Thursday, April 30, 2015

Easy Homemade Sunscreen, Mosquito Spray, and Arnica Lotion

With hot weather arriving here, I thought I'd share some of my favorite homemade skincare products. I blogged previously about my Top 10 Storebought Body and Hair Care Products, and now I am excited to share some of my favorite homemade products. I love using homemade skin products as they are healthier than most of the storebought products, and I can customize them to fit my family's needs. 


On a daily basis, I don't use any sunscreen at all, but on days when I will be outside for extended periods of time I find that I am likely to burn without sunscreen.  We have a high UV factor here in the dry desert with its many sunny days, especially at our altitude. I have always abhorred store-bought sunscreens: they were too heavy, some were greasy, and they often led to breakouts on my face.  About a year ago I decided to try making my own sunscreen after reading this Natural Homemade Sunscreen post.

I opted to try the "Even Faster Way to Make Sunscreen" from that post, and have been very happy with the results.  My own homemade sunscreen is made by combining the following:
  • Ingredients:
  • Instructions:
    • Remove a small amount of lotion from the bottle so there is space for the added zinc oxide powder.
    • Using a funnel, very carefully pour the zinc oxide into the lotion bottle. Beware that the zinc is a very fine powder, so you may choose to wear respiratory protection during this step.  
    • Put the lid back on the bottle and shake well to combine.
    • Shake well before each use. Apply the sunscreen and rub it in to reduce any whitening effect from the zinc. Re-application may be necessary if there is heavy perspiration.
I don't know the equivalent SPF of this homemade sunscreen, but I do know that this keeps me from getting sunburned when I am outside for several hours. This sunscreen is not waterproof, so I will stick with my Badger Sunscreen for those times when I will be perspiring greatly or swimming outdoors.

Arnica Lotion

I've blogged previously about the many wonderful uses of homeopathic Arnica in treating soft tissue injuries such as bumps and bruises, sprains and strains. For particularly strong injuries we do take Arnica pellets internally, but for very minor injuries I prefer to use Arnica lotion externally.

Because I was dissatisfied with the inactive ingredients in storebought Arnica lotions, last year I decided to make my own as follows:
  • Ingredients:
  • Instructions:
    • Remove a small amount of lotion from the bottle so there is space for the added Arnica liquid.
    • Pour the Arnica liquid into the lotion bottle.
    • Put the lid on the bottle and shake well to combine.
    • Apply lotion as needed for bumps, bruises, or sore muscles. (NOTE: Arnica should NOT be applied externally to broken or scraped skin.  Calendula salve is better to use in those instances, and can be used alongside Arnica taken internally for any shock or pain with the injury.)

Mosquito Spray

Here in the desert, the mosquitoes arrive with our yearly monsoon season in July. I've always been one of those people who is highly attractive to mosquitoes, and I can be literally covered in mosquito bites in just a short time outside.  Sadly, I seem to have passed this trait on to my children as well.

For several years, we used natural mosquito-repelling bracelets, and we did have some success with those (especially if we used multiple bracelets per person). However, the smell of those bracelets is so very strong and even leaves a taste in my mouth, so so I was still open to finding a better solution.

Thankfully, last year my sister-in-law passed on a recipe for homemade mosquito spray that is made with essential oils.   My family used this spray last year and found it to work very well so long as it is applied often.  It smells heavenly, so it is no chore to spritz myself and my children with it every 30-60 minutes when we are outside during mosquito season.

(This recipe is re-printed with permission from Camp Wander.) 

What are your favorite sunscreen and mosquito-repellent products?

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Home Birth is Safe and Healthy

In planning to have a home birth for each of my children, the response I typically encountered from others was something along the lines of “what if something goes wrong?” or “you are really brave”. These responses underscore the fact that most people in our society have no idea that home birth is a safe option, and they certainly don’t think labor is something we are designed to handle naturally, without interventions or drugs. As an avid researcher of so many decisions in my life, it was surprising that people would think I was somehow being cavalier by deciding to have a baby at home, as if I was potentially sacrificing the safety and health of my unborn child.

In fact, home birth is as safe (if not safer) than hospital birth for low-risk women. A recent study of nearly 13,000 births was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal [1]. There were three groups of women in this study: those planning home births with a registered midwife, those planning hospital births with a registered midwife, and those planning hospital births with a physician. Both groups of women that were attended by a registered midwife were attended by the same group of midwives; additionally, all of these women met the eligibility requirements for home birth, which means that women in both of these groups did not have any preexisting disease, significant complications of pregnancy (such as hypertension and gestational diabetes), or multiple fetuses, among other criterion.

The study showed that rates of perinatal death (i.e. death during the last weeks of pregnancy and up to four weeks following birth) were slightly lower in the planned home birth group (0.35 deaths per 1000 births) than in both of the groups of women planning to give birth in the hospital (0.57 deaths per 1000 births in a hospital attended by a midwife and 0.64 deaths per 1000 births in a hospital attended by a physician). This means that there were fewer deaths of mothers and babies in the planned home birth group than in both of the hospital birth groups.

All obstetrical interventions, such as episiotomy, electronic fetal monitoring and assisted vaginal delivery, pose some risk to the mother and/or baby. The same study [1] showed that “women who planned a home birth were significantly less likely to experience any of the obstetric interventions [that were] assessed, including electronic fetal monitoring, augmentation of labour, assisted vaginal delivery, cesarean delivery and episiotomy.” For instance, 3% of mothers in the planned home birth group received an episiotomy, while the women who planned hospital births with midwives and doctors had episiotomy rates of 7% and 17% respectively. 24% of women who planned homebirths had some augmentation of labor (such as rupture of membranes or oxytocin), while the women who planned hospital births with midwives and doctors had labor augmentation rates of 40% and 50% respectively.

In the same study [1], women who planned to birth at home were also much less likely to have adverse maternal outcomes, such as 3rd- or 4th –degree perineal tears or postpartum hemorrhage. Additionally, newborns in the home birth group were less likely to have birth trauma, require resuscitation at birth, or have meconium aspiration.

All of these trends make it clear that mothers and babies in the home birth group were safer and healthier than those that planned births in a hospital.

This article is part of a series on home birth. For more about home birth, check out these articles:
Why home birth?
Natural birth is optimal and empowering
Home birth allows mothers the freedom to move
Home birth facilitates bonding and breastfeeding
Home birth works cooperatively with the Sphincter Law 
Home birth is great for siblings 

Are these home birth statistics surprising to you?  How was your birth experience?

[1] “Outcomes of planned home birth with registered midwife versus planned hospital birth with midwife or physician”, Patricia A. Janssen PhD, Lee Saxell MA, Lesley A. Page PhD, Michael C. Klein MD, Robert M. Liston MD, Shoo K. Lee MBBS PhD, Canadian Medical Association Journal, 15 September 2009, Volume 181, Issue 6-7.

Friday, April 3, 2015

New Traditions : How We Celebrate Birthdays

Back when we had only one child, we had the typical yearly birthday parties with lots of presents, food, and friends.  While this was enjoyable in some ways, once we had a second child I felt like the work that went into birthday parties was overly stressful.  Since our two children have birthdays just one month apart beginning shortly after the winter holidays (in February and March), followed shortly by my husband's birthday in April, the birthday festivities just felt like too much -  too many presents following so closely behind Christmas, too many festivities in too short of a period, and too many times that I felt burned out by it all. 

Rather than continue the cycle, a few years ago we decided to do something different. Instead of  having birthday parties for the children year-after-year, we decided to create our own birthday traditions. And now that we are three years into our new family birthday traditions, we are loving the simplicity and family closeness that they bring.

Birthday Family Trips

For their birthdays, each of our children selects a fun activity for our family-of-four that doesn't require driving very far. These birthday family trips give us a chance to spend time together in different ways, and they eliminate the stress of hosting birthday parties. Both of our children have thoroughly embraced the opportunity to choose these family outings. We schedule birthday family trips on weekend days so we can all participate. 

