Nancy Gahles, DC, CCH, RSHom(NA) examines skin health and shares three patient case studies.
Our skin covers and houses our entire system. It is our largest organ and, I daresay, one that is given little attention at best case and taken for granted at worst case. The beautifully sensitive living and breathing skin is the surface that comes in direct contact with the environment in which we live. It serves as a boundary to protect our more fragile organs from injury. It serves as a sensor for environmental cues such as heat and cold, and is replete with a multiplicity of nerve endings that are constantly sending messages to our brain and nervous system to maintain a harmonious balance within and without creating an integrated totality of functioning.
Symptoms that present themselves in any organ represent the language of ourselves attempting to be interpreted in a way that will give rise to a solution that will bring the whole organism back into that state of integrated totality, of homeostasis, as we know it.
When attempting to discern the language of skin pathology as it presents in its often subtle forms of redness, rash and eruptions of unknown origin, the homeopath will consider the pathways that arise from embryological primordial tissue and give consideration to questioning all the other structures of the ectoderm such as skin, hair, nails, epithelial cells of the sweat, sebaceous and mammary glands, as well as the epithelium from the beginning to end of the gastrointestinal tract, the entire central nervous system, the anterior part of the pituitary and the lens of the eye, cornea and eardrum.
In this way, as health deteriorates, there are some predictable pathways to investigate as far as affinities or heredity dictates. Generally, symptoms appearing on the skin are the body’s way of expressing the disturbance on the most peripheral and least damaging level to the organism. This theory is particularly applicable to skin disorders and is one way in which a homeopath will assess the dynamic functioning of the organism. The theory was put forth by Dr. Constantine Hering, who is known as the father of American Homeopathy. Dr. Hering, while a student at Leipzig University in Germany in the mid 1800’s, was asked to assist a doctor who was writing a book disproving homeopathy. As the doctor was otherwise busy, the task of research fell to the student, Hering. After studying the writings and teachings of Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, Hering began conducting his own experiments and provings and after a dramatic cure of his own, formulated a law of cure from his observation of the healing process known as Hering’s Law of Cure.
- Hering observed that the body seeks to externalize disease, noting that symptoms will surface as part of the curative process.
- According to one of Hering’s “laws”, a person’s symptoms will appear and disappear in the reverse order of their appearance upon the body. Thus, a patient might re-experience symptoms during the healing process.
- Another observation was that the body heals from top to bottom, and from more vital organs to less vital organ.
Skin symptoms, therefore, ask the homeopath to inquire within. Recently, an 81 year old patient and I were discussing eczema and she told me the story of her son’s issue with eczema. She told me that he had severe eczema and the doctors at the time told her that there was nothing they could do for it except to put a moisturizing cream on it. She laughed as she told me that whenever she would scold him, he would become indignant and she would follow it by saying, “ Now go lay down on the couch and get a rash.” This is music to the ears of a homeopath for a connection can then be made as to causation on the mental/emotional plane and a rubric will be selected from the homeopathic repertory that reflects that state and that sensation. For example, you would find this represented in Dr. Frederik Schroyens Synthesis under Mind: Ailments from indignation. This mother added quite candidly, “You know when his rash really started? When I was in the hospital giving birth to my second son and he felt neglected”. Add to your list, Mind: ailments neglected, being. A homeopath will round out the case by inquiring further about each system affected until a totality of symptoms are present for repertorization. In this way, a homeopathic prescription can be made that balances each system as they function in one harmonious whole.
By way of illustrating the manner in which a homeopath might prescribe for a patient with a skin condition, I would like to show you 2 cases of Molluscum Contagiosum and 1 case of sunburn. These cases are abbreviated to give you a broad overview of the process. Further study can be done by using the resources I draw from in this article and, of course, by contacting me directly through our community resource, IP.com:
- The Science of Homeopathy by George Vithoulkas.
- The Organon of the medical Art by Samuel Hahnemann.
- The Soul of Remedies by Rajan Sankaran.
Molluscum Contagiosum is a skin condition whose postulated cause is a virus that presents as raised eruptions with an indented center. In children it is most commonly seen on the face, trunk or limbs. As with most viral conditions, there is no treatment protocol in the allopathic community so the eruptions are either burned or freezed off or one is directed to wait and it will go away, usually within 2-12 months.
