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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Homeopathy and ADHD

As a physician with a background in child psychiatry who specializes in homeopathic treatment, I find it sad that the popular press continues to reify the fictitious disorder of ADHD. This artificially constructed disorder is often treated as an illness when in effect it is a loosely defined aggregation of symptoms which occur in different patterns with different individuals. As is the habit with the lumping kind of nosology that characterizes modern medicine, all these individuals are amazingly given the same diagnosis! When one looks more closely, however, one sees that there are some children where the emphasis is more on the attentional aspects of the disorder and others where the hyperactive or impulsive aspects predominate. Indeed there are some who exhibit marked mood swings, thereby creating debates about whether they have ADHD or bipolar disorder of some combination of the two. In fact, what we see is evidence of the crudeness of a diagnostic system that persists in trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

In the homeopathic system, one works with the individual and notices the unique aspects of the child's symptoms rather than lumping the child into a group to which they do not properly belong. By avoiding this mistake, the child is not stigmatized, and instead is viewed as a unique individual whose inattentive or hyperactive symptoms are merely manifestations of a more generalized derangement in their body’s self-regulatory system. Remember, ADHD has no lab tests or reliable biological markers; it is the arbitrary name given by a number of psychiatrists and psychologists who many years ago sat around a board room table during the creation of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and decided that Attention Deficit Disorder would be a good name to describe something that they only understood dimly at the time. Later they decided their original understanding was imperfect. so they changed it to ADHD -attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, which has only created more confusion. I say we should stop trying to define something with inaccurate language, and stop creating illness out of our own misperceptions, which only furthers the process of stigmatization. Instead, start learning about ways of curing what is mistakenly viewed as a life long illness and start appreciating the uniqueness of our children. A good place to begin is Judith Reichenberg Ullman and Robert Ullman’s book Ritalin Free Kids, where many examples can be found of successfully treated children who exhibited symptoms of what has been referred to as ADHD.

It is ironic that the purveyors of the modern psychiatric nosology contribute most to stigmatization, even though they are often the same people who are trying to fight stigmatization. The left hand does not know what the right is doing. This is likely to be because of confusion about what a disease or illness is within the medical profession. While it may be true that illness-mongering is motivated by the sincere desire to bring help to people, such labelling not only becomes a powerful force of stigmatization, it offers no lasting solution to the problem. Instead, it allows for only a lifetime of symptom management with drugs. Effective as the drugs may be at managing the symptoms they do not take away the illness of ADHD. The best way to fight stigmatization is not to stigmatize in the first place, to eliminate the underlying illness which causes "ADHD" symptoms, rather than to try to argue people out of what has been engendered naturally through the process of illness-mongering.

mark brody, md

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cod liver oil and homeopathy

Two of my wonderful homeopathic mentors, Roger Morrison, M.D. and Nancy Herrick, P.A. recently inspired me to take a deeper look into the virtues of a healthful nutritional program. Their inspiration has driven me to the radical and perhaps reprehensible habit of regularly ingesting cod liver oil. Cod liver oil has been extolled for generations for its health benefits, and has also acquired a reputation for its noisome aroma. Recent research, spurred by the writings of Weston Price, DDS and others have led to a more scientific basis to these benefits.

My first few attempts at imbibing this repulsive product were accomplished amidst waves of nausea, with copious gagging and facial contortions -- horrible to witness, I'm sure. I tried combining this wretched brew with a variety of foods, only to find that my disgust for it spread to everything it touched. Finally, I discovered the age old trick of holding my nose while gulping down the stuff. Now, I am happy to say, I find the whole process tolerable, although by no means pleasant.

One day, my 2 year old daughter was observing me in my morning confrontation with this health nemesis/boon and asked me, "What's that?" "Cod liver oil," I daringly replied. "I want some cod liver oil," she forcefully proclaimed. This prompted a somewhat devilish response, possibly conceived out of long hours of having to listen to the endless demands of a two year old tyrant: "I want..I want... I want..." "Sure Vivi (short for Aviva), you can have some cod liver oil," I said, already chuckling to myself at what I imagined her response to it would be. I justified my sadistic impulses by the thought, "It's good for her!" Maybe I just wanted someone to share my misery with.

Innocent being that she is, she unhesitatingly welcomed the teaspoon of glimmering glop as I delivered it to its fated destination. One gulp and it was gone! I waited for the expected grimaces of revulsion in vain. Instead, a bright smile lit up her face as she amazingly announced, "I like cod liver oil!" Floored by this contretemps, I mustered up a somewhat bewildered and largely disingenuous reponse: "Good, Vivi. Cod liver oil is good, isn't it?" "Yes!" she quite sincerely proclaimed.

Future administrations of this vile health balm led to similar grateful responses, and at times I even (mirabile dictu) heard fall from her lips the unthinkable: "Daddy, can I have some more cod liver oil?" I found myself joking with my wife (who refuses to come near the stuff) that we should make some cod liver oil ice cream for her in our ice cream maker. This strange and peculiar reaction to what was decades ago a product infamous for being the bane of a young child's existence prompted me to a moment of reflection. What could it mean that something at once so healthful and so repulsive could be so unrepulsive and even satisfying to the palate of my little child?

