Why do Homeopathic Doctors ask so many Questions?

“I can figure out when a patient has been taking homoeopathy,” said my father amusedly over a meal one day. You see, my father is an allopathic general practitioner. If you were to visit him with a cough, he’d hear you out, ask you a couple of questions, examine you and off you’d go with a prescription. In and out of his cabin under five or ten minutes!
But if you came to me, a consultation would just be beginning when you thought it had ended. I’d bore / irritate / surprise you with seemingly inane questions like what time of the day does your cough increase or what colour is your phlegm.
Yes, it’s a different experience. But once you get the hang of it, you become an expert at observing and narrating your symptoms in detail. Which is exactly how my father would know when a patient has been taking homeopathy. A patient once put it as, “I went on and on about the colour and the smell and what not about my poop. The way your father smiled, I realised then that he didn’t need so many details. But I’ve gotten so used to it now…”
So why do homeopathic doctors ask so many questions?

God is in the Details

They say that God is in the details, but for a homeopath, it’s the remedy that is in the details. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you have a dry cough. I have about 514 remedies that I can choose from. So how do I know which one to pick for you? If you go on to tell me that your cough worsens while you are eating, that narrows it down to about 93 remedies for me. Then if you say, ‘Doctor if I am just sitting still, I am okay. Whenever I do any movement, I begin to cough’. What a great observation, but that still gives me 79 remedies to think about. Now if you say that you get a stitching kind of pain in your chest every time you cough, and I consider everything that you’ve told me so far, it still boils down to about 31 odd remedies. (And that is why I will continue to hound you with questions!)

The Timely Call

Just then you happen to get a phone call from your boss, whereby you apologetically excuse yourself, step out, answer your call and come back into the warm cabin room. And this warm air in the room sets you into another fit of cough. ‘Oh yes, I’ve noticed this every time I walk into a warm room.’ The minute you say this, a smile spreads across my face. A combined analysis of your fantastic observations have just narrowed it down to two remedies for me now! I ask you about your thirst for water and you narrate how you’ve been as thirsty as a sponge since the last two days. Cha Ching! We’ve now struck gold!! A few more questions to confirm that I have the essence of what remedy you need and now I have that one remedy out of the 514 that fits your condition exactly and will work like magic.

One size does not fit all

Why do you need so many remedies for dry cough? Why can’t you just have one size that fits all and get done with it? Well, homeopathic medicines believe in treating the person with the cough and not just the cough. And just like no two people are alike, neither are their coughs. Some people have a cough that comes on only at night, while others get a bout when they talk. I’m sure you’ve noticed how different the illnesses are with every member of your family. Not just the symptoms, but also what triggers each illness, how quickly it comes on, how long it drags out, what depth it goes to, how much damage it leaves behind … It’s all so different for every person. Different people with different ways in which they are affected need differing remedies too, don’t they?

It begins at the end

If Mr. Kamat came to an allopath with cough since more than three weeks, night sweats, evening fevers and weight loss, the allopathic would gather that this is what Mr. Kamat has in common with  all patients who have tuberculosis. A few tests would confirm the diagnosis and this is where the story would end with a standard regimen of treatment.
However with a homeopath this would be the beginning. After a few tests to confirm the diagnosis, they would try to find out what it is that sets Mr. Kamat’s tuberculosis apart. None of the common symptoms that led to the diagnosis would be considered. Just like we saw earlier, all peculiar symptoms and signs would be analysed to pick a remedy that specifically suits Mr. Kamat’s tuberculosis.

Knowing what to look for

So how would you know what symptoms are common and what are important for your homeopath? Well, that’s not your headache, it’s your homeopath’s. All you need to do is observe yourself and report anything that you notice is a change from your routine self. Which of them to use to diagnose your illness and then which to use to diagnose your remedy is your homeopath’s job.
“Oh but Doctor, when it comes to my kids, I want to be absolutely sure that I am not missing out on anything. If I know what to look for, I will see it better. Can’t you give me a list of things that I need to observe?” Mrs. Lokhande said to me one day. I was amazed at her diligence, her intelligence and her burning desire to leave no stone unturned for her kids. Mrs. Lokhande, this one is for mothers like you – a list of things that you can observe for various types of complaints…