When I was a toddler, my mother decided to become a homeopath. She had fallen into the all-too-common sinkhole of post-natal depression, only to be promptly pulled out, unexpectedly, by an innocuous homeopathic remedy. That little, mighty remedy changed my mother’s life, and dragged our entire family into the wild and wonderful world of what’s often dismissively called ‘alternative medicine.’
Throughout my childhood, I never knew how to answer the question, ‘What does your mother do?’ When I would try to explain her job title I was confronted by an onslaught of questions. Was she a doctor? No, better not say that. Was she some sort of herbalist? No, not really. I couldn’t explain what she did, so I’d just say, ‘It’s a sort of alternative medicine kind of thing.’ As a child and young teenager that answer was usually met with indifference or awe.
When my sister was seven, a friend at school told her that she wasn’t allowed to come play at our house because her mommy said that our mommy was a witch. We laughed about it and got a fridge magnet that said ‘neighborhood witch.’ As a young adult, nobody thought that my mother was a witch, but people did call her a quack.
People I considered friends at my college at Oxford stood outside the local pharmacy and downed Rescue Remedy in a satirical ‘overdose’ to prove that homeopathy didn’t work. The university newspaper published articles praising the forces of scepticism and calling for homeopathy to be stripped of any NHS funding. I was ashamed. I hid my remedy kit under my bed and kept my head down. My tutorial partner started reporting local homeopaths’ websites to the advertising standards committee accusing them of false advertising. My mother’s name was on the list. I said nothing, terrified of being seen as the worst possible thing a person could be at Oxford: the irrational anti-intellectual.
Fortunately, motherhood has a way of bringing you out of the pride of young adulthood and forcing you to care, deeply and profoundly, about what’s best for another human being. And it’s when you have a baby that you can truly see the powerful impact of homeopathy. A remedy swiftly solved my son’s soul-destroying colicky screeching when a GP would have preferred he take reflux medication for the reflux he never had.
I no longer cared what the sceptics might say – if it worked for my baby, and didn’t leave him with a laundry list of side effects that would need to be tackled with another prescription then it was right for us. The ability to go to sleep and stay asleep until morning was all the proof I needed.
When I suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia at the age of 24, it quickly became obvious to me that allopathic medicine was not going to give me the answer I needed. The doctors threw pills at me to treat the symptoms without knowing anything about my overall health, my background, or what could be causing the sudden and debilitating illness.
Thanks to my childhood spent sucking on remedies I knew that there was another way. A homeopath sat with me for an hour and a half and took a detailed history, went through my endless list of symptoms and prescribed a combination of remedies designed to tackle muscle and joint pain. Within two weeks I was skipping the prescription painkillers and walking to the library again with my son. I still have bad days, but I’m far more functional than I was. And the doctor had told me that there was nothing they could do, and that I would need to learn to ‘manage’ this chronic illness and adjust my expectations for life accordingly.
I have no explanation for how these things happen. As a naturally suspicious and cynical person this used to bother me, but I no longer have time to care about the details of efficacy and I’m too busy chasing my kid around to read clinical trials. What I do know is that when my husband burns his arm while welding, which he usually does, it’s calendula that takes the sting out. When my son is sick with a stomach bug, nux vomica makes sure he’s fine by the evening.
It’s been almost four years now since my baby was born, and he’s been to the doctor once, has never run a fever, and has never taken antibiotics. That’s more than enough evidence for me.