How Homeopathy Can Enhance Conventional Medicine


Alternative Medicine Leaps Forward into Public
Awareness

Alternative medicine is rapidly gaining acceptance in this country.
Last year, the New England Journal of Medicine revealed that
appproximately 30 percent of Americans are using some form of alternative
therapy. The National Institutes of Health have awarded $4,000,000 to research
the efficacy of non-orthodox therapies and are currently in the process of
establishing regional research centers to explore these therapies in clinical
settings. Homeopathic pharmaceutical sales are growing tremendously. The State
of Washington developed a pioneering model health care plan, slated to go into
effect in June of 1995. This plan includes naturopathic doctors as primary care
physicians and all licensed health care professionals (naturopathic physicians,
midwives, acupuncturists and massage therapists) in the State universal
coverage. Blue Cross of Washington and Alaska is now offering a pilot
supplemental plan called Alternapath which covers a test group homeopaths,
naturopaths and acupuncturists. Their intention is to analyze the data after
six months and offer the plan on a more widespread basis.

This is an exciting moment which many of us have long awaited. As
unconventional medicine becomes more widely available, many mainstream
individuals, as well as longtime proponents of natural medicine, are turning to
alternative practitioners. It can be quite puzzling how to comfortably
straddle the two worlds.

How Do I Choose An Alternative Practioner?

This is a complex question, depending largely on the nature of your

problems, the scope of practice of your alternative practitioner, and your
confidence in alternative medicine. A naturopathic or homeopathic physician can
diagnose and treat illness, sees patients suffering from most conditions, and
can perform appropriate diagnostic laboratory tests. Other alternative
practitioners, though skilled in their particular therapies, may have much a
more limited scope of practice. If you are seeking an alternative practitioner
who can substitute for your “regular doctor”, you will probably want to choose
a homeopathic, naturopathic, or chiropractic physician. (The scope of practice
of chiropractors varies widely from state to state.In some states,
chiropractors are limited to adjusting the spine; in other states their
practices are much more of a family practice.)

It is important to have one person who really knows and understands you to
assit you in coordinating your overall health care plan. This is very different
from getting all of your advice from a health food store employee. If you are
healthy and want to self treat with herbs and vitamins, such advice may be
sufficient. But if you have significant health problems, go to a practitioner
who is more knowledgeable and experienced. You may also want to choose other
complementary alternative practitioners such as licensed massage therapists.

It is important that you choose a practitioner who is aligned with your values
and goals. If you are an ardent advocate of macrobiotics, it stands to reason
that you might first seek the care of a macrobiotic nutritional counselor
acupuncturist. If you believe that megavitamin therapy is the way to go, a
naturopathic or holistic medical doctor might best fit the bill. If you are
looking to address the central core of your problem with one single medicine
that treats all of you, physically, mentally and emotionally, then homeopathy
might be your cup of tea. You may live in an area where your choices of
alternative practitioners are few or you may be fortunate enough, as we are, to
live in the Bay area or Seattle where there are hundreds of qualified
alternative practitioners.

One word of advice: be sure that your practitioner is adequately trained and
experienced in the natural therapies that he or she practices. A series of
weekend courses or a correspondence course is not adequate. Naturopaths and
chiropractors must have attended four year medical schools. Homeopathic
physicians, in addition to their license as an M.D., D.O., N.D., or D.C., need
to have completed extensive advanced training in homeopathy.

When Can I Seek Out Alternative Care

and When Do I Need to See My Regular Doctor?

An alternative physician can serve, if you choose, as your primary health
care provider. He or she can, if necessary, refer you to a specialist. Even if
you need hospitalization, your practitioner can generally continue your
alternative treatment along with your orthodox care. Our experience is that
people who continue over the years with homeopathic treatment generally need
far fewer medical interventions and drugs and need hos-pitalization much less
often.

If you are under the ongoing care of a specialist, such as a cardiologist or
endocrinologist, and need to continue your medication indefinitely, you will
need to continue both types of care. In other cases, such as people taking
antidepressants or antihypertensives, it may be possible, as you get better, to
discontinue the prescription drugs. This is best discussed with the prescribing
physician. In such a case, conventional doctors may be happy to see that you
are improving and no longer need to take medications.

Will My Orthodox and Alternative Doctors Communicate with Each Other?

This depends on many factors including the degree of acceptance of
alternative medicine in your community, the degree of open mindedness of your
conventional doctors, and the practice styles of the two physicians. It is
always a pleasant surprise when we receive a call from a conventional doctor
who wants to know what we did with his or her patient that worked so well.

The Best of Both Worlds

There are many times when orthodox and alternative medicine can work hand in
hand beautifully. We have seen this to be true literally hundreds of times when
we have prescribed a pre- and post surgery protocol consisting of nutritional
supplements and homeopathy. Our patients, without exception, have healed
quickly without complications of surgery and their doctors have often been
amazed by their incredibly rapid recovery. We await the day when orthodox and
natural medicine can be truly complementary and when natural medicine is no
longer just an alternative.

Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and
homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic
Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of
The Patient’s Guide to
Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD
and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206)
774-5599.

Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW Written by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman ND MSW

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