What is Homeopathy?
A somewhat controversial form of medicine that is considered one of the unorthodox practices of medicine, homeopathy is one of members of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) methods. 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 the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in larger amounts produce in a 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 the practice of medicine and soon after began his first homeopathic experiments in 1790. Having become disillusioned with the common medical practices of the day, such as purging, bloodletting and the use of toxic chemicals, he took a different path to healing his patients. (Whole Health Now)
The Homeopathic Principle
The basis of homeopathic principle is that of “similar”, creating the “Law of Similar”. This idea stemmed from Dr. Hahnemann’s work with South American tree-bark of cinchona or “the bark” (i.e. quinine) that was used to treat malaria. Upon ingesting the bark himself, Dr. Hahnemann found that it produced malaria type symptoms, leading him to believe in the idea of 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 1800’s, Dr. Hahnemann became recognized for his successes in treating scarlet fever, yellow fever, 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 1920’s and many of the schools closed. Although its popularity dwindled and almost faded in the United States, it found a willing populace in Europe, Asia and other countries and 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 large number of the populace who conform to the use of homeopathy for the treatment of 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 criteria. 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 suppressing them like conventional medicine does. Conventional medicine is prone to 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 that has been tested on a healthy patient to the individual who is seeking treatment.
- Complete symptom profiles of the patient are matched 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 of the classical arena of homeopathy and combine different homeopathic medicines in order 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 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 that you need to know for the identification of the raw material from which homeopathic medicine is made.
If you are using conventional medicine in conjunction with homeopathic remedies, you need to make your medical doctor aware of what you are taking. This is also true for any type of 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 offer 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 at using this form of medicine. Although using herbals and nutritionals is safe, as with anything, more is not always better.
NCH also offers a link that provides information on study groups that have been used in developing homeopathic medicine. The study groups offer information on in peer-to-peer learning in person. The groups tend to nurture a faster learning curve from which they can learn a lot 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 ailments, 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 relive cold symptoms (like cures like), and 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.
- Chamomilla (chamomile) is used by many parents 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 phophorica (phosphate of magnesia) is very effective for menstrual or abdominal cramps.
- Pulsatilla (windflower) 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 are and who wear fewer clothes and are bothered by the heat.
Is Homeopathy the Real Deal?
When asking yourself, does homeopathy work, In many cases it does. Some people respond well to homeopathic medicine and swear by it, while others think that is a pseudo-science sold by purveyors of snake oil who are leading people astray. What has been determined, however, is that if it is used with a whole health (Holistic) approach to health care and combined with conventional health care, it can be part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.