Homeopathy, like so many words in the English language, is derived from Greek words. Homios and pathos translated means ‘like suffering’. Homeopathy is simply the medical practice of treating like with like. The principle was well known to Hippocrates and Paracelsus, but its present day use stems from the work of Samuel Hahnemann, a doctor of the late 18th century. Appalled by the existing medical practices, which so often did more harm than good, Hahnemann sought a method which would be safe, gentle and effective. He believed that human beings have a capacity for healing themselves, and that the symptoms of the disease reflect the individual’s struggle to overcome the forces antagonistic to life. The physician’s work must be to discover, and if possible remove the cause of the trouble, and to stimulate the vital healing forces of nature.
Hahnemann and his followers were so convinced of their theories that they carried out experiments upon themselves (called “Provings”) in which they took small doses of various reputedly poisonous or medicinal substances over long periods of time carefully noting the symptoms they produced. Patients suffering from similar symptoms were then treated with these substances with very encouraging results.
Having thus established the principle of similarity, Hahnemann worked to establish the smallest effective dose, for he realized that this was the best way to avoid side-effects. To his surprise he found that while using a special method of dilution, the more similar remedy was diluted, the more active it became, while dissimilar remedies were ineffective. He therefore called this method “potentization” and his serial dilutions potencies, to indicate the power that was developed.
The paradox, that the greater dilution the greater the effect, was not surprisingly unacceptable to the scientific thought of the time, thus Hahnemann and his followers were ridiculed. But homeopathy survived because it achieved remarkable results, and today a changing outlook in science give credibility to the concept of the infinitesimal dose.
Homeopathic physicians consider it better to treat the sick person rather than the disease. For this to be possible a lot must be known about the patient: his past health and life circumstances, the pattern of health in his family, and his present condition. Also, those characteristics which go to 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 or red-headed, his hopes, fears and aspirations.
The homeopathic physician endeavors to build up a multi-dimensional picture of his patient, which will be matched by one of the drug-pictures derived from the provings or 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 problematic the basic principles of homeopathy indicate clearly why this is so.
What are remedies? They can be animal, vegetable and mineral. Homeopaths do use botanical medicines but usually only after potentization. They also used drugs like morphine, cocaine and arsenic, but again in their potentized form. They are no longer poisonous but are outstandingly effective for the right patient. Substances that in their natural state have little or no obvious effect on the human body such as sand, charcoal, common salt or pencil lead, develop the potentized form powerful healing properties in the right patients.
Homeopathy is essentially natural healing. The remedy assists the patient to regain health by stimulating nature’s vital forces of recovery. Adequate rest and appropriate diets in a satisfactory environment assist recovery, and those using homeopathic medicines may have to ask their patients to exercise patience especially in chronic illness.
Rapid results can be achieved in acute illness but if the patient’s vitality is low, treatment will be long-term. 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 homeopathic medicine will help prevent deterioration or recurrence of the illness. Homeopathic physicians do not underrate the value of surgery in advanced cases but suggest that if homeopathic treatment were 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, where natural vitality is, or should be, at its highest. Infrequent high potencies of the well-chosen remedy can set the child’s feet firmly on the way to health.
Homeopathy is not a cure-all, nor an elixir of life. Rather it is an idea, a way of looking at people in their surroundings and enabling them to increase their harmony and wellbeing. It does not reject the great discoveries of modern medical science, only their commercial abuse. In its present form, homeopathy has stood the test of time and as good medicine it is part of a healing tradition that extends from the time of Aesculapius to present day.
Homeopathic remedies are very subtle and there are directions for taking them that enhance their effectiveness. They work best when taken at least 5 minutes (both before and after) away from food or drink, or other substances in the mouth, such as gum or toothpaste. The pellets should be handled as little as possible although handling them may be necessary at times (when giving them to children, etc). Otherwise, avoid touching them in case your hands have a substance on them that would antidote the remedy. Coffee and volatile oils will definitely antidote the remedy. Avoid coffee consumption and volatile oils such as mentholatum, camphor, and eucalyptus found in products like Tiger-Balm, Vick’s Vapor Rub, Ben Gay, herbal teas, and lip balms. When you are flying, homeopathic remedies should be carried on your person, walking through the metal detector will NOT harm them. Putting them in your luggage or carry-on results in them getting X-rayed and losing their potency.