What is Homeopathic Medicine?
Homeopathy is a complete system of medicine. It is becoming popular again but it
has been in world-wide use for nearly two hundred years.
The Royal Family has used it for generations. People suffering from all kinds of
illnesses, from depression to arthritis, migraine to ulcers, and now the more ‘modern’
illnesses including AIDS and ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), can be helped by Homeopathy
to regain their health.
Good Homeopathy will not just drive away the symptoms but help the patient deal
with the cause of the illness and regain good health.
Homeopaths aim to help their patients achieve freedom from limitations in their
lives, and, ideally, to reach a level of health where they are no longer dependent
on any medicine or therapy.
Homeopathy is Holistic Medicine
The holistic approach to medicine takes a wider view of illness, a wider view of
the causes of disease and the ways in which people express their illness individually.
Paracelsus, a 16th century philosopher and physician, said, ‘Those who merely study
and treat the effects of disease are like those who imagine that they can drive
away the winter by brushing the snow from the door. It is not the snow that
causes the winter.’
Homeopaths do not treat physical, emotional and mental or even spiritual illnesses
separately, but regard them as intimately connected, since all are aspects of the
whole of the patient’s suffering.
When starting Homeopathic treatment, the patient may not realize the relevance of
some of the questions being asked. It may appear that the Homeopath is interested
in matters which have little to do with the particular complaint about which the
patient is most concerned.
Homeopaths understand that symptoms of illness are evidence of the body’s natural
and automatic efforts to heal itself and these clues are used to guide them when
prescribing a Homeopathic remedy.
In Homeopathy more of these clues are used than in orthodox medicine, so the patient
may be asked questions about all sorts of apparently minor deviations from health
and about character and personality traits, in order to arrive at a clear understanding
of the whole picture of the patient’s state of health. Before prescribing, the Homeopath
wants to have a complete overview of the patient. The first consultation can take
as long as two hours.
A remedy is then prescribed for that individual patient, not merely for his or her
disease but for the person’s whole state. Thus Homeopathy is truly holistic. This
fundamental principle of Homeopathy, that of the individual prescription, explains
why two patients with apparently similar illnesses may be treated with a different
remedy. In other words, two patients might have headaches but the way they have
their headaches can be different, their overall state of health can be different,
the way they cope with life can be different and so on. To go back to the example
from Paracelsus, you cannot drive away the whole illness by brushing the headache
from the door!
What are the Principals on Homeopathy?
(A) Treating like with like, or the Law of Similars
Homeopathic remedies are prescribed according to the Law of Similars. This
law states, ‘That which makes sick shall heal’. This means that the symptoms caused
by an overdose (too much) of a substance are the symptoms that can also be cured
with a small dose of that substance.
For instance, we know that when cutting a strong onion we often experience an acrid
runny nose, a particular soreness in the throat and stinging, runny eyes; so a Homeopathic
will prescribe Allium cepa (the Homeopathic remedy made from onion) for the patient
who has a cold and bad throat with these particular symptoms.
Homeopaths sometimes simplify the Law of Similars by saying that they treat ‘like
with like’. The name Homeopathy comes from the same idea. It is derived from two
Greek words, meaning ‘similar + suffering’. The Law of Similars has been a part
of medical practice at least since the time of classical Greece, but Homeopathy
as we know it today was first formulated two hundred years ago by Samuel Hahnemann,
a German physician, chemist and linguist.
(B) Homeopathy is gentle and subtle, or the principle of
the minimum dose
In Homeopathy, one remedy or a combination remedy is used. Just as a television
reproduces only the program to which it is tuned, so a sick person is very sensitive
to, or ‘tuned-in’ to, the correct remedy and only a minute stimulus from the right
signal is required. This is sometimes called the principle of the minimum dose.
The idea is to cure with the minimum amount of medicine and the minimum of intervention.
It is the body’s energy which is influenced rather than its chemical balance, and
the remedies do not cause side effects, as there is no chemical trace to accumulate
in the body’s tissues. For the same reasons it is not possible to take an overdose
of homeopathic medicine in the same way as in orthodox medicine (orthodox medicine
works on a chemical level).
Homeopathic medicines are not therefore intrinsically dangerous. Nonetheless, they
are clearly capable of stimulating the body’s reactive forces powerfully and should
be treated with respect.
What are Homeopathic Remedies, and How are They Given?
The remedies which Homeopaths use come from many different sources. Most are derived
from plants, but minerals, metals and some poisons which have been used medicinally
for generations are also used.
After initial preparation of the raw material the remedies are made by serial dilution
and succussion (vigorous shaking) in a solution of alcohol and water. This is done
a few (three to four) times or up to many thousands of times. The liquid is then
used itself as a remedy or soaked into tablets or granules for convenience.
The diluted remedies are described as being ‘potentized’, in recognition of the
dynamic healing power they can stimulate.
Remedies may be prescribed in a number of different strengths, or potencies as they
are called. The lower potencies have been subjected to less dilution and succussion
than the higher ones and are not, broadly speaking, as powerful and long-lasting
in their effects. It is the low potencies such as the sixth (e.g. Arnica 6) which
are to be found on sale in many chemists and health food shops. High potency remedies
are usually prescribed by experienced qualified Homeopaths.
Remedies can be prescribed in different ways. Sometimes they are given as a single
dose (probably in a high potency) when it is likely that Homeopath and patient will
wait for a period of weeks to see the patient’s response.; A remedy can also be
given in a lower potency, singly or repeated daily or more frequently.
The Homeopath will choose the method to suit the patient and the nature of the illness.
For instance, a person who has been ill for a long time and whose body has been
physically damaged may need repeated doses of a remedy to stimulate the re-cuperative
powers, whereas a young and basically healthy person may respond very quickly to
a singe high potency remedy. Individual patients also respond better to some methods
than others; understanding this is part of the skill of the Homeopath and explains
why attempts to prescribe for oneself may prove ineffective.
Research but no Experiments on Animals
Homeopathic remedies are tested on people, not on animals. Groups of volunteers
under supervision take a safe dose, of a substance prepared as a Homeopathic remedy,
repeatedly over a period of time until they produce a range of symptoms. These symptoms
of ‘the proving’ are carefully recorded. Additional information on the action of
many Homeopathic remedies has been gathered for over two hundred years, from clinical
experience, and all the information is recorded precisely in two types of Homeopathic
reference book, the materia medica, and the repertory, as well as on computer.
This information is then used to prescribe a remedy for a patient with the same
symptoms, according to the Law of Similars (that which makes sick shall heal).
There is much precision involved both in testing remedies and prescribing them.
Collective experience reinforces the understanding of their curative action and,
because of the way in which they are prescribed, they are not made redundant (as
are many chemical drugs) by ‘new’ or drug-resistant bacteria and viruses.
What Can I Expect After Taking a Homeopathic Remedy?
After taking a Homeopathic remedy, different patients respond in different ways.
While some feel an immediate surge of well-being such as they have rarely felt before,
others may suddenly feel very tired at first and need to rest for a day or so before
improvement - this often happens with patients who have been under stress and who
really do need to stop and re-cuperate. Sometimes the original symptoms temporarily
become worse, or patients may experience a brief awareness of symptoms of illnesses
they have had in the past and from which they have not truly recovered. All these
reactions are indications that the remedy is working and that a process of self-healing
has begun. Sometimes these responses are quite subtle and may pass unnoticed, while
at other times they can be quite marked.
(From the Society of Homeopaths representing professional