When illness affects our bodies, there are other forms of treatment available besides the medications prescribed by physicians. Although prescription drugs are very important in many instances, they can have adverse-sometimes even deadly-side effects. A better understanding of treatment options will enable us to work with our health-care providers to choose the treatment most likely to bring about health in a given situation.
Homeopathy is a treatment option that was practiced widely in the United States until the early twentieth century, when medicinal (pharmaceutical) drugs became popular. Homeopathy is still very much accepted and used in Europe, especially in Germany, Switzerland, and England.
Homeopathy seeks cures that correspond with the natural laws of healing. The living human being is affected by internal as well as external elements, which together result in a dynamic balance or imbalance of the person's mind, body, and spirit. These three parts of the whole are closely interrelated, and whatever happens to one part may ultimately affect one or both of the other parts. The natural laws of healing recognize this principle and the ability of the body to heal itself with the aid of materials and methods that are nontoxic and have no side effects.
The term homeopathy comes from the Greek roots homoios, meaning similar, and pathos, meaning suffering or sickness. The basic law of homeopathy is "the law of similars." The law states that a substance can cure a disease if it produces in a healthy person symptoms similar to and much milder than those of the disease.
Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann was the German physician who formulated the theory of homeopathy in the 1800s. However, Hahnemann was not the
first to discover the concept. In 400 B.C., Hippocrates wrote that through the like, disease is produced, and through application of the like, disease is cured. Besides Hippocrates, Paracelsus, a sixteenth century German physician, also described the law of similars in his writings. However, it was Hahnemann who developed the therapeutic agents prescribed in homeopathy that have been published in the Materia Medical First published in 1927, the Materia Medica, by William Boericke, M.D., is the most complete encyclopedia of homeopathic therapeutic agents developed by Hahnemann, and is widely used by homeopathic physicians as a source book.
Today, a homeopathic physician, by observing symptoms of a disease, prescribes the appropriate substance, which under scientifically controlled conditions has produced the same disease symptoms in a healthy person. The traditional form of treating with homeopathic substances was prescribing one therapeutic agent at a time, until the original symptoms had decreased. Some modern practitioners recommend using multiple agents simultaneously. Homeopathic treatments have been found to have no side effects; however, if an inappropriate therapy is given, no change will occur in the symptoms or disease.
Homeopathic therapies are prepared by potentization. Each agent is prepared by successive dilutions of the ingredients (plant or animal origin), alternating with succussion (vigorous shaking), which is continued until the resulting medicine contains no molecules of the original substance. Potencies for homeopathic agents are designated by a number that is followed by an x. The x represents 10, and signifies that the mother tincture has been diluted to one part in 10. The number preceding the x indicates the number of times the remedy has been diluted. The more diluted a remedy is, the more potent it is said to be. Thus, a 6x potency remedy, which has been diluted 6 times, is considered more potent than a 3x remedy, which has been diluted only 3 times.