We returned from a rural area about 3 hours outside Accra where we were supporting a homeopathic clinic which is part of a larger clinic offering health care to a number of villages in the region. Even though it’s not far from Accra, there is still no electricity in many villages, including the village where the clinic is. From there, we took a battered old Land Rover, at least 25 years old, and traveled to many other villages, over rutted dirt roads which are often impassable in the rains. Many of the villages are therefore cut off from any larger communities and people often have to walk many miles to get supplies or if they need health care. Even when the roads are passable, there is little public transport for people so often we get people walking 5-10-15 miles to come to the clinic. We are now trying to get out to certain villages and see patients from as many surrounding villages as possible, so our outreach is as broad as possible.
At the clinic itself, people come in for care at all times. It could be a pregnant woman about to have birth, a person who has been injured falling off his motorbike or all sorts of other conditions. Often the clinic is visited by a nomadic people from Nigeria called the Fulani, who wander across the country with cattle, looking for land to graze on, and then moving on to fresh pastures. They mostly don’t speak the local Ghanaian languages and so case taking is rather primitive and often one has to prescribe on little information. These people dress in very colorful robes, have great hairstyles and are quite feisty in temperament. They are mostly Muslim and the men can often be seen praying. They are generally tall and thin and look very different to the local Ghanaians.
The other day at around midnight, a patient was brought to the clinic with pain in his abdomen. He was lying on a bench writhing in pain. It had come on a few hours earlier. He had not eaten anything different to normal and the pains had some on suddenly. He seemed in excruciating pain, centered around the umbilical region. We took him inside and examined him, obviously looking for any signs of appendicitis. He said the pains were better from pressure and sometimes would make him bend double. However, most of the time when he was with us, he was lying out flat on his back or side, often tossing and turning and groaning in pain. Based on the severity of pain and the amelioration from pressure, we gave him Colocynthis 200c. It was given only one time, dry under the tongue. Within one minute he stopped writhing in pain and groaning. He simply lay there, much more quietly. He said to us that the pains were getting better. We stayed with him for another 15 minutes. Apart from a very brief relapse for a few seconds, he remained much relieved, the pain significantly better. We then left him on the bed and came back in about one hour. He was feeling much better by then, so we said he could leave and gave him a few extra doses of the remedy, to be taken only if the pains returned. We heard the next day he was fine.
Note: This was another case of Colocynthis, and was given just on the intensity of the abdominal symptoms. It was great to see homeopathy work so effectively and quickly for him.
The following night, a woman came in, also with abdominal pains. She had eaten fried chicken that night, and now a few hours later, she had a lot of pain, again around the umbilical area but also lower down. The abdomen was very tender to touch but there was no rebound tenderness. She said the pains were sharp, like a knife, and were much worse from motion and walking. Even taking a step aggravated the pains. Initially we gave Bryonia 200c based on the pains being worse from jar and any motion. However, after 20 minutes there was no real relief so we gave Nux vomica 200c, one dose. Within one minute she said she felt a change and the pains felt somewhat better. We then stayed with her another 15 minutes, and she had fallen asleep and was resting. We left her in the bed at the clinic and came back one hour later. She was feeling much better by then and so we said she could go and gave her a few doses of the remedy to take with her. She also was fine the next day.
Notes: Bryonia is frequently used remedy in homeopathy, and is commonly known as Wild Hops and is found in the Cucurbitaceae family, similar to Colocynthis. It is the first remedy to consider in appendicitis and any situation in which pains are much worse for any motion. Nux vomica is also called Poison nut, as it contains elements of strychnine and is a member of the Loganiacaea botanical family. As all homeopathic remedies are highly diluted none of the toxic elements remain in the remedy. Nux vomica is one of the most commonly prescribed remedies, and is excellent in abdominal pains and problems stemming from all sorts of food poisoning as well as for the effects of too much alcohol or drugs. People needing Nux vomica are often very irritable, impatient and touchy.
We had another case of an elderly woman who complained of sciatic pain which she had had for one month. It made her limp and the pain extended down the right leg to the foot. The main other symptom was that her right leg was numb below the knee. The pain in the leg was both sore with some shooting pains. Based on the keynote of numbness with the sciatica we gave Gnaphalium200c. She took one tablet a day for 5 days. Within one week, she said she felt 80% better. Although she was still limping some, she was able to walk much better.
Notes: Gnaphalium is also called Old Balsam or Cud-weed and is in the Asteraceae or Compositeae family. It has a specific affect on the sciatic nerves and abdomen.
