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Homeopathy for surviving a volcanic eruption.

What Are the Odds?

You might say that we are crazy to live at the foot of the most active volcano in Chile, right on the Ring of Fire. And you might be right. When we fell in love with and decided to steward this stunning piece of property in Pucon, Chile, 10 years ago, we did investigate the volcano risk pretty thoroughly before signing the dotted lines. The word that we have always used to best describe our southern piece of heaven is elemental. Our volcano, Volcan Villarrica ("rich mountain" in English, but the indigenous Mapuche name is Rucapillan, "House of the Spirit") lies just in front of our door, 12 kilometers (7 1/2 miles) up the Volcano Road. Historically, this volcano erupts as often as every 20 years, but the previous eruption was in 1984 (the year that we met). Until 5 days ago, that is, when she really blew. Villarrica has a pattern of sending lava trails down fairly predictable crevices, rather than spewing ash far and wide like Mount St. Helen's. Nevertheless, the eruption earlier this year was world class.

In 2005, having checked into the eruption history, we figured that our odds were good to avoid an eruption; and, even if we did experience one, our land, high on a hill, would likely not suffer damage. Little did we imagine that our recent column on homeopathy for climbing a volcano (April 2015) would be soon followed by one on homeopathy for a volcanic eruption!

We have a pattern of missing Mother Nature's giant hiccoughs down here. In 2010, returning from a challenging week in the Brazilian Amazon, we were flying over the expanse of Brazil just when the big Chile earthquake hit. We met the LAN Chile flight attendant at the gate only to hear from her, in Spanish, "There has been a massive earthquake in Chile and the world is ending." No joke--that is what she told us.

In March we were scheduled to fly back to our Chilean home from Quito, Ecuador, where we attended a wonderful Dances of Universal Peace retreat and hiked/ rode horseback in Cotopaxi National Park. You must really be questioning our sanity now because Cotopaxi is 19,300 feet high, and also one of the most active volcanoes in South America. Some consider it to be the world's highest active volcano, but the last eruption was in 1940, before either of us was born. There we hiked up to 14,674 feet, and did indeed experience altitude sickness (soroche) for which we took, successfully, homeopathic Erythroxylon (coca) and a local herbal tea called Sunfo.

A week later, we arrived at the Quito airport at the crack of dawn (our taxi picked us up at 4 a.m.) only to be told that our flight was being delayed nearly an entire day due to mechanical problems. After the initial bristling, we were reminded of a story that we had just heard at our retreat. Papa Ramdas was a famous Indian saint who from 1884 to 1963 lived a simple, humble life. He wanted nothing for himself, was completely surrendered to God in the form of Ram (Ramdas means "servant of God"), and chanted "Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram" day and night. This is now one of the most popular kirtan chants. One night he arrived at a train station in the traditional garb of a wandering saint carrying a begging bowl. He was promptly arrested by the police for vagrancy and escorted to a local jail cell. The following morning, the highly chagrined local authority apologized profusely, explaining that they had no idea that they had inadvertently incarcerated one of India's most beloved saints. "No problem," responded Papa Ramdas. "I had no place to sleep and you offered me a bed. I had no food, and you offered me something to eat. And now you are taking me back to the train station. How mysterious are the ways of Ram!" As the day unfolded in Quito, that was our mantra. Little did we know it was only the beginning of Ram's mischief!

A Sudden, Fiery Blaze of Fury

The group who missed the flight was taken by taxi to a five-star Carlton hotel and fed a fabulous buffet breakfast and lunch--much savored after the retreat's rather ordinary culinary fare. We met new friends, and Bob got to give a Bowen/Matrix treatment to a gentleman headed down to Patagonia to hike who was suffering from severe back pain. We had a few hours to spare, so we headed to the first UNESCO World Heritage site, Plaza San Francisco, to visit the celebrated La Compania church. A block away, we happened upon the weekly changing of the presidential palace guard and found ourselves, among many others, waving at Rafael Correa, economist and very popular president of the Republic of Ecuador. We did eventually land in Santiago, Chile, at 5:30 the following morning, half a day late. Having checked our packs for a flight a few hours later to southern Chile, we hoped to enjoy a preflight breakfast. On arriving at the restaurant, we were transfixed by the fiery images on the screen. About 4 hours before, our very own volcano had erupted with a spectacular, unforgettable show of force. And we had missed it! We immediately called our caretaker, who assured us that humans, animals, and property were all safe and well. President Michelle Bachelet appeared on the screen and declared Pucon to be in a state of emergency/red alert. We were in shock!