Examples of some of our recent birthday family trips are: 
  • For her 7th birthday, our daughter chose to visit Rockhound State Park (just over an hour away).
  • For her recent 8th birthday, our daughter chose the local Farm and Ranch Museum.
  • For his 4th birthday, our son chose to go to the zoo and ride the toy train in Alamogordo, New Mexico (about an hour away).
  • For his recent 5th birthday, our son chose to go to the Space Museum and ride the toy train in Alamogordo.
We have intentionally kept these family outings simple. We do not invite anyone outside of our household, and that allows our trips to be relaxed so that we can leave whenever we are ready instead of trying to keep to a specific time-schedule. We also typically enjoy a restaurant lunch as part of each birthday trip, so there is no stress over preparing or transporting food.

Minimal Presents

My husband and I do not buy the children gifts for their birthdays; instead, our family outing becomes their present. We do look for small, unique toys for the children during our family outings, such as the few colored rocks and marbles that caught their eyes at the Farm and Ranch Museum during our daughter's birthday trip. But we have intentionally shifted the focus of birthdays away from presents and onto creating family memories.

Of course, we don't deny the grandparents their rights to give the children birthday presents, but by eliminating the birthday parties we have much-reduced the volume of toys flowing into the house. Given the close proximity of their birthdays to Christmas, and the fact that our children tend to be happier with less toys (and have more strife when they have more toys), having less birthday presents is a very good thing.

Simple, Special Birthdays

In addition to the family outings on the weekend, on my children's actual birthdays I do some simple things to make the day special:
  • I schedule a day-off from my usual homeopathic appointments so that I can spend more time with the children. 
  • The birthday-child chooses their favorite school activities and games to play in the mornings during our usual school time. (Since we switched to Leadership Education, my kids LOVE school, so they are excited about this aspect of their birthdays.)
  • The birthday-child gets a day off from the usual daily chores (such as washing breakfast dishes, putting away laundry, taking care of chickens, etc).
  • The children and I go on a small outing together, chosen by the birthday-child, such as a trip to the park or museum. 
  • The birthday-child's favorite dinner is served that evening, as well as a dessert of their choice (with birthday candles of course). Grandma is invited to join us for the evening as well.
By breaking away from the traditional birthday parties, our family's new traditions allow us to spend time together, make fond memories, and enjoy each birthday.

Do you have any special birthday traditions?  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Natural Menstrual Alternatives

Why avoid conventional tampons and pads?

Disposable tampons and pads can contain chemicals, such as dioxins and furans, that may lead to ill health.  According to Katie Singer's fabulous The Garden of Fertility book,
 Most tampons are made from rayon (for absorbency) and cotton; most are bleached.  Dioxin, a chemical produced in the bleaching process, can be toxic to the immune and reproductive systems.  Dioxin is potentially cancer-causing, and it's been linked to endometriosis... there is no acceptable level of exposure to dioxin, given that exposure to it is cumulative, and the chemical disintegrates slowly.  The real danger with dioxin comes from repeated contact.
In a lifetime, a woman may use 8,000 tampons. 
Because it's very absorbent, rayon contributes to the danger of a woman being exposed to dioxin through tampon use; when rayon fibers remain in the vagina after the menstrual period (as they commonly do), so, too, does dioxin.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council,
Dioxins and furans are among the most hazardous chemicals known - extremely tiny doses have been shown to cause negative health effects. These chemicals are listed by several governmental agencies as known causes of cancer in humans. Indeed, studies have linked dioxins and furans to many types of cancer, as well as to reproductive problems, abnormalities in fetal development, immune alterations, and disruption of hormones. Because dioxins and furans are attracted to fat and are resistant to metabolism, they are notorious for accumulating in the animals humans eat, and by that route accumulating in humans. Within the human body, the highest levels of these chemicals are in fat and breast milk.

Pros and Cons of Natural Menstrual Options

In the 9 years since I learned about the dangers in conventional tampons and pads, I've tried out many natural menstrual alternatives.  They all have their advantages and disadvantages. Currently, I use sea sponges.   

Unbleached cotton tampons
My experience
I initially switched to using Natracare unbleached cotton tampons without applicators.  I used these for about 8 months with no problems, then became pregnant with my daughter. I tried using these again after my daughter was born, but didn't like them because I had some scar tissue from an internal tear that made insertion particularly uncomfortable.  I also used them for a few months after my son was born, when I started having problems with the Diva Cup. 

  • Unbleached cotton tampons don't contain dioxins or other undesirable chemicals.
  • They are very convenient to use, just like conventional tampons.
  • They are rather expensive, and since they are disposable, you'll keep paying the high price month after month.
  • There seems to be a little bit more "friction" during insertion with these tampons than conventional tampons.  So they don't insert quite as easily as conventional tampons, but they're still pretty easy to use. 
  • It seems like these tampons are probably more likely to leave some fibers behind.  But, these fibers would just be cotton, so it seems like they wouldn't be harmful anyhow.  I never noticed any fibers left behind, but these just aren't quite as smooth as conventional tampons. 
  • Just like conventional tampons, there is a risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome with cotton tampons.
Menstrual cups
My experience
I switched to the Diva Cup, which is a silicone menstrual cup, after my daughter was born when I was having problems with cotton tampons.  (There is also a natural rubber version of the menstrual cup, called The Keeper.)  I absolutely LOVED the Diva Cup, and used it for a year until I got pregnant with my son. After my son was born, I had problems with the Diva Cup not staying in quite the right place when I wore it. Apparently my son's quick arrival (just over two hours of labor) changed my internal landscape a bit.

  • The Diva Cup is made from health-grade silicone. The Keeper is made from natural rubber.
  • Menstrual cups are convenient to use.  When they get full, just dump the contents, rinse the cup, and re-insert.  (The rinsing can be skipped if necessary, such as in a public restroom.)
  • Menstrual cups can last for years and years, so they are very cost effective.
  • Menstrual cups can be worn for up to twelve hours.
  • There is a little bit of a learning process in learning how to properly insert a menstrual cup. (But, once you get the hang of it, it is really quite simple.) 
Cloth pads
My experience
I started using LunaPanties all-in-one underwear with menstrual protection as backup protection in combination with the Diva Cup.  Then, when I started having problems with the Diva Cup, I bought a kit of LunaPads liners and pads, and used these exclusively for a few months.  But, this mostly just reminded me of why I always preferred internal menstrual methods as I don't really like the messiness of using pads alone.  So now I only use cloth pads for very light days.  

  • Cloth pads are much more breathable than conventional pads. Breathability is great for overall vaginal health.
  • Because they are breathable, I found that wearing cloth pads ensures that I never develop those unpleasant odors that can sometimes arise with conventional pads.
  • Cloth pads are quite pricey initially; however, since they will last for years they are really economical in the long run. 
  • Cloth pads are very absorbent, and I've had any problems with them leaking.
  • Because they hold onto fluids so well, it can take quite awhile to fully rinse the blood out of cloth pads.  The best method I found was to put them into the bathtub while I showered and periodically step on them to squish the liquid out.
  • Cloth pads don't stay in place quite as well as conventional pads (this is one reason that I prefer the Lunapanties that have built-in protection).  I have found that the cloth pads often require a bit of adjustment after going to the bathroom, but then they stay in place just fine once they are positioned where you want them.
  • If you need to change your pad while out-and-about, you'll need to have some way of transporting your soiled pads back home.
Sea sponge tampons
As recommended by a friend, I started using Jade and Pearl sea sponge tampons over 3 years ago.  I really like these, and plan to use them for the foreseeable future.  I bought a multipack with three different sizes, and I use only the small and medium sizes.

  • Sea sponge tampons are made of natural materials.
  • It is very easy to wash sea sponge tampons in the sink.  They are much easier to clean than cloth pads.
  • Sea sponge tampons are very absorbent.
  • Sea sponge tampons are easy to insert and can be trimmed to fit if desired (although I haven't had to trim mine at all).
  • Sea sponge tampons can be left in during intercourse.
  • Sea sponge tampons can be sterilized using apple cider vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, sea salt, or tea tree oil.
  • Just like normal tampons, sea sponge tampons can require some re-adjustment after you use the restroom. 
  • I have installed a Biffy bidet attachment on my toilets to spray clean after I use the bathroom.  I find it best to remove my sea sponge tampons each time I use the restroom if I plan to use the Biffy; otherwise, they soak up too much water.
  • Sea sponge tampons should ideally be sanitized once or twice a day (using one of the methods described above).
  •  If I haven't sanitized the sea sponges often enough, they tend to develop a bit of unpleasant ocean-like smell.  This is only noticeable if you actually sniff the sea sponge itself, though, and can be easily remedied by a quick soak in one of the sanitizing solutions.

