Richard G. Petty, MD

Non-pharmacological and Lifestyle Approaches to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: 9. Flower Essences

The original flower essences were created by a Welsh physician named Edward Bach. He passed away in 1936 at the age of forty-nine and in many ways he was well ahead of his time. He was a firm believer not only in psychosomatic medicine, but also in the impact of the soul on the body.

He used a combination of scientific knowledge, intuition and clinical practice to find and refine the use of the flower essences. He walked all over Great Britain to find the correct remedies, and prepared them by taking flowers at the peak of their blossoming, and placing them in a bowl of pure water in sunlight. The water then became the raw material from which the remedies were created. Each is bottled, and a small amount of brandy added to “preserve” the remedy, which is then administered, usually diluted in water or fruit juice.

Originally there were 38 “Bach Flower Essences” together with a 39th called Rescue Remedy, which is a combination of five of them.

As time has gone by, new remedies have been created in Europe, the Continental United States, Alaska and Australia. The appearance of these “new” remedies has caused a great deal of controversy amongst traditionalists who believe that there can only be the 38 remedies discovered by Dr. Bach.

Yet people change as they move to new regions of the earth, and it is to be expected that new remedies will be waiting for them wherever they go.

Before I came to the United States I was a dyed-in-the-wool Bach Remedies person. Although I had been using them for two decades, I soon realized that people in North America often needed a different approach, and within months of my arrival I started to try the remedies created in North America with great success. (Over on the left hand side of this blog you will find some suppliers of the remedies).

So what is the evidence that flower essences are of any value in treating ADHD? There is the evidence of case reports, but precious little in the way of controlled studies. A study from Israel failed to show any benefit in 44 children with ADHD treated with Bach Flower Essences.

However, there are experts throughout the world who continue to use them for ADHD and who claim good rates of success. They aim to treat not only the attentional symptom, but also the whole person. So in deciding on a remedy they look at all the associated symptoms. I give some examples of what they look for below.

These are the main English and American remedies that have been found in practice to help some people with ADHD. Some practitioners use them in place of medications, but it is difficult to be comfortable to do that, given the problems that can occur when young people or adults have ADHD and are left untreated.

Agrimony: The child who might be helped by this remedy looks cheerful and easy going but is often filled with inner torment. The child may have great difficulty in reading if he is in a group

Aspen: These people are anxious, apprehensive and tremulous. Their fears and anxieties have no readily apparent cause. They tend to be overly receptive to the emotions of other people. They can become very worried about the unknown, fearing that there are some dark forces that will engulf them. These people often engage in magical thinking, and the fear make them feel “paranoid.”

California Wild Rose: Children who might benefit from this tend to have low vitality, poor appetite and a lack of interest in food

Calendula: People who might benefit are typically argumentative poor listeners who have communication problems in relationships. They tend to have a lot of difficulty in receiving and acting on what others are saying

Chamomile: These children tend to be contrary, fussy and agitated. They often suffer from tension in the stomach area with related digestive disturbances. They usually have continuous emotional tension that interferes with learning and concentration

Chestnut Bud:
These children often lag behind others, have difficulty with learning, repeat mistakes and have difficulty focusing on and retaining what they study

Chicory: These children demand a lot of attention because of their negative behavior. They may have temper tantrums, be overly fussy and easily get irritated if they do not get the attention that thy want. Then they tend to cling or feel sorry for themselves

Clematis: These children are daydreamers who escapes from the present by fantasizing about the future

Cosmos: These children and some adults have overly active minds that are flooded by too many ideas at once. They get so overwhelmed that they are unable to focus. This becomes very obvious when they try to think and talk at the same time. They feel overwhelmed by the overwhelming amount of information and find it hard to be articulate

Dill: These children are easily overwhelmed by new projects or when life moves too fast for them. They can feel also be overwhelmed by change

Elm: This is another remedy for people who easily feel overwhelmed. Not only do they have the feelings of being overwhelmed, they also feel over-extended and isolated

Filaree: These children get lost in details and worries. The find it very difficult to see a lose broad perspective, so they over-focus on details and can when they are be overcome by anxieties about them

Gentian: These children are not good at persevering with a project and easily get discourage. If they encounter some setback or difficulty, they find it difficult to bounce back. Gentian helps overcome discouragement after rejection or failure and makes it easier for them to get on with life without ruminating over the problem

Golden Yarrow:
People who may benefit from this typically have performance anxiety. The essence may instill confidence and enable them to perform at their best

Goldenrod: These children are unsure of their own values and beliefs, so that group and family ties may easily influence them. They may become overly reliant on social approval and vulnerable to peer pressure and social expectations. Some create barriers between themselves and others by anti-social or obnoxious behavior

Holly: The child who might benefit from Holly tends to be jealous, envious and to have sibling rivalry. They tend to see any change or disruption as a threat. They are very sensitive to minor occurrences that most other people would not even notice. They may be angry, agitated, aggressive and intolerant. They are often quick to perceive others as threatening and are easily influenced

Impatiens: This can often be very helpful for children who are restless and impulsive and who eat too quickly. They often become easily frustrated and can be impatient, angry and intolerant with fiery temperaments. Some children – and adults – who might benefit form Impatiens may even become abusive or violent

Indian Pink:
This is especially valuable for children with have attentional problems and are living in disorganized homes. The disorganization in their environments may make them nervous and they may have particular difficulties in staying calm and focused in the midst of emotionally intense and turbulent times. The remedy can help them focus and feel more grounded, calm and self-disciplined

Iris: People with ADHD who feel frustrated that they cannot express their creativity. Instead of being creative they feel weighed down by ordinariness of the world, which seems dull, colorless and uninteresting. They are usually hyperactive, and may easily become hypoglycemic and to crave candy and other sweets

Larch: For people who may benefit form this remedy, their symptoms stem from crushing doubt about themselves and their abilities. This lack of self-confidence comes out in many ways. They fear being ridiculed by other people, they are anxious and have a fear of failure. The lack of confidence may make them bad procrastinators and give them an “inferiority complex.” If this is the right remedy, it can help instill confidence in self-expression or performing in public

