Delving into alternative remedies with Shobana Cooke
By Dimithri Wijesinghe
Mindfulness, Yoga, and healthy living have been all the rage as of recent times, and while these practices are certainly nothing new, they’re definitely being given the spotlight they undoubtedly deserve and didn’t have up until now. Homeopathy is one such element which has staged somewhat of a comeback; it is the system of alternative medicine created by the respected German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century and has since been adopted by many to better treat ailments in a holistic manner based on the Homeopathic premise, “ similia similibuscurrentur,” let like be cured by like.
We caught up with homeopathic consultant and holistic wellness counsellor Shobana Cooke, who is a well known Homeopath in the country. She shared with us her take on trends in global Medicine, Homeopathy, and why this form of treatment took so long to bag the leading role, having played second fiddle to allopathic treatment for decades.
Alternative systems of medicine are drastically different to allopathic medicine; they are a based on a holiostic approach addressing one’ Mind, Body & Spirit and whereby the practitioner sees the individual as a whole person and not a mere sum of their different ailments.
Q: Alternative systems tend to get a bad reputation. However, there are a variety of practices. What would you say is your approach to homeopathy?
Homeopathy believes that the minimal dose is what is needed to cure someone of all the symptoms. So we don’t treat one thing, like gastritis or your liver, we treat the whole person; we look at your sleep patterns, emotions, habits, fears, diet, and bowel movements, and then we find a remedy that resonates with the whole person. Their emotional patterns and relationships are as important to us as their physical manifestations and ailments. We believe that the body reflects the strains and joys experienced in the mind and spirit, and vice versa.
This is mainly because if I get a cough and you get a cough, it’s not the same “cough,” as your cough may be caused by stress, whereas mine could be due to dust. So we always try to treat the root of the symptom, i.e. find the cause.
However, this has to be maintained. This is where the wellness factor comes in – we check in with you every six weeks and we’ll have a chat with you about how you’ve been handling all different aspects of your life. We walk alongside the individual patient and consider our role to make you aware of your own patterns so you can make the necessary changes. In the meantime we use the Homeopathic practices of repertorising and the materia media available to us to intervene where necessary and peel away layers until we get them to the root of the issue. It’s a gentle process but follows very specific protocols.
Q: In addition to being a Homeopathic consultant, a certified Hatha Yoga instructor, and Yogic Lifestyle Counsellor, you are also an Astrologer and Tarot card reader. How do those elements, particularly those last two, come into play in Homeopathic healing?
People come to me often with various ailments, some with things they’ve suffered with for years and some just looking for a quick fix.
We usually lead with Homeopathy and the process of Homeopathic case taking,, and for this purpose, like I said before, I have to know who the person is and what they are like because we treat the whole person and sometimes, they are not able to link their emotional stress with the ailment, and in such instances, I use the Tarot cards or the Veddhic horoscope to begin a discussion.
Sometimes they are better equipped to share with me when they have an aid; when they see something visually on a Tarot card they’ll say “oh wow, that’s a really scary card” or “that’s an interesting card” and then they’ll ask why that is coming up. We’ll then get into a conversation where they’ll reveal to me certain things like, “oh yes, I last got my gastritis when my mother was ill”, etc. So it helps us navigate the case a little bit better. Even though Tarot cards are also a fortune-telling tool and people use it in predictive ways, I find it extremely helpful to work with Tarot in order to get to the root of the problem. And the cards, they don’t lie and people can’t escape from that!
I also think that Astrological charts, the way that they are cast, is incredible. Once equipped with the horoscope we can take preventative measures because we can see the periods during which the energies might be weaker or stronger; it’s basically like a map that helps you navigate.
As for Yoga, it is a medical system in itself as well. It is an incredibly powerful healing tool. There are incredible Yoga practices that can be used as part of a daily maiontencne practice addressing the Mind, Body, and Spirit . Therefore we are able to smooth out and realign deviations in energy affecting the Mind, Body or Spirit, and that’s where maintenance can take place very subtely but surely.
But if people are not interested inYoga, that’s totally okay; it’s not a prerequisite for Homeopathic medicine, it’s just the combination I personally like. We work with people who work out at the gym as well.
The thing with Yoga is that it’s also a holistic system and with it in place, we can pursue the least invasive Allopathic medicine as treatment and teach people how to maintain the mind, body, and spirit balance.
Q: Does homeopathy or allopathic medicine work for everyone? Can we advice people to pick one over the other?
From where we are, Allopathic medicine is rather invasive and expensive, but there is a place for it I think, and ideally, what we should use is an integrated medical model.
I think that people should be able to go into a hospital and also chose complementary alternative treatment options alongside this.
For example, if someone is undergoing surgery, we could use Homeopathic remedies in their recovery along with the use of guided visualisations, meditation and Yoga practices to help them relax and therefore recover faster.
So, we can integrate these methodologies.
