Avghi Constantinides D.Hom is director and co-founder with Louis Klein of the Los Angeles School of Homeopathy. She also has expertise in nutrition, Bach flowers and iridology. For many years she has worked with children with disabilities including autism and Down Syndrome.
How did you first become involved in Homeopathy?
Even though I’m from London, I used to live in the South African Bush, and when I was there I was interested in what the local people did when they got sick. I decided to see a sangoma, a witch doctor who was literally off of a dirt road. I spoke some African languages but none fluently so I brought a translator with me just in case.
The sangoma throws bones on the ground; how the bones lay determines the diagnosis and treatment. After the session we went outside and I was standing with his wife who did speak English, looking out at the Veldt, which was this beautiful vista. All of a sudden, I had an epiphany; there are things in Mother Nature that can help cure all ills. This experience was my doorway into alternative medicine.
I came to the US and ended up working with a pharmaceutical company that had a line of homeopathic combo remedies. The remedies were working for the patients and they would ask me, “How is this helping?” I would look at the back of the bottles, which were literally all Greek to me. I had no idea what it meant, but I felt intrigued. Soon after I went to a homeopathic open house hosted by Trevor Cook, a well-known British homeopath. I was so intrigued with homeopathy that I signed up that very night.
Homeopathy resonated with me and it remains my greatest passion. I live, breath, and eat homeopathy. It’s my life, yet 15 years ago I would never have guessed that I would be a practicing homeopath, let alone leading a school dedicated to the field.
How did your Homeopathic education shape you? At what point did you know that you wanted to practice?
In the first year, the course material was hard to understand. There was so much information, but I persisted. If you just sit with the information eventually it will sink in. By the second year I thought maybe I could do this. In my third year I knew I was going to end up as a practitioner of homeopathy.
After my three years, even though I slowly started to practice, I took Lou Klein’s two year Luminos Course. It was Lou’s course that stretched my mind to always push a little further. Lou has always been known for the small, rare and peculiar remedies. That’s what he teaches. When you start to learn about some of these small and rare remedies, you think, “Of course, why wouldn’t I go further in my education?”
Studying homeopathy is kind of like skiing. I have been skiing for 20 years. I can do the action and I enjoy it, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert. It’s the same with homeopathy. I really enjoy it and I know I can do it, but wouldn’t call myself an expert. I don’t think that I’ve been at it long enough, but I love it and I have a passion for it.
There is a song by John Lennon and the Beatles that says, “The more you know, the less you know.” The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. I still feel like I’m scratching the surface of this enormous field of medicine.
They say, “How do you eat an elephant?” One bite at a time because if you do it all at once you are going to get overwhelmed, or choke, or lose interest.
I’m just starting to realize how vast the world of homeopathy is. Do you think the long learning process causes homeopaths to burn out and leave the profession?
Those I see at seminars and who keep up with their education persist. They are still taking it one bite at a time. They further their education, they teach, they practice, and they expand in their own areas.
Even the Homeopaths who have been around for a long time still pursue their education and they do better because they don’t get stagnant or stuck.
When I went to school there were 65 students in my 1st year but by our 3rd year there were 25. Now, there are just a handful of us still practicing. The ones who that keep up their education have the perseverance.
It does seem rare to come across people who are familiar with the concepts of homeopathy. Can you talk about why that is?
In this country homeopathy was stifled for 70 years. In the rest of the world it has grown and never stopped growing. Obviously in the United States, we are a small community, but it’s just the beginning of the wave. When I started practicing in 1995, it was really hard to practice in the state of California until the Freedom Act (SB577) came out in 2001. We are so lucky to have that in California.
I think that people have also lumped homeopathy into the general umbrella of alternative medicine. They say, “You’re a Homeopath; you treat with vitamins and herbs.” You have to educate most people that that’s not homeopathy. When I tell people that remedies have been regulated by the FDA since 1938, they are surprised.
