Homeopathy and Cancer
The author takes us on a wonderful journey that encompasses cutting edge methods, history, research, materia medica, and cellular biology.
Cancer is such a pervasive and formidable condition that the capacity to treat it is perhaps the most important yardstick by which a therapeutic modality can be measured. While ‘the’ cure for cancer remains as elusive an objective as the alchemist’s pursuit of gold, there are numerous therapies, many of them relatively unknown to the population at large, that have proven effective in treating various manifestations of the disease.
Broadly speaking though, almost all of these treatments can be categorized into one of two approaches. The first aims to remove or destroy cancer cells, usually by aggressive intervention. This is best represented by conventional oncology, which employs surgery or the introduction of toxic elements into the body.
The second regards the body’s potential to heal itself as the ultimate form of cure. The goal is to stimulate a living organism to eliminate malignant tissue by restoring itself to a healthy state. This not only removes the malignancy, but also addresses the underlying cause that produced it.
As a homeopath, I have always been intrigued by this latter approach in general, and the possibilities of treating cancer with homeopathy in particular. While a handful of tiny white pellets containing highly diluted solutions of natural substances may not seem adequate to address something as aggressive and life threatening as cancer, there is both historical and contemporary evidence that, in fact, homeopathic remedies can be quite effective.
Even the most cursory search of the homeopathic Repertory – an essential compendium used by all homeopaths that correlates a huge list of symptoms with the remedies used to treat them – reveals that there are hundreds of references to cancer and tumors, as well as hundreds of homeopathic remedies used to cure them. The literature is also full of case histories where a cancer has been successfully treated.
In an earlier year, it was not unusual for homeopaths in this country to be the primary caregivers in cases of cancer. The great practitioners of the 19th century all had experience with it. As but one example, Dr. Arthur Hill Grimmer, a Californian who lived from 1874 to 1967 and practiced for 57 years, was renowned for his prowess in this regard. His unpublished work “Remedies That Have Cured Cancer” contains his experiences with nearly 100 remedies.
But today the situation has changed dramatically. For the most part, homeopathy is not regarded as a primary treatment for cancer in the United States – even amongst most homeopaths themselves. This is due to a number of factors, not the least of which is that much of the knowledge and experience of our elders along with a comprehensive educational system was lost when the institution of homeopathy, the colleges and hospitals as well as the medical status of its practitioners, was dismantled throughout the first half of the 20th century.
But that is not to say the tradition is totally lost, at least outside the United States. For instance, Dr. Prafull Vijayakar of Mumbai, India is renowned as the ‘Lion of Homeopathy’ for his work with serious pathological conditions including cancer. An astute scientific thinker, his school of ‘Predictive Homeopathy’ has integrated many concepts of traditional homeopathy and modern physiology, especially embryology and cellular biology.
He relies on a very precise, what he calls ‘mathematical’, approach toward prescribing a single dose of a remedy and patiently observing how its action affects the organism, moving through the various organs and systems like a wave rippling across the water. I was fortunate to learn something of this method when I had the opportunity to have Vijayakar’s colleague, Dr. Narendra Mehta, personally review several of his own cases of successfully treated brain tumors.
Another Indian homeopath, A.U. Ramakrishnan has developed both a very unique technique and a considerable international reputation for his work with cancer. The son of a physician from the southern city of Chennai (formerly Madras), Dr Ramakrishnan devoted himself to treating cancer after several family members died of the disease.
Frustrated that traditional methods of using homeopathic remedies were ineffective in the case of his own family, but confident that homeopathy would be effective if properly prescribed, Ramakrishnan set off on his own path to create a methodology that calls for frequent repetition of specially chosen remedies that are alternated usually on a weekly basis.
This peripatetic soul travels the globe continually, rotating through a series of cities, usually staying at a nearby airport hotel for a week or two to treat patients before moving onto the next spot. A number of years ago he gained a considerable following in this country. This was in part the consequence of dramatic positive results he attained treating the mother of an American homeopath with pancreatic cancer. He not only has a prodigious appetite for work and travel, but possesses an unfailingly optimistic disposition, which no doubt augments the efficacy of his treatment.
Yet another methodology for treating cancer has been developed by Dr. Prasanta Banerji, a third generation homeopath from the city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India. His reputation is such that nearly 1000 patients appear at his clinic every morning for consultations. The efficacy of his treatments has drawn the attention of both the American National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland as well as the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center of the University of Texas.
