A Homeopathic Approach To Cancer
A Homeopathic Approach to Cancer is a clear, concise alternative medicine reference that introduces Dr Ramakrishnan's method. This book details 126 different cases, covering 25 types of cancer, in a comprehensive format and presents documentation that illustrates how homeopathy has been successfully used in the treatment of cancer. The book's procedural analyses and observations on methodology interspersed throughout the text will help guide the practitioner to correct prescribing.
The author, who co-authored the book with Catherine Coulter, is the homeopathic doctor of the Indian president and has been practising for over 30 years, has personal experience in the homeopathic treatment of of 5000 cancer patients. His working methods are relatively straightforward but presuppose a sound knowledge of homeopathy. The decisive characteristic is a frequent, usually daily dose of single remedies, which are mostly administered in a pattern of alternating weeks.
He usually administers his treatment alongside conventional medical procedures. Yet he has also had numerous cases – for example, of patients with astrocytoma or glioma – who had relapses after two or three ineffectual operations or radiation treatments, and who were then treated solely using his methods (in some cases with over ten years of follow-up).
Reprinted with the permission of The Society of Homeopaths, from 'The Homeopath' Journal, Winter 2002 edition. Reviewed by Nick Hewes.
A few years ago an unsettling article appeared in The Homeopath, describing five terminal cases of cancer, occurring in patients who had formerly responded well to constitutional homeopathic treatment. The unspoken question for all of us was (and is): "How good is our homeopathy, if our apparent 'successes' eventually fall ill to this dreaded disease?" All along, cancer seems to occupy a special dark place in our collective psyche; for example, at college we were always told not to charge a patient with cancer, because the prospect of a successful outcome was so remote; more sobering still is the loss of several RSHoms in their forties and fifties in recent years, from cancer.
We all recognise the sense of failure and powerlessness in the face of cancer's over-whelming destructive force. It is as if the methods at our disposal are simply no match for this sleeping monster; to be sure, the idea of treating a cancer patient with a single constitutional remedy, and telling them to return in six weeks for a follow-up visit, has always felt, to me, like asking Sigourney Weaver's Agent Ripley to confront a very hungry alien, armed only with a badminton racket: - there is always a suspicion that we may, in such a case, simply be "pissing in the wind" (sometimes only Anglo-Saxon will do).
This special disease demands a special method, and Dr AU Ramakrishnan's A Homoeopathic Approach to Cancer gives us exactly that: it is a thoroughly coherent manual, based on the author's vast experience of treating malignancy. Having trained with Margery Blackie in the sixties, he experienced "a series of failures in cancer cases", followed by the deaths, from the same disease, of both his brother and sister, "both of whom were homoeopathic doctors". These led Dr Ramakrishnan to develop his famous system of giving two remedies, several times a-day, (one an organ-specific remedy, the other a cancer nosode) alternating on a weekly basis, using Hahnemann's plussing method.
The content of the book is based upon 128 of Dr Ramakrishnan's case-histories; these show the various applications of his method. At the end of each case there is a short commentary. The book needs to be read as a narrative, in order to really absorb the material, although in practice it will be a very useful work of reference.
Clearly and faultlessly written by Catherine Coulter, but based entirely on Ramakrishnan's experience of over 5,000 cases of cancer, A Homoeopathic Approach to Cancer represents quite a challenge to some of our accumulated dogmas: the first sacred cow to be culled is our notion of treating the individual, not the disease: -"The individualization of the patient must yield to the specificity of the disease itself" (p2). This means that, almost always regardless of a patient's constitution, the remedies are chosen on the basis of organ-affinity; so that, in the case of say, breast cancer, only four or five remedies are even considered in the first few months. This could be a hard pill for purists to swallow, but there are classical precedents which crop up here and there: for example, in his ' preface to the Chronic Diseases, Hahnemann insists that Mercurius is a routine remedy for syphilis:- the constitution of the patient simply doesn't come into it. Perhaps this is because, (as in cancer) the force of the disease is so entirely dominant.
In a similar vein, Jeremy Sherr, in a lecture given in 1991, suggested that the gross pathology of cancer results in the tumour "dropping-off" the shelf of the patient's constitution, in effect creating a new, "heavier" state; this means that the remedies may then have to be adapted to the identity of the new disease, rather than to the patient's constitution.
