By Dr. Becker
Today, I have a very special guest speaking with me over the phone. His name is Dr. Hubert Karreman, and he is the veterinarian at the Rodale Institute. The Rodale Institute was founded in 1947 by organic pioneer J.I. Rodale to study the link between healthy soil, healthy food and healthy people.
Before he joined Rodale, Dr. Karreman founded Bovinity Health, a small company that provides natural veterinary products for large animal medicine. He also founded his own solo practice, Penn Dutch Cow Care, which he operated for 15 years as a holistic large animal practitioner.
Dr. Karreman now works primarily with certified organic dairy farmers as a consultant. He also lectures widely on natural treatment options for cows, which is the topic of our discussion today.
Entering Veterinary School: A Childhood Dream Comes Full Circle
I asked Dr. Karreman to talk a little about his career path as a large animal veterinarian. He replied that he grew up in the suburbs right outside Philadelphia, in Bala Cynwyd, PA. His dad was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania. Like many other children, Dr. Karreman wanted to be a veterinarian for cats and dogs when he grew up. He was very influenced by books by James Herriot (author of All Creatures Great and Small, among many others), which he read during elementary school and junior high.
When Dr. Karreman was in the eighth grade, the veterinarian his family used came to his school to give a talk about his profession, and Dr. Karreman was even more motivated toward his goal of becoming a DVM.
But when he eventually went away to college at the University of New Hampshire, he began as a biochemistry major. Then he did a bit of “wandering,” as many young people at that age do. He worked at a gas station during the summer between his freshman and sophomore years, which got him thinking about the earth’s resources. When he returned to school, he began learning about resource conservation. He took a soil science class, really got into soils, and declared that as his new major.
During his time at the University of New Hampshire, he completed a work-study program with the USDA Soil Conservation Service, as it was called back in the early 1980s. Dr. Karreman said it was really wonderful, fun work for a kid from the suburbs, surveying land for conservation practices on dairy farms in southeastern New Hampshire. He could always see dairy cows off in the distance and was drawn to them, but didn’t get the opportunity to interact with them while he was involved in soil conservation work.
Immediately upon graduation in June 1984, his desire to learn about dairy cows drove him to work as an apprentice on dairy farms. He mucked out cow stalls and did general farm labor for a pittance. Then in the winter of 1984-85, Dr. Karreman traveled to Holland to visit relatives. They weren’t farmers, but he told them, “I’d love to milk cows here in Holland or learn how.” So he started milking cows in Holland and was instantly addicted.
For the next six years, Dr. Karreman continued to work on farms. In 1988, he landed on an organic farm and was exposed for the first time to alternative medicine. He thought, “Wow, no way are these going to work, these little BB-sized white pellets in these round little bottles.” They were homeopathics. And then he saw them work, and one day it hit him like a bolt of lightning from God. Dr. Karreman says he almost heard a voice from above say, “Go to veterinary school.”
Suddenly, his childhood dream of becoming a veterinarian came alive again. He had to take some additional classes to get into vet school, and he knew he had to get really good grades this time around, unlike his University of New Hampshire grade point average! And as Dr. Karreman puts it, “Lo and behold, I got top grades and got in!”
Isn’t that a great story? I was exposed to homeopathy while studying wildlife rehabilitation at the age of 16. At that time, I couldn’t even pronounce the word “homeopathy,” nor did I understand it. But I saw that it worked amazingly well. It sounds like Dr. Karreman had a very similar experience with the use of homeopathy with dairy cows. I asked him what his exposure was to homeopathy in veterinary school.
Dr. Karreman explained that while in vet school he didn’t hide the fact that he was into organics and was interested in alternative medicine. And as he thinks back on it now, during his first two years of school while he was learning the basics, the professors he had were more open to discussions about alternative therapies than the actual clinicians who taught him in his third and fourth years.
After Vet School, Dr. Karreman Establishes a Satellite Practice with an Emphasis on Large Animal Homeopathics
Next, I asked Dr. Karreman where he began working after graduating from veterinary school. Did he go with a traditional practice? Or did he open his own practice so he could take a more integrative approach, using alternative treatments like homeopathy?
