What it is
Simply put, homeopathy is a complete system of medicine with over 200 years of use. It is based on the Law of Similar which Hippocrates suggested as the most efficient way to treat disease. The Law of Similar states that a substance capable of producing symptoms in a healthy person will cure the sick who experiences those same symptoms. That is one of the basic principle of homeopathy and is still just as valid today as it was 250 years ago. Homeopathy is also an individualised form of medicine which means that the remedy prescribed to you is based on your own set of symptoms as opposed to a one size fits all drug approach. The treatment is more precise so the results are greater.
Homeopathy is the second most used form of medicine in the world according to the World Health Organization. Hundreds of millions of people use it across 80 countries such as the UK, Germany, France, Italy, India, Brazil, Mexico and Cuba. Many include it in their national health care system.
What it’s not
How does it work?
Homeopathy works by using the totality of symptoms expressed by the person. Those symptoms include the physical, mental and emotional levels. After careful observation and a thorough interview, the homeopath finds a medicinal substance that best matches the symptoms of the person (Law of Similar). That similarity between the remedy and the patient stimulates the person’s immune system so that balance can return to a healthy level. Our bodies are constantly working toward homeostasis without which we die. The right homeopathic prescription helps the body do just that, a return to balance, to health.
For example, when you cut an onion while preparing dinner, you most likely experience burning and watery eyes as well as sneezing and a runny nose. Whether in a case of hay fever or cold, when a person presents with those same symptoms, the remedy Allium Cepa made from the onion, will give relief. Like Cures Like or the Law of Similar.
What is a Disease?
Disease can mean different things to different people depending on how they interpret what they see. Disease to a microbiologist is caused by viruses and bacteria. Disease to an endocrinologist is an imbalance of hormone levels. Disease to an acupuncturist is an imbalance in the Chi of the person. No matter your point of view, disease is a state of dis-ease, of disharmony, a discomfort but furthermore, it is an expression of the imbalances going on within the person on a physical, mental or emotional level. At its best, the body regulates all reactions, growth of new cells, removal of old ones, balance of fluids, neural activity and so on at incredible speed every second of the day without us ever knowing. When one of these activities go awry, for whatever reason, again the body in its infinite wisdom tries to re-establish balance by sweating, vomiting, increasing the heat (fever), etc. These symptoms that we often consider as disease are actually a way for the body to return to homeostasis. The deeper the imbalance, the stronger the symptoms. These so called ‘diseases’ are not the enemy but a way for the body to get our attention, a call for help. Listening to our body and its symptoms is the best way to return to health. Homeopathy helps us listen to those symptoms and in turn guides us to the correct remedy. Symptoms are our friends and the more we listen to them, the easier it is to return to a healthy, balanced state.
Who can benefit from Homeopathy?
Homeopathic medicines are toxin free and cause no permanent side-effects so everyone from all ages can benefit: babies, pregnant woman, the elderly and everyone else in between, even your pet. The remedies are prepared in a way that does not interfere with allopathic drugs so even if you are taking medication prescribed by your doctor you can use homeopathy.
Homeopathy can help at all levels and stages of disease whether acute or chronic. One should be aware however that a chronic disease that took years to develop may take some time to improve. Results depend on each individual, their commitment to the treatment, their level of health and state of the disease. Having said that, homeopathy users often find immediate relief from their main complaint. Complete resolution may take longer.
Homeopathy was founded by a German physician, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in the late 1700’s. Disillusioned by the techniques of the time used to treat patients -bloodletting, the application of leeches and the use of mercury-, he gave up his practice as a doctor and started doing translation to earn a living. He came upon an article stating that Cinchona (Peruvian Bark) could treat Malaria because of its tonic effect on the stomach. Unconvinced of this theory, he tested a small dose on himself over several days. He noticed many symptoms that were similar to that of Malaria. With this in mind, he re-established the old medical therapeutic principle of Like Cures Like and continued to prove different substances on himself and his family. He dedicated his life to homeopathy and wrote several treaties on philosophy, principles of cure, Materia Medica and clinical observations. Dr. Hahnemann was a brilliant man who even before the advent of the microscope and the theory of germs postulated that something ‘unseen’ was at work during certain diseases.
Homeopathy grew very popular in Europe and the United States, despite growing opposition from the orthodox medical profession. One very important reason for its popularity is the success it had in treating various epidemic diseases in the 1800’s and 1900’s such as the cholera epidemic of 1849, the yellow fever in 1878 and the Spanish Flu in 1918. Statistics show that the death rate in homeopathic hospitals were as little as one eighth of those of the orthodox ones. During the cholera epidemic of 1849, only 3% of the homeopathic patients died out of 1,116 while 48-60% did under orthodox care.
By 1900, there were 22 homeopathic medical schools and more than 100 hospitals in the United Sates. Homeopathy was also thriving in Canada with a hospital in Montreal that was in operation until 1969. And in Ontario, there was the Women’s College Hospital directed by the first female doctor in Canada, Dr. Emily Howard Stowe MD.
Homeopathy is seeing a resurgence in America now that many people want a more natural approach to healing that works without toxicity and side-effects and offer more than just palliation; a system that goes to the root of the problem to produce long lasting results.
Homeopathic medicine is once again regulated in Ontario, as it was from 1859 until 1970. Since April 2015, the newly formed College of Homeopaths of Ontario regulates its approved members. This College is under the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA) which comprises 28 professions including physiotherapists, dentists, psychologists, chiropractors, physicians, etc.
Preparation of Remedies
Homeopathic medicines are prepared from various substances such as plants, minerals and animal sources like bee venom. Health Canada reviews homeopathic products to make sure that they are safe and then grants an approval number which can be identified by a DIN-HM.
During the preparation process, the initial substance is first made into a tincture and then goes through a process of water dilution and succussion (vigorously shaken) which renders even toxic substances completely safe. This process is called potentization. This dilution is then used as a straight water solution but most commonly imbedded onto lactose granules.
Most remedies are tested on healthy subjects before being used in practice. This is called a proving. Every symptom experienced by the prover is recorded and no one knows whether the remedy or a placebo has been administered. Symptoms are then compiled and added to the Materia Medica which is used as reference by homeopathic practitioners.
Detractors of homeopathy often say that there is no research proving that homeopathy works. On the contrary, there has been hundreds of studies showing its efficacy and many of those being randomised controlled trials. For a list of such studies you can visit https://www.hri-research.org/resources/research-databases/core-hom/ or http://extraordinarymedicine.org/extraordinary-evidence-homeopathy-s-best-research/