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Healing with homeopathy: galapagos: a wealth of homeopathic medicines, from iguanas to Sally Lightfoot Crabs: part 2.

In our last column, we discussed five members of the plant, animal, and mineral kingdom, found on the Galapagos Islands, which do exist as proven homeopathic medicines: Mancinella, Opuntia, albatross, stingray, and Hecla lava. In this second column on Galapagos, we explore a number of other animals found on the islands, only a few of which exist as homeopathic medicines. Even those that have been used as homeopathic medicines (tortoise, pelican, penguin, iguana, crab) might have a very different symptom picture if prepared from the Galapagos source.

Galapagos Giant Tortoise (Chelonoidis Nigra)

These lumbering, prehistoric-looking reptiles are the largest living tortoises in the world. If they were not so shy and unassuming, their pure girth (up to 900 pounds) and size (lengths of over 6 feet) would be daunting. In the wild, their lives span over 100 years, in captivity up to 170 years. The size and shape of the shell, 3 feet across, has adapted, variably, according to the height of vegetation and other factors. In the islands of humid highlands, the tortoises are larger, with short necks and domed shells. In the dry lowlands, the tortoises are smaller, with long necks and "saddleback" shells. Since tortoises are cold-blooded and thus unable to generate their own body heat, they must get it from their surroundings. For this reason, they climb up to the tops of the Galapagos volcanic rims in order to absorb the warmth. Males rise to the occasion of mating in a suit of armor by climbing on top of the females, the concave bottoms of their shells fitting spoon-like over the domed shells of the females.

In the 16th century, when the Galapagos were discovered, the tortoise species thrived, up to 250,00 total. By the 1970s the numbers, due to rapacious plunder for hunting tortoise meat and oil; disappearance of habitat due to agriculture; and introduction of nonnative predators, including pigs, goats, and rats, had dropped to around 3000.

We were able to visit crianzas de tortugas, or tortugueras, protected breeding stations and reserves, on the islands of San Cristobal, Santa Cruz, and Isabela. The creatures were impressively massive, moved at a slow but steady pace, and munched contentedly on leaves. Herbivores, they subsist on a diet of cacti, leaves, grasses, lichens, and berries. Interestingly enough, they have no problem feeding on the Mancineila (poison apple) plants that we mentioned in last month's column as being so poisonous to humans. In the reserve, we observed large numbers of the giant tortoises resting happily in the grass or, in wet swampy areas, covered with mud. In contrast to the huge elders, we were able to see a baby tortoise only one day old, the size of a quarter. Great care is taken to protect these surprisingly vulnerable wonders of nature.

There is a homeopathic medicine made from tortoise shell (Testudo), which we had prepared by Hahnemann Laboratories some years ago for a patient. She was extremely shy and withdrawn, and was fascinated by turtles, of which she had many as pets. We tried the remedy with her for a short time, before she left treatment, without significant results. The remedy has, however, been available since that time to other homeopaths throughout the world. A second tortoise remedy (Testudo hermanni) is also available, both in the form of the shell and the blood. When blood is used to prepare a homeopathic medicine, typically only a drop or two or used, and no harm is done to the animal. The tortoise shell that we had prepared into a medicine came from a small amount of shell scraped from one of the patient's pets.

Galapagos Land Iguana (Conolophus Subcristatus)

Of all the unusual animals in the islands, it was the iguanas that we found most captivating, particularly the land iguanas. This particular species is endemic to the islands, primarily Fernandina, Isabela, Santa Cruz, North Seymour, Hood, and South Plaza. Though Darwin described these threatening-looking, but harmless to humans, creatures as "hideous animals" with "a singularly stupid appearance," we found their appearance strikingly attractive and unique. Males, however, fight among themselves over prime territories, sometimes battling for hours at a time. There are an estimated 5000 to 10,000 land iguanas on the islands. These reptiles weight up to 25 pounds, live up to 50 or 60 years, and grow to a length of 3 to 5 feet. Cold-blooded, they enjoy basking in the sun absorbing heat from the volcanic rocks on which they lie. Another fascinating feature is the symbiotic relationship that they share with birds which remove and ingest ticks and parasites. They are primarily herbivorous and obtain most of their moisture from the Opuntia cactus, which we also explored in our last article.