Lavender: People who might benefit form Lavender are typically nervous and high strung. They are very sensitive to sensation, not only from the five senses but also form spiritual influences. They tend to be light sleepers with very active minds and a strong attraction to spiritual practices. The tension in them often comes out in the neck and shoulders, as well as headaches and visual problems

Madia: These people are easily distracted, unable to focus, have scattered thinking and an inability to manage details. They are often dull and listless and can easily become “spacey.” They often have a great fear of public speaking. For the right person Madia enhances the ability to focus and concentrate and to be precise in his or her thinking

Mallow: These people not only have problems with attention, they also find it difficult to make and maintain social contacts and friendships. Their social insecurity and fear of reaching out to others means that they often suffer from feelings of isolation and abandonment. The remedy may help them become more accepting and to develop self-esteem, warmth and trust

Mariposa Lily:
These children often feel alienated from their mother. In adults with attentional problems this remedy may be helpful in the healing of childhood traumas, including abandonment and abuse

Mimulus: These children are shy and have a lot of fears and phobias about concrete fearful events, objects, or people. They may have a fear of heights, flying, illness, dentists or almost anything else. This constant dread, worry and fear makes it hard for them to face the challenges of daily life. These children are often physically sensitive, shy and introverted, though they may talk a lot or puff themselves up to hide their fear

Morning Glory: These people tend to be dull and constantly toxic, especially in the mornings. Some engage in addictive behavior, have irregular habits and an erratic lifestyle typify. These are the children who crave junk food and stimulants, engage in late-night bingeing and suffer from nervous problems. Many of them have attachment problems during development and they often grind their teeth at night

Peppermint: These children can be dull and sluggish as a result of metabolic imbalances that leave them feeling sleepy they have eaten. They have difficulty maintaining mental attention and difficulty using and focusing their mental abilities. For the right child, the remedy can make them mindful and it promotes mental clarity and alertness

Pine: These children tend to be introverted, conscientious, self-critical, filled with guilt and always hard on themselves. They set unrealistically high standards for themselves and may become perfectionist or even obsessive about doing things correctly. They take on responsibility for the mistakes of others

Pink Monkeyflower:
These are usually highly sensitive people who have groundless feelings of guilt, shame or unworthiness. These feelings together with a sense of vulnerability, makes them afraid of being hurt and they create barriers between themselves and the world outside. They want to hide and avoid attention. They have difficulty expressing their true feelings, which they hold deep inside

Poison Oak: These children are hypersensitive and fearful. The often come across as irritable, impatient and hostile, but it is a defense against their inner vulnerability. They are often afraid of contact with others and protective of their personal boundaries. They tend to be distant and to have difficulty in forming relationships

Quaking Grass: These children tend to have a lot of trouble in social settings. They find it difficult to listen and communicate, mainly because they find it difficult to filter out sensory impressions and find it difficult t strike a balance between their own sense of Self and the demands of a group

Rabbitbrush: These people are easily confused and overwhelmed by too many details or too much going on at once. They have trouble multitasking and need to be more alert, mentally adaptable and able to synthesize and incorporate their experiences

Rescue Remedy (Five-Flower Remedy): This combination remedy may help with acute anxiety, crisis, panic or trauma, when both the child and the situation seem totally out of control. So it is often useful during extreme stress. (Regular readers will recall the recent study about the use of Rescue remedy in acute anxiety)

Rosemary: These people tend to be forgetful and lack physical and emotional warmth. They are often prone to hypoglycemia. It often helps give them more vitality, particularly in children who are sleepy or forgetful during the day. It is a classic remedy for poor memory, and it may help people with a sluggish digestion

Shasta Daisy: This remedy promotes awareness, concentration and insight. It often helps people who over-intellectualize but have scattered thoughts. It may enhance mental clarity, especially for people who are unable to put the pieces together into a cohesive whole

Shooting Star: These people have a profound feeling of alienation, especially not feeling at home on Earth. As children they often talk about space and other planets. They may be ambivalent and apathetic

Snapdragon: Children who might benefit from Snapdragon tend to get irritated, hostile and aggressive if they feel challenged or attacked. They are angry and argumentative when communicating with others. These children may even be verbally abuse and make derogatory comments. Some may even bite!

Vine: These people are often bullies who always have to be in control of the situation and will put their own wishes before those of others

Yarrow: These people are extremely vulnerable to other people and to the environment. They are easily depleted and are overly absorbent of negative influences. They can get real “people poisoning” or psychic toxicity if they are around a lot of people.

Flower Essence Society Pink Yarrow: This one can often be helpful for people who have a tendency to absorb the emotions of others

Deciding on the correct essence to use is a matter of clinical experience and taking a very careful history that looks at the physical, psychological, social, subtle and spiritual dimensions of the individual.

The essences are not known to have any side effects, and they may help in selected individuals despite the lack of any objective data to support their use.

“The earth laughs in flower.”
–William Blake (English Poet, Painter and Mystic, 1757-1827)

“Flowers are words which even a baby can understand.”
–Arthur C. Coxe (American Bishop, Poet and Writer, 1818-1896)

“Flowers are the sweetest things God ever made and forgot to put a soul into.”
–Henry Ward Beecher (American Congregational Minister and Writer, 1813-1887)

Rescue Remedy and Acute Anxiety

I have been using the Bach Flower Essences since the 1970s and they can be very helpful. Since living in the United States I have added the American Flower Essences to my repertoire. We have even helped cats, dogs and horses with them. The whole idea that soaking a flower in water and exposing the infusion to sunlight could have any therapeutic benefit seems absurd. Except that the remedies so often work. The trouble is that there is so little decent research on them.

A new study conducted by researchers at the University of Miami School of Nursing in conjunction with The Sirkin Creative Living Center has suggested that Rescue Remedy, a mixture of five of the Bach Essences, may be effective for the treatment of anxiety.

