A homeopathic approach to health

November 16, 2004|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - In the laboratory behind glass, Homeopathy Works on Fairfax Street is busy making alternative medicine.

Two old mortar and pestle machines are grinding up a substance that eventually will become remedies. Close by, a worker monitors a modern pill-making machine that produces 98 tablets every two to three seconds.

Since 1993, Homeopathy Works proprietors Joe Lillard and Linda Sprankle-Lillard have been making alternative medicines in Berkeley Springs. The Lillards purchased Washington Homeopathic Pharmacy in Bethesda, Md., in 1991, and renamed it Washington Homeopathic Products.

The pharmacy was established in Washington, D.C., in 1873. The Lillards ran both stores until they consolidated them in July.

Homeopathy uses small amounts of specially prepared substances from plants, animals and minerals to stimulate or enhance the body's own defenses, Lillard said. After herbal medicine, homeopathy is the second most widely used heath-care system in the world, he said.

Homeopathy history

Homeopathy was developed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann as a medical system. At the core of his system are the concepts of "like cures like," the minimum dose and one medicine at a time, Lillard said. "Like cures like" refers to the idea that while a large dose may do harm, a small dose of similar matter may stimulate healing.

For example, poison ivy will make you itch. Some believe a tiny dose of a homeopathically prepared medicine from poison ivy often might provide relief from the itch. The minimum dose refers to using the smallest amount of medicine necessary to initiate healing. One medicine at a time is felt to be critical in understanding the effect of any healing medicine or method, Lillard said.

Lillard started using homeopathy remedies in the late 1970s. He was a customer first of Washington Homeopathic Pharmacy, primarily using the remedies as a treatment for the animals on his farm.

The first time he used a remedy was when a sheep was having trouble giving birth. He said he thought she and the unborn lamb were dead, since there was no movement.

When he tried to move her, he found she was alive. He had a homeopathic remedy for contractions and stuck the pill in her mouth. He said he thought he was "on to something good."

Each time he gave the sheep a pill, she contracted. After two or three contractions with the help of the pills, Lillard was able to pull the lamb out.

Lillard said people send him "love letters." A lot of the success stories involve poison ivy. With the remedy called rhus tox, people who couldn't be around poison ivy "now say they can go play in it," he said.

Sam Herrmann from Paw Paw, W.Va., said that when her 3-week-old baby was crying for hours in the middle of the night and nothing would soothe him, she gave him a remedy for stomach upset or colic called arsenicum.

Herrmann said he immediately stopped crying.

Learning the ropes

Lillard wanted to learn more about homeopathy. In the early 1980s, Lillard said, he joined the National Center for Homeopathy so he could attend any classes it offered. The first weekend class was in Millersville, Pa., near Lancaster, Pa. There were about 20 homeopathic doctors or pharmacists who attended. They still keep in touch, he said.

Lillard became a board member of the homeopathy center in 1985. With his involvement, the summer schools now offer 12 classes in various cities. Lillard serves on the board.

Lillard said he was a customer of the Washington homeopathic store in Bethesda for at least 10 years before he bought the business.

The former owner only made remedies in one type of potency and sometimes discouraged business by telling customers he was sold out, Lillard said.

Lillard makes several potency types and started getting more business "from day one," he said. More than 1,700 remedies are available now, he said.

The company was pressed for space in Bethesda and initially the Berkeley Springs store was going to be mainly mail-order, including private-label companies and walk-ins, he said. Mail-orders go out to more than 800 retailers and 64 distributors, he said. Homeopathy Works served more than 37,000 customers in the last two years, said Lillard.

"The business took off," he said.

Lillard said a physician from Cleveland told a talk-show audience that he got his flu remedy from Homeopathy Works, which made the remedy from the vaccine. He got "a bunch of calls for orders last year," said Lillard.

This year's homeopathic flu remedy is made from the current flu vaccine and it takes about one hour to make 100 pounds of pills, he said. The remedy is called influenzinum. In October, Homeopathy Works sold nearly 9,000 half-ounce bottles, Lillard said.

The body naturally responds to stimuli - like cures like, he said. For instance, if you have a runny nose, the homeopathic remedy that might be given that would cause a runny nose is allium cepa, which is made from an onion plant, he said.

Lillard said he grows various plants on his farm that he uses to make remedies.

Homeopathy Works offers tours on Saturdays at 10 a.m. It has 15 full-time and three part-time employees.

The products also are available at Body Works Massage in Hagerstown, he said.

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