Another shibboleth to fall is the notion of discontinuing treatment when the symptoms disappear; Kent sternly tells us: "It is the duty of the physician to wait for the return of the original symptoms" before repeating the remedy (Philosophy, p268), whilst Hahnemann reminds us that when "no trace of the disease, no morbid symptom, remains, and all the signs of health have permanently returned, how can anyone, without offering an insult to common sense, affirm in such an individual the whole bodily disease still remains in the interior?" (Organon, para 8, footnote 5). Ramakrishnan, on the other hand, will often repeat the remedies for weeks, months and even years after the patient has returned to health, often giving a high potency fortnightly, or monthly, as-long-as the patient is improving. "In the homeopathic treatment of cancer" he tells us "the prescriber often cannot afford to 'wait and watch'".
The routine, continuous repetition of the remedy, after all signs of the illness have apparently abated, suggest that the beast is not gone, but only sleeping, and must be kept in its lair by a frequent administration of the remedy. Those of us (like this author) who have been brought up on the Kentian methodology of 'Single remedy, wait and watch for aggravation, amelioration and relapse before repeating', will have to take on what is generally known as a paradigm shift! In this case, however, perhaps we have to bow to Dr Ramakrishnan's vast experience.
The third doctrinal 'duffing up' concerns, of course, the perennial issue of the single remedy; in case after case, Dr Ramakrishnan will add a third remedy to the first two alternating remedies, especially , when distressing symptoms like pain and vomiting occur. Normally this remedy will be organ-specific, and given in a lowish potency on a 'take-as-needed' basis. The most important thing, beyond dogma, must be: "Is the Ramakrishnan method of aid to suffering humanity?" A few glances at his amazing results would have us answering in the affirmative (e.g. success rates of 68% in cervical cancer, 74% in bone cancer, 80% in cancer of the oesophagus); which means that, in the case of this destructive disease, we may have to sometimes depart from our cherished ideals of treating the individual constitution with the single remedy, based on the portrait of the symptoms before us.
In any case, the book comes across in a positive light: - the story of a man who, having found his normal methods wanting, has gone away, and calmly and assiduously developed a wholly new way of working, over a period of about 25 years. There is never a sense that he has an iconoclastic axe to grind.
Lastly, the Ramakrishnan method, if taken-on, asks many questions of us on a purely prosaic, practical level. For example, if we have to give remedies daily or weekly, sometimes for years on end, we may have to reconsider the question of how we charge people. At the moment, most homeopaths charge a fee for the consultation, not for the remedies, but this may need to change somewhat, in those cases where patients are provided with large amounts of medicine.
A second question concerns the issue of long-term follow-up; in normal constitutional treatment, when a patient gets well, you stop the treatment (that is one of the great joys of being a homeopath). In the Ramakrishnan method, however, patients are encouraged to follow-up for years, even after a full recovery has been made, so that the alternation of the remedies can continue. That presents us with a real difficulty. Last year, for example, I used the Ramakrishnan method with a patient who'd recently had surgery for breast cancer (alternating Conium with Carcinosin on a weekly basis); she rang up after six weeks to say she felt so much better after the treatment, that she'd decided to cancel the follow-up. I was quite happy to have helped the patient at that time, but now I would be in a quandary about how long she really needed to go on with the treatment. One ends up thinking:- if you can't see the piece of string, how on earth can you tell how long it is? Or:- has the alien gone away, or is it only sleeping? (Which takes us back to paragraph 8 of the Organon.)
The third practical difficulty would be that we need to improve some of our skills in examination and diagnosis. It is obvious that Dr Ramakrishnan is constantly examining the patient, focussing especially on the site, size and hardness of the tumour; also, he sets great store on the use of conventional investigations, such as scans, in order to assess a patient's progress after treatment.
For us to take on the responsibility of this kind of work, perhaps we need to develop more aptitude and confidence in our examination techniques. Maybe we should look at the German model, where every student of alternative medicine undergoes a training course in anatomy, physiology and pathology, before engaging in their chosen field of holistic practice.
There is no doubt that the Ramakrishnan method will lead to change for some of us; but that may not be a bad thing, for as Vega Rosenberg said once, the place that really kills you is the comfort zone.
All-in-all, this book is a touching and modest account of Dr Ramakrishnan's steadfast fight against the uItimate 'many-headed hydra'. One cure alone would make it worth the purchase price.
Second Review: Reprinted with the permission of The Homeopathic Links magazine, Volume 15, Spring 2002. Reviewed by Richard Moskowitz, USA.
