The sweet truth
Sugar is probably the last thing you’d expect to help with health problems. But researchers have found that in very small doses sugar can be used as a homoeopathic medicine. Recent papers written on sugar as medicine have been applauded by homoeopathic journals worldwide and many practitioners are exploring its clinical application for children and adults who crave junk food, are buzzed by sugar and have problems with hypoglycaemia.
Sugar has a bad reputation and has been linked with a variety of health problems. But homoeopathic pharmacies are able to turn sugar into a homoeopathic medicine (known as a remedy) so sugar can then treat the health problems it is also known to cause. This is the principle of “like cures like” in action and is the basis on which every homoeopathic remedy works.
It was the reputation of sugar that first stimulated Dr Tinus Smits of The Netherlands to think sugar would make an effective homoeopathic remedy. At first Smits considered the double-edged reputation of sugar — both the positive and the negative. He took into account the way we give sweets as a gift when we want to show our love and we use sugary words as endearments, calling our loved ones “sugar” and “sweetheart”, and that when we feel like a special treat we eat sweet food. Sugar is an important ingredient of cakes used in celebrations in our culture. We have a wedding cake tradition of saving the top tier until the couple’s first anniversary, with the sugar acting as a preservative.
On the other hand, the list of problems stemming from over-consumption of sugar is well known. Sugar has been proven to cause tooth decay and sugar often goes hand in hand with fatty foods: think cakes, biscuits, chocolate and pastry.
To complete his research, Smits looked at all the available information about the sugarcane plant itself, the early use of sugar as a medicine in the battlefield, the effects and symptoms of hypoglycaemia and century-old homoeopathic research.
The sugarcane plant
Sugar is processed from sugarcane, a species of very tall grass with thick stems that was first used for food by the Chinese between 200 and 600 AD. It has a fibrous marrow full of sweet sap underneath the tough bark. Sugar is made in the plant stem to store energy that’s not needed straight away, like animals making fat.
It’s believed sugar was introduced into Spain around the eighth century. Columbus carried sugarcane to America on a voyage from Spain and it later spread throughout the tropical world, coming to Australia with the First Fleet. Because it was produced in only small quantities, it was considered a great luxury. At the time, sugar was processed by boiling the cane juice then harvesting the crystals left behind after the water evaporated. These crystals contained protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They were calorie-dense and provided essential nutrients.
Much later, the process of refining sugars and stripping out many of these nutrients was perfected and sugar became a profitable industry. Sugar is now produced in more than 100 countries and global production exceeds 100 million tons a year.
Early use of sugar medicine on the battlefield
Smits also examined the traditional use of sugar as a medicinal agent. In days gone by, it was used to combat infection in wounds on the battlefield because of the way it promotes healing. Sugar would lead to intense osmotic changes, which rinsed out the wound with serum. Ulcers were also sometimes sprinkled with powdered white sugar to remove fungus.
According to some figures, consumption of sugar per person in America has reached around 60kg a year, while in Australia we each consume around 43kg a year — fortunately, in Australia the annual consumption figure is falling.
People with disturbed sugar metabolism show imbalance through, perhaps, eating problems such as a ravenous appetite soon after eating; constant appetite; appetite that cannot be satisfied; sleeplessness ameliorated by eating; eating frequently between meals; irresistible desire for sweets; need to eat on waking; faint feeling on waking or antisocial feelings and irritability when hungry. In adults and children we can see the link between these symptoms and the swings in blood sugar that strongly influence social behaviour and emotional wellbeing.
One cause of these problems is the overuse of “easy” carbohydrates in the form of sugar. Other related causes are coffee, alcohol and cigarettes. The caffeine in coffee, cola, tea and chocolate stimulates adrenaline which, in turn, stimulates the release of sugar from the liver into the blood. About 70 per cent of people with alcohol problems suffer from hypoglycaemia. Sugar levels in smokers’ blood also increase after a cigarette.
The behaviour of juvenile delinquents may be ameliorated if they are put on a sugar-free diet. Eighty-two per cent of a group of 106 were found to suffer from hypoglycaemia. For many of them, a change in their diet led to a change in their social behaviour. However, diet is often the hardest thing to change and research also shows some people are more susceptible to these problems from early in life and will crave sugar even as a toddler.
Homoeopathic research from a century ago
The first part of the research done by Smits uncovered the fact that a homoeopathic remedy had been made from sugar more than a century ago. The remedy had been known as Saccharum officinale, which is not the same as the artificial sweetener saccharin. Reports show that early homoeopaths used Saccharum effectively for rickets, infections, scurvy and “affections of the spleen”, and the homoeopathic journals of the day reported some astounding clinical observations and cases. With the passage of time, the remedy had been forgotten, since it was no longer required in homoeopathic practice.
