A hundred or more years ago now–roughly the time between the Civil War through the whole of the Great Depression, it is said that every home in New England had a homeopathic kit under the bed.  And that the woman of the house knew how to use it.  During that same time period, between one third and one half of all the doctors in the United States used homeopathic remedies to one degree or another.  “Eclectic physicians” roamed the land–practitioners who today we would call naturopaths, who exclusively used natural therapies to strength the immune system and to combat disease.

Then things began to change.  We moved into a period in which antibiotics and steroids seemingly replaced the need for natural medicine, specifically for homeopathy.  During these years–the period of time in which I was born and grew to adulthood, always partaking freely of all that allopathic medicine had to offer–homeopathy came to be seen as old-fashioned. Then it was seen as something silly.  And then, with the best efforts of the quackbusters, as the worst form of medical fraud.

In this environment and during this period of time, only those who, like me, experienced a total failure of allopathic medicine in our own lives were ultimately desperate enough to give homeopathy a try.  Personally, when I attended my first lecture on the subject in the summer of 1980 (having moved to the state of Connecticut, which, unbeknownst to me, was a hotbed of homeopathy), I made so much fun of the subject matter and of the speaker–an unfortunate little gentleman with a bow tie and a passionate dedication to what I thought was the stupidest excuse for “Medical treatment” that I had ever heard of–that I not only was personally unmoved by his lecture, but managed to undermine his message for everyone in the room, thanks to the series of bon mots that I delivered in not too much of a sotto voce from the back row.  I sat with my arms folded, staring at my red Converse All-Stars, waiting for the lecture to end.  Peggy, my friend who had brought me, was red-faced.  She jabbed me in the side with her elbow, but I was enjoying the moment too much to stop.  And, besides, it was all just too easy:  Microdoses?  Come on.  Like Cures Like?  On what planet?

It was voodoo to me.

It was still voodoo when I ultimately went to see my first homeopath. By then, I was producing TV for PBS stations in New England and co-hosting my own show as well.  The job was good, but stressful.  I developed colitis which morphed into Crohn’s Disease and, after I got a prognosis of a strong likelihood of colon cancer at some point in the future, I decided what so many others have decided:  that I had nothing to lose by giving homeopathy a try.

Where allopathy couldn’t cure me–despite the fact workers had good health insurance in those days and I lived in a state with some of the best medical professionals in the nation–homeopathy did.  It’s just that simple.  It wasn’t overnight.  But I improved seemingly overnight.  Within days of my first visit, and within hours of taking my first remedy, Sulphur, I improved dramatically.  And I haven’t had a bout of colitis in over twenty years.  It’s gone.  I am healed of it.

That’s my story in a nutshell.  It was a common enough story in the ’70s and ’80s and ’90s.  But things are different now.  Not that we have found a better form of medicine, something that works better than homeopathy.  No, what has changed is the sheer number of people who are now desperate as I was desperate.  In this time of great economic strife, with millions unemployed and many, many millions uninsured or underinsured when it comes to health care–and, worst of all, in a time in which our politicians are using health reform as a means of getting votes and not as an issue that needs to be tackled head on and solved (Are you listening Congressman Boehner, you of the orange face and the shriveled heart?)–the crisis and the desperation is not being caused by any one illness, but, instead, by the fact that so many of us have no means of getting any form of healthcare.  We have no access to it.  We can’t afford it.  I have been denied health insurance for years now–not because I can’t afford it, but because I inherited labile hypertension from my father and therefore can’t find an insurer who will cover me.  (Are you listening, Mr. President–when you push for coverage of pre-existing conditions, could you also push for a cap on how much the insurers can charge me before you force me by law to buy health insurance?  Just a thought…)

With so many of us uninsured, unemployed, underinsured and underemployed, we need to take a tip from the New England housewives of old:  we need to all have a homeopathic remedy kit under our beds, and we need to learn how to use it.

I’ve spent thirty years of my life studying, teaching and writing about homeopathy and I have learned the following:  it is a safe form of self-treatment, it is a form of self-treatment that the average lay person can learn to use effectively and appropriately for typical household emergencies, it is a surprisingly cheap form of medical treatment, and it is, above all else, a wonderfully effective form of medical treatment.

This is not to say that there are not some other great forms of holistic healthcare available today.  Acupuncture is a magnificent form of treatment, as is chiropractic medicine.  But the difference is this:  of all the forms of safe and effective holistic treatments, only homeopathy can be learned and practiced in the home.  I, for one, could not imagine learning how to stick needles into my own arm or the arm of someone dear to me who is suffering.  In the same way, I can’t imagine doing a chiropractic adjustment on myself, my family members or my dog.  I can and do, however, know what remedy to use when I have a cold or a flu, or when someone in my family has a toothache or experiences a physical injury.  In more severe emergencies, I know what to do until the ambulance arrives.  But taking charge myself, but learning what I need to learn, I am able to cut my medical expenses (you should excuse the pun) to the bone, while enjoying a form of medicine that is safe, effective and inexpensive.

I say that it is time for millions of Americans to realize that our circumstances have shifted. That there will be no quick solution to the economic troubles that we are in.  Hillary Clinton once famously noted that “it takes a village” to raise a child.  Nowadays, it takes a village to keep a village afloat.  If we are to wait until the politicians solve the almost overwhelming array of issues in front of us, we shall surely die.  If we wait until healthcare reform actually takes place in this country, I fear that our deaths will be from old age.

Better to let this circumstances that are now driving so many of our thoughts and actions lead us to a better way.  In these days of desperation, isn’t it time we all gave homeopathy a try?

Do we really have anything, at this point, to lose?