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 Homeopathy: What Is Homeopathy Anyway? 
 
Homeopathic medicine is a natural pharmaceutical science that uses various plants, minerals or animals in very small dose to stimulate the sick person's natural defenses. The medicines are individually chosen for their ability to cause in overdose the similar symptoms the person is experiencing. "Homoios" in Greek means similar and "pathos" means disease or suffering. Since one's symptoms are actually efforts of the organism to reestablish homeostasis or balance, it is logical to seek a substance that would, in overdose, cause the similar symptoms the person is experiencing. The medicines, thus, go with, rather than against, the person's natural defenses.

In essence, homeopathy is composed of two highly systematic methods: toxicology and casetaking. First, homeopaths find out the specific physical, emotional, and mental symptoms that various substances cause in overdose. Homeopathic texts have more detail on toxicology than any other source. Second, the homeopaths interview their patients in great detail to discover the totality of physical, emotional and mental symptoms the person is experiencing. The homeopath seeks to find a substance that would cause the similar symptoms the person has and then gives it in small, specially prepared dose.

IT SEEMS ILLOGICAL TO GIVE DOSES OF SUBSTANCES THAT CAUSE SYMPTOMS TO THOSE THE SICK PERSON HAS IN ORDER TO CURE THEM. EXPLAIN THIS.
Homeopaths, like many modern physiologists, recognize that symptoms represent the best efforts of the organism to adapt to and defend against various stresses or infections. Because the body is not always successful in dealing with every stress or infection, it is important to find a substance in nature that has the capacity to mimic the symptoms the person is experiencing in order to aid the body in its efforts to defend and ultimately heal itself.

The "law of similars," the basic principle of homeopathy, is even used in some conventional medical therapies, such as immunizations and allergy treatments. These treatments, however, are not pure homeopathy since homeopathic medicines are more individually prescribed, given in smaller doses, and used to treat sick people and to prevent disease.

HOMEOPATHS USE SUCH SMALL DOSES THAT THEY COULDN'T POSSIBLY HAVE ANY PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECT. HOW CAN YOU RESPOND TO THIS?
Although we don't understand precisely how the homeopathic medicines work, there is clear evidence that the medicines are active and can heal. Homeopathy became popular in this country and in Europe during the 1800s because of its success in treating the many infectious diseases that raged during that time, including yellow fever, scarlet fever, cholera, and many others. The death rate in homeopathic hospitals was between one-half to one-eigth of those in conventional medical hospitals. Homeopathic medicines also have been shown to work on infants and on various animals (including dogs, cats, horses and even cows) where it is highly unlikely that they are acting only as a placebo. Homeopaths also find that people who are being treated with homeopathic medicine for a chronic disease sometimes experience a temporary exacerabation in their symptoms as the body's defenses are being stimulated. Homeopaths have found that a "healing crisis" is sometimes necessary to achieve healing. It is highly unlikely that this temporary worsening of symptoms is the result of a placebo response.

There has also been some good scientific research published in medical journals and other scientific publications. A survey of research published in the British Medical Journal (February 9, 1991) indicated that there have been 107 controlled clinical trials, 81 of which showed that the homeopathic medicines had beneficial results.

Of the various studies, 13 of the 19 trials showed successful treatment of respiratory infections, 6 of 7 showed positive results in treating other infections, 5 of 7 showed improvement in digestive disorders, 5 of 5 showed successful treatment of hay fever, 5 of 7 showed faster recovery after abdominal surgery, 4 of 6 promoted healing of arthritic conditions, 18 of 20 showed benefit in relieving pain or trauma, 8 of 10 showed positive results in reducing psychological problems, and 13 of 15 showed benefit of various disorders.

For more detail about many of these studies, see my book, Discovering Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century (North Atlantic Books, 1991) or see Drs. P. Bellavite and A. Signorini's new book Homeopathy: A Frontier in Medical Science (North Atlantic, 1995).

The small doses used by homeopaths only have an effect when a person has a hypersensitivity to the small doses given. If the wrong medicine is given to a person, nothing happens. If the correct medicine is given, the medicine acts as a catalyst to the person's defenses. In any case, homeopathic medicines do not have side effects.

IF THE MEDICINES ARE SO EFFECTIVE, WHY ISN'T HOMEOPATHY MORE POPULAR TODAY?
Actually, homeopathy is quite popular in many countries in the world. As for homeopathy in the U.S., it was also very popular here. At the turn of the century, 15% of physicians were homeopathic physicians. The A.M.A. was seriously threatened clinically, philosophically, and economically by homeopaths. As distinct from other unorthodox practitioners, homeopaths graduated from respected medical schools. The A.M.A. was so threatened by homeopathy that from 1860 to the early 1900s a conventional physician would lose their membership in the A.M.A if they simply consulted with a homeopath. The A.M.A. also applied pressure on various funding sources so that the homeopathic schools had difficulty staying alive. Despite the strong pressure from A.M.A. and the drug companies, homeopathy has survived and has flourished throughout the world.

WHERE IS HOMEOPATHY POPULAR?
Homeopathy is particularly popular in France, England, Germany, Greece, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and South Africa. Approximately 40% of the French public have used homeopathic medicines, and 39% of the French physicians have prescribed the medicines. About 20% of German physicians occasionally utilize these natural medicines, and 45% of Dutch physicians consider them effective. According to a survey in the British Medical Journal" (June 7, 1986), 42% of British physicians survey refer patients to homeopathic physicians, and a New York Times" article reported that visits to British homeopaths is growing at a rate of 39% a year.

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 About The Author
Dana Ullman, MPHDANA ULLMAN, MPH, is one of America's leading advocates for homeopathy. He has authored 10 books, including ...more
 
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