Information about Saccharum was buried in old Materia Medica books, which contained work done by the homoeopathic research method called provings. Provings provide a detailed listing of the many mental, emotional and physical symptoms that can be treated. Provings are still conducted in modern-day homoeopathy in a method that hasn’t changed much since homoeopathy was first invented.
The old books say: “Saccharum may be used for children who are capricious; care nothing for substantial food, but want little nick-nacks; always cross and whining, and, if old enough, are insolent and do not care to occupy themselves in any way.”
Compensation for lack of affection
We all have different ways of reacting when we feel a lack of love and affection. We can try to compensate for it, or we can refuse offers of affection and claim, “I don’t need it anyway.” Another common way of compensating is eating sweets.
In children who feel that nobody loves them, there may be an exaggerated display of behaviour that otherwise would be seen as a normal part of childhood. An excessive desire for cuddles may be apparent, along with wanting absolute physical contact with their mother when they are no longer an infant. Putting everything in their mouth and touching everything may occur along with exaggerated sucking of fingers and nail biting. As adults they may have altered the need to put their hand to their mouth by smoking cigarettes.
There may be a great need to possess objects or to have new things, with an everlasting feeling of dissatisfaction. Also, the capacity to sustain a lasting friendship or relationship is thwarted by the perception that nobody cares for them. No matter how much the parent or friend reassures them, they constantly seek affirmation that they are loved. Smits said, “They are like a perforated bucket, which you try to fill with all the water you have.” These are the type of people who would benefit from a carefully thought-out diet plan but find it impossible to maintain.
Saccharum the remedy
The main characteristic of someone needing Saccharum is a significant nurturing deficit, which the person attempts to fill with close physical contact and by devouring sweets. The person feels and acts as if they did not receive enough love and nurturing in their early life. Physically, these people may suffer from hypoglycaemia and have recurrent infections such as sinusitis, chronic rhinitis and ear infections.
Saccharum may resemble other homoeopathic remedies and should be carefully differentiated from them before being prescribed. It may resemble the remedy Belladonna because both Saccharum and Belladonna types have the tendency to flushing red in the face and share an aversion to vegetables and milk. It may also be very similar to the remedy Chamomilla because both these types have increased thirst, are oversensitive to pain, have an urgent desire to be carried and are restless.
Most children like sweets but those needing Saccharum have an extreme craving. The parents will give up taking the child shopping with them because it becomes impossible. These children need to eat frequently and often hoard food, especially sugar. They are the ones who will literally eat sugar out of the sugar bowl; sweets and other carbohydrates disappear out of the pantry.
In his research, Smits found that children who will benefit from the remedy Saccharum are often very pale, “as white as sugar”. They have a strong feeling of forsakenness that’s almost delusional, with a need to be held in the arms of their mother and a screaming desire to sleep with their parents. They like attention and are very chatty; they love to be in the limelight. Extreme aggression and restlessness may be among their characteristics and they have difficulty concentrating. Their mood is worse early in the morning when they tend to demand breakfast immediately and seem better once they have eaten it. When young they are cross and whining and when older they are insolent and find it hard to occupy themselves — everything is too much trouble.
Adults needing Saccharum may have had a childhood reputation like the picture just described. By the time they reach adulthood they will have changed their outward behaviour, though the unloved inward feeling remains. Compulsive eating, especially sweets, chips and cakes, is a concern and may stem from a lack of physical contact in childhood or a lack of love, even though this might be only their perception. They may describe a childhood in which good behaviour was rewarded with sweets. Their profound problem is a desperate search for affection and uncertainty about attention from partners and parents.
Loquacity or hasty speech may have become a habit for them, subconsciously to get attention. Their partners will say they are slow to wake up. Ever since childhood they have felt irritable in the morning until breakfast. Their mood also swings during the day if they go too long without food. If they don’t eat regularly, symptoms such as headaches, weakness, trembling and a dizzy feeling appear. Body temperature may be unstable with extreme chill alternating with heat, especially at night when they stick their hot feet out of the bed covers.
Since the research has been completed, there are cases reported worldwide confirming Saccharum’s powerful action. This beneficial action is simply explained by the fact that it helps the person emotionally with their forsaken feelings and they therefore find it easier not to seek out sweets. Saccharum is also beneficial for someone who has started some dietary modifications and is having trouble maintaining them.
The picture of the Saccharum remedy comes up during the case-taking conversation between the homoeopath and the person. The whole case-taking may last an hour or more in order to get an understanding of the person. The following cases are snapshots of the whole conversation.
Case 1 — from Tinus Smits, The Netherlands
Hendrik was a pale, six-year-old boy. When he was alone he was extremely anxious and his mother had to lie at his side in bed to help him off to sleep but he woke frequently. Hendrik wanted to be held at night but was not very cuddly in the daytime and resisted offers of affection. At school he was restless and found it impossible to sit quietly. Hendrik craved bread with thick butter, sugar and chocolate, and had a stronger thirst than other children his age. After Saccharum, his anxiety was less, he slept well, the restlessness improved and his overall diet and wellbeing improved.
