Homeopathy, or homeopathic medicine, is a holistic system of treatment that originated in the late eighteenth century. The name homeopathy is derived from two Greek words that mean "like disease." The system is based on the idea that substances that produce symptoms of sickness in healthy people will have a curative effect when given in very dilute quantities to sick people who exhibit those same symptoms. Homeopathic remedies are believed to stimulate the body's own healing processes. Homeopaths use the term "allopathy," or "different
|Aconite||Commonly known as monkshood, aconite is highly toxic. A nontoxic, diluted extract of aconite is used in homeopathy to treat symptoms similar to that of poison.|
|Allium cepa||Commonly known as red onion, homeopathic physicians use a dilute extract of red onion to treat symptoms similar to that of red onion—watery eyes, burning, etc.|
|Apis||Commonly known as the honeybee, apis as a homeopathic remedy is made from the body of the bee. It is used to treat symptoms similar to that of a bee sting—redness, swelling, etc.|
|Arnica||Commonly known as the mountain daisy, arnica is used by homeopathic physicians to treat bruises, sprains, and strains.|
|Arsenicum album||Also known as ars alb, arsenicum album is a diluted form of arsenic, a metallic poison. It is used by homeopathic physicians to treat symptoms similar to the effects of arsenic poisoning—dehydration, burning pain, etc.|
|Belladonna||Commonly known as deadly nightshade, belladonna is used in homeopathy to treat symptoms of dry mouth, nausea, delirium, etc.|
|Bryonia||Commonly known as wild hops, bryonia is used in homeopathy to treat vomiting, diarrhea, inflammation, etc.|
|Calcarea carbonica||Also known as calcium carbonate or calc carb, it is used in homeopathy to treat symptoms of exhaustion, depression, and anxiety.|
|Cantharis||Commonly known as Spanish fly, cantharis is used in homeopathy to treat conditions with symptoms of abdominal cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, etc.|
|Chamomilla||Derived from German chamomile, it is used in homeopathy to treat irritability, impatience, etc. It is most often prescribed to children.|
|Ferrum phosphoricum||Also known as ferrum phos or iron phosphate, it is used to treat symptoms of low energy and anemia.|
|Gelsemium||Also known as yellow jasmine, it is used to treat conditions that affect vision, balance, thought, and locomotion.|
|Hepar sulphuris||Derived from the inner layer of oyster shells, hepar sulphuris is used to treat infection.|
disease," to describe the use of drugs used in conventional medicine to oppose or counteract the symptom being treated.
Homeopathy was founded by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), who was much disturbed by the medical system of his time, believing that its cures were crude and some of its strong drugs and treatments did more harm than good to patients. Hahnemann performed experiments on himself using Peruvian bark, which contains quinine, a malaria remedy. He concluded that in a healthy person, quinine creates the same symptoms as malaria, including fevers and chills, which is the reason why it is effective as a remedy. He then began to analyze the remedies available in nature by what he called provings. Provings of homeopathic remedies are still compiled by dosing healthy adults with various substances and documenting the results, in terms of the dose needed to produce the symptoms and the length of the dose's effectiveness. The provings are collected in large homeopathic references called materia medica or materials of medicine.
Hahnemann formulated these principles of homeopathy:
- Law of Similars (like cures like)
- Law of the Infinitesimal Dose (The more diluted a remedy is, the more potent it is.)
- Illness is specific to the individual.
