Any COVID-19 story with a happy ending is a success story. But for Denise Straiges, President of the Academy of Homeopathy Education and a homeopathic practitioner in New York City, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, one story in the recent spring outbreak stands out as particularly satisfying.
A friend had referred to her an ER doctor and pulmonologist at a major Maryland hospital. He had been working on the frontlines treating the first round of COVID-19 patients and became symptomatic. The hospital quickly sent him home with orders to "ride it out."
When Straiges was contacted, the doctor had been symptomatic for only 12 hours, but as all too many physicians and nurses have discovered working with COVID-19 patients, the novel coronavirus seems to hit healthcare workers harder than most other people who contract the disease.
By the time the mutual friend had dropped off the homeopathic remedy Straiges suggested (Phosphorous) outside his door, the doctor couldn't even get out of bed. "He told me that he felt so bad he couldn't even get up to walk across the room to get the remedy," Staiges says. "It took him about three hours to work up the strength to walk across the room."
Completely out of breath and in bad shape, he took the remedy at about two o'clock in the morning and then repeated it again four hours later. "By 10 a.m. when I spoke to him—eight hours after he started taking the remedy—he was up and said he felt 70 percent better."
A couple of days later, the doctor felt like he might be relapsing, so Straiges asked him to repeat taking the Phosphorous. The day after that his symptoms changed, so she suggested a different remedy, Spigelia. Within a short time of taking the second remedy, he was up and moving around, and two days later he was back at work. Total down time after a severe COVID-19 attack: six days.
"I think he did it because somebody he trusted said, 'You really need to do this,' and he had nothing else to do," Straiges says. "As a pulmonologist, he understood that he was going to be in bad shape if he went down the way other people had.
"Needless to say, he was incredibly surprised at the results. He'd been watching the virus, he knew what it could do and knew he was sick as could be—and then he wasn't. He also knew he had had only one type of medical intervention—homeopathy." Straiges laughs. "The proof, as they say, is in the pudding."
The icing on the pudding was the fact that after his own remarkable recovery, the ER doctor started referring other people suffering from COVID-19 to Straiges for help.
Straiges' story is not exceptional or surprising—at least not within the homeopathy community. Homeopathy has been established as a successful medical approach for curbing epidemics ever since Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann, the German physician and founder of homeopathy, successfully used it to treat patients during the scarlet fever epidemic in Europe in 1799.
By mid-April 2020, homeopathic epidemiologist Jeremy Sherr of South Africa had successfully treated COVID-19 patients in all stages of the disease. Most had swift recoveries, some responding with enormously reduced symptoms within a matter of hours.
With degrees in homeopathy and Chinese acupuncture, and awarded a fellowship from the Society of Homoeopaths in 1991 and a PhD from Medicina Alternativa, Sherr is a member of the North American Society of Homoeopaths and an honorary professor at Yunan Medical College, Kunming, China.
As an epidemiologist working with AIDS patients in Tanzania, Sherr is far outside the regulation of traditional allopathic institutions like the FDA (which has not approved homeopathic remedies for use). As a result, unlike American homeopaths who are legally restricted from saying they treat patients for health concerns, he does not hesitate using words like "treat" and "cure" when it comes to homeopathy. He is crystal clear about the modality's efficacy for influenza viruses and COVID-19.
"Homeopathy is hugely successful during epidemics, with a lower mortality rate and people getting better much more quickly," says Sherr. "So far, the results with COVID-19 have been amazing. I'm in a group of homeopaths around the world who have treated hundreds of cases, and the results are spectacular."
As of April 2020, Sherr's group had collected complete clinical information for 204 cases of homeopathic treatment of presumed COVID-19, documented by homeopaths from the UK, Israel, Russia, Japan, China, Italy, Belgium, Germany and the US. In most cases it was impossible to verify whether the person definitively had COVID-19 because tests were not available to people unless they were hospitalized. However, the cases presented with recognized CDC-identified COVID-19 symptoms and so are classified as "presumed" on that basis.
Of the 204 cases, 131 people (64 percent) reported their symptoms as "very much better" after homeopathy, meaning that they were returning to their normal state with only slight symptoms and were not relapsing; 58 (28 percent) were "much better," meaning improved from the serious symptoms, but still experiencing some lesser symptoms. Combined, 189 cases (93 percent) were either very much or much better. The other seven percent were either somewhat better or unchanged. None worsened.
