Questions People AskWhat is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a patient-centered approach to medicine based on the Law of Similars.
Consider that symptoms of disease are not the disease but rather the body's way indicating that it has a problem and that it is trying to do something about it. Conventional medicine often aims to "manage" or "suppress" the symptoms without actually addressing the problem. Homeopathy sees the symptoms being expressed as an indication of what the body's innate healing mechanisms are trying to do. A substance that can cause the body to act in a similar way is then administered, in homeopathic form, to help the body's efforts to heal itself.
The science behind homeopathy is not yet understood but a brief history of the development of homeopathy will help explain the concept.
In 1790 Doctor Samuel Hahnemann disillusioned with contemporary medical practices (blood-letting, administering mercury etc.) that often caused more harm than good, began a series of experiments that would become his life's work.
Hahnemann recognised that the signs and symptoms apparent in an unhealthy person are not the disease itself, but an expression of the person's innate healing processes at work, and thus provide valuable information for treatment.
Curious about by what action Chincona is a treatment for Malaria, he took some himself. Much to his surprise he developed the symptoms of Malaria. These persisted so long as he continued the Chincona and abated when he discontinued it. He experimented further by administering various substances to healthy people (including himself, his colleagues, his wife and his children) and observing the effects. After several years of meticulous study, he concluded that substances capable of causing symptoms in the healthy are, when given in dilute form, capable of curing similar symptoms in the unhealthy. This Law of Similars forms the basis of homeopathy.
Hahnemann went further. He found that by converting a substance into a sub-molecular preparation by a dilution process (which he called "potentisation") any toxicity is removed and there is a tremendous increase in the healing effect.
More than 200 years later, advances continue to be made and homeopathy continues to grow in popularity. Modern homeopaths have access to thousands of homeopathic medicines made from mineral, plant, and animal sources.
Excellent, in-depth introductions to homeopathy are readily available:
Introductory article by Dana Ullman
Beyond Flat Earth Medicine by Dr Timothy Dooley
How does homeopathy work?
Homeopathy uses substances diluted often well beyond the point of there being any molecules of the original substance left.
So how can it work? This is not yet well understood. Clearly it does not work at a molecular level.
However, science is not about defending the status quo, rather about pushing back the borders and exploring new frontiers. Advances are being made in quantum physics and nano science which support Hahnemann's assertion that ultra-dilute substances are something, not nothing.
An excellent article about the science behind homeopathy can be found HERE
For what conditions do people consult a homeopath?
Homeopathy can be used to support the body's natural healing ability in a wide range of conditions It is safe for all ages from newborns to the elderly and for pregnant women. It can be used concurrently with conventional medicine. It has no side effects. Homeopaths are consulted for nearly every conceivable problem.
- Injuries - first aid or lasting effects of head injuries, bites, lacerations, fractures & sprains ...
- Acute illness - colds, food poisoning, earache, conjunctivitis etc (illnesses that are non-life threatening, follow a known pattern and will probably resolve in few days if left alone; homeopathy can shorten the process and reduce the intensity of symptoms)
- Mental & emotional issues - grief, depression, anxiety, anger, exam nerves ...
- Behavioural and learning problems
- Sleep disorders, insomnia
- Female complaints - menstrual complaints, pre-menstrual problems, peri-menopausal problems, issues with fertility, candida, endometriosis
- Pregnancy and labour
- Childhood complaints - failure to thrive, teething, measles, childhood illness, excessive fears, school sores
- Parasites - worms, headlice, fleas
- Skin problems - eczema, acne, psoriasis
- Recurring headaches, migraines
- Allergies, hay fever
In most cases homeopathy can help support the individual move through the healing process.
A library of articles on a variety of health topics from the British Homeopathic Society can be found HERE
What is the scientific proof that homeopathy works?
There is lots! As well as over 200 years of clinical experience, there are numerous scientific studies that show the effectiveness of homeopathy.
In 2011 the Swiss government commissioned a comprehensive evaluation of homeopathic medicine. The report affirmed that homeopathic treatment is both effective and cost-effective and that homeopathic treatment should be reimbursed by Switzerland's national health insurance program.
An evidence base for homeopathy can be found here and more studies are here
Nobel prize winners on homeopathy
How widely recognised is homeopathy?
As Karen Wehrstein reports in the Canadian National Post (28 January 2013):
Homeopathy is so well trusted that 300 million patients in more than 80 nations use it.
In countries such as the U.K., Brazil, parts of India, Mexico and Cuba homeopathy is integrated into the health system and covered by public health insurance.
In Europe, three out of four people are familiar with it.
In Cuba, mass dosing of preventive homeopathic medicines is now used routinely by the public health system for epidemic control.
One of the world's most popular over-the-counter flu medicines - Oscillococcinum - is a homeopathic remedy.
Homeopathy is arguably the fastest-growing system of medicine in the world. The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India reported in March 2011 that India's market for homeopathy was worth approximately $5.35-billion, and growing by about 30% annually.
In the U.S., where the FDA recognizes the 1938 American Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia as the official reference guiding the manufacture of homeopathic medicines, their use has increased fivefold since 1990.
Homeopathy is now a regulated health profession in Ontario, and homeopathic medicines are classified by Health Canada. Read more here
How are homeopathic remedies made?
