Homeopathy is a low-cost system of medicine based upon the principle that "like cures like." This healing modality treats an illness with a substance that would cause the same symptoms in a healthy person. Practiced for more than 200 years in the U.S. and abroad, this system of medicine is used by hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Homeopathic remedies, generally dilutions of natural substances from plants, animals, and minerals, has proven effective in treating diseases and conditions for which conventional medicine has little to offer.
Homeopathic medicine is a subtle method of healing based on the use of exceptionally small doses of medication. In fact, with this system of medicine, the more a remedy is diluted, the greater its potency. It works on the principle of diluted dose, which is similar to the approach used in immunizations and allergy treatments.
Since the doses are microscopic, the remedies are exceptionally safe. Given this safety, homeopathic treatment is a practical approach for self-treating colds, flu, stomach upsets, sprains and strains, and other types of everyday concerns. There are almost no known side effects associated with the use of homeopathic remedies.
The World Health Organization has cited homeopathy as one of the systems of traditional medicine that should be integrated worldwide with conventional medicine in order to provide adequate global health care in the 21st Century. Today in the U.S., more than 3,000 medical doctors and licensed health care providers practice homeopathy. Europe, the birthplace of homeopathy, has an estimated 6,000 practitioners in Germany and 5,000 in France. In Britain, where homeopathy has long enjoyed the patronage of the British royal family, homeopathic hospitals and other facilities are a part of the national health system. In Canada, Latin American, and India, homeopathy is one of the most respected medical modalities.
How Homeopathy Works
Homeopathic medicine is based on a dynamic called the Law of Similars. This response was first understood by a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, in 1790. Hahnemann concluded that malaria was cured by quinine, not because of its bitter properties, but because of the fact that the drug produces the symptoms of malaria in a healthy person. When someone with malaria took quinine, their symptoms actually became a little worse.
This brief, mild "aggravation" of symptoms is believed to trigger the healing process. It may be that this "aggravation" of symptoms calls the illness to the attention of the immune system. Homeopathy is also believed to work on a subtle energy basis, bringing the body back to state of vibrational balance.
With homeopathic remedies, this aggravation only lasts the first 15 minutes and is so mild, you may not notice it. The remedy is taken on a time schedule - for example, once every two hours. Once the natural immune response is activated, the remedy is stopped to let the natural healing process occur.
Rather than working through some kind of magic, the remedies stimulate the body's own healing processes. For example, if you have a cold and take a homeopathic remedy, you may find that you have an overwhelming desire to sleep - and that you literally sleep off your cold.
Long-term treatment with homeopathy is called constitutional prescribing, which is based on an extensive analysis of body type, personality, and personal and family medical history. This approach involves a regimen of sequentially prescribed remedies. The effectiveness of treatment lies in the skill of the practitioner and the compliance of the patient.
This deep healing process begins with eliminating the immediate symptoms, then progressing to the "older," symptoms underlying the condition. Many of the layers of healing reached are the leftovers of chronic disease and other symptoms that have been unsuccessfully treated with conventional medicine. As part of this process, you may feel worse before getting better, oftentimes experiencing what is termed a "healing crisis."
Uses of Homeopathy
Homeopathy is known to be helpful for minor ailments, such as:
- dental pain
- motion sickness
- skin eruptions
- sprains and strains
- stomach upsets
Clinical studies have shown homeopathy to be effective for a range of conditions, including:
- bronchial asthma
- digestive diseases
- female health problems
- mental or emotional disorders
- neck and back pain
- Parkinson's disease
- postoperative infections and symptoms
- respiratory infections
How to Use Homeopathy Safely
Many homeopathic remedies are available for purchase over-the-counter in health food stores, drug stores and even in some supermarkets. These remedies are usually for minor ailments and instructions are provided on the package. Oscilloccinum, a homepathic remedy for flu, has become commonly available in the last few years.
If you want to engage in a comprehensive homeopathic healing process, you will be working with a trained homeopath, who will be available to adjust the remedies as needed.
