Larry Malerba, DO, DHtis a classical homeopath, osteopathic physician, and educator whose mission is to build bridges between holistic healing, conventional medicine, and spirituality. He is the author of Green Medicine: Challenging the Assumptions of Conventional Health Care and Metaphysics & Medicine: Restoring Freedom of Thought to the Art and Science of Healing. He has written articles for GreenMedInfo, American Holistic Medical Association, Huffington Post, MindBody Network, Natural News, Reality Sandwich, Homeopathy for Everyone, Homeopathy Today, and more. Dr. Malerba is board certified in Homeotherapeutics, is Clinical Assistant Professor at New York Medical College, and past president of the Homeopathic Medical Society of the State of New York.
Katja Schütt: Welcome to Hoacuoidep, Dr.Malerba. We look forward to you sharing your knowledge and wisdom with us. You challenge mainstream’s medicine’s simplistic approach to medical treatment and embrace a wholistic approach to healing. Can you tell us about your philosophy of “green medical care“ and how you came to develop it?
Larry Malerba: Thank you, Katja, for this opportunity to talk with you and Hoacuoidep. I always wanted to write a book but had never gotten around to it. One day, while talking to a friend about my ideas, he stopped me in mid-sentence and insisted that I needed to write a book. Within days of our conversation I began writing what would eventually become Green Medicine.
Having been inspired by Richard Grossinger’s Planet Medicine, I wanted to write about my own grand vision of medicine and healing, about the problems inherent in modern medicine and what it could be if it were to incorporate a more holistic understanding. I realize that there are very few new ideas under the sun and, so, what I call my grand vision is really just my interpretation of ideas that I have picked up along the way. It’s the way you put the ideas together that counts.
To me, the green in Green Medicine signifies an ecological perspective, not in the sense that medicine should be all about environmental health, which by the way is an important issue, but in the sense that medicine is most effective when it takes a whole systems approach to healing. That’s what ecology is all about; it is a multidisciplinary science that takes into account many factors that impact the ecosystem.
Of course, homeopaths know that orthodox medicine is an outgrowth of the polar opposite perspective. Its reductionist approach blinds medicine to the bigger picture. Modern medicine has gotten lost in the details, so to speak. Conventional medical thinkers have deluded themselves into believing that holism is neither realistic nor attainable. This delusion has also led to the belief that science itself is reductionistic by its very nature. Of course, this is completely false. Reductionism, along with materialism, and others, are what I call the –isms of medicine—the dogmatic beliefs that form the constricted worldviews of orthodox medicine and mainstream science.
Green Medicine is my attempt to set the record straight regarding the flawed thinking of mainstream medicine. It proposes a greener, more inclusive perspective that incorporates body, heart, mind, and spirit into our understanding of health, illness, and healing.
I would be remiss if I did not mention that in the early stages of writing the book my wife awoke from a dream one morning with the message that I was to use the title Green Medicine. I must admit that I greeted the suggestion with a lack of enthusiasm, but I thanked her for her input. Months later, I was wrangling over the prospective title with the publisher, North Atlantic Books, but we couldn’t come to an agreement. One day the phone rang and it was my editor. She was excited about an idea for the title. She asked, “What about Green Medicine?” Needless to say, I couldn’t argue with the synchronistic significance.
Katja Schütt: Oh, that’s really a nice example of the coincidental occurence of events that are causally unrelated. What role does homeopathy play within your concept of green medicine and your book?
Larry Malerba: Homeopathy is the primary influence that runs all throughout Green Medicine. It may not be so apparent to the average reader unfamiliar with homeopathy. However, that was my purposeful intention. I did not want the reader to know that he or she was reading about homeopathic philosophy and practice. Although it is a philosophy of holistic medicine book, it is heavily informed by homeopathy, which is right there between every line, from first chapter to last.
I knew that I didn’t want to write just another homeopathy book. I wanted to reach a wider audience. While I was writing Green Medicine, I told various friends and colleagues that I was writing a “stealth homeopathy” book. I wanted to write a homeopathy book that non-homeopathic people would read. But I knew that the very word, homeopathy, can be the kiss of death to those who carry preconceived notions about our great healing art. I concluded that Green Medicine is just the kind of title that might appeal to a broader spectrum of readers. I do not focus openly on homeopathy until Chapter 15, The Alchemical Key. By that time, the reader has almost finished the book. Green Medicine is really a homeopathy book in disguise.
The effectiveness of my stealth strategy was confirmed when my patients told me how well it resonated with their experiences of homeopathy, and when others who knew little about homeopathy ed me to compliment the book or to ask for help with their health problems.
