What’s in Our Water? Can Homeopathy Help?

Today’s healthcare faces many widely publicized challenges, including rising costs, limited accessibility through physician shortages and lack of insurance coverage, therapeutic toxicity and side effects, and many more.

Less frequently noted are the issues of medical pollution and environmentally-related illnesses.

Did you know that pharmaceutical drugs are showing up as contaminants in our waterways? One source is directly flushing unused medicines down toilets — but medicated humans also pass their metabolic byproducts into those same toilets. Up to 90% of some drugs taken can be excreted.

Ideally, sewage treatment would capture and eliminate all of these, but removal efficiencies vary widely — averaging about 60% of total drugs in the waterway. What happens with the rest?

A 2002 report from the US Geological Survey found medications such as synthetic estrogens, Tylenol, ibuprofen, Prozac, antibiotics, anticonvulsants, and others in waterways all over the United States.

All these can affect wildlife — for example, by feminizing male fish and poisoning certain birds. Also, very low concentrations of antidepressants such as Prozac and Luvox can induce spawning in bivalves; Prozac also stimulates the ovaries of crayfish. SSRI’s can even affect aggressive behavior in lobsters. How all this might relate to human behavior is still to be determined, yet raises alarming questions.

Developing more ecologically sustainable forms of medicine could cut down on these problems. Sustainable medicine is:

  • Safe and non-toxic to patients
  • Cost-effective
  • Non-polluting and renewable
  • Holistic, adaptable, and flexible
  • Protective of the quality of life on earth, the environment, and earth’s natural resources
  • Synergistic with human health and planetary well-being
  • Connected with the web of life

Many forms of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) meet these criteria; homeopathy is a prime example.

In fact, homeopathy is one of the safest and gentlest forms of medicine available. It can be used in pregnant women, newborns, and very elderly people too. It’s also relatively inexpensive; depending on potency, prices may range from a few dollars to pennies a dose. Consultation with a skilled homeopathic physician is often the greatest portion of cost, because of the time involved. But depending on insurance coverage and type of practitioner seen, some of these fees can be reimbursed.

Homeopathic medicines are made from natural plant, mineral, or animal substances, and are non-polluting. Only very small, renewable amounts of these source substances are needed to make large quantities of medicines with nearly unlimited shelf life. Homeopathy can be — and is — practiced all over the world, from urban areas to rural Africa and India. Research has shown good efficacy in treating epidemic diseases as well.

Homeopathy is holistic, considering the entire being rather than isolated parts. It’s individualized and adaptable to the need of the person coming for help. In addition to offering relief from presenting complaints, it also improves overall health and may prevent or mitigate future illnesses.

Anchored as it is in the healing properties of the natural world, homeopathy is connected with the web of life. It brings together human health and planetary well-being. In many cultures, such as those of ancient Hawaiians, Navajo, and Hopi people, true human health is impossible without connection to — and care for — the natural environment.

New homeopathic medicines are being found and prepared all the time, with great attentiveness to the environments in which they naturally exist. Sometimes the patient’s complaints give hints to this; homeopaths listen carefully and learn well.

Additionally, homeopaths — and more and more conventional physicians as well — share deep respect and awe for healing and life. The natural world not only provides medicines that heal, but in itself is a medicine that can heal.

In their article “Greening Healthcare: Practicing As If the Natural Environment Really Mattered” (Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine; Sept/Oct 2002; 8:5; pp 76-83.) Irvine and Warber discuss these healing qualities in detail. One of their most interesting points is that interacting with the natural world enhances spiritual well-being through the experience of greater interconnectedness. Many of my own patients spontaneously remark on this feeling in themselves, as they gain more resilience on their own healing journeys.

As medicine evolves, I hope that many healing traditions come together with current science in fruitful, respectful ways so that all may benefit. In this way, we may better care for our environment as well.

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