A therapeutic system founded by the German doctor Samuel Christian F. Hahnemann, Meissen, Germany 1755 - Paris, 1843.
The word ‘homeopathy’ is made up of the Greek words ‘omoios’, meaning ‘similar’, and ‘pathos’, meaning disease.
- The law of similars: similia similibus curentur
This system is based mainly on the principle that the cure for a particular disease is achieved through the use of pharmaceutical substances that, when administered to a healthy person, produce the similar symptoms as those of the disease in question. For example, it is well known that Belladonna causes mydriasis , that is to say dilation of the pupil of the eye. In a case of mydriasis the homeopathic doctor will probably give Belladonna, in a highly diluted potency, in order to restore the pupil to its normal state. Another example is digitalis2 which, whereas it is used in conventional medicine to suppress episodes of paroxysmic ventricular tachycardia is, however, and precisely because of this action, made use of in homeopathy for the cure of bradycardia, with a weak pulse and a tendency to faint, irregular breathing, general exhaustion, anorexia, tendency to vomit, and vomiting that does not relieve sick feeling, sensitivity in the epigastrium., cold skin etc… this can be a symptomatology that fits not only with heart disease but with a chronic disturbance of the liver or an infectious hepatitis or an asthmatic crisis etc.
This principle was formulated by Hahnemann with the Latin motto ‘simila similibus curentur’. Similars are cured with similars. Hahnemann believed this to be one of the fundamental laws of cure. The idea had first been mentioned by Hippocrates3, then by Paracelsus, and later by others.
And while conventional medicine believes that it must fight the disease bearing factor which it sees as the main cause for disease, homeopathy believes that it must strengthen the organism’s defence mechanism in order to be able to fight the imbalance.
- Proving the remedies
In order to ascertain the therapeutic qualities of pharmaceutical substances, Hahnemann carried out provings of the remedies on healthy persons of both sexes in increased dosages, though not beyond the toxic levels.
The reactions to the pharmaceutical substances gained in this manner were recorded in minute detail.
This list of ‘remedy symptoms’, incurred on relatively healthy organisms, having been repeatedly ascertained, together with the toxological symptoms of various substances, known from existing medical writings, were combined to form a valuable part of the homeopathic pharmacology, otherwise known as the ‘Materia Medica’.
- Hahnemann’s main theories
On the basis of the law of similars and pharmacological provings on healthy individuals, Hahnemann proceeded to develop an entire medical system.
He published a complete account of his theories for the first time in his book Organon of the Art of Healing in 1810. The book contains 294 aphorisms within which he develops the laws of his medical system. Later he published the book Materia Medica Pura in which all the pharmacological substances that he and his students had proved on themselves and to others were included.
He also published the book Chronic diseases in which he maintained that all chronic diseases are a result of the suppression either of skin diseases of the skin or syphilis or gonorrhea. That is to say that if these three categories of diseases are treated wrongly, they remain within the organism in a suppressed state, in a changed form and finally they reappear as various kinds of chronic diseases.
Hahnemann named these three initial forms of disease the miasms of Psora, Syphilis and Sycosis (meaning gonorrhea).
Hahnemann was heavily criticised for his theories, even by some of his supporters, who while declaring these ideas useless nevertheless continued to practise homeopathy.
Some of the essential points of homeopathy, which complete the ‘law of similars’ are:
1. That there are no diseases, but only patients.
2. That the appropriate remedy must match every one of the patient’s symptoms, and not only the disease.
3. That the quantity of remedy required for a cure to be successful is infinitely small, on the condition that the ‘true’ remedy has been found.
4. That the symptoms of a disease, during the course of treatment, disappear in the reverse order of their appearance.
- Individualising each case
An important idea introduced by Hahnemann and which causes homeopathy to differ from conventional medicine is individualising. He maintained that there are no diseases, but only patients, and therefore a treatment must aim at treating the individual rather than the disease.
According to this idea, ten patients suffering from the same ‘disease’, for example epilepsy, will probably each require a separate pharmaceutical substance, unless the symptoms of two or three of them are identical down to the last detail, a rare but not impossible situation.
- The defence system
The complex mechanism of the organism’s defence system was named ‘vital force’ by Hahnemann. This phrase expresses the idea that there is a form of ‘energy’ behind the defence mechanism, a ‘power with mind’ which directs and coordinates the organism’s reactions.
The logic behind this idea, according to homeopaths, lies in the understanding that symptoms are nothing more than the expressions of the human organism’s defence mechanism. For example, the body’s temperature increases – fever – in order to suppress the disease factor, bacteria, viruses, fungi etc… therefore the organism needs support in its therapeutic efforts, rather than a suppression of the fever. Homeopaths believe that, by giving a remedy, which is capable of causing symptoms in a healthy individual that are identical to those present in the patient, they are in reality stimulating and providing support for the defence mechanism in its attempt to rid itself of the disease.
Homeopaths maintain that the true reason for disease is not infection by a disease element but rather the innate weakness of the defence mechanism and its inability to face up to the invasion and to neutralise it. By strengthening the defence mechanism, without killing the microbes, homeopaths believe that they can to a greater extent influence the return to health of the diseased organism.
