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A Brief Introduction to Homeopathy

What homeopathy is not

What is homeopathy?

How does homeopathy work?

What is a homeopathic remedy?

Is there any research that shows homeopathy to be effective?

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About Homeopathy

A Brief Introduction to Homeopathy

Whether used in conjunction with conventional medicine, or as a natural alternative, homeopathy is often the treatment of choice to recover one’s health most safely, efficiently, completely, and permanently. Excellent results, and often cure, have been documented in the homeopathic treatment of patients with a wide variety of health problems including: chronic pain, infections, allergies and asthma, skin conditions, arthritis, headaches, disc herniations, sciatica, back pain, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, infertility, anxiety, depression, heartburn, and irritable bowel.

It is becoming increasingly popular as more people are discovering homeopathy’s far-reaching effects, and looking for true alternatives to conventional medicine. Homeopathic remedies are natural, safe, completely non-toxic, and free of harmful side effects.

Homeopathic medicine works by triggering a reaction of the body to heal itself. It optimizes the body’s ability to heal, so that a complete cure is typically achieved and further treatment becomes no longer necessary.

What is homeopathy?

Developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who lived between 1755 and 1843, homeopathy is a scientific method of treatment that is based on the application of the law of similars, which states that “a substance that causes, in a healthy person, symptoms similar to those of a disease state, can cure a sick person in that similar disease state.” The Latin phrase Similia similibus curentur (“let likes be cured by likes”) defines the guiding principle of homeopathy.

This law of similars is based on years of observation and a number of discoveries and reflections found throughout the history of medicine, long before Hahnemann’s time. Even Hippocrates, the “Father of Medicine,” had stated that cure could be achieved through the action of “similars.” Hahnemann first experienced the law of similars while translating a textbook of medicine in which it was reported that cinchona bark was used to cure malaria. He decided to test Hippocrates’ theory by taking some cinchona bark himself, and found that as a healthy person, he actually developed symptoms very similar to those of malaria. This led Hahnemann to develop a hypothesis that cinchona appears to cure malaria because it produces the symptoms of malaria in healthy people.

After testing many other substances in this same way, Hahnemann began to treat people utilizing substances found in nature that would create the same pattern of symptoms for which they were seeking treatment. He met with such great success that his hypothesis became an indisputable fact: if a substance can cause a pattern of symptoms in a healthy person that is similar to the pattern of symptoms of the patient, then that substance will be an effective treatment for that patient. Thus, the main goal of the homeopathic physician is to identify the one substance found in nature (the homeopathic remedy) that produces a pattern of symptoms most similar to those that the patient is suffering from.

Another example of the application of the law of similars would be this: if you’re chopping onions, your eyes may water, itch, and burn. You may also develop a runny nose with sneezing. If you had this similar pattern of symptoms during a cold or hay fever, then a highly diluted homeopathic remedy made from red onion (Allium cepa) might be an effective homeopathic treatment of this condition. Yet one more example would be the use of the homeopathic remedy of coffea, prepared from coffee, which is often used to treat the same type of insomnia that too much coffee can cause.

Because the application of the law of similars is so useful in treatment of patients with a variety of diseases Hahnemann came up with the term homeopathy, from the Greek “homoios” (similar) and “pathos” (suffering).

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How does homeopathy work?

To answer this question, we must first understand the basic causes of disease. In general, one can assert that disease is a state of imbalance resulting from the combination of several factors. These factors include external influences such as lifestyle (diet, exercise, and mental hygiene), environmental exposures, microbes (bacteria and viruses), as well as physical and emotional trauma.

However, in order for these external factors to actually cause a disease, the individual must also possess some internal, intrinsic, constitutional susceptibility to certain types of illness, often determined largely by heredity. This susceptibility or sensitivity represents a disturbance or imbalance in an individual’s general state of health. If the person’s overall state of health is weak and/or imbalanced, he or she is more susceptible to many of these external factors and diseases, and generally does a poor job of healing.