Hahnemann's Law of Similars was based on thinking that dated back to Hippocrates in the fourth century
|HOMEOPATHIC REMEDIES (CONTD.)|
|Hypericum||Commonly known as St. John's wort, hypericum is used to treat nerve damage.|
|Ignatia||Derived from seeds of a plant, this homeopathic remedy is prescribed to treat conditions with symptoms such as headache, cramping, and tremors.|
|Ipecac||Ipecac induces vomiting and causes gastrointestinal distress. Homeopaths prescribe it to treat similar symptoms.|
|Kali bichromicum||Commonly known as potassium bichromate, kali bichromicum is a poison used also in textile dyes, wood stain, etc. Homeopaths use it to treat localized pain.|
|Lachesis||Derived from the venom of the bushmaster snake, this homeopathic remedy is used to treat conditions that cause the same symptoms as the venom itself.|
|Ledum||Also known as marsh tea, ledum is used to treat infections, most often from animal bites, stings, cuts, etc.|
|Lycopodium||Commonly known as club moss, lycopodium is used to treat diarrhea, digestive upset, etc.|
|Mercurius vivus||Also known as quicksilver, it is used to treat symptoms of sweats, shaking, nausea, etc.|
|Natrum muriaticum||Commonly known as salt, it is used to treat conditions that cause excessive thirst and salt cravings.|
|Nux vomica||It is used to treat symptoms caused by overeating and too much caffeine or alcohol.|
|Phosphorus||It is used to treat symptoms of excessive thirst, fatigue, and nervousness.|
|Pulsatilla||It is used to treat conditions that are accompanied by discharge, such as bedwetting, sinusitis, etc.|
|Rhus toxicodendron||Commonly known as poison ivy, homeopaths use it to treat conditions with symptoms of fever, swollen glands, and restlessness.|
|Ruta||It is used to treat conditions with bruising, such as tennis elbow, sciatica, etc.|
|Sepia||Sepia is the discharge used by the cuttlefish to disappear from a predator. Homeopaths use sepia to treat symptoms of apathy and weakness.|
|Silica||Also called flint, silica is used by homeopaths to treat conditions that cause weakness, sweating, and sensitivity to cold.|
|Sulphur||It is used to treat conditions with symptoms of itching, burning pains, and odor.|
B.C. It is the same thinking that provided the basis for the vaccines discovered by Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur. These vaccines provoke a reaction in the individual that protects against the actual disease. Allergy treatments work the same way. By exposing a person to minute quantities of the allergen, the person's tolerance levels are elevated.
The Law of the Infinitesimal Dose has always caused controversy among those outside the field of homeopathy. Hahnemann contended that as he diluted his remedies with water and alcohol and succussed, or shook, them, the remedies actually worked more effectively. In fact, diluted homeopathic remedies may have no chemical trace of the original substance. Practitioners believe that the electromagnetic energy of the original substance is retained in the dilution, but the toxic side effects of the remedy are not. It is this electrochemical "message" that stimulates the body to heal itself.
Homeopathic practitioners believe that illness is specific to an individual. In other words, two people with severe headaches may not receive the same remedies. The practitioner will ask the patient questions about lifestyle, dietary habits, and personality traits, as well as specific questions about the nature of the headache and when it occurs. This information gathering is called profiling or case-taking.
In the early 1900s, homeopathy was popular in America, with over 15 percent of all doctors being homeopaths. There were 22 major homeopathic medical schools, including Boston University and the University of Michigan. However, with the formation of the American Medical Association, which restricted and closed
Homeopathic physicians seek to cure their patients on the physical, mental and emotional levels, and each treatment is tailored to a patient's individual needs. Homeopathy is generally a safe treatment, as it uses medicines in extremely diluted quantities, and there are usually minimal side effects. Its nontoxicity makes some consider it a good choice for the treatment of children. Another benefit of homeopathy is the cost of treatments; homeopathic remedies are inexpensive, often a fraction of the cost of conventional drugs.
SAMUEL HAHNEMANN 1755–1843
Samuel Christian Hahnemann created and developed the system called homeopathy. It is also known as similia similibus curentor or "let like be cured by like.". Although his new methods initially met with ridicule and criticism, by the time of his death they were accepted the world over as a result of the great success he had with his new cure.
Hahnemann was born in Meissen, Saxony (now part of Germany) into a financially challenged middle class family. His parents initially educated him at home, where his father taught him never to accept anything he learned without first questioning it. He graduated as a physician from the University of Erlangen in 1779 after studying at Leipzig and Vienna. He was also fluent in English, German, Italian, French, Greek, Arabic, Latin and Hebrew.
At age 27 he married his first wife, Johanna Henriette Kuchler, the daughter of an apothecary, with whom he had 11 children.
Living in poverty, Hahnemann began practicing medicine in 1781 and translating scientific texts to supplement his income. However, disillusioned with medicine, he eventually gave it up entirely.
