What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy has proven consistently effective in treating conditions for which conventional medicine has little to offer. The World Health Organisation has recognised the value of homoeopathy as one of the systems of traditional medicine that should be integrated with conventional medicine in order to provide adequate global health care.
The discipline continues to follow the principle of “like will be cured by like” (“simila similibus curantur”), as documented by Hahnemann. This is known as the “Law of Similars “. Remedies are based on substances that would promote symptoms in a healthy person that closely resemble the symptoms of the person who is unwell.
Homoeopathy utilises the process known as ‘potentisation’, where a substance is alternately diluted and shaken (also known as ‘succussion’). While the amount of actual substance decreases with each dilution, to the point where the substance can no longer be chemically detected, the curative power of the remedy increases. The substance, while no longer present in a molecular state, has imprinted its ‘energy pattern’ on the remedy. Homoeopathy holds that in the course of a cure, symptoms change from more important to less important body systems, and from the inside of the body outwards. For example, heart symptoms may ‘move’ to the skin as healing occurs. Symptoms are thought to disappear in the opposite order to their appearance, the most recent being the first to go.
Homeopathic medicines treat the individual, taking into account emotional and physical characteristics. People vary in their reaction to an illness and therefore different homeopathic medicines may be needed for people with the same medical condition. On the other hand, the same homeopathic medicine may be used to treat many different illnesses.
When do I need to see a qualified homeopath?
Although homeopathic medicine is suitable for home treatment of minor ailments and for first-aid purposes, it’s important to consult a qualified homeopathic doctor if you have a longstanding or more serious illness. As we are all different in terms of our mental and physical makeup, it’s reasonable to expect that our reactions to an illness will also be different. Illnesses which occurred many years previously, sometimes in childhood or even in our parents and grandparents, can often lead to areas of weakness in our constitution. A skilled homoeopath may spend some time tracing and removing these defects, using the correct homeopathic medicine. There are over 3000 remedies in the Homeopathic Materia medica and most of the over the counter medication only has a fraction of these remedies available.
History of Homeopathy?
Samuel Christian Hahnemann founded homoeopathy in the late 1700s. He was born in Dresden, Germany, in 1755. Despite an impoverished background, he acquired a good education and studied chemistry and medicine at the universities of Leipzig, Erlangen and Vienna. After qualifying as a doctor in 1779, he set up his practice. Although Hahnemann worked mainly as a doctor, he supplemented his income by writing articles and books on medicine and chemistry.
In these writings, he protested against the harsh medical practices of the time, especially bloodletting and purging, and the massive doses of medicines that were administered to patients, often with terrible side effects. He argued for better public hygiene and advocated the importance of sensible eating, fresh air, exercise and less cramped housing conditions. At a time when overcrowding was common and standards of hygiene were poor, he advised regular bathing and cleanliness of bed linen.
By the late 18th century, Europe began a period of enormous upheaval and social change. With the Industrial Revolution came widespread technological advances and many new scientific discoveries. In medicine, considerable work was done to identify and extract the active ingredients of herbs and other plants. The first important breakthrough occurred In 1803 in Germany when Friedrich Serturner isolated morphine from the opium poppy.
The first proving Hahnemann become increasingly disillusioned with conventional medical practice and eventually gave up being a doctor to work as a translator. In 1790, while translating A Treatise on Materia Medico, by Dr William Cullen, Hahnemann came across a passage about Peruvian bark, or cinchona, which was to change his life as well as the lives of many people throughout the world. In his book, Cullen stated that quinine, which is a substance purified from the bark of the cinchona tree, was a good treatment for malaria because of its astringent qualities. This made no sense to Hahnemann who, as a chemist, was aware that there were other much more powerful astringents that had no affect whatsoever on malaria.
He decided to investigate further. For several days, he dosed himself with quinine and recorded his reactions in great detail. To his astonishment, he began to develop the symptoms of malaria one after another, despite the fact that he did not actually have the disease. The symptoms recurred every time he took a dose of quinine and lasted for several hours. If he didn’t take any quinine, he had no symptoms. Was this, he wondered, why malaria was also cured by quinine?
To test out his theory, he repeated the doses of quinine, which he called “provings” on people he knew well, again noting the reactions in great detail. He then went on to repeat the process using other substances that were in use as medicines, such arsenic and belladonna. These provings were carried out under strict conditions, and the provers were not allowed to drink or eat anything that might confuse the results, such as alcohol, tea, coffee, and salty or spicy foods
Understanding the symptoms Hahnemann found that the provers’ responses varied from being mildly symptomatic to chronic reactions with a variety of symptoms. The symptoms that were most commonly found for each substance he called first-line, or keynote, symptoms. Second-line symptoms were less common and third-line symptoms were rare or idiosyncratic. The combination of symptoms made up a “drug picture” for each substance being tested.
Hahnemann continued to carry out his experiments and provings, testing a wide range of natural sources. He had rediscovered the principle of ‘like can cure like” and his work would bring about the establishment of a new system of medicine.
Can children and pregnant women use homeopathy?
Yes, there are no side-effects and it is safe to use. It can assist with nausea (morning sickness), low mood, colic and sleep disorders in children etc.
Is homoeopathy safe?
Yes. Even though some of the medicines are potentially harmful in their non-homeopathic state, the extreme dilutions used for homeopathic treatment eliminate any danger.
How is homeopathic medicine taken ?
Homeopathic tablets should either be dissolved under the tongue or chewed. They shouldn’t be swallowed whole. Food, beverages, smoking and toothpaste should be avoided for 30 minutes before and after taking the medicine. For young children, tablets can be crushed and given as a powder.
What reactions should I expect?
Very occasionally, after taking a homeopathic medicine, your symptoms may become slightly worse. This effect will be brief and is a sign that the body’s natural healing energies have started to counteract the illness. After this, the symptoms will subside as you regain your health.
Does taking a larger dose have a greater effect?
No, it is the frequency of taking the does that matters, not the number of tablets.
What if I am taking conventional medicine already?
There is no conflict between conventional medicines and homeopathic medicine. In fact, both systems of therapy can sometimes be used together to complement each other. In most cases, when starting homeopathic treatment, you should continue using your current conventional medicine. This is why it’s so important to consult a homeopathic doctor. He/she will be able to advise you on how to reduce the use of your conventional medicine in the safest way possible.