Natural medicine first aid – bruises, sprains and strains

SprainA natural medicine first aid kit is an essential when travelling or on holidays, having key homeopathic medicines means you can deal quickly and easily with a range of minor accidents or illnesses without having to find the local pharmacy.

Common remedies for injuries are Arnica, Hypericum, Rhus tox and Ruta. Often there may be only one or two specific symptoms. It’s a little different to traditional homeopathic prescribing where you often need 4-6 symptoms to accurately prescribe a remedy.

Good additions to a natural medicine first aid kit would also include a Calendula based cream, which is good for treating cut and scrapes and usually helps avoid infections as well as my current favourite, Traumeel gel which has a gentle anti-inflammatory action and absorbs well.

 Arnica

First remedy to consider for falls, sprains or strains, particularly concussion or nosebleeds from an injury. Generally key symptoms are a sore bruised feeling anywhere in the body but with a particular affinity for bruised feeling in the back and sprained ankles. Symptoms are worse for being touched or overexerting themselves and they are better if lying down.

Often the person will want to be left alone and insists that nothing is wrong.

Hypericum

Arnica is a great remedy for soft tissue injuries then Hypericum is its match for injuries to areas rich in nerves. In particular for smashed fingers or toes or a fall on the coccyx. Typically the patient has sharp shooting pains along nerves or radiating upwards from the injury site.  Consider for injuries to areas which are rich in nerves such as fingers and toes. Also very useful where a person has had dental work done.

Symptoms are often better for rubbing the affected area and worse for jarring.

 

Homeopathic medicine.jpgRhus Tox

First remedy to consider for sprained ankles or joints. Stiff joints which are better after they first start moving around – known as the “rusty gate” . Generally people who need Rhus Tox are restless and needs to move around. They feel worse for getting cold or wet and better for warmth.

Can also be useful for chicken pox or shingles or dry hot itchy rashes and for flu where the major symptom is that they are restless and their joints ache.

Rhus tox is usually for busy active good humoured people.

Ruta

Usually if Rhus Tox has not helped a sprain or strain you would then consider Ruta. Injuries to tendons, cartilage or the shins, particularly wrists and ankles. Person feels sore and bruised and they are easily fatigued. Pains are better for moving and warmth.

Generally the person who needs ruta is grumpy and inclined to argue.

Some other useful blogs on first aid remedies are Stomach Aches and Pains and Treating Colds  and Flu naturally and Travelling with a Weak Gut .

Christine Pope is a Naturopath, Homeopath and Nutritionist based at Elemental Health St Ives in Sydney. You can make appointments by phone on 8084 0081 or online at www.elementalhealth.net.au .

Stomach Aches and Pains

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Tummy bugs can be a real pain however its possible to manage them easily with homeopathic medicines and a few simple dietary strategies.

With any stomach upset it is important to keep up liquids to reduce symptoms from dehydration. Headaches in particular may indicate that the patient is not drinking enough or is losing too much fluid. Consistently heavy diarrhea and/or vomiting may lead to a dangerous change in a patient’s hydration and can require hospitalization.

The diet needs to be bland and food can be avoided for a couple of days if the patient cannot bear the thought of eating. Bland food can include rice, toast, clear soup or a banana. Avoid spicy or acidic foods until the stomach is settled.

Chronic recurring diarrhea or constipation can be a sign of food allergies or intolerances. An exclusion diet or allergy testing will help identify these foods and removal of the foods from the diet as well as treatment for the gut will minimise symptoms.

BacteriaWhen travelling I always take along a heat stable strain of sacchrymdes boulardi which is a prebiotic. It can be very helpful at reducing your symptoms if you do pick up a stomach bug but it can also assist by attaching to bad bugs and helping them move out of your system and in that way reducing the length of the episode.

A similar benefit can be obtained by eating the local fermented food if you are staying in the area for a few weeks.

My homeopathic first aid kit consists of the following medicines and remember when choosing a homeopathic you are looking for at least 2-3 symptoms which are similar to your patient.

Arsenicum

First remedy to think of for food poisoning or stomach flu. May not be able to bear the sight, smell or thought of food. Worse at midnight to 2am. Generally chilly and desiring frequent cold drinks. Patient may be very anxious and better for warm applications.

