Homeopathy in Co. Mayo and Sligo
“I’ll give it six months and if it’s not working out I’ll try something else,” I explained to a lady in Killala. That was 1993. The rest is history; here’s a synopsis of that history.
One of my first memories when beginning my practise in Ballina and Castlebar, Co. Mayo and Sligo is a ‘phone call I received after I had placed an ad in the Western People giving notice as to the commencement of my practise. The person at the other end of the telephone asked the sort of questions a prospective client wouldn’t ask. I knew immediately it was someone practising homeopathy who didn’t want any competition in the area. Such underhandedness I had never come across in all my years practising in London.
Another such revealing faux pas occurred with a nurse – not then working as a nurse due to a back injury claim she was awaiting – who worked in various therapies such as massage. She tried to persuade mutual clients not to attend me: “why can’t you buy the remedies in a health shop instead of going to him?” Glad to say such bad begrudgery led to her demise, not mine.
Homeopathy in Ballina, Castlebar and Sligo
These were the only negative experiences I can recall in twenty-three years working in Ballina, Castlebar and Sligo. Otherwise, it has been a complete joy, the clients have been delightful people, colleagues like Clement Quinn the vet and countless others, have provided stimulating conversation late into the night, accompanied by apple tart and countless cups of Barry’s tea!
It was after all Clement who introduced me to homeopathy. Clem had come across a book on homeopathy purely by chance – or Providence? – while searching the second-hand bookshops of Temple Bar, Dublin, for a book on horses when he stumbled upon a book by an English doctor, Dorothy Sheppard, called Magic of the Minimum Dose.
Clement has had a lot of success using homeopathy in the treatment of animals, mostly large animals. Red Water in cattle, Salmonella in horses, a nebula in a cow and so on, all serious and physical complaints which responded where conventional medicine would have failed, show the good results of homeopathy were not due to placebo effect.
Critics of Homeopathy
Of course there are critics of homeopathy and my experience listening to clients in Mayo and Sligo for over two decades leads me to conclude that people in glass houses… I refuse to criticise doctors as they are only doing what they are told (for some silly things doctors say look at my post here), no-one is perfect and the practise of medicine is not a hard science like physics but is a skill and art too (see here). In fact the biggest critics of homeopathy aren’t doctors but journalists! Generally my relationship with local doctors has been good and with hospital doctors very good. It’s just a pity they haven’t been trained to think.
But practitioners of complimentary therapies can and do talk a lot of nonsense too and can lack common-sense as well as medical knowledge, and as for false promises… The worst are the network-marketing bands who sell anything so long as it’s more expensive but cheaper quality than similar products in a health food shop.
Some alternative practitioners do stand out however in my years working in the west. The late Dr Chuck Jenkins, a chiropractor in Ballina, had a magic touch. He could would run his finger up someone’s spine and say, “that’s it,” to which the person would invariably reply, “yes, that’s the spot.”
Chuck was busy, very busy, had a blunt sense of humour but was always kind. We set up a clinic together in 1997 in Ballincar, Sligo. That was fun! It was in the heartland of hospital consultants’ homes and/or practises. That wasn’t a problem but their wives could be. Often we would receive an antagonistic ‘phone call or they’d make a spoof appointment. God love them, but we admired their loyalty to their husbands, misguided as it was. As kind as Chuck was he didn’t suffer fools, like the chap who innocently said the doctor couldn’t help his back so “I thought I’d come to the quack.” Chuck swing him around, pointed to his certificate and asked him, “Does that say ‘Duck University’?”
Local Folk Cures
Another person who did some good work was a lady from Donegal using sweets which she prayed over. The kids with eczema, after taking them, would get worse then better – which shows it wasn’t a placebo effect. (Medicine often does the opposite: it makes you better then worse long term.)
An old acquaintance on the handball circuit is Mick from Charlestown. A good guy but a bad handballer! Mick has a “cure” for burns. It’s a cream made from herbs from the bog, the ingredients passed on by an older relative gives great relief and aids healing.
Other local cures abound, like the lady in Crossmolina, a lady in Charlestown and a long-deceased gentleman, Mr Harrison in Ballina, all of whom who had “cures” for headaches. Strange to say, they worked. I’m living proof. They’d “measure” your head, say a prayer three times and one would return twice (i.e. three times in total). Mr Harrison passed the cure to his son who sadly died too young. The cure could not be passed to his elder son, Fr Michael, as it can’t be passed to a priest!