Rescue Remedy, manufactured by Nelsons, contains five flower essences, each of which is said to have a specific psycho-spiritual action:

The study examined the product for the reduction of acute situational stress. A double-blind clinical trial comparing a standard dosage of Rescue Remedy against a placebo of identical appearance was conducted in a sample of 111 individuals aged 18 to 49. The Spielberger State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) was administered before and after the use of Rescue Remedy or placebo. The results suggest that Rescue Remedy may be effective in reducing fairly high levels of situational anxiety. The results were just published in the latest edition of Complementary Health Practice Review. The abstract should be available online in the near future.

It will be interesting to see if this result can be replicated with this kind of acute anxiety, as well as other types of stress or anxiety. The STAI is a good choice for a first study: it is simple and attempts to capture the key features of the acute anxiety as well as the long-term propensity to it. It can be hard for people to give reproducible answers when they are acutely anxious, and it is important to know about the inter-rater reliability of the people dong the evaluations.

Recently the Rescue remedy has been produced as a spray as well as the original drops, and we have been making extensive use of it in combination with other approaches to treatment.

As I explain in Healing, Meaning and Purpose, there are good reasons for thinking that different types of treatment work at different levels of an individual. The flower essences seem to work at the level of the Informational Matrix of the body: it is an “information medicine,” that can act very quickly. We have seen scared horses – and people – calm down within seconds after being given the right remedy.

When it works, it can be remarkable.

Non-pharmacological and Lifestyle Approaches to Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: 4. Homeopathic Remedies

A fundamental principle of homeopathy is that that all symptoms of ill health are expressions of disharmony within the whole person and that it is the patient who needs treatment not the disease.

The roots of homeopathy are ancient, but the “modern” form was created in 1796 when a German doctor named Samuel Hahnemann, formulated an approach to the cure of the sick that he called homeopathy (from the Greek words meaning ‘similar suffering’). Two thousand years earlier the Greek physician Hippocrates proposed that there were two ways of treating ill health:

  1. The way of “opposites” – as an example, a medicine is an anti-hypertensive, aimed at opposing high blood pressure and
  2. The second was the way of “similars, of “like curing like.”

A good example of the second approach is insomnia. The conventional treatment might be to use a medicine to bring on sleep artificially. It may well help someone, but the pharmacological industry recognizes that many of the older medicines could produce poor quality sleep, or be addictive, so they continue to create new medicine. Medicines are getting ever better, but the basic principle remains that they are intended to induce sleep artificially. The homeopathic method of “similars” is to give the patient a minute dose of a substance, such as coffee, that would in large doses cause insomnia in a healthy person. This approach may induce natural sleep. The minute dose is really minute: it is so dilute that there are no molecules left. It is believed that homeopathic remedies work by stimulating the body’s own healing power. The remedy is a stimulus that will assist the systems of the body to clear themselves of imbalances.

Homeopathic treatment is highly individualized. Rather than saying that someone “Has ADHD,” the treatment looks at all the signs and symptoms, likes and dislikes that a person brings to the table.

The principles of homeopathy cut across everything that science believes, and so it attracts a lot of criticism. Words like “voodoo” and “witchcraft” are some of the more polite terms that have been applied to it. Yet tens of thousands of people claim that it works and in some parts of the third world it is used first line, even in people with serious illnesses. The research base is thin, but it does exist. There are also a sizeable number of attempts by credible scientists to explain the strange phenomena of homeopathy using rigorous scientific models.

There have been several studies of homeopathy in ADHD, or variable quality, but interestingly four have been positive ( 1, 2, 3, 4) and one failed to find an effect. Overall, the scientific evidence for homeopathy in ADHD is weak, but it is important to be aware of the concept of “levels of evidence.”

In the past it was often thought that the only kind of evidence to be of any value in clinical decision making had to have been obtained by randomized controlled trials. Yet we all know from experience that there are other types of evidence. A teacher or a colleague may have recommended a course of action based on experience or observation, and this can provide valuable guidance. We now recognize four types of clinical evidence:

  1. Case reports
  2. Case series and uncontrolled observational studies
  3. Retrospective database analyses: could be used to test hypotheses but are sometimes limited to hypothesis-generation
  4. Controlled analytic studies, including randomized clinical trials

The first two are used primarily for generating hypotheses. Database analyses are either used for generating or testing an hypothesis, while the controlled studies are all designed to test hypotheses. When we review evidence or perform meta-analyses we give each type of evidence a rating.

So controlled studies are given a higher rating than case reports, because the evidence can be generalized to many individual patients. A further refinement is to factor in the source of the study. So a study by a pharmaceutical company tends to get a lower rating than an independent study.

There is another important issue about clinical trials, which is that we must not confuse pragmatic trials (does the treatment work?) and explanatory studies (how does is work?). Trials are usually designed to answer only one of those two questions. Clinicians have sometimes fallen into the trap of saying that they do not believe a pragmatic trial because it did not explain the mechanism, without realizing that these are two separate questions. Aspirin was used for two centuries before we learned its mechanism of action.

Although homeopathic treatments are all individualized, and finding the best one may require an expert, here are some of the homeopathic remedies most commonly used in the treatment of people with ADHD:

Aconite: They will often have had a major shock in their lives; they tend to have strange and irrational fears, for example cotton balls, and they have a tendency to sweat at night and to have a tendency to get fevers and to be constantly thirsty

Argentum Nitricum: These people – and children – tend to be thin and excitable. They are always in a hurry, moving around and touching everyone. They often have obsessive-compulsive behavior. They are afraid of crowds and dislike going to public places, including school. They prefer being outdoors. They are hyperactive but with a quality of innocence. Though they may have short bursts of anger, they are rarely malicious. They are prone to hypoglycemia and they are better after they have eaten. They tend to craves sweets, though sadly those candies often adversely affect her or his behavior. They may be susceptible to conjunctivitis and tonsillitis

They are forgetful, slow, poor learning ability. They tend to be very sensitive to noise and light. They have night terrors and a fear of ghosts. When they are angry they sometimes look “wild.” They tend to have large heads with bright red cheeks. They look well, even when sick. In addition to the ADHD, they have a tendency to develop otitis media and they typically complain of hot and throbbing discomfort. They often crave cold drinks, lemons and oranges

