Homeopathy – What Is It?

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Homeopathy has been practiced for generations before modern medicine, with herbs and potions. The word is easily translated. Homios, coming from Greek, means “like.” Homeopathy then is simply the medical practice of treating like with like. Who hasn’t heard of using “the hair of the dog that bit you” to make you feel better?

The principle was known to Hippocrates and Paracelsus; however, the main debt of those who follow homeopathy is to Samuel Hahnemann, M.D., a great doctor of the eighteenth century. Dr. Hahnemann, appalled by the existing medical practices, which so often did more harm than good, sought a method that would be safe, gentle, and effective. He believed that human beings have a capacity for healing themselves, and that the symptoms of disease reflect the individual’s struggle to overcome the forces of antagonistic to live. The physician’s work must be to discover, and if possible to remove, the cause of the trouble, and stimulate the vital healing forces of nature.

Hahnemann and his followers were so convinced of their theories that they performed experiments upon themselves (called provings). Over long periods they took small doses of various reputedly poisonous substances, carefully noting the symptoms they produced. Patients suffering from similar symptoms were treated with these substances with very encouraging results. Having thus established the principle of similarity, Hahnemann worked to establish that the smallest effective dose, for eh realized that this was the best way to avoid side effects.

To his surprise he found that, using a special method of dilution, the more similar the remedy was diluted, the more active it became, while dissimilar remedies were ineffective. He called his method “potentization” and his serial dilutions “potencies,” to indicate the power that was developed.

This paradox, that less of a substance could be more effective, was somewhat unacceptable to the scientific minds of his time. Hahnemann and his followers were ridiculed, but homeopathy survived simply because it achieved remarkable results.

Today a changing outlook in science renders the concept of the infinitesimal dose less incredible. Homeopaths consider it better to treat a sick person rather than the disease. For this to be possible, a great deal must be known about the patient: his past health and life circumstances, the pattern of health in his family, and the present condition.

These are combined with those characteristics that make-up his personality; whether he prefers hot or cold weather; the sea or the mountains; whether he is musical or artistic, quick tempered or sulky; dark, fair-haired or red-headed; his hopes fears and aspirations. The homeopathic physician endeavors to build a multi-dimensional picture of his patient, which will be watched by one of the drug pictures derived from the provings of the remedies. Infinitesimal doses of that remedy will help that patient to heal himself.

Because the patient is treated and not the disease, patients suffering from the same “disease” will often require different remedies, while another group of patients with different “diseases” may all benefit from the same remedy. Although this makes controlled trials problematical, the basic principles of homeopathy indicate clearly why this is so.

What are the remedies? They can be animal, vegetable, and mineral. Homeopaths use herbs and botanical medicines but usually only after potentization. They also use drugs such as morphine, cocaine, arsenic, again their potentized form, no longer poisonous but marvelously effective for good – for the right patient.

Substances that in their natural state have little or no obvious effect upon the human body (sand, charcoal, common salt, pencil lead) develop in the potentized form powerful healing properties in the right person. Homeopathy is essentially natural healing; the remedy assisting the patient to regain healthy by stimulating nature’s vital forces of recovery. Adequate rest and appropriate diet in a satisfactory environment will obviously support recovery, and those especially in the management of chronic illness.

Rapid results can be achieved in acute illness; however, if the patient’s vitality is low, the treatment will be of long-term nature. Sometimes irreversible bodily changes are present. In these cases other forms of medical or surgical treatment may be necessary to give the patient a fresh start, after which homeopathy will help to prevent deterioration or recurrence. Homeopathy does not underrate the value of surgery in advanced cases, but it does not argue that if homeopathic treatment started earlier, far fewer cases would need the skill of the surgeon.

Some of the happiest results of homeopathic treatment can be seen in babies and children. Here natural vitality is or should be at its highest, and infrequent high potencies of the well-chosen remedy can set the small person’s feet firmly on the road to health. Homeopathy, then, is not a cure-all, nor an elixir of life. Rather it is an idea, a way of looking at people in their surroundings, enabling them to increase their harmony and well-being. It does not reject the great discoveries of medical science, but only their commercial abuse.

In the present form it has stood the test of 150 years; and as good medicine, it stands in the tradition that extends from the time of Hippocrates until the present day.

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Originally posted 2006-08-29 22:54:07.

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