Homeopathy Comes to UCI

Nune Alaverdyan/New University

When it comes to holistic health, the Students for Integrative Medicine (SIM) look at the big picture, the whole body and the entire realm of alternatives.

It was for this reason that the organization hosted “Introduction to Homeopathy,” a lecture held on Wednesday, April 13 with guest speaker Susan Samueli.

Homeopathy is a complimentary alternative medicine that focuses on the body as a whole and encourages the use of home remedies to cure illnesses. The totality of the system and the whole person, including environment, diet and temperature is taken into account. Homeopathic remedies are made of natural resources: minerals, plants and animals are essential, in addition to the less common arsenic, sulfur, rotting beef and snake venom.

Samueli, co-founder of the Samueli Foundation and the Center for Integrative Medicine, is well-versed in the study and practice of alternative medicine and health. She first became interested in the practice of homeopathy while raising her daughters. She wanted to find different methods to cure for her three children. During a trip to Paris, a friend suggested she try a remedy to cure a cold she felt coming on. Within an hour she was well and subsequently hooked.

She began her lecture with the extensive history of homeopathy: in the 5th century, Hippocrates conceived the idea of similars which reasons that like should treat like. If something creates sickness, it also might be able to make you well. It was upon this foundation that Samuel Hahnemann used homeopathy as a widely practiced and accepted form of medicine. Its effectiveness in the early 1800s carried its popularity throughout the century, but by the 1900s it had lost its legitimacy. The dilution of the remedies — each root material is diluted in water, alcohol or lactose in specific ratios — coupled with the low-cost of the medicine caused the American Medical Association to suppress research in homeopathy, pushing the disciplines of traditional medicine instead.

“[Remedies are] cheap to make and buy, so pharmaceutical companies are not interested in it at all because there is no profit,” Samueli said.

Still, homeopathy is undeniably popular in other countries. Great Britain, France, India, Argentina and Brazil are some entities where remedies are not only accepted, but are the most widely used method in the world of medicine.

In the United States however, the heavy dilution coupled with the perceived lack of science involved renders homeopathy rather unpopular in the medical community.

“It’s tough to get the respect we deserve,” Samueli said.

Homeopathy is still upheld by lay practitioners nonetheless, she explained, and they keep the practice alive through their own practices.

The successes of curing illnesses with homeopathy are impressive, despite the skeptical outlook most in the western medical industry have assumed.

Samueli’s middle daughter is an example of a classic homeopathy success story: at 25 years old, she can still take the same remedy she took at 8 years old and cure herself of most common ailments.

“This one particular medicine has carried her throughout the sicknesses in her life,” Samueli said.

How can this efficiency be explained? The answer is not so simple, for the subtleties of the practice are true enigmas. A preparation called succession — shaking remedial mixtures — for instance, is proven to increase potency and efficacy. However, in some cases merely mixing the alcohol or water with the root resource leaves the patient with better results.

“It all depends on the body upon which you are working,” Samueli explained.

The push for considering mental health and the whole body in medicine has led the Students for Integrative Medicine (SIM) to embark on a series of projects, including the creation of the class “Introduction to Integrative Medicine,” as well as implementing a monthly lecture series on integrative medicine.

SIM participates in research and community outreach, providing medicine to homeless and marginalized citizens of Orange County. According to SIM member Gabriel Orenstein, the group is working on pairing students trained in compassionate listening with hospital patients. The volunteers’ job is to truly listen to the patients’ stories and experiences.

“Rather than searching for a symptom, they try and find a cause,” Orenstein explained.

The class is the group’s main focus project, because the UCI community is one that can add greatly to the spread of homeopathy as a widely used practice.

“It will grab a larger audience. I think a lot of people have an interest in integrative medicine, but it’s just easier to get into what’s available,” Orenstein said. “There are many biology and chemistry classes, but how many on integrative medicine?”

The lecture, a portion of the monthly series SIM puts on, was a successful one, and attendants appreciated Samueli’s fresh take.

“To get Susan Samueli at our school was big — she is a prominent figure in the support for integrative medicine,” Orenstein said. “Getting to hear her personal experiences with holistic medicine sheds new light on the topic.”