A warning to all the strict classicists out there—Green Medicine is not just about homeopathy. It incorporates ideas from a wide spectrum of sources. In fact, I had also hoped that the book would address one of the issues that I find to be problematic within the homeopathic community, which is that as a whole we tend to be somewhat critical of all things non-homeopathic. On the one hand this is perfectly understandable. When one comes to realize the depth and power of homeopathy, all else pales in comparison.
On the other hand, it is unfortunate because one cannot openly say such things without potentially alienating those who use other holistic modalities. It tends to isolate us from the rest of the world. The power of homeopathy can be intoxicating to the ego and there is no doubt that the homeopathic community suffers from a good bit of egocentrism. This, however, is unbecoming, undiplomatic, and not conducive to good relations with our holistic and allopathic counterparts. I firmly believe that the homeopathic community needs to develop a sense of humility in order to be able to play well with others.
Katja Schütt: Yes, a strong community is indispensable to make things happen, and by satisfying our basic need to belong it is contributing to health per se. How did you become involved with homeopathy ?
Larry Malerba: I applied to osteopathic medical school thinking it would be a bit more holistic than M.D. school. When I started at Des Moines University, I quickly discovered an elective homeopathy course taught by a professor of family medicine. Dr. Kirby Hotchner recommended that his students purchase Kent’s Repertory, Boericke’s Materia Medica, Vithoulkas’ Science of Homeopathy, and a remedy kit. He also gave us a photocopied version of Vithoulkas’ “Stolen Essences” in a binder. We medical students learned by practicing on each other, prescribing for acutes.
My wife and I happened to discover an unusual item at a yard sale while we were hunting for stuff for our new apartment in Des Moines. To our amazement, it was the framed diploma of a graduate of the University of Iowa Homeopathic Medical School, dated 1896! There was also a framed picture of the school’s graduating class. Now homeopathy was new to us, so we didn’t understand the great significance of these items. I was just a poor student with scant resources. I regret to this day that out of thriftiness I chose to purchase only the diploma. The diploma has been on display in my medical clinic for many years. When I think back about it, I want to kick myself for having let that class photo slip away from me. Alas.
After Dr. Hotchner graduated at the top of his class from Des Moines University Osteopathic Medical School, they later recruited him to come back to teach. He agreed under one condition; he wanted to be able to teach and practice homeopathy. All patients scheduling appointments at the University Family Practice Clinic were asked whether they wanted conventional or homeopathic treatment and Dr. Hotchner would accommodate them accordingly. I spent my summers and every free moment I had during medical school shadowing him at the clinic.
As I became more experienced, he allowed me to take chronic cases and to provide follow up care. It was a truly unique circumstance to be able to learn homeopathy at an allopathic medical school. It enabled me to compare homeopathic and allopathic care side by side in the same clinic. Needless to say, it was no contest! I am forever indebted to Dr. Hotchner and to Phil Robbins, DO, a homeopath from Ohio with whom I also did a summer internship.)
At one point, the school administration agreed to allow me to organize a holistic medicine club. But to my surprise, they reneged on the day before our first meeting. They claimed that they were concerned about how it would affect the school’s accreditation. In retrospect, it’s amazing how threatened they felt by a school club. I went next door to the Unitarian Church. The pastor agreed to let us have our meetings there. In essence, we held clandestine weekly homeopathy study group meetings for medical students in the church basement. I had been bitten by the homeopathy bug and was determined to share the good news. And I’ve been spreading the good word about homeopathy ever since.
Katja Schütt: Fighting against symptoms lies at the base of orthodox medicine. What experiences have you encountered in your practice regarding the danger of treating isolated symptoms and suppression?
Larry Malerba: I encounter the dangers of suppression almost daily in my homeopathic medical clinic. Just about every new patient interview reveals unfortunate turns of fate that can be traced to allopathic interventions. I find the timeline to be one of the most illuminating tools to use in piecing together the sequence of events in the health history of a patient. In addition to emotional and physical trauma, sudden negative shifts in the health of patients are commonly associated with allopathic drugs, surgeries, and procedures.
I am not opposed to allopathic drugs. Sometimes they are necessary. An EpiPen or asthma inhaler can save a life. Drugs can keep people safe and functioning, thus buying time until real long-term solutions can be found. However, those drugs always come with their risks. Drugs palliate or suppress and they rarely, if ever, restore one to health. When they suppress symptoms, that’s where the trouble begins.
