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Sports enthusiasts turning to homeopathic remedies.

Americans are increasingly using homeopathic medicines for common ailments -- especially allergies, sinusitis, headaches, insomnia, and colds and flu. Not as many know there are homeopathic medicines for common sports and exercise injuries and that these natural medicines are extremely effective in augmenting the body's inherent abilities to heal injuries.

While conventional drugs may be invaluable in reducing the pain of injuries, homeopathic medicines actually aid the healing process, enabling people to recover faster and to get back to their exercise regimens. Whether one is a serious athlete, an active aerobicist or a weekend warrior, occasional injuries are part and parcel of the lifestyle -- and it is good to know that there are safe, effective, natural remedies to help heal the bumps and bruises that are all too common.

Though homeopathy has much to offer for treating injuries and trauma, that is not to say that homeopathic care should replace standard first aid practices or conventional medical care. In fact, homeopaths honor the various standard first aid practices in use today, as well as many lifesaving medical and surgical procedures. And homeopathic medicine can be used in conjunction with conventional treatments.

Evidence of the efficacy of homeopathic medicine isn't just anecdotal. In fact, the British Medical Journal published a review of homeopathic research and showed that there have been 107 controlled studies, 81 of which showed efficacy of homeopathic treatment.

In light of sports and exercise injuries, one double-blind study shows a significant reduction of pain and swelling when homeopathic products are used to treat ankle sprains. Another double-blind study indicates that Arnica is more effective in resolving hematomas than placebos.

Classical homeopathy refers to using a homeopathic approach in which a single medicine is individualized to a sick person according to the unique pattern of symptoms that that person is experiencing. This approach to using homeopathic medicines is extremely effective in treating a host of ailments and injuries, though one must obtain one or several good homeopathic guidebooks to be able to determine which remedies to use.

Such guidebooks provide instructions on how to treat common ailments that aren't life-threatening. However, treating any serious or chronic condition requires the care of a professional homeopath.

However, because typical consumers simply want to relieve specific complaints, they aren't usually interested in reaming about homeopathy in depth. Here's where a more user-friendly type of homeopathy has an important place.

Commercial homeopathy consists of using homeopathic formulas -- usually two to eight homeopathic remedies mixed together, each of which has the capacity to treat a specific ailment or injury, though in slightly different ways. Homeopathic formulas provide a more broad-spectrum effect, aiding the healing process of most people. Typically, these formulas are marketed with specific references to the ailments or injuries they are known to treat; this makes selection extremely easy.

Homeopathic formulas are particularly amenable to treating injuries; they may, in fact, be more useful than just single ingredient homeopathic medicines. Because an injured person often experiences trauma to skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments and possibly bone, a single homeopathic remedy that's known to be effective in, say, treating muscle injuries will provide some benefits but not enough to heal the various injuries sustained. A homeopathic formula, on the other hand, usually contains several remedies that may be useful in augmenting the healing of various concurrent injuries.

At first, it's difficult to imagine how homeopathic medicines can be effective in treating injuries because the basic principle of homeopathy is to use microdoses of substances that cause symptoms similar to those that the sick person is experiencing. The obvious question becomes: Are there substances that cause symptoms of injury?

The simple answer is yes.

Arnica montana (mountain arnica) is an herb that causes, experimentally in overdose, a bruised feeling all over the body. Because Arnica montana has an affinity to cause muscle aches in overdose, it's effective in treating these symptoms in homeopathic doses.

Likewise, homeopaths use Symphytum (comfrey) for injuries to the bone, including fractures. It's not that the Symphytum actually breaks bones; rather, its high content of calcium, in overdose, leads to symptoms of brittle bones. Therefore, homeopathic doses of Symphytum help to strengthen and repair bones.

Treating injuries with homeopathic medicines is often very easy. Whereas healing diseases with homeopathic medicines requires individualized treatment of people's unique pattern of symptoms, people who are injured usually experience similar symptoms and generally require similar curative processes to heal their injuries. Because of this, there are certain homeopathic medicines that are used considerably more often than others for treating certain injuries.

For instance, Arnica montana is the leading medicine for muscle injuries from strain or from overexertion. Hypericum (Saint-John's-wort) is the premier remedy for injuries to the nerves or to such parts of the body richly supplied with them as the feet, fingers, and back.

Rhus toxicodendron (poison ivy) is the leading remedy for injuries to connective tissue as a result of sprains or strains. Ruta graveolens is the most common remedy for injuries to the knee and elbow, and to traumas to the periosteum (the bone covering).

The use of homeopathic combination formulas makes a lot of sense in treating injuries. For example, a homeopathic formula for sprains and strains may include Rhus toxicodendron, Ruta graveolens, Arnica, as well as several other remedies known for treating chronic strains.

Homeopathic formulas for bone or joint injuries typically include Symphytum, Ruta graveolens and Calcarea phosphorica (calcium phosphate) for injuries to bones and joints -- and Rhus toxicodendron for injuries to the connective tissue.

Besides using homeopathic formulas in pill form for internal consumption, there are also formulas for external applications. Usually in gel or ointment form, these remedies can be used for various kinds of sports pain or even burns.

It is initially perplexing to know that homeopaths use Rhus toxicodendron to treat sprains and strains. Since poison ivy is known to cause skin rashes, its value in treating injuries seems doubtful, at least until you know something more about the different toxicological effects that poison ivy has on the body. Not only does it cause skin rashes, it also has an affinity for connective tissue, causing great stiffness as though a part of the body were sprained or strained. Therefore, homeopathic doses of this herb can help heal the symptoms that it causes.

One other unusual substance in homeopathy is lactic acid. People involved in sports and exercise know that muscles secrete lactic acid during exercise, the buildup of which leads them to feel fatigued. Homeopathic doses of lactic acid, however, help the body reabsorb lactic acid more efficiently so that people who are exercising don't experience the fatigue of a "first wind" and are able to exercise for longer periods of time.

Homeopathic formulas containing lactic acid also usually include Arnica to help prevent stiffness or muscle pain after long workouts. These formulas are typically marketed for aiding people's energy and endurance during exercise.

Homeopathic medicines are a useful addition to home medicine cabinets. They're safe, effective and easy to use.
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Author:Ullman, Dana
Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:May 15, 1995
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