© NZ General Practice
26 February, 1991
Dr Wendy Isbell provides Christchurch with a unique complementary medical service – she is a specialist physician and a homeopath.
Three years after establishing her homoeopathic practice she has noticed a growing public interest and knowledge of complementary medicine.
‘Many of my earlier patients scuttled in furtively, mumbling about not really wanting to be here, but I was their last chance. Now people come willingly and my practice is growing at an amazing rate.' Dr Isbell is constantly impressed with the results she is achieving with homoeopathy. She cites a long list of successfully treated conditions, including: arthritis, trauma injuries, pain, asthma, headaches, ulcerative colitis, ear infections, menstrual disturbances, pre-menstrual syndrome and loss of well-being.
‘My patients are from all age groups and most come to me with chronic complaints which orthodox medicine has failed to resolve,' she explains.
Her own interest began when she was herself cured of an illness by alternative medicine and she trained privately as a homeopath after twenty years hospital-based medical experience.
With post-graduate qualifications in geriatrics and internal medicine, gained through Australasia and the United Kingdom, Dr Isbell retains ‘an enormous respect for the considerable benefits of orthodox treatment', combined with a great faith in the powers of homeopathic remedies.
As a physician she enjoys the challenge of sorting out people's medical problems, investigating them thoroughly, and then treating them homoeopathically.
She does not seek to change her patients prescribed drugs and returns them to their general practitioners for further medical decisions. In this way she views the GP as the hub of medical treatment, and herself and other medical specialists as the spokes of the treatment. A quietly-spoken, confident woman, Dr Isbell is excited by her homoeopathy practice and finds it very rewarding to see significant improvements, and reductions in medications, for many of her patients.
She also believes in the concepts of preventive medicine and annual well-person checks. These consultations include a full-physical check-over and homeopathic treatment, if necessary, for any stress symptoms.
Homeopathy was developed by a German physician, Dr Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). It is a system of prescribing remedies, all derived from natural substances – mainly vegetable, but also some animal and mineral substances – which if given to a healthy person would reproduce the signs and symptoms from which the patient is suffering. Thus, Dr Isbell explains, ‘homoeopathy works on a principle of resonance, of like cures like.' Therefore, you choose a remedy that is the best match for what is going on for the patient at that particular time.
‘It is a very subtle correction to the whole body system and the improvement comes from the body's normal healing processes'
‘Homoeopathy specifically,' says Dr Isbell, ‘is well recognised because it has always been practised by doctors, and also because of the English example, where it is readily available in the National Health Service. Indeed there are six homoeopathy hospitals in Britain, including the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital.'
In New Zealand, the Health Department officially recognises homeopathy, and regards Dr Isbell as a medical practitioner. In that way she functions as other medical practitioners, within the same guidelines and frameworks, and she fully endorses recent Medical Council statements that ‘any doctors who work in alternative medicine also have to practise good conventional medicine.'
This official recognition means that her treatment fees can be covered by a Disability Allowance and by Health Insurance, at specialist rates.
Dr Isbell spends an hour with her patients at their first appointment, which does not require a GP's referral. She performs a full physical examination and arranges blood tests if necessary.
A comprehensive questionnaire is completed detailing past illnesses, signs and symptoms and current medications. Dr Isbell then prescribes an appropriate homoeopathic remedy based on the totality of problems and symptoms. ‘In a number of cases a sequence of remedies is required in order to produce a deeper response and to allow the treatment to catch up with the person's constitution. These patients usually come back every three weeks for another remedy until they are feeling well, and then after that only when necessary.'
The remedies are given in liquid form, or as tablets to be sucked. They are ‘perfectly safe and there is no possibility of side effects as they are not drugs in the orthodox sense.'
This means that after the initial treatment, patients who live out of town can write or telephone the nurse with the details of their symptoms, and subsequent remedies can be supplied by post or courier.
‘Flower essences are used a lot in the practice as a back-ground to the homeopathic treatment. Bach flowers, which are fairly well known, were first developed at the beginning of the century by an English doctor, Dr Edward Bach. He worked to improve the emotional state of his patients so that their general well-being would also improve.'
The essences' emotional effects have been likened to the feelings of well-being experienced when sitting in a rose garden or wandering through a field of daffodils.
Dr Isbell mixes English, Californian and indigenous New Zealand essences according to which of their properties are ‘most appropriate for each individual patient, to help them cope with the stresses of daily life, and to aid the body to achieve maximum improvement with homeopathic treatment.'
‘People working in complementary medicine have a very strong respect for the strength of the mind and how the mind can improve illness in quite a marked way,' asserts Dr Isbell.
She believes that it is very important for people to be prepared to look at the issues of thought creating peoples' experiences - of the mind state and physical state being inseparably interlinked - although both must be addressed, as sometimes one is more important than the other.'
Dr Isbell willingly gives talks to professional and community groups to explain the principles of homoeopathy. And, she looks forward to the day when she can teach homoeopathy in medical schools and foster its use in medical practise.