Homeopaths often find themselves in the position of “physician of last resort.” People come to see us only when all else has failed. Such was the case with Ron, age 46, who came seeking help for his severe and longstanding psoriasis.
Ron was an imposing figure—tall, broad, and physically fit—but his condition had brought him to his knees. A builder by trade, Ron was fortunate to now run his own business, but he was utterly unable to work with his hands in a physical capacity because of severe psoriasis. Conventional medicine, including oral steroids and steroid creams, had provided some symptomatic relief in the past but had never solved his problem. Having given up on that approach, Ron had recently run a gamut of non-conventional treatments such as herbal therapies, fasting, and acupuncture—all to no avail. He came to me in desperation, referred by another patient of mine.
A tenacious skin problem
Psoriasis is a chronic condition in which skin cells grow more rapidly than normal, building up and creating raised, red, scaly patches. It is usually found on the scalp, elbows, and knees, but it can appear anywhere. Severity varies widely; for most people it’s more of a nuisance, but for some it’s debilitating. Serious cases may include severe pain, cracks and bleeding, itching, blisters oozing with pus, and even arthritic pain.
A person with psoriasis usually goes through periods of improvement and flare-up, and the affected locations may change, but psoriasis doesn’t typically go away. Some “triggers” that can make a person’s psoriasis worse may include stress, smoking, alcohol, strep infections, skin irritations, cold and dry air, and certain drugs. Conventional medicine is aimed at managing the symptoms, using topical medicines (e.g., corticosteroids, retinols, salicylic acid), ultraviolet light therapy, or systemic drugs that slow skin cell growth or reduce inflammation (e.g., immunosuppressants, immunomodulators).
Psoriasis seems to run in families, and it’s believed to be an autoimmune overreaction in which the body’s T-cells mistakenly attack normal skin cells as if to fight infection or heal a wound. It can start at any age, but it most commonly develops in a person’s teens or twenties. An estimated five to six million Americans suffer with psoriasis.
Homeopathy and skin problems
In my experience, homeopathic treatment can be very effective for people with stubborn skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema and, even better, it’s safe and nontoxic—something we can’t say about most conventional treatments. Even so, patients should not expect a quick cure with homeopathy. Although I have seen some miraculously fast resolutions (especially in children with eczema), for most chronic skin conditions homeopathic healing will occur over a long period of time, with careful prescribing by a trained, observant homeopathic professional. I try hard to let patients know this at the outset.
For as long as he could remember, Ron had suffered with psoriasis—usually pink, red, and/or scaly white outbreaks on his arms, elbows, tailbone, and ankles. The psoriasis was always troubling, but sometimes it flared up more severely, greatly affecting his quality of life and limiting his everyday activities. At the time of our visit, Ron’s palms and fingers were affected and extremely sore. “By the end of the workday, all I can do is take ibuprofen, soak my hands in hot water, and go to bed,” Ron said. “They’ve been miserably cracked and painful like this for the past year or so.” When he showed me his hands I could see that the palms were deeply cracked all the way to the fingertips; the skin was slightly red, except around the cracks where it was thick and pale.
Ah-ha! Cracked fingertips…
Redness, white scales, and thickened skin are common manifestations of psoriasis, but severe cracks are a bit more unusual. As soon as I heard that Ron’s fingertips were cracked, I guessed that he needed the homeopathic remedy Petroleum because this is a keynote symptom for that remedy, and because Petroleum is a remedy that is often indicated for people with skin conditions. My hunch was strengthened by his assertion that “the one thing that ever really helped was coal tar that a pharmacist once gave me.” Ron said it worked well, but he had never attempted to get it and use it again. Petroleum is, of course, homeopathically prepared coal tar. I almost called an end to the visit right then, but I contained my excitement and took his entire health history.
First, of course, I examined the specifics of the symptoms of his hands. The pain was of a burning character. It was better in the morning and got worse as the day went on. It was better from running his hands under hot water.