The color of the scales varies depending on the island of habitat. We were not able to visit Wolf Volcano, where there is a beautiful rose-colored land iguana, discovered as recently as 2009. We did, however, share their company on several other islands. It was on South Plaza that we could observe, from a distance of a foot or two, a number of sizeable yellow land iguanas.

Although there are a number of homeopathic medicines made from reptiles, including Amphisbaena vermicularis (snake lizard, which is actually not closely related to lizards), chameleon, gecko (which I had made into a homeopathic medicine) Heloderma horridus (Gila monster), Lazerta (green lizard), and, further afield, Tyrannosaurus rex (tyrant lizard king) and Maiasaurus (dinosaur, or, literally, "mother lizard.") However, there is no preparation, to my knowledge, made from any iguana.

Galapagos Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus Cristatus)

Marine iguanas are found only on the Galapagos Islands and possess the ability, unique among lizards, to live and forage in the sea. This is an iguana found throughout the Galapagos Islands, though the appearance and size vary somewhat from island to island. Males may grow up to 5 feet or more (almost half of which is tail), and weigh up to 31/2 pounds. The color develops as they age the youngsters are black, while adults can be combinations of black, green, red, or gray, depending on which island they inhabit. One of our most fascinating pastimes during our recent stay in Galapagos was to observe the countless marine iguanas ambling across the beach, moving right arm and leg together, then left arm and leg. Clumsy on land, they are graceful swimmers. We had to remind ourselves occasionally that they posed no threat whatsoever to us, especially upon the foreboding sight of dozens of these prehistoric reptiles gathered together.

Vegetarians, they feed on seaweed on the rocks, in tidal pools, or in the sea. All iguanas are capable swimmers, but marine iguanas to a greater extent. It is only the largest iguanas, typically males, who swim out past the waves, diving 1 to 30 meters, then feeding underwater. Most often they spend only a few minutes underwater because they need outside heat to keep warm. They swim by moving from side to side, holding their legs close to their bodies. Their flattened tails serve them quite well for swimming. Longer, sharp claws allow them to cling tightly to rocks along the shore, so that they are not pulled out to sea by waves. Marine iguanas live in large colonies for most of the year. Large males assemble "harems" of several females, and guard them against intrusion from other males. Males become quite territorial during the breeding season, December and January, first bobbing their heads up and down as a gesture of threat, with mouths open, locking heads, then pushing, shoving, and charging. When food is scarce, not only do these curious reptiles become thinner, but they become shorter as well, growing again when food becomes plentiful. Another odd habit of marine iguanas is to sneeze salt, which is accomplished by a gland connected to the nostrils, while they bask in the sun.

We would be highly interested in seeing a proving of these unusual reptiles. It would be fascinating, as homeopaths, to imagine the kind of patient who could potentially benefit from this medicine!

Galapagos Sea Lion (Zalophus Wollebaeki)

The first animals that we encountered upon arriving in Puerto Baquerizo, San Cristobal, were sea lions. It was impossible to miss these huge, blubbery masses of flesh, "MI barking loudly along the public beach just outside our hotel. In fact, Bob did almost miss a particularly enormous male at dusk. But, when he came dangerously close to stepping on the sleeping lump, the sea lion turned abruptly and threateningly with a clear verbal warning to back off. Occasionally, we happened upon adorable baby sea lions, usually cuddling with each other with no parent in sight. Our most delightful sea lion experience in Galapagos was our last morning in San Cristobal at the loberia. We had our taxi driver drop us off at the entrance to the beach and requested that he pick us up an hour and a half later, just in time to catch our flight. It was fantastic to scramble across the volcanic rock in the company of sea lions frolicking in the waves, youngsters nestled in the rocks sunning themselves, and what appeared to be newborns just at the water's edge.