Lycopodium

Patient is full of gas with flatulence and belching. Weak digestion and may be satiated after a little food.  Can’t stand anything around  the waist. Usually worse between 4-8pm.

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Colic in children. Abdominal cramping better for warmth and pressure, often quite gassy and better for bending over.

Nux Vomica

Hangover remedy. Over indulgence in food and alcohol. Constipated or with heartburn made worse by spicy food. Grumpy irritable and workaholic people.

Better for rest or discharges.

Podophyllum

Good remedy for Bali Belly with explosive diarrhea. Also for constipation alternating with diarrhea. Worse for acid fruits or milk. Sour smelling vomit.

Thirst for large quantities of water.

 

Treating Colds and Flu naturally

Most people are exposed to cold and flu germs on a regular basis but more noticeably during change of season and Winter. In this blog I will cover some simple treatments both homeopathic and nutritional you can use at home for cold and flu as well as a little advice on managing fever.

The body has a number of natural defence mechanisms after exposure to germs or allergens. These include a streaming nose or increases in temperature.Fever for example helps to reset the bodies internal temperature to create a climate which doesn’t allow the bugs to multiply as quickly, which then allows your immune system to respond faster.

Fever when it is well managed can assist in dealing quickly with an infection. It is usual with a fever to experience some side effects, such as reduced appetite, muscle aches and pains, headache and tiredness. These effects tend to be more pronounced if the fever rises quickly or is higher than 39.5 C (103.1 F). A normal temperature ranges from 36C to 37.2C.

Management of Fever

Generally speaking when managing a fever its best to follow these tips;

  • Keep the patient quiet and comfortable. Bed rest (if possible) otherwise minimal activity. Even though the patient may feel warm it is important not to chill them but to keep them dressed appropriately with a light cover.
  • Keeping the patient at a comfortable temperature by sponging with tepid water where they are very flushed or when you are concerned that the temperature is climbing quickly.
  • Keep up the fluids in particular water as during fever patients lose a lot of fluid through sweat or just increases in their metabolism.
  • The patient’s appetite may not be good however light nourishing food such as soup or juice where tolerated will assist in keeping up fluids as well as providing nourishment. It is not really necessary to “starve a fever” as a lot of energy is used up when a patient has a fever.
  • Refer to a practitioner if the fever is in excess of 39.5C or the patient is very distressed or complains of neck pain.

Always consider immune support in the form of 1-2g of Vitamin C and 25g of zinc a day during the illness. Vitamin C is generally better given in divided doses over the day as what the body doesn’t use it will excrete.

There are also a couple of teas that are useful during cold and flu. A popular option is YEP tea which is Yarrow, Elder and Peppermint and it can help cool the fever by sweating it out a little. Another I use when the cough is protracted is lemon garlic and manuka honey. Basically boil a  quartered lemon with 5 cloves of garlic in a covered pot for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and serve the strained liquid with manuka honey. Ideally I would recommend you use an organic lemon as you really want the limonene from the peel.

Homeopathically there are some excellent options for managing cold and flu and fevers and I have summarised the type of symptoms you would see in a patient who needs this remedy for a few of my favourites below.

Aconite

First remedy to consider where the onset is very sudden and in particular after exposure to cold dry weather.  Person who needs Aconite is usually extremely anxious, fearful and/or restless.

Violent onset of bursting headache in forehead with burning, tingling and numbness in the nose.  Worse for warm room, cold, dry weather. Better for lying down or open air.

Belladonna

Sudden onset of intense, bursting head pain with hot, red flushed face. Restless, delirious, desire to escape, may strike or bite. Throbbing in the temples worse for  motion of eyes, light, noise, touch, jarring. Better for lying, pressure, bending head back, wrapping up head warmly.

Good remedy for middle ear infection with bright red face and sudden onset of ear pain.

Also good for right sided sore throats which are quite red.

Bryonia

Dry cough which is worse for movement and causes pain in the chest.Constipation with large dry stool.

Pressing or bursting in temples and forehead like a crushing weight worse for motion, stooping, moving eyes. Better for pressure, rest, closing eyes and warmth.

