Homeopathy and Vaccines

with Joyce Harman, DVM, MRCVS

Dr. Joyce Harman is trained in homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, herbs, and other complementary modalities for animals. Her approach to the whole horse enables her to see the benefits that homeopathy offers for even the most complex health problems, including vaccination complications. We asked her to share her expertise.

Do vaccinations cause problems?


NHM: Do vaccinations cause problems?


Dr. Harman: It is hard to prove scientifically that the appearance of a disease after a vaccination means the vaccine caused it, but clinical experience has demonstrated this to me. Some of the small animal research has proved that vaccines are linked to the increase in autoimmune diseases (where the body attacks itself) as well as other illnesses. These are less well defined in the equine literature. A single vaccination may or may not be all that problematic; the real issue is the constant revaccination.


NHM: What is a vaccination, and is immunization the same thing?


Dr. Harman: The process of protecting against an infectious disease by "priming" the immune system with material (the immunogen) designed to stimulate an immune response to the infectious agent, is known as immunization. Vaccination is used where the immunogen is itself a living infectious agent, normally either a closely related bacterial species (as with smallpox and cowpox), or by using a strain weakened by some process.

Immunization is different from vaccination in that vaccination uses a viable infecting agent (i.e., it can make the individual sick) while immunization does not use a viable agent.


NHM: What does vaccination do to the individual and how can a vaccination cause a problem?


Dr. Harman: Vaccination strongly stimulates the immune system. Several adverse events can occur in relation to the stimulus:

• If the immune system is not strong enough to respond it can become weaker after a vaccination. In this situation you may think your horse is protected against a disease, yet there is no measurable titer and the horse may actually not be protected.

• An over-reactive immune system may be triggered to react more to its environment, leading to many of the allergies we see.

• A disease that appeared to be cured may reappear again.

• Many adverse reactions occur up to about two months after a vaccination. Horses can show any one of a number of diseases that are actually induced by the vaccination. Laminitis, infections, colics, allergic skin conditions, respiratory allergies can all be activated by vaccination. Not all animals with these conditions have had an adverse reaction to a vaccine, but many have had one.


NHM: How can one minimize the ill effects from vaccinations?


Dr. Harman: To help minimize damage from vaccines, the most important thing to do, if possible, is to select the vaccines on a 'risk versus benefit' status for each horse, as they are doing more of with small animals. Ask, "What diseases is my horse actually at risk of getting?" Better yet, ask how many cases of that disease your vet sees each year. If there are hardly any cases, then the risk is low; if many cases, the risk is high. Ask, "How serious is the disease?" The flu is not serious, can be easily treated homeopathically, and the vaccine does not work (the intranasal one does, but not the injectable). Rabies is serious, but the vaccine is so effective the titers remain high for years.

If you have to give a vaccine, I use the remedy Ledum 30C or X given as soon as possible after the injection, and once or twice a day for one to two days after that if your horse usually has a bad reaction.


NHM: Is there an alternative to vaccinations?


Dr. Harman: The best alternative to vaccination is to get your horse as healthy as possible with homeopathy, herbs and nutrition. Homeopathic constitutional treatment, if it is done well, will improve the health of the horse so most common diseases are missed or are mild. By the third generation of no vaccination and top nutrition, the animals' immune systems are quite healthy and the need for vaccines is lessened.

Nosodes are homeopathic remedies made from diseased tissue.

Nosodes are homeopathic remedies made from diseased tissue. They often get used in place of vaccines. There is little research to support their use, and what has been done has not shown much promise. However, having said that, clinically there are many instances around the world where nosodes are used successfully in the prevention of disease.

It must be remembered that no one can promise you nosodes will work, and anyone that says that is giving false information. The correct answer is that they might work. The general conclusion in a recent discussion amongst holistic vets is that nosodes work best in the face of an outbreak of a disease, but may not help much in the day-to-day long term prevention.

To give any remedy means to alter that body's chemical and energetic makeup. Most holistic vets are leaning away from using nosodes and isodes, except in an outbreak situation.


NHM: How can homeopathy help reverse vaccine damage?


Dr. Harman: Constitutional homeopathy, in my opinion, is the best modality to reach deep into the body to return it to a healthy state. Other articles in Natural Horse have covered the principles of homeopathy. Homeopathy works on healing the immune system, helping return the body to its original state. Some remedies work better for the acute reaction (swelling) and others for chronic problems that appear slowly.

Acute conditions are easy to treat without a lot of knowledge, as the basic remedies that work for pain and swelling will work here. Examples are Ledum (for toxic puncture wounds), Apis (for lots of swelling that feels better with cold applications), Lachesis (for swellings that are more severe and may have some purple skin or feel cold).

Chronic conditions are usually best left to the homeopathic vets to treat. You need a good case history and to fit the picture of the remedy to the horse. Some remedies that can work are: Thuja (very commonly used, yet not always the best choice; there are many others equally effective, but it can be a good starting point), Silicea, Sulfur, Aconite (for sudden onset reactions), Arsenicum album, Hepar sulfuricum, Phosphorus, Rhus toxicodendron, and Sepia. There are many more.

NHM: THANK YOU, Dr. Harman!


About Dr. Harman:

Dr. Joyce Harman, DVM, MRCVS is a Certified Veterinary Acupuncturist, a Certified Veterinary Chiropractor, a former president of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association, and writer of numerous articles. She has also completed an advanced homeopathy course for veterinarians and has taken many other courses in holistic medicine for animals. She finds the best approach for the horse is a team approach involving veterinarians, therapists, farriers, dentists, riding instructors and saddle experts. In what little spare time can be found, she has a young Connemara-Thoroughbred mare that she plans to teach many different sports including eventing, endurance, driving and cutting.


For more information:

Joyce Harman, DVM, MRCVS
Harmany Equine Clinic, Ltd.
PO Box 308
Flint Hill , VA 22627