Homeopathic medicines are manufactured by repeatedly diluting and succussing (shaking - introducing kinetic energy) a preparation of the original substance,
mainly from plant, animal or mineral sources, in water and alcohol. After potentisation the medicine may be added to lactose tablets or pillules.
Homeopathic medicines are labelled according to potency e.g. 6C, 30C, 10X, LM1. The number refers to the number of steps in the series of dilutions and the letter (actually a roman numeral: X=10, C=100, LM=50000) refers to the dilution factor. For example, 6C means that the substance has undergone 6 steps in a series of dilutions, where each step involves diluting 1 drop medicine to 99 drops alcohol/water.
The dilution and succussion process is called "potentisation". The more stages of dilution and succussion the preparation has gone through, the more potent the medicine is - so a 200C medicine is more potent than a 30C medicine.
An animation of how a remedy is made can be found here
A more in-depth discussion of potentisation can be found here
See here for a delightful account (with photos) of a remedy quickly made at home in a first aid situation.
What happens at a homeopathic consultation?
The consultation is a conversation between the client and the homeopath.
As well as the details of the illness or complaint, the homeopath is interested in knowing the person since it is the person who is being treated not just a localised or named disease.
There will be questions about the particular characteristics of the complaint.
The homeopath will also make observations and ask questions about the particular characteristics of the person with the complaint - lifestyle, stress factors, emotional issues; sensitivities to foods, weather and other aspects of the environment; energy levels; medical and family history.
The first visit takes about 1.5 hours. Subsequent visits are about 45 minutes long.
The homeopath uses all the information to select a remedy (homeopathic medicine). This may be given at the time of the consultation or a few days later if more time is needed to fully analyse the case.
What should I expect while on homeopathic treatment
The aim is to have you symptom free as soon as possible.
However, the goal is to achieve this not by long-term symptom management (as is often the case in conventional treatment),
but by removing the cause of ill-health.
This takes more time and effort than merely achieving symptomatic relief. A series of treatments is usually necessary.
In general, the longer you have had a condition, the longer it will take to remove all the symptoms.
To gain the most from your treatment:
- Be committed to the treatment. Keep in touch with the homeopath.
- When you experience a change in your symptoms after taking your first prescription and it is more than a week before your next appointment, please contact the homeopath for further instructions.
- To maintain improvement after a first visit, follow up care is essential.
- If you do not experience any changes in your symptoms after taking your first prescription, you may wish to move your follow-up appointment forward. Your dosage or remedy will probably be changed.
- If you have any questions or need something clarified, please do not hesitate to ask.
- Remember: Long term health problems require time and skill to successfully treat.
Can homeopathy be used with conventional medicine?
Yes with provisos. Homeopathy and conventional medicine use different modes of operation and therefore do not interfere with each other.
However, if someone has been using conventional medicine for sometime, the original symptom picture may be altered or masked making the homeopath's job more difficult.
Second, as homeopathic treatment progresses, the levels of conventional medication may need to be altered.
Please note: It can be very dangerous to stop or alter the dosage of prescription medicine - any changes should be overseen by the prescribing doctor.
How long does it take?
The first consultation for a client usually takes 1.5 hours (1 hr for a child). Follow-up consulatations need about 45 minutes.
How many consultations will be required depends on many factors. In general, the longer one has been ill, the longer it will take to return to health. Some indication of a time-frame will be discussed at the first consultation.
How should I store a homeopathic remedy?
Homeopathic remedies should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct light, strong odours (e.g. aromatherapy oils, camphor, perfumes, glue, mothballs etc)
and electromagnetic fields (e.g. microwave oven, TV, computer, mobile phone).
Is there anything I should avoid while taking a homeopathic remedy?
Some people find strong substances such as coffee, peppermints, Vicks Vapourub, or peppermint toothpaste antidote or interfere with the action of homeopathic remedies.
You may wish to avoid these during treatment.
Some homeopathic remedies are readily available, can I learn to use them?
With a bit of basic training, homeopathy is easy and effective to use for first aid situations and minor acute illnesses
(such as coughs, colds, flu, tummy bugs, hangovers), but if you are frequently, persistently or chronically ill see a qualified homeopath for constitutional care.
Never hestitate to seek medical assistance in an emergency.
My colleague Nikki Leonard and I have a passion to educate people about homeopathy so that more and more can benefit from this amazing system of wellness. To this end, we run courses teaching people the basic principles of homeopathy and how and when homeopathy can be used to treat minor illness and injuries at home.
We have also designed kits of common remedies to complement the material presented in the courses. These are for sale at the courses or on request.
Ask me about
- Free introductory talks for your community group
- Personalised help putting together and using a homeopathy kit for your particular situation e.g. traveling overseas, first aid in the home etc.
Is homeopathy only for people? Can homeopathy be used for animals?
No, homeopathy has a reputation for being effective for animals.
In New Zealand there is a growing interest in homeopathy particularly in both the dairy and horse-racing industries as homeopathic treatment gives quick results
and leaves no residue in milk nor excludes horses from racing. Many pet owners also prefer homeopathic treatment for their animals.
A promising new field of study in homeopathy is agrohomeopathy - the use of homeopathic remedies for plants. Home gardeners and farmers are enjoying the benefits of chemical-free pest control and plant health. More information can be found here.
Where can I access more information about homeopathy and homeopaths in New Zealand?