I've been eagerly awaiting this newest offering from the pen of Catherine Coulter, not only for its well-chosen words and apt phrases, or its fresh insights and seasoned wisdom, all of which we've come to expect, but above all for its subject matter, 'the big C,' the very symbol and archetype of a potentially fatal illness, which most classical prescribers in this country are either wary of treating in the first place, or have had rather limited or disappointing results when venturing to do so.
Take me, for instance. After 27 years in practice, I've been able to provide good symptomatic relief to patients on chemotherapy or radiation, have had good results with general constitutional support and first aid remedies for pre- and post-op surgical care, and even had a few cases of dramatic and long-lasting remission or improvement. But on the whole, using the single remedy chosen by the totality of symptoms, I've not been able to help patients consistently shrink their tumours, prevent recurrences, or correct precancerous lesions.
Furthermore, both my direct personal experience with Vithoulkas and Sankaran and extensive familiarity with the writings of Kent, Boger, et al., confirm my sense that even these great masters had not fared much better in this respect.
Yet on some level I have always known that there has to be a simple and practical way to help cancer patients more reliably than by using homeopathic remedies according to the method we already know to be valid. This book offers and indeed systematically elaborates just such a method, one almost disarmingly easy for an experienced homeopath to use, and indeed so much so as to challenge us all to re-examine what we do and how we do it in a much humbler spirit.
In undertaking this Herculean feat of organisation, condensation, and synthesis, her primary purpose is simply to identify and formulate his working methodology as clearly and systematically as possible. This task she has certainly accomplished in a clear and readable style, but the finest tribute I can pay to her book, and the fairest measure of its success, is to say nothing further about the literary qualities that have already made her famous, and get down to the often unglamorous nuts and bolts of its content, and how we can use it to improve our work with our patients.
I should perhaps add that the conceptual basis of Dr Ramakrishnan's approach is not nearly as new as it may appear to the average reader. In fact, it harks back to a style of homeopathic practice that is still widely prevalent in Europe and elsewhere, one that is, in fact, much older than the Kentian method that I and most classical prescribers of my day were taught and still use, including Dr Ramakrishnan himself. Eminent and respected homeopaths like Hughes and Burnett in the nineteenth century, and Clarke and Eizayaga in the twentieth, have long advocated the use of organ-specific remedies chosen on the basis of more narrow pathological indications, with less emphasis on elaborate individualisation based on personality traits, as favoured by some leading teachers today.
Indeed, it would be fair to say that this more medically-oriented style has always been the most popular one with homeopathic physicians the world over, and is still so among members of the LIGA, for example, and especially in Europe, Latin America, and the Indian subcontinent, where the newer schools of Vithoulkas, Sankaran, Scholten, Mangialavori, et al., are widely regarded as 'elitist' or 'illuminist' interpretations that fail to address the often ugly, unedifying, or inelegant realities of advanced organic disease as commonly seen in clinical practice.
As it happens, Ramakrishnan himself is at some pains not to take a doctrinaire position on either side of this ongoing and wholly legitimate debate. National Vice-President of the LIGA for his country, and official Physician to the Prime Minister of India, he is a good classical prescriber who still uses the single remedy in the minimum dose whenever possible, giving the remedy and then waiting for it to act. As he says in his Introduction, he adopted a more proactive and aggressive approach to cancer only after the deaths of two close relatives from the disease and his own inability to save them using the best methods available to him at the time.
His thoroughly pragmatic attitude seems to boil down to, 'This has been my experience with cancer so far; this is what has worked the best; so give it a try if you want to.' What I take from that is just what we already know, that healing pertains to individuals, requires an ad hoc decision in every case, and is therefore irreducible to a single protocol, rule, or formula. The apposite quote from Scripture would of course be Hahnemann, Paragraph 1 and footnote, 'The physician's highest and only calling is to make the sick healthy...not to construct systems [or] hypotheses.' Amen to that.
In Chapter 1, 'The Homeopathic Approach,' the authors justify their modifications of the classical approach on the basis of two considerations that, however plausible or even self-evident they may seem or turn out to be, must still be regarded as hypotheses in need of further proof, namely:
1) That measurable, concrete pathology, like cancer, calls for a less subtle, less individualised, more pathologically-oriented style of prescribing, featuring the old notion of specific remedies for specific diseases, and others with particular affinity for certain tissues, organs, or regions of the body, as in the organopathic tradition just alluded to.
2) That the life-threatening character of the disease generates an authentic urgency, a 'race against time', which requires a more aggressive dosage schedule than simply giving one or a few doses of a single remedy and waiting for them to act.