For example, consider a group of passengers flying on an airplane in the middle of the cold and flu season. Obviously, there is a very high concentration of bacteria and viruses circulating through the air, to which all of the passengers are exposed. Over the next several days, some of the passengers will develop a cold, flu, or bacterial infection, but many will not. Why is it that we can observe this phenomena in nature to be true? The answer lies in the individual’s unique, intrinsic, constitutional predisposition, as well as the overall strength and balance of the individual’s state of health at that time. Some people are simply more susceptible to developing colds than others. Other people may be prone to developing a cold but only when “off-balance” (under extreme stress, during a period of inadequate sleep, etc).

Careful observation reveals that these factors of susceptibility and state of health seem to be more important than the mere exposure to a germ, in determining who will actually get sick. This concept of constitutional susceptibility and state of health also explains why it is so that when some people are exposed to physical or emotional stressors they feel fine or recover easily, while others will, for example, develop a headache. Yet still others exposed to the same stressors will develop a completely different pattern of symptoms or a disease that they are more uniquely susceptible to, including, for example: asthma, hay fever, insomnia, depression and anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic pain, fatigue, etc.

Symptoms of disease are evidence that the body is trying to overcome the disease but that it is not fully able to do so on its own. As described above, this inability to overcome disease is due primarily to the individual’s inherent predispositions and imbalanced state of health. Homeopathy works by triggering a reaction of the body to correct the imbalance (the disease state), enabling the organism to re-balance itself globally so that the susceptibility to sickness is greatly decreased and the body’s ability to heal is dramatically enhanced, allowing for a true cure.

This healing reaction is triggered by the homeopathic remedy, according to the law of similars. This law of similars asserts that bringing together similar patterns – the disease pattern of the patient and the disease pattern of a similar remedy – will result in the destruction of the patient’s disease pattern.

The leading theory that explains how homeopathy works relies upon the phenomenon of homeostasis. Homeostasis is defined as “the state of equilibrium (balance) in the body with respect to various functions and to the fluids and tissues, and the processes through which such bodily equilibrium is maintained.” In other words, the body will typically react to outside influences or stressors in an attempt to restore the balance of health, or homeostasis. If the vital force is strong and balanced, it will be able to recover quickly from these outside stressors. However, if it is weak and unbalanced, symptoms will develop as a sign that the body is having trouble overcoming the disease, and a chronic disease may develop.

Homeopathy works by giving the body that is no longer successfully reacting to the disease the help it needs to react in a more complete and balanced way, in order to overcome the disease on its own. When the homeopathic remedy is given, it acts as a new outside influence or stress. The body will, in turn, react to this stressor in an attempt to restore homeostasis. And if the remedy was carefully chosen so that its pattern of symptoms are the most similar (ie, the most homeopathic) to the individual’s pattern of symptoms, then the remedy “gains the attention” of the vital force and encourages it to react to the remedy. In reacting to the remedy, the body’s vital force is “tricked” in a sense into actually reacting against the disease at the same time, because the symptoms of the remedy and the disease are so similar. With the help of the remedy, the body’s reaction to the disease is optimized, leading to an eventual cure.

Another way of looking at how the body’s healing reaction may be triggered is to compare one’s state of health to that of a pendulum. A healthy state of homeostasis is one in which the pendulum is hanging at its lowest center point, perfectly balanced. As the pendulum reacts to different stressors, it will swing back and forth but eventually will come to rest, balanced at its lowest center point again, assuming that body is operating efficiently, in a state of equilibrium or homeostasis. If not, and the body is in a diseased state, the body could, for example, overreact to an otherwise harmless substance, as is the case with an allergic or inflammatory reaction.

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The pendulum could swing wildly out of proportion to the stressor, and get stuck, for example, off to the right. The conventional medical approach would be to try to force the pendulum back to the left, in the same way that antidepressants would be used to force the brain out of its depressed state, or anti-inflammatory medications used to suppress inflammation. The homeopathic approach would be to use a remedy to gently nudge the pendulum a bit further to the right, in the same direction as the pendulum’s already distorted position. By introducing a stimulus which is similar to the existing pattern of disease or distortion, the pendulum becomes unstuck and then the body’s vital force, or homeostatic mechanisms, are able to react to this further state of imbalance, bringing it back toward homeostasis.