However, right now, it’s all separated; hospitals are controlled by the Allopathic practices and complementary medical modalitiesare not included in the hospital models. . An integrated medical model is the ideal situation because that way, the patient gets the best care for their Mind, Body &Spirit and sometimes we need more than just one modality to serve our patients best interest.
And sometimes, if people come to me and I feel that Homeopathy is not the right fit for them, I am more than happy to recommend they try Acupuncture, Ayurveda, etc. I think we should be able to referpatients to the beast modality suited to meet their needs.
Q: You say that Homeopathy is inexpensive, but right now with it being so trendy, it feels as though it is mostly pursued by the wealthy. Is this a misconception?
Homeopathy is actually very cost effective; the medicine itself is very cheap. The issue is that it is not readily available. You can’t just go out and buy this medicine; we have things like thethe Homeopathic remedy Echinacea, which is priced very reasonably for a few hundresruppess, and you can use it for a very long time and treat many huhndredsof people with a little bottle of pellets, but people just can’t go out and buy it. We have only one Homeopathic Pharmacy in Colombo in Maradana.
What is expensive though is the practitioner’s knowledge, because it has taken us a long time to go from pillar to post to train and learn this Medical Art, plus the time factor because we spend close to 45 minutes to one hour with the client; it’s not a one-prescription-fits-all situation and we need that time to individualise it.
I think most practitioners who take it on have patients who come in every four to six weeks. Most times, it’s not that they’re sick, they just come in to touch base.
It is true that holistic living and Yoga has become so elitist and commercial, leading to people believing that they can’t afford to that. For that very reason, I try to make myself available as much as possible to do community outreach programmes.
I conduct group Yoga classes twice a week; it’s a pay-as-you-go structure and here some people pay and some people don’t. We just want it to be available so they can come and learn what they need to learn and practice it on their own.
Because there’s so much “fancy” Yoga, between the mats and the clothes and everything else, it’s become this new industry, but that’s the commercial side and we have to ditch that idea when it comes to “healing”. It’s great that people have been able to make a livelihood out of this, but we must be careful not to kill its gift and purpose to humanity.
Q: There’s also an idea that it is primarily faith-based healing, is this true? Must you be of a certain religion to be able to experience such healing and if they are not a person of faith, are you able to heal them?
Faith or religion is not a prerequisite. Homeopathy is a scientifically proven model and now there’s enough research to prove the positive effects of Yoga and breathing practices. Now, we are sufficiently able to make scientific arguments. However, it is intrinsically part of the Hindu faith and also Buddhist practices, but again it depends on the level on which you enter. It’s up to you.
You can approach it in either way – prayerful, spiritual, or purely scientific and some people need that element of faith while others need it to be functional.
A good example is the “ohm” chanting. It is considered a Hindu practice and someone who is not Hindu may not feel so comfortable to come to a class that’s chanting “ohm”. However, that ohm chant and it’s benefits have also been scientifically proven; there is a lot of scientific evidence to prove the healing benefits of “nadha” – healing sound – and to me, prayers and mantras and chanting are as much part of Yoga as are the physical postures, Asana.
I don’t think you have to be of a certain faith to reap its benefits, but I think you need to respect the fact that that this was how it was shared with the world; keep in mind that its scientific merits have been proven.
Q: You qualified in University College London. However, if someone wanted to pursue Homeopathy as a career in Sri Lanka, how should they proceed?
My first degree is in Anthropology from the University College London. However I studied Homeopathy in the USA under the tuteledge of Elaine Lewis of the Hannemanian School of Homeopathy and learnt the Robin Murphy method during my clinical training years.
In Sri Lanka, an Act pertaining to Homeopathy was enacted in the 1970’ and then in 2016. Homeopathy is represented in the Health Ministry, but it has still a lot of real work to do in order to support the Homeopathic community of practitioners and pateints alike. We do have a Homeopathic hospital in Sri Lanka however it is not serving the community as efficiently as it s could or hould as we have a lack of well trained practitioners and Homeopathic phramacists.A recognized and fully fledged training programme is needed. Since my time in Sri Lanka I have hoped that this will be addressed.
There is not a lot of movement in the Homeopathic community, and while we have the Homeopathy Council now, the community is still unable to benefit from it in a meaningful way.
Thismaybe challenged as Allopathy and the pharamaceutical industry is what is main stream. This does workfor many people as the business of “illness” is a very profitable one on a financial level and so it is tough for Homeopathy to break through.
I have been here since 2008 and I’ve seen successive governments come and go and Homeopathy just does not have a high place in their agenda in the Health Ministry. But I am hopeful, because at a community level, it’s very cost effective and it is a great medical solution.
In India they’ve done an incredible job of supporting all the complementary therapies, and there’s no reason why we in Sri Lanka too can’t strengthen our indigenous and complementary medicinal offerings along sinde the Allopathic options.
Photos Saman Abeysiriwardana