Andrea then was given a very small, homeopathically prepared dose of bee venom and within hours she was feeling completely healthy. Prepared in this way, the homeopathic drug stimulates the appropriate defense response required for the healing.
The beauty of the law of similars is that it not only heals but encourages a respect for the body's wisdom. It teaches us to avoid therapies that suppress symptoms and to seek treatments that truly cure. And it reminds us that there are medicinals that can stimulate the immune and defense systems. The law of similars is one of nature's laws that, when used well, can be one of our highest technologies.
The Importance of Individualization
It is remarkable that people commonly assume that their headache, stomachache, or depression is just like everyone else's. They then assume that they need to take the same drug as others to achieve a cure.
When one talks in depth with several people who have headaches, it becomes apparent that there are obvious differences between them. One person hurts in the front part of the head, another hurts in the back part. One person has it worse on the left, another on the right. One person says it worsens when moving, another says when lying down. One person likes putting a heating pad on his head, while another prefers an ice pack.
Upon further questioning one discovers that some people with headaches have accompanying digestive problems, while others have dizziness, others have a sore throat, and still others have a backache.
The way homeopaths learn what a homeopathic medicine will cure is through the use of experiments called "drug provings".In these homeopathic drug trials, researchers administer continuual doses of a substance to a healthy individual* until areaction to the substance is achieved.** The subject is asked to keep detailed record books of symptoms; additional symptoms are discovered through an interview process. The subject is encouraged to stop ingesting the substance once any particularly discomforting symptom manifests.
[* Only healthy individuals are used in these experiments. Symptoms experienced by ill people would not be as trustworthy since it would be uncertain if the symptoms were the result of the substance or a part of the disease process.]
[** Provings are usually conducted with the potentized dose of a substance, though the crude dose is also tested. Not all people react to the repeated ingestion of microdoses of every substance. Certain people seem to be particularly sensitive to individualmedicines.]
Once it is known what symptoms a substance causes, it then is known what it will influence and cure when given in extremely small, specially prepared doses. The information obtained from these drug trials are compiled into materia medicas (encyclopedias of drug effects) and repertories (books which list symptoms and the substances that have been found to cause and/or cure them).
For technology-minded people, it is obvious that homeopathy is a perfect system for computerization, and in fact, there are several good computer programs now available for the practicing homeopath (See Resources in Part III). The various programs are different, but, basically, one lists the patient's symptoms,and the computer seeks and finds medicines which can cause (and cure) the majority of these symptoms. Although this may sound relatively easy, it should be noted that finding the correct medicine involves more art and judgmnt than simply looking for a medicine that covers the most symptoms. Ultimately, one seeks to find the medicine that matches the overall picture, not just the parts, of the person. The computer then is not a panacea to homeopathic prescribing, but it is a very useful tool.
Although at present there are no programs for the general public interested in treating themselves and their families, it is probable that they soon will become available.
It is inevitable that some people who become interested in homeopathy will seek to find the homeopathic medicine for specific diseases. They will want to know what medicine is good for headaches, arthritis, premenstrual conditions, insomnia, or a host of other conditions. Homeopathy is actually too scientific for one to assume that there is a single medicine appropriate for everyone. In homeopathy it is essential that the medicine be individually prescribed for the sick person.
There are, of course, some medicines which are more commonly given for certain conditions than others. And some homeopathic medicines are given so often for certain conditions that some people come to view them as "for" that problem. However, it is always possible that a sick individual doesn't have the symptoms that fit a commonly given medicine, and because of this, another medicine is required. It is therefore helpful to take a person's case in great detail in order to be able to give not just an approximate medicine but an individually chosen one.
Anyone who has gone to a homeopathic practitioner knows that he or she asks many questions about the person's chief complaint, minor complaints, and various other physical and psychological symptoms. Homeopaths take pride in their serious interest in and use of the idiosyncratic characteristics of each person. Among the questions that homeopaths commonly ask, include: Is there time of the day you feel best or worst or that any specific symptom occurs? How does weather affect you? How do you feel at the seashore or in the mountains? Are there any foods that you crave or to which feel adverse?
Skeptics of homeopathy tend to describe the homeopath's interest in the unique symptoms of the person as evidence that this system is quirky and illogical. And yet, once again, it is now readily accepted in modern science that virtually every organ and enzyme of the body has its own daily rhythm and time of day when it becomes particularly active or inactive. It is now known that the geothermal changes can affect brain chemistry and affect physical and psychological states. It is now understood that there are increased negative ions at seashores and mountains which can affect states of health. And it is now recognized that food cravings or aversions may signal certain metabolic states.