Opponents of homeopathy maintain that homeopaths do not look for the true cause of an illness, and that they only treat the symptoms. Homeopaths consider that by strengthening the defence mechanism, they essentially enter more deeply into the true cause of the organism’s imbalance, which is the weakness of the constitution and its inability to fight the disease unaided. Moreover they maintain that in most cases of chronic disease the cause of the illness is unknown and therefore hard to locate and eradicate with conventional medicines.
- The smallest possible dose: preparation-dosage
There are several methods for the preparation of homeopathic remedies, which were used at various times by Hahnemann.
The chief method used by homeopaths today is the centesimal and is produced thus: One part of the mother tincture of the active ingredient which is to be prepared is taken and diluted in 99 parts of inert substance. This can be milk-sugar, sterilised water or pure alcohol. If the substance is diluted in water, the mixture is subjected to at least ten strong succussions and this dilution is called the 1st potentization. A part of this potentization is taken and diluted with a further 99 parts of inert substance and the new mixture is then again subjected to ten strong succussions. This is the 2nd potentization of the remedy, and in the same manner further potentizations are achieved by diluting and ‘potentizing’ the remedy until very great dilutions are achieved, having continued the above procedure ten, twenty, thirty or more times.
For metals which cannot be diluted in water the method of pulverisation is used, in the same proportions: one part of powdered metal is mixed with 99 parts milk-sugar. The mixture is subjected to powerful pounding – in a mortar – for an hour and this is continued up to the 6th potency, after which the mixture thus obtained is considered a mixture diluted with water and the diluting procedure is used thereafter.
- The conflict between homeopathic and conventional doctors
The greatest conflict concerning homeopathy lies in the quantities of the doses used, which according to conventional doctors is infinitely small and is not justified in having any action at all.
High dilutions, which greatly exceed ‘Avogadro’s number’, according to which there should not be even one molecule of active ingredient within such a diluted substance, cause these doctors to look upon homeopathy with a great deal of scepticism.
Homeopaths on the other hand maintain that their experience shows that high potencies (multiple dilutions) have even better therapeutic results and that the action of the pharmaceutical substance is probably due to the appearance of a ‘new refined form of energy’ that appears during the potentization procedure. Therefore we are not dealing with a remedy that acts at a chemical level, but rather at an ‘energetic’ level.
Many dissenting voices maintain that the results that are achieved by homeopaths are a form of self-suggestion, known to medicine as the placebo effect, particularly in cases when the patient believes that he is taking a ‘magic’ medicine.
Homeopaths reply that they obtain the best results with babies, small children and animals, where the possibility of self-suggestion is discounted.
Opponents maintain that the system is antiquated and that it has no place in modern medical practice.
Homeopaths maintain that the steady therapeutic results obtained over the course of more than two centuries form proof of homeopathy’s timelessness rather than its decline.
Opponents maintain that, even accepting that homeopathy does have certain results, there are not enough double blind experiments indicating the type and extent of the results.
Homeopathy’s supporters say that such research does exist, although not in great quantities, as homeopathy presents certain difficulties in these experiments, since it requires that each patient be given a separate remedy, which is incompatible with double blind experiments, where all patients take the same medicine for the duration of the experiment.
Over the last few years the conflict has grown, including between scientists from other branches that are beginning to show an interest in the area of homeopathy.8 Some people believe that the therapeutic force is transmitted with the potentizing procedure and the powerful succussion of the remedies to the water molecules which thus contain the ‘memory’ of a new energetic state. Others attempt to explain the action of homeopathic medicines by the ‘small clusters’ theory. Yet others maintain that their action is due to the change in structure of the water molecules under the influence of the substance with which it comes into substance, as well as to the powerful succussions to which the dilution is subjected, and therefore that the dilution of the water becomes organically active.
These theories are naturally far from being generally accepted.
- Conflicts between homeopaths
Conflicts are even to be found among the supporters of Hahnemann’s theories, and particularly among those who faithfully follow his principles and only administer one remedy to each stage of an illness, known as ‘classical homeopaths’, and others, the ‘eclectics’ or followers of polypharmacy, who administer many remedies each time. The first group believes that there is only one remedy that can cure the patient and that it cannot be replaced by any other similar one. Therefore he must look for the correct remedy in each case via a complex and undeniably lengthy procedure.
The second group deems this to be utopian, and that it is difficult to discover the remedy that is truly indicated and that it is easier and quicker to administer 3, 4 or even more remedies at a time, in the hope that they will include the correct one.
- Are both medical approaches necessary? (Conventional medicine and homeopathy)
They certainly are. There is no doubt that there has been a misunderstanding in relation to the therapeutic limits of each method. This has occurred for many reasons, mainly however due to attempts made by homeopaths to make the new approach known. For this reason the results of cures have been exaggerated by homeopaths in order to impress. There is however another far more serious reason. Since the area around this new approach is somewhat turgid, many have abused it to their own advantage, promising that they can cure everything, such as cancer, schizophrenia, AIDS, obesity or smoking. All these announcements take place either in public or in private medicine, in order to attract a greater number of patients. For this reason homeopathy has been presented as unreliable, with the result that an undeclared war broke out among the two approaches, and both sides ended up by having recourse to extreme arguments.
