I Tried Homeopathy To Treat My Allergies And Sinus Pain—Here's What Happened

To find out if the approach to healing works, a skeptic makes herself a guinea pig.

February 5, 2016
homeopathy medicine
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I first wrote about homeopathy years ago for a book about alternative medicine. I knew zip about the practice, and what I learned challenged everything I knew about medicine—not to mention logic. For starters, homeopathy is based on an unscientific-sounding theory known as “like cures like.” Meaning, a substance that causes specific symptoms in a healthy person can, in teeny doses, cure those symptoms in a sick person. (Here’s a good list of Homeopathy’s Most Popular Prescriptions + Cures.) This medical system was the brainchild of Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, who in the early 19th century desperately sought less toxic treatments than those used in his day. 

Homeopathic remedies are “proven” by testing them repeatedly in small doses on healthy people, who then experience specific symptoms. To treat illness, a homeopath chooses a remedy whose effects in a healthy person most closely match the patient’s symptoms. Homeopathic remedies usually come in tiny sugar-based pills, which contain a just a drop of the remedy diluted perhaps hundreds of times. Derived from plants, animals, and minerals, the tinctures can start with raw material ranging from an onion to snake venom and graphite. The pills dissolve under your tongue.

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None of this made any sense to me whatsoever. To write about homeopathy, I knew I’d have to experience it. So I found a homeopathic physician, and booked an appointment for my chronic spring allergies and sinus problems. Was I skeptical? You bet. 

Related: A Homeopath Answers To Skeptical Critics

My appointment began with a grilling—about my medical history of course, but also what kind of foods and flavors I favored. What temperatures did I prefer? What emotional and physical traumas had I suffered? What made my nose stuffy? What color was my mucus? And how were my digestion, elimination, sleep, and sex life? I was under the homeopath’s microscope for two hours, and it felt like psychotherapy. 

Two bits of information really caught the homeopath’s attention: one, that my mother died of breast cancer and two, that I am terrified of spiders. Those fluky facts led her to the one remedy she expected would work—carcinosin (most homeopathic medicines have Latin names). Carcinosin is concocted from—wait for it—purified breast cancer cells (which resemble a spider under the microscope) and, like most homeopathic remedies, had been diluted so many times that it probably contained no trace of the original cancer cells. She gave me a couple of tiny sugar pills, and told me to check in with her a week later.

Related: Reduce Carcinogens By 99 Percent!

Astonishingly, I became allergy and sinus-pain free. How is that possible? I have two theories. Perhaps the deep questioning and the outlandish remedy, coupled with how smart the homeopath was and the strength of her belief, had a powerful placebo effect that chased away my symptoms. The other is that carcinosin somehow jolted my immune system out of its state of siege against tree and grass pollens. But what would a homeopath say? 

 

“You might think that fears and health history have nothing to do with allergies,” says Lauri Grossman, a chiropractor and homeopath who practices in New York City. Since many homeopathic medicines help people with allergies, the challenge is finding the one treatment that will work for you, she notes. “The key is matching all of your symptoms, emotional issues, and health history to find the specific remedy that nudges your immune system into action,” says Grossman. 

When I posed the same question to homeopath Dana Ullman, of Homeopathic Education Services in Berkeley, California, what he said gave me goosebumps: “The fact that this remedy worked so well with you suggests you may have some types of breast cancer in your genes.” He nailed it. In addition to my mother, at least three other close female relatives have had the disease.