When taking the case of many of the women, it is amazing how many children they have had and also how many of them have died. It is not uncommon for a person to tell us that they have had 10 children but 3 or 4 of them have died, and often they can’t tell us how they have died, of what disease or condition. Often they are not told by the doctors. Doctors in Ghana often don’t tell patients what they have. They are told to simply take the medicines, so getting information about their health history is difficult. Many of them state these details in a matter of fact way. There is an acceptance of these harsh realities of life, a kind of fatalism that this is the way of things here. However, most of these children probably needn’t have died, and it is simply the lack of medical care and the incidence of diseases like malaria and typhoid that account for a lot of deaths. Life in Africa is tough. It is true that the strongest tend to survive. People can live to a ripe old age here and look in far better shape than most elderly westerners. Their diet is simple but in spite of the limited nutritional value in some of their food they survive quite well on it and the level of physical activity in their lives also keeps them healthy except for the arthritic conditions which comes from repetitive physical work in the fields.
One of the most serious conditions is high blood pressure and consequent strokes. We nearly always take people’s blood pressure and quite a number of them are really high. This is partly genetic but it may also not be helped by the large amount of saturated palm nut oil which is a staple in their food. If very high, these people are put on blood pressure medications as the risk from stroke is high. Also, getting people to modify their diet is often not an option. People eat the same thing every day and the oil they use is cheap or free and it is not easy to talk about not putting it in their food so much. People eat together so one person can’t really decide to radically change their diet.
Emperor, the Ghanaian homeopath working at the clinic showed me this amazing case where Conium has made a significant difference in a case diagnosed as breast cancer. The breast had been abscessing with a large hard lump and much discoloration and swelling of the whole breast. In one month of Conium 30c given daily, there has been much improvement and the breast was becoming normal.
Notes: Conium is also known as Hemlock, the famous poison given to the Greek philosopher Socrates. It is a plant remedy in the Umbellifereae family and in homeopathy is an important remedy in neurological conditions and some forms of cancer.
We saw a 4 month year old child in one clinic who looked very malnourished. She was the youngest of 4 kids in a mother no older than 28. She had chronic diarrhea. The mother was feeding her but there was not enough milk but the local doctor was not advising any supplementation at this time. We discussed that she should introduce some very simple food, like soupy millet as there was definitely not enough food going in, compounded by the chronic diarrhea. I asked what the diarrhea was like and the mother said it was mostly watery. I asked about the color and was told it was green. What type of green I wanted to know and was told it was bright green. Now I was suspected a remedy and so I asked if it tended to look like frog spawn. I was told yes, it does. So now I think I know the remedy. I ask the mother how she felt when pregnant with this child. She said it was a surprise to her. She was not happy at first as she already had 3 children and had very little money and so a fourth child was a great challenge for her. At this point, I felt sure that the remedy was Magnesium carbonicum. The chronic diarrhea, failure to thrive, the green stool and the struggle of the mother to accept the child and have enough milk all led me to think of this remedy. We followed this child over the next three months and she continued to do better during this time.
Notes: Treating young children can be particularly important and satisfying in homeopathy. Looking at the complete physical and emotional picture is important, which in children means looking at the mother’s situation and how things are passed on between mother and child when young. Issues such as the ability of a child to absorb food and how the child expresses challenges in developing both physically and emotionally are of particular importance for homeopaths.
The next day we were in another clinic, 2 hours away with a local pastor who is learning homeopathy. This clinic is very near the Togo border and we had to take the main road to Togo – which is under serious construction and is very dusty and without tarmac for many miles – to get to the clinic. We saw a case of a woman with pain in the leg with lameness. She described the pain as a feeling as if the bone was broken. It is worse from using the leg too much. Although she was only 45 years old, she feels it has come from working too much in the fields. Based on the broken bone feeling and the etiology of strain, we chose to give Ruta graveolens 30c.
Notes: Ruta graveolens is also known as Garden Rue and is a member of the Rutaceae family. It is one of the great injury remedies in homeopathy, particularly affecting tendons and joints. It is the first remedy to consider for tennis elbow.
An 80 year old woman came with itching of the skin, intense itching but with no eruption. She also had some numbness of the feet. I suspected Alumina (check the rubric, skin, itching, eruption, without) and I asked about her stool. She told us that she had constipation and the stool was like balls. This is enough to go with, two strong keynotes of the remedy Alumina.