He discovered the concept of homeopathy when he considered the effect of quinine on malaria, and went on to cure soldiers and then sufferers of a typhus epidemic with astounding success. He documented his discoveries in the Organon, a treatise on his work. Homeopathy also proved its worth in 1831 when there was an outbreak of cholera. Hahnemann used homeopathic treatment with a 96% success rate, compared to the 41% of allopathic medicine. He also wrote his Materia Medica Pura.
In 1834, Hahnemann met his second wife, Marie Melanie d'Hervilly. Despite a great difference in age, they were happily married until his death in Paris on July 2, 1843, at the age of 88.
Homeopathic treatment has been shown to be effective in treating many conditions. Colds and flu may be effectively treated with aconite and bryonia. Influenza sufferers in a double-blind study found that they were twice as likely to recover in 48 hours when they took homeopathic remedies. Studies have been published in British medical journals confirming the efficacy of homeopathic treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. Homeopathic remedies are considered effective in treating infections, circulatory problems, respiratory problems, heart disease, depression
A visit to a homeopath is usually a different experience from a visit to a regular physician. Surveys have shown that homeopathic doctors spend much more time during initial consultations than conventional doctors spend. This is because a homeopath does a thorough case-taking to get a complete picture of a person's general health and lifestyle, as well as particular symptoms, on the physical, mental and emotional levels. Some symptoms can be so subtle that the patient is not always completely aware of them, and the doctor must spend time getting to know the patient.
The initial visit often includes a long questionnaire about a patient's medical and family history, and then a long interview with the doctor, who prompts the patient with many questions. Sometimes a homeopathic doctor will use lab tests to establish a patient's general level of health. The initial interview usually lasts between one and two hours.
The purpose of homeopathy is the restoration of the body to homeostasis, or healthy balance, which is its natural state. The symptoms of a disease are regarded as the body's own defensive attempts to correct its imbalance, rather than as enemies to be defeated. Because a homeopath regards symptoms as positive evidence of the body's inner intelligence, he or she will prescribe a remedy designed to stimulate this internal curative process, rather than suppress the symptoms.
In homeopathy, the curative process extends beyond the relief of immediate symptoms of illness. Healing may come in many stages, as the practitioner treats layers of symptoms that are remnants of traumas or chronic disease in the patient's past. The stages are related to Hering's Laws of Cure, named for Constantine Hering, the father of homeopathy in America. Hering believed that healing starts from the deepest parts of the body to the extremities, and from the upper parts of the body to the lower parts. Hering's Laws also state that homeopaths should treat disease symptoms in reverse chronological order, from the most recent to the oldest, restoring health in stages. Sometimes, the patient may feel worse before feeling better. This temporary worsening is called a healing crisis.
When prescribing a remedy, homeopaths will match a patient's symptoms with the proper remedy in a repertory or materia medica that has been compiled throughout the history of homeopathy. Classical homeopaths prescribe only one remedy at a time. However, it is becoming more common, especially in Europe, to use combination formulas of several remedies for the treatment of some combinations of symptoms.
The cost of homeopathic care can vary. The cost of visits will be comparable to conventional medicine, with initial visits ranging from $50 to $300. Non-M.D. homeopaths can charge from $50 to $250. Follow-up visits are less, at about $35 to $100. Homeopathic medicine is significantly cheaper than pharmaceuticals, and most remedies cost between $2 and $10. Some doctors provide remedies without charge. Homeopaths rarely use lab tests, which reduces the cost of treatment further. In general, homeopathy is much more economical than conventional medicine. In 1991, the French government did a study on the cost of homeopathic medicine, and found that it costs half as much to treat patients, considering all treatment costs involved.
When homeopaths are licensed professionals, most insurance companies will pay for their fees. Consumers should consult their insurance policies to determine individual regulations. Insurance usually will not cover homeopathic medicine, because it is sold over the counter.
Although homeopathic remedies sometimes use substances that are toxic, they are diluted and prescribed in non toxic doses. Remedies should be prescribed by a homeopathic practitioner. Those preparing to take homeopathic remedies should also avoid taking antidotes, which are substances that homeopathic doctors believe cancel the effects of their remedies. These substances include alcohol, coffee, prescription drugs, peppermint (in toothpaste and mouthwash), camphor (in salves and lotions), and very spicy foods. Homeopathic medicine should also be handled with care, and should not be touched with the hands or fingers, which may contaminate it.