In contrast, conventional medications are generally given for their chemical effects on the organism, which are opposite to the state of disease. For example, an anti-inflammatory is given to suppress symptoms of inflammation. Conversely, in homeopathy, a remedy is given to provoke a reaction of the organism. This reaction is the healing reaction, not a direct chemical effect.

Since only the living organism can truly heal itself, the homeopathic remedy does not do the healing; it is merely an influence used to provoke a reaction of the vital force to bring about recovery. The greater the degree of similarity between the pattern of symptoms that are provoked by the remedy on a healthy person and the pattern of symptoms displayed by the person who is sick, the greater will be the recovery.

Thus, the patient overcomes the disease because of the restoration of the vital force. When the vital force is normalized, the individual’s susceptibility to disease decreases over time. In one of our prior examples, the patient becomes less and less susceptible to colds and infections in general.

Similarly, under homeopathic treatment, chronic pain, headaches, allergies, and asthma tend to become less frequent and weaker over time, until they eventually just go away. This decreased sensitivity or susceptibility is a common scenario observed during the course of homeopathic treatment of virtually all disease because homeopathy, instead of merely suppressing the symptoms, actually addresses the fundamental cause of the disease.

The ultimate result of homeopathic treatment is a true cure, which the body accomplishes naturally. The total health of the individual is fully restored, and the remedy and/or other medications are often no longer needed.

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What is a homeopathic remedy?

A homeopathic remedy is a highly diluted substance, prepared from one single animal, mineral, or plant source, as found in nature. For example, Apis mellifica is a highly diluted remedy prepared from the venom of a honey bee, commonly used to treat bee stings, certain types of sore throats, and many other conditions. The remedies are prepared in laboratories by homeopathic pharmacies under very strict regulatory guidelines.

In fact, the FDA has publicly stated: “Homeopathic medicines in high dilutions, taken under the supervision of trained professionals, are considered safe and unlikely to cause severe adverse reactions.” Because of the extremely high dilutions of the remedies, they are extremely safe and completely devoid of all chemical toxicity. Thus, unlike even many herbal preparations, they are extremely safe and effective to use even with pregnant women and infants.

Homeopathic remedies are first scientifically “proven” by testing small amounts of the natural substances on healthy individuals and meticulously recording all of the symptoms experienced by these individuals. After the symptoms from a “proving” disappear, the experiment continues, and the individuals receive yet another dose to confirm the original findings of the first proving. This is done several times and, in many cases, with many individuals to ensure consistent, accurate, and reliable information.

Next, this information is combined with information from clinical trials to confirm that the remedy does indeed cure individuals suffering from a pattern of symptoms similar to the pattern of symptoms of the remedy. Unlike drugs used in conventional medicine, which may only be tested for a few years and typically used without full knowledge of long-term side effects, the homeopathic remedies most commonly prescribed have been used safely and effectively for decades.

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The reason the remedies are so safe is the same reason that makes it so difficult for most people to comprehend how these remedies could possibly work - the remedies are so highly diluted that only a molecule or less of the original substance is chemically present in the remedy. Only a subtle essence, or a sub-molecular remnant, of the original substance remains. This fact has made it easy for skeptics to argue that homeopathy can’t possibly work because there can’t be any significant chemical effect of a remedy that may not even contain a single molecule of what it was originally prepared from. The funny thing is that these skeptics are correct.

As you may recall from the previous section, we already know that the action of the remedy is not a chemical one; it merely triggers a healing reaction of the vital force. One way of thinking about the remedy is that, instead of exerting a chemical influence on the body, it may actually work by communicating information to the body about the pattern of symptoms that the original undiluted substance causes. It is this information contained in the remedy, not the chemical composition of the remedy, that the vital force reacts to. Because this concept of a non-chemical healing reaction does not fit the conventional medical model, it is simply discarded by many. However, as we will see in the next section, modern scientific research has confirmed the safety and effectiveness of homeopathy again and again.

