The Current Debate
There’s much debate in veterinary circles about whether homoeopathy actually works and whether homoeopathy should even be used on animals. In humans the placebo effect has been suggested as a reason why homoeopathy ‘works’, but with animals there is surely no such effect other than perhaps their owners altered behaviour and observations. The Faculty of Homoeopathy is the best place to check out the latest research.
The use of herbs also has it’s detractors, despite the fact that a huge percentage of over the counter and prescription drugs and medications were originally extracted from plants. So are all the herbal, homoeopathic and other pills and potions such as food supplements major industries based on a myth and placebo effect?
The Placebo Effect
When our children fall and graze their knee, we ‘kiss it better’. Is there some magical ingredient in parental saliva that acts as an analgesic? Does the child’s body produce endorphins in response to the kiss on the knee? Is it simply the power of distraction? What matters is that it works.
When an animal or person gets better because they’ve been given a herbal or homoeopathic remedy, does it matter if it is a placebo, a distraction or they’d have got better anyway? Humm, perhaps a bit of a grey area because they might have wasted money on something unneccessary. If they’ve self-treated at the expense of foregoing professional medical consultation and advice and that’s delayed important professional treatment then that is potentially even life threatening.
Used sensibly however, in the right place, at the right time, in the right way, natural remedies, be they those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, or the subtle remedies such as homoeopathy or flower remedies, do have a supportive role to play. Never more so than in the care of small herbivorous pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and degus who we’ve removed from their natural environment and fed a largely artificial diet to.
For these animals, the plants which form a natural part of their diet such as grass and wild plants can help keep them in good health. Should they stray from the path of good health, then other herbs, herbs which they would eat in the wild only when they felt unwell, should be brought into play.
Homoeopathy is often used by veterinary homoeopaths for chronic conditions which have not responded to conventional veterinary treatment.
As for homoeopathy, as in all things I would recommend personal experience and discretion. I’ve used it and seen it work. I don’t know how it works, or even if it always works. There was a time when it was a heresy to believe that the World was round rather than flat, or that the Earth moved around the Sun rather than the other way round. So as long as Rule 1 is “First, do no harm.”, Rule 2 is “Try it on yourself first!”, and Rule 3 is “Use your common sense and discretion.” then the information on this site might be of interest.
The ‘father’ of homoeopathic medicine, Samuel Hahnemann, working in the late 18th century, became disillusioned with conventional (allopathic) medicine. He felt that many of the ‘treatments’ merely suppressed the symptoms which would return with a vengeance when the treatment ceased. Homoeopathic treatment is based on very small amounts of substances serially diluted in water which are then used to treat the very symptoms which large amounts of that same substance would cause. This is often referred to as ‘like cures like’.
Most readily available homoeopathic remedies are in potencies of 6c, 12c or 30c. The ‘c’ stands for centesimal dilution. To make 6c potency, the mother tincture, of say Chamomile, is added to purified water to create a 1:100 solution and subjected to succussion (rigorous shaking) designed to release the curative properties of the substance. This 1c solution is then added to water, again in a ration of 1:100 and subjected to succussion to create a 2c solution and so on. The more dilute a homoeopathic substance is, the more potent it is considered to be.
As a result of this dilution process the homoeopathic formula has no material substance from the original mother tincture present. How then does it work if nothing’s there? The truth is that even the homoeopaths don’t really know for sure but it is believed by other natural scientists, like Schauberger, that water has a memory of the substances it has contained.
We are fortunate in the UK to have, and to have had, a number of well known homoeopathic vets practicing, many of whom have written books on the subject. Whatever we don’t know about how homoeopathy works, we certainly do know that, human nature being what it is, veterinary surgeons would not survive in a homoeopathic practice if what they were doing didn’t work!