"Most of the stage 1 cases, which were mild symptoms, responded well within 24 to 48 hours," says Tina Quirk, a homeopath who works with Sherr. "The main remedies used in stage 1 cases were Aconite, Phosphorus, and Bryonia. The stage 2 cases had more intense and deeper symptoms and reduced vitality. They often came already a week or more into their symptoms. It often took a week and two or three remedies to bring to resolution."
What is homeopathy?
The foundational principle of homeopathy is "that which can produce a set of symptoms in a healthy individual can treat a sick individual who is manifesting a similar set of symptoms." Better known as "likes are cured by likes," similia similibus curentur, this philosophy dates back to Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.). However, it was German physician Dr Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann who codified this principle, turning it into a system of medicine.
Struck by the fact that a healthy person ingesting quinine would develop malaria-like symptoms—the very disease quinine had been discovered to treat—over several years Hahnemann experimented, ingesting substances and cataloging the symptoms they produced in himself as well as other healthy volunteers in a process he called "proving." The symptoms gave the homeopathic picture of that particular substance and its potential healing applications.
Unfortunately, full-strength medications were often too potent and frequently created negative side-effects. For example, mercury preparations had long been used to treat syphilis, and taking mercury produced syphilis-like symptoms in healthy provers. However, mercury was exceedingly toxic to patients undergoing the risky treatment protocol.
It's unknown how Hahnemann made the discovery, but after much experimentation he hit on the method of doing a series of dilutions interspersed with violent agitation called succussion.
This method appeared to produce a highly diluted yet extremely potent and safe medicine. And thus the process of potentiation was born.
The great mystery of homeopathy lies in Hahnemann's eventual discovery that the greater the dilution of a substance, the more powerful it is as a medicine.
He maintained, and the field of homeopathy continues to espouse, that the most powerful homeopathic remedies, which have been diluted and succussed over a thousand times, usually don't even have a single molecule of the original substance left, only its "energetic footprint".
COVID response to homeopathy
Among 204 cases of presumed or confirmed COVID-19 treated by homeopaths worldwide, 131 people (64 percent) rated themselves as feeling "very much better" after homeopathy, with only slight symptoms and no relapse, and 58 (28 percent) were "much better," meaning serious symptoms had improved, but with some milder symptoms still lingering. Only seven percent said they were either somewhat better or unchanged, and no one had their symptoms get
A study in contrast
The contrast between the attitude of homeopaths like Sherr and the tales of helplessness and despair from medical doctors and nurses watching patients die alone on ventilators in traditional hospital ICUs, separated from their loved ones, couldn't be starker.
"I come from a medical family and I'm in touch with a lot of doctors, and they're having a real hard time," says Sherr. "There's not much they can do, and treatments that they thought were good a month ago are now proving to be quite devastating, like ventilators. People are now discovering all the side-effects and talking about the larger number of mortalities of people on ventilators in the lung rehabilitation process. A lot of doctors are saying it is not the right treatment."
As with most of the recent influenza-type viruses such as avian influenza A (H5N1) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus, there are no known pharmaceutical drugs to combat COVID-19. The malaria drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, touted by President Trump and some US doctors during the early stages of the pandemic as a possible treatment for the novel coronavirus, were later found to have no effect on COVID patients' risk of mechanical ventilation, and they've now become the subject of FDA safety warnings because they can cause dangerous abnormalities in heart rhythm in coronavirus patients.1
Vaccinations such as the Sinovac vaccine, containing an inactivated version of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19), are in the works, but tests still have to be done to prove their efficacy and safety (see page 26 for our Special Report on COVID vaccines).
Not only is homeopathy providing a promising answer to COVID-19, but homeopaths, who are trained in meticulous diagnosis techniques, have been able to compile a highly detailed portrait of the novel coronavirus. While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US was touting three symptoms for COVID-19 (difficulty breathing, dry cough and fever), homeopaths working together around the world had already compiled a comprehensive list of over 100 COVID-19 symptoms, according to Sherr.
As of April 30, the CDC had added six more symptoms: chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell. And yet by that time, Sherr's group had put together a list of about 400 symptoms, including panic and anxiety, nausea and diarrhea, redness around the eyes, and exhaustion so debilitating that some said they couldn't even get up and walk across the room to use the bathroom.
"Everyone described the mucous in the lungs as very thick, gluey, sticky and difficult to cough up, like honey," says Quirk. "The coughs were choking, retching and worse on inspiration—taking a deep breath. One of the odd symptoms was they could cough better when lying down. Most other lung conditions, people want to sit up to cough."
