The talk at the 1997 NCH conference that I was most eager to hear was Dr. Edward (Ted) Chapman's presentation of the results of his clinical trial on the effectiveness of the homeopathic treatment of mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI). This study is part of a growing trend of homeopathic doctors to conduct scientifically rigorous studies of the effectiveness of homeopathic medicine in conjunction with allopathic medical institutions. Dr. Chapman's study was funded by a grant of $30 thousand dollars from the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM). While the size of the grant was small, because of the OAM's limited resources, this was the first time that the U.S. government has funded a clinical trial of homeopathy.
Some unfortunate persons experience continuing symptoms such as headaches, seizures, mental confusion, and hallucination as the result of accidents. These symptoms, occurring as the result of the physical trauma to the brain, are classified as MTBI. Symptoms in patients which persist for six months are likely to be permanent. Standard allopathic treatment, such as physical therapy or drugs, is palliative only and does not cure the problem. So allopathic medicine lacks a completely satisfactory solution to these patient's problems.
The study was conducted at Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in Boston.Sixty patients with symptoms from MTBI were enrolled in the study. They were randomly assigned to two groups, who went through the same homeopathic case taking process, except patients in one of the groups received a placebo instead of receiving a homeopathic remedy. Neither the patient or the doctor knew if they were receiving the placebo. The patient was treated homeopathically for four months. Patients were seen by the doctor once a month. Fifty patients completed the study. The doctors were limited to selecting from eighteen homeopathic remedies, all in the 200C potency. Remedies to be used were selected before the start of the study. In most cases Dr. Chapman felt that they could select the correct remedy from among the eighteen, however, in about ten cases they did not feel the correct remedy was one of the eighteen. In these cases, they tended to prescribe Arnica. The limitation to the 200C potency was a more significant problem. Dr. Chapman felt that some of the patients would have benefited from increasing the potency during the study. In these cases he resorted to plussing the remedy. The patients' conditions were evaluated by having the patient perform a self assessment where they rated the severity of ten conditions associated with MTBI on a scale of 1 to 4.
The study showed that homeopathic treatment of these patients produced a statistically significant improvement in their condition, when compared to placebo treatment. I cannot discuss the details of the results, as they are pending publication. One of the interesting results of this study is that some persons in the placebo group also showed clinically significant improvement, though not as many as in the homeopathic treatment group. Ted speculated that perhaps the intention of giving a homeopathic remedy is efficacious, evoking the old question of the effectiveness of paper remedies. My non-mystical explanation would be that the homeopathic case taking process shows care and concern for the patient and it is this caring that is healing.
Ted Chapman presented video cases of three patients who were helped by homeopathic treatment. I found that perceiving the correct remedy for these patients was challenging. All presented similar symptoms: headaches, mental confusion, and seizures. The trick to analyzing the case properly was to tease out the individuating symptoms from the mass of common symptoms.
The first patient was a 34 year old woman who suffered brain trauma as a result of an auto accident. My first impression was that she seemed a pleasant and normal person, but as the interview progressed, her problems became more evident. She seemed to be in a mental fog and at times hesitated, trying to express how she felt, but not able to get the words out. After her accident, she was profoundly disabled. She went from being a desktop publisher to not being able to turn on her computer. The response of her allopathic doctors was to treat her problems with drugs. As new symptoms appeared, the number of prescriptions and doses of her drugs were increased. Eventually, she and her husband felt that drug treatment was not going to solve her problems, so she tapered off her drugs. Some of her problems were resolved by going off the drugs, but others remained. She suffered from tremors and headaches. Excitement or stress triggered her symptoms, which were usually worse the day after. Perfumes and odors could also trigger her symptoms. She was also worse from hearing other talk and from motion. She was impatient, needing to be on time for anything she did. She also was easily startled. At on point in the interview, the phone rang and she almost jumped out of her seat. Because of her heightened sensitivity to external sensations, her impatience and edginess, and also because of the history of allopathic drugging, she was prescribed Nux Vomica.
The second patient was a Haitian woman of about 40. She was also the victim of an auto accident, but was more profoundly affected than the first woman. She presented a dignified appearance, but was obviously suffering from a great deal of mental confusion. She would start cooking dinner on the stove and then wander off, forgetting that she was cooking anything until the smoke alarm sounded. She would put Ajax instead of salt on her chicken. She suffered from hallucinations, such as imagining smoke was coming out of her television. Objects would appear to change size, growing smaller and larger She felt she was not in her body, as if she were walking on clouds. As a result of her problems, she lost interest in life and wished to be alone. She also started easily and washed her hands frequently, up to ten times a day. This was a harder case to analyze then the first, but eventually Cicuta Virosa was prescribed, on the rubric "delusion, objects approach and recede."
The third patient was an Orthodox Jewish woman of about 50. While taking her car to a dealer to be serviced, the garage door crashed on her head. Her first reaction was terror: she was afraid she was going to die. While recounting the story, she was still fearful. Her body was frozen, except for her eyes, which darted back and forth. Her husband took her to the emergency room, where the doctor diagnosed her problem as nothing serious, just a bump on the head. However, she began suffering a range of symptoms. She began seeing double, was dizzy, and suffered from poor balance. She suffered from headaches, feeling like her head was in a helmet a size too small. She became forgetful, especially when she became tired in the afternoon. She suffered from seizures, brought on by exposure to flickering light. She also suffered from overpowering sleepiness, dissociative states. Her eyelids drooped and felt heavy. She felt as if she were in a cloud. The prescription was Opium on account of the fearfulness, sleepiness, and Dis-associative state.
All three patients showed significant improvement after four months treatment. What these and other patients have shown in this clinical study is that homeopathy is an effective treatment for the effects brain injury: a condition for which allopathy has currently little to offer.
NCH Summer School