Bernie Smyth has been practicing homeopathy in Clonakilty for almost 20 years. She is also a lecturer and mentor of students at the Irish School of Homoeopathy in Cork and Dublin and also in Wales.
Originally from Dublin, Bernie’s first career was in veterinary nursing. She left her job in a veterinary practice to go travelling throughout Europe, teaching English along the way, before moving to West Cork in 1989. “I came to visit a friend, bought a Honda 50 and never left,” she says smiling.
A year later, Bernie came into contact with Homeopathy for the first time. “People often say to me ‘aren’t you lucky you found Homeopathy?’ My response is ‘Actually, Homeopathy found me!’”
One morning Bernie went outside to find her sheepdog having seizures and her puppy lying dead next to her. Her experience as a veterinary nurse told her that this was probably Strychnine poisoning. A visit to the local vet confirmed the diagnosis. “He sedated her but he also gave me these little white tablets to put under her tongue every hour during the night. He told me they were a homeopathic remedy called Nux Vomica.” Bernie was sceptical. “I brought her home, thinking this was it, she was going to die. I gave her the pills anyway just in case they helped.” The next morning when Bernie went into the room the dog was wagging her tail, by lunchtime she was able to stagger to her feet and by that evening she was fully recovered. “After seeing so many dogs and animals dying from this type of poison, I was just amazed. There and then I decided I wanted to know more about Homeopathy.”
A week later she spotted a poster in Macroom advertising a talk on homeopathy by the same vet. She went along and became even more interested in learning about this way of healing.
After that life took over for a while. Bernie got married and had a son and put her thoughts of studying Homeopathy aside.
But when her son started getting chest infections at 11 months, Homeopathy came to the rescue again.
“The doctor wanted to put him on an inhaler. I remember thinking ‘what was that medicine called that the vet used two years ago?’”
She invested in Miranda Castro’s ‘Complete Homeopathy Handbook’ and hasn’t looked back since.
“We were living in Reenascreena at the time and kept lots of animals – dogs, a horse, a pig and 42 birds – so they all regularly got homeopathy diluted in water,” she says laughing.
A few years later, Bernie spotted a notice in a paper advertising a weekend course in Dublin with the Irish School of Homeopathy.
“That was February 1995 and it was the best £40 I ever spent,” she says passionately. “It changed my whole life. Once I made that decision, all these doors started opening.”
She enrolled in a four-year professional training course with the Irish School of Homeopathy and started treating clients with Homeopathy under supervision in 1998 before opening her own clinic at Essential Foods in Clonakilty after qualifying as a Homeopath in 1999.
Since then she’s been treating clients from all walks of life, encountering a diverse range of complaints along the way – from asthma and eczema to depression, infertility issues, autistic spectrum disorders and so on… “Homeopathy is certainly never dull!” she says.
Bernie has always treated her son with Homeopathy. “He’s been to the doctor twice in his life, once as a baby and again when he was 12 with the whooping cough. “Although he had been vaccinated against it, there was an epidemic of it that year, so many kids at his school had it,” explains Bernie. “I remember he was so sick, up all night coughing and vomiting; he was actually so bad one night that I had to take him to hospital for a nebuliser at 2am. The doctor there told me not only did he have whooping cough, but asthma, and advised us to go to Bantry Hospital for an X-ray. We had been told by GP when he was 11 months that he should be on an inhaler, so I was skeptical. I sat down with my books the next day and came up with the remedy Veratrum 200; within a few hours, all signs of the cough had vanished!
“Whooping cough, the 90-day cough as the Chinese call it, is a scary one, and I’ve treated a lot of children with it recently.
“A two-and-half-year-old child came to me with his eyes rolling back in his head and turning blue. For two months his mother had been up an average of 14 times every night with him and he’d had five courses of antibiotics, which can only treat secondary infection, as whooping cough is viral. I treated him with Ipecac 200. A few days later his mother rang me and the relief in her voice was palpable. She said she was so scared the first night that he had stopped breathing because he didn’t wake up coughing. The remedy worked for him straight away.”
The definitive principle of Homeopathy is ‘The Law of Similars’ or ‘let likes be cured by likes’. This means that which can cause symptoms in healthy people, can, when given to people with similar symptoms, can cure them. The idea has been around a long time. Hippocrates mentioned it around 460 BC and Paracelsus mentioned it in the 16th century. But it was in the 18th century that Samuel Hahnemann, a linguist, chemist and doctor, expanded the idea into system of healing known as Homeopathy.
“It’s a bit like ‘hair of the dog’,” says Bernie laughing. Someone has five pints of beer and feels awful has one pint of the same the day after and feels better!
“Or another example is the runny eyes and swollen eyelids that comes with chopping an onion. Someone with hayfever that has the same symptoms may be given the remedy Allium Cepa, which is made from the onion.
“The remedy given is similar to the illness. Someone with insomnia may be give the remedy Caffea, as this remedy is made from coffee, which too much of can cause the same symptoms – heart palpitations and sleeplessness.
“When you’re treating someone for an acute illness, you’re treating the tip rather than the whole of the iceberg,” explains Bernie. “If that person is normally a thirstless person but since they got the cough or tummy bug they’re really thirsty, then that’s a symptom.”
For anyone interested in using homeopathy at home to treat acute illness, Bernie recommends Miranda Castro’s book. “I still use it myself today.”
If a person’s complaints are chronic, ie recurring, they should consult a professional homeopath, rather than attempting to treat themselves. Bernie emphasises that constitutional treatment with homeopathy is a process and it is important to attend follow-up visits to assess the progress of the remedies.
Many are sceptical of Homeopathy but “it’s when you see the miracle cure that this changes”, says Bernie. So many people come to me who have tried everything else.
“I had one client who had been in bed for years with depression. The remedy I gave her worked so well that she strained her shoulder afterwards from trying to do too much.
“Another client couldn’t move because his sciatica pain was so bad. He also had a burst disc in his back. He was very depressed because of the pain. I gave him a remedy to help with the depression. Two months later, he arrived back for an appointment and skipped up the stairs. He never went for the back operation. Even I was amazed at his recovery.”
Bernie never tires of learning and is always furthering her skills and knowledge in Homeopathy. She did her postgrad with well-known Israeli homeopath Jeremy Sherr. Last year she travelled to India to study different methods of Homeopathy. She is a qualified CEASE therapist and last year she was given the honour of speaking at a European Conference of Homeopaths in Dublin.
Bernie has been teaching at the Irish School of Homeopathy since 2001. “The School has a great ethos and employs lecturers from Ireland, the UK and Europe, all of whom are practicing homeopaths in their own countries,” she says.
The aim of the Irish School of Homeopathy is to nurture, encourage and inspire people to become the best homeopaths they can possibly be.
“The School has live Clinics in third and fourth year, where the students are supported in live case-taking and analysis, which is a wonderful experience for them.”
During the one-day ISH course coming up in Cork, Bernie will be outlining the principles of homeopathy and suitable remedies for safe use at home.
“It is such a privilege to listen to peoples’ stories, have the tools to figure out where they are stuck in their health and then prescribe remedies to help them to get better,” says Bernie sincerely.
“I feel honoured and privileged that the people of West Cork have trusted me with their stories and their health for almost 20 years. I have learnt that everyone has a story: even what appear to be the most ‘ordinary’ people often have the most extraordinary stories.”
Bernie Smyth, Homeopath, can be contacted on 023 8836704.
For more information on the Irish School of Homeopathy go to www.ish.ie.