I scanned the neat rows of vials, filled with little white pills.
‘Homeopathy,’ someone said.
‘Nonsense,’ I thought.
The year was 1983, I was fresh from 5 years at Liverpool University studying to become a vet and had just discovered that the ‘remedies’ a colleague was dispensing to pets for all sorts of injuries and ills, were homeopathic preparations.
It wasn’t that I was averse to the idea of using complementary therapies to treat animals. Quite the opposite in fact. As a student I had seen acupuncture, herbs and a variety of other ‘unorthodox’ treatments yield positive results in the hands of a number of pioneering vets, in animals both large and small. Naturally inquisitive (some might say nosey) I had also conducted a few experiment of my own. One particularly fond memory is of Mum sat stoically on a chair in the sitting room with a dozen or so acupuncture needles in place, while I confirmed whether the electric shocks she described matched the meridians mapped out in text books.
This was different. The complementary therapies I had encountered up until then were based on something ‘solid’. Acupuncture needles stimulating neural pathways. Herbs supplying biologically active agents. Physical manipulations correcting misalignments. The notion that substances diluted in water to the point of extinction and beyond could stimulate healing when given to pets, seemed patently absurd. It contradicted everything school had taught me about the nature of matter, and everything I had learned at university about veterinary medicine. With nothing to convince me otherwise, homeopathy was dismissed.
Snowflakes in Harrogate
A decade or so later, I was attending a British Small Animal Veterinary Association congress in Harrogate, when I found myself at a loose end. About to make an early exit, I happened to glance at the lecture list and saw that a short presentation on homeopathy by Dr David Reilly was about to begin in a room not far away. Intrigued by what a member of the medical profession might have to say on the subject, I made my way over and settled into a chair.
Dr Reilly began by revealing that he had initially set out to disprove homeopathy, but as a result of his experiences had become a firm advocate of this form of medicine.
Next came a video of a Glaswegian man who had suffered terrible cluster headaches for years, which had driven him to the point of suicide. It brought a lump to the throat to hear him describe the relief homeopathic treatment had given him, when all else had failed.
Finally, there was an interesting discussion about snowflakes and the myriad patterns they form. Could this ability of water to form countless, chemically identical but structurally different configurations, enable it to act as medium for transferring information from homeopathically prepared substances to patients?
It was a fascinating presentation, and timely too. I had my own clinic by then and was feeling increasingly frustrated by the number of pets I was seeing that conventional treatment couldn’t help, and so I resolved to put homeopathy to the test.
A Snotty Sausage
A few months later Tina, an adorable little Dachshund, waddled into the clinic with a very snotty nose. X-rays showed the moth-eaten appearance typical of nasal aspergillosis – a nasty fungal infection which destroys the bone in affected nasal chambers and frontal sinuses. Further tests confirmed the diagnosis.
The outlook for Tina was bleak, even with treatment, which involved drilling holes in her skull so that the infected tissues could be irrigated each day with anti-fungal drugs.
Faced with Tina undergoing distressing surgery with no guarantee of success, the owner understandably felt euthanasia was the kindest option.
With nothing to lose, I explained that I had recently begun studying homeopathy at the Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital and that even though the chances of an improvement were slim, I was willing if he was to give homeopathy a try. Luckily we felt the same and so a homeopathic remedy was prescribed.
Over the next month the change in Tina was remarkable. The discharge vanished, her appetite returned and she became her ‘old self’ again. Follow up radiography demonstrated significant bone healing, with no evidence of further damage. Tina went on to live a long and healthy life free of any reoccurrence.
It was impossible after that, for me to deny the ability of homeopathic remedies to stimulate healing.
If further proof was needed however, I didn’t have to wait long…