You might say Dr. Larry Malerba is a bit like Sherlock Holmes.
“It’s kind of like piecing a puzzle together,” said Malerba, 49, the only licensed osteopathic physician in the Capital Region to use homeopathy. “You study the clues and try different remedies to fit the clues.”
Homeopathy is a 200-year-old system of medicine founded by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700s. Homeopathy utilizes small doses of natural substances derived from plant, mineral and animal sources. A successful course of treatment should result not only in improvement of symptoms but also greater vitality, immunity and health.
The term “homeopathy” is derived from the Greek words homeo (similar) and pathos (suffering or disease).
Malerba, whose practice is in Guilderland, said he became interested in homeopathy by accident.
“I had read the book “Planet Medicine” [by Richard Grossinger] several weeks before I went to medical school,” he explained. “Then when I got to medical school, there was a family practice instructor there who was using homeopathy in his clinic and teaching it as an elective class. So I learned from him while I was going through medical school at the Des Moines University in Iowa.”
Malerba, who has practiced homeopathy for about 20 years, was originally interested in becoming a psychiatrist, but after learning about homeopathy, he felt he could use the two systems side by side.
“To me, homeopathy offers the best of all possibilities,” said Malerba. “I’ve come to understand that you can’t treat the physical body and leave out the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of health. The nice thing about homeopathy is it treats the whole person in a deep powerful way.”
For example, if a woman who found her husband was cheating on her developed a red, hot, itchy rash that got worse when she felt angry, Malerba said he would see an obvious connection.
“Conventional medicine would proceed to treat the rash as if it was simply a physical phenomena, when what you really need to do is get to the underlying cause and treat the anger and mistrust that developed from the shock of her marital dilemma,” he explained.
Of course, all cases are not that obvious, Malerba admitted.
“Sometimes, it may seem there is no clear-cut cause and effect, but you can interview the person and find out why something hurts and what other problems they have,” he said. “Conventional medicine artificially breaks the person up into components and parts, and treats them as if they are not connected to each other.”
Malerba said a good homeopathic practitioner uses a balanced approach, recognizing when other alternative therapies may be useful, or when conventional diagnostics and therapies are necessary, and when homeopathic treatment alone is not sufficient.
“If someone has asthma, for example, they may need to be on their medication at least temporarily until they can breathe, until we can figure out how to get them well again,” he explained. “So ideally, conventional medicine and alternative medicine should be able to work together.”
Malerba said all homeopathic remedies have been FDA approved and are regulated. Some are sold as over-the-counter medications in health food stores and some pharmacies.
Different remedies may be used to treat the same condition. For example, asthma that flares up between 2 and 4 a.m. and is worse in cold, damp weather requires a different remedy than for asthma that had its onset after a head injury and gets worse in hot, humid weather.
A given remedy can also be used to treat a wide range of problems, as long as it fits the symptoms pattern. For example, Apis, a natural remedy, may be used to treat hives that are hot and itchy, arthritis that causes hot and itchy joints, or a yeast infection that causes heat and itchiness.
Homeopathy can be used to treat a wide range of problems such as acute illnesses like ear infections and the flu, chronic illnesses such as migraines and asthma, and emotional problems like anxiety and depression.
Malerba works with his wife, Mary, a registered nurse who has studied homeopathy with her husband.
Once more common
In the late 1800s, there were more than 100 homeopathic hospitals and 22 homeopathic medical schools in the United States. The Albany Homeopathic Hospital once stood on North Pearl Street. This later became the original Memorial Hospital, before the hospital moved to its current location.
The Homeopathic Medical Society of the State of New York was founded in 1862 and remains an active organization today for physicians who support homeopathy.
Malerba said first visits typically last from an hour to an hour and a half and cost $245. Subsequent visits last about a half-hour and cost from $95 to $110.
Dan Navilia of Colonie, 58, a yoga instructor, was having so much trouble with his breathing because of asthma that he could no longer teach.
“I could barely walk,” said Navilia, who has seen Malerba four times and is back teaching yoga.
“I haven’t had to take any conventional medication at all for six weeks,” said Navilia. “I’m just taking the homeopathic remedy, and I’m breathing fine. I also like the fact that he’s not just trying to repress the symptoms. He’s talking about curing the problem.”
Lisa Dunston, 43, of Voorheesville, was being treated for environmental and food allergies without much success when she decided to see Malerba. Three years later, she is off her conventional medications. She also uses homeopathy remedies on her dogs.
“My body always seemed to reject the conventional medications,” Dunston recalled. “Today, I feel better, and I’m not foggy or tired all the time anymore.”
Further information can be found at www.docmalerba.com or by contacting Malerba at 2592 Western Ave., Guilderland.
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