Notes: Alumina is simple Aluminium, an important metal and used in many industries. Issues to do with aluminium poisoning with possible connections to dementia have been discussed widely for many years. In Africa, nearly all families use cheap aluminium pots and it is an interesting question whether this may be a factor in many diseases in Africa. In homeopathy Aluminium is used for many neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and for mental dementia, along with other conditions.
A 45 year old woman came with weakness in the back which is worse stooping and she has numb hands. She said she gets anxious and can’t sleep which is always worse from bad news. It was good to get a mental symptom and so with this amount of information we can prescribe. With the aggravation from bad news and the general back symptoms, we gave Calcarea carbonica 30c. This is an example of default prescribing – how when working with a specific number of symptoms, the default remedy has to be one particular remedy, unless there is anything to contraindicate it.
Notes: Calcarea carbonica is simple Calcium carbonate, although in homeopathy we use a substance found on the inside of an oyster shell which has a pure form of Calcium carbonate. People needing this remedy tend to be often very anxious and also sensitive, especially to hearing bad news. They feel insecure and are always looking for ways to feel more secure, similar to feeling they need a shell to hide behind. It is a very important remedy in young children when they are developing their body and it helps children absorb calcium more effectively, leading to stronger bones and overall structure.
The next day, we were at another village, under another tree and waited there for quite a while. Although the word had been put out that we were visiting the village – a person goes around the village with a bell making the announcement, the only people meeting us there were hordes of children. So we waited about one hour till a man passing asked us what we were doing and after we explained, he asked for his case to be taken.
So, he told us he had an intense eruption and itch in the groin, between the testicles and the thigh. He has to scratch it intensely until it is raw and is < after bathing when it beomes dry. He also said he can feel hungry yet have no appetite, food being tasteless. He said he had low sex desire, only wanting sex once every 2-3 weeks. He had weak erections. In his history he had a goiter removed. He said he is sociable and easy going and if people ask for his advice, he tells things as it is, in a very matter of fact way. I was suspecting a remedy and it was confirmed when I saw he had a keloid scar on his neck and also he showed me a large keloid on his chest. So, we gave Graphites, in LM potency. The combination of the keloid scar (although a common symptom in black people) with the nature of the eruption and position of it, plus his basic nature and telling things as they are, in a matter of fact way, all indicated the remedy Graphites.
Notes: Graphites is made from the pencil lead from fine English pencils. It is really pure carbon and is an important homeopathic remedy. It is suited to sensitive, but earthy people and has a great affinity for all sorts of skin conditions.
Next we saw his wife, who came with cramping of the calf, which is worse night in bed. Eight years ago, she had a swelling all over her body, with puffiness and with headache, weakness and breathlessness. It is > now, having taken local herbs for a long time. She gets some heartburn with hiccough after eating. She can be fearful and easily startled from sudden noise and she can feel suddenly guilty and feel she has done something wrong. She feels cold a lot (even in the intense heat) and wants to bathe in hot water. I suspected a remedy and asked her how she feels around people arguing. She said “it’s my job to stop it.” She then explained how in the village she is always the person to get in the middle between people arguing, that she will go between people as she doesn’t like seeing people argue. This confirmed for me that she needed a Magnesium remedy and I chose Magnesium carb as she mainly had stomach symptoms as well and Magnesium carb is particularly chilly.
Notes: People needing Magnesium carbonicum in homeopathy often have great difficulty dealing with arguments and altercations. They often want to be in the middle and deflate situations or become angry or passive when faced with any confrontation. They can often say they need to mediate situations between others. It can be useful for children or adults who were brought up in very volatile and unsupported households where they felt they didn’t really belong. It is very useful in babies who don’t thrive and develop, despite being fed OK.
The next day we had a beautiful Kali carbonicum case in a woman with back pain that she said extended down her leg and especially to her knee. This pain she said was always worse before menses. That was it, but when we looked at her, we could see this strong, forceful, opinionated woman. She definitely knew black from white!! Kali carbonicum was the default prescription here. We can be confident even with only a couple of keynote symptoms and our observations of her nature.
Notes: People needing homeopathic Kali carbonicum, which is Potassium carbonate are very fixed in their ideas of right and wrong. They like to obey all laws and need order and structure in their lives. They tend to be quite dominant and even dictatorial but later on in life can become much more anxious and insecure. The remedy affects all areas of the body but especially the joints and back and it is a great remedy for rheumatoid arthritis. It is also useful in pregnant women when there is a back pregnancy and the back feels as if it is breaking.