Have you tried any natural menstrual alternatives? What natural menstrual solutions do you recommend?

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Can a Perfect Diet Lead to Perfect Health?

GAPS, Paleo, Primal Blueprint, Perfect Health Diet, Weston Price: There are so many different diets that are touted as being "the" answer to the question of finding health.  Does following these diets lead to perfect health?

My Family's Experience With Finding Health Through Diet

Nearly 10 years ago, my husband and I embarked on our journey of finding health through diet.  Prior to that time, we were following a typical Standard American Diet, with lots of processed foods, low-fat foods, and restaurant foods.  While neither of us suffered from any very serious health issues, we did have some health issues since we both had cavities, we had both been prescribed inhalers for asthma, I had acne rosacea, irritable bowel syndrome, and carpal tunnel syndrome, and my husband had long-standing issues with eczema, insomnia, and sinus problems (which had not been improved even with two sinus surgeries).

I learned about Weston Price's groundbreaking research into traditional diets and jumped right in to changing our diets.  We were looking forward to having children soon, and I wanted to make sure we were both very healthy before conception. We started consuming plenty of grassfed beef, pastured chicken and eggs, butter, raw milk and cheese, fish eggs, homemade chicken stock, sprouted and/or soaked whole grains, fermented foods, fruits and vegetables, and a daily dose of cod liver oil.

My husband and I both saw health improvements from these dietary changes.  The frequency of illnesses decreased and we both saw some improvements in our chronic health issues. For instance, my acne rosacea and irritable bowel syndrome disappeared, and my husband had less frequent sinus flareups. We kept on following the Weston Price-based diet and making it a normal part of our lives.

Fast forward 5 years through the birth of two children and things weren't looking so rosy. Despite having consumed an excellent Weston Price-based diet her whole life, our 3-year-old daughter had poor weight gain and a pattern of recurrent illnesses. She would get sick roughly 8-10 times per year, each time running a high fever for several days, and often she had a lingering cough for 2-3 weeks after each illness. When other kids had a minor "tummy bug", she had an extreme version with vomiting for 48 hours and losing over 10% of her body weight.

My exclusively-breastfed infant son slept horribly, waking frequently every night; he had eczema and was constipated, and he cried inconsolably for 30-45 minutes several times every day. During my recent pregnancy, I had developed three new health issues that did not subside after the birth - insomnia (awake for 2-3 hours in the middle of the night every night), joint pain (that made normal activities such as holding the baby very difficult), and irritability (losing my temper and being impatient with my daughter, which had never been an issue previously). My husband's sinus problems flared up and he had a sinus infection for over 6 months. My husband and I were getting sick more frequently as well. 

Thinking that we would be able to fix these problems through an even stricter diet, my family started the GAPS Diet in the late summer of 2010. The GAPS Diet is similar to Paleo and Primal Diets, except that it has a specific emphasis on curing health conditions through healing the gut. The GAPS Diet is based on healthy fats (such as butter and coconut oil), meats, fruits, veggies, broth, and fermented foods. The GAPS Diet does not allow any grains or starches, and allows no sweeteners except honey.

We followed the GAPS Diet strictly for over 16 months, and completed two rounds of the Intro Diet. Initially, we had amazing results: our daughter got sick less frequently and she started gaining weight, my joint pain was gone, and my husband's 6-month-long sinus infection finally abated. We thought we had finally found the answer to our health problems.

Even though we were still strictly following GAPS, some of our old health problems started to come back. My husband's sinuses started to flare up again, and his eczema flared up and became worse than ever.  I developed adrenal issues including spells of extreme low energy, and yet if I went off GAPS my joint pain came back again. Our (already low-weight) daughter stopped gaining weight and even started losing weight.  A full rundown on the positive results and set-backs for each of us on GAPS can be seen in this post.

The positive benefits of GAPS had waned and we had developed new problems while on the diet. We stopped strictly following GAPS and found that we now had food sensitivities that we had not observed prior to following the GAPS Diet. And many of our previous health concerns were once again in effect.

At this point I finally realized that diet alone was not sufficient to heal our chronic health issues. While different dietary strategies were able to give us temporary improvements, over time our old issues always came back, no matter how strictly we followed the diets.

Why Didn't Diet Heal Our Health Issues?

In the intervening three years since we stopped the GAPS Diet, I have learned a great deal about health and healing chronic health issues.Through constitutional homeopathic treatment, my family is finding health in ways that diet could never even come close to. Through my intensive search for answers, I have come to understand health in a whole new way.

Using diet to heal chronic health issues is somewhat like putting a band-aid on a cut: diet can aid in the process of healing, but it can't actually cause the healing process to occur. Just as a band-aid alone cannot heal an infected wound, diet alone cannot heal chronic health issues. Diet can certainly lead to temporary improvements, but unless the underlying imbalance is healed, the chronic issues will keep coming back again despite any dietary measures. Homeopathy works differently than dietary measures because it seeks to correct the fundamental imbalance that is leading to the symptoms in the first place.

What Is the Root Cause of Chronic Health Problems?

From a homeopathic perspective, chronic health issues are an indication of an underlying imbalance, often as a result of genetic predispositions (which are referred to as miasms in homeopathic literature).  Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, was well ahead of his time in that he developed an understanding of genetic influences on the health of subsequent generations nearly 200 years ago. Constitutional homeopathy works differently than diet (and many other healing modalities, including herbalism and conventional medicine) in that it seeks to uproot those underlying miasms and thereby remove the fundamental cause for the illness rather than just addressing the outward symptoms. 

Our Successful Path to Health 

Over the last 3 years, we have been finding answers to our health problems with homeopathy. In fact, our results have been so astonishing to me that I became a homeopath to share this healing modality with more people. A brief rundown of the benefits we have seen through homeopathy are:
  • We all get sick much less frequently now, and when we do get sick the intensity is much less than previously.
  • Our low-weight, poor appetite daughter now consistently gains weight and eats well. Her previously-poor immune system has been boosted so much that she has averaged only 1-2 minor illnesses per year over the last 2 years (as compared to her previous average of 8-10 more serious illnesses per year). Her homeopathic treatment has evened out her emotions so that she no longer cries at the drop of a hat, and also improved her focus and uncoordination (clumsiness).
  • Our son, whose sleep had degenerated over time to where he was waking every hour every night by the age of 2 years old, now sleeps 8-9 hours straight consistently. His intense temper tantrums were greatly improved and eventually stopped altogether through his homeopathic treatment. He has become much more cooperative and easy-going as well, and the correlation between these changes and his doses of homeopathic remedies is very obvious. He is the member of our family who is nearest to completing his homeopathic treatment, as evidenced by the fact that these improvements remain even while he is taking less remedy, less often.
  • My joint pain is gone, no matter whether or not I eat grains. I now very rarely have problems with low energy, and my irritability/mood is so much better! My insomnia is not completely resolved, but has improved from waking every single night for 2-3 hours to now waking about 10-15% of the time. My menstrual cycles have also normalized through my homeopathic treatment.
  • My husband, who has the most chronic health problems in our family, has seen steady improvements in his chronic health issues over the last few years on homeopathic treatment. His homeopathic treatment is turning back the clock on many of his health complaints, so that they are now better than they have been in over 12 years. His eczema is minimal, he is sleeping longer stretches of time at night (whereas previously he would wake every 1-2 hours), his weight is steady, and his sinus issues have much diminished over time.

I think it is very interesting that Dr. Natasha Campbell McBride, the author of the GAPS book, recommends combining homeopathic treatment with the GAPS Diet.  Through my post-GAPS experiences, I wonder how many people who were "cured" by GAPS were actually healed through homeopathic treatment. Several of my homeopathic patients had previously tried the GAPS Diet, but are now seeing better results through homeopathic treatment than they experienced with the GAPS Diet.

Where Does Diet Fit In To Overall Health?