Pharmaceutical companies have always disliked homeopathy, even before the AMA was founded. There is not much money to be made from remedies, (however, after recently visiting a homeopathic lab, I was told that one of their cough syrup remedies grew from 60 thousand a year to 6 million a year, after some of the OTC cough syrups were pulled from the shelves a year ago.). Despite the fact that these remedies work, the pharmaceutical companies have done what they can to stop the growth of homeopathic remedies.
One thing that has helped shift public opinion is the requirement of the pharmaceutical advertisements to list all of a medication’s side effects. Anti-depressants may cause suicidal tendencies, liver damage, or even death.
People are starting to listen and it’s made an impression, especially on young mothers. They think about what they are putting into their children’s bodies. This generation and actually the last few generations have started to wonder if they want to put these synthetic compounds in their body. The ingredients are not a secret anymore and neither are the side effects.
I think some of the elderly are saying, “I’m on a lot of prescription medications. Is there anyway that I can change this, or can I lessen the amount I’m taking?” There are very good homeopathic remedies which can help with so many different conditions. People do not need to be taking so many prescription or over-the-counter medicines.
It sounds promising that there is a change in public opinion towards homeopathy. Is that impacting the way people actually treat their ailments?
Absolutely! Our school is lucky to take yearly field trips to Boiron and Hylands, two of the largest homeopathic pharmaceutical companies in the USA. Both these companies are doing exceedingly well and growing each year.
The combo remedies help a lot and become the doorway to homeopathy for so many people. Perhaps they have headaches or PMS, or their kids are teething; they find the combo remedies work. Then when an ear infection comes along, a mother might wonder if she should see a classical homeopath.
I would rather people seek out a combo remedy than take an over-the-counter medicine. Even though we are not big into the combos, it’s a route for people to get into homeopathy. That’s a positive thing.
It takes a lot of focus and effort to develop, fund and start a school and curriculum. At what point did you decide you wanted to found LASH?
The school I attended was incredibly good; however, there was a lot of political turmoil in the administration. This unrest took a toll on the school, which is sad because there were fantastic teachers who were passionate about homeopathy.
A friend and I mentioned to Lou Klein that homeopathic education in LA had really gone by the wayside. I said to Lou “You know, why don’t we start a school?” We did our research. I called some people that I knew and they encouraged me to pursue it. I don’t think I realized what a big job it was. I wasn’t looking at the whole elephant; I was only looking at the trunk.
I had been practicing homeopathy for eight years when we started the school in 2003. I don’t think I could have done this without Lou, because my measly eight years of practice were insignificant compared to his 25. His solid homeopathic background gave the school a solid footing.
There was a lot to put together and Lou was so helpful. In the beginning, I taught most of the classes. As we began to grow so did the faculty. Each year, Kate Ormenyi and I sit down and build the curriculum into the best curriculum around. We review all relevant new books and assimilate new ideas. We want to grow with the times as well.
Have you seen any big shifts or new and exciting ideas in Homeopathy since you’ve been teaching?
There are so many fantastic new books out there. Roger Morrison’s work on carbons is mind blowing and it stretches you deep in that field. For me, the most significant new ideas are from Jan Scholten’s book on Minerals. How he integrates the minerals in his books is fabulous. Jan is one of the most humble, lovable homeopaths I’ve ever met. I love his demeanor. He always says, “And, what to do?” Or, he’ll say, “I gave this remedy and then this remedy and then this remedy and finally I got the right one.” It’s really good for homeopaths to hear that. Even the masters work hard to find the right remedy. It’s difficult when someone says they always get the remedy right away.
We had a case in clinic the other day that proved to be a nice sulphur case. I haven’t given sulphur in a while. If it is the remedy that’s indicated, you give it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Light of Venus or the South Pole Magnet. If it’s the remedy that’s indicated, you give it.