In these cases, I prescribed 2 different remedies based on the totality of symptoms and the individuality of the cases. These are both boys who are cousins. One, the more adventurous and mischievous of the 2, could not resist touching the molluscum on his cousin’s neck. This was particularly because he was told not to, which is a significant part of his case. He is very rebellious and defiant. So, contagiosum it was!
Sam is a happy, gentle child, 5 years of age. The eruptions appeared on the back of his neck and he had them burned off twice. When they reappeared, his mom called me. Sam has been treated successfully with homeopathy since he was 7 weeks old. His Mom repentantly told me that she simply didn’t think of me when Sam had this eruption. Since it has recurred she realized there was a deeper etiology that homeopathy could address. For the sake of brevity and in the interests of this being simply an illustration of homeopathic prescribing for skin conditions, the case is presented in a generalized manner.
Sam’s mom and dad divorced 2 years ago. As with any separation, it was traumatic for the children. The way in which each individual experiences that trauma is the “stuff’ of homeopathic prescribing. As the mother told me, Sam’s eruptions appeared after his father had been away on an extended business trip. Sam would cry and want to be left alone. He was inconsolable. Even after the father returned from his trip, he continued to dwell on the fact that he had gone away for so long. These are the main rubrics that I took in this case:
Mind: Ailments from love disappointed
Mind: Dwells on past disagreeable circumstances
Mind: Wants to be alone to cry
Mind: Consolation aggravates
Skin: eruptions, molluscum
The remedy I selected for Sam was Natrum Muriaticum. According to Dr. Rajan Sankaran, in his book, The Soul of Remedies, the main feeling of Natrum Muriaticum is that he/she will be let down or betrayed or disappointed by the person her trust depends on or the person he/she loves. In my experience, there is the sensation of being forsaken or abandoned by the one you depend on for love thus leaving you emotionally vulnerable and with the feeling that there must be something wrong with you in order for that person to leave you. As a matter of conjecture, perhaps the externalization of this feeling is depicted in the lesion. The molluscum did resolve in a few days only to reappear the following week. I prescribed the same remedy in a higher potency, to match the vitality of the patient at this time and to date the eruption has not reoccurred and the child is happily on vacation with his dad.
Billy’s inquisitive nature led him to simply have to touch the molluscum on his cousin’s neck. He wanted to see what it felt like. In so doing, the eruptions appeared on his thigh a few days later. One of the main feelings in Billy’s case is that of being scorned or criticized. It is a great source of embarrassment to him. Thus, he can never be wrong or punished and has developed a large ego to compensate. He can get so angry that he tears at his face. He has respiratory difficulties and issues of congestion in all his mucous membranes as relates to the embryological relationship I discussed previously.
I chose the remedy Sulphur based on the totality of his physical symptoms as well as his individual characteristics. One observation that Sankaran makes about Sulphur in his book, The Soul of Remedies, is that Sulphur children like to touch everything. Indeed, this was reflected in a main rubric that I chose for Billy. The rubrics are:
Mind: Touch, does not know if objects are real until he has touched them.
Mind: Ailments from scorn, being scorned.
Mind: Anger, could tear himself to pieces.
Cough: Morning, aggravated
Cough: Mucous from the chest.
Skin: Eruptions, molluscum contagiosum.
Skin: Excoriation, scratching after.
Skin: Itching,night, bleeding after scratching.
Respiration: Asthmatic, difficult, wheezing.
Nose: Discharge, mucous.
One week after administering the remedy his mother reported that his cough got worse in the morning for 2 days and then got better; his eyes became less itchy; his defiant behavior increased and then got better and his molluscum is much better, almost gone. This case will require careful follow up in the constitutional realm and is meant to illustrate the point that all cases are individual and the appearance of a skin symptom can mean more than meets the eye. In this case, there are deeper layers to be healed in order to bring his case to a conclusion.
As Sigmund Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”. This case is a simple skin case. In the case of sunburn, it is a purely external factor that creates an injury to the skin and has no relationship to the internal environment. The way in which the injury is perceived and experienced is highlighted in this case. It is this experience of the patient, their sensation, that a homeopath will further investigate. In this case, you would ask questions about what makes it better and what makes it worse. These are called modalities and can lead a homeopath to the correct remedy.
