Anyone who has taken a painkiller certainly knows that there is a big difference between temporary relief and real healing. Even though a person who takes a painkiller may not consciously feel pain, it is widely understood that this relief does not necessarily mean that a "cure" or a “healing” has occurred.
And yet, it is surprising how many people think that various conventional drugs have performed some type of miracle just because they provided short-term relief of pain or discomfort. Little do many people know that when a drug “works,” this may be the “bad news.” It may be that the drug works by suppressing the disease, thereby creating a much more serious physical and/or mental disease.
Although antibiotics and select other drugs may be an exception to this general observation, getting rid of an infection will not influence the immune factors that led the person to be susceptible to infection in the first place, and in fact, antibiotics are known to disrupt one’s inner ecology, disturb assimilation of nutrients, and even tend to make the person more susceptible to new infection (a future blog will deal more directly with this issue).
Painkillers, on the other hand, may provide great reduction in pain, but this may result in the person continuing to walk on that injured ankle and cause increased injury. The person with arthritis, as another example, may continually take one or more painkilling drugs that provide some relief but these drugs also create their own tolerance, addiction, or pathology, usually leading to much more serious health problems.
A smart person might consider taking a conventional drug that provides temporary blessed relief while concurrently seeking some more deep treatment that nourishes, nurtures, or augments the body’s own defenses. A problem, however, is created when a sick person frequently relies upon a drug to provide temporary relief and does not seek a real, more profound healing.
Differentiating Real Healing from Suppression of Disease
When a person experiences relief from any treatment, conventional or alternative, one should not necessarily assume that a real healing has occurred. While it is possible that the person may really have been healed, it may also mean:
- the symptoms went away on their own, and the treatment had nothing to do with it.
- the treatment palliated the symptoms, providing short-term relief but resulted in the recurrence of symptoms in the near future.
- the treatment “worked” by suppressed the person’s symptoms or his/her own immune and defense system, thereby pushing the disease deeper into body. Although suppression of symptoms may cause them to disappear, they tend to be replaced, sooner or later, with more serious, deeper symptoms that are more discomforting and potentially dangerous.
Homeopaths and naturopaths both assert that there is a big difference between real healing, palliation of symptoms, and suppression of disease, even though each of these results may initially seem to be the same.
What people don’t usually understand is that there may be a danger in the frequent or recurrent application of treatments that suppress symptoms. The concept of suppressing symptoms is well accepted and understood in psychology. It is commonly observed when a person suppresses his or her emotions, such actions tend to push the emotional turmoil deeper, leading the person to explode at some future time, often at people who are not directly related to the origin of the person's problem.
While people may be familiar with the problems associated with the suppression of emotions, people are generally not familiar with the possibility that many conventional medical treatments can suppress their physical symptoms, driving the disease deeper into the person. And yet, suppression of disease is so commonplace in today’s medical treatment that it is virtually ignored.
Doctors and drug companies tend to minimize the real problems of suppressing the disease process by referring to the “side effects” of a drug. And yet, pharmacologists commonly note that the determining a drug’s “effects” and its “side effects” are completely arbitrary. They are both the direct effect of the drug upon the human body.
Ironically, many conventional drugs are touted specifically for their ability to “suppress” symptoms…or even suppress the body’s own immune system. Ultimately, pushing the disease deeper into the person is the result of using pharmacological agents that are explicitly prescribed for their ability to control or inhibit symptoms that are the natural defensive functions of the body. Suppression of disease may provide the semblance of benefit (or at least short-term benefit), but ultimately may make the person much sicker. Such suppression of the disease process may lead to increased chronic disease, immune dysfunction, and mental illness, all of which we are seeing together in epidemic proportions.