On the one hand that it can cure anything, on the other that homeopathy does not cure anything. Truth naturally lies somewhere in between.
Even though chemical medicines have serious side effects, and although their over-consumption can weaken the organism, they are useful and often necessary in the final stages of chronic diseases, such as serious epilepsy, serious psychoses, serious heart diseases, serious asthmatic states and generally in the final stages of chronic diseases where a brief but necessary relief from pain or suffering is needed, if there is no longer any possibility of cure.
- What, in reality, are homeopathy’s prospects?
The question is: is there a way of avoiding these final stages? Is there any medicine which can bring the organism back to its state of balance, when it is still time, in order to prevent, for a long time at least, its weakening?
The answer lies with classical homeopathy. The true application of homeopathy can bring about these results.
The great misunderstanding at large today is due to the fact that the two sides have not entered into any real and fundamental communication. If they had they would have discovered that each method does not impinge upon the others’ field of action, and that therefore these two approaches are in reality complementary and not conflictual.
Homeopathy intervenes where conventional medicine can hardly do anything, at the outset of chronic disease, where the disturbance has mainly still a functional character. When it intervenes with the true homeopathic remedy it stops any further development of the disease. Conventional medicine with the chemical medicines at its disposal can suppress pains or suffering at the last stages without however being able to stop the debilitating progress of the disease.
- Which diseases can homeopathy best be applied to?
At this point we must state that this area is unclear and that even homeopathic doctors themselves are not clear on this point. Therefore they often overestimate their ability to cure, and at other times have recourse to chemical medicines where in fact they could have found a solution with homeopathy, if they had had sufficient homeopathic knowledge.
The problem is that doctors have not had the possibility of obtaining full and precise homeopathic knowledge. This kind of education would make long-term demands on a doctor’s time, almost equal in length and quality to the initial six year course of basic medical training. And if a doctor should undertake to begin his homeopathic training after the ten years necessary for his specialisation, he would find himself in a state of exhaustion which would not be conducive for the absorption of new facts and new knowledge.
The main diseases that can be treated with homeopathy are as follows:
Chronic headaches, migraines, vertigo, petit Mal, sinusitis and frontal colpitis, allergic rhinitis, bronchial and allergic asthma, gastritis, gastroenteritis, hepatitis, liver damage, hepatic fatty degeneration,inflammation of the gall bladder, duodenal ulcer, colonic irritation, spastic and ulceric colitis, chronic conjunctivitis, otitis, juvenile acne, atopic dermatitis, neurodermatitis, triple neuralgia, intercostals neuralgia, herpes zoster, cervical syndrome, lumbago, lumber sciatica, myalgia, muscle fibre and tendon damage due to accidents, gynaecological conditions, mastitis, endometriosis, sterility, pre-menstrual syndrome, cystitis, urine incontinence, prostatitis, sperm abnormalities, phobias and anxiety neuroses, anaemia (not Mediterranean), ADD, etc…
*in such chronic conditions, if homeopathic treament starts in the very beginning of the problem, the possibility for a cure is almost in 90% of the cases under correct classical homeopathic treatment.
The list is very long and cannot be referred to for details since any one of the conditions named above may represent only one expression of a deeper pathology.
The types of conditions referred to below have a chance of reversal only if treatment is started during the very first stages.
Multiple sclerosis, grand Mal, acute psychotic episodes, psoriasis, collagen diseases, diabetes, endocarditis, Parkinson’s, benign myalgic encephalitis, or chronic fatigue syndrome.
For the above categories of diseases to reverse to an order of 60%, demands an extremely experienced and well trained homeopathic doctor.
- What are homeopathy’s chances with reference to conditions in extremely advanced pathological states?
It is true that in a very few cases of advanced pathology, such as cancer, heart disease, neuromuscular diseases, paraplegia, spastic and autistic children, congenital or long term serious epileptic conditions, schizophrenia etc… homeopathy has shown a certain amount of positive action, without however ever bringing about a complete cure. These cases, very few in number, caused certain overenthusiastic but incompletely trained homeopathic doctors to believe or maintain that homeopathy can intervene in and cure such cases. This limited number of cases that reacted well with long-term homeopathic treatment belongs in a category for which the experienced homeopathic doctor is aware of certain defining parameters. It is very important for patients to have recourse to a homeopathic doctor right from the outset of their condition, at a time when homeopathy can show its best results, though it is even more important for the patient to have chosen a well-trained homeopathic doctor.
This is where the intervention of the state and of legislation are paramount.
Homeopathy unfortunately is not ‘a guide for the blind’, each new case is truly a challenge for the doctor. This is because each organism presents its own singularity and it needs its own ‘constitutional’ remedy, even though he suffers from the same clinical picture. This fact, that is to say the necessity for the doctor to study each case separately, makes homeopathy difficult to teach and to apply, and this is why there are homeopaths who have studied extensively and who are good doctors, as well as those who are mediocre and those who have trained very little or not at all.