Irritable, thirsty, wants to get back to work.

Gelsemium

Tired exhausting flu. Generally dizzy, drowsy, droopy or dull. Thinking is an effort. Chills or dull pain up and down the spine. Wants to sleep or lie down. Little thirst.

May be accompanied by diarrhea.

Hepar Sulph

Sensitive and irritable. Sore throats with a feeling like something is stuck in it, like a splinter. Swollen tonsils and glands often with pus.  Sharp pain on swallowing. Discharges smell sour. Worse for drafts and touch. Good to use if you don’t get to the Aconite early enough and it comes on after being out in the cold.

Merc Sol

Toxic states or burning or painful sore throats, with bad breath or a metallic taste in the mouth. May have a lot of extra saliva in the mouth.

Temperature sensitivity. Green or yellow discharges.

Pulsatilla

Well developed colds with yellow or green mucus. Symptoms change constantly and person is easily upset and wants people around them Cough can be dry at night but loose in the morning. Worse for heat. Desires rich and creamy foods.

Christine Pope is based at Elemental Health, St Ives and runs regular workshops to teach people how to use natural medicine for treating common health complaints. Her next workshop is on 22 May from 11.30 to 1.30pm. Check the facebook page for details on how to book in.

Halloween , warts and all !

Halloween , warts and all !

Halloween brings up the images of witches with warts so I thought a few wart remedies would be appropriate. Warts can be easily treated with homeopathic remedies and each has its own picture. Common wart remedies include Thuja, Ant Crud, Calc Carb Graphites, Nit-ac and Causticum. Homeopathically the picture is different for each remedy. Some examples includes;

Antimonium crudum (Ant-c.): Hard, smooth warts that often appear in groups. Irritability and a thickly coated white tongue also suggest the need for this remedy. The person may also overeat and have various digestive complaints.

Calcarea carbonica (Calc.): Round, hard, solitary warts. Often useful for endophytic warts that have a horny wall surrounding a central depression. Indicated in people with clammy hands and feet who prefer routine and the familiar rather than change and the unknown.

Causticum (Caust.): Old, large warts on the face (especially the nose), under the fingernails, or warts on fingertips that bleed easily suggest the need for this remedy. The warts also tend to be hard, inflamed, and painful and sit on whitish-yellow, dirty looking skin. People who benefit from this remedy tend fear that something awful will happen and feel intensely sympathetic about the hardship of others.

Graphites (Graph.): Especially in periungual warts or corn-like warts on palms or soles of feet that may be tinged with yellow. Indicated in those who have trouble making a decision and who are prone to keloid scarring.

Nitricum acidum (Nit-ac.): This remedy is indicated in treating large, fissured or gold-yellow warts that itch and sting or bleed upon washing.. This remedy is also indicated for people who are anxious about health and worry about cancer. Often useful for endophytic warts that have a horny wall surrounding a central depression or the more common plantar wart.

Thuja occidentalis (Thuj.): The most common remedy for various kinds of warts. If no other remedy is obviously indicated, consider Thuja. Particularly indicated in isolated, jagged warts that smell or bleed easily or mosaic warts on the sole of the foot. Indicated in those prone to numerous growths or tumors and who worry too much about what people think of them.

In clinic a product called Verucca mix is often quite useful when you can’t decide which remedy to use as it is a combination of a number of the most useful ones.

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist who practices at Elemental Health St Ives. Appointments can be booked on 02 8084 0081. But for more useful information about treating common health problems follow her blog.

Some healing remedies for Sydney

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The last week has been a little bit of a roller coaster with the fun of Christmas parties and the tragedy of the siege in Martin Place in Sydney. I thought I was coping okay on Monday mainly because I was thinking that my family was fine. My daughter was at UTS so no where near where it was happening, except when I realised she was at Chatswood I burst into tears. Turns out her Uni had been on security lockdown all day and then made a decision to finish her summer school classes early and send people home early. Good to know that they had a plan and reacted effectively but also concerning that we live in a world where we need one.

So my mind turned to what homeopathic medicines might be useful at this time. Such a mix of emotions to consider as this crisis has brought up fear, anxiety, relief and tears.