On the plane to Temuco (the closest large airport to Pucon), we conversed with a member of the Channel 13 news team, who pumped Judyth for information about the environs of the volcano and offered to transport us home to Pucon in exchange for a news scoop. We were amazed to see no police or army on the road stopping us. It turned out that they didn't arrive until the following day. Nelson, our caretaker, who was born and raised in the area and observed the whole spectacle from our rooftop deck, with the volcano front and center, immediately became "our man in Pucon." He spent the afternoon guiding and being interviewed by the TV team, and has the 6 minutes of video interview to prove it!

Panic Sets In Then Subsides

It took a few hours for the gravity of the situation to sink in. Chile is accustomed to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The president of Chile, volcanologists, seismologists, police, army, and newspeople arrived on the scene. The problem was that the eruption sent a fiery wall several thousand feet vertical, lava poured down the usual cracks, destroying two bridges, then the mass of volcanic material landed right down where it originated, capping the crater. Locals had always told us that it was a really good sign whenever smoke was emitted from the crater (often over the previous 10 years). But now the sulfurous gas and molten lava were trapped inside, making likely a second eruption. It would be only a matter of time. That sent the locals into panic mode. The powers that be urged evacuation for residents living near the volcano (we were just outside the zone), and most of our neighbors complied. We evacuated, with our two golden retrievers, late Tuesday night to stay with friends half an hour away, but returned the following morning, determined to stay. We hear that some of those who hastily fled in fear suffered auto collisions, and that a general pandemonium ensued. After a day, the great majority of the tourists and many locals had evacuated (about 3500 according to news reports), the eeriness of all the restaurants' and supermarkets' being closed passed, and, the rhythm of life as we knew it pretty much returned. We felt greatly supported by our caretaker family, who vowed to stay to protect our land, along with our guardian German shepherd, five cats, sheep, and chickens. And, after a night of our own escape, we returned to where we felt the most safe: home. Only very briefly did we consider catching a flight back to the US.

To add a bit more perspective, several years ago we visited the town of Chaiten, in Patagonia, while on a kayak trip in Pumalin Park. There, in late April of 2008, the Michinmahuida volcano, long dormant, erupted for the first time in 9500 years! Nearby Chaiten (population 4200) was covered with a thick blanket of ash, much of which still remains 7 years later. That was our greatest fear, but this ash-spewing tendency has not been the nature of Villarrica. Nevertheless, that was the worst-case scenario in our minds, since we had also been close enough to Mount St. Helen's, when she erupted, to hear the thunderous roar (Bob on the Oregon coast, and Judyth on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington). Two years ago, when close friends came down to celebrate Judyth's 65th birthday, we vacationed in Bariloche and Villa La Angostura, Argentina, still affected by the eruption of the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcano, also in Southern Chile, 8 months earlier. We were impressed by the giant earth movers parked amidst 6-foot-high hills of volcanic ash by the side of the road. So it took a couple of days to convince ourselves that our volcano has never behaved in this way, and to calm ourselves. Knowing that those of us still here would stay close in touch and help out when needed, and that our loved ones back home trusted that we could make wise decisions to remain safe, we were reassured.

All Is Well

The best advice that we can give, in this and any other emergency (or nonemergency) situation is to remind ourselves, "All is well." This was the mantra of the beloved spiritual teacher Robert Adams (see his story in our book Mystics, Masters, Saints and Sages: Stories of Enlightenment) as well as the first words of Dr. Eben Alexander, respected neurosurgeon and author of Proof of Heaven, during his 60 Minutes interview that we happened to see on Facebook. These words convey a fundamental natural order of the universe, despite what appears to be chaos. Overriding whatever natural disaster, crisis, tragedy, dire diagnosis, or other seemingly horrific set of events, there lies an underlying perfection. We may not be able to experience or appreciate it at the time, but it is a timeless, placeless, universal principle that affects and protects each and every one of us. In the moment of chaos, that calm and peaceful presence may not always be easily accessible, but there is no more profound message that we can offer.

