Friday, June 12, 2015

Deeply Mystical, And Obviously Not Science

Review: Crossroads to Cure by Nicola Henriques

I don’t have any argument with one basic premise of homeopathy. Complementary Medicine, the treatment of a whole system of patient and body rather than treating a symptom in isolation, makes sense to me. But as Nicola Henriques makes clear in Crossroads to Cure, homeopathy goes far beyond this foundation, drifting into areas that cannot be supported by the science.

Henriques is a former journalist from Britain, with other nominally health-related books (Menopause, The Woman’s View and Hysterectomy, The Woman’s View) to her credit. She has been a teaching professor of homeopathy, and a practitioner in California. 

This book is the first of a proposed series of three books aimed at consumers and practitioners of homeopathy. (Two and Three are still not available even 17 years after the first was published.) One would expect her to be a valid source of information about the practice of homeopathy and its underlying philosophy.

When she explains that homeopathy rejects the germ theory of disease, and instead ascribes illness to “miasms,” an individualized reaction to the environment described by homeopathy’s founding guru, Samuel Hahnemann, I begin to cringe. The practice of naming these miasms after recognized diseases (typhus, cancer, syphilis, leprosy) is even more disturbing—a cancer miasm, for example, might be cited, and treated, as the cause of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, or even of “ambition,” as much as for a malignant tumor.

It should be noted that not every homeopathic practitioner subscribes to the miasm theory. Henriques does, however. She also re-words Hahnemann’s highly-controversial process of compounding homeopathic remedies—the materia medica—from Succussion and Dilution to “Dynamicization and Attenuation.” Apparently Henriques feels (like many practitioners today) that the central controversy between homeopathic treatment and conventional pharmaceuticals can be dismissed by this sleight-of-word.

Naturally, her text does not discuss the attenuation of homeopathic materia medica beyond the point where any material ingredient might still exist in the materia. The whole concept of “potentisation” relies on something non-material being released to “dynamicize” the materia.

Once I got past this background in Chapter 1, her presentation appeared less deeply mystical. Couched in the most-clinical phraseology, Henriques gives advice to the practitioner on such topics as “The Second Prescription” (the correct response to the patient’s altered condition after the initial remedy), “What to Look for at the Follow-Up,” and “The Golden Rules.” The meat of the book, though is “Crossroads to Cure,” a text flowchart to guide the practitioner to the correct response.

Unfortunately, Henriques had lost me at the beginning. By failing to step away from “preaching to the choir,” she lost an opportunity to present a reasoned argument for the fundamentals of homeopathy. I had hoped for a discussion of the basics. Instead, the assumptions go unchallenged and largely unstated, as the author launches into a guidebook for the converted.

Unless you are already a member of this particular congregation, I cannot recommend the book.

Liner Notes:
  • “DrPat” is just a nickname. I am neither a medical doctor nor associated in any way with the pharmaceutical industry.
  • The linked reference page for Homeopathy in Wikipedia contains disputed information.
  • I am still looking for a reasoned argument for the basic premises of homeopathy. Recommendations are welcome.