Homeopathy is a gentle form of medicine that is over 250 years old. Somehow homeopathy endures – the passage of time, the rise of modern medicine, the increased emphasis on scientific validation, and the criticism of skeptics who try to discredit homeopathy. Yet millions of people around the world use homeopathy and consider it effective; it is the second most-used form of medicine in the world, surpassed only by contemporary conventional medicine.
What is the appeal of homeopathy?
A great deal of clinical and anecdotal evidence, as well as some scientific literature, supports the view that homeopathy works. Homeopathy can be highly effective for many people, much of the time, regardless of the specific nature of their complaint.
Homeopathic cure is gentle and non-invasive.
Homeopathic remedies have no side effects and do not create drug dependency.
Homeopathy can be used safely by all – babies, the elderly, immuno-compromised patients, and pregnant women.
Homeopathy aims to strengthen immune function and increase vitality; patients report a general improvement in well-being, often even before noticing a change in their physical pathology.
Homeopathic care is preventative health care. The goal of homeopathic practice is to create a state of internal harmony and optimal vital function within the patient so that they are less likely to become ill.
Homeopathy is cost-efficient. Remedies are inexpensive to manufacture and only a few remedies are needed at a time
A brief history
Dr. Samuel Hahnemann discovered Homeopathy in the late 18th century in Germany. Today, homeopathy is widely used throughout Europe, India, Central and South America, Australia, and Israel. There is a strong history of homeopathy in North America, although few homeopathic hospitals survived the rise of organized empirical medicine and corporate pharmaceuticals. Homeopathy had tremendous success during epidemics such as that of the Spanish Flu, and continues to make the news for its effectiveness in treating epidemics such as Leptospirosis in Cuba. While the basic scientific principles of homeopathy have not changed since its inception, there have been major developments in homeopathic thinking as well as the creation of new medicines to address the health requirements of the 21st century.
What is the premise of homeopathy?
Homeopathy treats the whole patient – the complicated entirety of the human organism that includes physical, mental, and emotional function. Homeopathy understands that the body cannot be broken down into discreet units, as it functions as an exquisite whole. The homeopathic understanding of a patient is similar to the homeopathic understanding of the medicines – a unique complex of function, intricately interconnected and multi-dimensional in expression.
Mainstream medicine generally separates the body into isolated systems of function without acknowledging the essential connection between various physical systems, as well as the connection between emotional, mental, and physical spheres. This connection is something we understand as humans, but do not necessarily seek from our doctors. It seems perfectly logical that someone under enormous stress, or in mourning, is likely to get sick – this is because an individual’s vital function is affected by all sorts of agents of disturbance.
Similarly, homeopaths understand that their medicines have a wide range of function. Rather than targeting a medicine for a particular purpose and labeling all other effects as “side-effects,” homeopathic medicines are understood to have a wide range of impact. The art of homeopathy lies in matching a complex, multi-dimensional medicine to the complex, multi-faceted disorder of the individual.
What are homeopathic medicines?
Homeopathic “remedies” are made from various natural materials – plants, animals, and minerals primarily. The medicines are prepared in such a way that the toxicity of the original material is removed – through a process of succussion (vigorous shaking) and dilution. Less is more in homeopathy. Remedies are given in limited quantities, and for a limited time.
This idea of a minimum dose is one of the most baffling aspects of homeopathy to those who are new to homeopathic principles. Because there is little or no chemical trace of the original material in most remedies, we cannot try to understand homeopathy from a biochemical standpoint. Rather, the energy of these safe medicines stimulates the body’s self-healing mechanism. Because of the absence of any chemical material, the remedies are safe for even the frailest of patients, including the elderly, pregnant women and infants.
What can homeopathy treat?
Homeopathy treats a full range of disorders from emergency first aid and acute situations to long-standing chronic disorders.
First aid is the needed immediate response to an injury, accident, or emergency situation. Homeopathy can be useful for bites, burns, cuts, blunt trauma, and other such first aid situations, often during the gap of time before emergency medical care can be reached.
Acute disorders are the everyday illnesses that all people endure such as flu, colds, stomach upsets, ear aches, fevers, and so on. Many people first experience homeopathy for these kinds of complaints, and a rapid recovery from an acute illness sparks an interest in homeopathy for many.
Often people who come to see a homeopath for the treatment of chronic or long-standing complaints do so because they are unhappy with the side effects of pharmaceutical drugs, or have not had a successful outcome using conventional medicine. Chronic disorders such as migraine headaches, eczema, asthma, premenstrual tension, depression or anxiety, irritable bowel disorders, to name just a few, are particularly well suited for homeopathic treatment and are the primary work of most professional homeopaths.
An individual’s constitution refers to their vulnerability to disease. Constitutional Prescribing is the homeopathic practice of treating the entire individual, often in the absence of any troubling symptoms, to boost immune function and decrease the susceptibility to disease.
Because homeopathy addresses the entire individual’s complex of symptoms and tendencies, the homeopathic consultation is quite different from a visit to a doctor. In addition to a specific and detailed description of the symptoms that motivated the visit to the homeopath, the patient will be asked questions about his/her function on all levels – mental, emotional, physical – as well as details about previous health history and family health history. Patients are very likely to come away from their homeopathic consultation having made connections about personal health and patterns of coping with stress and disorders that are revealing.
Homeopaths seek to know their clients in a complex and meaningful way. Many people find being listened to thoroughly and understood deeply as the first stage of their healing process.
The principles of homeopathy
Two basic principles underlie the practice of homeopathic medicine:
The basic principle of homeopathy is the “Law of Similars”: similia similibus curentur – or “like cures like.” In practice, this means that a substance that can produce symptoms when taken in high dose, can cure similar symptoms when taken in highly diluted, specifically prepared preparations. This concept is often mistakenly understood as being the same as the concept behind vaccination. Homeopathic remedies are only administered in the presence of symptoms; in safe, dilute doses; and with similar (not the same) substance.
Law of Infinitesimals or the minimum dose is another essential principle of homeopathy. There are two aspects to this principle. The first concerns the preparation of homeopathic medicines. Because the medicines are often made from substances that are toxic in their material form, the remedies undergo a process of dilution and succession. The more diluted a homeopathic remedy, the more succussions it has undergone, and the more potent its action. This assures that high potency remedies are safe, as well as being highly active on the cellular level. The minimum dose also refers to the dosing pattern used. Homeopathic medicines are used in the smallest possible amount that can effect a positive change in the patient. In homeopathy, less is definitely best.
Regulation of homeopathy in Canada
Established by the Ontario government, the new Transitional Council of the College of Homeopaths of Ontario is currently developing a registration process to ensure homeopaths are adequately trained and qualified to practice in Ontario. The Transitional Council is responsible for establishing the College of Homeopathy of Ontario to allow self-regulation of the homeopathy profession and to protect the public interest. This transitional process is expected to be complete in 2013.
Homeopathic practitioners are not currently regulated by any other province in Canada.
Beth Landau-Halpern is a Toronto-based homeopath who trained in homeopathy in London UK, after a first career as a dancer. She loves the deep connection she feels with the clients she works with and knows that listening well is a necessary aspect of healing. Beth treats patients of all ages and sizes, for all sorts of disorders, but has a special interest in treating children with ADHD and Autism. She is currently training as a CEASE therapist – one of only a few Canadian homeopaths certified in this effective homeopathic approach to treating autism. In addition to private practice, Beth teaches classes in homeopathy geared towards family health and wellness. For more information, visit Beth at her websites: http://blh-homeopath.com and http://adhdhomeopath.com