Case 2 — from Tinus Smits, The Netherlands
Three-week-old Jovanna would fall asleep so consistently when breastfeeding that she lost weight. She had dry skin and a rather low temperature and there was diabetes on her mother’s side of the family. Her four brothers and sisters had already been prescribed Saccharum with great success. After being given Saccharum, Jovanna began to feed with no problems and gained weight normally. Her skin also became healthier.
Case 3 — from Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, USA
Joey is a seven-year-old boy with a big smile who was adopted from an orphanage in China. Although the orphanage was well run and Joey had not suffered any severe neglect, he had experienced parental abandonment. He loved to cuddle and was very touch-oriented. A good runner, Joey wandered off impulsively whenever he felt the urge. He also picked on other children, had trouble sitting in his seat at school and was loud and yelled, even though sensitive to noise himself. His desire for sweets was intense and he sneaked them when nobody was looking. Joey responded very well to Saccharum as he became less aggressive, more settled and his sugar craving decreased dramatically, though he still likes sweets.
Case 4 — from Anton Rohrer, Austria
Florian is a teenager who would lie in bed and neglect his work at school. He liked to play with his Game Boy and avoided mental and physical exertion. He said he preferred “only the sweet part of life, the easygoing part”. When he was younger, he had recurrent tonsil problems and coughs and he strongly desired sweets and chocolate. Indulging in sweets would lead to diarrhoea. After Saccharum, he stopped lying around, took on more responsibility at school and lost his sweet cravings.
Case 5 — from Linda Beaver, Sydney, Australia
Jennifer, 28, grew up in a country town with a loving family, but moving to Sydney in search of work as a young adult made her feel insecure. At the time, most of her peer group thrived in the city but she felt forsaken with nobody to cook or care for her. Relationships were a problem with partners describing her as “too needy”. She ate mostly fast food, hot chips and bread rolls with butter and craved sweets. She said for years she had been “never really properly hungry for a meal”, but that had changed and she was always hungry with mood swings between being weak, tired, dizzy or cranky. After Saccharum, her whole world turned around emotionally and she found it easier to look after herself, including eating more carefully.
Saccharum is one of the most important homoeopathic remedies available to help problems with sugar metabolism but is not one of the homoeopathic remedies that can be self prescribed. A full case history must be taken by a professional homoeopathic practitioner in order to make sure it is the right remedy. To find a homoeopath in your area contact the Australian Homoeopathic Association (www.homeopathyoz.org).
Like cures like
Homoeopathy is a system of holistic medicine with around 3000 different remedies available. When sugar is turned into a remedy, it is capable of treating the ailments it causes. This is “like cures like” in action, the basis on which every homoeopathic remedy works. Other examples of like curing like are:
- Allium cepa (onion) given for burning, running eyes and conjunctivitis, which is similar your eyes’ reaction when you cut an onion.
- Apis mellifica (honey bee) given for puffed-up, red, rosy swelling in allergic reactions, which is similar to the effects of a bee sting.
- Coffea cruda (coffee) given for nervous sleeplessness from a rush of ideas, which is similar to the effect of drinking too much coffee.
- Natrum muriaticum (common salt) given for extra thirst, dry mouth, dry skin and fluid retention, which is similar to the effects of eating too much salt.
- Rheum (rhubarb) given for colic and diarrhoea (especially in children), which is similar to what happens when you eat too much rhubarb or unripe fruit.
Cases 1 and 2: Smits, T. “The magic sugar: Saccharum officinale.” International Homeopathic Links 3 (1995): 28-36.
Case 3: Reichenberg-Ullman, J., and R. Ullman. “Healing with Homeopathy: A Sweet Homeopathic Remedy for Adopted Kids.” Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients (June 2003).
Case 4: Rohrer, A. “A case of behaviour problems.” International Homeopathic Links 1 (1995): 24.
Case 5: Beaver, L. Personal communication from the practitioner’s clinic case notes (2004), Newtown Homoeopathic Centre, T: (02) 9516 5300.
Allen, T.F. The Encyclopedia of Pure Materia Medica. First published 1878. Volume 8: Plumbum to Serpentaria.
Felter, H.W., and J. Lloyd. “Saccharum (USP) — Sugar” in King’s American Dispensatory. 1898. Available at www.ibiblio.org/herbmed/eclectic/kings/saccharum.html
Smits, T. Homeopathy and Vaccination Site www.tinussmits.com/english/ Vermeulen, F. Synoptic Materia Medica II. Netherlands: Merlijn Publishers, 1996, 752-5.
All names have been changed to protect client confidentiality.
Having a Masters Degree in Health Science Education and holding the position of Head of Homoeopathy at Nature Care College, Linlee Jordan is very interested in conveying an understanding of the depth and beauty of how homoeopathy works to the general public and students. T: (02) 9905 9415.