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Homeopathy for cardiac conditions

Portions
of this article were excerpted with permission from Humana Press' Complementary
Medicine & Cardiology
in which Dr. Rothenberg has authored the chapter "Homeopathy
and Cardiology." For further information on that title, see Humanapress.com.

For illnesses that are chronic in nature—and that includes most cardiovascular
complaints—homeopaths prescribe constitutional remedies: homeopathic remedies
chosen based on an understanding of the whole person, including the cardiac symptoms.
There are many homeopathic remedies to consider for patients with heart conditions,
although certain remedies are thought about more readily. Homeopaths treat patients
who suffer from all variety of cardiac complaints, but most commonly, we see
people who've been diagnosed with angina, palpitations, syncope (fainting), hypertension,
or congestive heart failure, as well as people with peripheral vascular disorders
such as varicose veins, Raynaud's disease, or lymphedema.
     What follows are general descriptions of several
different types of patients with cardiac complaints who may come to a homeopath's
office. These are thumbnail sketches only, to give a sense of the type of symptomatology
that may be present and the homeopathic remedies that might be considered. Fuller,
more detailed descriptions of each of these remedies can be found in the materia
medica of our profession. If you read the descriptions below and they sound like
someone you know, you might consider referring that patient to a homeopath. Most
assuredly, you will know many cardiac patients who do not fit these few descriptions.
That just means they would need a different homeopathic remedy than the ones
described here.

The"Type A" personality: Nux vomica
Someone who needs the constitutional remedy Nux vomica might come to see a homeopath
because of heart palpitations that are worse when they are overworked, overexcited,
or angry. The palpitations tend to be exacerbated by any stimulants including
alcohol, spicy food, or caffeinated products. Their palpitations might also be
aggravated while they eat or when they become chilly. They might also suffer
from angina, which is worse in the same situations mentioned above.
     Almost all patients who need Nux vomica have a
tendency to experience digestive tract problems regardless of what their chief
complaint might be. Gastrointestinal disturbances include indigestion, constipation
without urge, peptic ulcer, or irritable bowel syndrome.
     In many of these patients, there is a tendency
for hay fever or acute upper respiratory tract infections with frequent sneezing.
They tend to be chilly and feel worse in cold weather.
     People who need Nux vomica tend to have "Type A" personalities,
be hard working, and are perhaps even aggressive and strong-willed. They are
often in positions of power, and they take control easily. They tend to be irritable
and impatient. They are concerned with small details and conscientious about
all manner of things: the way they dress, the way they keep their home and office,
and the quality of work they do, for example. This tendency leads to competitiveness
and impressive drive. They tend to expect the same high standards from others,
both at home and at work, hence the easy irritability and anger. They may have
strong tempers and can be unapologetic. During acute illnesses, the emotional
temperament of those who need Nux vomica tends to be even more extreme.
     People needing Nux vomica also tend to suffer from
insomnia, especially in the middle of the night: they find themselves awake and
thinking about work, their responsibilities, and other tasks that need to be
addressed.
     When we see a patient who has been this way for
quite awhile, they are sometimes in a state of exhaustion. Years of living at
such a workaholic pace have taken their toll, and the resultant physical symptoms
can no longer be ignored. So it is the physical symptoms that bring this patient
to the doctor, and the homeopath seeks to understand those symptoms in the context
of the underlying issues.
     When the symptoms match and we prescribe this remedy,
we would expect all aspects of the Nux vomica patient to improve—from their
palpitations or angina to their insomnia, constipation, and irritability. Lifestyle
modification recommendations are made cautiously to a patient who needs Nux vomica,
as they tend to overdo whatever suggestions are made.

Homeopathic nitroglycerine: Glonoine
Another constitutional remedy used with cardiac patients is Glonoine (Nitroglycerine).
Nitroglycerine was first used in medicine by the brilliant American homeopath,
Constantine Hering (1800--1880), some thirty years before it was introduced into
allopathic medicine. When prepared homeopathically, this remedy is useful when
there is intense palpitation with visible throbbing of the carotid arteries.
Accompanying the heart symptoms, the patient has severe pulsating headaches characterized
by a sensation of congestion and fullness. They are worse when it's hot, and
they flush easily on the chest and face. They are better outside or in cool air.
     Likewise, if the problem is angina, there is extreme
redness of the face during episodes and an attendant headache. Attacks can be
triggered by exposure to the sun or by becoming overheated. This aggravation
of symptoms from heat is exactly opposite to what you see in a Nux vomica patient,
whose symptoms are aggravated by cold. Individualizing differences like these
help the homeopath determine which medicine to prescribe. Often these differences
seem subtle, and indeed would be largely irrelevant to the allopathic doctor;
but to a homeopath, that which is individually characteristic of the patient's
complaint is paramount.
     Patients who need Glonoine may suffer from fainting
episodes. They often have a tendency toward confusion, which may be worse at
night. When the heart symptoms are aggravated, they may have a tremor in the
hands, which makes using them difficult.
     Glonoine is considered when any symptom in the
body is accompanied by throbbing and pulsation along with congestive headaches.
We might also consider it for those whose cardiac complaints alternate with headache
symptoms.
     Glonoine is known to help patients in the acute
phase of sunstroke, when the head is throbbing and bright red; they feel worse
when leaning forward and better from applying cold water to the face.

