Homeopathy – does it work, or is it all hocus pocus?

Homeopathy – does it work?

A very long time ago – 20 years now – I was adamant that all this alternative stuff just didn’t work.  If you were sick, go to the doctor and get proper pills.  Homeopathy, Reiki, black box – all that stuff?  Really?  So.  I was young, convinced that I was right and that these quacks didn’t have a clue…

Now, I had a horse, called CP.  CP was a thoroughbred, had raced fairly well, and who I had wanted since a friend bought him on the yearling sales, pre racing.  I had followed his career and when he was retired, put my hand up, saying yes please.  Now, CP was a little ball of tension and stress.  The first time I took him to a dressage competition, he held his breath for the first half of his test, took a massive gulp of air when he was at C, as far from the judges as he could be, and then did the second half of his test on that one gulp.  At the end of the test, the judge gave him some nice comments, but said – please tell him to breathe?  He wouldn’t put weight on.  Wouldn’t really relax in his stable, wouldn’t settle and swing along in his work.  Now, in racing they are deliberately kept fit and trim, not carrying any excess fat, and being young they are slight in build.  Because they are always stabled and fed vast amounts of food, they tend to be on alert and ready to run, but CP didn’t let down (change) when he came to a riding yard, kept all his racing ways.  He was obliging enough to do what was asked, and seemed to enjoy his jumping, but was always in a hurry.  He was stabled in the middle of a block of six stables, and on coming out of his door, we could turn right or left to get out of the yard complex.  Given the choice, he would always turn left.  Why?  Because, at the end of the block on the left side, there was a big flower bed, and in that bed were Geraniums, and CP’s biggest love in life, was stopping to smell those Geraniums.  He would get there, lower his head, push the flowers around a bit so they would release more smell, close his eyes and pull in great lungful’s of Geranium aroma.  If let him do that, we could cope a lot easier with our schooling sessions, being a little more calm.  If I made him turn right, or didn’t give him long enough with his flowers, we were anxious.  Now, when he did this, I would laugh at him, and think he was wasting time, but much, much later learned that Geranium oil is used as a calmer, natural relaxant, mood enhancer, emotion balancer – coincidence?  Well I don’t believe in coincidence so I think not.  The interesting thing with CP though was still to come…

The gorgeous Mr CP
The gorgeous Mr CP

The owner of the livery yard where CP was stabled believed strongly in a local Homeopath who treated horses.  You carefully cut a chunk of their tail hair, letting it fall into an envelope so that it was not touched by your own delicate hand, and take it to this lady.  You would say nothing about the horse, she would wave her pendulum over the envelope and tell you what magical concoctions would cure whatever ailed him.  Ridiculous.  Who on earth falls for that?  Let’s say, I wasn’t a fan.  So, she convinced me that we needed to take CP’s hair along for testing, and to get help for his issues.  I reluctantly agreed – nothing to lose, but really?  Duly cut his hair, took along the little envelope and watched the pendulum swing back and forth.  Well….  Yes, she could give me this and that for his stress (uh, no one told you that he was stressed???  But then, you have probably seen him out and about) and this and that would help his appetite (again – seeing him at shows, she would know he was a little light…).  This and that would help his brittle feet (he was chestnut with four bright white shiny socks and hooves, of course they were weak and brittle, also obvious)…  And yet, she professed to have never seen him?  Hmmm….  But, the underlying problem was way too much copper in his system.

Now here was her downfall….  The paddocks had been analysed to see what nutrients needed adding, and there was, if anything, a slight lack of copper.  So, he wasn’t getting it in his grazing.  There was no added copper in his feed.  And the water pipes were PVC so no copper pipes.  He lived with other horses, grazed with them, ate what they ate, drank the same water, and no one else tested positive for too much copper.  She was clearly a fraud.  Yay for logic.  I took away my little packets of hocus pocus medicine and gave it to him – I had paid for it after all, and reluctantly admitted that he showed a slight improvement within about three days.  Coincidence again.  Also, after a few days  (hey, I am a slow thinker and learner…)  was collecting his tack from the tack room to get him ready to work.  When I really looked at his bridle, and his uhhh….  Grabbed his bridle, jogged up to the house, went bursting into the office…  Look, look at CP’s bridle.  Yard owner looks up – uh, yes, that is a bridle, CP’s bridle in fact.  Yes, but look at his bit…  His lovely, shiny bit, the one that was new and bought especially for him, in a nice shape for comfort and a nice warm metal for happiness – nice shiny, new COPPER, now dull from where he had had it sitting in his mouth, slowly absorbing the copper through his gums.  Yes, well.