Dr. Karreman said that when he was a herdsman from 1988 to 1990 on a Biodynamic organic farm, he received training – as did other farmers in Lancaster and Chester counties in southeastern Pennsylvania – from Dr. Ed Schaefer. Dr. Karreman feels Dr. Schaefer is the best teacher of large animal homeopathics in the U.S.
When he was finishing up vet school, Dr. Karreman asked Dr. Schaefer if he would like him to set up a satellite practice in Lancaster County, since Dr. Schaefer was in Lebanon County. Dr. Schaefer agreed, but couldn’t pay Dr. Karreman much because he hadn’t planned for someone to offer to open a satellite practice for him! But as Dr. Karreman points out, “When my heart’s into something, I do it regardless of the pay.” He thinks a lot of veterinarians are like that.
While attending the presentations Dr. Schaefer gave to teach homeopathics, Dr. Karreman started meeting up again with many of the farmers he’d known during his years as an apprentice. As it turns out, he didn’t have to do much cold calling to get business for his satellite practice, because he’d made all those contacts years before. This was at a time when organics were really starting to take off, and the farmers he knew were like, “Hey, this is cool. This is Dr. Karreman. He’s just out of vet school. And he wants us to use homeopathics just like we all learned from Dr. Schaefer. This is great!” And things just sort of developed from there.
It’s really wonderful and unique how things ultimately fell into place. Dr. Karreman believes it was serendipity along with spiritual guidance. He feels he was put on his path when he heard those words from above, “Go to veterinary school” back in the late 1980s. Things have fallen into place almost every day since then.
Beyond Homeopathics to Multi-Potency Homeochords
I asked Dr. Karreman if when he started out, he practiced exclusively holistic medicine, or was it more integrative? Did he practice traditional veterinary medicine at any point?
He answered that interestingly, most vets who get into alternative medicine first spend many years practicing conventional medicine – antibiotics, hormones, steroids, etc. Eventually, they arrive at a place where they say to themselves, “I’m just not seeing the results I want to see,” or “I didn’t go to vet school just to use these two or three or four treatment protocols.” But in Dr. Karreman’s case, he actually went to vet school because he had already seen how well alternative therapies work.
But once he started practicing in 1995, he quickly hit sort of a glass ceiling with regard to homeopathics in the treatment of dairy cows. He wasn’t a classically trained homeopath. He refers to himself as a mongrel or mutt – an eclectic practitioner. He uses whatever it takes to get the healing response he’s looking for. That’s why when he attended vet school, he wanted to mix and match different modalities. Every case is different, and he knew that.
For example, let’s say a cow is fresh (has just given birth to a calf), hasn’t passed the afterbirth, and has pneumonia. She’s sunken-eyed and depressed. She’s obviously sick. Using homeopathic pyrogen alone isn’t going to get the same results as also giving IV fluids, perhaps some calcium (if she’s older), and maybe some other therapies as well. Dr. Karreman would try various combinations of treatments – whatever it took to initiate a healing response in the animal.
At that time, he might have been a little quicker to suggest antibiotics (than now). He personally had nothing against antibiotics, but most of the farmers he worked with were looking to use homeopathics rather than antibiotics. That’s where he started hitting the glass ceiling with homeopathics. At the time, Dr. Karreman happened to be reading a book by James Duke and Steven Foster called A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants (Eastern and Central North America) (Houghton and Mifflin, Boston, 1990).
He began reading that some plants, like caulophyllum (blue cohosh), arnica, and aconite, are also used in botanical medicine for roughly the same physical indications as in homeopathic medicine. He realized there was a lot of overlap. But physicians from the Eclectic school of medicine and native Indians would use actual botanical juice, but in small amounts — whereas homeopaths use only the energetic essence of the plant to treat similar conditions. So Dr. Karreman thought, “Why not use both?”
That was back in 1999 or 2000. Now when he uses homeopathics, he likes to use what he calls multi-potency homeochords. He still must “diagnose” (select) the correct remedy. He still needs to know what the remedies are called. But once he knows 3-4 indications, he knows what remedy is most appropriate. He then uses it in a multi-potency combination:mother tincture 1X, 2X,4X,12C, 30C and 200C – equal parts of ever increasing diluted and vigorously shaken original plant material.
Selecting the right remedy, and providing some of the juice plus some of the homeopathic energetic essence, in Dr. Karreman’s opinion, stimulates a deeper healing response than using just one or the other.