The baby is suddenly screaming and running a fever in the middle of the night, batting at her ear, red in the face and outer ear. It’s probably a raging ear infection. The young mother frets -it seems to her that a fevered sickness always happens at night, and usually on the weekend. She is concerned and then frightened. Should she take the child to the emergency room for antibiotics? Should she wait until morning? What else can she do? If she doesn’t go to the doctor, is she a bad mother? If she goes to the doctor and gives the child antibiotics as she is reluctant to do, is she a bad mother?
Antibiotics and antivirals follow the logic of directly killing the “bug” that is seen as the cause of the disease. Although antibiotics were hailed as miracle drugs on first discovery and certainly have important uses, we have come to see their weaknesses and even dangers. We think of antibiotics as killing the bad bugs. But they don’t necessarily discriminate. “Anti- biotic” means against life. Antibiotics kill not just the bugs we want to target, but also others, some of which may be friendly and even necessary to us. Antibiotics kill friendly bacteria in the gut, the ones that help us to digest our food. In this way, they unbalance our basic ability to break down and absorb our nutrients. They weaken us as they work. As antibiotics came into common use (and overuse) organisms - the bad bugs - responded by becoming resistant to the drugs, sometimes in scary ways. Antibiotics (which target bacteria) are often prescribed for infections that turn out to be viral in nature, where they are not effective. Antibiotics in animal feeds and animal tissues pollute the waterways and the food supply, thus compounding the problem of resistance. But what choice do we have?
There are herbal approaches to treatment of infections, which rely on the antibiotic properties of plants like echinacea and goldenseal. Well-known master of herbal science Stephen Buhner points out that organisms do not become resistant to treatment with herbs because plants have numerous compounds and qualities and are by nature too complex for micro-organisms to easily become resistant to.
Plants also, in their nature, have energetic properties, which directly interact with the subtle energies of the human body. This brings us to a radically different approach to treatment of bacterial and viral infections: to treat energetically, so that the body becomes an unfriendly environment for the bug, capable of defending itself. Energetic treatments (like homeopathy, acupuncture, reiki) don’t put substances into the body to carry on the fight against infection for us. Instead, they stimulate the body to use its own considerable inner resources to quell the invader and re-establish health.
Homeopathy is well suited to use in the home against simple acute infections. Remedies are readily available on the shelf and from local practitioners. Books for the household that help an accurate choice of remedy are also easily found. The strength of the homeopathic approach is that the correct remedy for any given situation will precisely match the nature of our susceptibility to the harmful organism. This remedy stimulates the body to get out of its stereotyped but ineffective response and into its most creative and powerful response. Because the remedy must speak to the energetic susceptibility, it is matched to the peculiar symptoms of the individual rather than to the name of the disease (”earache,” “bladder infection,” “strep throat,” “flu,” and so forth).
The young mother in a situation like that described above can safely give her child the indicated remedy. She must, of course, have access to remedies (on her shelf or at a nearby store, for example) and some knowledge (from a book or class, or from a practitioner she can call). Especially in the first stages of an infection, and especially in infants and children, the turnaround response to the precise remedy can be dramatic and fast.
You can get a start on using homeopathy in the home by getting a good introductory book (my favorites are Dana Ullman, Homeopathy for Children and Infants; and Robert Ullman and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, Homeopathic Self-Care). A class, such as one of the introductory sessions I offer at Dancing Cranes, will give you an orientation to the nuts and bolts of using and choosing remedies. Remedies are on the shelf in many natural food stores; here in Southern Humboldt, all three of our grocery stores (Chautauqua, Shop Smart, Ray’s Food Place) have a good selection of commonly used remedies.