Small doses=Large Effects
Homeopathy may possibly be the single most misused and misunderstood word in the entire field of holistic health. It is commonly, but incorrectly, used to mean holistic, alternative health, nutritionally-related, the use of herbs, or to apply to vitamin and mineral supplements. Very often it is used to refer to those who treat illnesses with the use of diet changes and nutritional supplements.
None of these uses of the word homeopathy, or homeopath, is even remotely correct, accurate, or appropriate. Homeopathy is a separate and distinct medical science and is not a part of the fields of allopathic medicine, nutrition, naturopathy, herbalism, aromatherapy, or any other modality except its own. It is certainly possible for practitioners in these other fields to have studied homeopathy, and even for some of them to have become practicing homeopaths; but these are not connected fields.
What is homeopathy?
How does homeopathy work?
Does homeopathy work?
What are homeopathic remedies?
How are homeopathic remedies made?
What is a homeopathic proving?
What is a repertory?
What is a Materia Medica?
The preceding questions are the focus of this webpage, and I hope that in these paragraphs I will be able to provide you with a much better understanding of homeopathy than you may currently possess. Please read on so that you will never again use the word homeopathy in place of the word holistic.
Let me begin by saying that the purpose of this webpage is not to teach you homeopathy. If you wish to learn homeopathy, you will need a great deal more time and effort than it will take you to read this article. Thinking you can learn homeopathy from a web page article would be as silly as reading an article in a medical journal in order to become a physician.
Homeopathy is both simple and extremely complex.
A great website that I use frequently is
This site has a Forum to post questions about whatever you want to know...it is very informative!
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Here are some books that may help you...
Homeopathy and Natural Remedies Bookstore
You can quickly learn enough about homeopathic first aid that you will be able to help your family in ways you never imagined and without the use of toxic drugs. As a health practitioner, you can also quickly learn ways to help many of your patients with remedies like arnica, hypericum, chamomilla, ledum, apis, staphysagria, and others to greatly improve the results you get with certain conditions. So read on and begin your education. After all, you have to start somewhere.
The founder/discoverer of homeopathy was Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a physician and chemist. He was born in Germany in 1755, and died in 1843. Dr. Hahnemann received his medical degree at the age of 24, but soon realized that, similar to the medicine practiced today, doctors often created more problems than they helped, and rarely truly cured anyone of disease. (Note: Only our bodies can actually cure a disease.)
Dr. Hahnemann discovered and expanded on the principle of "like cures like" which is the main doctrine of homeopathy. In simplistic form, this means that a substance which will cause a certain set of symptoms (often referred to as the symptom picture) in a healthy person, will help heal these same symptoms in the ill person, hence, "like cures like."
At first examination this may seem extremely hard to believe. When examined more closely, however, this principle begins to get extremely interesting. Hahnemann first experimented with Cinchona bark, a malaria cure, and found that it produced in him the chills, weakness, and sweats that are common to the actual illness of malaria.
Hahnemann found that diluted and potentized concentrations of various substances could indeed cure the same symptoms in the ill person that they would otherwise have caused in a healthy person. His major work on homeopathic philosophy and treatment was (and is) called the Organon of Medicine and was continually updated and republished throughout his life. The final (sixth) edition was actually published 75 years after his death and was based on his notes and writings toward the end of his career.
What is Homeopathy?
Simply put, it is the science of treating any and every health-related problem by making use of homeopathic remedies based on the "like cures like" principle. When I say every problem, I am not being over-expansive in my description. Homeopathy is being used to treat all manners of dis-ease and un-health.
Many homeopaths, for instance, specialize in the treatment of emotional disorders, so homeopathic treatment is not restricted to any particular form of health problem. On the contrary, a homeopath is generally looking for the remedy that is the similimum, or the exactly correct homeopathic remedy for each patient. The premise of homeopathic prescribing is that if the exact remedy or similimum is found and used correctly, the individual will slowly heal on all levels and in all ways.
This philosophy is extremely difficult for most non-homeopaths to accept. The idea that a patient's emotional and various physical ailments can all be addressed by a single dose of a certain homeopathic remedy is mind-boggling. Nonetheless, this is what has occurred with many thousands of patients that have sought and found a good homeopath.