Quirk added that some later cases have had fewer respiratory symptoms. "All of these symptoms confirm what is being reported in the medical literature, that this virus seems to be affecting many organ systems in addition to or instead of respiratory, especially as it mutates over time," she says.
How does homeopathy work?
If homeopathic medicines are often (not always) diluted to the point where there are no molecules of the original substance left, how do they work?
Coming from the old paradigm of classical chemistry and Newtonian physics, they can't. However, the modern sciences of quantum physics, bioresonance, field and information theory, as well as discoveries in the structure of water, give us another story.
Studies show that the information about a substance can be imprinted on water, and that even after ultra-high dilution, the information can have an effect. For example, researchers in Germany have observed a statistically significant decrease in luminescence in the bacterium Vibrio fischeri when the microbes are introduced to an ultra-high-diluted and succussed chemical in water.1
Experiments have also shown that water can be "tuned" in a resonant manner by electromagnetic information transfer (EMIT) and pass the information on to human cells.2
"Because of the kinetics of fields, a drug can act even in the absence of molecules," write Dr Massimo Citro and Ervin Laszlo in their book, The Basic Code of the Universe: The Science of the Invisible in Physics, Medicine, and Spirituality. "The informed fields of two entities [plant, animal, mineral or human] can interact in a simple way or in a transgressing way. . . Transgressing interactions occur when the field of one substance is powerful enough to make the emission of its signals so intense, they become sufficiently penetrating to transgress the field of the other substance.
"The transgressed field changes its rhythm and enters into a new matter state by becoming similar to the other substance. Similarly, in the preparation of a homeopathic remedy, the succussion that transmits the oscillation of the solute [the substance dissolved] to the water molecules creates a transgressive interaction."
Several sets of replicated high-quality experiments show that optical spectroscopy, electrical impedance measurements, plus something called NMR relaxation (nuclear spin polarization) that occurs under the influence of a nuclear magnetic resonance device, provide evidence for "specific physicochemical properties of homeopathic preparations."3
For acute and self-limiting conditions and basic first aid, "the average person can learn enough homeopathy to deal with a cold, a sore throat and some bumps and bruises in just a few hours," says Denise Straiges. "But for something like COVID," she continues, "it's just not appropriate for home prescribers." The new coronavirus is too virulent, changeable and life-threatening, and it requires professional follow-up to rebuild the immune system once the infection has passed.
Homeopathic remedies come in potencies from 6C all the way up to 10M. (The most common potencies in pharmacies and health stores are 6C and 30C.) The higher the number, the more times the original substance has been diluted and succussed, and the fewer original molecules of the substance are in the remedy. A remedy with 10M potency has been diluted and succussed 10,000 times.
However, some remedies are stronger than others in terms of their potential action. "A remedy like Camphora, which is a very deep and powerful remedy, is going to be very different from, say, Aconite, which is a short-acting remedy," says Straiges.
"You don't run the same kind of risk with Aconite. The kind of person, their susceptibility, their vitality, the remedy, the force of the remedy and how all those factors collide is really the difference between being helpful and potentially problematic."
Safe and effective
Unfortunately, homeopathy does not attract large amounts of money for research, which means that high-quality trials using suitable research methods aren't done as often as the subject warrants. At present, for example, only 63 of the 188 randomized controlled trials (RCT) of homeopathy have studied classical, individualized treatment methods, while the other 125 RCTs looked at the effect of one selected homeopathic medicine for a particular issue.
This means that the major advantage of homeopathy and one of the foundations of its effectiveness—the ability of the practitioner to meticulously diagnose the proper remedy for an individual by accounting for the patient's unique health status and physiology—is completely ignored.
Nevertheless, according to the British Homeopathic Association, four out of five comprehensive reviews of homeopathy RCTs have reached broadly positive conclusions,2 and two major reviews of RCTs that looked specifically at individualized homeopathy found similar positive outcomes.3
The research that has been done on homeopathy for the treatment of epidemic diseases shows effectiveness using several homeopathic approaches, including 1) individualization, where a homeopathic remedy is chosen based on symptoms to treat the individual, 2) combination remedies, 3) genus epidemicus, which treats the total combined symptoms of a large group of people afflicted with a particular disease such as COVID-19 "as if one person," and 4) isopathy, the use of the exact substance that causes an illness as a therapeutic tool for that same illness. 4 (Isopathy is the principle behind vaccines and immunotherapy. It sounds like homeopathy, but for the most part homeopathy is founded on the principle of "similars," not "sames.")
