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.
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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.
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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.