An Introduction to Homeopathy
Homeopathy is an elaborate and very detailed medical science based upon the principle of stimulating the body to heal itself. It is non-toxic, highly effective against both acute and chronic disease, and relatively inexpensive. Widespread throughout Europe, Great Britain, Central and South America, India, and Africa, homeopathy is experiencing an explosive resurgence in the United States as part of the movement toward alternative medicine. Homeopathic remedies and pharmacies are regulated by the FDA. The principles underlying the specialty of homeopathy have been systematically proven throughout two centuries of practice and validated by over 200 scientific studies meeting modern criteria of acceptability.
What are the principles underlying homeopathy?
The basic concept is that symptoms are manifestations of the organism trying to heal. In acute disease, the fever, malaise, pain, and diarrhea or discharges are attempts to kill the offending organism and expel the toxins while encouraging the person to slow down and rest. In chronic disease, the arthritis or migraines or hypertension, etc., are attempts to heal which are not succeeding — thus, they are chronic.
In the homeopathic perspective, symptoms are any limitations of freedom — whether mental, emotional, or physical.
Homeopaths observe that virtually all substances — plant, mineral, or animal — may produce symptoms if given carefully to sensitive individuals or in larger quantities to less sensitive people. These symptoms are painstakingly catalogued in Materia Medicas, which are then elaborately analyzed (in modern days, by computer) to match the symptom properties of substances to symptom pictures of patients.
The basic principle, verified by vast clinical experience, is: Like Cures Like — A substance that produces symptoms in a healthy person will cure those very symptoms in a sick person.
What is the method?
The practitioner conducts a very elaborate and penetrating interview addressing all major and minor symptoms of mental, emotional, and physical planes. Each symptom is elucidated as to what makes it better or worse, when it occurs, whether there are others in conjunction, what circumstances produce it, what stresses seem to lead to it, and whatever hereditary traits contribute. In particular, what is unique about a patient’s total personality is considered — individual traits (“good” or “bad”), dreams, ambitions, favorite recreations, etc. A total symptom picture is built which is then matched to the best possible remedy picture.
In Classical Homeopathy, only one remedy is prescribed at a time — no combinations. It may be administered in a single dose (on sugar pellets, like candy) in the office, or as liquid daily doses from a stock bottle sent by a homeopathic pharmacy. Progress is then monitored at four to six weekly intervals until it becomes clear that the correct remedy has been chosen. At that point,
Basically only one remedy (out of 2,500 or so available) is truly curative at a given moment in time. If the correct remedy is given, there may be a brief healing crisis within a few days to a few weeks followed by gradual improvement over a span of months or years, depending on the severity of the case and allopathic drug interferences. If the remedy given is incorrect, essentially nothing at all happens — the patient is neither worse nor better as a whole even despite minor changes. In that case, another remedy is selected.
What are homeopathic remedies?
Made from plants, minerals, earth salts, animal tissue, even poisons, there are approximately 2,500 remedies, of which perhaps 1000 are most commonly given. Examples from daily practice are Pulsatilla (Windflower), Sepia (ink of the cuttlefish), Calcarea carbonica (calcium carbonate from oyster shells), Sulphur (the element), and Natrum muriaticum (sodium chloride, table salt).
Remedies are grouped in families. If one acts only partially, it is common that another in the same family will be indicated. Sometimes families are grouped by botanical or zoological categories, but more commonly homeopathic groupings span all kingdoms in Nature.
Remedies are all prepared by FDA-approved pharmacies by serial dilutions of the original substance, with forceful shaking between each dilution. There is no therapeutic effect if the substance either diluted without shaking, or shaken without dilution. However, the effect is very potent when matched precisely to the symptom picture of the patient.
A shocking fact is that the more the remedy is shaken and diluted (serially), the more powerful the curative action! This remains true even beyond the point of there being even one molecule left in the solution! This seeming paradox has been recently elucidated by a variety of studies throughout the world since 1995 — clarifying special Quantum Electrodynamic processes occurring only in dilute solutions of water or other dipolar solvents. Essentially, the process of shaking and diluting creates clusters of water molecules aligned with associated electromagnetic fields. When there is resonance between the remedy “vibration” and the patient’s symptoms, the structure of water changes and improves all the chemical reactions involved in bodily processes. (Bill Gray, MD, Homeopathy: Science or Myth? North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, 2000)
Is homeopathy placebo effect?
There certainly is considerable placebo effect arising from the holistic nature and thoroughness of a well-taken homeopathic interview. However, homeopathy is very effective in babies and animals. And over 89 carefully designed double-blind clinical and laboratory studies have been published proving its effectiveness. Tissue and cell cultures also respond quantitatively to exposure to remedies. ( Bill Gray, MD, Homeopathy: Science or Myth? North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, 2000)
What ailments are appropriate for homeopathic referral?
Homeopathy is effective often within hours in acute influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia, gastroenteritis, injuries, shock, and even fright. Most appropriate for referral are the full range of chronic diseases: allergies, asthma, eczema and other dermatitides, anxiety/stress disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, OCD, ADD, PMS, menopause, migraines or cluster or tension headaches, fibromyalgia and CFS, hypertension, angina, arrhythmias, peptic ulcer, Crohns Disease, ulcerative colitis, IBS, hepatitis, lupus erythematosis, mixed connective tissue disorder, sarcoidosis, multiple sclerosis, peripheral neuropathies, etc….Homeopathy is effective at all ages as well.
