqualified and scientifically illiterate hoaxers scamming those who don't know the difference between real medicine and what is effectively witchcraft. If it works then it's called 'medicine'. Otherwise it's an alternative TO medicine.
mary April 15, 2011 at 10:23 PM
Mary I have used Homeopathy for 30 years for everything from allergies and colds to sore muscles. I was very skeptical in the beginning. How could this possibly work at concentrations lower than one part per million?( I am a biochemist by training.) The proof for me came in the form of pain relief. A homeopathic MD recommended Rhus toxicodendron for my arthritis and it worked and still works. Nothing else can give me pain relief in under 5 minutes when my joints hurt and I have tried everything available over the counter. Nothing is as fast or as effective. I have been a fan ever since.
Christy Redd April 15, 2011 at 10:46 PM
I've used homeopathy for more than a dozen years in my treatment of chronic diseases like high blood pressure as well as for acute illnesses like bronchitis and poison ivy. I've also used it to treat injuries causing nerve and tissue damage. One injury involved slicing off part of the pad of my thumb in a kitchen accident. The ER doc told me the pad would die and slough off. I went home and took homeopathic calendula for the skin damage and homeopathic hypericum for the nerve damage. Today I have a completely normal thumb with completely normal feeling. Absolutely nothing died or sloughed off! Homeopathy has been so successful for me that it is my primary form of medicine. It's where I go no matter if the condition is serious or acute. My friends and family have seen what homeopathy has done and does do for me. They tried it and were equally satisfied and told their friends. That's how homeopathy grows in use and reputation. It's also great for the animals. I'm a lay person, but I can treat infected paws, boils, mammary infections and itchy flea bites with complete success and without expensive trips to the vet and without buying or using expensive and not necessarily safe prescription drugs.
laureij1 April 16, 2011 at 01:21 PM
All my family members use Homeopathy as their first line of medical care and that includes the dog. We've had amazing results/cures for high blood pressure, osteo-arthritis, cardiovascular issues, muskuloskeletal injuries, ovarian cysts and acute problems such as flu, colds, and even hangovers! It's inexpensive, gentle and effective. Holistic medicine is REAL medicine that treats the whole person. For us, conventional medicine is the "alternative" in reserve (in the event someone suffered a broken bone and it had to be reset, but you wouldn't go to a family doctor for this anyway). The best website for the science of Homeopathy is extraordinarymedicine.org It also explains why some people have an obsession with posting negative propaganda about Homeopathy that's completely unfactual and unsubstantiated. I'm sure the people of Northfield appreciate Homeopathy as much as we do.
laureij1 April 16, 2011 at 01:35 PM
All the Homeopaths I know have a BSc and a minimum of 4 years of specialized Homeopathic medical training, and all of the prerequisite courses in chemistry, physics, biology and physiology that people in the mainstream take. They also study pharmaceutical drug profiles in order to be able to counteract the damage that drugs and vaccines do to the human body. Quite a number of professional Homeopaths have PhD's, and have been employed as Physicists, Research Scientists, etc. Your rant is a rather typical example of the childish anti-homeopathy propaganda that can be encountered on the web.
James Pannozzi D.O.M., LAc. April 16, 2011 at 06:13 PM
I initially was skeptical of Homeopathy but irrational attacks against it, and misrepresentations of a key experiment by researcher M. Ennis which was supposedly "repeated" by a BBC Horizons documentary convinced me to take a second look. I spent months reviewing Homeopathic literature. This careful review made it obvious that some sort of significant curative effect was in Homeopathy and that it was beyond any "placebo". I later discovered the writings of people such as Dr. Dorothy Shepherd, a conventional doctor who later studied Homeopathy and documented her astonishment as she replaced conventional therapies with Homeopathic remedies in infinitesimal doses - again and again getting superiour results with the Homeopathy until she had completely proven it to herself and then left a series of books behind to document her experiences. And now a word about the radical attacks against Homeopathy, disparagements, denunciations, cries of "charlatanism" or "quackery" coming mainly from those I call SQUACKTICS, that is pseudo-skeptical armchair "scientists" who talk up a storm about "evidence" based medicine and "science" while demonstrating knowledge of neither. The fallacy at the root of their misrepresentations and flawed conclusions can be found in a brilliant article by chemist AND Homeopath Lionel Milgrom which is suggested for all to read - "Beware Scientism's Onward March": http://www.anh-europe.org/news/anh-feature-beware-scientism%E2%80%99s-onward-march
Azna Amira April 17, 2011 at 03:04 PM
Tests designed to measure whether or not symptoms are abated are not really relevant to homeopathy, since it does not work by quelling symptoms. In empirical tests that evaluate whether or not a patient is healed of their ailment, homeopathy is nearly always shown to restore the patient to health. The reason homeopathy got shunted aside as our country's primary health care modality is that too many people just want symptomatic relief, which is easier to make money on. People will pay any amount for pills that make them "feel" better; fewer are willing to take responsibility for their own health by keeping their diet, activity levels and emotions in balance.
John Owens April 18, 2011 at 04:28 AM
Full disclosure: Sujata is my wife. She has treated our family homeopathically for as long as we have been together. I know this much about homeopathy: it often works where traditional medical methods fall short. One time I had sciatica so bad I could not walk. Sujata took my symptoms and came up with some alternative remedies. She started to read the symptoms associated with one remedy, and after she read two lines I said, "Stop! That's it!! She was citing exactly the particular sensations I was having, not just in my leg and back, but my whole body and emotional state. I took the remedy, and in 8 hours I was walking normally. A day later it was as if I had never had sciatica. And it has never returned to me. That was 10 years ago. Homeopathy works.
Curt Benson April 18, 2011 at 01:55 PM
Hey Corey, this isn't journalism, this is an opinion piece. If you want Patch to be taken seriously, you have to do better than this.
Corey Butler Jr. April 18, 2011 at 02:30 PM
Curt, I appreciate your comment. This series (this is the third piece) isn't meant to to be an in depth analysis of medicine or "alternative medicine." These are profiles of local practitioners who offer something that many people aren't necessarily familiar with—we are not advocating their practices, but rather introducing them. The merits of their practices are likely to be debated, as they have and should. We aren't a medical journal. We're a community news website letting people know these practices are happening in their backyard.
Jane Greenwood April 18, 2011 at 03:44 PM
I have used homeopathy extensively for the past 30+ years. At 63 I am in excellent health and take no medications for anything. It also works very well on animals and has cured things traditional medicines have not been able to address. It certainly is NOT "outdated and disproven mythical nonsense". If you don't want to use it, fine, but please respect my choice to keep it as my main source of health care for both myself and my animals.
Curt Benson April 18, 2011 at 04:04 PM
Corey, no one expects you do be a medical journal. But I'm confused about what we're supposed to expect from Patch? What exactly is a "community news website"? Do you or do you not aspire to be doing journalism? This article is under the heading of "news". But this isn't "news". It appears to be a one sided commercial written by a believer. I would be OK with this article if you wouldn't have labeled it "news". Also, identify who the author is and what her credentials are.
Steve April 22, 2011 at 11:11 AM
Dave The third biggest cause of premature death in the USA after cancer and heart disease is iatrogenic illness - caused by what you call 'medicine'. I find that pretty 'disgusting' - and 'medicine's' capacity to' exploit the sick and dying' is vastly in excess of anything CAM might be doing.


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