Homeopathy in Ireland is coming to terms with the see-saw effect. At the peak of the economic boom homeopathy hit a popularity high. With the financial crash this popularity dipped and in the last two years we have moved back into a cautious new phase. When money was flush people were willing to try all kinds of less-conventional therapies and homeopaths felt the benefits. There was a surge, not just in clients seeking homeopathic treatment but also in the numbers studying to become professional homeopaths.
With the crash, as money got tighter, people were reluctant to try anything new. They were more likely to stick with what they considered ‘tried and tested’ medicine and the demand for homeopathy dropped off. Now the homeopathic see-saw is on the rise again but it is tentative and slow. The growing interest in this form of medicine is being nudged along by an increasing awareness of mental wellbeing, the benefits of good nutrition and the value of regular exercise. People are searching for alternatives to over-used antibiotics and pharmaceuticals with disturbing side-effects.
Homeopathy in Ireland has not been subject to quite the same intensity of negative campaigning seen in some other countries. It does not, however, have a high enough profile to become an obvious first choice. It is almost impossible to find a book on the subject in ordinary book stores and it can be a little difficult to source common remedies.
Remedy controls by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) have had an impact. Health food stores are legally restricted to the sale of homeopathic remedies on a specified HPRA list. Remedies not on the designated list, must be bought from the Republic’s only homeopathic pharmacy in Dublin city centre or online from the UK.
There are just over 250 fully registered homeopaths in Ireland. Professional practitioners generally supply remedies as part of a consultation but the HPRA restrictions make it more difficult for people to access common remedies for home use. “It’s tough at the moment, it really is,” says Chair of the Irish Society of Homeopaths (ISH), Niki Taylor. The constant barrage from skeptics and those accusing homeopathy of being a ‘pseudo-science’ can be “quite disheartening”. Niki believes that homeopaths in Ireland “are not a very cohesive group” and could benefit from “working together more. “The 4Homeopathy group in the UK has offered to include Irish homeopaths. We need to work with them to get an Irish presence on their App and get a group together to focus on campaigning,” she adds. She would also like to see homeopaths coming together to provide a low cost, drop-in clinic for acute cases with links to a homeopathic pharmacy and possibly a homeopathy help-line. “It is very important to start with grassroots and get the support of the public – the people who will be the patient voice”.
Gerry Murphy, Director of the Irish School of Homeopathy, says: “there is definitely a strong interest in homeopathy” but the trend has changed. He explains that over more than 30 years since the school was established the emphasis has always been on a four year professional course and on post graduate studies for qualified homeopaths. In the past, a small trickle of people signed up for occasional short courses and workshops to help them use homeopathy at home. “Now a lot more people are coming to these workshops but they don’t necessarily want to train as homeopaths. The numbers enrolling for the professional courses are down.” He stresses that the two main reasons people choose to study with the school “are still the same as they always were. They want to find a safe and gentle medicine for their children or else they have been ‘round the houses’ with a personal health problem without finding a solution.”
On the side, Ireland is attracting world-renowned homeopaths like Jeremy Sherr and Rajan Sankaran to give courses and workshops. The upcoming Sherr post-graduate course has drawn participants from the US, Canada, France, Italy, the Czech Republic and the UK. A course by Sankaran later in the year is expected to do the same. Opportunities for homeopathy in Ireland are beginning to open up once more as the public looks for less toxic ways to improve health. This, however, is just a beginning. It is the homeopaths themselves who have to work together to bring the see-saw into balance.
Clodagh Sheehy is a journalist and a homeopath. She is co-author of “Reach for a Remedy” – a book on homeopathic home prescribing for first aid and minor ailments.