A mother brought her four-year-old son to a naturopath after she grew concerned about his behaviour.
He was also acting aggressively at school, hiding under tables and “growling like a dog.” He also wasn’t sleeping well.
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Anke Zimmermann, a Victoria-based naturopath, had a question for the boy’s mother: had he ever been bitten by a dog?
He was indeed — when he was two years old.
And that gave her an idea: treat his behavioural problems with a Health Canada-approved homeopathic remedy that’s made from the saliva of a rabid dog — because the dog that bit him might have been vaccinated for rabies.
That’s the story Zimmermann recounted in a February blog post.
And it’s drawn the scrutiny of B.C.’s provincial health officer, who questions how Health Canada approved a treatment made from rabid dog saliva in the first place.
“Rabies is a serious reportable communicable disease that is almost universally fatal in humans and in dogs, and it can be spread through saliva from an infected dog,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said in a statement.
In an interview with Global News, Zimmermann said homeopathy is based on the “similarity principle” — the idea that a substance that can cause symptoms in a healthy organism can also treat symptoms in a sick organism.
“So if somebody has certain symptoms, a remedy that would normally create such symptoms can potentially be helpful to that person,” she said.
In this boy’s case, Zimmermann reasoned that he may have been bitten by a dog that had recently received the rabies vaccine.
An animal bite can “imprint a rabies type of state which can include overexcitability, difficulty sleeping, aggression and various fears, especially of dogs or wolves,” she wrote.
“This child presented a perfect picture of the rabies state,” she added.
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So she prescribed him two pellets of Lyssinum 200CH, the remedy made from rabid dog saliva, which had gone through a process of dilution 200 times — so much that it would be “essentially impossible” for the original molecules to still be present in the remedy, Zimmermann asserted.
“It does sound crazy, I completely agree,” Zimmermann said of homeopathic treatments.
They once sounded crazy to her, too.
Zimmermann said she once had a “severe case of tonsilitis.”
So she took a remedy that was made from snake venom, according to her. And the next morning, she said, her sore throat was almost gone.
No one actually knows how these remedies work, Zimmermann said.
“We do not have an agreed-upon mechanism of how homeopathy works,” she said.
But it “works via different mechanisms which we don’t completely understand right now,” she added.
Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, is less convinced of how homeopathic treatments like Lyssinum work.
“More importantly, I am concerned that if a product did actually contain what is suggested, saliva from a rabid dog, that would put the patient at risk of contracting rabies, a serious, fatal illness.”
Henry went on to say she would urge Health Canada to review the approval of Lyssinum in light of the “potential health risk to patients.”
“The recent online discussion of this case raises the question why Health Canada has approved this product, which if it did contain what is suggested, would be a risk to the health and safety of its users,” she said.