I love your analogy that Lou Klein is to homeopathy what Bruce Springsteen is to Rock n Roll? Can you talk about his influence on you and the Los Angeles School of Homeopathy?
[Laughs] He would absolutely cringe if he heard me describe him that way. We decided in the school that we would teach through the families. People who are further in their education go to advanced seminars with master homeopaths and those seminars are always taught through a theme or a kingdom. We decided that we wanted to do that in our school. We feel that our students are getting the upper hand with a solid educational foundation. Not only are they learning the remedies, they learn them alongside the families. That is huge, because once you have an idea of the family then you can expand and look into those other remedies. Lou really helped cement the themes and ideas that we incorporated into our program.
There are many different ways that homeopaths work, like Rajan Sankaran. He’s brilliant! Homeopathy has been in his family for generations. When he talks about a remedy or a rubric, it’s because he thoroughly knows the Organon and the Repertory and he has an immense knowledge of Materia Medica. When he talks about what he does and how he gets the remedy it’s easy for him because of his vast knowledge base.
Lou Klein has a method about how you can come to a remedy. Newer homeopaths do not have the base that these master homeopaths have, so it’s going to be a little harder for them to understand. It’s difficult for new homeopaths to jump into something that is a little beyond them. Sometimes those are post graduate experiences.
Massimo Mangialavori has a wonderful way of teaching through the families and themes. And Jonathan Shore loves to do provings; the school did its first proving with Jonathan who is the most animated teacher I have ever met! Our second proving is on Lepidolite and information is on our web site.
Don’t get me wrong, I have studied with all of the people that I have mentioned and I think that they are all wonderful. I get so much when I have studied with them and it does help to dust off all the doubts. Even people who have practiced for years have doubts and that’s important to admit. But, if you keep up your studies it’s going to help you.
There is an art to healing and cure and I see these master homeopaths as artists in their own right. You could copy their styles like trying to copy a master artist but eventually you will have to make it your own.
Yes, some homeopaths use pastels, or oil or water paints, or crayons or chalk. They are all wonderful teachers and the information is awesome. And you say, “Let me trace all of them and see what fits for me and maybe I’m going to use the pastels and the water base paint.” You can pick and choose. That’s exactly how we do it in our school with our teachers. Students have the continuity with our teachers that teach throughout the year. Then we bring in one or two master homeopaths as guest lecturers. You get to experience their flavors throughout the year. Then you get to pick and choose for yourself.
That’s what I did in school. There was one homeopath who talked about her office space and how she transformed it into a comfortable living room. She didn’t sit behind a desk. I took that piece of information and decided that is how my office would be. Now I may not practice the way she practices, but it’s taking those little bits of information and finding how those resonate with you.
Do you have a dream for LASH?
My biggest dream – and I always cry when we are graduating a class– is to see our students go out and practice. That’s my own sense of fulfillment. That’s why I’m doing this – to educate people to be homeopaths and do the right thing with homeopathy. They are the ones that are going to grow it, and that’s how homeopathy will stay around.
Another goal is to keep the school steady and strong. It is our goal to have 25+ students for each of our three classes. It’s always been a struggle for homeopathy schools and education in this country because there is no backing. In most schools in the USA, student fees are the only source of revenue; there is no other funding. It’s very hard and it’s an uphill battle.
NANHE (North American Network of Homeopathic Educators) did a survey of educators and directors a couple years ago and they found that based on the number of hours that they put in, directors made less than $10,000 a year. There are a number of people who run schools who eventually burn out. It’s sad to me because there have been two schools that have closed in the past few years and another one is about to close in California.
You are clearly helping to train and shape the next generation of Homeopaths. What changes or advances would you like to see within the profession in the coming years?
I’ll tell you what is missing in Los Angeles. Sometimes there are factions between homeopaths within the local community. We don’t know each other that well and I always thought it would be a good idea to have everyone come together once a year on a social level. Building our community of homeopaths and having a tighter knit group is important. The more of us that stand together, the easier it is. Where else do you get to socialize with other homeopaths? San Francisco has a very strong community and they get together annually.I would also like to see more young people come into homeopathy. The profession needs some young blood.