One final note on homeopathic remedies: they are relatively inexpensive, especially when compared to other over-the-counter medication, prescription drugs, and even vitamin supplements and herbal preparations. A typical 1 to 2 month supply of one single remedy usually costs around $10 to $15. Since only one single remedy is prescribed at any one time, even for a multitude of symptoms, taking the remedy is very simple and inexpensive.

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Is there any research that shows homeopathy to be effective?

Yes, there is a growing body of scientific evidence that documents homeopathy to be safe and effective. A major review of dozens of clinical trials of homeopathy concluded that the scientific evidence is strong enough “for establishing homeopathy as a regular treatment for certain indications.” (British Medical Journal, 1991; 302:316-323). Other research showed the response to homeopathic remedies to be 2.5 to 3 times greater than placebo.(Lancet,1997;350:834-843).

Homeopathy has been widely practiced with excellent results on animals, infants, and comatose patients, none of whom could possibly respond to a placebo effect. Also, it has been observed that when a patient is given a homeopathic remedy that is not accurately prescribed, there will typically be no response to that remedy. For example, consider the case where the homeopath, although trying to find the right remedy for the patient, fails on their first attempt.


A randomized controlled trial proved homeopathy to be successful in treating acute childhood diarrhea, especially when virus and/or bacteria were present. Jacobs, Jennifer, L. Margarita Jimenez, Stephen S. Gloyd, James L. Gale, and Dean Crothers, “Treatment of Acute Childhood Diarrhea with Homeopathic Medicine: A Randomized Clinical Trial in Nicaragua”, Pediairics, Volume 93, Number 5, pp. 719-725 (May 1994). In fact, the results from this study were successfully replicated later. Jacobs, J., et al. “Homeopathic Treatment of Acute Childhood Diarrhea: Results from a Clinical Trial in Nepal”, Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Volume 6, pp. 131-139 (2000).

Another study showed that homeopathy was far superior to prophylactic doses of antibiotics in preventing respiratory disease in pigs on pig farms. Albrecht, H., et al., “Homeopathy Versus Antibiotics in Metaphylaxis of Infectious Diseases”, Alternative Therapies, Volume 5, Number 5, pp. 64-68 (September, 1999).

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Homeopathy was also shown to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis. Gibson et al., Journal of Clinical Pharmacology , 9, pg. 453 (1980).

Allergies were shown to improve with homeopathic treatment. Reilly, D., et al., “Randomized Controlled Trial of Homeopathy Versus Placebo in Perennial Allergic Rhinitis with Overview of Four Trial Series,” British Medical Journal, 321, pg., 471-476, (August 19, 2000)

Faster recovery from the flu with homeopathic treatment was shown. Ferley, J. P., et al., “A Controlled Evaluation of a Homeopathic Preparation in the Treatment of influenza-Like Syndromes,” British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, 27, pp. 329-335 (1989).

Homeopathy improved post-operative pain and agitation in children. Alibeu, J. P., et al., “Aconit en Dilution homeopathique et agitation post-operatoire de l’enfant,” Pediatrie (Bucur), 45:7-8, pp. 465-466 (1980).

Less relapse of recovering alcoholics and drug addicts undergoing homeopathic treatment was shown. Garcia-Swain, Susan, “A Double-Blind, Placebo- Controlled Trial Applying Homeopathy to Chemical Dependency," Hahnemann College of Homeopathy, Albany, California (June, 1993).

Faster recovery and less treatment failures with homeopathic treatment of otitis media (ear infections) in children. Jacobs, J., et al., “Homeopathic Treatment of Acute Otitis Media in Children: A Preliminary Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial, ”Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal”, 20,, 2, pp. 177-183 (February 2001)

Finally, we are currently awaiting the release of a several thousand-page book: The Weight of Evidence: Homeopathy in Times of Epidemics and other Statistics, by Andre’ Saine, N.D. In it, Dr. Saine reviews the literature from the past two hundred years regarding the homeopathic treatment of over 15 of the major epidemics afflicting humankind including measles, malaria, pneumonia, and influenza, cholera, typhus, and many others. Many readers will be quite astonished to find that not only has the track record of homeopathy been excellent in the treatment of these diseases, but it has actually been shown to be universally superior to that of conventional medical treatment.

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