The red pigment of the blood, hemoglobin, contains iron, the chemical properties of which are at work in the functions of respiration, the absorption of oxygen in the lungs, and its transport to all body tissues. An iron deficiency could cause not only fatigue and physical weakness, but in general, it could be responsible for a person’s constant lack of resistance to infections. Interestingly, a decrease of iron in the blood may be itself caused by infections, thus leading to a vicious cycle of poor health.
Since the arrival of AIDS the lack of resistance to infections is the greatest challenge of modern medicine. Immunology, like other conventional sciences, has become a research field of details resulting in ever more immunizations rather than addressing health in a holistic way. Within the scope of this article, I will refer to basic observations, which link the outer appearance of human nature, illness, and remedial substance to their inner origins. Such views have been renewed for modern thinking by Rudolf Steiner, the inaugurator of Anthroposophy, although we find this wisdom described throughout history.
Iron is the most prevalent of the heavy metals in the human body as well as in our planet as far as earth has been explored. According to W. Pelikan, a well-known anthroposophical researcher, the distribution of mineral iron stretches from North America, England, France, Germany, into Russia and even North China as a vast belt around much of the northern temperate earth latitude. Characteristically, it occurs next to a similar belt of coal formation, an indication that in the early stages of earthly evolution iron, like coal, was part of organic life. A special form of iron is found on all continents: meteorites literally fall from the skies to the earth every year. This meteoric iron is a cosmic pure metal with a crystalline pattern not seen in earthly iron.
Civilization has been called the “Iron Age” since humans learned to use this metal for purposes of technology. As iron is one of the main ingredients of nature and human life, we are not surprised to find through many epochs of history that cultures have described their central spiritual values in connection with this metal. Never have these values been more deeply expressed than through the personality of the apostle Paul, who is always depicted with his sword. The sharp iron blade points to Paul’s own transformation from a cruel, merciless persecutor to become the “instrument of the Lord Christ.” Paul himself used, at the end of his epistle to the Ephesians, the picture of the armor of God to fight the hierarchic powers of evil. “The spiritual sword is the Word of God”. Another sword-bearing figure in Christian depictions is the archangel Michael, about whom we read in the Apocalypse that he defeated the satanic dragon. But Christian art shows Michael also holding a scale. There, the blade of his sword is transformed into the “tongue” of the scale, pointing out the difference between good and evil.
Are these considerations relevant to understand the immune system? Whichever way the different white blood cells and other elements of the “body defenses” work, the emotional and spiritual condition of the patient makes a vital difference. A strong sense of determination not to become ill, an attitude of guardedness against infection, are effective helpers to prevent communicable illness. Our immune system is even capable of fighting cancer with amazing results, especially in patients who do not give up.
Observations of this kind remind us of the inner strengths of iron: courage and will power to fight. At the same time, they raise questions about the purpose of the immune system. Is it there to fight infections or cancer, to kill bacteria, viruses or malignant cells, so there will be no illness? In terms of bacteriology, that would define the immune system. But it does not define health, because it does not include the personal experience of going through an illness to regain new health. When we are “run down,” “under stress,” or sleeping or eating poorly, not only our resistance to various illnesses is compromised, but we become victims of our own poor life style. As disruptive as an illness can be for the job we are trying to fulfill, it helps us to take a break from an exaggerated work commitment and to gain a better perspective on life. Recovery then can bring a new resolution, a new sense of inner balance and joy.
Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy, had insight into the true process of healing that always included the mind as well as the body. He saw a deep spiritual connection between an illness and a remedy. The inner dynamic of a substance does not become active in its crude material form. To become a remedy, a substance has to be rhythmically diluted. Hahnemann taught in his book Organon that in the homeopathic process the inner force of a natural substance is set free so it can truly heal. The understanding of the spiritual side of healing has been more common in the earlier days of medicine. The Finnish epic Kalewala describes the power of iron to injure and kill; but the hero Wainamoinen knows the mythic origin of the iron, from where the spiritual power comes to stop the bleeding.
The cosmic side of iron is traditionally connected with Mars, the god of warfare, and his red planet. Paracelsus wrote that iron is a universal force present in the planet Mars , in the metal, in the function of the gall bladder and the bile, and in plants permeated by the force of iron, such as the stinging nettle.
How do we prescribe such remedies at present? As a medication to boost the body defenses in flu and similar viral infections, we use iron phosphate in its homeopathic form. The phosphorus component addresses the inflammatory nature of these illnesses. (see also article by J.Wilson – Ed).
Underlying dispositions like fatigue, poor resistance, anxiety, we treat by homeopathically using meteoric iron. Supplementation of material iron has little to do with these medications, even though there are conditions such as iron deficiency anemia, where we have to supplement nutritional iron.
Typical “iron plants,” in the sense in which Paracelsus described the stinging nettle, bear the signature of iron regardless of their material iron content. One of these plants is Boneset, Eupatorium perfoliatum, a potent flu-fighting remedy. It is a heritage of native American medicine, as it only grows wild in America. I prescribe it as the Weleda flu preparation Infludo, which contains Boneset as a main ingredient, and in combination with it Ferrum phosphoricum 6X. You may find Boneset in your back yard or alongside a country road. Its leaves are serrated, lanceolated and sharply pointed. Their flavor is of a penetrating bitterness that truly wakes us up. It is a healthy bitter taste that activates bile excretion. We can see here already a glimpse of how Boneset works its magic; there is a cleansing, “clarifying” effect to that bitterness and its bile activation, which identifies it as part of the iron force described above. The name Boneset indicates that it helps with fevers generating violent bone aches. “Perfoliatum” means “through the leaf” — opposite leaves are uniquely grown together at their base, so that the stem pierces the double leaf. This martial appearance is accentuated in the young plant by the small top pair of leaves pointing upwards like the tip of a spear.
There are other plants carrying the force of iron: Echinacea, Celandine (Chelidonium), Prunus spinosa (a wild-growing bush of the plum family), and certainly the oak tree, just to name a few. If we would consider them only to be fighters against infection or other illness, they would be misunderstood. They are fighting to bring about balance in our lives. Their message is: “Find yourself in your inner equilibrium, then you will understand us, and you will be healed.”
Wilhelm Pelikan, The Secrets of Metals, Anthroposophic Press, Hudson, N.Y.
W. Pelikan, Heilpflanzenkunde, Philosophisch-Anthroposophischer Verlag, Dornach (Switzerland).
Samuel Hahnemann, The Organon of Medicine Kalewala, Rune Eight and Nine