Saturday, 28 May 2011

Homeopathy, Bach Flower Remedies and Aromatherapy

The self help and medical ideal is a treatment which costs little and does no harm but achieves results in maintaining wellness or tackling illness.  Homeopathy, Bach Flower Remedies and Aromatherapy are not characterised by invasive and dangerous 'operations and treatments' and so are referred to as 'Soft Medicine'.

Homeopathy is an evidence-based medicine which offers holistic, individual and integrated treatment with highly diluted substances with the aim of triggering the body's natural system of healing.
The Society of Homeopaths is a professional body whose members are trained to high standards and agree to practise according to a strict code of ethics and practice.
There are several thousands of homeopathic remedies.
A seminal book is The Organon of the Healing Art by Samuel Hahnemann, a german physician who created the first system of Homeopathy
An early assertion that like cures like was made by Hippocrates about 400 BC, when he prescribed mandrake root, which produced mania, to treat mania, by prescribing a dose smaller than what would produce mania. In the 16th century the pioneer of pharmacology Paracelcus declared that small doses of “what makes a man ill also cures him", anticipating homeopathy, but it was Hahnemann who gave it a name and laid out its principles in the late 18th century. At that time, mainstream medicine used method which were irrational and inadvisable. Instead, he favored the use of single drugs at lower doses and promoted an immaterial view of how living organisms function, believing that diseases have mental and emotional causes as well as physical causes. Hahnemann also advocated various lifestyle improvements to his patients, including exercise, diet, and cleanliness.
Dr Edward Bach worked as a homeopath. He rejected traditional homeopathic remedies in favour of simple flower remedies.  He posited that disease could take root as a result of negative mental states which suppressed the bodies natural healing mechanism.  If those mental states could be countered with flower remedies then the positive mental attitude that resulted could help trigger the bodies natural healing mechanism.
By observation of his patients seven basic negative states were set out.  Fear, Uncertainty, Lack of interest in present circumstances, loneliness, oversensitivity to ideas and influences, despondency and despair, overconcern for the welfare of others.  

TCM (Contrast the seven excesses or internal causes of disease in traditional chinese medicine - joy, anger, brooding, sorrow, fear, fright and grief.  There are roughly 13,000 medicinals used in China introduced into the diet or drunk as a tea and over 100,000 medicinal recipes recorded in the ancient literature. As in Bach Flower remedies and aromatherapy a shortlist of 38 might also be described though some are toxic.  As with western medicine some toxicity and risk is tolerated by doctor and patient in order to achieve clinical results.  Acupuncture and Acupressure are also non invasive techniques)

Four plants immediately were suggested as an alternative to homeopathic remedies.  The plants were Star of Bethlehem (ornithogalem umbellatum) Mimulus (Mimulus guttatus) Impatiens (impatiens glandulifula) and Clematis (clematis vitalba)
The popular rescue remedy uses Rock Rose for panic, Cherry Plum for loss of self control, Impatiens for tension, Clematis for faintness and withdrawal and Star of Bethlehem for shock and trauma.
Aromatherapy is a self help treatment used in maintaining wellness.  If you are ill you should see a doctor.  Aromatherapy does not seek clinical results but is of use to clinicians. Aromatherapy has its roots in plant based medicine, gardening and cuisine, in beauty therapy and remedial sports treatments.  It is part of the complementary therapies practiced in the UK by the 20,000 members of the Federation of Holistic Therapists.  As in homeopathy it is thought the removal of the mental blockage to health in a range of conditions particularly affecting the skin is as important as removal of a physical blockage for example a surgeons removal of a bullet or widening of a blocked artery. 
Aromatherapy instead uses essential oils derived from aromatic plants, flowers and trees and commonly used for flavour and fragrance purposes.  Essential oils are more convenient to produce, store and use than homeopathic remedies which has contributed to their popularity and the education in their use.

French aromatherapy stresses the application of high doses of essential oils to relieve physical conditions.  A medical textbook L'aromatherapie exactement summarises Aromatherapy treatments.

English aromatherapy continues also in the homeopathic tradition to take into account the mental state and personality of the patient in creating blends of essential oils in a holistic treatment which is of use in nursing and midwifery.  Aromatherapy, with elements of massage therapy, acupressure and reflexology has also found many other applications for example those with communication difficulties, care of the elderly and cancer patients and in veterinary science.

The potential usefulness of aromatic plants was noted in the 1830s by Chabes who influenced Gattefosse and in turn Valnet.  In the 1970s and 1980s aromatherapy became popularised in book form and in practice by Robert Tisserand, Shirley Price and numerous others.  The supply of essential oils for aromatherapy became regularised with the formation of the Aromatherapy Trades Council by essential oil companies bearing their names and others.

Aromatherapy also became an ordered profession with the formation of the International Society of practising aromatherapists (now IFPA a Hinckley UK based body dedicated to unifying aromatherapy practice) and national aromatherapy associations around the world such as NAHA.  22 aromatherapy schools teaching classes from 2 to 10 students a year are members of IFPA.  Some 250 students in total train with these schools each year and IFPA has a membership of some 1250 practising aromatherapists.  A quarterly journal is published with knowledgeable contributors.

Aromatherapy remains dynamic.  In the present day the work of Jane Buckle in the USA has led to radical steps forward in aromatherapy education and practice in a clinical setting and recognition that these simple substances can achieve clinical results whatever our ignorance of how they do so. 
Homeopathy, Bach Fower remedies and Aromatherapy began as a reaction to the apparently absurd medical practices in the west of the 1850s which were nonetheless thought to be effective in treating patients like bloodletting.  Today scientific learning and progress has produced medicine in the prevention and treatment of illness of an altogether differant standard and of course conventional treatments of illness are the norm.  There is popular concern over the side effects of conventional treatments. Conventional medicine does not seek to address the holistic therapist concern for the mental and emotional roots of more common ailments. Self help with homeopathy, Bach Flower remedies and Aromatherapy therefore remains of value and is studied now more than ever before.
Personally I doubt that Bach Flower remedies and aromatherapy can be dismissed as mere placebo.  Firstly if a placebo through a patient anticipating treatment and becoming well achieves that clinical result that is valuable in itself.  Secondly the application of Aromatherapy and Bach Flower remedies by well qualified veterinary surgeons with clinical results indicates that there is more than placebo to this.  A panicky horse does not know a rescue remedy has been added to its drinking water so does not anticipate its treatment.  There is nothing less scientific than to doubt the evidence of ones own eyes.

Science and learning continues to find a way forward and it may well be the collective experience of the effectiveness of these simple self help treatments will result in the next leap forward in conventional medicine as we come to understand the energy flows in the body.

Bach Flower remedies and aromatherapy training can be quickly acquired and whatever else may be said we come to know ourselves and others better which cannot be a bad thing.  

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