A therapeutic system of medicine that is based on the principle of similars-
like cures like – which means that a substance that can cause certain
symptoms in a healthy person can cure similar symptoms in an unhealthy person.
Homeopathy aims to aid and stimulate the body’s own defense and immune processes.
Homeopathic medicines are derived from a variety of plants, animal materials and minerals.
These medicines are prescribed to fit each individual’s needs,
given in much smaller and in non-toxic doses as compared to pharmaceutical medications, and are used for both prevention and treatment.
Established 200 years ago by German physician Samuel Hahneman,
and is recognized by the World Health Organization as the second largest therapeutic system in the world.
Naturopathic physicians and other trained homeopaths have led a resurgence of this therapy in the United States in the last decade, and is widely practiced throughout Europe.
In US, the manufacture and sale of homeopathic medicines are regulated by the FDA.
Homeopathic medicines were recognized as official drugs by a Congressional act in 1938.
Homeopathy is a sub-system of natural health care in which extreme dilutions of substances from nature are used to stimulate a healing response. The basic principle of homeopathy is that substances that elicit a particular symptom picture in their physical form (for example onion causing itchy watery eyes and a runny nose with discharge that burns) can be used in a diluted form to stimulate the healing of the same set of symptoms.
Using this principle, a homeopath working with an individual that suffers from allergies (with the specific symptoms of watery itchy eyes and a runny nose with discharge that burns) might select homeopathic onion.
Homeopathic pharmaceutical companies prepare homeopathic dilutions according to FDA guidelines. Once completed, the diluted substances are called “remedies”.
Most remedies are derived from plants (such as Belladonna or Pulsatilla), and minerals (such as Phosphorous and Silica). A smaller portion are derived from animal substances (such as dog’s milk or dolphin’s milk). Remedy symptom pictures are derived from research studies called “provings”. Once completed, proving information is recorded in homeopathic materia medicas (large reference books), and homeopathic material medica software.
The role of a professional homeopath is to understand the symptom pictures of a large number of remedies, and then to be able to select the remedy that most closely matches the symptom picture of the patient. (This is called the similimum.) When this match is achieved – that is, the symptom picture of the remedy matches the symptom picture of the individual suffering from a disease pattern – the individual’s innate healing ability is activated and healing occurs.
Are there research studies in homeopathy?
Yes, there are a significant number of studies completed in the US and Europe on various aspects of homeopathy. The web-site for the National Center for Homeopathy gives an excellent overview of a sampling of these studies. For details, see www.homeopathic.org/research.htm.
How does a homeopathic remedy stimulate healing?
There is a lot of research directed at answering this question from a technical perspective. The book Homeopathy, Frontiers in Medical Science gives a wonderful overview of theories that are being considered and investigated. It includes a discussion of research on the ability of water molecules to hold memory, and an overview of principles in quantum physics, information systems theory and chaos theory and how these areas apply to the energy medicine paradigm.
Homeopathic professionals generally answer this question by explaining that homeopathic remedies cause an action-reaction response within the immune system. The remedy pushes the disease process in one direction and the immune system rebounds back in the opposite direction, stimulating the healing process.
In my practice, my experience has been that well selected homeopathic remedies assist the body wisdom of the individual in focusing on the root cause of the disease pattern. Often this means a retrace to the original insult (mental, emotional, and/or physical) which caused the individual to lock into a stress/defense pattern. When this happens, we often see the individual reconnect with old thoughts, emotions and physical symptoms that were somehow related to the origin of the chronic symptoms. This may take the form of strong memories and emotions coming out during the dream state or waking state, a rethinking of long held beliefs about the individual’s life, and/or acute physical symptoms such as the flaring up of a chronic rash or digestive upset.
Holistic health professionals call this phase of the healing process a “healing crises” or a “retrace”. Homeopaths call this type of response an “aggravation” of the disease pattern.
There are different viewpoints in the homeopathic community about the necessity of patients going through an aggravation. Many homeopathic professionals believe this is a necessary step in the resolution of any chronic illness and expect it as part of the remedy response. When these homeopaths see an aggravation, they are rest assured that the individual’s body wisdom has responded to the remedy and is doing the necessary restructuring to bring about a permanent resolution of the symptoms.
Others might argue that aggravations are not necessary – but that instead they’re a sign that the incorrect remedy was selected, or that it was selected in the wrong potency and/or dosage.
My own practice experience has been that both viewpoints have merit. When the similimum (remedy that best matches the symptom picture of the patient) is selected, the patient is able to get in touch with and process long suppressed memories and emotions with a greater sense of acceptance and grace. The physical symptom aggravation is moderate and temporary (e.g. often just an hour or two).
When a remedy is selected that is close to the similimum (but not the optimal match), or, when the dosage and potency is not optimal, the patient tends to “grip” more – that is, they have greater resistance to the release of toxic thoughts and emotions, feel more threatened by the process, and correspondingly have a more difficult time with the retrace of acute physical symptoms. The physical symptom aggravation is more vivid and lasts longer.
Nevertheless, (in my experience) in cases of deep pathology (such as cancer), most patients have a profound level of resistance to feeling their feelings. Usually this is because of a built-in survival mechanism which protects them from feeling feelings which could destablize them and/or be more destructive than the disease itself (e.g. suicidal feelings). As a result, patients with deep pathology will tend to either have very moderate reactions to homeopathic remedies (because of the built in protective mechanism), or the remedies will release thoughts, emotions, and memories which are extremely toxic and destabilizing. In either case, there is strong initial resistance to the release process.
When patients are able to release suppressed toxic emotions (via homeopathy or other means), the optimal scenario is for the patient to work with accompanying practitioners (psychotherapists, counselors, healers, etc). Some homeopathic practitioners will provide some support, but often other professionals are needed.
Typically the fact that the patient is even able to surface the emotions is a sign of mental/emotional/spiritual strength – it provides evidence that their body wisdom is convinced that the individual can handle the memories and emotions and still remain safe. In other words, desomatization occurs when the memories and emotions somatized in the body are less life-threatening to the individual than the disease itself.