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Naturopathic Medicine:  The Art and Science of Natural Healing




What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a system of treatment that uses minute amounts of plant, mineral, and animal substances to stimulate the defensive systems of the body in a very subtle way.  It is widely used in Europe, but not as well known in the United States and Canada.  The theoretical and empirical basis of homeopathy is a concept called the Law of Similars, often summarized as “like cures like.”  Perhaps more than anything else, what distinguishes the practice of homeopathy from other approaches to medicine is that instead of focusing on the specific causes of disease (such as viruses and bacteria), it focuses on the specifics of the symptoms of disease, as they are experienced by the individual patient.

The History of Homeopathy

Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) of Leipzig, Germany, created the practice of homeopathy.  A medical doctor, Hahnemann did in-depth studies and wrote extensively on chemistry, pharmacology, and medicine.  His study of arsenic, written in 1796, remains an authoritative text.

          In 1790, Dr. Hahnemann began to question the accepted medical theories of the time.  Cinchona officinalis, or Peruvian bark, had been the treatment of choice for malaria since 1700.  Conventional medical thought attributed its beneficial action to its bitter and astringent properties.  Hahnemann rejected this explanation.  He observed that other plants and botanicals had even stronger astringency and greater bitterness, yet did nothing to relieve malaria.  In an attempt to better understand how cinchona worked, he experimented by taking some himself.  After taking the cinchona compound, Hahnemann promptly developed the symptoms of malaria.

          This inspired him to further experimentation with many different plants, chemicals, and minerals.  Hahnemann experimented first on himself, then on his family and friends.  As his work continued, he noted the same remarkable effect again and again: Derivatives of certain extracts produced symptoms in the body similar to those produced by certain diseases.  Pressing on with his experimentation, Hahnemann found that minute doses of extract actually produced the opposite effect.  Instead of causing the symptoms of a particular disease, the well-diluted extract reversed the course of the disease.  This led Hahnemann to his observation that “like cures like”—that is, a substance that causes a certain set of symptoms in a healthy person will, in minute doses, cure a sick person of those same symptoms.  He called this phenomenon the Law of Similars.

          Many of Hahnemann’s colleagues argued against his practice of using himself as a guinea pig, prophesying dire consequences.  But the doctor refused to heed their warning, saying, “He knows with greatest certainty the things he has experienced in his own person.”  Through his experiments, Hahnemann learned that a minute dose of a substance would cause illness in a healthy person, but paradoxically effect a cure in a sick individual.  For example, a remedy that caused fever, chills, and leg cramps in a healthy person would cure a sick person of similar fever, chills, and leg cramps when given in microdoses.

Homeopathy Today

      Homeopathy is accepted as an effective form of medicine in many parts of the world today, including Great Britain, France, Germany, Greece, India, and South America.  The British royal family has been under the care of homeopathic physicians since the time of Queen Victoria.

          Homeopathy is a systematic and precise form of natural medicine that addresses both physical and emotional symptoms.  This protocol recognizes that each person is unique and will have an individual disease pattern.  The experimentation, documentation, in-depth testing, and recording of the effects of homeopathic remedies did not end with Dr. Hahnemann.  Diagnosis of a specific disease is not the primary concern when treating with homeopathics.  Rather, the correct remedy is chosen according to the specific symptoms and emotions being experienced.

          Homeopathic remedies stimulate the body’s vital force, enhancing its ability to heal itself.  The “vital force” described by Hahnemann cannot be precisely identified.  Even today’s most technologically advanced medical detectives do not really understand the ways in which body and mind work together.  A complex interrelationship between immune factors and regenerative biological systems, the essential life force locked within body and mind remains a mystery.

          Homeopathic remedies work by, in effect, “turning on a switch” that affects both body and mind.  Homeopathic compounds somehow send a healing and normalizing message throughout the body.  They spark unbalanced internal systems so that they are better able to perform their functions.

          Homeopathic remedies come in different potencies.  Of all of the issues in homeopathy, Dr. Hahnemann’s concept of potency is probably the one that has evoked the most questions, because it seems somewhat paradoxical at first.  In his experiments, Hahnemann noted that symptoms continued to improve with ever-increasing dilution of a substance.  In other words, as the concentration of the medicinal substance is reduced by dilution, the remedy becomes increasingly potent.  as yet, there is no satisfactory scientific explanation for this phenomenon.  However, the astounding effectiveness of homeopathic treatment has been empirically documented around the world.

          Commonly available homeopathic remedies come in several forms: the mother tincture, X potencies and C potencies.  In homeopathic remedies, the X indicates that the mother tincture has been diluted to one part in ten; and the C indicates a dilution of one in one hundred.  Homeopathic remedies are made by sequentially diluting and shaking each potency.  This process allows the energy of the plant, animal or mineral to remain in the remedy even though there is little or no probability that a molecule of the substance is left.  The remedy is then added to a lactose tablet or sucrose pellet.  There are also homeopathic creams, ointments, and salves, made by mixing remedies with a cream or gel base.

          Homeopathic remedies work best when taken at least thirty minutes before or after eating.  Clinical practice has shown that strong flavours (such as mint), odours (paints, perfumes), foods and beverages that contain caffeine, and camphor (deep-heating ointments) may interfere with the effectiveness of the homeopathic remedy.  Your practitioner may advise you to avoid these products during treatment.

(Taken from Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child by Janet Zand, Rachel Walton and Bob Rountree: 1994 Avery Publishing Group ISBN 0-895290545-8)


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