This article is reprinted from the November 2003 No.91 Edition of The Homoeopath with permission from Nick Churchill of The Society of Homoeopaths.
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Surviving with Natural Remedies
by Susan Curtis RSHom
Winter Press, UK, 2003; paperback, pp108.
ISBN 1-874581 32 0
Reviewed by Ilana Dannheisser
Welcome to First Aid for the 21st Century. It is no longer enough to know how to cope with falls, blows, bruises, insect bites, sprains, strains, fingers slammed in car doors. This is a book about basic survival in the worst situations already occurring regularly on this planet. Susan Curtis, veteran author of several self-help books on homeopathy, treats this subject with the same common-sense, practical, informed and insightful way as if she were discussing a bump on the head. As she says, "none of us are immune to the times we live in".
It is a slim, pocket-sized volume, with no frills or fancy photographs, but a basic guide with an easy to read layout. You are given the basic information needed to enable you to not feel helpless, but able to approach these difficult situations with at least some, and often vital, resources. There is very little homeopathic philosophy (plenty of other books supply that adequately) but the principles of selection and dosage of an appropriate remedy are sufficient and straightforward, including prevention in epidemics. Remedy information is distilled to a group of essential characteristics, ideal in a situation where there is very little time for the many people who need immediate relief.
As I sit back in my comfortable arm chair in leafy south London, I find myself reading about how to deal with earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, chemical leaks, explosions, gunshot wounds, biological and chemical warfare, radiation fallout and plague (yes, of the Black Death variety). I am thankful that there are people who have gone out to help others coping with these disasters, most notably volunteers for Frontline Homeopathy, who can verify that these remedies have been used widely and effectively. What is also astonishing and encouraging is that the most frequently discussed remedies for these dire situations are the very same ones we have always used for more average emergencies, such as Aconite, Arnica, Arsenicum, Carbo vegetabilis, Ignatia, Lachesis, Natrum muriaticum, Phosphoric acid, Staphysagria, Stramonium, and others. The exception to this is in relation to radiation poisoning, where other remedies such as Plutonium, or combinations of Strontium, Caesium and Rad brom, or Cobalt, Rad brom, and X-ray, are discussed. Homeopaths in the field have been using these and have found them to be effective.
The concept of this book is survival. This includes common sense practices, dietary measures, knowing when to use conventional medicine, as well as self-sufficiency, i.e. knowing how to make your own dynamised and herbal remedies, especially if your access to a homeopathic/ herbal pharmacy is limited or non-existent. The section on 'How to make and use natural remedies' includes how to potentise any substance according to the Korsakov method. This would be most useful if you already had your remedies in tincture form, since you could make any potency from that source. There are also instructions for making herbal remedies. A number of versatile medicinal plants can be cultivated in your garden, or gathered from the wild, as many of them are growing already all around us, even on the roadside. Of course you would have to know how to recognise them, but an ordinary field guide would be sufficient to help differentiate the desirable plants. Curtis provides clear and simple instructions for gathering the plant, and also gives recipes for infusions, tinctures, capsules, compresses, macerated oils, poultices and ointments.
In the materia medica section there are 16 herbal and 44 remedies covered. While I cannot comment on the information on the use of herbs, on the homeopathic remedies I did have some observations. You would expect in a basic book on survival of emergencies or disasters, that the remedy pictures would be biased toward those symptoms or conditions you would usually find in these situations. For the most part this is the case: Tarentula, for example, is one of the remedies for toxaemia, and the relevant details are given, including 'they may be restless' though not especially dancing to a fast and rhythmic drum beat. And likewise for most of the remedies, the aspect of that remedy that would apply to treating emergency and trauma is selected for inclusion. However, in some of the remedy descriptions, what I call the 'remedy stereotype' creeps in.
Take, for example, Arsenicum: "for people who are critical, fastidious, demanding and anxious..." The sentence that follows this, in my view, is more apt, and would suffice: "It is suitable for people who have suffered great loss and are left feeling intensely anxious, fearful and agitated." Or Nux vomica "for those who are critical, exacting, ambitious and forceful" What about ailments from grief, shock, disappointment, as well? And, whereas all the other remedies include indications for trauma, emergency, First Aid, disaster and epidemics, I notice the indications listed for Sepia all revolve entirely around the 'exhausted, dragged-down child-bearing woman' scenario. It is my general view that the promotion of some of these 'typical' pictures may actually detract from a true understanding of the true effect of a remedy (thus leading to prejudice in the prescriber); and that more emphasis should be given to the physical-general and specific symptoms which are peculiar to that remedy, and less to the mentals which may be open to misinterpretation. To put it simply, the correct remedy might be overlooked because the person does not match that type.
The explanation for this is that in a previous section, 'Finding the right homeopathic remedy', we are advised that in a situation where the remedy has a strong 'personality' picture, this should be the guiding factor. To be fair, I would agree that in such emergencies any strategy is worth trying. Nevertheless, I wonder about these 'old-hat' descriptions, and whether or not they should be updated?
It is a minor criticism. Altogether this is a practical and user-friendly book that goes as far as it possibly can within a limited space. If you have the guts to treat people in this kind of need, then this may be the guide for you. What's more, if you buy the book, 5% of the cover price goes to Frontline Homeopathy, the charity which provides homeopathic treatment in developing countries, where people really are sometimes suffering the effects of war, disaster and poverty.
Who knows? One day, in leafy South London, I may yet be grateful I have this book.