Homeopathy (or homoeopathy) is a holistic system of medicine. It claims to provoke healing responses to diseases by administering specially prepared substances that mimic the symptoms of those diseases in healthy people.
Homeopathy claims to treat the symptoms of a wide range of illnesses including allergies, asthma, eczema, hayfever, headaches, stress and respiratory infections.
Helping the body to heal itself
The word 'homeopathy' (also known as homoeopathy) is derived from the Greek words homoios, meaning 'similar', and pathos meaning 'suffering'. Homeopaths treat patients with specially prepared substances that mimic the symptoms of those diseases in healthy people. Homeopaths believe that this strengthens the ability of the body to heal itself.
Law of similars
The cornerstone of homeopathic philosophy is the 'law of similars'. This law or principle is based on a long-held belief (first put forward by ancient healers like Paracelsus) that substances that produce symptoms in a healthy individual can be used to treat similar symptoms in a sick person. Modern homeopathy was founded in the 18th century by a German physician, Dr Samuel Hahnemann.
An example of this principle is coffee. Coffee can aggravate some people who are sensitive to its stimulating effects. These people may experience increased mental and physical alertness, along with an exaggerated response to stimuli. People who present at a homeopathic clinic with symptoms of insomnia, headache, irritability and an overstimulated nervous system may be prescribed a dose of Coffea cruda, prepared according to homeopathic principles. Practitioners believe that this will settle the symptoms of insomnia in such people.
Treating the whole person
Homeopathy aims to treat the whole person, taking into account personality, lifestyle and hereditary factors as well as the history of the disease. Since all patients are unique, homeopathic medicines are prescribed to treat patients as individuals. For example, headaches in different patients would each be treated with different medicines, according to the patient's individual symptoms. Homeopathy claims to treat the symptoms of a wide range of chronic and acute illnesses including, for example:
- Respiratory infections
Very small doses are used in Homoeopathy
The preparation of homoeopathic medicines consists of repeated dilution and shaking called 'potentisation'. Homeopaths believe this process renders the remedies capable of stimulating the body's natural healing forces. After the12th dilution, there is no discernible chemical trace of the original substance left in the medicine.
Scientists question how this highly diluted substance could retain a biological effect, but homeopaths believe the preparation retains the qualities of the original substance.
Although a precise mechanism for how homeopathy works has not yet been scientifically established, there have been some studies that support the efficacy of homeopathy, while others have not been able to confirm its effectiveness for any specific medical condition.
Homeopathic treatments and precautions
Homeopathic medicines can be in the form of liquid, granules, powder or tablets. Your practitioner might also advise general lifestyle and dietary changes as part of a treatment plan.
Sometimes symptoms may temporarily get worse before they get better. This 'aggravation' of symptoms can be part of the homeopathic treatment. However, you should tell your homeopath if you have these reactions.
Homeopathic medicines are not vaccines
There are no such things as 'homeopathic vaccines'. Vaccination, a well understood medical term, relies on the body forming antibodies to a particular germ. Homeopathic medicines do not rely on antibody formation. Registered homeopaths encourage their patients to exercise their right to make informed decisions on disease prevention, and to seek advice based on balanced information gathered from a broad range of sources.
Things to remember about Homeopathy
- Homeopathy is a holistic system of medicine based on the theory of treating 'like with like'.
- Homeopathy claims to provoke healing responses to diseases by administering substances that mimic the symptoms of those diseases in healthy people.
- Symptoms are interpreted as a sign that the body is fighting against disease.
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