Cannabis indica:
The child or adult feels isolated, disconnected with feelings of anguish, terror, ecstasy. They feel spacy, confused and inattentive. Time and space feel disoriented. They have a fear of going insane: everything feels like a dream, even familiar things seem strange or unreal. He or she acts as if they are in a dream or off in space. They cannot pay attention for long. They tend to be good at science projects but can theorize until they lose touch with reality. They are absent-minded, can be obsessive-compulsive and sometimes look as if they are on drugs

They tend to have a bad temper: very irritable and impatient; complaining, frustrated, restless, and thirsty. They are also contrary – they do not know what they want; demands one thing than want something else. A fidgety child quiets down once he or she has attracted attention. A child wants to be carried everywhere or he or she will whine and scream but will settle down if carried and rocked. They have an aversion to being touched with a hypersensitivity to pain: feels pain is unbearable; everything is intolerable. They can become so hyperactive that they will get exhausted and begin to cry. There is a dullness of the senses with a diminished power of comprehension, as if they were hard of hearing. All of these symptoms are worse at night

They are often cross, contrary and disobedient with very difficult behavior. If it is a child, he or she does not want to be touched or even looked at and turns away when approached. Nothing satisfies them for long: they are restless, fidgety and fretful, especially during sleep when they grind their teeth and may wet the bed. They often have trouble with parasites, such as pinworms. Their sleep is very restless, accompanied by jerking, frequent swallowing and coughing; often sleep on their abdomen or the hands and knees during sleep. They tend to have an irritated nose causing a constant desire to rub, pick, or bore into it until it bleeds. Their ears can be itchy and they often have twitching of face muscles and eyelids. Some of them may even have seizures. Their appetite can be ravenous with a lot of thirst, and a lot of craving of sweets; children often have large bellies

Difficult children with poor impulse control, even though engage in premeditated actions. They talk excessively and may have episodes of rage that might include hitting and screaming. They can be manipulative, lying, and violent. They seem unable to think, are unresponsive to questions or cannot bear anyone talking to them. They are intense, fearful and excitable. They often have feelings of abandonment, jealousy and suspicion. They have fears of the dark, of dogs and of water. They tend to be very animated, seeming to be silly and foolish, smiling and laughing at everything, often inappropriately and do things outrageous things to the center of attention, being the clown or dancing like a monkey. Children love to run around naked and try to embarrass their parents. They can be jealous of their siblings, often may injure them. Interestingly they cannot tolerate being covered up.

They tend to be loquacious, agitated and hyperactive. They are restless and moody with strong emotions. They can be very jealous of their siblings or even a same sex parent. Lachesis children, and sometimes the adults, tend to be vengeful, sarcastic and nasty, and to have a self-destructive side. They also have a marked lack of confidence and they can easily become depressed, withdrawn and hopeless. They hate any kind of physical or behavioral restriction, such as tight clothing or being “grounded.” They hate authority and may even run away from home. Some may also show aggression which surfaces easily and makes them difficult to live and work with. They tend to be very suspicious with a marked preoccupation about others. They often feel that others are often criticizing them and putting them down. All of these symptoms, including the attentional problems are worse when they wake up. Typically they are not refreshed when they wake, and complain of a feeling of suffocation.

Lycopodium Clavatum:
These people tend to be insecure about themselves, but they overcompensate, acting like boastful bullies. They often have marked lack of confidence and many fears, and are often really cowards. They can be dictatorial at home where they feel safe. They have a real fear of looking bad and they are afraid of failure. They are usually intelligent and may look older than his or her years. Many of them have dyslexia and confuse words or letters. Performance anxiety is common and many prefer younger friends, while wanting to please authority figures. Lycopodium people tend to have a lot of abdominal gas. They are more tired, restless and irritable between 4 and 8 p.m. These children often do not want to sit down to have dinner, preferring to run around.

These children and adults have ADHD, but are also violent or fearful. The hyperactivity is usually severe, they are easily terrified and inclined to violent agitation and fits of rage. Their speech is loud, fast, and sometimes incoherent. They have feelings of terror and abandonment and have multiple fears: of the dark, dogs, evil, death and suffocation. They tend to be constantly thirsty but paradoxically they are afraid of water yet they dread water. As children they are especially afraid to be alone at night. They have nightmares and night terrors that are at their worst between midnight and 2 a.m. They often wake up screaming, saying that they can see ghosts, specters and spirits. The child can be sweet all day and have terrors at night;

These people can be egotistical, and they try to control his or her feelings with their intellects. They hate being scared and often feel as if they have been disgraced as if being scorned; delusions that he or she has been disgraced. They are often messy and untidy, but they do not see it. They can be lost in thought, absent-minded, spacey, forgetful and loses things. They are typically full of theories and dreams, they love fantasy and science fiction. They tend to be loners with limited social skills; preferring computers, reading, mechanical things

Tarentula Hispanica:
Symptoms are accentuated by music. He or she acts wild and crazy and loves to sing and dance. He or she feels as if there is never enough time; feels as if he or she has been insulted. There is often a sense that there is a stranger in the room. He or she sees faces on closing his or her eyes. Children tend to be restless, hurried mischievous and sneaky. They tease, hide things from others and may cut things, including

Revolts against restriction and have a powerful need to feel free. He or she always desires and seeks change, travel and new experiences. Always feels dissatisfied; feels as if there is never enough time. They are usually afraid of dogs and cats. He or she often has delusions that he or she can fly, that someone is following her or him. They are often compulsive, uncontrollable and destructive. They throw tantrums and break things. Many are precocious and they can be malicious

Veratrum album:
These people often feel that something dreadful has happened, even if it has not. They are usually distressed or even inconsolable. Their minds race, they are agitated, restless, fidgeting and impulsive. They are always busy, but often the business is not goal directed. They often become overly religious and may feel that they have the ability to communicate directly with God. They sometimes become quite grandiose believing themselves to be a great and distinguished

Bear in mind that this is only a partial list, but it gives you a very good idea of just how specific the homeopathic remedies are. Two people may both have been diagnosed with ADHD, but the accompanying features determine which remedy will be best.