Understanding the Healing Process from a Whole Systems Perspective
The father of American homeopathy was a German physician named Constantine Hering, MD (1800-1880). Hering was a respected conventional physician who was hired by a publisher to write a book critical of homeopathy, and in his research on the topic, he became convinced of its efficacy. After many years of practicing homeopathy, he observed that people go through a specific healing process after being given the correct homeopathic medicine. He developed guidelines in which to determine when a real healing is taking place. These guidelines have been called "Hering's laws of cure," but some homeopaths prefer to call them “Hering's guidelines of cure.”
To understand these guidelines, it is first useful to know that homeopaths carefully evaluate the evolution of a person's physical, emotional, and mental/spiritual symptoms. Homeopaths consider mental/spiritual symptoms to be deepest to the core of a person's being for they represent the will, the ego, the sense of security that the person feels, and the person's overall state of consciousness. Homeopaths today wonder if the immune system’s important ability to identify “self” from “non-self” is dynamically connected to a person’s mental/spiritual state of health, thereby linking mind and body health. The emotional symptoms are external to the mental/spiritual level of the person because imbalances in the deeper level will create increased propensities to various fears, angers, depressive states, and other emotions. The physical symptoms are the most outer manifestation of the person, though every level can and will influence the other.
Also, each level has certain symptoms that have more or less influence on a person's overall health. For instance, a person's asthma will be deeper than his or her skin rash, a person's fear of death will be deeper than his or her irritability, and a person's loss of self esteem will be deeper than a subtle reduction in memory. Likewise, when comparing symptoms on different levels, a person's heart disease will more profoundly affect his or her health than a difficulty in concentration experienced on the mental/spiritual level.
In light of these levels of the human being and the degrees of intensity to which a symptom impairs a person's ability to live, Hering found that healing progresses:
· From within to without (from the deepest part of our being to the most external);
· From the most recent disease back in time to previous ones (a reversion of the disease process);
· From the top of the body to the bottom of the body.
Ultimately, basic concepts of survival and evolution are at the heart of this understanding of the defenses of the body. The human body can and will defend its most vital functions first before defending its more superficial functions.
Homeopaths observe that a truly effective therapy sometimes elicits a temporary exacerbation of certain symptoms, usually in the superficial ones or sometimes ones that the person had many years previously. Homeopaths assert that a true healing is taking place when a person's present symptoms are more superficial than previous ones. One of the reasons that homeopaths and their patients have come to believe that homeopathic medicines are not simply placeboes is their observations that some symptoms tend to increase in the process of a curative response (healing from within to without…and the above other guidelines).
This “externalization” of symptoms is commonly observed by homeopaths who witness that approximately 20-30 percent of their patients with a chronic illness tend to experience skin symptoms, nasal or bronchial discharges, diarrhea, early menstruation with clots, profuse perspiration, or some other externalization of the disease process after an effective homeopathic treatment is provided.
On the other hand, if and when a person takes a conventional drug and his or her symptoms disappear but new ones that are more serious develop, this result suggests that the treatment has suppressed the person's condition and has made them worse. Unknown to most physicians and patients, people undergoing conventional medical treatment are commonly having their disease suppressed. Homeopaths assert that one of the reasons that there is increased mental disease and increased chronic disease at earlier and earlier ages is because of effective suppression of the disease process by conventional medical treatment.
Distinct from methods that suppress disease are those that help disease express and externalize itself. Homeopathy's use of the principle of similars (using medicines bases on their ability to CAUSE the similar symptoms that the sick person is experiencing) is one important safeguard against disease suppression because it mimics the wisdom of the body rather than suppresses its symptoms.
I like to call homeopathy a type of “medical biomimicry” because a homeopathic medicine is chosen for its ability to mimic the symptoms that the sick person is experiencing. Because there is a certain wisdom to the bodymind, mimicking this wisdom is a good way to elicit a real healing.
Dana Ullman, MPH, is America's leading spokesperson for homeopathy and is the founder of www.homeopathic.com . He is the author of 10 books, including his bestseller, Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. His most recent book is, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. Dana lives, practices, and writes from Berkeley, California.