About Us

Ann McKay, R.N.C., John McGonigle, M.D. and Mark Brody, M.D. have devoted themselves to homeopathy and related alternative medical treatments. In keeping with the spirit of homeopathy's founder Samuel Hahnemann M.D., we utilize treatments that emphasize safety and the restoration of the sick to health.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Homeopathy, A Second Class Citizen

One has to suffer many ignominies as a homeopath. Sometimes I wonder what about me got me interested in a field where opportunities to "eat crow" abound. My patients sometimes call me to cancel appointments because they are sick or want to see their primary care doctor for treatment of an acute problem that unexpectedly has arisen -- not the chronic problem for which they initially came in. This distresses me greatly, because in spite of my efforts to educate my patients about the broader applications of homeopathy, they still do not always look upon it as something that might be suitable for managing their acute illnesses, or they simply see their primary care doctor as the one best equipped to handle these episodes.

Part of the problem is probably cultural. We have it so ingrained in us by our PCP's, our families, and even the advertising we are exposed to that our PCP's are our first "go-to" docs that it is almost reflexive to call them before anyone else. Partly it is our failure as homeopaths to communicate the broad-ranging applications of homeopathy. Some of our patients have grasped this and honor us (even if the honor may at times come somewhat unwelcomed in the middle of the night) by making us the first go-to doc. It's a big responsibility, but if we do our job well, the results can be magnificent. And, we and our patients know that we have moved them further along in their health, not merely squelched the symptoms by suppression.

Our patients who cancel because they are sick do not realize that viewing acute illness in its raw unsuppressed form can often be a wonderful window of opportunity into an understanding of their chronic illnesses. It's a difficult concept to metabolize. I don't know if it would have rung my bell when I was just beginning to study homeopathy. Being willing to consider an alternative treatment for one's chronic and treatment-resistant health problem is not the same as embracing homeopathy as a primary treatment option for one's health in general.

We would like all of our patients to embrace homeopathy with open arms, as we practitioners have done long ago. But the reality is that there will always be some for whom we will always merely be consultants, relegated to a supporting role. Once the chronic problem is cured for these folks, they will probably think of us again, should another chronic problem arise, but they will still go to their PCP's for flu's, cold's and other acute problems, in spite of our best efforts at tactfully providing an opening for them to broaden their use of homeopathy in their lives.

Homeopathy provides wonderful effects for most of our patients, but it is still somewhat esoteric -- or perhaps just not so easy to accept for our "reason-gifted" minds. As an outlier, it naturally evokes a certain degree of xenophobia, and however wonderful its effects may be, it can not quite emerge from the shadows of strangeness into the kind of comfortable acceptability that even the most dangerous or toxic conventional treatments enjoy, by their widespread use and publicity. Homeopathy is indeed "strange, rare and peculiar" in the world of health care, even if it may be viewed by many as quite effective. Relinquishing the familiar and trusting our health to this odd approach is an act of courage and open-mindedness that is no small accomplishment, especially when fearful relatives, friends and even our own fears might question the wisdom of such a bold action. Perhaps that is why Hahnemann said, "Aude sapere" -- Dare to be wise.

Mark Brody, M.D.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Health Care Crisis

My two year old daughter Aviva is in the "I want" stage of development. "Daddy, I want raisins! I want Mommy! I want apple -- whole thing!" My wife and I do our best to get her to ask politely, but sometimes it's hard not to lose our cools. There are just times where she simply can't have what she wants, nor are we there to cater to her every whim. She doesn't understand this, nor can we easily explain such concepts to a two year old.

Our country is now going through an "I want" crisis of its own, and no authority has been there to tell us we can't have all we want. Politicians' re-elections have depended on them not saying no to any of the country's "I wants." As parents, my wife and I are totalitarians, so poor Aviva has to submit to our dictates. We are benevolent dictators, by and large, so there are boundaries that keep the family from descending into utter chaos, without too many of the excesses (I believe) of unlimited power. The lack of constraints on our country's financial system, our credit system, our manufacturing system, our health care system, and our transportation system however, has led to a bottomless pit of need. We now find ourselves with multiple crises on virtually all fronts as a result of the failure of checks and balances.

Our financial system is imploding, credit is frozen up, products are beset with safety problems, our health care system is pricing itself into a state of unaffordability, commercial agriculture has depleted our land and denutritionalized and toxified our food supply, and our dependency on fossil fuels has led to a global warming problem that is reaching emergency proportions. We want houses, we want credit, we want cheap stuff, we want cheap food and lots of it, we want unlimited health care access, we want our SUV's and low-mileage cars. And by and large, no one has said no to these wants. There have been a few, like Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben who have been warning for years about the dangers of disrespecting the balances in our ecosystem, but aside from these admonishing few, there have been little in the way of checks and balances on the systems that cater to our ever-expanding wants and desires.

