Over 200 years ago a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann developed a system of medical treatment. He called this Homeopathy, a word that means literally, “ to treat disease with a similar disease.” In contrast, Allopathy is a word used to designate methods of treatment based on counteracting the symptoms. An example of this is using a drug to slow intestinal motility in a case of diarrhea.
The science behind Homeopathy is founded upon Dr. Hahnemann’s discovery that substances which cause reactions in the body or the mind, can be used in a very diluted form to treat these same reactions when they occur as symptoms of a disease process. For example, Poison Ivy, which causes redness, blisters and itching when encountered in nature, is used to formulate the homeopathic remedy, Rhus Tox. It is prescribed to treat the redness and itching of many skin diseases. Hahnemann devoted his life to studying these phenomena and performing Provings: describing the symptoms related by healthy humans given small experimental doses of these substances; then using the substance to treat disease.
His followers have proven many more so that several hundred substances have be studied and recorded as to their effects on the human or animal body. Some of these are common herbs, others are poisonous plants, minerals make up another category, and toxins and venoms a fourth. The task of the homeopathic pharmacist is to enhance the usefulness of the substance while minimizing the harmful effects. This is done in special laboratories where the raw ingredient is carefully diluted and succused – mixed in a special way – to a level where its ability to stimulate is boosted while its toxic effects are eliminated. Desensitization of the body to allergens or using vaccines to prepare the body to fight disease are based upon similar principles. The homeopath relies on the pharmacist to formulate remedies of purity and the strength indicated.
When treating a patient, the homeopath tends to look at disease from two points of view:
- Does the disease have an immediate cause such as a bacteria, virus, toxin, or internal immunological activity?
- How is the patient’s body reacting to, or defending itself from the cause? Examples of this are running a fever, developing inflammation, or performing various discharge attempts to eliminate the source of the problem – diarrhea, vomiting, running nose, skin rash.
The homeopathic perspective acknowledges the existence of a cause; but it focuses more attention on the symptoms—how the patient’s body is attempting to deal with the insult. Treatment involves stimulating the natural defense system of the body to fight those symptoms a little more vigorously. Dr. Hahnemann felt that if the patient’s defense against disease could be strengthened, the balance would shift in favor of recovery.
According to Hahnemann, the way a Remedy—as medicines are called in homeopathy—is given is as important as choosing the correct remedy. A remedy is selected that mirrors many of the patient’s current symptoms – physical as well as emotional. The strength of the remedy —designated by a number followed by an “X”, “C” or “M” – and the number of repetitions is based upon an evaluation of the patient’s life force. The idea is to gently disturb the health a little more toward the disease—not blast it there—so that the body directs its efforts to intensify the fight against that particular set of symptoms. A remedy that is too strong or given too often can result in an Aggravation—a situation whereby symptoms are intensified or past symptoms are recalled.
The Homeopath reviews the results of the fight frequently, sometimes waiting as the body fights; sometimes changing the strength of the remedy or selecting a new remedy. The patient’s condition moves away from disease and toward health as the body fights first one set of symptoms and then the next. The usefulness of this method is that medicines can be used to manipulate the patient’s condition, to enhance and assist the body’s attempts to overcome the disease. This is sometimes a lengthy process.
In summary, the method of homeopathic treatment is to stimulate the healing process by artificially creating an increase of the disease symptoms, using a carefully chosen medicine. The medicine, called a remedy, makes the body work harder to get well. The healing changes that occur are the result of this stimulation. A homeopathic doctor or veterinarian carefully evaluates the changes that occur after dosing. She then alters the strength and sometime the substance to act upon a new set of symptoms. In this way the patient can be guided to recovery over the period of days, weeks or months required to repel disease and re-grow damaged tissue. Under the guidance of a trained homeopath, acute diseases respond very quickly while chronic conditions can be expected to respond in accordance with the period of their chronicity.