Suppression is a way of life in America—and it is our main export, too. Between escapist fantasy films, video games that involve killing enemies, slick and deceptive advertising for everything from toothpaste to presidential candidates, and a vast array of symptom-targeting drugs for every little cough, cold, headache, and sniffle, America as a whole is highly averse to reality. Many have low thresholds for physical and emotional discomfort and, as a result, will do almost anything to stop the suffering. The long-term consequences are beginning to show, especially in terms of America’s collective mental health. It is not pretty. Suppression, to me, is a form of avoidance of reality.
Katja Schütt: What might we be able to do as homeopaths?
Larry Malerba: Perhaps the most important thing is to educate the public about the nature of suppression and its terrible consequences. I explain to my patients that allopathic drugs that work the best are usually the most dangerous ones, precisely because they suppress symptoms so effectively. Steroids are, by far, the biggest offenders. American doctors and patients love steroids because they work like magic; they obliterate anything in their path. Over-the-counter topical steroids are used the way homeopaths use Calendula and Arnica. Of course, the consequences of suppression often occur at a later date. The allopathic indoctrination of most Americans prevents them from connecting the dots between suppressive interventions and their eventual consequences. It’s a very serious and dangerous problem.
The same idea applies to most new drugs on the market. Pharmacological science has become quite sophisticated. New drugs are often very effective at achieving their intended purposes. They ruthlessly suppress targeted symptoms with ease; hence the danger. I tell my patients that if they must take a drug, they are better off taking a tried and true one that has been on the market for a long time. Although older drugs may not work as well, they are less likely to generate iatrogenic issues.
As all homeopaths know, symptoms are the body’s best defense. Unwarranted symptomatic treatment only serves to undermine that defense mechanism. Homeopathy heals by mimicking the body’s attempt to heal itself after it has fallen short. Allopathy combats symptoms and fights against the body’s healing capacity, which is an innate faculty that has evolved over eons of time. Homeopathy seeks to work with nature by reinforcing its healing wisdom. Homeopathy is the remedy for suppression.
Katja Schütt: … as well as for severe acute diseases, which leads me to the topic of immunization. You emphasize that vaccines represent a “particularly troublesome source of iatrogenesis“ – could you please elaborate on this?
Larry Malerba: Yes, in Green Medicine I use the example of Gardasil to illustrate how vaccines are not based in science as much as they are a function of wishful thinking. I do believe that we will all some day look back upon on this faith-based age of vaccines as the greatest scandal in medical history, especially because of the sheer number of people adversely impacted. Vaccines and steroids are the two biggest contributors to chronic disease in the Western world. Antibiotics and psychiatric drugs come in a close second.
Of course, we homeopaths have been aware of the phenomenon of vaccinosis for two hundred years. Some day that, too, will be acknowledged. But before that happens the issue will have to reach critical mass. Only then will people scratch their heads and wonder why they ever let it all happen.
I also believe that most vaccine critics are barking up the wrong tree when they blame specific vaccine adjuvants like aluminum and mercury as the primary causative agents behind vaccine injuries. It is a losing argument because, in my opinion, even if manufacturers manage to eliminate all such adjuvants, it will likely have minimal impact on reducing vaccine injuries.
The components of vaccines themselves are mostly protein-based; they derive from living organisms. Proteins are known to be responsible for most allergic reactions. A vaccine injury is essentially an allergic response to an injected foreign protein that has bypassed the body’s main immunologic defense, the skin. Such reactions are autoimmune in nature and can easily become chronic. Autoimmune reactions to vaccines are the primary mechanism behind the skyrocketing incidence of chronic diseases in Western societies.
Now, I am also aware of the blowback that can come from opposition to vaccines. As a lifelong advocate for homeopathy, I am concerned about getting homeopathy mixed up in the great vaccination debate. The world needs to know that homeopathy and vaccines are two separate topics. At least that’s the way I see it. Certainly, all experienced homeopaths are cognizant of the dangers of vaccines. But I view it as a matter of choice and respect those who choose to vaccinate as much as those who opt out. I also respect homeopaths who take up the cause as well as those who remain silent about it. I maintain a neutral stance with my own patients because I don’t believe that outright opposition to vaccines is a winning short-term strategy. Such a strategy can easily alienate newcomers to the issue.
Katja Schütt: Yes, and we go more or less into resistance when seeing our freedom of choice threatened, which lies at the heart of the human psyche. But the price for the freedom of choice is responsibility which not everybody can or wants to shoulder. Your book “Metaphysics & Medicine“ was inspired by Rupert Sheldrake‘s work. How do morphic fields relate to vitalism and homeopathy?