It is sometimes equally sad and amusing to watch our presidential candidates argue about the merits of their respective health care plans. Both acknowledge that neither of their plans is perfect, although they both (naturally) claim that theirs is better than the other candidate's. Noone is willing to say that the Emperor is naked! It is not that it is politically incorrect, it's that we haven't been willing to break down our denial about this obvious fact. For the past 10 years the costs have health care have been rising at 3 or 4 times the rate of inflation. Clearly, this pattern can not go on forever. Since we have our heads in the sand about this fact, we have clearly decided to wait until the system becomes so bloated in cost that it is collapsing under its own weight. We'll deal with the problem then, I suppose.

While many of the innovations of modern medicine are indeed impressive, some are less so, and they are all costing us an incredible amount of money. Our conventional allopathic system is increasingly becoming so overweight that it's going to start having strokes and heart attacks. It's fast becoming moribund, at the very moment it's at it's greatest size and influence. This is a time when homeopathy is well poised to move to the forefront. Since nation-states can not cover everyone for every problem, the choice becomes to either not cover everyone (the United States' solution), to cover everyone, but limit the coverage (the European solution), or to find cheaper but effective solutions (India's solution). The U.S. and European solutions clearly have limited political viability, and as costs continue to rise, they become less feasible. Opposition to homeopathy is so strong (even within India), that further expansion of homeopathy as an affordable viable alternative is likely to occur only when the system is in a state of utter collapse.
Like the stubborn fool who keeps looking for his lost keys where the light is, even though he lost them over in the dark, homeopathy, with its astounding potential for cost savings, if more broadly applied, is likely to languish in a state of dark obscurity until the lights go out. Fortunately and unfortunately, this state of affairs does not appear to be all that far off in the future.


I have learned many things from my wife and child, but one thing that has been very important in my personal growth has to do with dependency. Growing up, I was schooled by my parents in the importance of independence in life. They each grew up in homes where personal autonomy was somewhat limited by a rigid, traditional patriarchal or matriarchal system which had all the freedoms of an autocracy. At least this is my read on it-- I may be mistaken about their experiences of their families. I feel confident however in the accuracy of my perception that their own personal experiences led them to give great weight to the value of independence for all of their children.

The blessings of independence are many, but humans thrive where there is a balance between independence and dependence. If we can not be independent, how can we be a separate person? But if we can not depend on anyone, how can we become part of a community, or form a relationship, for that matter? Too much independence is scary, as it means disconnection from your social nature. Too much dependence can be scary as well, since it threatens to have the group swallow up one's individuality. One of life's challenges is to negotiate an acceptable compromise between these polarities. My wife and child have helped me to become more comfortable with my dependency. It was a place I had a hard time going to for a long time, but their constant love and the deepening of our connections over time has enabled me to exist more comfortably in that sometimes scary place.

Devoted homeopaths usually have a life-long love affair with homeopathy. The beauty of the method, the sometimes miraculous response, and the experience of connecting deeply with the universe in one's understanding of our fellow human beings can be a mystical experience. Many of our patients have experienced life-changing results with homeopathy, and while technically a medical intervention, homeopathy's effect is sometimes more like a religious experience. The powers of homeopathy can be so inspiring that one sometimes can form what seems to me to be an excessive devotion to it, that moves us away from the balanced state between dependency and independence.

Homeopathy is a tool to engender health. It is an incredibly powerful tool, possibly the most powerful tool in our possession, but it is not the only tool. I think we sometimes forget that other tools can often be useful too. Hahnemann himself advocated for the use of more conventional treatments in the case of emergencies, as with drownings, cardiac arrest, or acute blood loss. There is no reason to give remedies in a situation where the patient requires immediate interventions such as CPR, defibrillation,surgery, or a tourniquet. He talks about this in Aphorism 186 in the Organon. Sometimes, time is simply too short. And Hahnemann lists many situations, which he refers to as "obstacles to cure" (See Aphorism 77 in the Organon)where there are certain aspects of our environment that are changeable that are impinging negatively on health. Without the removal of these obstacles, the prospects for recovery will be dim.