One of the first remedies to think about is Aconite which is good for the shock of the shock. The easiest way to explain it is thinking about a car accident. If you keep remembering the shock of the impact you are stuck in the shock of the shock. Symptoms are sudden and intense and may follow a shock such as an accident or natural disaster. Typically you may feel agitated, restless, and fearful. Other symptoms may include: dry skin and mouth; thirst; pounding heart. Aconite can also treat ongoing anxiety caused by a past  or recent traumatic event.

Arsenicum is a good homeopathic medicine if you feel anxious about security and safety and what might happen in the future. You often tend to worry about health or money. To manage this anxiety, you can become overly fastidious or perfectionist.  You feel better in company but can be a little controlling in behaviour. Usually people who need Arsenicum are overly neat and tidy, chilly and better for warmth.

Ignatia is helpful if you are very teary and can’t stop crying. Often you tend to be the sort of person who loses their appetite when upset and feel as though you have a lump in your throat.

A couple of other options are Bach’s Rescue Remedy which is lovely and calming. The best thing about rescue remedy is you can take it frequently – the recommended dose is four drops four times a day but during a period of significant stress more often is fine.

Also consider changing stimulants such as coffee for something more calming like chamomile or peppermint tea, which is less likely to leave you feeling jittery and upset.

Talking about your feelings with a good friend is helpful. This week I have had a few conversations with people around how they felt about what happened and most of the time people were overwhelmed by the positivity of the social media responses.If that isn’t possible try writing about what you are feeling. Writing it down can really help release stuck feelings and emotions. Many Sydney siders have queued in Martin Place to leave flowers and notes of support, a great way to express their support and concern.

Perhaps find a way to express your gratitude that your family are safe . My version was to track where my daughter was in Chatswood using my find a friend app on our phones and then help her shop at Vinnies for dressups, but at least we were together.

Hope you and your family are safe and well over the Christmas break.

Back to grassroots

bigstock_homeopathy_7963486Spending a weekend in Hobart for a homeopathic conference is a good way to really focus on your practice. You query whether there is a better or faster way to get people well. Is someone else going to give you a gem that makes homeopathy crystal clear and straightforward? Well like a lot of homeopathic practice there were a few insights but I still feel I need to do more work and study.

Dr Joe Kellerstein, the keynote speaker, pvovided a good structure for case taking with his four quadrant approach. Reassuringly I recognised most of the key areas and took out of it some useful ways to drill up or down with questioning.

For perhaps the first time at a conference I also quickly recognised the homeopathic medicines presented. Now it was fairly easy with the Solomon Island’s homeopathy by numbers however identifying a homeopathic medicine I rarely use in a complex case was a bit more exciting.

The other aspect of any conference which is always useful is catching up with colleagues, particularly interstate ones who I haven’t seen since the last conference. The last night a few of us headed down to the Lark Distillery for a whiskey tasting and a great seafood meal at The Drunken Admiral. This was a real highlight for me as like so many small business people homeopaths are often isolated and it is good to be reminded that you have a “tribe” .

Usually with courses I am happy if I get one or two useful things which improve my practice. So what did this conference give me? I guess reassurance that I was on track with my case taking and remedy knowledge and perhaps a reminder to reconnect with my homeopathic roots a little more often.

Water Medicine in the Solomons

Island

At the 2014 Australian Homeopathic Medicine Conference in Hobart, Jane Lindsay, a Queensland homeopath, shared her experiences in the Solomon Island’s. Homeopathy was originally brought out by the missionaries from the South Sea Evangelical Church as a way of looking after their own health and that of their congregations over a hundred years ago. Today is is prescribed by 150 dispensers as a primary form of health care for over 60,000 people in the Solomon’s. They use a simple numbering system as the common language is a form of Pidgin English. Symptoms can include such gems as “Belly Stop” and “Belly Run”.