In the case of influenza, two RCTs including a total of 850 people have suggested that the homeopathic preparation Oscillococcinum (a remedy made from the heart and liver of wild duck) can improve symptoms and shorten recovery time.5
A study of 461 French patients with flu-like illness additionally found that patient satisfaction was highest amongst those treated exclusively with homeopathic remedies, compared to those given conventional medications alone or in combination with homeopathic remedies.6
Homeopathy has also demonstrated effectiveness in the treatment other respiratory conditions.The success rate of homeopathic treatment for respiratory allergies was 87.6 percent in one case series.7
In a study comparing 857 patients who received homeopathic care and 720 patients who received conventional treatment for acute respiratory and ear complaints, patient reports indicated that both approaches were equally effective, with the homeopathic group experiencing far fewer side-effects.8
In the case of rhinitis (inflammation and swelling of the mucous membrane of the nose), an RCT of 51 patients found a significant objective improvement in nasal airflow using homeopathic preparations as compared with a placebo.9
The hazards from homeopathic products are "modest in comparison with those of conventional medicines," writes physician Brian Kirby of the University of Exeter,10 but the challenge is selecting the appropriate remedy for each individual. During the initial assessment, the entire person is taken into consideration.
An initial consultation can easily take a couple of hours, with the practitioner asking detailed questions about a person's health, physical condition, attitudes, emotional wellbeing, thought patterns, sleep patterns and habits, all in an effort to establish a general constitutional picture of the individual.
In homeopathy there is no "one size fits all" remedy for anything—which is why homeopaths claim it can be so effective. Health is always individualized.
"You need to be quite sophisticated to find a remedy for an individual," says Sherr. "When it comes to an epidemic, once you find what we call the genus epidemicus—that small group of remedies that work for the epidemic—then it becomes much easier and efficient to treat a large number of people."
Easy, perhaps, but not simplistic. Dealing with a virus like COVID-19 requires professional help because, again, there is no one-size-fits-all remedy. As Quirk points out, it often takes experimenting with two or three remedies within the genus epidemicus to find the one that fits the individual.
And then when the symptoms shift, as they always do, what is the next most appropriate remedy to take? How much? How often? For how long? Has the disease run its entire course? If so, then what is the best remedy (or combination of remedies) for this particular individual to take to rebuild their unique immune system and constitution so they don't get sick again?
In addition, the mutability of viruses has to be considered. A remedy that worked last month is not guaranteed to be the most effective approach a month in the future. "COVID is changing as it evolves," admits Sherr. "It seems to be very dynamic and knows how to mutate. This is one of the things about epidemics. A practitioner of any kind has to be very dynamic to match the pace of the epidemic. You have to be very here and now."
Sherr and a group of homeopaths have set up an international helpline for people and are treating on a donation basis. Visit www.homeopathyhelpnow.com to find out more.
Homeopathy for flu and COVID-19
Like many cases of flu, the first stage of COVID-19 is often just a sniffle, a fever and a general sense of feeling unwell—along with an understandable sense of anxiety and panic. During stage 1, Jeremy Sherr says that taking a few doses of Aconite (Aconitum napellus) has helped his patients cut the whole thing short and make symptoms more bearable.
"Aconite is able to stop it in the onset stage," agrees Los Angeles-based homeopath Anna Cox. "Aconite is useful in the first stage of any kind of febrile condition. Now we just watch to make sure the person who has it is resolving it over the next 48 hours."
Aconite is not the only useful remedy in stage 1. Phosphorus, Arsenicum album, Kali muriaticum, Bryonia and Antimonium tartarkum are also recommended. However, Sherr points out that Aconite is not the best remedy for stage 2 or 3, when the condition becomes more serious with pneumonia, severe respiratory problems and high fevers. "I wouldn't go jumping on any off-the-shelf stuff," he says.
"Even products that homeopathic pharmacies usually sell for the second and third stages—remedies like Antimonium tart, Phosphoric acid, Antimonium arsenicosum. These are remedies that have proved to be very good, but they are not the most efficient remedies based on this epidemic."
Finding the most efficient remedy for the individual, knowing the optimal dosage, knowing when to shift remedies as needed and what to do to strengthen the system once symptoms have been resolved are where the proficiency of a professional homeopath comes in.