Larry Malerba: Funny you would ask because I honestly believe that Metaphysics & Medicine is a good example of Sheldrake’s concept of morphic resonance, at least on the level of thought forms. I was in the midst of writing Metaphysics & Medicine when Sheldrake’s The Science Delusion was published. I quickly purchased a copy and was shocked to find that it was eerily similar to the ideas that I was working on in Metaphysics & Medicine.
Thankfully, however, there was one big difference. While Sheldrake’s book is a critique of the unspoken beliefs that underpin science writ large, mine is a more targeted critique of the metaphysical assumptions that form the foundation of conventional medicine and medical science. But the uncanny similarity between the two illustrates how some kind of archetypal energy, or morphic field if you will, can exist in immaterial form before it manifests itself in more concrete form almost simultaneously from different sources.
Metaphysics & Medicine is my attempt to show that medical science, which claims to be based in pure fact, is in reality grounded in a good number of philosophical assumptions that have nothing to do with science whatsoever. I call those assumptions the “–isms of medicine” because they are ideological in nature. Science, of course, denies this and, in doing so, becomes more akin to a faith-based belief system—one that many have referred to as scientism.
Conventional medicine and homeopathic medicine, therefore, are two different scientific methodologies each of which are based upon different metaphysical assumptions about the nature of health, illness, consciousness, the life force, and healing. Anyone who is interested in being able to articulate a coherent defense of homeopathy in the face of the relentless critiques that come from mainstream science would benefit from reading my book. Metaphysics & Medicine is a comparative examination of the different philosophies of science that inform orthodox and more holistic forms of medicine.
I do believe that the concept of morphic fields is relevant to homeopathy in a particularly important way. Many homeopaths can attest to the phenomenon of having successfully prescribed a particular remedy for the first time ever, only to encounter a string of clients who need and respond positively to that very same remedy soon thereafter. It is as if the first prescription opens up an energetic wormhole that attracts individuals of similar energy. With each successful prescription, the energy field grows a little stronger and one’s confidence in prescribing that remedy increases correspondingly.
The very idea of transforming a crude material substance for the very first time into its energetic counterpart via the alchemical process of potentization resonates heavily with Sheldrake’s notion of morphic fields. It constitutes an archetypal energy that already exists both in nature and in patterns of human illness, which can now be harnessed in a very practical way in order to achieve genuine healing.
Unfortunately, as is often the case, very few people besides us homeopaths are capable of recognizing and acknowledging this phenomenon. Sheldrake does not seem to be particularly aware of homeopathy. Such is the taboo of our amazing healing art. The discipline of hormesis is another good example. An entire field of science that mirrors homeopathy seems to have little interest in homeopathy. Even holistic physicians are puzzled by homeopathy. It makes one think that when homeopathy finally does reach a certain level of critical acceptance, it will trigger a tsunami of consciousness that ripples around the globe.
Katja Schütt: And so homeopathic treatment itself can contribute to raising counsciousness. Have you observed evidence for it in your practice?
Larry Malerba: I’ve always had a strong interest in spirituality. As a young man I spent time in monasteries, flirted with becoming a priest, and followed the Grateful Dead across the country. Ultimately, homeopathy quenched a great deal of that spiritual thirst within me. To be a good homeopath, one must be a student of life, of human nature, and of the natural and supernatural worlds. I entered medical school with the intent of becoming a psychiatrist, but once I discovered homeopathy I realized that there was no need to narrow my focus.
If there is one lesson that homeopathy teaches, it’s that human suffering is unique. No one person’s illness is like any others. It teaches respect for diversity. This is why conventional scientific medicine’s cookie-cutter approach to healing falls so woefully short of its goal. To me, the same diversity applies to religion and spirituality. The wise person knows that while the goal may be the same, the paths to “God” are many.
Homeopathy teaches us respect for personal experience, respect for the diversity of religious and spiritual beliefs. There is a tendency for those who follow their own personal spiritual paths to cast aspersions on those who subscribe to organized religion. I totally disagree with this. To look down on another’s religion is a sign of disrespect and spiritual immaturity. I have seen just as many lost souls on both sides of the fence. And I have seen homeopathy rescue many of those lost souls.
Good spiritual health is just as important as good mental, emotional, and physical health. When patients are struggling I often encourage them to embrace their religious traditions or spiritual inclinations. It’s truly sad to see how many people have never received a whit of spiritual encouragement or guidance in their lifetimes. It’s often just a matter of giving people the emotional support they need to follow their spiritual path. It can be like an epiphany to those who just needed permission to do so, especially because the secular world can be so inimical to spirituality.