The homeopathic medicines are numbered and the dispensers have simple symptom descriptions to decide which medicine is appropriate. Originally starting with 36 remedies now it has expanded to 51 as changes in the population’s diet and the introduction of vaccines has created the need for additional homeopathic medicines. (Jane also shared that they would love any materia medica’s that were no longer needed as they don’t have access to a lot of books)

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I really resonated with the idea of a simple number of medicines as I am always surprised by how many clients, once they do my first aid workshop, are able to successfully treat a range of illnesses and injuries. My favourite story was a client who travelled to Israel with her small first aid kit and treated her family’s headaches, PMS and stomach upsets.

This system seems to work reasonably well and it really brings into question for me why as homeopaths we seem to have so many medicines (I have over 600 in my own dispensary!!). I really think we might be better off focusing on a smaller group of better understood medicines rather than trying to choose own of the 1000 in our books. Are we over complicating it for ourselves as homeopaths and making it harder to practice?

So what do you think?

How to avoid the medicare $7 co-payment.

Health food ingredients in white porcelain bowls over papyrus ba

The Federal Budget had a few surprises in it however overall for many families your cost of living will increase. Whether its the 2% debt levy, loss of the Family Tax Benefit or the $7 co-payment that will be introduced if they get it through the senate

One of the best things you can do to reduce your cost of living is to look after your health. Fewer visits to the GP means fewer co-payments and also fewer hours you spend waiting and waiting!
I always remember as a new mum panicking when my children were sick. One of the things I try to get mum’s confident about when I run my homeopathic first aid course is when they can treat something themselves and when they should get straight to the GP. For example in a small child if the temperature is over 39.5c and they are floppy or disorientated seek medical attention as soon as possible.

There are some simple ways to improve your health and making these changes could help reduce the number of times you have to shell out for the co-payment. These include;

1) Eat well – lots of fresh fruit and vegetables (still not GST on those) and small amounts of lean protein.

2) Add good sources of probiotics – it could be a supplement or fermented foods such as yoghurt, kim chi, sauerkraut or keffir (much cheaper options). Good gut bacteria are your first line of defence for your immune system.

3) Exercise – you don’t need to join a gym just put the baby in the stroller or take the kids to the park and walk for half an hour a day – your stress levels will reduce and you will be less prone to infections.

4) Learn more about first aid through St John’s or do my Homeopathic First Aid Course. Its much easier to make a decision about health if you know when you should panic!

Christine Pope is a homeopath and nutritionist based at Elemental Health, St Ives. She is also head of nutrition at Nature Care College where she supervises nutrition clinic and lectures in Homeopathy. She can be contacted for appointments on 8084 0081.

Meta analysis?? Where homeopathy has been shown to work!

 

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Meta analysis – more research jargon I’m sorry but its not really tricky to understand.

Basically a meta analysis can be done when you have a number of studies that look at treatment of the same condition. So if you have a group of clinical trials on childhood diarrhea for example you can then conduct an analysis to see if it was effective across all the groups. This can be useful when the original groups were quite small (a common criticism of natural medicine trials).

There have been seven meta-analysis conducted of homeopathic trials of which six have shown homeopathy to be more useful than placebo. One of the older studies is on childhood diarrhea where there were three studies analysed. Basically what the meta analysis showed was that homeopathy reduced the average duration from 4.1 to 3.3 days as measured by the number of loose stools (1) .  Most people when they have some form of gastro bug are happy for a reduction in the time they spend suffering.

The major homeopathic medicines used in those trials were Podophyllum, Arsenicum album, Sulphur, Chamomilla and Calcarea carbonica – which were used for 78% of cases.

So what other conditions have been shown in meta analysis to be effectively treated by homeopathy? Meta analysis have been conducted for conditions such as allergies, hay fever and upper respiratory tract infections showing homeopathy to be more effective than placebo. Most people who have used homeopathy for those conditions would happily confirm that this is the case.

How do you find out which homeopathic medicine to use to treat acute conditions? I run regular Homeopathic Workshops at my practice in St Ives so come along to a short two hour workshop on May 1 , 2014 from 10-30-12.30  if you are interested. The cost is $99 and you can book in on (02) 8084 0081. Alternatively if you aren’t local  I find the book Homeopathic Self Care a great resource and the author is Reichenberg Ullman – you normally need to order it online from Amazon, but it does cover how to prescribe and up to 70 conditions with self naturopathic suggestions as well.