If the symptoms fit, then the treatment is to give the appropriate remedy. The skill is in doing the precise matching of symptoms and remedy and in deciding on the correct dosage to use.

Asthma, Air and Allergies

After a couple of weeks away I was distressed to see that I was going to be returning to a city which has just been rated as the most challenging place in America for people with asthma.

This is the list according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Philadelphia
  3. Raleigh, North Carolina
  4. Knoxville, Tennessee
  5. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
  6. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  7. Milwaukee
  8. Greensboro, North Carolina
  9. Scranton, Pennsylvania
  10. Little Rock, Arkansas

I am pleased to say that I do not have asthma, though I have a strong family history of it. If you live in one of these cities, or any other with a high rate of pollution, there is nothing much to be done apart from:

Staying indoors when the weather is bad

Using an air purifier

Keep to a diet designed to reduce your risk of inflammation

Use homeopathy and tapping therapies to help when necessary.

And sadly, for some people, medicines are the only option. But I always try the other approaches as well.

Diseases of Discipleship

You will not find them listed on WebMD, but “Diseases of Discipleship” are nonetheless very real. I have mentioned them in Healing Meaning and Purpose and also here. They are the result of sudden access to spiritual energies that can upset the balance of the body, mind and spirit. The great value of having a teacher is to help you balance and work with these energies without being harmed by them.

Several of my own teachers talked a lot about these diseases of discipleship, but I would particularly like to single out Douglas Baker and the writings of Roberto Assagioli, Del Pe, Torkom Saraydarian, Stan Grof and Alice Bailey.

I have also had a great deal of experience with people undergoing spiritual crises. Many have been referred to me by priests, clergy and intuitives, because many of the individuals thought that they were “going crazy,” and some had ben given psychiatric diagnoses. That extensive experience has helped me and some of my students to describe some of the “symptoms” in more detail.

Roberto Assagioli identified five critical points where problems may arise:

  1. Just before spiritual awakening begins
  2. Crises caused by spiritual awakening
  3. Reactions to spiritual awakening
  4. Phases of the process of transmutation
  5. The “Dark Night of the Soul

Today I am just going to focus on the crises caused by spiritual awakening, because a great many people are experiencing them at the moment.

Here are some of the more common signs and symptoms include:

  • Visual disturbances
  • Extreme sensitivity to light and sound
  • Paradoxically they often also find a raised pain threshold
  • Increased metabolic rate, which may cause a slight increase in body temperature and a little weight loss
  • Variable libido: some people lose all interest in sex, but most experience an increase in sexual desire, which can take them and any partners by surprise
  • Disturbances in circadian rhythms
  • Disturbances in thyroid and adrenal function: the thyroid often becomes slightly – or sometimes more than slightly – overactive and the adrenal glands slightly less responsive to stimulation
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hypertension
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Anxiety and a feeling of “butterflies” in the region of the solar plexus
  • Inexplicable sensations roughly corresponding to the channels identified in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine
  • Irregular breathing patterns, usually hyperventilation
  • Something that feels like electricity under the tongue and under the palate
  • Crying for no readily apparent reason
  • As peoples’ consciousness rises, it is quite common to experience “Synesthesia” in which senses overlap: people may taste sounds, feel colors and “hear and see” with different parts of the body
  • Psychic abilities often begin to appear: clairvoyance, clairaudience, spiritual intuition and the ability to heal
  • Many begin to feel and see their own Inner Light and the Inner Light of other people

Not everyone gets all of these symptoms and they may come and go for a while. Some people don’t get any at all, but they are unusual. There are two books by Hazel Courteney that detail some of what happened to her, and they are well worth a read.

It is important to emphasize that all of these signs and symptoms can also be caused by illnesses. So although most people who are going through all this want to avoid doctors, it is a very good idea to ensure that everything is okay. I once saw someone who had been told that she was having a kundalini experience, even though she did not have any of the usual features. She became very unwell, but felt much better when an insulin-producing tumor was removed from her pancreas.

The most important thing is to help people remain grounded. I have seen many people become extremely grandiose and even fanatical after going through a rapid spiritual awakening. It is also important to ensure that any physical symptoms – such as thyroid or blood pressure problems – do not continue unchecked.

Helping people who are going through spiritual change or crisis needs the help of a person or persons who understand physical and psychological problems, as well as being some way along the path of spiritual development. By “crisis” I do not mean crisis of faith, but a critical turning point in an individual’s personal development.

There are plenty of good ways of grounding using some physical, psychological and subtle system exercises. I have dozens of excellent techniques that I can publish if you are interested. Sometimes it is also a good idea to eat some heavy food.

It can be very helpful to get away form other people for a while. This doesn’t mean becoming a monk or nun, but just to avoid a bad case of people poisoning. In their overly sensitive state they can pick up a lot of negative things from the people around them. I have known a good many people who would begin to experience all the physical and psychological symptoms of the people around them.

Once we have confirmed that the person does not have all this as a result of thyroid disease or anxiety, it is essential to show them what is going on and the best way to approach and conceptualize it.

Next we help people to control some of the impulses that can otherwise swamp them. One of the many reasons for development of the sophisticated mind control techniques developed by Tibetan Buddhism was to help people watch their spiritual unfoldment without being overwhelmed by it.

We also try to help people to transmute psychological energies so that they can be used constructively.

Everybody is different, but in some people acupuncture, qigong, Reiki and homeopathy have all been helpful. Several of the flower essences can be very useful, in particular:
Star Tulip
White Yarrow
Pink Yarrow

Every expert that I know in the field of spiritual development agrees with my observation that there are currently more people having major spiritual changes than ever before. It is essential for us all to know how to protect, support and birth them.

“To penetrate into the essence of all being and significance, and to release the fragrance of that inner attainment for the guidance and benefit of others, by expressing in the world of forms – truth, love, purity and beauty – this is the sole game that has any intrinsic and absolute worth. All other incidents and attainments can, in themselves, have no lasting importance.”

