Aluminum toxicity is one of the most commonly cited factors in the development of dementia and Alzheimers disease. Cookware and utensils has been a major of source of exposure. Increased awareness has brought a reduction in the domestic use of these implements in more recent years, but comes too late for the current elderly generation amongst whom dementia has become epidemic. Even so, cooking techniques which bring aluminum foil into direct contact with foods are still common and the use of aluminum cookware is still widespread in institutional cooking and restaurants, as well as the developing world for reasons of affordability and convenience.
Pharmaceutical medication is another often overlooked route by which aluminum is introduced into the body. While the presence of mercury has gained much more notoriety, aluminum is also used as a preservative in vaccinations and other drugs.
It is no wonder then that in the homeopathic treatment of dementia, a remedy derived from aluminum - or more specifically aluminum oxide is one of the most common prescriptions. Homeopathic aluminum, known as 'Alumina' is actually a preparation derived from aluminum oxide. Having been attenuated by a dilution process to the point that not even a single molecule of the original material is present, it contains no trace of the crude substance itself. This highly energized or 'dynamic' form of the substance can act both to rectify and detoxify the body.
The isopathic use of homeopathic medicines is a well-established approach whereby a person is treated with the exact substance - albeit homeopathically prepared - as is thought to be causing the presenting symptoms or illness. Thus someone suffering from rheumatoid arthritis or a child with tics or other behaviors typical of PANDAS whose symptoms first presented after a sore throat is treated with 'Streptococcinum', a homeopathic preparation of the streptococcus bacteria. Or a person still suffering from side-effects of a certain medication even after withdrawal from it - statins and SSRIs being common examples, is given a homeopathic dose of the drug.
Similarly, Aluminum, Arsenic, Mercury and many other minerals in homeopathic form are used to chelate out the toxic remants that still reside in the body. Although strictly speaking not falling strictly within the bound of classical or 'constitutional' homeopathy, it still can be an effective form of treatment either as a stand-alone procedure or as part of a comprehensive strategy.
But the isopathic use of Alumina as a detoxifying agent is not the only, or even the predominant, use of the remedy. One of the major medicines whose curative actions were thoroughly researched by the originator of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann, himself in the early part of the 19th century, it presents both a wide range of therapeutic applications as well as specific symptoms that call for its use.
Thus while from an isopathic perspective, Alumina may be a reasonable prescription for anyone suspected of aluminum toxicity, from a pure homeopathic perspective, the patient must present with a set of symptoms reflective of an alumina 'state'. Practically speaking this means that while a certain percentage of persons with dementia will find Alumina an effective medicine, it is by no means the appropriate remedy for everyone so diagnosed. Conversely, one does not need to have been diagnosed with dementia to benefit from its therapeutic powers.
So, what are the indications that call for this remedy - or put another way, point to the fact that someone is in an Alumina state?
Amongst the hundreds of symptoms that are known via experimentation or clinical application, here are some of the most characteristic:
In the physical sphere, there is a pervasive dryness of the skin and mucous membranes, including the eyes, mouth and digestive tract. This is associated with difficult, chronic constipation. It affects the nervous system as well, especially the spinal cord, causing muscular weakness and vertigo. There is a sensation of heaviness legs and loss of control over bodily movements, mostly in the lower limbs, leading to staggering gait. The eyelids can droop and the patient can have strange facial sensations, often described as though there is a cobweb or eggwhite on the face.
An Alumina is susceptible to feeling chilled and debilitated. They have a tendency to take on a dusky, old wrinkled appearance and are for the most part thin.
Likewise, it useful for under nourished, old looking children brought up on poor quality food or anemic girls around the time of puberty.
Swallowing may become quite difficult with the esophagus becoming constricted and not letting food pass. They are susceptible to pica, the craving for indigestible things such chalk, charcoal or dry rice. At the same time, they generally have a dislike for potatoes that also causes them indigestion.
In the mental sphere, an Alumina patient has a very distinct state. They can be morose and despairing which can result in irritability or anger. They also have a feeling of hurriedness with the sense of time passing slowly despite which they themselves execute tasks very slowly.
There is a plethora of indications demonstrating an overall dullness as exemplified by the following symptoms taken from Hahnemann's original 'proving' or experimentation1:
• great absent mindedness and irresolution,
• lack of power of recollection and great weakness of memory,
• constantly makes slips of the tongue and uses other words than he desires, a numb feeling in the head as if his consciousness was outside of his body;
• when he says anything, he feels as if another person had said it; and when he sees anything, as if another person had seen it, or as if he could transfer himself into another and only then could see.
Later authors have described this last symptom as a 'confusion of personal identity', thereby expanding the meaning and applicability of the original proving symptoms.