Homeopathic Medicines for the Effects of a Volcanic Eruption

These remedies come to mind:

Aconitum napellus (monkshood): This is the first remedy to think of for fear and panic in a natural or other disaster, whether it is an earthquake, landslide, attack, riots, or other shocking event. It is said to be the most acute of all homeopathic medicines. The feeling is sheer terror; of a sudden, intense threat that will lead to immediate death. There is a tremendous anxiety, restlessness, and nervous excitability. The individual doesn't know where to go or what to do, but this state can pass as quickly as it arose. There is great impatience, excitability, hurriedness, heart palpitations, thirst, and dryness of the skin; a sympathetic nervous system/ fight-or-flight response.

Arsenicum album (arsenic): The symptoms are similar to those of Aconite, but less sudden. There is tremendous anxiety and restlessness and a strong desire for company. The person fears death, disease, being poisoned or contaminated, and being alone. The sense of anguish is similar to that of Aconite. There is increased thirst for sips of water, fear of robbers, fastidiousness, and feeling extremely cold.

Arnica montana (leopard's bane): This is the number one remedy for injuries of all kinds, trauma, contusion, bruising, bleeding, and shock. The individual may insist that (s)he feels fine and is not in need of any assistance.

Ignatia (St. John's Wort): The predominant medicine for grief and loss. This would be the remedy for devastation over losing property or loved ones in an eruption. The person wails, weeps uncontrollably, sobs, and sighs.

Sulphur (sulfur): There are many homeopathic medicines that are products of volcanic eruptions, but this is the most common. We would consider this first for skin conditions following an eruption, particularly itching or rashes worsened by heat and hot baths or showers.

Hecla Lava (lava of Mount Hecla, an Icelandic volcano): This is the best-known homeopathic medicine made from a volcano. It is a silicate of calcium, magnesium, and aluminum, and also contains iron oxide. It is best known for exostoses (growths) of the bones. We are mentioning it more as an example of a volcano-derived medicine than as one to use acutely following a volcanic eruption.

Vog: This is a form of air pollution resulting from the mixture of sulfur dioxide and other gases emitted from an erupting volcano reacting with oxygen and moisture in the presence of sunlight. It comes from a combination of "smog" and "fog." The expression is used commonly in the Hawaiian Islands, especially the Big Island, where the Kilauea volcano, erupting since 1983, emits 2000 to 4000 tons of sulfur dioxide daily. We received this medicine from Michael Traub, ND, a colleague of ours who has used it successfully to treat respiratory complaints resulting from prolonged exposure to Kona and other trade winds that blow the vog to the southwest. Certainly other volcanic substances could be prepared from volcanoes worldwide.

If the predictions of future earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, especially in the Ring of Fire, prevail, then this information will hopefully prove to be of practical benefit to you and to those near and dear. Be sure to keep a homeopathic medicine kit on hand for when the need arises.

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 most recent book is The Savvy Traveler's Guide to Homeopathy and Natural Medicine: Tips to Stay Healthy Wherever You Go! (also available as an app for android and Apple cell phones). Their previous books include Homeopathic Self- Care, The Homeopathic Treatment of Depression, Anxiety and Bipolar Disorder, Whole Woman Homeopathy, Ritalin-Free Kids, Rage-Free Kids, A Drug-Free Approach to Asperger Syndrome and Autism, The Patient's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine, and Mystics, Masters, Saints and Sages: Stories of Enlightenment. New editions of Ritalin-Free, Whole Woman Homeopathy, and Homeopathic Self-Care are now available as Kindle and iBook versions, as well as mini iBooks of all of the books. The doctors live on Whidbey Island, Washington, and in Pucon, Chile, and practice at the Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds, Washington. They treat patients by phone and videoconference as well as in person. They can be reached 425-774-5599, drreichenberg@, or; their website is www.
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Title Annotation:Healing with Homeopathy
Author:Reichenberg-Ullman, Judyth; Ullman, Robert
Publication:Townsend Letter
Geographic Code:3CHIL
Date:Jun 1, 2015
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