Why I am studying Homoeopathy

One of the students I am studying with asked me what I would study if I could choose anything I wanted to. I found that question strange, but easy to answer. I would be studying Homoeopathy of course. They then went on to ask that if I had done conventional medicine, what would I be doing now, and I said that I would be studying Homoeopathy or probably have done it long ago.

I was not brought up with homoeopathy. Not at all! My mother was a nurse who fed us every form of conventional medicine. She loved hospitals and doctors. My sister was essentially drip fed on anti-histamines, that kept her sleepy for most of her young life. We had all the possible vaccinations, antibiotics with every case. We had dental checkups and horrendous fillings every six months. (Most of my natural teeth were eaten away by these).  I was fascinated by pathology and spent 2 years working in a pathology laboratory, which wakened my interest in biology and I went on to get a degree in zoology and microbiology.

I moved into the country in Cape Town, surrounded by the most magnificent plant life. What was special about these plants was that there were so many that were medicinal. As a hobby, I would collect plants and after identifying them, look up their medicinal properties. We also had a friend who was an ethnobotanist and also a medical doctor. he was a bit wacky and would experiment on himself..particularly hallucinogenic plants. He fostered an interest in the medicinal plants…and mushrooms around our rural home.  I was into hunting and gathering and we would have meals with local herbs and mushrooms. But I always had this question as to what makes a herb medicinal or edible or poisonous.20160918_115758.jpg

As a Biology teacher in a Waldorf school,I was expected to teach a main lesson on plants. My biology lessons at my own school (and in most government schools) have much to be desired .I could see NO connection to the plant kingdom then and we learned just lots of names and categories, and osmosis and capillarity and found the structure terribly boring..”you mean there are no organs inside?” As a Waldorf teacher, my challenge was to inspire my student to find a connection, and so I could only teach it the way I had found my own love of plants..through medicinal plants.DSC07556.JPG

As a Waldorf teacher, your challenge is to scaffold a lesson so that it leads the students into questioning things as opposed to delivering facts. I could have delivered a whole lot of facts around plants, but I then researched the path of herbal medicine, and found it completely fascinating. Bu it also opened up a ton of questions.. like how did people know what was medicinal? Why are plants medicinal? Why do we talk about plants as if all they do is grow? What exactly is their connection with us? And so the big journey began.

In my own life, besides using a few well known wild plants for tea, I still used Allopathic medicine.  The change came with my own child. After six doses of antibiotics with a recurring middle ear infection, I went to a homeopath and he prescribed one medication which cured him almost instantly and he never went on to get a middle ear infection again. This hyped up my interest and I never went to a conventional doctor again other than for a couple of broken limbs. I began to research Homoeopathy and why it was different to herbal medicine and structured my main lessons around these researches. I bought my own remedies and self medicated, discovered my own constitutional remedies. I investigated Anthroposophical medicine and did two fascinating courses with Michaela Glockler. As a Waldorf teacher I had a fairly solid background in Anthroposophy and had read many Steiner books and attended many conferences and courses..more with a focus on education. But my desire had been lit to go deeper into the healing arts.

When my son left home, I decided  that this was a prime opportunity to change my career once more (I have had 5 careers, whats one more?). There were lots of circle arguments in my head. I was teaching in a school I loved and had helped to build. I was still needed in my role. I would have to move to Durban. (I loved Cape Town). It was a five year course. (I was not young anymore). I would have to go back to first year (intellectually I needed a challenge..I was busy with a masters in Education. Do I finish this first? What for?). I could see that based on many older teachers I knew, that teaching had a sell by date..and I was reaching it. I found it very heart wrenching to see excellent teachers being sidelined for the younger ones and then not knowing what they should do next. I could see myself become crabby and forgetting names and repeating my life story to sweet teens too polite to tell you to shut up.

I finally took a year off to think without distractions and to slowly extricate myself from my obligations at the school. I spent the year in England volunteer working essentially as a gardener in a college for autistic teenagers amongst the most amazing plants, which I could watch daily unfolding, while also learning a lot about radical education amongst damaged teens. It was run on Biodynamic lines and I learnt a lot about that side of Anthroposophy too. (See my previous posts). I spent my time observing and photographing and drawing medicinal and poisonous plants at various stages of development. At the same time I researched their healing properties from a homoeopathic and herbal point of view. I have not posted any of this up yet, but I think it is time to do so.

And so, here I am. In Durban studying Homoeopathy amongst a group of first years just out of school. (They only accept one mature student per year).20170525_084600.jpg Thus far it has more than met my expectations. At the moment it is like any other medical course, with extensive gross  anatomy with dissection and physiology, chemistry and physics (my nightmare come true). I have a little cottage at the back of someones garden and can just see the sea. There is a library FULL of homoeopathic and herbal books including on anthroposophical medicine. I have got credit for 2 subjects from my BSc and so I use this time to peruse these books and am trying to find the key that links these two great studies. I will have to do a thesis in my 5th year, and I feel this will be the direction I would like to take. So happy me!



