Homoeopathy is a vitalist philosophy in that it interprets diseases as caused by disturbances in a hypothetical vital or life force. These disturbances, it is believed, manifest themselves as unique symptoms. Homoeopathy maintains that the vital force can react and adapt to internal and external causes that homoeopaths refer to as the ‘law of susceptibility’. This law implies that a negative state of mind attracts hypothetical disease entities called ‘miasms’ to invade the body and produce symptoms of diseases. However, the father of this system, Samuel Hahnemann, rejected the notion of a disease as a separate thing or invading entity and insisted that it was always part of the ‘living whole’. He integrated the principles found in the writings of ancient philosophers into a holistic system of therapeutics called homoeopathy.
What do they do?
A s a child, Dr Bipin Jethani, now 35 years old, used to be fascinated by homoeopathy. It was a homoeopath who had cured his father’s earache (acute otitis).
“As a child I also used to have skin eruptions all over my body. Allopathy failed to provide a permanent cure, but homoeopathy worked,” says Dr Jethani, adding, “these clinical experiences made me a firm believer in this system of medicine and I decided to be a homoeopath."
Jethani graduated from the Nehru Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital (NHMCH) in 1999. He joined the same institute as a lecturer, in 2002, after getting through the selection process conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
Homoeopathy, an alternative form of treatment based on the principle of “like cures like”, came into being way back in 1796. Considered the father of this system, German physician Samuel Hahnemann made some interesting observations after experimenting with the cinchona bark. Since the effects he felt after ingesting the bark were similar to the symptoms of malaria he reasoned that if it was administered to the person suffering from malaria, perhaps it could cure him. That’s how the law of similarities — similia similibus curentur (let like be cured by like) was worked out.
According to Dr Jethani, the popularity of homoeopathy is increasing in India “because of its clinical efficacy, cost-effectiveness and government support”.
Good homoeopaths are much in demand. “Any person with a BHMS or an MD (Hom) degree from a recognised institute can practise anywhere in India,” says Dr Anasooya Banerjee, who runs a private clinic in Delhi. “Moreover, government bodies like the UPSC and state PSCs are regularly recruiting homoeopaths,” she adds.
“Homoeopathy is excellent for treating chronic diseases (barring some), skin diseases, respiratory problems, and ailments related to the stomach and joints,” says Dr SPS Bakshi, former president, Central Council of Homoeopathy, a body looking after homoeopathic education in India, and president, Homoeopathic Medical Association of India. “As it has no side effects it is especially good for women and children,” he says. “This is also why the government has included homoeopathy in its national campaign for healthy mother and happy child,” points out Dr Anil K Malhotra, principal, NHMCH.
However, this line of treatment has its limitations. “We are not capable of handling emergencies,” admits Dr Bakshi. When it comes to surgery, homoeopathy often has no answer, says Dr Sashi Rastogi, who runs a clinic in Delhi. “We are physicians, not surgeons. This is why, homoeopathy is not doing so well in a hospital set-up. OPDs, however, are doing just fine. We do not have medicines which can suppress the problem, albeit temporarily, and give instant relief, like a pain killer does. But research is on,” Bakshi adds.
Whatever the constraints, homoeopathy has its strengths. “It treats a disease from its root. Suppressing cold and cough with strong allopathic medicine can lead to asthma, but nothing of that sort will happen with homoeopathy,” says Dr Bakshi.
Also, treatment is inexpensive. In a country like India, it is “the first line of treatment for the masses in villages,” he concludes.
. You must be a good listener, able to gauge psychological as well as physical problems to make diagnosis easy and find a quick cure for the patient
. Good powers of observation
. Should be a very good counsellor
. Untiring zeal to restore the sick to health
How do I get there?
You must take up physics, chemistry and biology at the Plus-Two level and then do a Bachelor of homoeopathic medicine and surgery (BHMS) programme, the minimum essential qualification. It’s a five-and-a-half year course that includes a year’s compulsory internship. Then you can go in for postgraduation (MD), a three-year course.