It was similar with the cure for ringworm, which certainly works and few would need convincing of it, but has to be carried out by a seventh son or a seventh son of a seventh son (a seventh daughter would do just grand!). A similar protocol of 3 sets of 3 would dry up what is a difficult infection to treat with medicine – and cure thoroughly, not suppressing it from the outside in as medicine does. Suppressing symptoms gives quick relief but is more detrimental to the health of the patient long-term (see my post on cradle cap).
Other local cures I’ve observed or have been told of first-hand are various cures for thrush. In the case of one Sligo woman who had the cure, after the treatment, the woman herself would suffer the patient’s thrush for a while after but the patient would experience a cure. Another is to eat three (that magic number again! See this story from Archaeology Ireland) scones baked by a woman who married a man with the same family name, e.g. if a Moran married a Moran. Thrush of the mouth can be cured by someone with the gift who blows into the mouth of the patient or drinks milk from a glass from which a ferret ha sipped (a pet ferret kept for this purpose). I’ve also met a lady whose kidney stones (renal calculi) were cured by drinking water from St. Marcan’s Well, Rossclave Inlet, Newport, Co. mayo – a holy well.
Cures for warts are many though not always performed by a practitioner. One cure is to dip the wart/s in water lying in a rock after a rainfall – which seems more reliable than the black snail cure. One cure for moles and warts was a chap in Charlestown who would tie a piece of string into a knot and throw it into the fire (without touching the mole or wart). Next morning the offending growth would have fallen off, as recanted to me by the daughter of one such lucky man. Her father had a large smooth one on his eyebrow.
Homeopathy is Deep and Broad
But nothing cures as broadly, deeply, gently and permanently as a good homeopathic remedy as prescribed according to the discoveries of Dr Samuel Hahnemann. A child with asthma, treated properly, will go through the next winter better than a child who never had asthma. A woman with depression will find her periods, skin, bowel and nails far healthier (as per a recent case). This is because homeopathy treats all the connected symptoms – after all, every part of a person is connected! This is the only way to treat; all symptoms at once, not different symptoms with different medicines. Treating a collection of parts doesn’t cure the person: “The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”
A good example of homeopathy’s deep and broad healing is that of an American lady here on holiday. Her immediate symptom being cold sores, with a few treatments spaced over a number of months, she reported the following year when in Ireland that she had had uterine cancer when young – three tumours. She had conventional treatment and now had three-monthly check-ups back home. After a few months on the homeopathic remedy, her consultant exclaimed her uterus was like that of a woman who had not had cancer plus her bloods and hormones were perfect. Her doctor advised her to “Keep taking that European medicine.”!
It is because of this well thought out basis to homeopathy that I have witnessed great changes in people – not just their main complaint – after a few treatments. To find a woman delighted that her fibrocystic breasts, which have worried her for a long time in case it’s something more sinister, have improved quickly under the action of a good remedy is satisfying for the practitioner. This is in contrast to conventional treatment; decades on evening primrose oil! Medicine might give relief but never cure.
One reason medicine never cures is because it treats the problem. Another is because it treats parts rather than the person who has the complaint. Finally, it often treats from the outside in rather than from the inside out. Most people understand the fallacy of this.
The fact that people regularly travel the length and breadth of the country for a competent homeopath attests to the effectiveness of homeopathic remedies when well prescribed and the treatment plan well managed.
In this essay I’ve been looking back. Looking forward homeopathy will continue to grow and contribute to our understanding of the healing powers hidden in plants, minerals and animal substances as a wealth of work is being carried out on these kingdoms by some great European doctors like Jan Scholten, Jonathan Hardy, Rajan Sankaran and George Vithoulkas and his team in Greece, among many others.
The Irish Society of Homeopaths has grown in numbers but also in organisation, representation, professionalism, and educational support. The annual conference it organises is a gathering of talented people with a vast array of life experience and education, not usually the people who begin studying homeopathy immediately after the Leaving Cert., so have a lot of skills to offer.
At a time when psychiatry is being scrutinised and antibiotics are becoming less effective, homeopathy has a positive role in the future of health care.
See my post Sligo, Dublin, Literature & Homeopathy
A wonderful series of books on the plant, tree and wildlife of Ireland, including descriptions of their uses in medicine, by Niall Mac Coitir can be viewed here
Recollections of an Irish Doctor. Not homeopathy or healing but I loved this beautifully written book by someone with first-hand experience of the famine, developing the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, his family burnt out by Irish Republicans etc etc. Highly recommended. Read about it here