Alan (not his real name) sought out homeopathic treatment to address his lifelong problem with poor attention and focus. An extremely bright and engaging person in his 50's, he had graduated from an elite university and worked in IT. Despite holding various positions in several companies and rubbing elbows with some of the most accomplished persons in his field, Alan never really felt he found his professional niche.
More importantly, he never liked his work. Alan was beleaguered by the unrelenting fast paced, perfectionist ethos of the industry. (Think working for Steve Jobs - except it wasn't Steve Jobs.) To make matters worse, the combination of the high demands of his occupation and his poor concentration drove him into a frenzied lifestyle that he detested: a vicious cycle of long hours, poor eating, weight gain, low energy and decreasing focus and efficiency. He wanted out but this was the only thing he knew that could pay the bills.
Here is the gist of the consultation when we got together just about a year ago:
I'm at a new job now and got on Ritalin to make sure I would perform OK. I became super focused and felt very hyped up. It started affecting my sleep and I ended ups exhausted much of the time. More than that, I really lost myself taking that drug - I couldn't find my creative impulse at all. So, I stopped it about a month ago.
I've put on 25 lbs and can't lose the weight. Now, my energy is still bad, especially in the morning. I'm struggling to stay motivated and focused. I just feel so spacey. I guess you could call it depression... I really don't see the point. Keep asking myself, 'why?' I'm uninspired and stuck. Everything is blah. It is a sense of being dead.
My glands under my arms are swollen, and there are bone spurs on my fingers, bunions on my feet. That makes it impossible to run. I eat a lot, but actually don't really feel any hunger.
My entire life I've had this low energy and this sense of being lost, without direction. I've never been willing to take things on... I'm just mediocre. I don't follow through and have been skating by for most of my life.
In high school, I was bright, I had a strong intellect, but really didn't care about much. I got into this elite university and didn't do particularly well. Then I began drinking. I think I was an alcoholic during my college days. I didn't know who I was or what was my passion.
My mother was very tenacious, a bulldog & overbearing. My father was a psychologist - very abstracted, angry and critical. I felt crushed... castrated really. I didn't have an identity. And even today, I don't exist a lot. The entire family was a bunch of narcissistic lunatics. My brother was mentally ill, which runs in the family. My reality wasn't validated and there was no one to be in relationship with that I trusted. There was no being embodied and it was hard to tell what was real.
Now, nothing is consistent or disciplined or balanced. I've lost the inherent enjoyment in life - the joy of listening to music or taking a walk. I'm slovenly and spacey, passive.. There isn't a lot of structure, no anchor.
I asked Alan to tell me more about the feeling of being lost.
It's always been there. In high school I was introverted, alone, not relational. What is my personhood? My identity? I struggle to find my individual existence. My authentic self? I'm just guessing at it. There is nothing in me.
I was terrified of women, but could do the sciences and play sports. There were no close friends or relationships. I never found myself. I played a different person because I didn't know how to be authentic. I still have no confidence
I struggle with authority because I don't trust it. I don't take directions. It used to be that I was bullied, but now if some tries, I become warful. I've stood up for myself.
I do love to be in nature, love animals. I have a passion for music and am good at it. I'm also drawn to spirituality. Actually, I'm a very funny SOB, good at creative writing and have been drawn to nature health for years. All these things are real to me.
But I get concerned with work and money. I've realized that isn't real either. And it is hard to be someone you aren't. To be successful you have to know yourself.
From a homeopathic perspective, what is most significant is the Alan's underlying state that results in his poor concentration and distractedness. A diagnosis of ADD, although perhaps accurate, is likewise not useful. "ADD" is a descriptor but is without causal significance.
What is interesting though is the clarity with which Alan expresses his state in a number of ways. He feels lost and lacking an identity, unable to find his authentic self, doesn't know himself, etc. Clearly this arises from a childhood where he felt crushed, his personhood was not recognized and where he found no one trustworthy to whom he could relate. It is from this state that his cognitive difficulties arise.
After taking his case, I decided to first give Alan several doses of homeopathic Ritalin, in successively higher potencies, as a way to detoxify his body from the lingering affects of the drug. He felt somewhat lighter after this treatment, but it had little affect otherwise on his chronic symptoms.
This was followed up by a prescription of Alumina. As mentioned above, the indications of this remedy on the mental plain are a sense of confusion, great absent mindedness and irresolution, poor memory and, most distinctively, a characteristic type of dissociation from oneself.
In Alumina, the confusion is fundamentally related to personal identity. They don't know who they are, quite literally. And often, as in Alan's case, this stems from being raised in a family where their own identity was squashed.
Over time, Alan responded quite well to various potencies of the remedy. At our last follow-up appointment, he stated, 'I'm doing more things that are authentically me. I kind of know enough of who I am. I'm more myself and saner than I've been in years. I've meditated more in the last month than in the last 3 years. I've stopped drinking, though I haven't avoided the junk food at work. I'm sleeping great. And my ability to ingest knowledge and think has gotten much better.