For some, the movement towards better health is rapid; while, for others, it may take months or even years. Our bodies do not heal immediately from problems that have developed over, and plagued us for, a great many years. Often, during the homeopath's search for the correct remedy, many different remedies may be used over an extended period of time.
This could cover many months or years, during which time the patient is generally improving greatly. No form of medicine is an exact science, but, at least with homeopathy, symptoms do not get suppressed. They get addressed and are slowly (or sometimes quickly) reduced or eliminated.
There are so many thousands of remedies, and numerous intricacies, of each that finding the correct remedy for major health problems takes a great deal of experience and training.
Please do not get discouraged by what I have just said. The use of homeopathy for first aid around the house is a great deal simpler to learn. Treating your family and patients for things such as insect bites/stings, nausea, fevers, bruises, headaches, surgery, improved healing, broken bones and much, much more, may be learned from some of the reference books I list at the end of this article. More importantly, the knowledge you will gain from reading these books and utilizing homeopathy can be rewarding, time-saving, money-saving, pain-saving, and possibly even life-saving.
Just remember not to consider yourself a homeopath simply because you have read a book on homeopathy and have helped a number of patients or family members with various injuries or health problems.
A "proving" is what is carried out in order to determine the "symptom picture" for a particular homeopathic preparation. A number of people are given a particular remedy, and then for a number of days, weeks, or months, they must record every symptom that they experience which is not normal for them.
This is complicated and would include things like what types of dreams they had, any itches or twitches, vision problems, emotional changes, fevers, temperature abnormalities, headaches, and a great deal more. They must be in contact with a supervisor, often daily, since it can be easier, and more accurate, if a professional is asking them questions to be sure to extract every little difference in their life that shows itself.
All of these symptoms from the various individuals are recorded and carefully cross-referenced to form the symptom picture for that remedy. Please do not think it is as simple as I have just described; it is not. In fact, almost every part of this article is in a simplified and condensed form.
What are Homeopathic Remedies?
Any substance, whether it is of animal, vegetable, or mineral origin, can be made into a homeopathic remedy. There must generally be a proving done so that homeopaths understand what to use the remedy for, but the list of possible substances is endless. Bee venom, tarantula, pus, Echinacea, lead, mercury, arsenic, common salt, dog's milk, etc., ad infinitum. These are but a tiny number of the remedies listed in the homeopaths master reference book called the Materia Medica.
How are Homeopathic Remedies Made?
This is actually done in a very regimented, but simple, manner. First a "mother tincture" is made by mixing the substance being used with a diluent such as water, grain alcohol, or a mixture of the two. For example, the herb arnica is often used as a remedy in homeopathy. If the flowering heads of an arnica plant were ground up and soaked for a number of days in an alcohol solution, so as to extract the active ingredients of arnica, this mixture would now be a called a "mother tincture" or herbal concentrate. This concentrate would then be filtered or strained to remove the plant parts.
In order to sequentially dilute this herbal tincture into a homeopathic remedy, the following procedure might be followed. One ounce of the tincture would be added to nine ounces of a 50% grain alcohol and water solution. This diluted solution would then be "succussed" (i.e., rapped firmly against a hard surface such as a book) 100 times in order to "imprint" the energetic force of the arnica into the molecular structure of the liquid. This solution is now referred to as being a "1X" potency. "1" is used because it is the first dilution from the mother tincture; "X" represents the decimal, or tenth, or one part in ten of the dilution.
The same procedure continues in order to get other potencies. For example, one ounce of the 1X solution is then added to nine ounces of the diluent (the 50% alcohol in water liquid). This second dilution is succussed 100 times and is labeled "Arnica 2X" and so on continually till the 6X, 12X, or 30X is reached, depending on what homeopathic potency is desired. If, instead, you began by diluting one ounce of mother tincture in ninety-nine ounces of diluent, then the first dilution would be a hundredth and would be labeled "1C" for the centesimal dilution. This, in turn, would be continued to get higher centesimal dilutions.