In our modern world, where nutritional problems are rampant due to the influence of agribusiness and the commercial food industry, where exposures to toxins in the form of antibiotics in our food sources, radon, lead, PCB's and bisphenol-A, and drugs (legal and illegal), sleep-deprivation, and other life-style stresses are rampant, it is a wonder that homeopathy can effect any positive changes at all. Some homeopaths, including Nancy Herrick and Roger Morrison, are beginning to call our attention to these factors, particularly in their work promoting the contributions of Weston Price in the area of nutrition. They are keeping us from being so blinded by the beauty and power of our method that we fail to see the need for dietary changes, nutritional supplements, and in some cases, life-style changes if we are to complete our mission. Our mission also does not stop with our patients either, since public health intervention is sometimes as important or more important than working with our individual patients.

The risk of love is dependency, which is really not love at all. The risk of total independence is no love, and no connection. Our challenge as homeopaths is to not love homeopathy so much that we ignore other healing interventions that should be part of our greater role as healers. But we can neither be such generalists that we lose our love for and proper dependence on homeopathy as a healing intervention. It is our love for homeopathy that should inspire us to do all we can, including going outside of our quest for the simillimum, in our efforts to restore the sick to health.

Mark Brody, M.D.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Health and Medicine: Is there any correlation?

When I was a medical student, I was struck by the fascination doctors had with illness. The grotesque, the disgusting, the horrific seemed to only arouse interest in my mentors, and in many of my fellow students. I remember one of these fellow students coming up to me one day during our internal medicine rotation with a glow of excitement on her face saying, "Did you see Mr. Jones (not his real name). He has sino-orbital aspergillosis (Fungus eating up his eyeball). You should go take a look -- it's pretty cool." Was there something wrong with me for being horrified rather than titillated by the opportunity to witness fungus growing out of a person's eye socket? Or was it the other way around? I soon came to understand that a good case or "fascinoma" was usual the end product of some poor person having some rare difficult to diagnosis and usually quite horrible disease with a terrible prognosis. Why did my colleagues seem to rejoice in such cases, where I found them only depressing? Was I in the wrong field, or was there something wrong with these people?

I came to coin the term "pathophile" -- one who has a love for or abnormal interest in sickness and pathology. It was my way of trying to feel O.K. about not being so happy about discovering dread diseases in people. It's not that I felt these doctors didn't care about people or want to help them with their illnesses, it's just that I seemed to lack this emotional response to their illness. While some may find it easy to make the leap from wanting to relieve suffering and heal the sick to relishing the discovery of serious pathology, I have found it difficult to make this transition myself. I have difficulty getting excited about anything I can not help my patients with, even if it is rare and uncommon. What's to get excited about unless it moves the patient towards health? One of my medical school professors once expressed his regret to me that I had decided to pursue psychiatry rather than surgery. "What would surgery offer that I couldn't find in psychiatry?" I asked him. "You get to see so much pathology," was his unhesitating response. I sat dumbfounded, unable to comprehend his obvious pleasure at viewing diseased organs.

The net result of 4 years of medical school and many many years of residency appears to me to be that doctors have a profound knowledge of illness, but very little or no training about health. In fact, I feel it is safe to say that few doctors would even be able to say what health is, without making some reference to illness (i.e., that it is the absence of illness). Why should doctors have knowledge of health if they are primarily interested in illness anyway? Yet, I would argue that if you do not truly understand health you will be very limited in what you can do to treat illness.
How can one truly move people towards health if one doesn't know what it is? You can not simply move away from a point and know you are moving in the right direction. You must know where you are going.

Homeopaths fancy themselves as knowing something about health, since the homeopathic art is all about strengthening health. Hahnemann gave us one of the most profound and eloquent descriptions of health I know of. It is worthy of study and contemplation, as it reveals much about the author, and raises ontologic and other metaphysical questions about the meaning of health. It goes like this (taken from the Organon of Medicine, Aphorism 9, O'Reilly translation): "In the healthy human state, the spirit-like life force (autocracy) that enlivens the material organism as dynamis, governs without restriction and keeps all parts of the organism in admirable, harmonious vital operation, as regards both feelings and functions, so that our indwelling rational spirit can freely avail itself of this living healthy instrument for the higher purpose of our existence."

This animistic, vitalistic view of health, with a bow towards a teleologic view of human existence, must have rocked the nineteenth century like an IED. Yet, much as we may want a more precise material understanding of health, it is hard to argue that Hahnemann has not, in one tightly packed sentence arrived at a singular and comprehensive definition of health. Hahnemann fills in some of the blanks later on in the Organon, but what is perhaps remarkable about his contribution is that he takes on the question at all. Many would be content with "if it works, just do it." But Hahnemann goes a step beyond this by asking us not to accept the appearance of health for health itself. To truly restore health, we must know something about it, or we will be misled, as he felt many of his generation had been, into taking on treatments that might have the veneer of authenticity, but lacked the deeper and more worthwhile signature of true health. Let us salute Hahnemann, the first "salutophile".