Strange and lovely things at DUT

There are the most majestic trees and plants at DUT that we take for granted. What greets you in the morning if you are not rushing and take the time to look up is this most beautiful HUGE rubber tree20170221_072048.jpg

This provides the lunchtime shade near the food hub.

20170201_122339.jpgEverywhere are these fever trees and two huge ones greet you as you enter the main car park. The inevitable stralitzias and giant stralitzias,so much part of this area:20170201_123456.jpg

and then there are precious cycads just casually posing here and there.20170213_074203.jpg

this building has been built around the tree.


And then there are strange statues like this one

these were surveying students surveying the grounds..something we do at Waldorf schools with the lecturers looking on and relaxing.

And unexpectedly these amazing lilies:20170223_112506

Odd things are these very effective brooms that come free from the palm trees that are everywhere. They sweep a lot at a time.20170224_071245

and then a quirky name on a take away:20170224_070909

And then I discovered a student hub:20170301_080312

Luckily, as I look older I am not questioned when I enter the staff canteen that serves the best coffee and really cheap and delicious and healthy meals. The students have to deal with instant ricoffee and real junk food (mostly vetkoek) and snacks but luckily tempered with fresh fruit.

And something unusual we enjoyed doing was painting each other to indicate the various muscles in the body. We had to know the names, origins and insertions of the major ones and teach it to each other.

Further to the course in Homoeopathy

Much of the course in first year is laying foundations in Science and Anatomy and Physiology as experienced by medical students. There are somethings I would like to change but I am withholding judgement as I am looking from a perspective of someone who has a science degree. We do basic chemistry that I find too basic and theoretical, and physics that I find too orientated to engineers driving cars although, having tried to avoid physics in my previous degree, I am enjoying the challenge, more from a mathematical perspective.20170326_100913.jpg

I am beginning to have sympathy for my matric students who chose science. Luckily my many years of teaching maths has made me very adept at manipulating it. also some things we literately did 4 times over in different subjects..this is measurement, significant figures, using SI units and rounding off. This needs more co-ordination within subjects. Another subject I find too basic is Biological principles, as most students will have done these in life Sciences at school. (although there are some delvings into microbiology) but I dont think it has been thought through sufficiently to be of value.

The subjects that are excellent are Anatomy, Histology and Physiology. There is a lot of detail and it is done in a very physical scientific way which may seem alien to homoeopathy that is more instinctive and artistic and appears unscientific, but, as with Steiner, I feel that one has to move through science to the artistic Goethean thinking. luckily I have a background in anthroposophy, and so, as we go, I form my own interpretations using the threefold method, polarities and fivefold influences of the etheric. also the animal characterisations of the organs.

The library has wonderful books, including some Steiner and Anthroposophical books that I have been reading. I have done two courses on Anthroposophical medicine..the etheric and the astral, and this has helped me to determine these influences. There is another course in October outside Cape Town that I want to attend, but my budget is quite tight and I will have to fit it in to my study leave and be back..which means additional cost for airfare.

I am living on my inheritence..so I see this as a gift from my parents and an uncle and an investment in myself. There is not enough time to work at present, but perhaps in subsequent years I will be able to adjust my time.

Also at the same time I am doing my own self study on the homoeopathic plants. Samuel Hahnemann did not put much score on the doctrine of signatures in plant morphology but only in symptoms, as he found it more rational..and it certainly is, but having been a teacher of Botany and being interested in medicinal plants for years, I am investigating their form from a Goethean perspective and relating it to their healing capacities. homoeopathy uses Like cures like in symptomology, so I am looking at the potentising effects and reversing the allopathic uses, as it seems that Homoeopathic remedies undergo a reversal in their effect when potentised. In subsequent blogs I will publish my findings. Paracelsus followed this principle.

We are also receiving lectures on the principles of Homoeopathy, which we really enjoy and do far too little of at present. It just whets the appetite. Also we are doing some basic diagnosing methods and observation of surface anatomy by a dynamic woman.

Or highlight of the week is the Human dissection, and what has impressed me is the departments commitment to provide this skill despite difficulties in obtaining bodies, but also the reverence with which they deal with it. We all attended a dedication ceremony where we acknowledged the gift of the body and the life that lived it. Our group always says thank you in entering the dissection room and when leaving. We also signed a abbreviated Hippocratic oath.20170301_084948.jpg

The slides behind show an acknowledgement of the cadaver from birth to death likening it to a sunflower seed from seed to field of flowers presented by our wonderful Histology and physiology lecturer.

This is our equally wonderful and talented anatomy lecturer introducing a pastor who is an ex-student, who dedicated the bodies.

Another lecture that is interesting for me is called Personal and professional development, where we discuss deeper issues like “who am I” and “why am I here” and have to keep a personal journal. This appears to have been introduced this year as compulsory for ALL students. I have a suspicion that this subject was introduced in order to accomodate dissent, as previous demonstrations have been damaging. (possibly recommended by Jonathan Jansen who had to deal with more extreme cases of racial dissent in a conservative city) It certainly teaches respect for others simply through the humanising of the subject..ie you are a human first and a student second.