You can see, although the procedure is both straightforward and simple, it gets extremely time consuming. The fact that we can purchase the necessary remedies premade is essential, considering how many remedies there are in general use.
After the remedy is made, it may be absorbed into small pellets or sugar pills, so as to be sold and used in that form or may be kept in liquid form. Storage and shipping is easier in pills or pellets since leakage and evaporation are not problems. Both liquid and pellet forms of remedies are used throughout the world. Some homeopathic remedies are referred to as the "polychrest remedies." These are the ones which are used the most often, have been well proven, and whose effects are the most well documented and understood by homeopaths around the world.
Does Homeopathy Really Work?
This is a question which has been discussed, argued, researched and written about for a very long time. In my view, to ask if homeopathy really works is no longer a valid question. It is as silly a question to ask as whether acupuncture or Ayurvedic medicine really works. The answer to all three questions would have to be yes. They have all been used on hundreds of thousands to millions of patients around the world.
They have all been thoroughly studied and have been instrumental in the healing of large percentages of the populations of various towns, cities, and, in some cases, entire societies. Like the very new field which we today call allopathic medicine, none of these other fields of medicine is able to cure every disease or alleviate every symptom. The difference is that of the four, only modern allopathic medicine is documented to be killing hundreds of thousands of people every year between dangerous and/or unnecessary surgeries and deadly prescription and non-prescription drugs and their related interactions.
The Hippocratic oath of "first do no harm" appears to be being violated by the vast majority of medical doctors in practice today. Homeopaths, naturopaths, nutritionists, etc., appear to be the health professionals who are actually working within the boundaries of the Hippocratic oath.
My own personal opinion, and that of many thousands of other health professionals, is that homeopathy works extremely well when used correctly. In addition, homeopathy does not have the deadly side effects of the numerous drugs currently being prescribed by many physicians--drugs which are taken by the handful by thousands of their patients. You will never hear a news report that some properly prepared homeopathic remedy has been taken off the market because it caused too many deaths due to heart attack, liver or kidney failure, stroke, or any other deadly reaction.
How Does Homeopathy Work?
This question is a great deal more difficult to answer.
It is universally accepted, for example, that we do not understand all of the ways in which aspirin works. There are still many different premises on how and why we age. Our knowledge of endocrinology is far from complete, and the current cutting edge research on the role of RNA in healing is fascinating.
Many things about the human body and its plethora of complex biochemical and electrical interactions are still well beyond our grasp. Should people stop living just because we do not yet understand all there is to know? Should we stop using aspirin just because we do not fully understand it? The best rule will always be: "Do no harm." If we actually stick to this rule, then we should continually investigate all possible methods of healing even if we cannot fully elaborate on exactly what is taking place.
US government studies have shown that over 50% of drugs and surgical procedures have never been proven to fulfill their claimed purpose, but they continue to be used every day. If medicine were to do only honest, non-political, and non-profit research, many surgical procedures and the prescribing of many drugs would be stopped immediately.
It is believed by many scientists that all life is energy. Ki, Chi, Qi, Prana, and other words in other languages are used to designate the esoteric term of life force energy. If we temporarily accept that we are, in fact, electrical beings, run and affected by energies, then homeopathy becomes a bit easier to fathom.
The body, human or animal (or bird, fish, reptile, etc.), has millions of electrical, energetic forces which continually act upon it, help it to live, or, in essence, actually are its life. Since energies react with one another, then every food, herb, water, sound, emotion, etc., will, in some way, affect any living thing in its proximity since they are all forms of energy. Homeopathic remedies are made by sequential dilution and succussion as previously explained. The energy of the remedy has been imprinted into the molecular structure of the diluent (liquid) and will then be released and begin to act upon the living animal or human which takes, or is given, the remedy.
This is a vibrational energy, and it may act in a more subtle manner than magnetism, infra red heat, or gamma radiation. In fact, many low dose (6 or 12X and 6 or 12C) remedies do not generally have any noticeable effect unless there is an appropriate problem in the organism for their energy to act upon. In other words, if you take a low dose homeopathic remedy to treat a problem, and you have chosen an incorrect remedy, there will be no corresponding set of symptoms, and there will be no detrimental (or beneficial) effect noticed.
