Homeopathy. What is it? How did it start? Who uses it and does it work? This article is provided to help you be more informed in your health choices and to give you support and confidence in explaining those health choices to others who would prefer that you toe the conventional medical line.
So What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy (pronounced home-e-opathy) is a complete system of medicine developed in the 18th century in Germany by a chemist
called Samuel Hahnemann. He was concerned about the toxic effects that high dose pharmaceuticals were having on patients at this time,
and believed that there must be another way to cure disease without either producing strong side effects, or, (as was often the case), killing
the patient in the process of trying to cure their disease! He started to work on diluting therapeutic substances and tried taking them himself. What he found was contrary to all that he previously understood as a chemist……he found that the more a substance was diluted, the stronger its therapeutic effect! If he gave the highly diluted substance to a healthy person, he found that it would cause a set of symptoms that the healthy individual had not experienced before and that further more, if he gave the same diluted substance to many people they would also produce similar symptoms! This was called a ‘proving’ and is the source of information for many of the thousands of medicines (called remedies) in use by homeopaths the world over today.
How does it work?
Well Hahnemann then started matching the symptom profile from a proving to the symptoms of a sick patient and found that if he selected the appropriate medicine, the patient got better. The exciting thing was that the disease of the patient was eradicated by their body and was completely gone, not just temporarily eradicated only to re-occur a few weeks later. This was very exciting and came to be understood as one of the main philosophies behind homeopathic prescribing, which is ‘like cures like’.
So what does this actually mean?
It means that homeopathic medicines that produce symptoms in a healthy person can cure those same symptoms in someone who is sick. In addition, because homeopathy works in a new way which science is just starting to understand, it does not produce side effects and when prescribed appropriately, is gentle on the system. Homeopathy works by stimulating the body to heal itself. It does not DO the healing for you, but gives the whole system an appropriate energetic stimulus to enable it to do its own healing. The body uses its own defences and immune system to regain the equilibrium that it has lost in its diseased state.
So is there proof of its efficacy?
Resoundingly yes! Homeopathy is a scientifically based system of medicine using principles based on sound logic and clinical data.
Homoeopathic medicines have been extensively studied for their efficacy in a variety of clinical presentations.
The largest ever Homeopathic Hospital study was conducted in the UK involving 6500 patients. A wide range of ailments were successfully treated including eczema, asthma, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, menopausal problems, arthritis, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome. The most marked improvements were seen in children – 89% of under 16’s with asthma reported improvement and 75% felt ‘better’ or ‘much better’ as did 68% of eczema patients under 16.(1)
So what about placebo-controlled double-blind trials (RCTs)?
This is the format commonly used by conventional medicine to test drugs treatments and outcomes. As Homeopathy is an individualized medicine and each complaint may require a different homeopathic medicine (as each case is individual and no two cases are the same), it is not possible to apply the same format to test the efficacy of Homeopathic treatment. The RCT is unable to measure specific effects from Homeopathic medicines and removes the powerful therapeutic effect of what happens in the consulting room.
How are Homeopathic medicines made?
They are made in a highly diluted form to avoid toxicity issues and they are effective even at such high dilutions when there are no measurable molecules of the original active ingredient left. After each dilution the mixture is vigorously shaken in a machine that provides a calibrated amount of shaking (called sucussion). It is now understood that this process imprints the healing energy of the medicinal substance dispersed throughout the body of water. It is as if it passes on a message which contains the healing energy. Even in these ultra-molecular dilutions, information specific to the original active substance remains and can be detected.(2)
So who uses Homeopathy?
Over 30 million people in Europe use Homeopathic medicine (42 out of 43 European countries) and 50% of the French population are regular users(3).Homeopathy is officially recognised and included in the national health system in a number of countries within and outside Europe. 45% of UK GPs consider homeopathy useful and 42% refer their patients for homeopathic treatment.(4) Sixty percent of the UK doctors who use homeopathy do so because of good experience of homeopathy as effective treatment and anxiety about hazards of conventional treatment.(5) 45% of Dutch doctors use homeopathy(6) and 39% of Belgian pediatricians are in favour of Homeopathy.(7) In Australia, 77% of Australians use natural medicines at least once a year and they spend twice as much on complementary therapies as they do on conventional medical drugs.(8) At present there are over 200,000 trained homeopaths in India and at least half a million across the globe.