Good candidates for homeopathy are cases in which no clear allopathic diagnoses can be made. Because homeopathy relies on understanding the uniqueness of the person to stimulate healing forces, diagnosis is effectively bypassed.
Homeopathy is not effective in insulin-dependent diabetes, specific chromosomal defects such as sickle-cell disease, or in cases of advanced mechanical obstruction (obstructed coronary arteries, blocked bile ducts, bulging discs pressing on nerves). In my experience, it is marginal in ALS and severe OCD. Severe degenerative arthritis and Parkinson’s disease are difficult to cure after about 10 years duration.
What is the homeopathic interview like?
The first interview usually lasts one hour or an hour and a half. It is almost solely verbal. The task of the doctor and patient together is to create a full picture of all the unique and peculiar aspects of the person, the disease, its progression, and its meaning. Looking at mental, emotional, and physical aspects together, an effort is made to understand all the ways in which the vital force is already trying to heal. The remedy ideally acts to improve that effort, enabling cure of even chronic disease.
In homeopathy, prescriptions are based solely on the language of the vital force as it manifests in symptoms verbalized by the patient and physical observations made by the doctor. It is not based on laboratory data, machine technology, extrapolation from animal studies, etc.
The advantage in homeopathy is that it does not depend on the vagaries of diagnoses or diagnostic fads. In allopathic medicine, the hope is that a diagnosis will lead to an understanding of the causative process, and therefore will lead to cure. In chronic disease, this has uniformly failed.
In homeopathy, on the other hand, diagnosis is unnecessary and a waste of effort. The sole task is to understand what is unique about the individual and his/her symptoms. That uniqueness leads to the remedy that stimulates the vital force to heal the illness, whether diagnosable or not.
By what standards are remedies prepared?
Professional, FDA-approved, homeopathic pharmaceutical companies prepare remedies in environments carefully controlled for temperature, odors, dust, light, and humidity. The original substance is diluted in alcohol, and then serially diluted an incredible number of times, the vial being vigorously shaken between each dilution. Paradoxically as it may seem, the more the original substance is shaken and diluted, the more its curative power is increased while eliminating all toxicity.
In single dose form (technically called a “c” potency), the final dilution (in water) is applied to small sugar granules and placed in a labeled vial. The patient takes the entire contents of the vial, chews the granules, and swallows them. This is done in one dose, not daily doses, unless prescribed otherwise.
In daily liquid form (technically called a “Q” or “LM” potency), the patient is sent a stock bottle from the pharmacy in which the substance has been diluted 1:50,000 times serially. Each day, the stock bottle is shaken vigorously 10 times, and 7 drops are then placed into 4 oz of distilled water, from which a 1/2 tsp sip is taken.
Over ensuing months and years, “c” potencies may be repeated occasionally, and with either delivery system, the prescription may be changed sometimes. Most follow-ups are for the purpose of determining continued progress rather than for repetition or change of remedy.
What happens if a wrong remedy is given?
Generally nothing at all. The remedy must resonate with the person, otherwise nothing happens. Sometimes symptoms are subtly changed without much overall progress. This signifies a remedy is close but not exact.
Remedies are non-toxic. Even the healing crisis does no harm.
What can homeopathy be expected to accomplish?
Cure is the goal in homeopathy, and our results show that 80-90% of our patients can expect at least great strides toward that goal within 2 years — 70% or so in the first year. Our definition of “cure” is the attainment of a high degree of health without having to depend on drugs, special diets, or other treatments. George Vithoulkas, Alternative Nobel Prize Winner in Medicine, defines health in terms of FREEDOM — Health on the physical level is freedom from having to put undue attention on the body because of pain, weakness, etc.; on the emotional level, health is freedom from being bound by the various emotions (not a mere absence of emotions, but a dynamic state of feeling all emotions while not being trapped by any); and on the mental level, health is clarity and Selfless Creativity, the ultimate state being unification selflessly with Truth.
On an average (always with notable exceptions!), homeopathic cures take 3 months to 2 years, depending on the severity of the condition, the hereditary strength of the vital force, and the amount of previous drugs.
How do we know the remedy is acting?
The remedy is taken for 20 days, and then a followup is made at six weeks to determine if the remedy is correct or not. If there is no change at all, the remedy is incorrect and needs to be changed. If there is a small improvement, especially on energy levels or mental/emotional levels, the remedy is probably correct; larger progress will be expected in the next few months.
After this initial period, there may be a return of old symptoms from the past. These are not severe and represent the remedy working through time to clear up old unresolved issues. They are a good sign, not a regression to a weaker state.
A rough estimate of progress can be made by 6 weeks. At that time, we hope to see perhaps 10 or 20% improvement in the overall picture — noticeable but hardly dramatic. After the initial 6 weeks, progress continues month by month.
What can the patient do to help the process?
The patient’s major contribution is honest and deep self-observation.
The more information, especially about unique peculiarities, the greater the chance of a curative prescription.
Weekly journals provide benchmarks of comparison with the state just prior to the remedy. Daily journals often miss the forest for the trees. However, dream journals can be extremely useful.
Are there special diets or vitamins?
Not really. The best nutritionist is one’s own body. Homeopaths recommend following cravings in moderation — except sugar (which has no nutritive value and induces cravings), or alcohol in an alcoholic. Supplements do not interfere and may help.
[See “Advice & Opinions” for general health advice, unrelated to homeopathy specifically, based on 45 years of clinical experience.]