Copper bit, just like CP’s
Copper bit, just like CP’s

I changed his bit, put him into stainless steel and yes, he was always a bit of an Energiser bunny and never completely relaxed, but the change in him was enormous.  He started to eat up all his food, gained weight, would put his head down to graze, lost the wild eyes and started to horse – to enjoy and be content.  And his hooves improved too.  Now, the big thing all sceptics say about homeopathy is that it is all the placebo effect.  I have two problems here – firstly, I didn’t believe it would work – in fact I believed 100% that it wouldn’t work.  And secondly, he didn’t know any different, so wasn’t up to belief it would work.  Now, let’s say that the only change was in him being calmer to ride.  That could be placebo. If I believed strongly enough that he would be calmer, I would have ridden him very subtly differently, and they can adjust to that.  But I didn’t believe it, and his appetite improved?  And the quality of the horn in his hooves?  Placebo?  How?

OK, fast forward a couple of years, in which I didn’t really think about it again.  I was still very young, and a non believer….

I had been away travelling for a good few months and had just got back home.  Was pottering away, doing odd bits of work, one of which was backing a young Thoroughbred filly, before she went to the track for race training.  She was very sweet and obliging, had been brought up well and was relaxed and happy and everything was swinging along….  I was on her trotting around the lunge pen just thinking about how tomorrow I would take her out to the big paddock and trot her around the edge – when she launched herself through the air.  After a few circuits of rodeo, gravity took an effect…  It wasn’t the falling that did the damage, but the landing onto a teak railway sleeper fencing post.  What happened next is a story in itself, but to make it short, the next day I was laid up in bed with a pelvis broken in three places.  Now, the orthopaedic surgeon had said there was nothing to do – no pins, no op, no traction, no cast, just go away and lie flat for 8 weeks.  I was to go back for a check-up at 6 weeks, but with a long weekend stuck in the middle, it would be 5 ½ weeks, but don’t expect to be up and about sooner than 8 weeks.  Well, it was a long 5 ½ weeks and I was maybe not the most well behaved, ideal patient, but I did spend the majority of my time flat. Or at least on crutches….

The day after the spectacular dismount, the filly’s owner came bearing chocolate, and….  A pendulum.  Turns out she did a load of natural healing and homeopathy.  Did I mind?  Well, got nothing to lose right?  Now any good that CP’s magically cured copper overload had done to homeopathy’s cause had long since evaporated (I did admit to being a slow learner) so, again, no preconceived placebo affect…  I duly took my pillules, rice paper and drops at the appointed time on the required day.  Had nothing better to do after all, and at 5 ½ weeks, hopped and wheelchaired back to my hospital bed.  Slightly concerned at the dressing down I would be getting for being a slightly wayward patient (me?  Never, not really…)  The nurses did the x-ray, all was set for learned Dr to come and dispense doctoring.  He tootled in, looked at the old x-ray, looked at the new x-ray.  Looked at the old x-ray, looked at the new x-ray.  Looked at the old x-ray, looked at the new x-ray.  Looked at the date on his watch.  Looked at the old x-ray, looked at the new x-ray.  Looked at me, finally.  Raise your feet off the bed – keeping your knees straight, lift from the hip.  Yup, can.  OK, you are fixed, you may go.  Signed off, don’t come back.  But, I uhhhh, have a broken pelvis?  No, you don’t.  Uhh, ya, fall off a horse, remember?  Yes, well, you must have some magical healing ability, because all three fractures have gone.  Fixed, healed.  Barely a mark left.  If you can raise your feet, you’re good to go.  Can I ride?  Of course.

I walked out (well yes, ok, I bounced, spun and tootled out) and hopped straight onto the first horse I found.  Congratulating myself for my magical healing properties, and then thinking that maybe, possibly all those doses of pillules, rice paper and drops may have cut my healing down by 2 ½ weeks?  Possibly?  I did start to think that maybe, just maybe there was actually something in all of this hocus pocus….