The International Symposium “Healing Alternatives: Care and Education as a Cultural Life-style” – Osaka, 11th November 2012

The “Anthropology of Care and Education for Life”, a Core Research Project, Part of the Minpaku “Anthropological Studies of Inclusion and Autonomy” Core Research Project organized this outstanding symposium in the Museum of Ethnology in Osaka.


Five Historians und Ethnologists from Japan and abroad gave talks about the development of healing alternatives from the past to the present.


Prof. Martin Dinges from the Robert-Bosch Institute for the History of Medicine held a remarkable talk about the history of homeopathy in Germany. It became clear that homeopathy was and is still part of the main stream medicine in Germany. He also stressed that the Complementary Alternative Medicine in Germany is well recognized and in some cases covered by private health insurances.


Why are more women using homeopathy than men – is it because the female person wants to unite body, emotions and the mental sides while men just want to use their body as an instrument?


It is true that the homeopath spends more time for the patients. In the Organon, the basis of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann wrote that the homeopath should let the patient talk. By doing so the homeopath is able to get many symptoms from all levels which reflect the illness from different angles while a conventional physician is just observing localized illnesses.


At the end of the discussion Prof. Dinges also explained that in Germany there are both doctor and Heilpraktiker (Naturopaths) who are homeopaths. Both Heilpraktiker and Homeopath doctors need to get additional special training in order to be able to practice homeopathy.


Prof. John Harley Warner, chair, from the history of Medicine department of the Yale University talked about the development of Medicine over the last two hundred years. Medicine developed into laboratory-based, experimental science where the patient - physician contact reduced to just numbers. However, historians and older physicians plead to recover the “art of medicine” that means to describe medicine not as a science but as an art. But all these approaches failed due to funding.


If in an illness more than physical complaints are involved the general practitioner often revers to social workers, to the clergy or to psychiatrist.


Prof. Osamu Hattori of the Institute for the Study of Humanities and Social Science of the Doshisha University talked about the influence of homeopathy on traditional Chinese Medicine in Japan.


Prof. Nanami Suzuki from the Museum of Ethnology explained ways how Americans in the nineteenth century developed alternative approaches for healing: first the Thomsonianism, the botanical movement and second with the hydrotherapy.


Childbirth was also the main topic in Dr. Mikako Sawayama’s talk. She focused on folk remedies in the Edo period and explained it by reference to childbirth as the mortality rate of infants was higher.


In the discussion section the talkers discussed the term holism. All have agreed that healing means also counseling.


Homeopaths listen carefully for more than one hour to the symptoms of the patient. During this period he is not healing but is building up a therapeutic field where all important symptoms can be conveyed for finding a suitable similar remedy. By prescribing that determined remedy the body’s own healing powers are stimulated.


Usually we get symptoms from various parts of body, mind and spirit woven together to a complex pattern which resembles more a picture than a chart of numbers which brings me back to considering homeopathy more as an art than laboratory medicine.


Together with ethnologist, lay people, historians and students of different fields, lay Homeopaths and Doctor Homeopaths met and listened together to alternative ways of healing.


We consider the physician as professional in Medicine because he has profound knowledge in Medicine. But for me the following question arose: “Why don’t we consider a physician as a healer?” Isn’t that a paradox? Is it because he only prescribes drugs and doesn’t see the person as a whole? What needs to be done that this paradox is solved again? Are naturopaths or homeopaths or counselors healers?