Benefits of Homeopathy
The system of homeopathy can help with almost any disease or health condition. Homeopathy can be amazingly effective for a myriad of conditions that lend themselves to self-medication.
Imagine that your child wakes up in the middle of the night screaming in pain from an earache - or your partner awakens with an agonizing toothache. The choice of the right remedy can transform this situation, and in a few minutes they're out of pain, relaxed, and ready to fall into a peaceful sleep. This is a perfect example of the value of the remedies, because at that time of night, unless the situation is dangerous enough to merit a trip to the emergency room, you need an effective short term solution, until you can call your doctor, dentist, or homeopath in the morning.
The challenge of homeopathy is that this healing effect occurs only when you choose the right remedy. That means learning how to use the remedies. The best way to become skillful at choosing the right remedy is to be seen by a healthcare practitioner who uses homeopathy and learn from experience how the remedies work.
Many people, who regularly use homeopathy for minor ailments keep a home remedy kit. Such a kit can be purchased fairly inexpensively (for less than $50) and will last for many years. It is also essential to have a few really good books that list symptoms and remedies.
The Role of Homeopathy in Prevention
Because it is a complete system of natural medicine, homeopathy's long-term benefits include reestablishing internal balance at the deepest levels, thereby providing a lasting solution. Therefore, when you address your health issues with homeopathy and get back into balance, you can help to prevent illness.
The homeopathic remedies, with very very rare exceptions, are some of the safest medications ever devised. However, there are a few important precautions that are applicable to any form of natural self-treatment.
* Don't avoid seeking professional help for a serious condition. While it is sensible to treat minor illnesses at home, whenever there is a high fever (over 101 degrees) be sure to see the doctor. If you need antibiotics, take them. What's most important is to get well. If you have a serious illness, don't treat yourself!
* Use homeopathy in combination with other approaches to wellness. For example, don't neglect nutrition, exercise or relaxation practices just because you are using the remedies. All of the approaches support each other.
To use homeopathy for other than minor ailments, seek the advice of a trained homeopathic practitioner, naturopath, or medical doctor. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) today recognizes homeopathic remedies as drugs and regulates their use. There is an official compendium for homeopathic remedies, the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States, which was first published in 1897.
* Homeopathic Education and Referrals Bastyr University Referral Line, Kenmore, WA, (425) 602-3390. Referrals to naturopathic physicians, who also provide homeopathic treatment.
* British Institute of Homeopathy and College of Homeopathy, Marina del Rey, CA, (310) 306-5408. Educational resource, home study course for professionals and lay people.
* Hahnemann Medical Clinic, Albany, CA, near Berkeley, (510) 524-3117. Homeopathic Educational Services, Berkeley, CA, (800) 359-9051). Books, resources, remedies. International Foundation for Homeopathy, Seattle, WA, (206) 324-8230. Educational resource, referrals.
* National Center for Homeopathy, Alexandria, VA, (703) 548-7790. Educational resource, referrals.
* The Washington Homeopathic Pharmacy, Washington, DC, (301) 656-1695. Another excellent source for remedies.
- Alternative Medicine by the Burton Group, Future Medicine Publishing (1999).
- The Complete Family Guide to Homeopathy by Christopher Hammond, M.D., Element Books (1995).
- The Complete Guide to Homeopathy by Andrew Lockie, M.D., and Nicola Geddes, Dorling Kindersly Publishers (1995).
- Discovering Homeopathy by Dana Ullman, North Atlantic Books (1991).
- Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine by Stephen Cummings, M.D., and Dana Ullman, J.P. Tarcher (1997).
- The Family Guide to Homeopathy: Symptoms and Natural Solutions by Andrew Lockie, Prentice Hall (1993).
- The Homeopathic Materia Medica by William Boericke, B. Jain Publishers (1995).
- Homeopathic Self-Care by Robert Ullman, M.D. and Judith Ullman, Prima Publishing (1997)
- Homeopathy: An Illustrated Guide by Llana Dannheisser and Penny Edwards, Element Books (1998).
- The Science of Homeopathy by George Vithoulkas, Grove Press (1980).