Nature seems to have for the most part built us in a way that discourages us from ingesting noxious substances and encourages the ingestion of more salubrious ones. Although not a perfect system, we do not have to be taught to have a horror of the smell of our own feces or that of a skunk, or of rotting organic matter. Our nose tells us what to do. Occasionally we can be misled however. Sugar tastes great, but in large amounts can cause diabetes, obesity, and dental caries, if not other health problems. Many foods that are quite bitter or difficult to digest become more palatable with proper cooking and preparation. These include many of the cruciferae plants: cabbage, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Other foods such as red pepper (Cayenne) are pleasantly stimulating in small amounts but toxic in large amounts. So sometimes nature's way is to caution us not to overdo it, rather than to avoid entirely. Perhaps this is the case with cod liver oil, too. Cod liver oil is rich in Omega fatty acids, Vitamin A and Vitamin D. Too much Vitamin A, Vitamin D or Omega 3 fatty acids can be toxic, but too little can lead to adverse health effects too.

So nature's way may be to give us a yellow light, rather than a red light. How do we know when the light is yellow or red? Maybe there are some of us who are like canaries in the mine shaft who are wired by evolution to show us the way (even though they may know nothing of the scientific basis of their food instincts.) I like to think of the community of homeopaths as a consortium of canaries, who in the face of a great majority whose preferences lie elsewhere, demonstrate for those who are willing to ponder a bit longer the subtle but powerful effects of their contrarian medicines. And, the medicine tastes great!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Homeopathy and Hucksterism

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, there was a proliferation of the market for what were then described as "nostrums" or as they were more pejoratively referred to, "quack medicines." These kind of "snake oil" medicines were offerred up to the public by fast talking hucksters of the type lampooned in Steven Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. To say that the medical community of the time frowned on these practices is a bit like saying the Catholic Church frowns on devil worship. The medical literature of the time is filled with the severest condemnations for such practices which often reach a high pitch of moral rectitude. William Osler wrote in 1910 (The Faith That Heals, British Medical Journal 1; 1470-2) "For a generation, the people of the United States have indulged in an orgie of drugging. Between polypharmacy in the profession and quack medicines, the American body had become saturated ad nauseam."

Homeopaths were lumped by many allopathic physicians with these hucksters and homeopathy was viewed as yet the next ruse cooked up by mountebanks and medical pretenders. Conventional physicians eschewed advertising, believing that as medical scientists, appealling to humankind's baser motivations and preying on the innocent was not only inappropriate, but morally reprehensible. Today, however, the tables are turned. Ironically, physicians embrace the hucksters and hucksterism reigns with (almost) unbridled authority in the halls of allopathy. While in recent times, we have seen a countermovement to try to limit some of these excesses, not the least of which is government inquiries into the relationships between leading researchers, drug companies, and possible tax fraud, the pharmaceutical industry and medical device industry still commands the full attention of the modern allopathic physician. Drugs continue to dominate as treatment modalities. There is even recent literature suggesting that statins may be "medically indicated" for people without hypercholesterolemia, or any sign of the illnesses for which hypercholesterolemia is considered to be a mere risk factor.

In these times of excess, the proverbial shit eventually hits the fan, as it did with Enron, with the mortgage industry, with credit, and as it is likely to do with polluting our environment, engineering our food, and trying to act as policeman to the world. Throughout this sycotic overgrowth of allopathic medicine, throughout its corruption by the moneyed interests, homeopaths have remained true to their profession, continuing to pursue that Holy Grail first enunciated by Hahnemann -- "to restore the sick to health, to cure, as it is called" (Aphorism 1, The Organon). When the shit starts hitting the fan with allopathy, when we realize that we have built a system that is too big, too expensive, too toxic, too disease oriented, and too impersonal, homeopathy will be waiting in the wings, quietly waiting for the flotsam and jetsam of the conventional medical system to float its way.

It's not that we have such great powers of restraint in expressing ourselves. It's just that we've grown hoarse after centuries of clamoring for attention and finding that almost no one listens. It is sometimes difficult as a homeopath to observe the psychological power of hucksterism over people. While saying it is like watching lambs being sent to the slaughter would be an overstatement, there is still a feeling of sadness and anger among many of us homeopaths as we watch people get consumed by the system, with all of its impersonalism, its toxic side effects, its immense expenses, and its sometimes false hopes. We are wise to hold our tongues, though, because homeopathy is not yet so reliable that we can be sure we can do better all the time. The truth is a more shadowy affair, because sometimes people do have good outcomes with conventional treatment, and sometimes people have poor outcomes with homeopathy. We homeopaths are superior to the allopaths in that we kill or maim fewer people with our gentler approaches, but until we can demonstrate that we can cure more consistently than allopathic medicine, it is best not to overpromise and overstate, as the hucksters have done within allopathic medicine, what we have to offer. Then we too have become the mountebanks which the modern allopathic huckster has become.

Mark Brody, MD