A striking symptom
Ron also complained of occasional moderate chest pain, which had been thoroughly checked out by a cardiologist, with no significant findings. His sleep was disturbed by the discomfort in his hands. On further questioning, I also elicited a striking general characteristic symptom: Ron would sweat profusely about the head while eating or sleeping, especially on his face and scalp. This had been going on for about a year—just about as long as he’d had the severe psoriasis on his palms.
Ron’s medical history included bad headaches as a child and moderate asthma as a younger adult. The actual symptoms of each were unremarkable, but they did share a common and characteristic modality: both were markedly improved in hot, humid weather. He breathed much better and suffered much less from headaches when the weather was hot and humid. Over the years, Ron grew out of the headaches and asthma, but that characteristic modality still applied to his psoriasis: it tended to be better when the weather was hot and humid.
Rethinking Ron’s remedy
While Petroleum fit the cracked fingertip symptom, it did not cover well the other characteristic symptoms in Ron’s case. I needed to find the remedy that covered cracks in the skin of the palms and fingertips, profuse perspiration about the head while eating and sleeping, and general improvement from hot, humid weather because these were the most characteristic symptoms of the case.*
Close study of materia medica (Hering, Boericke, Allen, etc.) determined that Silica covered the entire case better than any other remedy, as the following quotes affirm:
• “A small crack in the index finger begins to burn and pain.”
• “Silicea patient is cold…worse in winter.”
• “Better, warmth…summer; in wet or humid weather.”
• “Profuse perspiration on head in evening, on going to sleep.”
• “Sweat…when eating.”
Give the remedy that fits
Even so, I hesitated to give Silica because Ron was a big, assertive kind of guy whose personality might lead a homeopath to think of remedies like Sulphur or Lachesis or Nux vomica; we tend to think of Silica more often for people who are timid, mild, yielding, and physically delicate. But Silica clearly best fit the characteristic symptoms of Ron’s case, so I prescribed one dose of Silica 200c. While I fully expected to help Ron with homeopathic treatment, I told him that, in my experience, longstanding skin disease like his could take at least a year to go away. I expected him to improve in small steps over a long period of time.
I asked Ron to check in with me in one week. In cases as acute as Ron’s, I typically follow up with the patient more frequently than in less acute cases. While I don’t expect a cure in such a short time, I do hope to see at least some small shift in the patient’s condition that tells me if I am on the right track in my remedy selection.
Rapid, remarkable results
At this follow-up appointment, Ron reported that the pain in his hands had decreased substantially in one week’s time—from a “7” on a scale of 1 to 10 to about a “2.” His other, older psoriasis lesions were also improving to a lesser extent. His chest pain and sleep were better too. His sweating was unchanged. Overall, I was ecstatic, and so was he! The day before our follow-up visit, he had taken a second dose of Silica 200c on his own, thinking that the symptoms were worsening. I asked him to wait two weeks and follow up with me again.
Two weeks later at our next visit, Ron’s hand pain and cracks were 80% better, the psoriasis on his tailbone was 90% better, and the outbreaks on his ankles were 50% better. Ron was finally sleeping well, now that his hand pain had dwindled. And the chest pains—along with his sweating about the head when eating or sleeping—were completely gone! He had taken only two doses of Silica 200c in the three weeks since our first visit.
Ron’s quick resolution of a rather serious condition exceeded both of our expectations. When someone responds so strongly and universally to a homeopathic remedy, their prognosis is generally excellent. I told Ron that since he seemed to be healing so well, he could follow up with me as needed.
“A real miracle”
A couple months later, I had yet to hear from Ron so I checked in with him by e-mail. He replied with a single paragraph:
“Hi doc. Sorry I am just responding now. I think it’s important to note that when I first came to you I could barely feed myself—my hands were in such a deplorable condition. I am happy to report to you that although I still have some symptoms in my knuckles and one ankle, the palms of my hands are absolutely clear—a real miracle and absolutely life changing for me. And believe me, prior to seeking your help I tried everything (sorry you were the last resort) from a series of colonics to every herbal/vitamin remedy under the sun… from strict diets eliminating certain foods to absolute fasting… NOTHING WORKED!”
Courtesy of NCH