To me, spiritual growth and raising consciousness are virtually synonymous terms. What is spiritual growth other than greater awareness of one’s self and one’s place in the grand scheme of things? Homeopathy has taught me that illness is consciousness that has become stuck or caught in a bottleneck, if you will. One could say that consciousness and the life force are also synonymous. In illness, the life force gets bogged down and is no longer free to respond to life’s demands. It becomes stuck, inflexible, rigid. With the help of a remedy that resonates at the same frequency of an illness, a person can become free again to grow, to learn, and to change.
The same can be said of the delusions that homeopathy aims to treat. They represent false beliefs that adversely affect our health. When we are no longer held hostage by those delusions, growth of consciousness and spiritual insight become possible once again.
As homeopaths, we see this in our practices on a daily basis. We have the great privilege to be witness to transformation in our patients’ lives. We understand that the emotional and spiritual awareness that accompanies their sudden return to physical health is no coincidence. One could not happen without the other. It is one and the same. Body, heart, mind, and spirit are one. Only the materialist lens of modern science labors under the delusion that they can be separated, or that the physical is the only reality. In this sense, homeopathy is also the antidote to the death of spirit in our modern world.
Katja Schütt: Which crude drugs surlely can’t offer. Hahnemann already called for the necessary medical revolution. Yet, to date, mainstream medicine has not updated its materialistic medical paradigm. How do you envision the future of medical practice?
Larry Malerba: I do admit to thinking twenty-five years ago that we were on the verge of a medical revolution. Given the expansive growth of corporate medicine and its pervasive power, it’s hard to imagine how any alternative form of medicine is going to gain a foothold.
On the other hand, take a look at India where homeopathy has hit the Big Time. India is unique in that its spiritual tradition is non-judgmental and ecumenical. Unlike monotheistic religions of the West, Hinduism and Buddhism are not threatened by competing gods. They take it for granted that all religious traditions are expressions of the same basic human impulse. Monotheism is just one example of the West’s all or nothing, good versus evil, dualist mentality. Westerners are much more inclined to believe that there is a right way and a wrong way. Such black or white, either/or thinking leaves no room for medical alternatives, or any other kind of cultural alternative for that matter. Scientism, the ideological offspring of modern science, is the apotheosis of such rigid thinking.
Can a real homeopathic revolution occur in the spiritual vacuum that is the modern world? Maybe, maybe not. I do believe that this current wave of homeopathic interest was made possible by the explosion of freethinking that marked the sixties era. Homeopathy requires thoughtful, perceptive people to appreciate its true value. If homeopathy were to truly gain ascendance in this current materialistic milieu, it would likely be co-opted and corrupted beyond recognition, thus rendering it powerless and condemning it to decades more in obscurity, while it waits for the next spiritual wave of human consciousness to emerge.
We can’t force the revolution; it must be an organic process, otherwise it will fail to take root. The same principle of respect for diversity applies to medicine. People must be allowed to make mistakes, to find their own way. They have to discover, as many have, that orthodox medicine is not all that it’s cracked up to be. When the system fails to meet their needs, they go looking for viable alternatives.
When asked, we should confidently offer our opinions, but we must not attempt to convince, cajole, or dictate. The more we as a holistic medical community come across to the world as smug and superior, the more likely we will repel potential converts. I have learned this lesson the hard way. Like Hahnemann, I, too, am an Aries. I was born on April 9th and I seem to have inherited the fire but not the diplomatic touch. I’ve had to learn how to tone down my zeal so as not to alienate others.
In my first book I paint a picture of the future Academy of Green Medicine. The Academy will be an ecumenical, all-inclusive place of learning where those with a true calling for healing will go to learn about everything from biology and physics to alchemy and philosophy of science. It will teach all forms of holistic healing as well as the best of, yes, allopathic medicine. A quote from Green Medicine may be useful here:
“The future AGMH (Academy of Green Medicine and Healing) will combine the attributes of an allopathic school with those of a naturopathic school and an ancient Mystery school—conventional medicine, natural and alternative medicine, and esoteric thought and healing all rolled into one. Biochemistry, physiology, cell biology, and hematology will be taught alongside Ayurveda, homeopathy, acupuncture, and herbology. Psychoanalysis, anatomy, astrology, cardiology, yoga, gynecology, osteopathy, pharmacology, and reflexology, to name just a few, will all have a place in the curriculum. The study of the inner person will be just as important as the study of the outer physical being. Experiential learning will be emphasized just as much as book learning. The history and philosophy of spiritual healing, psychic healing, an medical healing will round out the syllabus of a program that will nurture and develop each individual student’s unique gifts and talents.”