A feeling of fullness: Lachesis
Practitioners who treat cardiac patients would not want to be without the remedy
Lachesis. The patient who needs Lachesis typically has a strong feeling of fullness
in their chest, which accompanies arrhythmias. The feeling of fullness is so
severe that the patient will describe it as a bursting sensation. These patients
are often worse as they fall asleep, and they cannot tolerate sleeping on the
left side. They prefer to sleep on the right side or in a sitting position. They
feel much worse in heat or when they become overheated.
     If the problem is angina, the Lachesis patient
might describe a cramping pain in the chest along with the sensation of fullness.
It is not uncommon for patients needing Lachesis to have a cough during episodes
of cardiac symptoms. Due to the sensation of fullness in the chest and the neck,
these patients are unwilling to wear any clothing or jewelry that constricts
those areas; they dislike tight clothing and will wear loose-fitting, collarless
attire. Due to their extreme warmth, Lachesis patients may wear sandals year-round.
     Patients with congestive heart failure who require
Lachesis have a tremendous feeling of suffocation. They experience a feeling
of pressure on the chest; they are awakened by a feeling of choking and must
sit up in bed to regain comfort.
     Many women who benefit from Lachesis first develop
cardiac symptoms, such as palpitations or angina, during the perimenopausal years
when they are markedly worse, physically and emotionally. It's as if without
the monthly menstrual discharge, they suffer.
     Menstruating women who benefit from Lachesis tend
to feel much worse the week before the menses, but will feel better when the
flow begins. This applies to their heart symptoms and other physical complaints,
as well as to their mental and emotional condition.
     Many of the Lachesis patient's complaints are accompanied
by bluish, purplish skin discoloration or lesions, perhaps on the face or legs
(e.g., varicose veins or ulcers).
     Lachesis patients tend to be quite intense—physically,
mentally, and emotionally. They may have a tendency for jealousy, suspiciousness,
or paranoia. They may hold onto past angers and insults for a long time and can
be difficult to reason with. They are generally quite loquacious: full of ideas,
thoughts, and feelings which must be shared with whomever is at hand. It's easy
to feel overwhelmed by such patients.

Heaviness and bearing down: Sepia
For patients with peripheral vascular illness, homeopathy has much to offer.
Sepia is a remedy that can be useful in the treatment of painful varicose veins
where there is a sensation of heaviness and drawing downward. Sepia is prescribed
more frequently for women. It is especially indicated after childbirth where
there remains an uncomfortable bearing-down sensation in the pelvic area, and
the woman suffers from painful varicosities.
     Sepia patients also tend to develop Raynaud's disease:
episodes of blood vessel constriction in the fingers and toes, in response to
cold or stress. In general, these patients have poor circulation, and they complain
in cold weather. They are often constipated and have an unusually sallow complexion.
Chloasma, or darkening of the face and skin during pregnancy, is not uncommon
in these patients and often persists long after childbirth.
     Someone who would respond well to Sepia has a flat
affect, feels a degree of indifference to their loved ones, and seeks solitude
from children and family affairs. Some women fall into this state after the birth
of several children; taking Sepia can do much to restore health to their spirit
and their circulatory system.

Individualization leads to cure
There are many other homeopathic remedies that can be employed when treating
people with cardiovascular disorders. It is the individualizing characteristics
of the patient's physical symptoms, as well as their mental and emotional symptoms,
which lead to finding the best homeopathic remedy for each patient. The strength,
quantity, and frequency of the prescription are individualized to the patient.
     Homeopathy can be used to treat cardiology patients
whether or not tissue change has taken place. Almost any patient would benefit
from constitutional care; they generally enjoy the interview process, and they
appreciate the decrease in symptoms and the increased feeling of well-being that
comes from homeopathic treatment.

Sidebar:
Remember homeopathy after heart surgery!
An increasing number of surgeons recommend the administration of Arnica after
any kind of surgery, including heart surgery. They report noticeable reductions
in swelling and inflammation as well as faster healing times. These results enable
patients to use less pain medication and to enjoy speedier recoveries. The general
protocol is to administer Arnica 200c, one hour after the patient is awake, and
again once a day for three days.
     Other homeopathic remedies are sometimes indicated
post-surgery depending on symptoms that arise (i.e., difficulty with urination
or with normal bowel function, confusion or irritability after anesthesia, extreme
pain at the sight of the incision, etc.). A homeopath would look at the patient
and their individualized symptoms after surgery and prescribe accordingly. Homeopathic
remedies are an efficient and cost-effective alternative, which can be used at
the same time as other medications—and will not cause side-effects.

Sidebar:
High blood pressure: What to do!
•     See your homeopath for constitutional treatment.
•     Eat more fruits and vegetables (10 per day).
•     Avoid salty, processed foods.
•     Eat garlic regularly.
•     Lose weight if you're overweight.
•     Walk briskly, run, bike, or swim 30--45 minutes
per day 3 times per week.
•     Consider supplements such as Coenzyme Q10
or herbs like Hawthorn berry extract. (See Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine,
2nd edition, by Michael Murray, ND, and Joseph Pizzorno, ND, for advice and supporting
research.)

About the author:
Amy Rothenberg, ND, practices in Enfield, Connecticut, and teaches for the NCH
Summer School and the New England School of Homeopathy. She also writes and teaches
on topics in natural medicine, both here and abroad. Information on the New England
School of Homeopathy Two-Year Course can be found at www.nesh.com