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All you want to know about homeopathy

education Updated: Mar 18, 2010 09:34 IST
Pranab Ghosh
Pranab Ghosh
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

A s a child, Dr Bipin Jethani, now 35 years old, used to be fascinated by homoeopathy. It was a homoeopath who had cured his father’s earache (acute otitis).

“As a child I also used to have skin eruptions all over my body. Allopathy failed to provide a permanent cure, but homoeopathy worked,” says Dr Jethani, adding, “these clinical experiences made me a firm believer in this system of medicine and I decided to be a homoeopath.”

Jethani graduated from the Nehru Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital (NHMCH) in 1999. He joined the same institute as a lecturer, in 2002, after getting through the selection process conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).

Homoeopathy, an alternative form of treatment based on the principle of “like cures like”, came into being way back in 1796. Considered the father of this system, German physician Samuel Hahnemann made some interesting observations after experimenting with the cinchona bark. Since the effects he felt after ingesting the bark were similar to the symptoms of malaria he reasoned that if it was administered to the person suffering from malaria, perhaps it could cure him. That’s how the law of similarities — similia similibus curentur (let like be cured by like) was worked out.

According to Dr Jethani, the popularity of homoeopathy is increasing in India “because of its clinical efficacy, cost-effectiveness and government support”.

Good homoeopaths are much in demand. “Any person with a BHMS or an MD (Hom) degree from a recognised institute can practise anywhere in India,” says Dr Anasooya Banerjee, who runs a private clinic in Delhi. “Moreover, government bodies like the UPSC and state PSCs are regularly recruiting homoeopaths,” she adds.

“Homoeopathy is excellent for treating chronic diseases (barring some), skin diseases, respiratory problems, and ailments related to the stomach and joints,” says Dr SPS Bakshi, former president, Central Council of Homoeopathy, a body looking after homoeopathic education in India, and president, Homoeopathic Medical Association of India. “As it has no side effects it is especially good for women and children,” he says. “This is also why the government has included homoeopathy in its national campaign for healthy mother and happy child,” points out Dr Anil K Malhotra, principal, NHMCH.

However, this line of treatment has its limitations. “We are not capable of handling emergencies,” admits Dr Bakshi. When it comes to surgery, homoeopathy often has no answer, says Dr Sashi Rastogi, who runs a clinic in Delhi. “We are physicians, not surgeons. This is why, homoeopathy is not doing so well in a hospital set-up. OPDs, however, are doing just fine. We do not have medicines which can suppress the problem, albeit temporarily, and give instant relief, like a pain killer does. But research is on,” Bakshi adds.

Whatever the constraints, homoeopathy has its strengths. “It treats a disease from its root. Suppressing cold and cough with strong allopathic medicine can lead to asthma, but nothing of that sort will happen with homoeopathy,” says Dr Bakshi.

Also, treatment is inexpensive. In a country like India, it is “the first line of treatment for the masses in villages,” he concludes.

What's it about?
Homoeopathy is a vitalist philosophy in that it interprets diseases as caused by disturbances in a hypothetical vital or life force. These disturbances, it is believed, manifest themselves as unique symptoms. Homoeopathy maintains that the vital force can react and adapt to internal and external causes that homoeopaths refer to as the ‘law of susceptibility’. This law implies that a negative state of mind attracts hypothetical disease entities called ‘miasms’ to invade the body and produce symptoms of diseases. However, the father of this system, Samuel Hahnemann, rejected the notion of a disease as a separate thing or invading entity and insisted that it was always part of the ‘living whole’. He integrated the principles found in the writings of ancient philosophers into a holistic system of therapeutics called homoeopathy.

