What is homeopathy?
Homeopathic medicine is based on the principle that "like cures like," or that a substance that causes particular symptoms in large doses, will cure those symptoms if administered in a highly diluted dosage by stimulating the body's natural healing response.
Homeopathic treatments are individualized to each client. Before administering the remedy, a homeopath considers the client's lifestyle, nutrition and emotional and mental stresses, as well as specific symptoms.
What is the origin of homeopathy?
A German physician and physicist named Samuel Hahnemann developed homeopathy in the late 1700s. After reading about a certain treatment for malaria (Peruvian cinchona bark) that actually caused symptoms of malaria when it was ingested by a healthy patient, Hahnemann began experimenting with other substances that might have the same affects.
Further studies revealed that this "law of similars," an idea previously described by Paracelsus and Hippocrates and utilized by the Mayans, Chinese, American Indians and Greeks, could be applied to medicine in a non-toxic manner. For instance, Hahnemann discovered that administering miniscule doses of ipecacuanha, a substance known to induce vomiting when taken in large doses, could cure vomiting. Hahnemann also discovered that the more diluted the substance, the more potent its effects.
After extensive research and experimentation, Hahnemann formulated the three central principles to homeopathy:
- Like cures like (Law of Similars)
- The more diluted a substance, the more potent it is (Law of the Infinitesimal Dose, or Potentization)
- Each illness is specific to the patient, meaning that different patients with the same symptoms may receive different treatments (a holistic approach)
What is a homeopath?
A homeopath is someone who is trained and licensed to observe and interview clients to develop an understanding of their symptoms, and then to select a homeopathic remedy and the potency that is necessary.
Many homeopaths are also professionals in related medical fields such as naturopathy, conventional medicine, chiropractic, acupuncture or veterinary.
How do homeopaths treat clients?
A typical visit to a homeopath will involve a lengthy interview process that covers all aspects of lifestyle, body type, genetics and symptoms of mental, emotional and physical problems. The homeopath will then recommend remedies derived from plants, animals or minerals in either liquid, pellet or tablet forms to reduce or eliminate symptoms. These remedies have all been through an extensive dilution process to isolate the essence of the substance.
What are the benefits of homeopathic remedies?
Homeopathy has been found to reduce symptoms of common illnesses such as colds and flue, digestive issues and menstrual cramps.
Is homeopathy safe?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently lists homeopathic remedies in the same manner as non-prescription medicine, although they do not go through the same level of testing as conventional medicines. They must be tested for safety, quality, packaging and effectiveness before they are sold, and they must list ingredients and uses on the label.
Although some patients report symptoms getting worse before they get better, homeopathy is considered to be a safe, non-toxic system of medicine.
Are there any controversies around homeopathy?
Because the key principles of homeopathy, such as potency and the Law of Similars, are not consistent with current scientific knowledge about physics and chemistry, homeopathy has seen a great deal of controversy. Critics of homeopathy question how a highly diluted dose of something can have any biological effect, and whether or not it is simply a placebo effect at work. Supporters of homeopathy argue that the scientific laws behind homeopathy may not have been discovered yet, and if it has been proven to work, there is no need for scientific explanations.
How can I find homeopathic remedies or a homeopath?
Most common homeopathic remedies are available over the counter at drug stores and health food stores. Some popular remedies found in drugstores include Oscillococcinum® for the flu, arnica for bruises, sprains and joint pain, Bach Rescue Remedy for stress and anxiety, calendula for cuts and scrapes, and belladonna for fevers. Practitioners can be located by asking your medical provider for a recommendation, or visiting the National Center for Homeopathy.
Discovering Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century, by Dana Ullman; North Atlantic Books, 1991.
Alternative Health: The Definitive Guide, by Burton Goldberg; Celestial Arts, 2002.