This is a species of sea lion that breeds exclusively in the Galapagos and, in smaller numbers, on an island in Ecuador. They number between 25,00 to 50,000 in population. Fairly social, their playful presence, loud barking, soulful eyes, and adorable facial expressions make them a most endearing inhabitant of the islands. Slightly smaller than their California cousins, up to 8 feet long, and weighing up to 900 pounds, they have pointy, whiskered noses and long, narrow muzzles. Often confused with seals, they "walk" on their fore-flippers, which seals do not. Their streamlined bodies and flipperlike feet allow them to propel themselves easily and gracefully through crashing surf and perilously sharp coastal rocks. From birth, a mother sea lion can recognize her pup's distinctive bark out of a crowd of 30 or more barking sea lions.

Enormous as they can sometimes be, Galapagos sea lions are quite vulnerable to human activity, especially due to their inquisitive, social nature, as well as to fishermen's nets, sharks, and killer whales. One of our most special sea lion experiences was at the public wharf on Santa Cruz where the fishermen deliver fresh fish each morning for purchase primarily by restaurants and townspeople. They are quite adept at rapidly filleting the fresh catch of the day and tossing the bones and scraps into a garbage pail. In addition to a multitude of squawking, flapping, shivering pelicans were one or two cheeky sea lions, pushing their way aggressively into the melee, fighting for their chance at the scraps.

There is no homeopathic medicine made from sea lion, but it would be an important addition to the materia medica.

Sally Lightfoot Crab (Galapagos Crab, Red Rock Crabs; Grapsus Grapsus)

Undoubtedly the most striking feature of this delightful crustacean, known as "zapaya," is its stunning Day-Glo red and yellow shell and legs, with a blue hue on its undersurface. Some specimens are bright orange or red with dorsal stripes or spots, blue or green on the underside, and exhibiting red claws and pink or blue eyes. These crabs are prolific on all of the volcanic islands in Galapagos. These marine beauties have the incredible ability to walk on water, as they move or jump from rock to rock, and are skilled at scaling vertical gradients. The flat shells, or carapaces, measure 3 to 5 inches in length. First sighted by Darwin on his maiden voyage in 1835, they also inhabit South and Central American coasts, and other nearby islands. Their five vividly colored pairs of legs allow them to dash away quickly to safety behind rocks when approached, though they are used as bait when fishermen are fast enough to catch them. This attractive crab has been observed symbiotically removing ticks from marine iguanas on Galapagos.

The only crab that has been prepared homeopathically, as far we know, is the hermit crab (Coenobita clypeatus), which Judyth had made by a pharmacy, but which has not been proved as a medicine. Individuals needing homeopathic medicines made from animals often exhibit curious, attractive, and provocative characteristics of the species itself. Since Sally is such a one-of-a-kind crab, it would be fascinating to see what kind of patient could benefit from it homeopathically, and we hope that a proving will be conducted in the future.

The last two Galapagos animal species that we want to include are birds whose relatives do exist in the homeopathic pharmacopoeia: pelican and penguin.

Pelican (Pelecanus Occidentalis)

Galapagos brown pelicans frequent the harbors of most of the islands in Galapagos and are considered to be an endemic subspecies of pelican. Their wingspan is about 71/2 feet and they are exceptionally graceful in flight, soaring with wings wide open. These large birds have extremely useful gular sacs (pouched bills), which make them versatile fishers, scooping up fish with the bill-tip by tossing them up in the air, then allowing them to slide into the gullet head first. The giant throat pouches make pelicans unique among birds. The specially designed bone and muscle system operates the beak and pouch. The pouch normally folds conveniently under the bill, expanding and stretching to many times its original size during fishing so that it can store large amounts of catch. Pelicans rub the backs of their heads on preen glands, absorbing the oily secretion, which they transfer to their feathers to waterproof them.

On South Plaza Island, we loved watching the pelicans as they glided elegantly in the breeze, plunging with full force into the water with beak open and wings extended, the tail and two large feet never penetrating the water. A Discovery Channel-like experience was watching pelicans compete with the intrusive sea lion at the fish bar in Santa Cruz. When the fishermen did toss them a fish, it landed in the gullet, which was quite impressive. There must have been a dozen of the rather awkward-looking feathered friends, huddling in anticipation, waiting to pounce on any spare scrap of freshly cut fish. They weren't the least bit put off by the throng of tourists snapping enthusiastically snappy photos (ourselves included).

