Alice's story

Alice Stainer explains how homeopathy cured her eczema 

For as long as she can remember, Alice Stainer suffered from eczema. As a  small child she had patches behind her knees and in the folds of her  arms but it didn’t really impinge much on her life until she was 14 when  she suf­fered a severe flare-up. “It was all over my face and was very  painful. It also affected my eyes so much that the GP thought I had  conjunctivitis.

“I think it was hormone-related. My GP referred me to a dermatologist  who prescribed steroid creams and mois­turisers but they didn’t really  help at all. The doctors assumed that moisturising is a good thing but  for me it made the eczema worse. It became hotter and more uncomfortable  and itchy so I have to use moisturising creams very care­fully.”

Alice’s eczema didn’t respond to orthodox treatment and when she was  15 a friend of the family who believed in holistic treatments, suggested  she try homeopathy. The friend had been treated by Dr Roy Welford so  Alice made an appointment to see him privately. Dr Welford found an  appropriate remedy straightaway.

“He prescribed six powders of Nat mur in increasing potencies to be  taken on consecutive days and my eczema got better within a matter of  weeks,” Alice remembers. “I was then given a booster dose every six  months.” Alice’s family paid for the first consultation then a GP  referral meant she received her treatment with Dr Welford on the NHS at  the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital.

Back to square one 

With her eczema firmly under control Alice was able to continue her studies through her teens and to university.

“The PCT had stopped funding homeopathic treatment after the second  year of my degree at Oxford. But I had a stock of boosters and wasn’t  too worried; I didn’t think I would need more treatment. How wrong I  was! It seems ironic that during the stressful period of my degree,  which was very intense both personally and academic­ally, my eczema was  fine, even during Finals. That is why I don’t believe it is entirely  stress-related, although it un­doubtedly exacerbates it.”

Then, at the age of 21, just after she  had finished her degree, the homeo­pathic boosters she had been taking  sud­denly stopped working. “The eczema started to encroach a lot more on  my life. This time it was on my back and I had random flare-ups over my  legs that went away on their own accord after several weeks. My  condition was a lot more unstable and erratic and then the next bout was  one of the worst – the eczema was all over my neck and looked like a  red collar!”

At that time, Alice was taking a gap year working in Oxford. She rang Dr Welford and he gave her advice on the phone.

Alice went to Leeds University to study for her MA and then began her  PhD on Henry James. From the age of 21 to 24 her eczema was getting  worse and was not under control. “I never had total body cover but it  was localised in big patches which I just tried to manage as best I  could. Sometimes I had a bit of a cry. I wasn’t very happy in Leeds and  the eczema was impinging more and more on my life.”

The following summer when Alice was 24, she had a pub meal of tuna in  a sauce and had an anaphylactic reaction. “Within ten minutes I was  throwing up. I had to have adrenaline. I discovered afterwards that  scombroid fish poison­ing (when fish is not kept at the right  temperature and huge levels of histamine build up) mimics an allergic  reaction.

“I’ve had tuna since and I’ve been fine. But after that my eczema got  a lot worse and appeared on my forehead where I had never had it  before. My skin looked like roof tiles and I couldn’t frown. It was  really bizarre. I had to vacuum my bed and room daily – it didn’t make  me feel good about myself – I felt disgusting. By this point I’d been  prescribed oral steroids but they made no difference.”

During the autumn term of 2002 she started to lose a lot of weight,  she was not sleeping and was trying to hold down two jobs, one in the  main university library and one in the English faculty office at the  same time as studying. “At one point I had to see an emergency doc­tor  and apologised, saying I probably shouldn’t have come but he said, no  this is bad! I felt really weird and spaced out because I wasn’t  sleeping. I didn’t feel I was me. Everything was an effort, even  brushing my hair and putting on clothes.

“When I went home for Christmas, I just wasn’t well enough to go  back. My parents thought if I was at home I’d get better. My GPs at home  were just not good with eczema and recommended steroids, then  moisturiser then clingfilm – it was humiliating being wrapped up by my  sister or mother before going to bed and it made my eczema worse. The GP  wasn’t very sympathetic saying that as the skin is the largest organ I  was bound to feel ill! Eczema had taken over my life to such an extent  that normal life was just impossible.”

