What Is Homeopathy?
An overview of hoeopathy, a branch of alternative medicine, focusing on how and why proponents claim it works.
Homeopathy is a form of medicine that is over two hundred years old. It is not the same as herbal medicine. While American doctors tend to be skeptical of its value, it is widely accepted as a credible form of complementary medicine in Europe, particularly in France, England, and Germany.
Homeopathy is based on the “principle of similars.” This basically means that whatever symptoms a substance causes in large or toxic doses, it has the ability to heal in small doses. While this sounds strange at first, conventional medicine holds several examples of this principle. Allergy shots contain small amounts of the offending allergen. Vaccines often contain weakened strains of the viruses they protect against. Radiation, which is known to cause cancer in toxic doses, is also used in controlled doses to cure cancer.
Over 200 years ago, homeopaths conducted experiments called “provings” to find out what symptoms were caused by various substances when ingested by humans. The results have been written down in texts called “materia medica.” The substance is then prepared into micro-doses, through a pharmacological process known as “potentization.” This is a series of consecutive dilutions and succussions (vigorous shakings). For example, a substance is diluted with nine parts of water (1:10) or with ninety-nine parts of water (1:100). After being shaken, it is diluted again, and the process is repeated. A 1:10 mixture that is diluted three times is labeled 3X (X being the Roman numeral for ten). A 1:100 mixture that is diluted six times is labeled 6C (C is the Roman numeral for 100).
Homeopaths believe in individualization of care, treating specific symptoms as opposed to a disease. Therefore, three people diagnosed with the same disease might all receive different treatments, based on their individual symptoms. One person with a migraine might experience nausea as a symptom, while another does not. One person’s arthritis might respond to heat, while another feels better from applications of ice. Homeopathy also looks at psychological symptoms, like anxiety, irritability, or apathy.
The idea of “constitutional care” is also essential to homeopathy. In this school of medicine, people fit into certain mind/body types, or constitutions. Constitutional care focuses on finding a medicine that fits the totality of the person’s physical and psychological symptoms. This medicine would most likely be a mixture of several homeopathic substances, and would not only heal the individual’s chronic ailments, but would act as a tonic to help prevent new symptoms and syndromes from appearing.