Jonathan Shore, MD, the authority on homeopathic bird medicines, documented a proving of the brown pelican. The core theme was the freedom to be, free of judgment. These people suffer from the opinions of others as to how they should appear and act in the world. Other features include connection versus separation; calmness versus anxiety or fear; and solemnity, joy, and purity. Physical characteristics were right-sidedness of symptoms, hypersensitivity, painful and weak teeth and gums, and piercing, needlelike pains in various parts of the body, particularly the eye and chest. We have not had any cases of Pelican that we can refer to in this column.

Penguin (Spheniscus Mendiculus)

This species of penguin, endemic to the Galapagos Islands, is the only penguin outside of captivity that lives north of the equator. The reason that it can survive is the cool temperatures resulting from the Humboldt Current and cool waters from the depth of the sea brought up by the Cromwell Current. The Galapagos penguin, similar to other species found on the coasts of mainland South America and Africa, is banded. Typical size is 19 inches long and average weight is 5 1/2 pounds. Juveniles possess totally dark heads, while adults have black heads with white borders running from behind the eye. Ninety percent of the Galapagos penguins reside on Fernandina and the west coast of Isabela. Compared with the other animals mentioned in this and the previous column, which we observed in large numbers, we only saw a few penguins. The species is endangered, with an estimated population of about 1500, making it the rarest penguin species. The penguin population suffered an alarming decline of over 70% in the 1980s, but is slowly recovering, thanks to conscious preservation efforts. Marine predators include sharks, fur seals, and sea lions; on land penguins are threatened by cats, dogs, rats crabs, snakes, owls, and hawks. They also face human-generated dangers, such as illegal fishermen disturbing their nests or catching them in nets by mistake.

The penguin that has been proved homeopathically is the Humboldt penguin (Speniscus humbolti). This species lives along the Pacific coastline of Chile and Peru, and numbers around 10,000 individuals. Like all penguins, the Humboldt is a flightless marine bird that can survive in some of the coldest and most inhospitable places on Earth. It is fascinating that fossil records suggest that penguins could once fly, but gave up flight for sea life 60 to 70 million years ago, the wings evolving into narrow, bony flippers. In fact, early explorers mistook penguins for fish, rather than fowl, because they were so well adapted to life in the water.

The proving was conducted in Munich, Germany, by Peter Mohr. The core idea was one of being pushed aside and excluded from society--of not getting one's turn or receiving what is rightfully due, despite having done something special to deserve it. Key aspects of the proving include doing things right or wrong, cliques, precision, black and white, clean and dirty, and a smoldering anger at having been excluded.

Galapagos: Tremendous Wealth for Future Homeopathic Medicines

The intriguing animal, plant, and mineral substances that we have discussed in our two-part column only skim the surface of possibilities for homeopathic provings and medicines in the future. The isolation of the Galapagos prior to the arrival of explorers and, more recently, scientists and tourists from around the planet, has made for a unique and exceptional environment and a treasure trove of indigenous species. We hope that homeopaths can avail themselves of some of these remarkable elements of nature in the future to heal patients who need these very medicines.

by Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, DHANP, LCSW, and Robert Ullman, ND

Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are licensed naturopathic physicians, board certified in homeopathy. Their books include the upcoming Homeopathic Treatment of Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar Disorder and other Mental and Emotional Problems (a revision of the previous title Prozac Free), as well as A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism, Ritalin-Free Kids, Rage-Free Kids, Prozac Free, Homeopathic Self-Care: The Quick and Easy Guide for the Whole Family, Whole Woman Homeopathy, The Patient's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine, and Mystics, Masters, Saints and Sages: Stories of Enlightenment. The doctors have taught internationally, and they practice at the Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds and Langley, Washington. The doctors live on Whidbey Island, Washington, and in Pucon, Chile. They treat patients by phone and videoconference, as well as in person, and can be reached at 425-774-5599,,, or
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Author:Reichenberg-Ullman, Judyth; Ullman Robert
Publication:Townsend Letter
Geographic Code:0PACR
Date:Jun 1, 2012
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