Homeopathy is a medical philosophy and practice developed in the 18th century by German physician Samuel Hahnemann. Disillusioned by the failures of the medical profession to elicit safe and lasting cures, Hahnemann dedicated the remainder of his life and career to establishing a system of medicine that was both safe and effective.
Samuel Hahnemann 1755 - 1843
Today homeopathy is practiced and used in varying degrees across the globe, perhaps most famously by the British Royal Family who have been under the care of homeopathic physicians since 1830.
The tenets of homeopathic medicine have not changed since their inception, and central to the philosophy is Hippocrates’s Law of Similars, commonly referred to as 'like cures like' or in Latin, 'Similia Similibus Curentur'; this law claims that whatever can cause signs and symptoms in a healthy person can also cure those symptoms in a sick person. At the most basic level, a bee sting for example would be treated with Apis Mellifica, a remedy made from whole honeybee, or more recently Apium Virus, the removed stinger from a honeybee.
Conversely, it was Hippocrates’s second law of healing, The Law of Opposites that was developed and became conventional medicine as we know it today; pharmaceutical drugs for example designed to create the opposite signs and symptoms the patient is experiencing such as anti-inflammatories and anti-depressants, which can have toxic effects on the body. It is said that there are no side effects in medicine, there are only effects as drugs are designed to elicit a certain response in the body; side effects are the names given to the unwanted symptoms that can’t be foresee or controlled.
Hahnemann found a way around the toxic effects of medicine through the processes of dilution and succussion, which now form the basis of the Law of Minimum Dose or Potentisation. Through extensive experimentation Hahnemann discovered that the more he diluted a substance, the more effective it became, and the safer it became as toxic effects from crude ingredients were eliminated. Today, the Apis Mellifica for example would be diluted until very little or nothing of the original chemical substance remains; the theory is that the water holds the memory of the original substance. Hahnemann added to this a process called succussion whereby the remedy is vigorously shaken a series of times which ensures that the medicine remains active.
The remedies therefore are incredibly safe and aimed at a patient’s 'vital force' which is akin to Traditional Chinese Medicine’s ‘chi’ or ‘qi’ and is that invisible energy or life force that sustains and maintains all living things.
According to homeopathic philosophy disease is a result of a disturbance or imbalance in a person’s vital force; if disease originates at this dynamic level it therefore follows that treatment should target that same dynamic plane – hence the potentised remedies.
Chakras - centres of the vital force
Homeopathic practitioners focus on treating people, not disease. Treating the whole person and not merely the disease or affected part, means that treatment is highly individualised; ten people with back pain for example, would in all likelihood be prescribed ten different remedies based on a thorough and detailed consultation. Treatment aims to not only heal the patient’s presenting condition, but any underlying susceptibility to disease.
There are currently over 3,000 homeopathic remedies made from animal, plant, mineral and synthetic substances which are administered as small pills or in liquid form. Homeopathic remedies are not magic pills but administer the right remedy to the right person and that person’s innate healing mechanism is stimulated; homeopathy merely provides the tools for the body to heal itself thereby empowering patients.
Homeopathic medicine still faces many challenges in finding acceptance amongst both the complementary and conventional medical worlds, cited as being scientifically implausible, quackery and having nothing more than a placebo effect. Homeopathic philosophy and practice may crumble under the scrutiny of science but the real proof of any therapy lies in the clinical results, those experienced by the patients themselves, not necessarily the evidence revealed within the narrow paradigms of scientific research.
Homeopathic preparations referred to by some homeopaths as 'cocktails’ are available today at chemists for conditions such as hayfever and the common cold. These remedies are comprised of several different remedies and are not prescribed in Classical Homeopathy as they have not been tested in combination, and the effects of such combinations are unknown.