–Meher Baba (Indian Spiritual Teacher who, from July 1925 maintained Silence, 1894-1969)

“You knock at the door of Reality. You shake your thought wings, loosen your shoulders, and open.”
–Jalal al-Din Rumi (Afghan Sufi Poet, 1207-1273)

“Life is a series of awakenings.”

–Sri Swami Sivananda (Indian Physician and Spiritual Teacher, 1887-1963)

“What we usually call human evolution is the awakening of the Divine Nature within us.”

–“Peace Pilgrim” (a.k.a. Mildred Norman, American Peace Activist, 1908-1981)

Growing Evidence for the Efficacy of Homeopathic Medicine

When you first hear about homeopathy it sounds like utter nonsense: "like curing like"; vital forces; miasms and super-dilute remedies that no longer contain a single molecule of the original substance.

The trouble is that – apart from two centuries of clinical experience – there is a respectable and growing body of evidence that there is indeed something to homeopathy. David Reilly from the Center for Integrative Care in Glasgow, Scotland, has written a very useful paper that is available for free download.

Over in the "Resources" section on the left hand side of the blog I have a link to a reading list that I put together for

There are many good introductory books on homeopathy, and I have mentioned some of the best. There are also a few books that delve into some of the science that could well provide a mechanism by which homeopathy may work.

In the coming weeks I shall be putting together some more reading list as well as summaries of the research into this fascinating field.

There is a final point. Homeopathic medicines, Flower essences and many forms of "Energy medicine" seem to have been becoming more effective over the last few decades, and this observation was one of the reasons for believing that New Laws of Healing are emerging.

Let me give you a simple example. Two weeks ago, I heard about a woman in the first trimester of pregnancy was being seen because of a quite severe mood problem. She had such severe morning sickness that she asked to have a trash can positioned next to her chair. Many experts believe that morning sickness begins as a reflex to expel food toxins that might harm the baby, but then develops into a neurologically-mediated cycle.

The patient had never heard of homeopathy and probably did not understand why she was asked some apparently irrelevant questions. She answered that she would feel better in the evening, if she applied pressure or a wash cloth to her stomach. She also reported that the sudden cold spell had made her much worse, and that stress and spicy foods made her much worse.

She was given the remedy Nux vomica in a very low potency. The nausea and vomiting stopped immediately, never to return. And her mood – which had been bad for many months before she became pregnant – also improved.

This is another one of those "N of one" reports, and the plural of anecdote is not data. But I was trained by homeopaths, some of whom had been in practice since the 1930s, and all had sat at the feet of some of the greatest homeopaths on the last century. Yet they all said that problems like morning sickness normally need repeated treatments over several days. Not a single treatment and it’s gone.

If you keep you eyes open you will be amazed to see how the efficacy of some forms of treatment appear to be getting better, while some others are becoming less effective with time.

Multiple Sclerosis and Integrated Medicine

Although there are some fairly effective conventional therapies for multiple sclerosis (MS), many people with MS explore complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies for their symptoms. The most effective strategies are to combine conventional and unorthodox treatments that address the physical, psychological, social, subtle and spiritual aspects of the illness. This combined approach also avoids the problem of people taking herbs or supplements that may either interact with each other or with conventional treatments.

It is also essential for us to get over the idea that MS is just something to be conquered. That may seem like an odd comment, but the language and the mindset of fighting, battles and warfare can be problematic. Let me explain something that I discuss at length in Healing, Meaning and Purpose.

There have been two distinct approaches to health in the Western medical tradition. The first is that the role of a physician is to treat diseases. That is the way that all my colleagues and I were trained. The second approach is to consider that health is the natural order of things. So in the first case we constantly hear the use of military metaphors: People speak of  “a war on cancer,” “killer cells,” “magic bullets,” and the need to adopt a “fighting spirit.” Sadly this aggressive attitude by the medical profession may be at odds with the wishes and needs of an individual, the family and the other people in a person’s life. We have to try to strike a balance between the whole instinct to fight and expressions of healing and acceptance.

In the second case, the philosophy is grounded in the idea that we need to work in harmony with nature. The maintenance of health and well being comes from reestablishing balance and harmony not just in ourselves but also in our relationships with each other, with society and with the entire environment around us.

Some of the most commonly CAM therapies include dietary modification, nutritional and herbal supplementation, and mind-body therapies. There has been a revival of interest among MS researchers about the therapeutic potential of low-fat diet and essential fatty acid supplementation in MS. The research on CAM therapies in MS is still exploratory, but considering peoples’ interest and common use of these therapies, further research in this area is clearly warranted. Many sufferers show “spontaneous” recoveries, so reports of cures with unorthodox remedies are often treated with skepticism.

Diet, Vitamins and Supplements: There have been scattered reports of symptoms improving after the removal of dental amalgam, but there is scant evidence that this is really worthwhile. There is some evidence 1. 2. 3. 4. that polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation may help MS. There used to be a lot of support for something called the “Swank diet,” but over the years the evidence has not been very good. In a small number of people with MS certain foods can make them worse. This is to expected if there is an autoimmune component to the illness. It is always a good idea to see if there is something that makes a person feel worse. The other important qestion is whether food additives may be causing symptoms. Although this must be uncommon, I have written elsewhere about occasional cases of MS symptoms with all the classical neurological, biochemical, radiological and electrical signs that have improved or become completely better after removing aspartame from the diet.

Physical exercise: Exercise is highly recommended for people with MS, though it is best to avoid it during an attack. There is evidence that over-exertion can actually bring on an attack. There is some literature about the use of Feldenkrais bodywork in MS, but a study from the University of North Carolina failed to find any benefit. T’ai Chi Ch’uan, qigong, yoga and graduated exercise have all been helpful to some people with MS, but it is essential to discuss it with a healthcare provider to see how any one of these fits in to an package of care. There is no published data on the use of Pilates in MS. At least not in any of the languages that I can read. But since it has been shown to improve posture and flexibility, it is logical to think that Pilates might be helpful, and it would be very valuable to see some research on it.

