Homeopathic route to healthy children

HOMEOPATHY FOR MOTHER AND BABY By Miranda Castro (Macmillan, $289) IT is a predicament for any pregnant woman or mother of small children. What do you do when a minor illness lingers around the family? As a safety precaution the conventional doctor might recommend yet another course of antibiotics.

But if pregnant a woman may fear for the health of the unborn baby. Nor will many mothers want young children to be unnecessarily exposed to too many drugs for fear of resistance and other side effects.

Homeopathy, a holistic approach to medicine involving miniscule quantities of potent substances that produce a similar reaction to the symptoms in question when in their crude form, is an enticing alternative.

But being convinced by and understanding the mysteries of this science is another matter; as is getting to grips with its practical use.

In this book, Miranda Castro, a practising homeopath and author of The Complete Homeopathy Handbook , comes to the rescue.

She offers an excellent introduction to homeopathy and an exhaustive guide to its daily use.

But in helping the reader to make the best use of this gentle form of medicine, Ms Castro manages to steer clear of oversimplifying the principles, as has been done in many other guides to homeopathy.

This means, however, that this is not an easy book to put to practical use when it comes to self-prescription.

The beginner could spend hours trying to select the single remedy that most suits her needs from Ms Castro's extensive materia medica and list of complaints.

After taking into consideration the complaint, its conflicting symptoms and the patient's general emotional state she will probably find the book pointing to any of half a dozen treatments.

So complex is the procedure that, until you have some experience of homeopathy and what remedies best suit you, you might conclude that it is better not to use the book for home treatment but to seek the professional advice of a homeopathic doctor.

For this book's greatest achievement is to make homeopathy sound convincing enough for the reader to want to give it a try.

Ms Castro gives an excellent introduction to understanding and using this mixture of mystery and science which was first developed by the German Samuel Hahnemann, who died in 1843.

She clearly describes its history, its stormy relationship with conventional medicine, how it works and how to prescribe. She also dispels many of the myths surrounding it.

The author does not maintain that this book offers a cure-all for every complaint. She states clearly where it cannot help and lists symptoms which should alert you to seek help from either a conventional or homeopathic doctor.

The book specifically addresses the needs of mother and baby, from pregnancy through to coping with problems encountered by the child.

These are useful chapters in which Ms Castro offers wider, commonsense advice beyond homeopathy to inform a woman of the choices available to her as she enters motherhood.

She covers very thoroughly such subjects as preparing for labour and the various forms of conventional and homeopathic pain relief available; breast feeding and how to cope with the problems; and how to deal with a baby with sleep difficulties.

This work could be particularly useful for women in Hongkong, where the sort of advice it offers, concerning not just medical complaints but the general well-being of mother and child, is not as readily available as in most Western countries.