What is Homeopathy?

Well, about two hundred years ago there was a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann. Dr. Hahnemann was disgusted with the common practices of medicine in Germany at that time. There were huge amounts of bloodletting and treatments with heavy metals, including arsenic and mercury. Dr. Hahnemann felt that many of the “state of the art” treatments left patients worse off than their diseases. In addition, there seemed to be no understanding of why some treatments were effective and others weren’t. Dr. Hahnemann. decided that it was better NOT to practice medicine in this type of environment.

He still had a family to support, so being a well-educated man, and speaking six or seven languages, he began to make a living performing medical translations. He was doing fine in this line of work until he was in the midst of translating a paper from a Scottish pharmacologist. The article described the use of a certain Peruvian bark in the treatment of febrile states. The author postulated that this particular bark was effective because of its “bitter” nature. Dr. Hahnemann felt that he couldn’t let this absurdity go without investigating further. This was the turning point for Homeopathy, akin to the apple falling on the head of Sir Isaac Newton.

The stroke of genius turned out to be an unprecedented decision by Dr. Hahnemann to begin taking small amounts of the Peruvian bark himself. This was a departure from the way medicine was practiced at the time. Few had been so bold as to suggest that healthy people take medicines to study their effects, but the results were profound. Dr. Hahnemann soon found that by ingesting small amounts of the bark he became ill. He noticed that the symptoms that he developed were the very symptoms of the illness which the Scotsman had described as cured by the medicine!

Over the course of the next ten years Dr. Hahnemann began to take other medicines and herbs and to study their effects on himself, willing colleagues, and even his family. Through painstaking effort, he was able to catalog the symptoms developed while taking these substances. He learned several things:

First- that each substance has a signature of symptoms that it produces in healthy humans. The symptoms are reproducible among a diverse population and they resolve spontaneously once the medicine is discontinued.

Second- that each substance creates a disturbance in the healthy individual capable of producing not only physical effects, but also emotional or mental symptoms such as changes in mood, irritability or temperament. By cataloging all these symptoms he was able to create the first encyclopedia of symptoms known as the “Materia Medica Pura”. In his lifetime, he cataloged 100 substances with descriptions of their physical and emotional effects.

So far, I have described what is perfectly acceptable to the modern scientist. These facts can be easily ascertained by any of us by simply opening the PDR (Physician’s Desk Reference) and perusing the “side effects” or “adverse effects” section that is provided with each and every medicine. Dr. Hahnemann recognized that these effects were not just “side” effects, but true, reproducible actions of the substances in healthy individuals.

After nearly ten years of painstaking work cataloging these substances Dr. Hahnemann began the task of applying this information to the sick and infirm. He began treating patients with substances that were capable of creating similar symptom states in healthy individuals. He rapidly learned two important things.

-First, that in many cases after administering a “similar” substance (i.e., one that is capable of producing symptoms similar to the ill state in a healthy host) a process leading to resolution of the illness often ensued. The more similar the symptoms and the closer the match, the more rapidly and thoroughly the healing. He characterized this phenomenon as “The Law of Similars”.

-Second, that in many cases, as he administered smaller and smaller amounts of the medicinal substances (to avoid toxic reactions and side effects) the healing effects of the medicines he administered were more, paradoxically, increasingly profound.

This is where we begin to depart from the credible sciences of the time. Dr. Hahnemann soon learned that by diluting the medicines more and more and by performing a form of shaking procedure (later called “sucussion”) that the medicines did indeed become less toxic, but they also became more potent. This phenomenon became known as the “Law of the Minimum Dose”.

It is this phenomenon of the minimum dose that has posed the greatest problem with popular acceptance and understanding of homeopathy. This detail (which is not even fundamental to the spirit of homeopathy) has been perhaps the greatest obstacle to popular acceptance. The mere mention of this principle tends to inflame countless misunderstandings and divide great thinkers in the field of medicine.

Since the time of Dr. Hahnemann, homeopathy has spread to every continent on the planet earth. In the U.S. alone, homeopathy was taught in medical schools until the last century. Homeopathy has won its largest number of converts, not from knowing or believing in its theory, but from direct experience in some of the greatest epidemics in the history of the last two centuries.

Homeopathy is useful in the treatment of a great many ailments ranging from simple acute emergencies, colds, flu, infections, to many chronic conditions including arthritis, asthma and irritable bowel states.