People are often very surprised to find out that I have serious reservations about recommending the GAPS Diet. For my family, the GAPS Diet ended up being an empty promise. Given the extreme amount of time and effort involved in following the GAPS Diet (I spent an average of 6 hours per day in the kitchen), that empty promise is not something I would recommend to others. In the end, it was not able to solve our chronic health problems, and it actually ended up creating more problems.

However, I do believe that diet is an important part of maintaining overall health. Providing the body with an abundance of nutrients, through eating nutrient-dense foods, gives the body resources to use in healing. The body does need those nutrients, just as it needs adequate sleep and physical activity. But those nutrients alone are not enough to heal underlying imbalances that lead to chronic health issues. Good nutrition is important, but it is not the solution to healing chronic health problems.  

What is your experience with healing chronic conditions through diet? Have you had any increased food sensitivities after grain-free dieting?

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Lemon Raspberry Muffins

Those of you who've been following my blog for awhile have probably figured out by now that I like a lot of variety in my diet. While I would enjoy the simplicity of a regular meal rotation, I just couldn't bear to eat the same things over and over again.  I also delight in developing new recipes. I love to unleash my creativity through experimenting with new flavors, and sometimes it feels like magic when a new recipe comes together just right.

My latest new recipe is Lemon Raspberry Muffins.  These are based on my current favorite flour combination: coconut flour, ground crispy nuts, and Einkorn (an ancient variety of wheat that is naturally lower in gluten and higher in protein than modern wheat). I like to make these muffins using a combination of sucanat and sugar for the sweetener; the lighter taste of sugar allows the bright flavor of lemon to really "pop" in this recipe. However, sucanat can be used exclusively if you prefer to stick with only unrefined sweeteners.

Lemon Raspberry Muffins
Makes 12 muffins
  1. Line a muffin tin with paper cups.  (I prefer If You Care Unbleached Baking Cups because the muffins do not stick to the sides of the cups.) 
  2. Zest the lemon using a microplane rasp or other zester. Then use a lemon reamer to juice the lemon. If your lemon has a very thick rind, you may need to juice more than one lemon to get 3 Tb of fresh lemon juice.
  3. Combine the Einkorn, coconut flour, ground nuts, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and lemon zest in a medium bowl. Whisk it all together to break up any lumps.  
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. Combine the butter, sucanat and sugar in a large bowl (a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer works great for this recipe). Cream together for a couple minutes until the mixture turns slightly lighter in color.
  6. In the meantime, combine the eggs, vanilla, and almond extract in a small bowl. (I find that a Pyrex glass measuring cup works great for this because the pour spout makes it easy to add these ingredients to the mixer while it is running.) Do NOT mix up the eggs at this point.
  7. Once the butter and sucanat/sugar have become well-mixed, mix in the eggs one-at-a-time.  With my stand-mixer, I can just pour in each egg while the mixer is still running.  Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice to get everything incorporated well. (It is okay if the mixture looks a bit curdled during this step.)
  8. Add the sour cream and lemon juice to the wet mixture and mix it all well.
  9. Add the dry ingredients a bit at a time.  Because the Einkorn flour does contain gluten, make sure not to overmix or the muffins will be tough.  The batter will become rather thick, but don't worry about it.
  10. Stir or mix in the raspberries.
  11. Use a 3-Tb scoop or large spoon to scoop the batter into the muffin cups.
  12. Bake the muffins at 350 degrees F for 27-32 minutes, until a they are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out dry. (The baking time will be less if fresh berries are used instead of frozen berries.)
  13. Remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit before serving.
*Except during our local berry season, I find that frozen raspberries have far superior flavor to the fresh ones sold in grocery stores.

What is your favorite muffin flavor for Spring?

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Friday, March 6, 2015

Planting Fruit Trees

Fruit trees are one of the easiest ways to grow our own food. Few foods can rival fruit that is fresh-picked from a tree.With very little maintenance, fruit trees will grow and thrive, producing more and more food each year. 

We moved to a larger property about a year ago. Bees buzzing around fruit blossoms have become a herald of Spring for me, so it was bittersweet leaving behind the apple, plum, and apricot trees at our old home. They were just finally starting to produce a good amount of fruit, and we missed being able to pick fruit in our own yard last year. So it's time to plant some new fruit trees!

The Right Time for Planting Trees

Here in the desert Southwest, Spring, Winter, and Fall are the best times to plant fruit trees. The intense summer heat and lack of rain can be too much for newly-planted trees, so it is best to give them some time to get established before summer arrives. We planted four apple trees last autumn, and today my children helped me plant two more apple trees plus two peach trees. 

Inspired by his sister's chicken egg business, my 5-year-old son has been planning to have an apple business.  He has been saving money for trees little by little, but given that it will take several years for any substantial apple harvest, my husband and I decided to go ahead and get some trees in the ground for him last Fall.  With the help of a recent birthday gift from grandma, my son now has one more apple tree for his business. He is very proud of his three apple trees, and asks many people if they would like to be his apple customers.

Tips for Planting Fruit Trees

Whenever I have gardening questions, I always rely somewhat on my mother to point me in the right direction.  She has a truly stunning backyard and much experience with gardening here. I also found many helpful pointers in my Extreme Gardening: How to Grow Organic in the Hostile Deserts and Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, Volume 2 books. Here are some tips we implemented in planting our new fruit trees:

  • I used my Sunset Western Garden book to select varieties of apple and peach trees that are suited for our climate zone.
  • Because apple and peach trees need a certain amount of winter chill in order to produce a good amount of fruit, our trees are planted in the coolest part of our yard.
  • The planting holes were dug to about the same depth as the roots of the trees, but several times larger around.
  • The soil that was used to backfill the planting holes was not amended; this way, the trees will adapt right away to our sandy soil. 
  • Each tree was planted slightly below the level of the surrounding ground, so that water will pool around the trees.
  • I created a half-circle rain-harvesting berm around each tree to capture rain water. These are oriented so that the water flowing over the slightly-sloped ground during our July-August rainy season will naturally collect around the fruit trees.   
  • There is a ~3-inch layer of composted manure around the base of each tree, to increase water retention and provide nutrients throughout the coming months.  I made sure the compost is not in direct contact with the tree trunks.
  • Each tree was planted with the graft (where the rootstock and fruit tree are joined) facing East, to protect it from the wind. 
  • Because we have high winds in the Spring, I placed some heavy rocks at the base of the trees to prevent them lifting up from the ground when the high winds hit.
  • Regular water will be provided to the trees because it does not rain here very often at this time of the year. Over time, I will move the watering source away from the trees to encourage the roots to spread out further and further.

Companion Planting with Fruit Trees

One of my favorite things about the Extreme Gardening book is that is provides companion planting suggestions for each type of plant.  For instance, it lists the following as good companion plants that can be planted "thickly around the tree(s)" that we planted:
  • Apple companion plants:
    • Artemisia
    • Chives
    • Garlic Chives
    • Marigolds
    • Nasturtiums
    • Onions
  • Peach companion plants:
    • Basil
    • Chives
    • Garlic Chives
    • Nasturtiums
    • Onions
    • Strawberries
    • Tansy
Because our fruit trees are planted outside of our fenced yard, I will only be planting companion plants that rabbits don't prefer to eat.  So we will plant marigolds and green onions around the apple trees, and we will plant basil and green onions around the peach trees.

Looking Ahead

We are planning to plant many more fruit trees on our property over the coming years. Pears, plums, and apricots for sure, and maybe some pecans, pistachios, and almonds. I love the idea of having a food forest, and am very interested to see how the rainwater harvesting techniques pan out.

What homesteading tasks are you working on this Spring?

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why Homeopathy Makes Sense and Works

by Dana Ullman, MPH

Many people confuse homeopathic medicine with herbal remedies or with the broad field of alternative or natural medicine. As you will learn from this article, homeopathic medicine has its own sophisticated system of using substances from the plant, mineral, chemical, and animal kingdoms. This article will describe--in a modern and even futuristic fashion--this fascinating and powerful method of strengthening the body's own defense system.


The word “homeopathy” is derived from two Greek words: homoios which means “similar” and pathos which means “suffering.” Homeopathy's basic premise is called the “principle of similars,” and it refers to recurrent observation and experience that a medicinal substance will elicit a healing response for the specific syndrome of symptoms (or suffering) that it has been proven to cause when given in overdose to a healthy person.