 

(1)  Jacobs J1Jonas WBJiménez-Pérez MCrothers D., Homeopathy for childhood diarrhea: combined results and metaanalysis from three randomized, controlled clinical trials, Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2003 Mar;22(3):229-34. 

 

Research – is it all lies, lies and damned statistics?

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A recent press release by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) stated that where there was evidence to support the use of homeopathy the trials were too small and not well designed. Its kind of damning with faint praise isn’t it?? By the way most of the headlines were a lot less favourable but I read the detail of the report.

So I decided to write about research and try and explain what is contained in the report and perhaps shed a little light on the whole process. I did try and avoid a lot of maths in this discussion but this is going to be a little longer than my usual blog as it covers a fair amount of information.

Research – hierachy and different types

First up there is a hierachy in terms of research evidence in western medicine. At the top of the research hierachy is the randomised controlled trial (RCT) , which is regarded as the gold standard of evidence. Unfortunately it takes a lot of gold to meet the gold standard and it will always be more difficult with natural medicine which can’t really patent its findings to generate the types of revenues that fund this standard of research.

How much of western medicine is based on the gold standard of RCT’s? Surprisingly a lot less than you would think. Back in the 1980’s when the Cochrane Collection was established only 10- 15% of drugs in use had been subject to this research. The rest of the time they relied on long term clinical use (kind of like a lot of natural medicine). That number has at least doubled in part due to the efforts of the Cochrane Collection which is an independent research body promoting the use of evidence based research in clinical decision making.

Before you get to the RCT however there are other forms of research which contribute to the picture , this can include case study reports, in vitro research (cells in a test tube), animal studies and cohort studies, case control studies and clinical use. A case study report is usually a report which can highlight problems with an existing treatment or a way of dealing with a case which yields some new information. Studies on cells in test tubes or animals may be done at the start of research. They are  not considered as reliable as human trials as humans may react differently to animals.

Case control studies try to identify what is different between a group who have developed a condition and those who didn’t. They tend to be more cost effective but not always as reliable as a Cohort study where participants are tracked over a long period of time. Try remembering what you were eating like ten years ago? See? Its really not that easy. A Cohort study that tracks it over time can document what you were eating at different times in your life and see if the group who develop a condition were eating differently or eating more of a particular food group.

How do we design an RCT?

Whilst the RCT is the gold standard its fairly hard to find any RCT that is perfect. Typically an RCT is set up to compare one treatment against another or against placebo. You then recruit a group of people to your trial who need treatment for that condition – therefore you need to make sure they have the type of condition that will respond to your drug. To avoid complications you try to exclude people in the research who have other conditions as well. In the US students are often happy to participate in those trial’s as its a good way to earn some extra money.

So is that group of people you have just recruited to your study the same as the group of people who will ultimately take your drug? Quite often people as they get a little older are on multiple medications and they aren’t as robust as the group of students who did the trial.

So in your analysis you have just looked at the recruitment of participants and already you may not be that happy with the design.

See how easy it is to start to poke holes in the design of any trial and I haven’t even looked at numbers of participants yet?

Size of trial

To determine how many people you need in a trial you need to look at what the size of the treatment effect is and then a calculation is done (called a power calculation) to determine how many participants you need in your trial at the end to be able to see that the treatment effect is actually statistically significant.

This means a bigger group doesn’t add up to better research. It tends to mean that the smaller benefit someone gets from treatment the larger the group you need to show that it was  statistically significant and didn’t just occur by random chance. When newer drugs are being trialled against older drugs you often see only small improvements in the treatment so large scale trials will be needed.

Most natural medicine trials are quite small as funding is usually restricted however there are processes in place to ensure that the size of the group is adequate to measure the treatment effect. The NHMRC was generally negative about the fact that so few of the homeopathic trials had in excess of 500 participants but neglected to explain why that may not be necessary. They completely omitted the explanation of power calculations or whether in fact these indicated that smaller studies were still reliable evidence. Sometimes its not all about size!

Natural Medicine and RCT’s

In the next blog I will look at some of the reasons why natural medicine doesn’t fit well into the world of RCT’s. I was going to cover it here but its already a bit long!! Would love to hear your thoughts so please feel free to comment.