Welcome to this issue of Naturopathic News, issue #19. It’s my goal to help you find natural solutions to health problems. This newsletter is one way to do that. The more educated you are about your health options the better able you will be to take control of your health. Any feedback in the form of comments, letters to the editor, success stories, etc., is appreciated.
HOMEOPATHY—WHAT DOES THE POTENCY MEAN?
Continuing in the series of newsletter articles on homeopathy I want to discuss the potency of the homeopathic medicine. Homeopathic remedies are dispensed in different strengths referred to as ‘potencies’. The dynamic process by which homeopathic medicines are pharmaceutically prepared is one of the key differences between homeopathic medicines and allopathic drugs. The process of serial dilution and succussion is what creates potency. The number and letter that follow the name of the medicine indicate different potencies. For example—Sulphur 30c, Sulphur 12x, and Sulphur LM1—these are all different potencies of the same remedy. Why use one potency over the other and what is the difference?
Homeopathic medicines, made from animal, vegetable, mineral, and intangible substances, start from a solution of standardized chemical strength. To make a C potency one part of this solution is added to 99 parts of the diluent (water and alcohol) and the dilution is thoroughly succussed (vigorously agitated by shaking). It is called the 1C potency because it is a 1:100 dilution of the original solution (C for centesimal). Then 1 part of the 1C potency is added to 99 parts of diluent. Again the solution is succussed. This new dilution is the 2C potency because it has been prepared by a 1:100 dilution performed 2 times. The strength of the 2C potency is 1/10,000 of the original solution (1/100 of 1/100. Further potencies, 3C from 2C, 4C from 3C, etc. A 200C potency means this process has occurred 200 times, a 1M potency means that this process has occurred one thousand times.
The X or decimal potency is prepared in a similar manner except a dilution factor of 1:10 applies. In other words, one part of the original material is diluted in 10 parts diluent and then succussed to make the 1X potency. Then 1 part of the 1X potency is added to 10 parts diluent and succussed to make the 2X potency, and so on. There is a third homeopathic potency referred to as the LM potency (also Q potency) or 50 millesimal potency. The LM potency starts from a 3C potency of a particular remedy. One part of a 3C potency is dissolved in 99 parts of diluent and then 500 milk sugar pellets about the size of poppy seeds are moistened by this solution. Each one of these pellets is now an LM1 potency of that particular remedy.
Why is any of this important? What difference does it make which potency is used? In my experience, and that of many other homeopaths, potency and dose are critical in determining the response to a homeopathic remedy. If the potency is too strong or the dose is too large the vitality of the individual is ‘pushed’ too hard and pushes back with more symptoms—the headache gets worse or the sleep is disrupted. If the correct potency is used based on the assessment of the individual’s Vital Force this effect is minimized. The LM potency was specifically developed by Samuel Hahnemann to be his most ‘perfect method’. His goal was to bring about a rapid, gentle, and permanent restoration of health. I use mostly C and LM potencies in my practice. For those of you that have wondered where those really tiny pellets came from, now you know!
One final comment. Homeopathy is able to utilize poisonous substances such as snake venoms, arsenic, bacterial products, and others as homeopathic medicines by attenuating their effects through dilution. Once you make a 12C or 24X of any substance there is no physical molecule left. No arsenic, no venom, no bacteria. Many of these homeopathic medicines are some of our most powerful tools. Through the process of potentization and serial dilution the medicinal powers of these substances can be utilized without evoking any toxic effects.
IF ONLY CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE WAS AS SAFE AS HOMEOPATHY
Natural medicine has come under attack as pharmaceutical company lobbyists push lawmakers to deprive Americans of its benefits. Drug-front groups have implemented slanderous campaigns in attempts to undermine the value of natural health lifestyles.
These attacks on natural medicine prompted an independent review of government-approved medicine, which revealed that conventional medicine was the leading cause of death in the United States. This review of government health statistics showed that in most cases, American medicine does more harm than good. Compelling evidence from this study unveiled astounding statistics on the 783,936 deaths per year that result from conventional medicine.
The purpose of this article was to memorialize the failure of the American medical system by exposing the horrifying statistics of the inadequacies of today’s health care system with the goal of beginning some meaningful reform.
Highlights from the findings in the review:
Here are additional reasons why the traditional paradigm is flawed:
- U.S. health care spending reached $1.6 trillion in 2003, which represents 14 percent of the nation’s gross national product.
- In a 1992 survey, a national pharmacy database found a total of 429,827 medication errors from 1,081 hospitals.
- In 1974, 2.4 million unnecessary surgeries were performed that resulted in 11,900 deaths compared to the year 2001, where 7.5 million unnecessary surgeries were performed resulting in 37,136 deaths.
- A 1998 study reported an estimated 106,000 deaths from prescription medications per year.
- Nearly 9 million people were unnecessarily hospitalized in 2001.
- Studies have found that the 41 million Americans without health insurance have an increased risk for dying prematurely and not receiving appropriate medical care.
- 20 percent of all causes of death occur in nursing homes.
- More than 30 percent of nursing homes in the United States were cited for abuses, exceeding over 9,000 violations.
- A study of a 100-bed sub-acute care hospital revealed that only 8 percent of the patients were well nourished, 29 percent were malnourished and 63 percent were at risk of malnutrition.