The beauty of the principle of similars is that it not only initiates a healing response, but it encourages a respect for the body's wisdom. Because symptoms represent the best efforts of our body in its defenses against infection or stress, it makes sense to utilize a medicine that helps and mimics this defense rather than that inhibits or suppresses it. The principle of similars may be one of nature's laws that, when used well, can be one of our most sophisticated healing strategies.

It is important to note that immunizations and allergy treatments are two of the very few applications in modern medicine today that actually stimulate the body's own defenses in the prevention or treatment of specific diseases, and it is NOT simply a coincidence that both of these treatments are derived from the homeopathic principle of similars.

Homeopathic medicine is so widely practiced by physicians in Europe that it is no longer appropriate to consider it “alternative medicine” there. Approximately 30% of French doctors and 20% of German doctors use homeopathic medicines regularly, while over 40% of British physicians refer patients to homeopathic doctors, and almost half of Dutch physicians consider homeopathic medicines to be effective. The fact that the British Royal Family has used and supported homeopathy since the 1830s reflects its longstanding presence in Britain's national health care system.

Homeopathic medicine also once had a major presence in American medical care and in American society. In 1900 there were 22 homeopathic medical schools in the US, including Boston University, University of Michigan, New York Medical College, Hahnemann University, University of Minnesota, and even the University of Iowa. Further, many of America's cultural elite were homeopathy's strongest advocates, including Mark Twain, William James, John D. Rockefeller, Susan B. Anthony, Louisa May Alcott, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry David Thoreau, and Harriett Beecher Stowe, amongst many others. (For a more extensive list of famous people past and present who are known advocates of homeopathy, click here.)

In his Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Social Transformation of American Medicine, Paul Starr noted, "Because homeopathy was simultaneously philosophical and experimental, it seemed to many people to be more rather than less scientific than orthodox medicine."

This article will present a strong case for homeopathy in light of the most recent developments in science and medicine. That said, I want to apologize to those people who have an open mind about homeopathy but who have been introduced to it by individuals who have not adequately explained this science and art in a clear and convincing fashion. It is hoped that both skeptics and those open-minded but inadequately informed people will benefit from this overview of the homeopathic system.

The Wisdom of Symptoms—The Underlying Basis of Modern Physiology and Homeopathy

The underlying principle of homeopathy is also at the heart of modern physiology. It is commonly understood in medicine today that symptoms are not just something “wrong” with the body, but rather, they represent the efforts of the body and mind to defend and heal itself from a variety of infective agents and/or stresses. The body creates fever, inflammation, pain, discharge, or whatever is necessary in order to heal itself. While these symptoms represent the body's best efforts to heal, they are not always successful in doing so. Ultimately, homeopathic medicines are some of the most powerful natural drugs available today to help augment the body's ability to heal itself (more on this topic later).

Medical science today is increasingly recognizing symptoms as adaptive responses of the body. Standard texts of pathology define the process of inflammation as the manner in which the body seeks to wall off, heat up, and burn out infective agents or foreign matter. The cough has long been known as a protective mechanism for clearing breathing passages. Diarrhea has been shown to be a defensive effort of the body to remove pathogens or irritants more quickly from the colon. Discharges are understood as the body's way of ridding itself of dead bacteria, viruses, and cells. Even high blood pressure is an important defense and adaptation to the internal and external stresses that a person experiences.

The derivation of the word “symptom” is helpful to better understanding of the disease process and the healing process. The word "symptom" comes from a Greek root and refers to "something that falls together with something else." Symptoms are a “sign” or a “signal” of something else, and treating them doesn't necessarily change that "something else." Just because a drug gets rid of a symptom does not mean that the person is cured. In fact, drugs that suppress or inhibit a symptom tend to provide only a guise of success and usually lead to a longer and more serious illness. Using drugs to suppress symptoms is akin to pulling the plug on your car's oil pressure warning light. Just because the light is turned off doesn't mean that your car's oil pressure is “cured.” In fact, ignoring that light may lead to your car's breakdown.

It should be noted that people often incorrectly assume that conventional drugs have “side effects.” Actually, in purely pharmacological terms, drugs do NOT have side effects; drugs only have “effects,” and physicians arbitrarily differentiate between those effects that they like as the effects of the drug, while they call those symptoms that they don't like “side effects.” This is akin to saying that the effects of a bomb are that it destroys buildings, but its side effects are that it kills people. Needless to say, one cannot truly separate out one effect from the other.

The reason that drugs create “side effects” that are often worse than the original disease is that these drugs tend to suppress the symptoms the sick person is experiencing and push them deeper into the person's body. This observation may explain why people today are experiencing more serious chronic illnesses at earlier and earlier ages and why there is such an epidemic of mental illness (physical disease is suppressed deeply enough that the disease is pushed into the psyche).

Once one recognizes that symptoms are important and useful defenses of the body, it makes less sense to use drugs that inhibit or suppress this wisdom of the body. Instead of using drugs to suppress symptoms, it makes sense to use medicines to strengthen the body's own defense system so that the body can more effectively heal itself. Here is where it makes sense to use homeopathic medicines.


Medicines That Respect the Wisdom of the Body

The use of the principle of similars in healing actually has ancient roots (Coulter, 1975). In the 4th century B.C., Hippocrates is known to have said, "Through the like, disease is produced, and through the application of the like it is cured." The famed Delphic Oracle in Greece proclaimed the value of the law of similars, stating, "that which makes sick shall heal." Paracelsus, a well-known 16th century physician and alchemist, used the law of similars extensively in practice and referred to it in writings. His formulation of the "Doctrine of Signatures" spoke directly of the value in using similars in healing. He affirmed, "You there bring together the same anatomy of the herbs and the same anatomy of the illness into one order. This simile gives you understanding of the way in which you shall heal."

This principle of similars (using a substance to treat the similar symptoms that it causes) is also used in conventional medicine, with immunizations being the most obvious example, that is, small doses of a “weakened” pathogen are used to prevent what larger doses cause. None other than the "father of immunology," Dr. Emil Adolph Von Behring (1906), directly pointed to the origins of immunizations when he asserted, "(B)y what technical term could we more appropriately speak of this influence than by Hahnemann's* word ‘homeopathy'." (*Samuel Hahnemann, MD, 1755-1843, was a renowned German physician and the founder of homeopathy). Modern allergy treatment, likewise, utilizes the homeopathic approach by the use of small doses of allergens in order to create an antibody response.

Conventional medical treatment also uses homeopathy's principle of similars in choosing radiation to treat people with cancer (radiation causes cancer), digitalis for heart conditions (digitalis creates heart conditions), and Ritalin for hyperactive children (Ritalin is an amphetamine-like drug which normally causes hyperactivity). Other examples are the use of nitroglycerine for heart conditions, gold salts for arthritic conditions, and colchicine for gout, all of which are known to cause the similar symptoms that they are found to treat.

For a historical discussion of various homeopathic drugs that have been incorporated into conventional medicine, see Dr. Harris Coulter's Homoeopathic Influences in Nineteenth Century Allopathic Therapeutics as well as his more detailed book on homeopathy's history, Divided Legacy: The Conflict Between Homeopathy and the A.M.A.

It should be acknowledged that although the conventional medical treatments mentioned above may be homeopathic-like, they do not follow other fundamental principles of homeopathy. Immunizations and allergy treatments are given to prevent or cure special ailments, while homeopathic medicines are substances individually prescribed based on the overall syndrome of body and mind symptoms the person is experiencing, and therefore a homeopathic medicine is thought to strengthen the person's overall body-mind constitution, not just to prevent or treat a specific illness. Also, these conventional medical treatments are not individually prescribed to the high degree of selectivity that is common in homeopathy, and they are not prescribed in as small or as safe a dose.

And speaking of dose, this subject is vital, and homeopaths have uncovered an amazing and initially confusing power of the human organism. Homeopaths have found that sick people develop hypersensitivity to substances that cause the similar symptoms that they are experiencing. Further, by giving very small doses of this substance, a person can and will experience an immunological and therapeutic benefit without a toxic burden.

