An introduction by Bernie Simon
Homeopathy is an alternative system of medicine that was founded in
the early 19th century by a German physician, Dr. Hahnemann. It had its greatest
popularity in the late 19th century here in the United States, when 15% of the doctors in
this country were homeopaths. However, with the advent of modern medicine, homeopathy
began to look old and stodgy and its popularity took a nosedive. However, since 1980
homeopathy has seen a resurgence of interest in the United States and the U.K.;
homeopathic books can be found in many bookstores and homeopathic physicians in most towns
Classical homeopathy rests on three principles: the law of
similars, the single medicine, and the minimum dose. The law of similars states that a
disease is cured by a medicine which creates symptoms similar to those the patient is
experiencing in a healthy person. Hence an important part of the prescription of a
homeopathic medicine is a lengthy interview to determine all the symptoms the patient is
experiencing. The homeopathic physician then determines which medicine best matches the
symptoms that the patient is experiencing and prescribes it.
The principle of the single remedy states that a single
medicine should cover all the symptoms the patient is experiencing: mental, emotional, and
physical. A classical homeopath would not prescribe one medicine for a headache and
another for an upset stomach, he or she would find a single medicine that covered both
symptoms. The principle of the minimum dose has two parts. First the homeopathic physician
only prescribes a small number of doses of the homeopathic medicine and waits to see what
effect the medicine has. Second, the medicine is given in an infinitesimal dose.
Homeopaths have discovered that the effect of homeopathic medicines is strengthed upon
successive dilutions as long as the medicine is violently shaken between each dilution.
Medicines are typically used in very high dilutions such as 30C (1 part in 10^-60) or 200C
(1 part in 10^-400).
It is the use of infinitesimal doses that is the most
controversial aspect of homeopathy and the reason why most conventional doctors claim it
functions only as a placebo. However, a number of controlled studies have been performed
which show the effectiveness of homeopathic medicine in treating a number of diseases. The
best summary of this research is a study published in the British Medical Journal. The
authors of this study are not homeopaths but medical school professors asked by the Dutch
government to review the existing research.
"Clinical trials of
homoeopathy.", Kleijnen, Jos; Knipschild, Paul; ter Riet, Gerben; British Medical
Journal, Feb 9, 1991 v302 n6772 p516(8).
The accompanying Resources pages list organisations that
can help you locate a homeopathic physician in your area. If you suffer from a chronic
health problem, you should be aware that homeopathic treatment will take time and
patience. You should be prepared to commit to six months or more of treatment before the
problem is resolved. Also, a homeopathic doctor may suggest changes to diet and lifestyle
as part of the treatment. If you are unable to commit to this, you should consider another
form of medical practice.