Life Extension Institute March 2004
GP: These statistics are shocking. Somewhere over the last 60 years American health care took a major detour. The paradigm is crumbling. The epitome of this devastating decline was the recent Medicare bill debacle. The Medicare overhaul that gave a prescription drug benefit to seniors will cost at least $134 billion more than the $400-billion price tag put on it by the Administration. What’s even more egregious is that this law PREVENTS the US government from negotiating lower drug prices with the drug companies. That’s right. By law, even thought Medicare will spend hundreds of billions of dollars we, the US taxpayer, can’t get a break on price.
VITAMIN D GAINS MORE RESPECT
Emerging research indicates that vitamin D is more important to our health than previously thought, leading an increasing number of scientists to challenge whether the fear of sun exposure has made us cover up too much.
Doctors are finding an increase in vitamin D deficiencies, even as researchers discover remarkable results from the vitamin that affects nearly every tissue in the body. Some of these effects being:
- Improvement of pain and muscle weakness
- 40% reduced risk of multiple sclerosis in women with long-term vitamin D supplementation
As more attention is being paid to Vitamin D and it’s positive effects, clinicians are seeing an increase in the number of children with rickets. Rickets is a crippling bone disorder that thought to have been eradicated more than 70 years ago.
Vitamin D is a critical hormone that helps regulate the health of more than 30 different tissues, from the brain to the prostate. It plays a role in regulating cell growth, the immune system and blood pressure, and in the production of insulin, brain chemicals and bone.
Vitamin D is one of the body's many control systems. It helps stop cells from misbehaving, as immune cells can do when they cause such autoimmune diseases as MS and as breast and prostate cells do when they turn cancerous. For instance, Vitamin D helps normalize blood pressure by keeping a pressure-increasing switch called renin in check.
All vertebrates today depend on sun exposure for vitamin D production. The lack of vitamin D is known to cause rickets, osteoporosis and osteomalacia (soft bones). Vitamin D malnutrition may also be linked to many chronic diseases such as cancer (breast, ovarian, colon and prostate), chronic pain, weakness, chronic fatigue, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and Type 1 diabetes, high blood pressure, mental illnesses--depression, seasonal affective disorder and possibly schizophrenia--heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, tuberculosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Current recommended daily allowances of vitamin D--ranging from 200 international units for infants, children and adults up to age 50 years; 400 IU for men and women from 50 to 70; and 600 IU for people older than 70--are probably far lower than the minimum amount necessary for optimum health.
Although people may need more vitamin D, mostly in the form of supplements in higher latitudes where sunlight is weak during winter months, too much is not healthy. Taking too much vitamin D can elevate levels of calcium in the blood, a potentially serious condition that can lead to nausea, vomiting, or even death. It is especially easy for children to overdose on vitamin D supplements.
Summertime sun exposure on the face, arms and hands around noon for only 5 to 15 minutes for people with light skin 2 to 3 times a week provides sufficient vitamin D.
Blacks have the highest risk for vitamin D deficiency because dark skin needs 5 to 10 times more sunlight than white skin to produce the same amount of the vitamin. One study found that 42 percent of African-American women in the U.S. were vitamin D deficient.
Chronic diseases associated with vitamin D deficiency are 25-50% more frequent in northern climates than among people living closer to the sunny equator, where humans first evolved. As people migrated away from the equator, it is thought, skin evolved lighter shades to absorb more sunlight for vitamin D production.
Vitamin D is not available in most foods (oily fish, egg yolks, liver and cod liver oil have some), but it is abundantly made when sunlight strikes the skin, which normally produces about 90 percent of the body's store of the vitamin. People living in northern latitudes don't get enough sun from December through February to make enough Vitamin D. Even in summer the skin's vitamin D-making ability gets dampened from the use of sunscreen. Use of the appropriate blood test can determine whether there is a need for supplementation.
The evidence is overwhelming that excessive sun exposure causes skin cancer. More than 1 million cases of squamous and basal cell cancers, which are highly treatable, are expected this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Solar exposure is also blamed for the anticipated 55,100 cases of melanoma in 2004 and 7,910 deaths. Melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer, usually occurs years after severe sunburns in childhood.
VITAMIN D SOURCES
Multivitamin supplements—Vitamin D3 is the best form (D2, used to fortify milk, is not as good)
Sunlight: Ultraviolet rays trigger the formation of vitamin D in the skin, accounting for 90 percent of the daily-recommended intake.
5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily in the summer are recommended. Particularly in northern areas, it is difficult to produce in the winter.
Daily Allowance Recommendations in International Units (IU), by Age
- 0-50: 200
- 50 to 70: 400
- Older than 70: 600
Some vitamin D experts recommend 1,000 IU daily
VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
Rickets: A disease in which children's bones soften and break.
Osteoporosis: A condition characterized by fragile bones.
Osteomalacia: A bone-thinning disorder in adults that is similar to rickets.
Vitamin D malnutrition also may be linked to diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, Type 1 diabetes and high blood pressure.
GP: Where one can, I think it is important to get vitamin D from sunlight and from foods. When this is insufficient, or there is a need for supplementation, optimal sources and proper dosing are critical along with laboratory testing.
Enjoy our sunny weather!
I am often asked what supplements I recommend. Many of you have been surprised to discover that I favor food over pills, lifestyle over fads. I have been working with nutrition for 30 years, herbs for over 20 years. Where and when appropriate I recommend them to my patients. I strive to act from knowledge, experience, and research.
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That’s it for this issue of Naturopathic News. If you’ve thought a bit extra or learned something new, then I achieved my goal. As usual, if you have questions or concerns brought up by these subjects, let me know.
Gregory Pais, ND, DHANP