I have mentioned the support at DUT before, but it really is tangible here. DUT, being such a mishmash of cultures and creeds could, and maybe has been a hotbed of dissent. But these opportunities allow us to interact with each other as human beings and this diffuses dissension, as we see each others struggles.20170224_105123

Homoeopathy at Durban University of technology..starting my course

We began our course with a blitzkrieg of mathematics to “clear up common errors” ..a so called bridging course. However, if you had any wobbles around maths, you would have wobbled more. The lecturer was very engaging..but perhaps too much so as he kept going off at a tangent and spending ages chatting about the origin of numbers in history and then raced over the actual issues. (reminded me a bit of Howard and other older waldorf teachers). I had not done physics since school for a very good reason but suddenly had to remember how to work out vectors. Luckily there was no calculus, as I would have been lost. I have totally forgotten logs and as I taught only up to cl 11, I had to relook at it. Also here it is very much applied.

Luckily having taught maths, I had all the algebra at my fingertips..a little bit of refreshing on trig..something I had avoided. Luckily I was also clued up on all manner of Cartesian planes.

Although I think people got a bit irritated by the lecturer going off on a tangent, he allowed a lot of interaction and error and in the end, we got to know each other much better  than otherwise. I learnt 4 names: Taylor, Lihle and siphesetle are all doing homoeopathy. Ben is doing chiropractice. A couple of others I now know by face if not name. There are a fair amount of Afrikaans speakers.!

A number have studied elsewhere for a year or so. (Lihle and Ben and a little afrikaans chicky, Heleen and one guy has a BSc too.)IMG-20170215-WA0002.jpg

There is a real mishmash of colours and creeds. Many African languages, Indian, Coloured, White, Taiwanese, Afrikaans, English. Hindu, Muslim including a couple in Hajibs, Christian. The lecturer made sure that we mixed and matched the colors in the rainbow nation. From this, we could see that all of us had issues and so made us less shy of each other. Also I did not feel so old, although I was clearly the oldest in the class..even older than the lecturer. It was a good way to begin. Also we were about 200 people from all the health science faculty: Environmental health, dental, radiology, chiropractice, homoeopathy, medical technology.

I must say I love the mixing of cultures..there is a great vibe.

Durban, if I haven’t mentioned a hundred times is HOT and humid. Luckily some of the lecture rooms are air conditioned..but they are closed during breaks..so we sit in the shade of the lovely big trees…

but it is still hot. I ice a bottle of water that I carry with me and keep an ice brick or two in a cool box in my car that I take out at lunch time to help me least the afternoon. I use it like a hot water bottle, except its cold. You HAVE to wear shorts or a skirt,otherwise you die (except on overcast days)..even then you die unless the wind is blowing. This is a little gimmick that I found at a flea market. It contains polymer beads that hold water and release it slowly to keep you cool. 20170216_135230

Durban University of Technology is a vast campus having 4 campuses across Durban..all in quite far walking distance. and there is a real maze of classrooms and lecture rooms and laboratories all linked by a maze of path ways. 20170208_064252.jpgThey offer a HUGe amount of subjects from art and drama to design, journalism and engineering, hotel school,

marketing and of course Health sciences. Here they offer radiology, nursing, chiropractice, homoeopathy, environmemtal health, medical technology.  the grounds vary, but there are lovely big trees and nooks and crannies and places to sit. Wifi is all over, so people spend a lot of time on their cellphones during breaks but we are not allowed to use them in class at all. The classrooms are airconditioned and have internet. The laboratories have good quality equipment..see these amazing zeiss microscopes.20170216_141636 I must say I prefer chalk and talk myself, as a lot of time is wasted setting up. However, all lectures and slides are posted onto a student website called blackboard so you can access anything. We all have dut emails and any notifications  go there as well. so if the university is closed for any reason, teaching can continue to some degree. The security is quite physical..classrooms are barred..trying to be tasteful, you can only enter with a student card.20170201_122339

We do a lot of practicals: anatomy (is dissection of a human body), physiology, microbiology and microscope work (histology) and also physics and chemistry. We also do diagnostics on each other in small clinic rooms.

Our class has a whatssapp group and we chatter away although we don’t know each other yet.img-20170208-wa0004 I can see that we will become firm friends at the end of this course as the University gives us many opportunities to do so and I am impressed with this. We have a course called personal and professional development where we discuss more personal issues, and go deeper into our reasons for being, with some journalling. On the whole its is a much more personal space than any other University..possibly related to the Health faculty that seems pretty organised. They have made real efforts to welcome us and make sure we attend lectures and pracs. They have even given us equipment and books.

We have only had one week of lectures so far. Much of it I know from my Bsc and am considering getting credit for some of it. But I have been helping the other students and feel good about that. I will report more on the actual content, which I am enjoying nevertheless. Many are just out of school and very nervous. The teaching, however is excellent. Engaging and thorough. There is no excuse for failing. The support is incredible.