Skylar, age 16, opened the summer vacation with a trip to the beach and a day of surfing. He returned home with severe sunburn, worse on his chest and stomach. Given the fact that he is MY son, he was roundly reproached with words like, “You KNOW better than to go out without sun block!” Of course, both my children had been e-mailed the list of acceptable sunblocks, harmful ingredients in sunscreens and tubes of the designated “correct’ sunblock had been placed in their rooms by Memorial Day. So much for that! I gave him calendula cream to apply topically and 1 dose to take internally to facilitate healing. Calendula is a homeopathic preparation of the marigold whose affinity for skin wounds and burns is legend.
Two days later he went out to mow the lawn. Afterward, he came down from showering, his chest covered in powder and told me that his chest was extremely itchy and nothing was helping. Extremely was the key word here because as my son related his symptoms he was roving about the room in an extreme state of restless agitation. To a homeopath, this is a key as to the degree of the sensation. To a mother whose son is the most laid back person, this wasTHE key to the remedy! On examination, the skin was red but there were no eruptions, urticaria or vesicles. He was VERY itchy and it burned. My son does have an allergic constitution and I thought this may have been an allergy to the grass he had mowed or an exacerbation of the sunburn from the heat and perspiration. He had taken a cold shower to no avail. I prepared cool compresses of calendula tincture which he tolerated for a few minutes whereupon he demanded in utmost exasperation, “Call a doctor!” Slightly aghast and slightly amused, I replied, “I AM a doctor!” His agitation was marked as he literally paced around the room rubbing his chest. I sat at my computer equally frantic as I tried to repertorize his case as quickly as I could. The pace and severity were factors here. The etiology was clear. Sunburn. I took that rubric. Inflammations,violent. Yes! Being a well trained homeopathic patient, he told me his modalities. “It feels better rubbing it.” I typed it in. “Actually, it’s the rubbing AND the pressure that helps.” Bingo! I asked him what level the itching was on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the worst. “10!”, was his reply. I gave him a dose of Cantharis and asked him to wait 15 minutes for a response. As he waited, I noticed him decrease his pacing and gradually he sat in the chair all the while rubbing his chest. By the end of the 15 minutes he was sitting in the chair, the restlessness markedly decreased and he was rubbing his chest in slower circular movements. Everything was less intense. He said the level of itching and burning was now a number 3. I gave him another dose of Cantharis and after 5 minutes he literally sprung from the chair and said, “It’s all gone!” and before I knew it, he was out the door and back to his usual activities of daily living. All in a matter of 25 minutes.
Cantharis, otherwise known as Spanish Fly, is a remedy noted for the violence of its inflammations and the ability to excite animal passions. According to Lotus Material Medica, by Robin Murphy, “The word ‘irritation’ best expresses the totality of the Cantharis effects.”
The rubrics I chose for this case were:
Mind: Anxious restlessness.
Modalities: Better from rubbing.
These 3 cases give a smattering of insight into the way in which a homeopath might look at skin symptoms. The cases range from mild to moderate to severe. Clearly, the connection is made between physical symptoms and the mental/emotional symptoms in a patient. This is an aspect often left out in a dermatologists’s consultation. In my experience, the much bandied about word, stress, is a causative factor in skin issues. The job of a homeopath is to inquire further about that stress. What kind of stress? How do you experience it? Where do you experience it? How is that stress represented in your organism? Where does it most often appear on your body or within your body? The language of symptoms reflects the “state’ of the individual in all its totality, body, mind, emotion, spirit, soul. It is the job of the homeopath to interpret that language, prescribe a remedy that matches that state in a potency that matches the vitality of the patient, in order to restore health in the most efficient way with the least harm to the patient. A daunting task….an awesome privilege.
Ian Watson, in his book, The Toa of Homeopathy, makes this beautiful comment:
“The mark of a true healer of any persuasion is one who achieves the greatest results with the least intervention. When a homeopath remains centered in the Tao, she allows what needs to happen to take place by itself without any fuss or fanfare. As far as possible, she keeps out of the way and allows the intelligent healing force within her patients to do the work.
The best homeopath is the one whose patients are heard to say: ‘We remembered how to heal ourselves.’
Additional articles by this author:
- Treating Sinusitis without Antibiotics
- Men’s Health: Beyond Prostate Conditions and ED
- It’s Tick Season! Examining Lyme Disease
- Environmental Toxins: Pharmaceuticals Found in Drinking Water
- Colds & Flu—A Homeopathic Perspective
- Homeopathic Perspective: Seasonal Affective Disorder
- Postmortem Thoughts After Integrative Healthcare Symposium: Practical Integration, Continuing the Dialogue