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Classical Homeopathy: "Fitting the
Remedy to the Individual" (1986)

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

In 1986, while preparing an article on homeopathy for Consumer Reports magazine, I spent a day talking with David Wember, M.D., and watching him treat six patients. Wember practices "classical" homeopathy in which the remedy is supposedly selected to fit the individual rather than the disease. The following account of my visit was published in Nutrition Forum Newsletter in January 1987.

"Do you like your home temperature warm or cold?"
"How is your thirst?"
"Do you drink tap water? Ice water?"
"Do you eat ice?"
"Do you drink a whole glass at a time or just sip it? What's your nature?"

The questioner was David Wember, M.D., who has been practicing classical homeopathy in Falls Church, Virginia, for more than 10 years. His office resembles that of a standard family practitioner except for cabinets and open shelves which contain thousands of remedies in small bottles.

Dr. Wember, one of America's most prominent homeopaths, is a board member of the National Center for Homeopathy and directs its seminars for doctors. His manner is alert and extremely warm. On most days, he sees 10 to 12 patients, new ones for an hour and others for half an hour. ("A bit more time than the average medical doctor," he notes.) On the particular day when I observed, his patients complained of headaches, diarrhea, overweight, chronic tension, and arthritis -- symptoms typically seen in any general medical office. Each patient was asked standard medical questions plus many more about such things as emotions, moods, food preferences, and reactions to the weather.

"Homeopathy is based on all of the patient's symptoms, both emotional and physical," Dr. Wember explained. "This includes likes and dislikes, cravings and aversions to foods, and the patient's relationship to the environment. They involve the whole person and are more important than pain in the knee, or something like that, which is a symptom of only part of the person. We try to fit the remedy to the nature of the individual rather than a disease process."

As a patient's answers began to suggest a familiar pattern, Dr. Wember compared them to lists in a homeopathic materia medica and asked questions to confirm his hunches. The remedy arrived at, he removed a few granules from one of his many bottles, placed them on the patient's tongue, and arranged for another appointment. He stated:

I treat with whatever is most natural and least toxic. Most of the time I can use homeopathic remedies, which have no toxicity. But sometimes I will use drugs. For example, penicillin for a strep throat or recurrent ear problem that isn't getting better homeopathically. But most often it's the other way around. They have recurrent problems and keep getting antibiotics. Over a period of time we get them off antibiotics and the problems go away."

When asked how he responds to the charge that homeopathic treatment can delay needed medical care, he replied:

Above all, I'm a doctor. When I believe someone needs drugs or surgery, I refer that person. My approach has the advantage of not rushing in with treatment that might have harmful side effects. Many patients who see me are afraid of doctors and drugs and would not go to a regular doctor. They feel they can trust me because I don't overtreat. If they need medical care, often I can convince them to go for it. So with these patients, homeopathy fosters medical care rather than delaying it.

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This artuicle was posted on December 6, 2001.