Clock work
We give you the work schedule of a homeopathic doctor in a hospital. The time devoted to OPDs may vary according to shifts. However, a doctor in private practice will have a different schedule, depending on the timings of his clinic

9 am: Reach hospital
9.15 am to 1 pm: Take classes with undergraduate and postgraduate students
1.30 pm: Quick lunch
2 to 3 pm: Conduct clinical classes for students
3 to 4 pm: Treat patients in OPDs
4 to 5.30 pm: Check patients in the ward
5.30 pm onwards: Go to the library, read journals and prepare for next day’s lecture
6.30 pm: Call it a day

The Payoff
In the government sector:
. Entry level: Rs 45,000 per month
. Middle level: Rs 70,000 per month
. Senior level: Rs 90,000 per month
. In the private sector earnings may be a tad lower at the entry and middle levels. However, a senior doctor with a roaring practice/multiple clinics earns good
money

Skills
.
You must be a good listener, able to gauge psychological as well as physical problems to make diagnosis easy and find a quick cure for the patient
. Good powers of observation
. Should be a very good counsellor
. Untiring zeal to restore the sick to health

How do I get there?
You must take up physics, chemistry and biology at the Plus-Two level and then do a Bachelor of homoeopathic medicine and surgery (BHMS) programme, the minimum essential qualification. It’s a five-and-a-half year course that includes a year’s compulsory internship. Then you can go in for postgraduation (MD), a three-year course. You have seven specialisations (see interview)

Institutes
. National Institute of Homoeopathy, Kolkata
nih.nic.in
. Nehru Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, New Delhi
www.delhihomeo.com
. BR Sur Homoeopathic Medical College and Hospital, New Delhi
www.delhihomeo.com
. JSPS Government Homoeopathic Medical Medical College, Hyderabad
www.jspshomeocollege.in/
. Government Homoeopathic Medical College, Calicut
www.ghmccalicut.org/
. Dr Abhin Chandra Government Homoeopathic Medical College, Bhubaneshwar

Pros & cons
. Great satisfaction after seeing a smile on a patient’s face
. Good growth prospects in a government set-up
. Feeling a sense of helplessness when dealing with an emergency case, say, someone severely injured in an accident. Cases as these have to be referred to multi-
specialty hospitals after administering first aid to patient
. No specialisation possible in surgery

Put more emphasis on scientific research

A teacher and practitioner talks about the opportunities and challenges

What are the branches one can specialise in?
After completing BHMS one can specialise in the following subjects:
a) Materia Medica, study of homoeopathic drugs;
b) Organon of medicine, study of homoeopathic philosophy;
c) Repertory, which is indexing of symptoms;
d) Pharmacy;
e) Practice of Medicine;
f) Paediatrics;
g) Psychology.
In NHMCH, however, postgraduation is available in two subjects — Organon of Medicine and Practice of Medicine.

Where can a homoeopathic doctor find employment?
After getting a BHMS degree from a recognised institute, one has a number of options, like teaching, private practice, research, etc. One can also work as a medical officer at dispensaries of Delhi government, Municipal Corporation of Delhi and New Delhi Municipal Corporation; in the Central Government Health Scheme (CGHS); in Employees’ State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) and in National Rural Health Mission.

Are there adequate numbers of skilled professionals in the field?
Yes, there are, thanks to the good number of recognised homoeopathic colleges in the country. There is a need for more.

What are the challenges one faces in this profession?
The challenge is to establish that homoeopathy is absolutely scientific. The need of the hour is to build a database of scientific evidence in support of homoeopathy. Doctors practising homoeopathy should adopt a better method of record-keeping of successful clinical cases and publish those to make people learn more about the efficacy of homoeopathy. There should be more emphasis on scientific research. In NHMCH, research is being conducted on various diseases like bronchial asthma, psoriasis, gynaecological disorders, arthritis, lifestyle disorders, psychiatric problems, renal and gallstones, paediatric and geriatric disorders, etc.

Compared to other branches of medical treatment, what are the advantages of homoeopathy?
Homoeopathy provides safe and effective treatment for a variety of diseases. The cost of treatment is comparatively less.

Dr (Mrs) Anil K Malhotra Interviewed by Pranab Ghosh