It is for this reason that homeopathy is so safe to use and to learn. The remedies sold in drug stores and health food stores are generally low potencies and therefore not harmful if you prescribe them for yourself or your family incorrectly.
Two of the most important books for the professional, or even serious amateur homeopath, are the Materia Medica and the Repertory. There are many different versions of each written by various authorities in the field, both past and present.
A Materia Medica is a book made up of a compilation of the reported symptoms from the provings of thousands of homeopathic remedies. It is arranged by organ system and is used by every homeopath in order to help find the correct remedy for a particular symptom picture. There are quite a few Materia Medicas, and various homeopaths prefer one or more over others. Page through one in a homeopathic pharmacy or bookstore to get a better understanding of just how complex and thorough they are and the kind of information they contain.
The first time you try to use a Materia Medica, it will seem overwhelming, but without one, it is impossible to truly practice homeopathy other than basic first aid. Most good homeopathic first aid books, or other beginner books on the subject, will have a useable, but extremely abbreviated, Materia Medica.
A Repertory is the other important book for the practicing homeopath. While the Materia Medica lists a homeopathic remedy and then gives every single symptom associated with its use, the Repertory is quite different. This equally voluminous work first lists the symptom (you are looking to treat) and then gives you all the possible remedies which may be associated with the treatment of this symptom. As with the Materia Medica, there are quite a few different repertories for which homeopaths show their various preferences.
You will be just as overwhelmed the first time you try to use a Repertory as you are with your first experience using a Materia Medica. Many good beginner books and first aid books on homeopathy will contain a very useable, but extremely abbreviated, Repertory.
The last thing I want to do is to discourage anyone reading this article from getting their feet wet in this fascinating field and using it in their office or home to great benefit. Actually, I encourage you to, indeed, get your feet wet in this fascinating medical field.
Just pick up a couple of the beginners books I recommend at the end of this article. To me, one of the important aspects of using homeopathy is that it seems to be generally accepted as not being harmful during pregnancy. There are a number of books specifically on this topic, and treating a mother, during pregnancy, with pharmaceutical drugs, should scare any reasonable physician.
Recommended Reading List
* Family Guide to Homeopathy by Lockie -- Easy to understand, it is my new favorite for general family information.
* Homeopathic Medicine at Home by Maesimund Panos, MD and Jane Heimlich -- This is an excellent book for beginners. It is well indexed so that you can immediately find the symptoms and the descriptions of possible remedies. It is a very good first book, especially for someone who is not interested in learning about homeopathy but would like to try using it with their family.
* The People's Repertory by Luc De Schepper MD, PhD, Lac -- This is one of my favorite beginner books, but only if you want to learn a bit more about homeopathy. There is no index, and the table of contents is brief and inadequate. With that said, it is a great book. Luc is a well-respected, though sometimes controversial, homeopath. He is also a teacher and seems to have laid out the book with that in mind. In order to get the great benefits that this book has to offer, you need to put in a little time. You should take a pen and a colored highlighting marker and read through the book. Highlight anything you want to be able see quickly, and make your own index at the beginning of the book with the important page numbers and the information to be found on those pages. This may sound like a nuisance, but it will teach you a great deal, and this book will then become a treasured reference.
* Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine by Stephen Cummings and Dana Ullman -- Another good book for beginners with a great deal to offer.advertisementClick Here
* Homeopathy for the Modern Pregnant Woman and Her Infant by Sandra Perko -- This is an expensive professional book, and the best I have found on the subject.
* Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants by Ullman -- This is an excellent parents' guide to using homeopathy.
* Homeopathy for Pregnancy, Birth, and Your Baby's First Year by Miranda Castro -- Because this is one of the few excellent books on this particular area of homeopathy, I felt I needed to list it for those readers for whom it is currently appropriate.
For those who are interested, I feel that the two best mail order companies for homeopathic books are Minimum Price Books (www.minimum.com) and Homeopathic Educational Services (www.homeopathic.com).
A version of this article was originally printed in the Price Pottenger Nutrition Foundation Journal in 2000. It has been lengthened and revised for The Original Internist.
by David J. Getoff, CCN, CNC
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