Acupuncture: Although widely used, the research on acupuncture in MS is not yet convincing. Like most acupuncturists I’ve had some good results in treating pain, muscle stiffness and fatigue. I’ve also seen people achieve some remarkable recoveries, but there are two issues: MS is a relapsing and remitting illness. And second, many of the people who did well only did so because they shifted their thinking: acupuncture became the vehicle for their personal transformation rather than a device for removing nasty symptoms.

Homeopathic remedies: Even the most enthusiastic homeopaths have fairly limited expectations of what homeopathy can achieve in MS.

From the point of view of homeopathy there is little point in making the diagnosis on multiple sclerosis because the disease has such a variable course with highly variable symptoms. To a homeopath the diagnosis is not useful: it is the symptoms that are all important. The homeopathic treatment of MS is highly individualized: one of the key items is the timing of symptoms and associated features. Some of the most common remedies for people with MS are:

  • Agaricus
  • Alumina
  • Argentum Nitricum
  • Arsenicum
  • Aurum Metallicum
  • Causticum
  • Cocculus
  • Conium Maculatum
  • Ignatia
  • Lachesis
  • Nux Vomica
  • Natrum Muriaticum
  • Phosphorus
  • Plumbum

This is not the whole list of homeopathic remedies that we have sometimes found helpful, but it highlights some of the more commonly used ones in people with the symptoms of MS.

Herbal remedies: Many herbal remedies have been tried in MS, and many experts have told me that they have had some good results. There is an important issue in MS called “apitherapy,” a.k.a. bee venom therapy (BVT). Several reports suggest that bee venom may be an effective treatment for patients with MS. But formal trials suggest that although the treatment appears relatively safe apart from itching and swelling of the skin, it does not seem to be helpful

The best approach is to embrace the best of what conventional medicine has to offer, combine unorthodox approaches and to realize that management of a chronic illness is not about dominating it but learning from it and learning strategies for peacefully co-existing with it.

Medicine and the Transformation of Illness

Something important has been happening in the medical field over the last century. And like most important concepts, once I mention it, everyone says, “Oh, that’s obvious.” Yet I have seen little discussion of it except in an occasional book or speculative paper.

The concept is this: modern medicine has been transforming the nature of illness in far-reaching ways. There are many illnesses that once were fatal, and which have now been transformed into chronic problems. Yet most conventional health care providers are still wedded to the short-term resolution of symptoms.

Let me give you three examples:

  1. The first is diabetes mellitus. There are two main types, and at least ten subtypes. Type 1 diabetes is what used to be known as juvenile onset diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes. It usually comes on in childhood or adolescence, is associated with severe damage to the beta cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. People with this problem usually become very sick very quickly and need insulin to keep them alive. Until 1922, when the first patient was treated with insulin derived from cows, the illness was usually fatal. Insulin transformed it into a chronic illness. People were kept alive, but now we saw the emergence of diabetic eye disease (cataracts and retinopathy), disease of the blood vessels supplying the limbs, heart and kidneys, kidney failure, infections and many other chronic problems. In 1935 Sir Harold Himsworth, the father of a friend of mine, identified a second type of diabetes. He published a classic paper on his discovery of insulin resistance in 1936. This is what is now known as Type 2 diabetes, and used to be called maturity onset diabetes. This is a more chronic illness, but carries many of the same complications. The point about these two types of diabetes is not just that they have disturbances of glucose and lipid metabolism. That on its own matters little. It is the long-term consequences of the elevated glucose and lipids that causes all the problems.
  2. The second is hypertension. Again, this often used to be a fatal illness. Until the invention of the sphygmomanometer most people did not know that they had high blood pressure, and most often would die of strokes. Hypertension is now also a chronic illness. The problem is not the blood pressure itself, but the long-term consequences of an elevated blood pressure. That is why most physicians are now trying to prevent the damage to the heart, eyes and kidneys, instead of just focusing on the blood pressure numbers themselves.
  3. The third is Lyme disease. This is a bacterial illness that is acquired by being bitten by a tick. It is said to be the fastest growing infectious disease in the United States, primarily because we are spending more time venturing into the wilderness, and the deer population – a major carrier of the tick – is increasing in most Eastern states. Lyme disease can make people very ill. We identify acute and chronic types. The acute can usually be treated if identified quickly and if the correct treatment is given. But sometimes identification can be very difficult, and inadequate or even inappropriate treatment may lead to the chronic form. We have even seen people who have been treated exactly as the experts say, but have still developed the chronic form of Lyme disease. The biggest problem with Lyme disease is that it is a great masquerader: it can look like so many other illnesses, from multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis to chronic fatigue syndrome and syphilis.

We could pick out other examples. I have mentioned some of the problems of thinking that attention deficit disorder is just a problem with getting good grades in school. When in reality the problem is that inadequately treated ADD is associated with a range of long-term problems that occur outside of school hours.

For many years now some practitioners have been warning about the long-term consequences of symptomatic treatment alone. One of the most eloquent critics of this way of treating people is the Greek homeopath and teacher George Vithoulkas. I like and respect George, but he takes a militant view, saying that conventional treatment simply suppresses illnesses, rather than treating them. His solution is to use homeopathy for everything. He is a genius and also a natural healer, so he can probably get away with that. Most of us cannot.

So the fundamental tenets of Integrated Medicine include medical treatment to deal with the acute problem, but a combination of approaches to prevent the problem from becoming chronic. Or if it has become chronic, then how to change its course over time.

As I’ve said before: Combinations are Key. Not randomly giving an antibiotic as well as a homepoathic remedy, but precisely tailoring the combination to the individual.

Shock Waves and Diabetes

A psychiatrist friend once called me to say that he knew that he had to change his job. He was in the second year of his Freudian training analysis, and as he was driving to work he experienced a severe pain in the back. He told me that it felt as if someone had put a knife in his back. This, he told me, was a psychosomatic reflection of the mean back stabbing environment in which he was working. “Tell me more about the pain,” I said. “Just like a knife,” he said, “it’s the most obvious example of my body telling me what’s going on here.” I suggested that he should come over for me to give him a physical check up, but he was having none of it.