Let’s talk about the Low Income Clinic that operates in conjunction with the school. How did it come about?How do students interact with patients?
Heather Greiner and I started the clinic in 2009. Even though we do live cases in class, we wanted to give more experience to our students and wanted to offer low income homeopathy to the local community. For me personally, I like to volunteer and donate my time.
Clinical observation and experience is vital to the education of a student homeopath. In one office we have a patient, a student and one supervisor. We do a live video feed into another room. Other 3rd year students and our non-local students observe the live video feed.
When the intake is done and the patient leaves, we have a discussion and all the students work on the case. They write up the case, do a case analysis, differential, rubrics, and then they send that to me. Within 4-5 days we get back to the patient.
Third year is all about practicum. You understand homeopathy when you practice homeopathy.
In your years as a practicing homeopath are there any cases that stand out in your mind?
When I first started to practice, there was a woman who was covered with psoriasis from head to toe. She had to wear long sleeves and long pants all the time. I gave her a remedy and slowly but surely it started to clear up; this case was a nice example of Hering’s Law of Cure. Within two or three sessions, she came in short sleeves. It was the first time in her life that she had worn short sleeves; we both started crying. It was so emotional for her. I thought, “Wow! This little pill did that!” Sometimes even today I think goodness gracious! I know how it works, but I still can be blown away by the curative effects of homeopathy.
For her, the cure meant freedom because she could wear t-shirts and shorts and not feel she was an oddity. For her it was more than just a skin condition. That affected me profoundly, that particular case.
Another one that stands out to me was a woman, who came to me because her family had gotten a dog, and she was allergic to dogs. She said, “You either cure me or the puppy goes.” She could only think about her allergies. I gave her a remedy and she came back and said, “It’s great! My allergies are gone, and you know the funny thing is, I don’t have those violent dreams anymore.”
Every night for years she had violent nightmares. She failed to mention this, because it had become the norm for her. I realized that this remedy had such a deep curative action on her that not only did it help with her superficial allergies, but it also cured the deeper issues that I didn’t even know about until later.
Even if the patient has not told you everything, if you find a really good curative remedy – whether it is 89% simillimum or 77% simillimum, the closest you can get to 100% – you are going to see curative action and things are going to clear up and go away. And to me that was profound. Even though we as homeopaths are going to try to get as much information as we can, the things that the patient doesn’t tell us will clear up.
Avghi, you bring so much passion to the profession and you do so much to promote it. What do you want to leave us with?
I want to end with this thought: the successful students are the ones that are passionate. If they honor that passion, wonderful things can come from it – truly wonderful things. I could never have imagined the rewards one receives from treating patients homeopathically. I could never have imagined what that could feel like and it’s quite profound.
It’s like that feeling of going and helping a little old lady across the street and you feel good about doing it. I am profoundly impacted each time someone returns and they are well, all from this little homeopathic pill.
One last thing, as I see students go through our school program, there is a profound change I see in them. I think the pure study of homeopathy will change people. Its not one thing I can tell you about, they grow as human beings and it’s quite beautiful to watch.
Thank you for your insights and time today, Avghi. It’s been wonderful hearing your experiences as a homeopath and an educator.
Editor’s note: The Los Angeles School of Homeopathy was founded in 2003 and offers a three year academic and mentoring program leading to a Diploma as a Professional Homeopath. The school also maintains a low cost clinic to bring homeopathy to the public.
Monique Mamikunian has worked in the marketing, communications and business strategy fields, for more than 20 years. Currently a first year student at LASH, she credits her passion for nature and her three children with leading her to the field of homeopathy. In addition to raising a family and pursuing her studies, Monique spends her time writing, running, practicing yoga, and striving to lead an all-around healthy, balanced life.