Mark Brody, M.D.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Your child's medical care: risks and dangers

It is not uncommon to learn about worrisome aspects of American children's health, not only about the apparant rising incidences of obesity, asthma, allergies, ADHD, and Autism, to cite some of the more well-known, but also the rising concerns about the safety of certain standard treatments. Recent concerns were voiced by the respected journal Pediatrics that drug samples proferred to pediatricians were not properly vetted for safety (see the New York Times, Oct 6, 2008). You also may be familiar with the recent guidelines issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that interdict the use of over-the-counter cold medicines for children. The recent past has seen concerns raised about suppressed data by the drug company SmithKline Beecham, indicating that it's drug Paxil is not as effective as the company had been claiming, and that it was associated with suicidal thinking. It has been shown in repeated studies that Methylphenidate (Ritalin) and other stimulants can cause growth retardation and sudden death in children with underlying cardiac anomalies.

Most of the reactions to these alarming reports that I read about in medical journals have emphasized the need not to panic or over-react. Recently, clinicians have attempted to connect an increased suicide rate among teenagers to a reduction in the number of antidepressants prescribed, although causality has not been clearly established. There seems to be far more lamentation about the more cautious approach to prescribing that has evolved than there is about the children who have lost their lives, their health, or their self-esteem because of "side effects" to the standard treatment. Your pediatrician is likely to tell you that there is no "proof" that vaccination is dangerous to your child, and certainly not that it can cause autism. Yet there is no "proof" that vaccination is entirely safe either. Quite the contrary, there is copious evidence that vaccinations sometimes cause harm, and the government has led its imprimatur to this fact in 1986 by passing the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act. In light of these facts, how can we be sure our children are receiving treatment that is both effective and safe?

The main questions we face regarding our children's medical treatment are: just how safe are the standard treatments, and just how dangerous are they by comparison to no treatment or to other alternatives? Should we sometimes not allow pediatricians or child psychiatrists to treat our children? What else can we do, when we feel uncomfortable with what is being recommended? The pediatricians tend to rate the risks of treatment as extremely low, and this may be the case, but is it actually lower than the alternatives, or not treating at all? For example, how do we know when to use antibiotics for ear infections, or do we never use them, as some say, arguing that otitis media is a self-limited viral infection (i.e. not antibiotic responsive)?

Many people are horrified by the rampant use of medications in children (and for all age groups in the United States, for that matter). We really shouldn't be horrified if those medications are "medically necessary," should we? Perhaps many of us are not fully persuaded that all those drugs are in fact necessary. There is something frightening about all those drugs that seems to be almost atavistic, perhaps harkening back to a time when our ancestors prowled the planet, testing various plants and substances for their medicinal property, both eager to discover a substance with healing properties, but equally wary that while some substances may be healing, others can be lethal.

Homeopathic treatment can in many cases provide a viable alternative when the stakes are high, and the conventional treatment necessitates the use of strong and potentially dangerous medications. Of course, we would like to try to address our child's health safely without compromising efficacy. If you are unfamiliar with homeopathy, Dana Ullman has written a whole volume on homeopathic care for children, Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants, which you may want to take a look at (although any introductory volume on homeopathic medicine can serve as a guide to the treatment of acute illness such as colds, flu, upset stomachs sprianed ankles, and allergy attacks). Future postings will address some of these specific problems in greater detail for you, or you may wish to refer to other links, such as blog.hmedicine.com. This article aspires to one thing only: to raise your consciousness to the fact that there are safe alternatives for your children's health that might be preferable to what you may presently be doing, with some trepidation. While homeopathic medicines do not always work, they are uniformly safe, and well tolerated at least 90% of the time. Begin your exploration, and stay tuned as we bring you more about this extraordinarily safe, effective and often life-saving form of treatment.

When I first learned about homeopathy, I was shocked that such a safe and effective treatment was not being more widely embraced. In my career I have encountered so many patients who had been "through the mill" of conventional medical treatment, and had emerged in some cases jaded, and in others merely discouraged, because of lack of sufficient benefit from their conventional drug therapy, or serious health problems resulting from their use of chronic medications. I have seen many parents struggle to get their kids to take their Ritalin or asthma medications daily. Kids don't want to take them, because they just want to be normal. Homeopathy offers us the hope that our kids can be healthy once again, and live lives free from the burden or stigma of chronic illness. It is not always sufficient all by itself, but it goes farther towards this goal than is ever possible with standard treatment.

Mark Brody, M.D.