The following day he passed a large kidney stone.

It’s important to listen to your body, and to try and understand its message. It’s also important to respect every aspect of your being: physical, psychological, social, subtle and spiritual. A physical pain may be telling you about something in your environment or it may just be telling you that there’s something wrong with your body. Sigmund Freud once famously remarked that “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

I was reminded of this story as I was reviewing a new report about an association between the use of sound waves – lithotripsy – to shatter kidney stones and the eventual development of diabetes. Approximately 10 percent of men and 5 percent of women under the age of 70 will experience a kidney stone.

Surgery for kidney stones used to be horribly traumatic. As a very young student and junior doctor I assisted in more than one operation to remove them. The invention of the lithotripter – a device that uses ultrasound to break up stones, so that they can be passed out of the body – was a big advance. Though the treatment itself is far from being painless, it is much better than major surgery, It is a shame to learn that the treatment is not as innocuous as we thought. This is important, because about 1 million people in the United States have had shock wave lithotripsy (SWL).

In a study published in the May issue of the Journal of Urology, researchers at the Mayo Clinic followed up on a group of 630 patients who had been treated with SWL in 1985. The Mayo was one of the first centers to use the technique, the hospital keeps wonderful records, and so it was one of the few places in the world where it was possible to follow people 19 years after treatment.

Almost 60 percent of the patients responded to a questionnaire and were matched to an equal number of patients whose kidney stones had been treated by some other method. Among the SWL group, 16.8 percent had developed diabetes, compared with 6.7 percent of the control group, and 36.4 percent had high blood pressure compared with 27.9 percent of the control group. According to the study, the development of hypertension was related to the treatment of stones in both kidneys, while the onset of diabetes bore a relationship to the number of shocks administered and the intensity of the treatment.

This makes sense: the kidneys are key controllers of blood pressure, and it has long been known that stones, inflammation, infection or vascular disease in the kidneys can cause elevated blood pressure. Perhaps the treatment scars the kidneys. And it is not surprising that sound waves powerful enough to shatter a stone might also cause damage to the tissues through which they are passing; which include the pancreas.

These findings will need to be replicated, particularly with newer model lithotripters. But even before that, I’m sure that the criteria for gets the treatment will be modified, and it will also be necessary to re-think how the treatment is done. As an example, instead of shooting one powerful burst of sound waves at the stone, it may be necessary to fire several low intensity burst from different directions that all crisscross in the vicinity of the stone.

For now, if you are one of the unlucky ones who gets a kidney stone, discuss this new research with your doctor before having lithotripsy. And if you have access to a good acupuncturist, naturopath or homeopath, ask them if they have had any success in treating kidney stones, and if “Yes,” whether they would be prepared to work with your physician to help you.

Searching for the Laws of Life

In the book of Genesis, God’s fifth act of creation was to create life on earth. Of course, modern science has a different myth.

In the beginning, there was a simple soup of inorganic chemicals: water, ammonia and methane. And into this soup came a bolt of lightning that brought into being the amino acids that gradually assembled themselves into peptides and proteins and the nucleotides from which came RNA and DNA. And the DNA learned the art of becoming self-replicating and so began the ascent of life.

I recently reviewed a fine book – The Fifth Miracle, by Paul Davies – on the Amazon website. Paul points out that believing the scientific myth demands an act of faith and credulity as great as believing in the literal truth of the Biblical story. He is one of many scientists who have calculated the seemingly impossible odds of all this happening by chance. This is not some back door into intelligent design, but instead an exploration of some profoundly important ideas in biology that make us realize that there are some gaping holes in our current models.

We know that inorganic processes tend to run down and become disorganized over time: they show entropy. By contrast living processes become progressively more organized, a process that requires massive amounts of information. It is not difficult to calculate that the amount of information required for even the simplest organism far out strips the biochemical processes of an organism. Thus the implication that life requires a new fundamental law of nature that is yet to be discovered.

If this is true, and the mathematics indicate that it is, it would imply that life should exist everywhere, and wherever it is found it would march toward progressive greater and greater complexity, that would eventually lead to sentience.

The most likely candidate for this natural law is information. The book and CD series, Healing, Meaning and Purpose is dedicated to this notion that a fundamental property of the Universe is conscious awareness and that the first content of awareness is information, in its technical sense. And it is this information together with energy that generates the subtle systems that animate biochemical processes.

Long after I wrote that, I came across an important paper by someone whose work I like very much: William Tiller. In the paper he examines homeopathy as a form of “information medicine,” and comes up with some interesting mathematical modeling to support his conjecture, which I feel sure is correct.

There is also some older data that supports this idea of information. A study from Brazil examined highly diluted thyroid gland extract on the rate at which tadpoles developed into frogs. The extract increased the speed of metamorphosis of the tadpoles, despite the fact that the solutions were so dilute that there could not have been any molecules present. This work was in fact a replication of work done in 1995 in Graz, Austria.

There is a much larger literature than most people realize on this idea of information in biological systems, though most has been presented at meetings or written about in textbooks.

But I’d like to leave you with an interesting paper that is easily accessible. It has the title “Paranormal phenomena in the medical literature sufficient smoke to warrant a search for fire.” The author has done us a great service by collecting a large number of cases of phenomena – collected by physicians and other educated people – that cannot be explained within the current biomedical paradigm. He includes some splendid examples, including the well-documented cases of people being able to speak foreign languages of which they have no conscious knowledge. The most parsimonious explanation for the observations? Information transfer between individuals, even if sometimes separated by many miles.

“Disease of the body as we know it, is a result, an end product, a final stage of something much deeper. Disease originates above the physical plane, nearer to the mental. It is entirely the result of a conflict between our spiritual and mortal selves. So long as these two are in harmony, we are in perfect health: but when there is discord there follows what we know as disease.”
–Edward Bach (English Physician and Creator of the Bach Flower Essences, 1886-1936)

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