Most people have had some experience with homeopathy, from noticing remedies at the health food store to trying them out themselves to seeing a professional homeopath. But many have only a vague idea of what homeopathic medicine really is. In this chapter, I will provide a brief explanation of homeopathy and how it works.
Homeopathic medicine is a natural pharmaceutical science that uses various plants, minerals, or animal products in very small doses to stimulate the sick person's natural defenses. In Greek the word homoisis means "similar," and pathos means "disease" or "suffering." The basic principle of homeopathy is called the "law of similars," because medicines are individually chosen for their ability to cause in overdose in healthy people the symptoms similar to what a sick person experiences.
In essence, homeopathy consists of two highly systematic methods: toxicology and case taking. First, homeopaths discern the specific physical, emotional, and mental symptoms that various substances cause in overdose. In fact, homeopathic texts contain more details about toxicology than any other sources. Second, homeopaths interview their patients in great detail to learn about all the symptoms - physical, emotional, and mental - the patient is experiencing. The homeopath ultimately seeks to find a substance that will cause symptoms similar to what the person experiences and then gives it in small, specially prepared doses.
The Priciple of Similars
Homeopaths, like many modern physiologists, recognize that symptoms represent the best efforts of the organism to adapt to and defend against various stresses or infections. Because the body is not always successful in dealing with every stress or infection on its own, it is important to find substances in nature with a capacity to aid the body in its efforts to defend and ultimately heal itself. Thus the medicines go with, rather than against, the person's natural defenses.
The principle of similars, the primary premise of homeopathy, is even used in some conventional medical therapies, such as immunizations and allergy treatments. These treatments, however, are not pure homeopathy, since homeopathic medicines are more individually prescribed, given in smaller doses, and used to treat sick people and to prevent disease. Ultimately, homeopaths, and more traditional doctors, prescribe according to the "principle of similars" because it works.