What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy, also known as homeopathic medicine, is a whole medical system that was developed in Germany more than 200 years ago and has been practiced in the United States since the early 19th century. Homeopathy is used for wellness and prevention and to treat many diseases and conditions.
The term homeopathy comes from the Greek words homeo, meaning similar, andpathos, meaning suffering or disease. Homeopathy seeks to stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself by giving very small doses of highly diluted substances. This therapeutic method was developed by German physician Samuel Christian Hahnemann at the end of the 18th century. Hahnemann articulated two main principles:
- The principle of similars (or “like cures like”) states that a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people. This idea, which can be traced back to Hippocrates, was further developed by Hahnemann after he repeatedly ingested cinchona bark, a popular treatment for malaria, and found that he developed the symptoms of the disease. Hahnemann theorized that if a substance could cause disease symptoms in a healthy person, small amounts could cure a sick person who had similar symptoms.
- The principle of dilutions (or “law of minimum dose”) states that the lower the dose of the medication, the greater its effectiveness. In homeopathy, substances are diluted in a stepwise fashion and shaken vigorously between each dilution. This process, referred to as “potentization,” is believed to transmit some form of information or energy from the original substance to the final diluted remedy. Most homeopathic remedies are so dilute that no molecules of the healing substance remain; however, in homeopathy, it is believed that the substance has left its imprint or “essence,” which stimulates the body to heal itself (this theory is called the “memory of water”).
Homeopaths treat people based on genetic and personal health history, body type, and current physical, emotional, and mental symptoms. Patient visits tend to be lengthy. Treatments are “individualized” or tailored to each person—it is not uncommon for different people with the same condition to receive different treatments.
Homeopathic remedies are derived from natural substances that come from plants, minerals, or animals.
According to a 2007 health interview over 3.5 million adults and 900,000 children use homeopathy to successfully treat a large range of health concerns including: allergies, anxiety, asthma, autism, chronic fatigue, depression, ear infections, flu, headaches, migraines and skin rashes. By no means is this an exhaustive list as everything is treatable with homeopathy.
What is the difference between conventional medicine and homeopathy?
Drugs are used to alter the way the body works. They are effective at doing so very quickly, hence their immense value in saving life. However they do not work with the body in the same way that homeopathic remedies do. They implement their own state of change and this may not result in a cure but rather a more temporary situation known as palliation. This is more obvious in chronic disease in which drugs may only keep the symptoms at bay and therefore need to be taken continually. For example a patient with chronic eczema will rely on a steroid cream. The cream quickly takes away the skin eruption but it returns soon after. Constant repetition may be required with the side effect of thinning skin and no permanent cure. By contrast the homeopathic remedy is chosen for the individual with the condition rather than for the condition alone. Although the distinction is subtle the difference in outcome is enormous.
A remedy that is homeopathic to the complaint will cure the person in the same manner as the body cures itself.
Another fundamental distinction is in what is being treated. Conventional drugs assume an artificial divide between our mind and body. Drugs are designed to work at discrete physical sites like for example the junctions between nerves. Even those drugs that are designed for mental problems are dampening agents that suppress rather than resolve activity. The very manner in which homeopathic remedies are chosen is different. Even the most minor complaint has a mental or emotional component and this is used to facilitate selection of the remedy. To understand homeopathy you must appreciate this point. For it is as fundamental to the difference between listening (to the body) and imposing ones will on it. The direction of cure follows from this.