Acknowledging the Rising Awareness of Epigenetics
Updated: Jan 28
Since the publication of my book (1), in which I have devoted one specific entry to the subject of epigenetics, there has been an increasing awareness of their significance in the onset of disease, not only among homeopaths, but also in mainstream research.
I was more recently fascinated to discover the 30 year in-depth inter-generational study in this context by the University of Bristol which was led by Professor Jean Golding, the founder of Children of the 90’s. (2) This brought home to me the necessity in homeopathic case-taking to enquire, not only of the ancestors’ disease histories, but also their lifestyle habits which could have impacted even generations three or four times removed.
In this particular report, women and girls whose grandfathers, or even great grandfathers, began to smoke at an early age tend to carry excess body fat.
In an earlier period during this research, it was discovered that if a father started to take up regular smoking before reaching puberty, then his sons, but not daughters, had extra body fat compared to their peers. I found this variance extremely intriguing.
The research suggests that exposure to substances can lead to changes that may be passed through the generations. All in all, an original cohort of 14,000 pregnant women agreed to take part over the period of 30 years, which covered their children and any resulting grandchildren. This was known as the Avon Longitudinal Study. (3)
Evidently, the question I asked myself as a homeopath, was how to incorporate this knowledge into the analysis of cases. This proved a difficult challenge. Nosodes are notably used in familial issues passed down the line in this way. However, there are many other factors to consider here.
A startling statistic is that 98% of disease influences stem from epigenetic factors rather than through the DNA alone. (4) This indicates how valid this consideration is in establishing and incorporating this information into the case-taking and, ultimately, of course, the final choice of remedy. Could it be that the very reason why a patient develops symptoms is the very same as the ancestor who was led with this background to take up smoking in the first place all that time ago? The latter habit could also easily be drug addiction which could have the same underlying cause.
I decided to cross-reference the rubrics from Murphy’s Repertory (5):-
‘Toxicity, tobacco, ailments from’
It was interesting to see how many among the 20 remedies which cross-referenced were specific to the lungs and heart.
The significant remedies which matched included:-
Ant. Tart., Caladium, Coca Erythroxylon, Lobelia Inflata, Nux Vomica, Rumex Crispus, Spigelia Anthelmintica, Strophanthus Hispidus.
Of course, Nux Vomica is always a good detox remedy to start such a case with.
However, when penetrating these two rubrics further and looking at remedies which specifically target the heart and lungs, the most likely targets with such deeply entrenched triggering factors, the above are the other more specific remedies I came up with.
I came to the conclusion that remedies such as Antimonium Tartaricum and Rumex Crispus could act curatively in acute illness in cases with this background and resulting symptoms, as could Coca and Phosphorus - the latter two remedies could also act on a chronic level in these cases. Coca is a remedy I have explored in an earlier article in this wider context. (6)
If a patient has a craving for tobacco which could well be inherited (and also if asthma has been the result), this could easily point to Caladium Seguinum. At the same time, the patient needing the latter remedy can continue eating without recognising cues of curbing their intake. Like the remedy, Lobelia Inflata, Caladium lessens the craving for tobacco and helps with the withdrawal. Lobelia is specifically indicated in fleshy persons (7) and the patient needing this remedy can be just as easily poisoned by tobacco or other toxic substances such as pleasure drugs.
The health of the patient needing the remedies - Spigelia and Strophanthus - declines after the long use of stimulants such as tobacco and the action is very much focused on the heart where failing compensation can occur. The manifestations of each of these remedies is very different - Spigelia with its affinity with the nervous system, has very sudden and painful symptoms. In Strophanthus, the action is more subtle.
My conclusion is that, at the same time as commencing such a case with a nosode (given in higher potencies) or a highly miasmatic indicated remedy such as Phosphorus or perhaps Thuja (both of which are remedies which cross-referenced here), one could add alongside the most appropriate support remedy. This approach not only addresses the ancestral trigger, but also the resulting pathology in the patient. Of course, as mentioned, Nux Vomica is a very good mainstay remedy to detox and, in the process, could easily elicit a clearer picture for deep constitutional prescribing. This applies if a more penetrating approach to the case cannot be established during the initial questioning. Also, if it is still uncertain which miasm is prevailing in the presenting case or the specific simillimum cannot be discovered in the situation, this is a good way to unlock the full symptom picture.
It looks like the whole subject of epigenetics is only just unravelling. Further, it will continue to create a new challenge for health workers across the spectrum as only time will show. Who would ever have believed that habits which most probably have been adopted innocuously at the time would become pathology further down the line in this way? Former generations may well have been unaware of the long term implications of their habits at that time. As Roman Krznaric has said in his book The Good Ancestor, “At this moment in history the dominant force is clear: we live in an age of pathological short-termism.” (8)
Adalian, Elizabeth, 2017, Touching Base with Trauma: Reaching Across the Generations - a Three-Dimensional Homeopathic Perspective, Writersworld.
Golding, Jean, 21.1.22., Human Transgenerational Observations of Regular Smoking before Puberty on Fat Mass in Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren, Nature.
Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, 2022. https://www.bristol.ac.uk/alspac/participants/discoveries/
Hall, S., 2012, Journey to the Genetic Interior, Scientific American, 307 (10): 80-84.
Murphy, Robin, N.D., 2005, Homeopathic Clinical Repertory, Third Edition, Lotus Health Institute.
Adalian, Elizabeth, Summer/Autumn 2018, Coca Erythroxylon -Sacred Plant of the Incas, Homeopathy in Practice.
Murphy, Robin, N.D. 2006, Nature’s Materia Medica, Third Edition, Lotus Health Institute.
Krznaric. Roman, 2020. The Good Ancestor: How to Think Long-Term in a Short-Term World, W.H. Allen.