Determining What a Medicine Can Cure

For over 200 years, hundreds of thousands of homeopaths throughout the world have carefully catalogued and now computerized the idiosyncratic physical, emotional, and mental symptoms that thousands of substances have caused in healthy people (Note: There are now simple computerized programs as well as sophisticated expert system software to help provide highly individualized prescriptions to people based on their specific and unique symptomatology). Homeopaths have thereby created the most extensive body of toxicological information available today, though this information focuses on the symptoms that these substance cause, not on the dose in which they cause them. Homeopaths have found and verified that whatever a substance has been found to cause, it will also cure in specially prepared homeopathic doses.

Thousands of substances have undergone toxicological studies, which homeopaths call “drug provings.” These experiments are conducted on human subjects, not animals, to determine what various substances from the plant, mineral, animal, or chemical kingdom cause in overdose. Homeopaths have found that these experiments lay the foundation for what symptoms each substance causes, and thus, what affinity each substance has to the human body.

Then, when homeopaths see patients, they obtain the unique and detailed symptomatological history of each patient, and seek to find the specific substance from the plant, mineral, animal, or chemical kingdom that would cause the similar syndrome of symptoms that the patient is experiencing. It is not surprising that large numbers of homeopaths throughout the world today use sophisticated expert system software to help them individualize medicinal substances to their patients.

After finding a match between a substance's toxicology and the patient's specific symptom pattern, the homeopath gives a specially prepared microdose of this medicinal agent. The details of how homeopathic medicines are made are described below. It is now time to direct our attention to homeopathy's most fascinating and most controversial observation…the power of homeopathic “nano-doses.”

Homeopathic Medicine: Nano-doses, Powerful Results

Homeopathic medicine presents a significantly different pharmacological approach to treating sick people. Instead of using strong and powerful doses of medicinal agents that have a broad-spectrum effect on a wide variety of people with a similar disease, homeopaths use extremely small doses of medicinal substances that are highly individualized to a person's physical and psychological syndrome of disease, not simply an assumed localized pathology.

Homeopathic medicines are so small in dose that it is appropriate to refer to them as a part of the newly defined field of “nanopharmacology” (the prefix “nano” derives from Latin and means dwarf; today, the prefix is used to refer to “nanotechnology” or the “nanosciences” which explore the use of extremely small technologies or processes, at least one-billionth of a unit, designated as 10 -9). To understand the nature and the degree of homeopathy's nanopharmacology, it is important to know the following characteristics of how homeopathic medicines are made.

Making Homeopathic Medicines

Most homeopathic medicines are made by diluting a medicinal substance in a double-distilled water. It should be noted that physicists who study the properties of water commonly acknowledge that water has many mysterious and amazing properties. Because homeopaths use a double-distilled water, it is highly purified, enabling the medicinal substance to solely infiltrate and imprint the water. For the the serious scientifically-minded people, I strongly encourage you to review the website of Dr. Martin Chaplin* of London South Bank University for impressively sophisticated information and research on water. It is amazing how ill-informed and uninformed skeptics of homeopathy are on the physics of water.

Each substance is diluted, most commonly, 1 part of the original medicinal agent to 9 or 99 parts double-distilled water. The mixture is then vigorously stirred or shaken. The solution is then diluted again 1:9 or 1:99 and vigorously shaken. This process of consecutive diluting and shaking or stirring is repeated 3, 6, 12, 30, 200, 1,000, or even 1,000,000 times. Simply “diluting” the medicines without vigorously shaking them doesn't activate the medicinal effects.

It is inaccurate to say that homeopathic medicines are extremely diluted; they are extremely “potentized.” “Potentization” refers to the specific process of sequential dilution with vigorous shaking. Each consecutive dilution infiltrates the new double-distilled water and imprints upon it the fractal form of the original substance used (fractal refers to the specific consecutively smaller pattern or form within a larger pattern). Ultimately, some type of fractal or hologram of the original substance may be imprinted in the water.

Over 200 years of experience by homeopaths throughout the world has shown that the more that a substance undergoes potentization (the process of sequential dilution with vigorous shaking in-between each dilution), the more powerful the medicine becomes, the longer it acts, and the less doses are generally needed. Because of these observations and experiences, homeopaths refer to medicines that have been potentized 200 times or more as “high potencies” and those that have been potentized less than 12 times as “low potencies.”

In this light, homeopaths insist that their medicines are NOT extremely small doses. Instead, they assume that the double-distilled and purified water is changed and becomes imprinted and activated.

Homeopaths will be the first to acknowledge that their medicine will not have any effect at all, unless the person taking them has a hypersensitivity to the medicine. A person will have this hypersensitivity if and when they exhibit the syndrome of symptoms that the substance has previously been found to cause.

Still, it is admittedly difficult to initially accept the possibility that such nanopharmacological doses can have any effect at all. And yet, some highly respected basic scientific research has begun to verify the claims that homeopaths have made since its inception in the 1800s.

Principle and Power of Resonance

Before discussing these scientific studies, it may be helpful to make brief reference to a subject for which there is common knowledge. Basic principles of physics teach us that hypersensitivity exists when there is “resonance.” An example from music is helpful here: Whenever a “C” note is played on a piano (or any instrument), other “C” notes reverberate, while other notes are not affected at all. Even when one instrument is relatively far away from another, its C strings will reverberate when a C note is played.

Ultimately, homeopathy is a medical system based on resonance (commonly referred to as the “principle of similars”). Two hundred years of experience by hundreds of thousands of homeopaths have consistently discovered that specially prepared, extremely small doses of medicine can powerfully augment a person's healing response when there is a similarity between the toxicology of the medicine and the symptom complex of the sick person. One of the special features of homeopathy is that whenever a patient is given a homeopathic medicine that does not match his or her symptoms, nothing happens. But when there is a match, people experience significant improvement in their overall health.

Other Evidence on the Power of Nano-Doses

There is a significant body of conventional scientific research that has verified the powerful biochemical effects of extremely low concentrations of biological agents. Chemicals in the brain called beta-endorphins are known to modulate natural killer cell activity in dilutions of 10 -18 (this dilution means that a substance was diluted 1:10 eighteen times). Interleukin 1, an important part of our immune system, has been found to exhibit increased T-cell clone proliferation at 10 -19. And pheromones (hormones emitted externally by various animals and insects) will result in hypersensitive reaction when as little as a single molecule is received. (For an excellent review of
many substances that have significant biological activity in extremely small doses, see Drs. P. Bellavite and A. Signorini's Emerging Science of Homeopathy: Complexity, Biodynamics, and Nanopharmacology; see also Eskinazi, 1999).

The doses mentioned immediately above are still in the molecular dose range, and as such, they do not in themselves create cause for a revolution in science or medicine. However, few scientists and physicians are knowledgeable of the power and potential of nanodoses commonly used by homeopaths all over the world. This is particularly disappointing because it is commonly observed that organisms experience a biphasic response to various chemicals, that is, extremely small doses of a substance exhibit different and sometimes opposite effects than what they cause in high concentrations. For instance, it is widely recognized that normal medical doses of atropine block the parasympathetic nerves, causing mucous membranes to dry up, while exceedingly small doses of atropine causes increased secretions to mucous membranes (Goodman and Gilman, 2001).

This fact that drugs can have two phases of action, depending upon their concentration, is a little known but consistently observed phenomenon. In fact, many medical and scientific dictionaries refer to “hormesis” or “the Arndt-Schulz law” (listed in leading medical and scientific dictionaries under the word “law”) as the observations that weak concentrations of biological agents stimulate physiological activity, medium concentrations of agents depress physiological activity, and large concentrations halt physiological activity.

There is a significant body of research on hormesis (hundreds of studies) conducted by conventional scientists, none of whom even mention homeopathy (Stebbins, 1982; Oberbaum and Cambar, 1994). Even the journal, Health Physics devoted an entire issue to this subject (May, 1987). For further information on hormesis, click here.

Just as humankind went west to explore new frontiers and is now exploring the frontier of space, today scientists and physicians are exploring nanotechnologies and nanopharmacologies. It is only a matter of time before scientists and physicians learn that homeopathic medicine presents a fertile ground for exploring and exploiting the power of these powerful nanodoses.