On one level, Dr. Prasanta Banerji is a homeopath with a prodigious appetite for service, overseeing the treatment of nearly a thousand people, many of them extremely poor, who flock to his clinic in Kolkata (formerly ‘Calcutta’), India daily. On another level, he is the developer of a highly effective and inexpensive homeopathic protocol to treat cancer that has drawn the attention of physicians and scientists from around the world, including those at the National Cancer Institute and the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in this country.
But to fully appreciate the scope of his work, it is necessary to perceive it from a larger perspective, one that looks back several centuries and encompasses the history of the British empire in India, otherwise known as the British Raj.
As Indian cities go, the city of Kolkata is a relative newcomer, dating back only to the late 17th century when a company of British merchants, the East India Trading Company, established a trading post there. As the empire grew, the triumvirate of Bombay (now known as Mumbai) on the western coast, Madras (now known as Chennai) to the south and Kolkata, which lies on the eastern coast in the state of Bengal, were the major mercantile ports of the company.
By the mid-18th century, the British held sway over the subcontinent both by establishing their control over the native rulers and people, as well as largely driving out other European imperialist powers such as the French. (The “French and Indian Wars” of the American Revolution was the North American campaign of this worldwide struggle between France and England.)
A successful campaign against the Prince of Bengal who attacked and briefly held Kolkata, further consolidated British power. Over time, the role of the merchants of the East India Company became conflated with that of governmental overseers and administrators and Kolkata became their capital city. They ruled over India for a century more, until another conflict with their subjects in 1857, known as the Indian Mutiny, became the impetus for the British government to formerly assume control over the subcontinent, leading to the dissolution of the East India Company a decade or so later.
It was around this time that a social movement began in the eastern state of Bengal, with Kolkata as its epicenter. Known as the “Bengal Renaissance” it was a time of intellectual, political and creative ferment when a group of Indian intellectuals and cultural figures – social activists, writers, religious leaders, artists and scientists – sought to merge the influence of European thought and culture as introduced by the British, with their own classical traditions.
The Bengal Renaissance has been characterized as a period of awakening, similar to the European Renaissance, that lay the groundwork for a transition from medieval to modern society. Along with an outpouring of art and literature, it promoted ‘rationalism’, social equality and political independence.
The origins of homeopathy in India can also be traced to this era. Originally introduced by German missionaries who treated the poor for free, it began to be taken up by Indian practitioners. Of note, an aristocrat named Babu Rajen Dutta, became an adept student and practitioner of homeopathy who successfully treated a number of the leaders of the Renaissance movement.
One such patient, a man named Vidyasagar who had been relieved of debilitating migraines by Dutta’s prescriptions, was so enamored of homeopathy that he and his brother, Ishaan Chandra, began to study it themselves. True to their social ideals, they established free clinics for the poor in their native villages. Chandra’s son, Pareshnath, continued in this tradition, treating not only the poor, but also some of the most notable names, such as Prime Minister Jawharlal Nehru, in a now free India.
Prasanta Banerji is the son of Pareshanath, the third generation of Kolkata homeopaths in his family. Practicing together with his son Pratip, he is the inheritor of a grand tradition both in terms of homeopathic knowledge and social responsibility.
Now well into his fifth decade of practice, Dr. Banerji has assembled a team of about a dozen physicians and assistants who systematically consult with each one of the hundreds of patients seeking their help daily. Those with serious pathologies, such as cancer, are sent off to get blood tests and other allopathic diagnostic procedures in order to better assess their condition. Those with less severe ailments and patients returning for follow-up are assessed immediately and prescribed remedies. The cost of both the diagnostic procedures and the remedies is born by Banerji’s own charitable organization.
Taking advantage of the clinical experience passed down from previous generations, his own detailed records and allopathic diagnostic tools, Dr. Banerji has developed very specific standardized treatment protocols for each disease that he treats. In this regard, his approach differs from the classical or constitutional approach that Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, espoused and which is still widely practiced.
Broadly speaking, constitutional homeopathy is not disease specific, but person specific. In order to select the most suitable remedy, the homeopath endeavors to perceive the individual nature and particular characteristics of patient’s symptoms as well as his overall state. People with similar diseases may receive very different remedies because their natures are quite dissimilar, while persons with very disparate illnesses may receive the same remedy because they share a very similar state.
But it appears that in treating the more extreme forms of pathology so commonly seen at his clinic, Dr. Banerji has found that another approach, a disease specific one, is most effective.
In 2003, there was an article published in the International Journal of Oncology with a most inelegant title: Ruta 6 selectively induces cell death in brain cancer cells but proliferation in normal peripheral blood lymphocytes: A novel treatment for human brain cancer.
