What is Homeopathy?
A somewhat controversial form of medicine that is considered one of the unorthodox practices of medicine, homeopathy is one of the members of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) methods. However, it has survived for centuries, and homeopaths see themselves as holistic healers who look at the whole person when diagnosing a health issue. They then chose the appropriate treatment based on their findings.
The homeopathy definition from Merriam states, “Homeopathy is a system of medical practice that treats a disease, especially by administering minute doses of a remedy that would in larger amounts produce in healthy person symptoms similar to those of the disease.” To further define homeopathy, you must look at its history and why this definition came about.
The History of Homeopathy
The roots of homeopathy are in the written works of Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). After graduating from Medical school in 1779, he began practicing medicine and his first homeopathic experiments in 1790. Having become disillusioned with the standard medical practices of the day, such as purging, bloodletting, and toxic chemicals, he took a different path to healing his patients. (Whole Health Now)
The Homeopathic Principle
The basis of the homeopathic principle is that of “similar,” creating the “Law of Similar.” This idea stemmed from Dr. Hahnemann’s work with the South American tree bark of cinchona or “the bark” (i.e., quinine) that was used to treat malaria. Upon ingesting the bark, Dr. Hahnemann found that it produced malaria-type symptoms, leading him to believe in similar suffering. Thus, the primary principle of homeopathy became “let likes be cured by likes” from the Latin, Similia similibus curentur.
Founding his first school in the United States in the late 1800s, Dr. Hahnemann became recognized for his successes in treating scarlet, yellow, typhoid, and cholera. Becoming very popular due to this success, there were 22 homeopathic medical schools, 100 homeopathic hospitals, and over 1,000 homeopathic pharmacies, with Boston and Stanford Universities and New Your Medical College among the institutions teaching Homeopathy. (Whole Health Now)
A Modern Resurgence
The popularity of this form of medicine waned in the early 1920s, and many schools closed. Although its popularity dwindled and almost faded in the United States, it found a willing populace in Europe, Asia, and other countries. Today, homeopathic remedies and medicines are sold in pharmacies. Many other countries, including India, Switzerland, Mexico, Russia, Germany, Italy, South America, and England, have a populace who conform to the use of homeopathy to treat ailments.
Homeopathy vs. Conventional Medicine
The Law of similar states that “like cures like,” so using this thought process, giving someone a dose of honey daily for their allergies meets this criterion. The honey is produced from the allergens that make you sneeze, so using the Law of similar, eating honey made from the plants that cause you to sneeze should cure your problems. A homeopath will choose a remedy that supports the systems of the patient rather than suppressing them as conventional medicine does. Conventional medicine can produce side effects, but natural homeopathic medicine does not. Homeopaths also believe that everyone’s body reacts differently when they exhibit symptoms of an illness. Instead of a one-size fits all approach, homeopathic medicine is prescribed based on the symptoms exhibited by each patient.
- Homeopathy ascribes to the Law of Similars, which matches the symptoms of a medicine tested on a healthy patient to the individual seeking treatment.
- Complete symptom profiles of the patient are compared to the symptoms of the remedy. This is called the “Totality of Symptoms.”
- The single remedy method is used in homeopathic medicine. This method indicates that one remedy is administered at a time.
- The Minimum Dose dictates that the least amount of medicine is determined to be used to effect the change in the patient.
Some practitioners will go outside the classical homeopathy arena and combine different homeopathic medicines to treat their patients. By combining the ingredients of several homeopathic remedies for a cold, the practitioner produces a combination remedy that is often used safely and effectively by their patients.
Is this Type of Medicine Safe?
Considered drugs under U.S. federal law and the Food and Drug Administration, homeopathic medicine is regulated in its manufacture, sales, and marketing. Since homeopathic medicines are derived from a plant (botanical), some animal resources, and minerals, their ingredients and chemical composition is listed in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS). It contains everything you need to know to identify the raw material from which homeopathic medicine is made.
If you are using conventional medicine in conjunction with homeopathic remedies, you must make your medical doctor aware of what you are taking. This is also true for any conventional or alternative medicine unless your practitioner is also a medical doctor.
Homeopathy and You
The National Center for Homeopathy (NCH) lists homeopaths in your area and offers tips on using homeopathy to keep you and your family healthy. Using information from their site, you can learn enough about homeopathy to take care of many health needs of you and your family. However, homeopathy is not a replacement for professional health care. Consulting with a professional homeopath is the best path to take if you are new to using this form of medicine. Although using herbals and Nutritionals is safe, as with anything, more is not always better.
NCH also links information on study groups used in developing homeopathic medicine. The study groups offer information on peer-to-peer learning in person. As a result, the groups tend to nurture a faster learning curve from which they can learn much about self-care from others. It is from study groups and sharing that homeopathic medicine has become more widespread along with a general acceptance from the public for non-chemical, laboratory-derived medicines.
What are the Uses of Homeopathy?
Used to maintain health in a broad area of ailments, homeopathy is used to treat a wide variety of long-term conditions, which include irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, atopic dermatitis, and minor cuts, scrapes, sprains, and muscle strains. This form of medicine is not appropriate for the treatment of heart disease, major infections or cancer. Although, some other forms of alternative medicine work well with these more severe illnesses.
Common homeopathic medicines are easily attainable and cover several ailments. A few are listed here.
- Allium Cepa (red onion) – is used for the common cold and hay fever. Because onion causes tearing of the eyes, it is believed to relieve cold symptoms (like cures). It is typically used when the symptoms evidenced display a thin watery nasal discharge that burns and irritates the nostrils.
- Arnica (mountain daisy) is the number one remedy in sports medicine and is used for trauma and shock associated with injuries. It helps speed the healing process while reducing the pain of the injury.
- Many parents use Chamomilla (chamomile) to quiet an irritable infant, usually due to colic or teething. It has a calmative effect that is soothing.
- Hypericum (St. Johns Wart) is used for injuries and issues with the body’s nervous system.
- Magnesia phosphoric (phosphate of magnesia) is very effective for menstrual or abdominal cramps.
- Pulsatilla (windflower) is most often prescribed to women and children; the effect of this medicine is not for a disease but for a pattern of psychological characteristics and physical symptoms. Used for those who tend to be warmer than others, wear fewer clothes, and are bothered by the heat.
Is Homeopathy the Real Deal?
When asking yourself, does abc homeopathy work, In many cases, it does. Some people respond well to homeopathic medicine and swear by it, while others think it is a pseudo-science sold by snake oil purveyors who lead people astray. What has been determined, however, is that if it is used with a whole health (Holistic) approach to health care combined with conventional health care, it can be part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.