The Clinical Evidence for Homeopathy

Before discussing the recent well-controlled and double-blind clinical trials, it is important to make reference to homeopathy's history in order to provide additional evidence for the clinical efficacy of homeopathic nanopharmacology.

Homeopathy first developed a significant popularity in Europe and the United States primarily because of the astounding successes it experienced in treating people suffering from the various infectious disease epidemics in the 19th century. The death rates in the homeopathic hospitals from cholera, scarlet fever, typhoid, yellow fever, pneumonia, and others was typically one-half to even one-eighth of conventional medical hospitals (Bradford, 1900; Coulter, 1973). Similar good results were also observed in mental institutions and prisons under the care of homeopathic physicians compared to those under the care of conventional doctors. These consistent and significant results could not be attributed to a placebo effect. In other words, there is clear empirical evidence that homeopathic medicines were highly effective in treating various infectious diseases and in psychiatric disorders.

Unfortunately, conventional physicians and scientists have continually provided misinformation about the status of scientific evidence about homeopathic medicine. They have frequently and incorrectly asserted that there is no research to prove that homeopathic medicines work, and they further have asserted that there is no way that the extremely small doses can have any effect whatsoever.

This type of statement simply reflects ignorance of the scientific literature. It is remarkable to note that some of the earliest placebo-controlled and double-blinded studies ever performed were actually conducted by homeopathic physicians. For a detailed history of the 19th century and early 20th century studies, see The Trials of Homeopathy by Dr. Michael Emmans Dean. For those people who
want an excellent summary of this history, it is a part of a special e-book, Homeopathic Family Medicine (anyone interested in a comprehensive, historical, and up-to-date review of clinical research testing homeopathic medicines would benefit from obtaining and subscribing to this e-book). Another source of modern basic science and clinical research on homeopathic medicine is the Samueli Institute.

A short summary of some of the modern placebo-controlled and double-blind studies is reported below.

An independent group of physicians and scientists evaluated homeopathic clinical research prior to October, 1995 (Linde, 1997). They reviewed 186 studies, 89 of which met their pre-defined criteria for their meta-analysis. They found that on average patients given a homeopathic medicine were 2.45 times more likely to have experienced a clinically beneficial effect. When reviewing only the highest quality studies and when adjusting for publication bias, the researchers found that subjects given a homeopathic medicine were still 1.86 times more likely to experience improved health as compared with those given a placebo. The researchers have also noted that it is extremely common in conventional medical research for more rigorous trials to yield less positive results than less rigorous trials. (Later, these researchers acknowledged that some research with negative results lowered the significance of the difference between homeopathic treatment and placebo, but these researchers still assert that there IS a significant difference between the results of homeopathic treatment and that of a placebo.)

The most important question that good scientists pose about any clinical research is: have there been replications of clinical studies by independent researchers? When at least three independent researchers verify the efficacy of a treatment, it is considered to be a valid and effective treatment.

Four separate bodies of researchers have conducted clinical trials in the use of a homeopathic medicine (Oscillococcinum 200C) in the treatment of influenza-like syndromes (Ferley, 1989;
Casanova, 1992; Papp, 1998). Each of these trials was relatively large in the number of subjects (487, 300, 100, and 372), and all were multi-centered, placebo-controlled, and double-blinded (two of the three trials were also randomized). Each of these trials showed statistically significant results. Even the highly respected Cochrane Collaboration acknowledged that these results were "promising" (Vickers, 2007).

One other body of research in the use of Galphimia glauca in the treatment of hay fever was replicated successfully seven times, but this research was conducted by the same group of researchers (Wiesenauer, Ludtke, 1996), and thus far, this work has not been conducted by any other researchers.

A body of clinical research in homeopathy that has been consistently recognized as some of the highest quality scientific research has been conducted by a group of researchers at the University of Glasgow and Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital. They conducted four studies on people suffering from various respiratory allergies (hay fever, asthma, and perennial allergic rhinitis) (Taylor, Reilly, Llewellyn-Jones, et al, 2000). In total, they treated 253 patients and found a 28% improvement in visual analogue scores in those given a homeopathic medicine, as compared with a 3% improvement in patients given a placebo (P=.0007) (The “P” refers to the “probability” of these results occurring simply by chance, and thus, the lower the number, the greater the likelihood that the treatment used is effective. When “P” equals .05, this means that there are 5 chances out of 100 that the effective of a specific treatment happened by chance, and scientists today consider this 5% chance as adequate evidence of a treatment's effectiveness. In this study, however, there was an extremely high likelihood that the treatment was effective because there were only seven chances out of 10,000 (!) that this result happened by chance.)

In the hay fever study, homeopathic doses of various hayfever-inducing flowers were prescribed, and in the other studies, the researchers conducted conventional allergy testing to assess to which substance each person was most allergic. The researchers then prescribed the 30C (100 -30) of this allergic substance (House dust mite 30C was the most commonly prescribed homeopathic medicine).

The researchers called this type of prescribing “homeopathic immunotherapy,” and they concluded from their research that either homeopathic medicines work or controlled clinical trials do not.

One of the most impressive studies ever conducted testing homeopathic medicines was in the treatment of people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). COPD is a general term for a group of respiratory ailments and is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. Chronic bronchitis and emphysema are two conditions that are included in the more broad diagnosis of COPD.

At the University of Vienna Hospital a prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with parallel assignment was performed to assess the influence of sublingually administered Kali bichromicum (potassium dichromate) 30C on the amount of tenacious, stringy tracheal secretions in critically ill patients with a history of tobacco use and COPD (Frass, Dielacher, Linkesch, et al, 2005). The amount of tracheal secretions was reduced significantly in patients given the homeopathic medicine (p < 0.0001). Extubation (the removal of obstructive mucus from the lung with a tube) could be performed significantly earlier in group 1 (p < 0.0001). Similarly, length of stay was significantly shorter in group 1 (4.20 +/- 1.61 days vs 7.68 +/- 3.60 days, p < 0.0001 [mean +/- SD]). This data suggest that potentized (diluted and vigorously shaken) Kali bichromicum may help to decrease the amount of stringy tracheal secretions in COPD patients.

Three studies of children with diarrhea were also conducted and published in peer-review scientific journals (Jacobs, Jonas, Jimenez-Perez, Crothers, 2003). A meta-analysis of the 242 children who were involved in these three studies showed that the children who were prescribed a homeopathic medicine experienced a highly significant reduction in the duration of diarrhea, as compared with the children who were given a placebo (P=0.008). The World Health Organization has deemed that childhood diarrhea is the most serious public health problem today because several million children die each year as a result of dehydration from diarrhea. The fact that homeopathy is not included in the standard of care for diarrhea in children could be considered malpractice.

One other study is worth mentioning. This study was on 53 patients with fibromyalgia, which is a newly recognized syndrome that includes musculoskeletal symptoms, fatigue, and insomnia (Bell, Lewis, Brooks, et al, 2004) . Participants given individually chosen homeopathic treatment showed significantly greater improvements in tender point count and tender point pain, quality of life, global health and a trend toward less depression compared with those on placebo. “Helpfulness from treatment” in homeopathic patients as compared to those given a placebo was very significant (P=.004). What is also extremely interesting about this study was that the researchers found that people on homeopathic treatment also experienced changes in EEG readings. Not only did subjects who were given a homeopathic medicine experience improved health, they were shown to experience different changes in the brain wave activity. This evidence of clinical benefits and objective physiological action from homeopathic medicines in people with chronic symptoms constitutes very strong evidence that these nanodoses can have observable effects.

The above body of evidence should be adequate for verifying that homeopathic medicines can have therapeutic benefits, but there is even evidence that these nanodoses can have significant biological activity. One important study was led by a professor of chemistry who was formerly a skeptic of homeopathy (Dr. Madeleine Ennis) but who now recognizes that these medicines have significant effects (Belon, Cumps, Ennis, et al., 2004). Four independent laboratories, each associated with a university, conducted a series of 3,674 experiments using dilutions of histamine beyond Avogadro's number, by which we mean the dose in which there should be in all probability no remaining molecules of the original substance remaining (the 15th through 19th centesimal dilution, that is 100 -15 to 100 –19). The researchers found inhibitory effects of histamine dilutions on a type of white blood cell called basophils. The overall effects were substantially significant (p<0.0001). The test solutions were made in independent laboratories, the participants were blinded to the content of the test solutions, and the data analysis was performed by a biostatistician who was not involved in any other part of the trial.