Of the four authors, Drs. Sen Pathak and Asha Multani are affiliated with the Departments of Cancer Biology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. The other two, Drs. Prasanta and Pratip Banerji, are homeopathic physicians, a father and son, from Kolkata (Calcutta), India.
Describing the reasons and results of their research, the authors write:
“ (With) conventional chemotherapies… used to treat patients with malignancies, damage to normal cells is problematic. … We investigated the brain cancer cell-killing activity of a homeopathic medicine, Ruta… We treated human brain cancer and … leukemia cells, normal B-lymphoid cells, and … melanoma cells in vitro with different concentrations of Ruta in combination with Ca3(PO4)2. (This is the chemical formula for another homeopathic remedy, Calcium Phosphate.)”
“Fifteen patients diagnosed with intracranial tumors were treated with Ruta 6 and (Calcium Phosphate). Of these 15 patients, 6 of the 7 glioma (a “glioma” is a malignant tumor of glial tissues in the brain) patients showed complete regression of tumors… Both in vivo and in vitro results showed induction of survival-signaling pathways in normal lymphocytes and induction of death-signaling pathways in brain cancer cells… We propose that Ruta in combination with Ca3(PO4)2 could be used for effective treatment of brain cancers, particularly glioma.”
What in effect this means is that the two medical scientists studied the homeopathic protocol for treating certain cancers developed over several generations of the Banerji family and were able to reproduce in both a laboratory and clinical setting the remarkable results experienced by thousands of patients. (Based on their own research, the Banerjis have a reported a 70% cure rate in brain tumors.) Not only was the treatment effective, in contrast to conventional therapies, it was not harmful to healthy tissues.
Just as remarkable, though not noted in the article, is the fact that the cost of homeopathic treatment is literally pennies a day. Obviously, this too is in stark contrast with conventional therapies.
The two homeopathic remedies tested in the M.D. Anderson study are the ones most commonly prescribed by the Banerjis for cancer. Depending on a number of factors, such as the specific type and location of the cancer, other remedies may also be added to the protocol, but Ruta 6 ( ‘Ruta 6C’ would be a more precise notation, the ‘6C’ referring to the potency of the dose – that is the extent to which it is diluted.) and Calcium Phosphate (Calc-phos in homeopathic terminology) are the core treatment.
Ruta graveolens, is the full botanical name for common Rue, which is also known as Garden Rue, Bitterwort or Herb-of-Grace. (This latter term supposedly relates to it being used in bunches by priests to sprinkle holy water over people.) A native of southern Europe, it belongs to the citrus family. Known to the Greeks and mentioned by Hippocrates, it has been used as an herbal for any number of conditions such as increasing resistance against contagious disease or to counteract the poisons from snakebites or insect stings, poisonous mushroom or other toxic herbs. It was taken to strengthen the eyes, to expel worms, to promote sweating, calm convulsions.
As a homeopathic remedy, Ruta is not generally well known for the treatment of cancer, although there are references in the literature for its use in cases of rectal and colon cancer, bone cancer as well as breast tumors that develop after injuries to the breast.
What Ruta is famous for is its use in injuries to the connective tissue, especially as a first aid remedy for injuries to the bones, or more precisely, to the periosteum, a layer of connective tissue that surrounds the bones. One of the key symptoms that calls for its use is a sensation of soreness and bruising all over the body. “The whole body is a mass of soreness and they find it difficult to lie on any side… as if they have been beaten to pulp.”
Ruta is effective for growths and nodules that develop on the bone and tendons after injuries, and also for prolapsed rectum. Another common application is as a tonic in cases of eyestrain caused by overuse of the eyes for fine work resulting in headache and burning in the eyes.
Calcarea phosphorica, the homeopathic preparation of calcium phosphate, is likewise a very common remedy not typically known for treating cancer. In fact, the literature does contain a number of references to its use for various types of tumors in the breast, uterus, bones and neck.
Calc-phos has a long history of being used for children with digestive weakness and poor absorption of nutrients. These children tend to be somewhat emaciated, either puny or tall and scrawny. Their bones are soft, the back may be curved, the teeth tend toward cavities, glands frequently become enlarged and they are prone to stomach upsets as well as headaches.
In adults, the remedy is often used to treat arthritic problems and menstrual problems, especially young women experiencing difficultly while going through puberty. What is characteristic of the nature of people needing this remedy, whether adults or children, is a sense of discontent. “Peevish and fretful”, “moaning and whining”, “always wanting to go somewhere”, “easily bored”, “when home, desires to go out, and when out, desires to go home”. These are some of the descriptions of their state.
