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From Russia with love - Homeopathy in Russia

at a conference in Russia in September
Dana Ullman, MPH (third from left), with Alexander Ostrovsky, MD, Russian conference organizer, and four homeopathic MDs at a conference in Russia in September.

The famous Russian author, Feodor Dostoevsky, wrote The Brothers Karamazov, and in this great book he gave a short and sweet mention of homeopathy. In an argument between the two brothers, one of the brothers asked the other if he didn't have just a little faith in him, for as he said, "homeopathic doses are perhaps the strongest."
     Homeopathy has had a long tradition within Russia. Although not officially recognized during the Communist regime, it was tolerated. And perhaps in part because it did not receive government sanction, the Russian people have developed a trust in homeopathy. Homeopathic physicians worked outside of governmental medicine, so homeopathy was a part of Russia's "new economy." People had to pay for homeopathic care, rather than receive it for free.
     Homeopathy is still in the minority practice. I was told that there are approximately 1 million medical doctors in Russia and its surrounding republics, with 15,000 of them using homeopathic medicines regularly and about 3,000 specializing in classical homeopathy. One of the homeopathic pediatricians who drove me to see various sites in Moscow was the homeopath to the family of the mayor of Moscow; another homeopathic cardiologist has a patient whom she describes as "the most dangerous man in Russia" (former KGB). Homeopathy seems to be attracting people in this country who have position and power.
     If you have had the pleasure of attending any international homeopathic conference in Europe, you will inevitably have noticed many Russian homeopaths in attendance. Even though few of them speak English, they always bring a translator or two with them. Despite their extremely low salaries ($200--$300 per month is common!), Russian homeopaths are so committed to learning high quality classical homeopathy that they travel in droves to attend conferences. Over 100 Russian doctors have completed a four-year training program with George Vithoulkas in Alonissos, Greece. That's impressive commitment. I was also intrigued to learn that homeopathic physicians tend to earn slightly more than conventional physicians because patients who go to homeopaths pay out of pocket rather than receive a salary from the government. What a pleasure to hear that there is at least one place in the world where homeopaths earn a better living than conventional doctors!
     In late September, I flew to Moscow to be one of the keynote speakers at a conference of classical homeopaths. I left on September 26, and although I had some trepidation about traveling at this time, my curiosity about Russia was greater than my fears. My host was Alexander Ostrovsky, MD, a Russian physician and homeopath whose homeopathic manufacturing company makes hand-succussed remedies. His company has also published a couple of books in Russian, including Hahnemann's Materia Medica Pura and Chronic Diseases.
     I was one of about 20 speakers during this 2-day conference. Most presentations lasted only 20 minutes, and 90% of the speakers read from their written papers. Everyone in attendance was a medical doctor, and the vast majority were specialists, including pediatricians, psychiatrists, cardiologists, ophthalmologists, neurologists, pathologists, otolaryngologists, among others. There were a wide variety of subjects, including Usage of Opium in Liver Encephalopathy, Homeopathy in Otolaryngology, Carcinosin, The Treatment of Bronchitis with Asthmatic Components with Ignatia, and Virtual Dreams and Homeopathic Symptoms.
     I was asked to speak for 60 minutes twice (heck, if I fly halfway around the world, I can't do that for only 20 minutes of air time!). My first talk focused on the doctrine of signatures and was entitled "Understand Nature to Learn Materia Medica." The question and answer period that followed continued 30 minutes beyond my time limit, but I could do nothing to stop the dialogue, all of which was excited and extremely supportive of using the clear indications of the signatures of our medicines in daily practice. (Note: I made it clear that you should not use the signatures concept to theorize about a medicine but should consider using only precise and confirmed features of a substance.)
     My second talk reviewed the most modern understanding of homeopathy in the light of scientific perspectives. I introduced a new word, "nanopharmacy," which I described as the field of medicine and pharmacy that investigates extreme microdose effects in health and medicine. This talk also reviewed the most recent clinical studies in homeopathy. The audience greatly appreciated this body of information since very little high quality research has been translated into Russian.
     It was interesting to learn that about one third of the audience seemed to be passionate about the teachings of George Vithoulkas; another third appeared equally passionate about the teachings of Rajan Sankaran; and another third followed the teaching of the physiological school of homeopathy from the Popov family of doctors in Kiev. There was no obvious animosity between the three camps.
     One way that I got a sense of the status of homeopathy in Russia was by reviewing which homeopathic books are now available in Russian. Although translations of Nash, Allen, and Farrington have been available for many years, some classics were harder to come by. In the past five years, that has changed; books by Didier Grandgeorge (a French classical homeopath) and Catherine Coulter became available. Books by Vithoulkas, Sankaran, Vermuelen, Scholten, and Morrison came out in the past year or two, and these authors already have become much appreciated.
     Some homeopaths use homeopathic software that has been translated into Russian, including RADAR and CARA, as well as one program that was developed in Russia called Rainbow.
     There is not a single self-care homeopathy book published in Russia, at least not yet, though the Russian publisher in attendance at the conference will probably change this. The reason for this lack of books in self-care results from an ingrained old premise that I learned from the former head of TASS whom I met 15 years ago. After he told me that he and his wife prefer homeopathy to conventional medicine, I told him that I had written a book that is the most popular self-care homeopathic book in the U.S. He replied with directness and confidence, "Self-care in Russia is not necessary because health care is free."

Homeopathic pharmacy in Moscow
Homeopathic pharmacy in Moscow.

     Because it seems that Russians do not have as many distractions as we Americans tend to have, Russian homeopaths are very dedicated to learning as much about homeopathy as they can. Not very many Americans presently know the names of the leading Russian homeopaths, but this may change in the near future.
     I would be remiss if I didn't mention an important quality that I continually experienced when dealing with Russian homeopaths. Every one of them was remarkably generous with their time, experience, and expertise. Several homeopaths insisted upon showing me around their country, and despite the many tragedies that have beset these people over the centuries, they have survived and persisted, and they maintain a powerful pride in their country.
     I look forward to an ongoing dialogue and sharing of information and experience with homeopaths throughout the world. With the present crisis of terrorism and bioterrorism at hand, good quality homeopathic care is needed more than ever.

About the author:
Dana Ullman, MPH, has written eight books on homeopathy. His
newest book, Essential Homeopathy, will be published in January 2002. His books have been translated into eight languages, and in the past ten years, he has lectured in Slovenia, France, Italy, Greece, Netherlands, England, Columbia, Chile, and Mexico. His website, has 100+ articles, some of which include information about his experiences in these countries.