Obviously, homeopathy is not a quirky system. It is a highly sophisticated method of individualizing small doses of medicines to a person. And the more we begin to understand its principles and methodology, the more we will begin to understand the various subtleties of the human body which presently allude our comprehension.
The Use of Small Doses
Homeopathy's law of similars and its reliance on individual treatment can be readily understood and accepted by most people. Homeopathy's special pharmaceutical process is, however, its most controversial aspect. This process is called "potentization" and refers to a specific procedure of serial dilution, wherein one part of a medicinal substance is diluted with 99 parts distilled water or ethyl alcohol which then is vigorously shaken. One part of this solution is diluted further with 99 parts distilled water or ethyl alcohol and then shaken again. This process of dilution with shaking may be continued to different strengths, most commonly 3, 6, 9, 12, 30, 200, 1,000, 10,000, 50,000 or 100,000.*
[* When a homeopathic medicine is labelled "C", this means that the medicine was diluted 1:99. When a medicine is labelled "X" or "D", it was diluted 1:9. When a medicine is described as a "30x," this means it will diluted 1:9 and vigorously shaken; then diluted again 1:9 and shaken; this procedure is repeated 30 times. When a medicine is labelled "LM", it was diluted approximately 1:50,000.]
It is initially startling to learn that medicines that have been diluted so many times have any effect. It is even more surprising to learn that homeopaths for the past 200 years have observed that the more a medicine has been potentized, i.e., diluted in this fashion, the longer it generally acts, the deeper it usually heals, and the fewer doses tend to be needed.
Although the logic of this may be befuddling at first, there is an impressive amount of clinical experience that verifies it (see "Research" online), research that substantiate it, and even understandable, non-mystical theories that explain why the small doses work.
Before describing any of the theories for how and why the small doses work, it should be noted that such explanations or theories tend to be of secondary importance to most people who prescribe and take homeopathic medicines. Most people use the medicines because they work--certainly a good enough reason. Also, it should be acknowledged that pharmacologists today do not understand how and why most conventional drugs work, despite all the money spent on research. And finally, theories are not the proving ground for facts. By disproving a theory about why small doses are effective, one does not necessarily disprove homeopathy, only that theory.
In explaining how small doses act, an analogy to music is helpful. It is commonly known that when one plays a "C" note on a piano, other "C" notes reverberate. Even on another piano at the other end of a room, "C" notes still have a hypersensitivity to the "C" resonance. In music theory (and physics) there is a basic principle that two things resonate if and only if they are "similar."
In homeopathy a medicine is chosen for its "similarity" to the totality of the person's symptoms. When this similarity exists, a person has a hypersensitivity to the substance. Thus the small doses may work by some biological version of resonance. The skeptic at this point would assert that when the medicines are potentized beyond a certain point,* there probably is not even one molecule remaining. Homeopaths agree that solutions diluted beyond the 24x or 12c may not have any molecules of the original solution, but they assert that "something" remains: the essence of the substance, its resonance, its energy, its pattern.
[* Scientists make reference to Avogadro's law which basically asserts that in all probability there should not be any molecules remaining after a substance is diluted beyond 6.02 times 10-23. The exact level of ultramolecularity depends on the concentration of the original substance.]
The concept of pattern is important in biology. In our bodies 2.5 million red cells die every second, and a similar number are born. After seven years every cell in our entire body has been replaced. Although we have new cells, we are still the same person. We are the same because the underlying pattern of our being remains.
Science writer K.C. Cole take this notion a step further:"Even the ultimate pattern that charts the course of all other patterns in a living being--the double helix of DNA--is only, after all, a collection of atoms and molecules. They too can be (and are) continually replaced. Only the pattern remains." (14)
Although the homeopathic medicines may be so dilute as not tohave any molecules, a pattern of the substance remains.
Jose Delgado, a neuroscientist who has studied brain function and behavior, described the human mind as being like a radio receiver that can receive even very small amounts of stimulation. He notes that reception is possible only if the frequency, amplitude, and other characteristics of electromagnetic signals fall within certain ranges. (15)
Sensitivity of an organism to small doses of certain substances are evident throughout nature. Science has recently discovered the existence of pheromones, a substance secreted outside of the body by an individual and perceived (usually by smell) by a second individual of the same species. Other species do not seem to sense pheromones of organisms except their own. The law of similars in action again.
The homeopathic law of similars is fundamentally the method by which one can find an individually chosen substance to which an organism is most sensitive. When the organism receives this message, its immune and defense system is catalyzed to begin a curative process. Basic research in immunology, allergy, and physics provides evidence of the regenerative effects of "similars" upon the defense system, but homeopathy has already transformed this pharmacological principle into a sophisticated medical science and art.