The fact that the Banerjis have used these common remedies with such success in the most severe malignant conditions is rather remarkable – and makes one wonder what other curative powers may lie hidden in our remedies.
Scientific research of homeopathic remedies has of yet not provided a definitive explanation of how they act. The unusual nature of these medicines, that is, the fact that they are so highly diluted as to make it impossible that even one molecule remains in the medicinal solution itself, combined with the lack of clarity about their action from the perspective of conventional pharmacological principles has no doubt hindered efforts by those who know of the powerful clinical efficacy of homeopathy to foster wider acceptance by mainstream medicine and the general population.
That being the case, around the world there is some research being conducted to bridge the gap between homeopathic principles and modern science, and some light is being shed on the mechanisms by which homeopathic remedies stimulate curative reactions. As mentioned in the previous column, one such effort has been made by medical researchers from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
They have focused on the work and clinical protocols of two homeopaths, Drs. Prasanta and Pratip Banerji, from Kolkata, India who have developed a remarkably effective methodology for treating cancer. While depending on the type of cancer being treated, there is a certain degree of variation to the homeopathic medicines that the Banerji’s use, universally the prescription includes Ruta Graveolens in the 6C potency.
Not only did the researchers find through their own clinical trials that the homeopathic treatment was indeed very effective (6 or the 7 patients with a malignant brain tumor known as a ‘glioma’ showed complete regression of the tumor), but they were also able to describe the mechanism by which the Ruta 6C worked.
To understand this mechanism, it is best to start with some basic concepts concerning the biology of genetics on the cellular level.
In the nucleus of most living cells is a string-like structure called a chromosome which carries genetic information. Depending on the species, the number of chromosomes varies. Humans have twenty-two plus the two sex hormones. Bacteria and viruses, which don’t have a nucleus, only have one.
The chromosomes are made of DNA, which itself is composed of two strands in the shape of a spiral ladder – the famous ‘double helix’, with specific sequences of chemical groups known as bases. The genetic information passed from one generation to the next is determined by those sequences of bases.
When cells reproduce, chromosomes are replicated but the replication process does not extend all the way to the end of the chromosomal strand. To prevent the loss of genetic information, there exists at the end of each chromosome a compound structure called a ‘telomere’. Its role is to protect the chromosome, as a ‘disposable buffer’. When replication occurs, the telomeres at the end of the strand are lost instead of genetic information.
Telomeres also act like a pair of bodyguards on either flank. Without the telomeres, the chromosome is subject to breakage and can become fused together with other damaged chromosomes to form aberrant cells mutations and chromosomal irregularities.
As a result, the genetic information of the cell becomes unstable and the cell either dies or the mutations will to continue to develop which ultimately activates an enzyme called telomerase. The function of telomerase is to add DNA to the chromosomes so that they won’t become unstable when the cell divides.
It has been known for decades that under normal physiological conditions, there is a limit to the number of replications that can take place in one cell. It is known as the ‘Hayflick limit’ after Leonard Hayflick who observed that all types of fully differentiated human cells dividing in a cell culture die after a certain amount of divisions. Although there is some variability according to the type of cell, the number of divisions is approximately 50. And as cells get close to this limit, they exhibit signs of aging.
The Haflick limit exists because of a phenomenon known as ‘telomere shortening’. That is, a section of telomeres is lost during each division. But, when telomerase is activated and DNA is continually being added to the chromosomes, some cells can go on dividing beyond the limit. They are said to have become ‘immortal’, meaning the chromosomes will be stable no matter what the number of divisions. This is very characteristic of cancer cells, which go on replicating without limit to form tumors.
In short, the absence or weakening of telomeres leaves the chromosomes unprotected, giving rise to abnormal cells that will either die or grow unchecked. The latter of these possibilities will lead to malignant tumors and other manifestations of cancer.
Telomeric weakening apparently is caused by a number of factors, including an intrinsic genetic disposition as well as external influences such as exposure to various harmful substances. What the M.D. Anderson team found was that Ruta 6C acts to overcome these factors by strengthening the telomeres. So, in contrast to chemotherapy and radiation, both of which indiscriminately destroy normal cells as well cancerous ones, Ruta works by enhancing the natural, healthful function of the cells. When the telomeres are strengthened, the innate capacity of the body to heal is triggered, cell division becomes normalized and tumors recede.