It should be mentioned and even highlighted that the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) has a science show called "Horizon" which conducted a "test" of homeopathy in 2002. They claimed on air that they were "repeating" Professor Ennis' experiment. However, this television experiment did not get the same results as Ennis' or the other three university laboratories. This "reality TV science" experiment created a tremendous amount of media and suggested that homeopathy didn't work afterall.

In 2004, American television's 20/20 program also sought to repeat Ennis' experiment. However, just before the experiment started, the experimenter sent me (Dana Ullman) a copy of his protocol, and I sent it to Professor Ennis. She was shocked to discover that there were several significant differences in this experiment, all of which led to the negative result. For details about these differences, see Professor Ennis's email as well as other evidence of the serious problems with this television experiment.

Despite knowing prior to the experiment that they were conducting a flawed study and one that was not a "repeat" of any other research that had ever been performed, the 20/20 producer still filmed the study as though it was valid. The narrator of the program noted that "Dana Ullman questioned the design of the study," though they quickly asserted that "their" experts confirmed that the study was well-designed and properly conducted, even though they conducted the wrong experiment.

Nobel Laureate and physicist Brian D. Josephson (1997) of the University of Cambridge wrote in the New Scientist (December 9, 2006):

“Simple-minded analysis may suggest that water, being a fluid, cannot have a structure of the kind that such a picture would demand. But cases such as that of liquid crystals, which while flowing like an ordinary fluid can maintain an ordered structure over macroscopic distances, show the limitations of such ways of thinking. There have not, to the best of my knowledge, been any refutations of homeopathy that remain valid after this particular point is taken into account. A related topic is the phenomenon, claimed by Yolene Thomas and by others to be well established experimentally, known as the ‘memory of water'. If valid, this would be of greater significance than homeopathy itself, and it attests to the limited vision of the modern scientific community that, far from hastening to test such claims, the only response has been to dismiss them out of hand.”

Possible Explanations for Nano-Doses

Precisely how homeopathic medicines work remains a mystery according to present scientific thinking. And yet, despite the paradox of homeopathic medicines, nature and new technologies are replete with striking examples of the powerful effects from extremely small doses.

It is commonly known that certain species of moths can smell pheromones of its own species up to two miles in distance. It is no simple coincidence that species only sense pheromones from those in the same species who emit them (akin to the homeopathic principle of similars), as though they have developed exquisite and specific receptor sites for what they need to survive and to propagate their species. Likewise, sharks are known to sense blood in the water at distances, and when one considers the volume of water in the ocean, it becomes obvious that sharks, like all living creatures, develop extreme hypersensitivity for whatever will help ensure their survival.

It is therefore not surprising that renowned astronomer Johann Kepler once said, “Nature uses as little as possible of anything.”

One metaphor that may help us understand how and why extremely small doses of medicinal agents may work derives from present knowledge of modern submarine radio communications. Normal radio waves simply do not penetrate water, so submarines must use an extremely low frequency radio wave. However, the terms “extremely low” are inadequate to describe this specific situation because radio waves used by submarines to penetrate water are so low that a single wavelength is typically several miles long!

If one considers that the human body is 70-80% water, perhaps the best way to provide pharmacological information to the body and into intercellular fluids is with nanodoses. Like the above mentioned extremely low frequency radio waves, it may be necessary to use extremely low (and activated) doses as used in homeopathic medicines, in order for a person to receive the medicinal effect.

It is important to understand that nanopharmacological doses will not have any effect unless the person is hypersensitive to the specific medicinal substance. Hypersensitivity is created when there is some type of resonance between the medicine and the person. Because the system of homeopathy bases its selection of the medicine on its ability to cause in overdose the similar symptoms that the sick person is experiencing, homeopathy's “principle of similars” is simply a practical method of finding the substance to which a person is hypersensitive.

The homeopathic principle of similars makes further sense when one considers that modern physiologists and pathologists recognize that disease is not simply the result of breakdown or surrender of the body but that symptoms are instead representative of the body's efforts to fight infection or adapt to stress.

Using a nanodose that is able to penetrate deeply into the body and that is specifically chosen for its ability to mimic the symptoms that the sick person is experiencing helps to initiate a profound healing process. It is also important to highlight the fact that a homeopathic medicine is not simply chosen for its ability to cause a disease similar to that which a person has but for its ability to cause a similar overall syndrome of symptoms of disease. By understanding that the human body is a complex organism that creates a wide variety of physical and psychological symptoms, homeopaths acknowledge biological complexity and have a system of treatment to deal with it.

Although no one knows precisely how homeopathic medicines initiate the healing process, there is over 200 years of experience by hundreds of thousands of clinicians and tens of millions of patients that these medicines have powerful effects. One cannot help but sense and anticipate the veritable treasure-trove of knowledge that further research in homeopathy and nanopharmacology will bring in this new millennium.

Quantum Medicine

Quantum physics did not disprove Newtonian physics; it simply extended our understanding of extremely small and extremely large systems. Likewise, homeopathy does not disprove conventional pharmacology; instead, it extends our understanding of extremely small doses of medicinal agents.

The founder of homeopathic medicine, Samuel Hahnemann, MD, rewrote and updated his seminal work on the subject five times in his lifetime, each time refining his observations. Homeopaths continue to refine this system of nanopharmacology. While there is not always agreement on the best ways to select the correct remedy or the best nanopharmacological dose to use, the system of homeopathic medicine provides a solid foundation from which clinicians and researchers exploring nanopharmacologies can and should explore.

Samuel Hahnemann is buried in Pere Larchese, the most famous cemetery in Paris, and his tombstone bears the Latin words, “Aude sapere” which means: dare to know, to taste, and to understand. Such is the challenge that homeopathy and nanopharmacology present to us.


A special issue of the Homeopathy, the journal of the British Faculty of Homeopathy, was published in July, 2007: ( Scientists from the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, USA as well as the UK present remarkably convergent views from groups using entirely different methods, indicating that large-scale structural effects can occur in liquid water and can increase with time. Such effects might account for claims of memory of water effects. People with a technical background will benefit greatly from this collection of articles. The bottomline is that homeopathic nanodoses do not break any known laws of nature, and in fact, homeopathic nanodoses are verified by present laws of physics and material sciences.

Resources to Learning about Homeopathy

If homeopathy makes sense to you or if you simply want to learn more about it, you can access an excellent summary of what are the best books for learning different aspects of it by clicking HERE.


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Dana Ullman, M.P.H. is “” and is America's leading homeopathic educator. He has authored eight books, including his newest and most important book, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy (North Atlantic, 2007) and his best-selling Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines (with Stephen Cummings, MD, Tarcher/Putnam, 2004), as well as The Consumer's Guide to Homeopathy (Tarcher/Putnam, 1996), Homeopathy A-Z (Hay House, 1999), and Discovering Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century (North Atlantic, 1991) which includes a foreword by Dr. R.W. Davey, Physician to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

He has also authored an e-book, Homeopathic Family Medicine, which provides useful clinical
information for the homeopathic treatment of over 100 common conditions, plus providing comprehensive and up-to-date information on clinical research in homeopathy. He has also served in an advisory and/or teaching capacity at alternative medicine institutes at Harvard, Columbia, and University of Arizona schools of medicine.

Dana Ullman is the owner of Homeopathic Educational Services, America's leading resource for homeopathic books, tapes, medicines, software, and distance learning courses. Besides access to purchasing high quality information and products, this website has more than 100 free articles on homeopathy.

This article is compliments of its author, Dana Ullman, MPH, and Homeopathic Educational Services. To access 100+ free articles on homeopathy plus a full online catalog of homeopathic books, tapes, medicines, software, and distance learning courses, visit! Profits to H.E.S. help to grow homeopathy. Anyone with a serious interest in homeopathic clinical research will benefit greatly by purchasing Dana's ebook, Homeopathic Family Medicine: Evidence Based Homeopathy.