Now I see fire, inside the mountain
I see fire, burning the trees
And I see fire, hollowing souls
I see fire, blood in the breeze
– Ed Sheeran
Burning up from the inside, the skin alights with flames of irritation. Anyone who has this sensitivity cringes in fear when thinking about exposure to poison oak. Yet, not everyone gets a rash from this plant. From the conventional medical perspective, poison oak dermatitis or rhus poisoning as homeopaths call it, is an acute condition of the skin with its characteristic itching, burning and vesicles of clear fluid break open and seemingly reproduce without any provocation. Why would anyone create such a painful experience?
We have come to think of acute illness such as poison oak dermatitis as something we should simply get rid of, or avoid at all costs. But perhaps from a different angle, the plant- Toxicodendron diversilobum serves some kind of function. Can the experience of ‘poisoning’ have positive meaning? How would we find this meaning given the pain and disability of the experience?
Homeopath Tinus Smits developed just such a method. Using homeopathic potencies, he explored deepening our understanding of medicines such as poison oak by directly experiencing the subtler qualities of the plant. To do this, we create a container in which we ask for guidance and understanding. Participants take homeopathic preparations of the plant sit quietly observing the response. Just what happens when we do this? I’ve led several small groups through the process and will again do this tomorrow night at Ohlone Herbal Center in Berkeley.
The spirit of poison oak seems to burn up through the earth like lava in a mountain. The burning churns at the heart and circulatory system seeking an outlet-erupting on the skin. The wrestling sensation in the heart is irritating. Anger erupts as the fire seeks to consume all those around with its heat. The source of this fire seems to be injustice, an internal sense of being treated unfairly. Why was I not considered? How has this hurt me? My pain is inflamed! What kind of person am I if such a thing could have happened to me? Shame burns the soul.
This sense of injustice comes from a deep feeling that I have worked diligently to create my home and now, through no actions of my own, my world is crumbling, is being destroyed. Have you suffered injustice, pain, trauma in circumstances beyond your control? How unfair! But indeed life can be destructive without any advanced notice. Think of an earthquake, a tornado, fire, a tsunami, or perhaps murder, rape and war. Much suffering just happens and it is in these experiences that great anger erupts onto the surface of our psyches. Anger and shame. I must deserve this.
How does this related to poison oak? Perhaps the plant used in its medicinal form, the homeopathic remedy Rhus diversiloba offers healing from this trauma. Homeopathic medicine is based in the principle that like cures like–similar resonance allows for healing to occur. If we are burning up with explosive anger or we have a burning angry eruption on our skin, the plant that causes these changes when given in the homeopathic form, stimulates release and healing. Gently integrating the explosive outbursts of irritation, rhus diversiloba offers a healing balm to painful experiences.
While not the only remedy for poison oak dermatitis, Rhus diversiloba offers one image of the potential for healing that poison oak offers. Rather than simply giving one remedy for the expression of the painful dermatitis, homeopathy seeks to understand the subtle messages for the expression of suffering from the dermatitis. Thus Anacardium orientale, Croton tiglium, Graphities, Rhus toxicondendron, and Sulphur all offer expressions of deep healing expressed through rhus poisoning. The job of the homeopath is to anchor the client in the experience of the dermatitis so that we can hear the deeper messages expressed through that experience. From this deep listening, the homeopath offers the healing remedy and the potential for integrating the challenges.
Whether you suffer rhus poisoning or anger from trauma, listening carefully to your experiences offers deep potential for transformation. Often these experiences are universal in nature, or rather they are clear enough to be captured in a homeopathic remedy that transforms your internal healing capacity. I’ve seen hundreds of poison oak and poison ivy cases respond to homeopathy and in doing so, my clients all find they appreciate healing more deeply. As they continue the journey of life, poison oak becomes an ally rather than an agent of pain. The world indeed becomes a safer place.
Find out more about the book I wrote, Homeopathic Handbook for the Treatment of Poison Ivy and Poison Oak
Or the upcoming seminar Healing, Transformation and Poison Oak.