Alice rang Dr Welford again and asked that if he couldn’t see her,  could he recommend another doctor. In January 2003, she saw Dr Julie  Geraghty who suggested that Alice’s body had changed so that the Nat mur  was no longer working for her. “I had long con­sultations with Dr  Geraghty to get the most from my personal history. It took a while to  find the medicine that would work for me. She tried Ignatia first then  we had two near successes with Scot’s pine (I love Scotland and Scottish  danc­ing) and then Lac suilinum, pig’s milk. Both worked for a while  then stopped.”

Then in August 2004 there was a major breakthrough when Alice was  pre­scribed Lac lupaninum, wolf’s milk. “Initially I had a horrendous  aggrava­tion (that’s why I defy anyone to say homeopathy is a placebo!).  I felt bits of me were falling off. My skin felt like I was rotting, it  was so fluid and weep­ing and I felt I smelled putrid. This lasted  about three weeks and I was ringing Dr Geraghty quite often. I think she  was shocked at how vicious it was. After that the eczema started to  clear a bit. Although when I recently saw a photo of me at that time I  looked horrendous!

“Then the improvement was quite dramatic. Dr Geraghty says I have a  dynamic system so I heal quickly as well as get worse quickly. The  flare-ups stabilised gradually, each one a little less severe than  before. These stabilised from the top down, apparently a sign that  homeopathy is working. Suddenly I could see patches of normal skin  includ­ing in my ears which were weeping so much I had to put cotton  wool in them to stop it running down my face.”

Alice was able to continue her PhD studies which she is completing in  Oxford. “Life is so much better now. I’ll finish my PhD at Christmas  and I have an active social life as well as my singing and Scottish  dancing which I had been forced to give up.”

Dr Julie Geraghty comments: 

It has been a pleasure to work with Alice over the last three years  and I am delighted that homeopathy has helped to improve her eczema  significantly and her quality of life. Alice’s eczema was exceptionally  bad when I first saw her and what has impressed me about her is her  loyalty to the homeopathic process even when improvements were slow. She  had not had positive experiences with steroid creams or oral steroid  treatments, and was also at one point strongly advised by a  dermatologist to start the drug Methotrexate, a chemotherapy agent used  in severe cases of eczema and other inflammatory conditions. But she  managed to keep going until we started the Lac lupaninum, wolf’s milk,  which helped her the most. She became expert in balancing her lifestyle  in terms of diet, moisturising regime etc. during the difficult times.

However I should point out that I do advise patients with bad eczema  that they can use steroid creams sparingly in severely affected areas if  I have not been able to control the rash successfully with homeopathy.  There are, of course, many different remedies one can use; it depends  entirely on the particular patient and their experience not only of  their eczema, but of their life in general. So it can be quite a process  to under­stand how that particular person views and experiences the  world around them, and then to analyse the information in homeopathic  terms. Sometimes one does get it right first time, though! Also one  remedy can help over a certain time period and then stop working, as in  Alice’s case with the Nat mur. One then needs to find a deeper acting  rem­edy that fits the whole picture.

I have seen Alice blossoming over the last three years as her eczema  improved and she was able to resume work on her PhD. Wolf’s milk is a  relatively new addition to our homeopathic remedy selection, and is  proving itself invalu­able in many cases, not only eczema. It has themes  in common with the other milk or mammal remedies, like horse’s milk  (Lac equinum), lion’s milk (Lac leoninum), dolphin’s milk (Lac  del­phinum). People who need these reme­dies all have issues to do with  needing their identity to be recognised within the group or family that  they are part of. In Lac lupaninum there are more specific issues to do  with feeling isolated from and shunned by the group, which causes  despair and anger.

Alice felt that her eczema was iso­lating her and she often used the  word “disgusting” when describing her skin during the bad phases. This  is an under­standable reaction, however not all peo­ple with eczema will  feel this way, and so we have to note what is most char­acteristic  about the particular patient’s feelings about their illness. I was very  interested to hear from Alice that she has had a fascination about  wolves since childhood!

Julie Geraghty MBChB MFHom DCH is a  full time homeopathic physician who also  teaches homeopathy to health professionals in the  UK and abroad.

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