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 Homeopathy: Homeopathic Medicine and the Immune System 
 
Jonas Salk, with both eloquence and simplicity, once stated that there are two primary approaches to treating ill people. He said that there are therapeutic techniques that directly impact specific symptoms, and there are methods that stimulate the body's own immune and defense system.

Whereas conventional medical treatments today tend to focus on the former goal of treating or controlling symptoms, various natural therapeutics primarily attend to the latter goal of augmenting the person's own inherent defenses. Although the direct treatment of symptoms often has immediate effects, its benefits tend to be short-term. Because such therapeutic interventions do not usually strengthen the person's own defenses, the individual remains prone to recurrence of their problem.

In contrast, therapeutic methods that strengthen a person's immune and defense system has longer term benefit and can prevent recurrence, but the benefit is sometimes achieved more slowly.

These generalizations about therapeutic methods are, however, just that, generalizations. There are plenty of exceptions, but these generalizations create a useful framework from which to evaluate the benefits and limitations of various therapeutic approaches.

Homeopathy and Immune Response
Homeopathy obviously fits into the class of therapeutic methods that augment the body's own defenses. The basis of homeopathy, called the principle of similars, suggests that a microdose of a substance will heal whatever pattern of symptoms this substances causes in large dose. This principle is also observed in the use of vaccinations and allergy treatments, though homeopathic medicines are both considerably smaller and safer in dose and more individualized to the person they are being used to treat.

Although homeopathic medicines are thought to stimulate the body's own defenses, how they do so remains a mystery. One study published in the European Journal of Pharmacology1 showed that a homeopathic medicine, Silicea, stimulated macrophages (macrophages are a part of the body's immune system which engulf bacteria and foreign substances). How or why Silicea was able to have this action or why exceedingly small doses of it are so active is unknown. In the same way that physicians and pharmacologists do not understand how many drugs work, we do not understand how homeopathic medicine actually work.

Homeopathic medicine do not simply stimulate the body's immune system to treat ill people, for they can also calm it when this is necessary for the healing of the individual. An example of this latter effect was observed in a study of the homeopathic treatment of people with rheumatoid arthritis, a condition which is considered an autoimmune illness. People with auto-immune ailments suffer because their body's immune system is over-active and it attacks the person's own cells, not just bacteria, viruses, or foreign substances.

This study on 46 people with rheumatoid arthritis showed that those given an individualized choice of homeopathic medicine got considerably more relief than those given a placebo.2 A total of 82% of those people given a homeopathic medicine experienced relief of pain, while only 21% of those given a placebo got a similar degree of relief.

Homeopathy and Infectious Diseases
Toward the end of Louis Pasteur's life, he had come to realize that germs may not be the cause of disease afterall, but instead are probably the results of disease. In other words, various bacteria and other infective organisms may be present when there is some type of disease, but infection tends to establish itself primarily when a person's own defenses are compromised sufficiently to make him susceptible to the infection.

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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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