A homeopathic aggravation sometimes occurs during initial treatment with homeopathic remedies. This means that symptoms can temporarily worsen during the process of healing. Although this is usually mild, the aggravation can sometimes be severe. Homeopaths see aggravation as a positive sign that the remedy is a good match for the patient's symptoms. The healing crisis, which happens when the patient is undergoing treatment for layers of symptoms, may also cause the patient to feel worse before feeling better. Some patients can experience emotional disturbances like weeping or depression,
Research & general acceptance
Since the early 1900s, when the American Medical Association and pharmacists waged a battle against it, homeopathy has been neglected and sometimes ridiculed by mainstream medicine. Aside from politics, part of the reason for this hostility is that there are some aspects of homeopathy that have not been completely explained scientifically. For instance, homeopaths have found that the more they dilute and succuss a remedy, the greater effect it seems to have on the body. Some homeopathic remedies are so diluted that not even a single molecule of the active agent remains in a solution, yet it still works; studies have demonstrated this paradox, yet can't explain it. Also, homeopathy puts an emphasis on analyzing symptoms and then applying remedies to these symptoms, rather than working by classifying diseases. Thus, some people with the same disease may require different homeopathic medicines and treatments. Furthermore, conventional medicine strives to find out how medicines work in the body before they use them; homeopathy is less concerned with the intricate biochemistry involved than with whether a remedy ultimately works and heals holistically. For all these reasons, conventional medicine claims that homeopathy is not scientific, but homeopaths are quick to reply that homeopathy has been scientifically developed and studied for centuries, with much documentation and success.
There continue to be many studies that affirm the effectiveness of homeopathic treatments. Among the most celebrated, the British Medical Journal in 1991 published a large analysis of homeopathic treatments that were given over the course of 25 years. This project involved more than 100 studies of patients with problems ranging from vascular diseases, respiratory problems, infections, stomach problems, allergies, recovery from surgeries, arthritis, trauma, psychological problems, diabetes, and others. The study found improvement with homeopathic treatment in most categories of problems, and concluded that the evidence was "sufficient for establishing homeopathy as a regular treatment for certain indications."
For example, a study in early 2002 was reported on in a pediatric journal that showed symptom improvement for children with uncomplicated acute otitis media (ear infection) who received individualized homeopathic remedies. Although the authors concluded that more research was needed, results were positive enough to justify a larger study.
Training & certification
The Council on Homeopathic Education is the only organization that accredits training programs in classical homeopathy. To date, it has accredited five institutions: Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences in Seattle; Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto; Hahnemann Medical Clinic in Albany, California; the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, and the International Foundation for Homeopathy, also in Seattle. Other well-known training programs include the Pacific Academy of Homeopathic Medicine in Berkeley, California, and the New England School of Homeopathy in Amherst, Massachusetts.
There are several organizations that certify homeopathic practitioners:
- The National Center for Homeopathy is the largest homeopathic organization, with more than 7,000 members. It also runs the Council on Homeopathic Education, and provides a listing of all its members and their credentials. Address: 801 N. Fairfax St., #306, Alexandria, VA 22314, phone (703) 548-7790.
- The American Institute of Homeopathy is the oldest national medical body. It provides a list of D.Ht.s (Diplomates in Homeopathy) certified by the American Board of Homeotherapeutics. Address: 1585 Glencoe, Denver, CO 80220, phone (303) 898-5477.
- The Council for Homeopathic Certification was created in 1992 to establish a certification exam and a code of ethics. It confers upon qualified practitioners a C.C.H. (Certification in Classical Homeopathy). Address: P.O. Box 157, Corte Madera, CA 94976.
- The Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians offers a certification based on a competency exam, the "Diplomate in the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians" (D.H.A.N.P.).
- The North American Society of Homeopaths certifies non-physician homeopaths. Address: 10700 Old County Rd. 15, #350, Minneapolis, MN 55441, phone (612) 593-9458.
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Homeopathy Today. 801 N. Fairfax St. #306, Alexandria, VA 22314, phone (703) 548-7790.
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