What is Homeopathy?
Definition and History
Homeopathy is a system for prescribing medicinal substances according to the "law of similars." This law states that the appropriate medicine for a sick individual is a substance that would create a similar set of symptoms if administered to a healthy person. In other words, substances that could produce symptoms when given to a healthy person can, with proper preparation, be used to treat sick people with those same symptoms. The word homeopathy is derived from the Greek root homoios which means "similar or like treatment" and the word pathos which means "of disease." Thus, the word together means "like treatment of disease.” The roots of the law of similars are ancient, having been described in the treatises of Hippocrates in Greece and by the Ayurvedic physicians in ancient India. Paracelsus, a fifteenth century European physician, referred to the principle underlying the law of similars in his discussion of the Doctrine of Signatures. He stated, "You bring together the same anatomy of the herbs and the same anatomy of the illness into one order. This simile gives you understanding of the way in which you shall heal."1 Practiced throughout the world for almost 200 years, homeopathy was rediscovered in the early 1800’s by the great German physician, Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Today homeopathy is widely practiced in North America, India, Mexico, South America, Germany, France, Great Britain, Russia, and other European countries. Homeopathy was first introduced in the United States in 1825, and the American Institute of Homeopathy, the first national medical association, was founded in 1844. (The second major medical association was the American Medical Association, which was founded in 1847.) In the late 1800s and early 1900s, many homeopathic hospitals and twenty-two homeopathic medical schools existed in this country, including the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and four medical schools in Chicago. Presently, there are no homeopathic medical schools in the United States. Most physicians learn homeopathy by apprenticing with a homeopath or studying with teaching organizations such as the National Center for Homeopathy summer program or the International Foundation for Homeopathy. Generally, doctors finish their traditional residencies before specializing in homeopathy. There are many homeopathic medical schools in the world including those in India and Mexico, and in France homeopathy is taught in several medical and pharmacy schools such as those in Bordeaux, Marseilles, Paris-Nord, and Lyon. Almost all pharmacies in France carry homeopathic remedies and thirty to forty percent of the French population use homeopathy. In the United States, an increasing number of pharmacies now carry remedies.
Law of Similars
Samuel Hahnemann, a practicing physician, became disillusioned by the dangers of existing therapies, such as the use of toxic doses of mercury for many ailments and the practices of bloodletting and blood leeching. He turned to studying the pharmacology and healing principles of ancient and indigenous medical systems. In his studies, Hahnemann became interested in the curative effect that quinine had in the treatment of malaria. He experimented with quinine by ingesting small amounts over a period of time and eventually developed many of the symptoms of malaria. His conclusion was that quinine could cure malaria because it could create the typical symptoms of this particular disease when given to a healthy person. Thus, Hahnemann rediscovered the law of similars. In light of this discovery, Hahnemann began a systematic study of many commonly known medicinal substances. He administered very small amounts of these substances to himself and other healthy volunteers over an extended period of time and carefully noted the symptoms that developed. This process of verifying the medicinal properties of these various substances is called "proving the medicine" and is derived from the German word prüfung meaning test. Through this work, a vast amount of knowledge was collected regarding the symptoms that these medicinal substances could produce in healthy people. According to the law of similars, one of these medicines could thus be administered and result in a curative effect in a sick person with a similar set of symptoms. Conventional allopathic medicine, which uses drugs to treat sick people and is the dominant system practiced in the United States, also has treatments based on the law of similars. Immunizations use very small amounts of viruses, bacteria, or toxins to stimulate an individual’s immune system. This produces antibodies which then protect the person from the same infection normally caused by the injected substance. Another standard practice in modern drug therapy that follows the homeopathic principle of similars is allergy treatment. Giving a person very small amounts of an allergen (dust, pollen, dander, etc.) to which they are allergic often helps to desensitize that individual to that same substance. When they come in future contact with the allergen, their allergic reaction to it may then be lessened or eliminated.
Law of Proving
The law of proving is the systematic verification of the law of similars. During the proving of a substance, healthy people take a remedy over a certain period of time and report any symptoms or sensations that represent a change from their normal state of health. When the symptoms are found to be common to a specified proportion of experimenters, they are considered the "proving" of that remedy. Hahnemann stated, "There is . . . no other possible way in which the peculiar effects of medicines on the health of individuals can be accurately ascertained - there is no sure, no more natural way of accomplishing this object, than to administer the . . . medicine experimentally, in moderate doses, to healthy persons, in order to ascertain which changes, symptoms, and signs of their influence each individually produces on the health of the body and of the mind."2 Approximately 1,500 different remedies have been proven over the years. Plants, minerals, and extracts from animals, such as snake or bee venom, are among the many agents used in the preparation of homeopathic remedies. Proving a remedy involves the observation of the unique mental, emotional, and physical symptoms peculiar to each medicinal substance. Food cravings and aversions, mood fluctuations, memory and concentration, sleep quality, and sensitivity to external stimuli such as weather - are all carefully recorded, along with the areas of bodily discomfort and any factors that either increase or decrease the discomfort. In the proving of a remedy, mental and emotional symptoms are often reflected in physical signs and symptoms. For example, the remedy Sulphur is associated with a personality that tends to be easily angered, argues about philosophical matters, and is quite irritable and disorganized. Physical symptoms correspond with those of the mental sphere; hence the person's emotional volatility is shown in a red, flushed, "hot" appearance, profuse sweat, and skin eruptions. He or she is often haggard looking, disheveled, and dirty, qualities that correspond to mental disorganization. The specific mind and body symptoms that each medicine is capable of producing during the proving have been collected and compiled in books called Materia Medica. Other books called repertories, which are compendiums of symptoms, listing the substances that cause each physical and psychological symptom in the provings, complement these books. This detailed knowledge of the symptoms caused by each medicinal substance provides for a high degree of specificity in prescribing for each individual. The importance of sharp selectivity in prescribing medicinal substances has been emphasized by the Nobel Prize winning microbiologist René Dubois: "It is obvious that the sharper the selectivity of a biologically active substance, the greater the probability that it will be innocuous for cells and functions other than the one for which it has been designed. In other words, a substance is more likely to be therapeutically useful if it acts almost uniquely against a structure or an activity peculiar to the organism or function to be affected.”3 Two children who suffer with middle ear infection (otitis media) might provide an example of specificity in homeopathic prescribing. One child may appear extremely irritable and oversensitive and may be sweaty, thirsty, and susceptible to drafts, wishing to be well covered with blankets. The pain in the ear may be worse with cold applications and better from warmth. Homeopathically prepared Hepar sulph (calcium sulphide) produces these symptoms in a healthy person and would act curatively in this particular case. The other child may display a mild and weepy disposition, wanting to be held and comforted. Lack of perspiration, thirstlessness, and wanting to be uncovered and outside in the open air may be apparent. The ear pain may improve with cold packs and become worse from the application of heat. Pulsatilla (windflower) would be needed to cure this child and Hepar sulph would probably not help at all. The reaction of the vitality as expressed through perspiration pattern, thirst, and reaction to weather and temperature are totally opposite in these two children. The selection of the remedy, which is most similar to the symptoms, will lead to a rapid and lasting cure of the illness.
Law of Potentization
When Hahnemann first began treating people according to the law of similars, many of the medicines he used were potentially toxic substances such as mercury and arsenic. To prevent toxic reaction to these substances, they were sequentially diluted before being administered. Though toxicity was reduced by dilution, there was also a decrease in therapeutic effect. As a result of his extensive knowledge of ancient medicinal systems and practices, Hahnemann was aware of a method of increasing the activity of a medicinal solution by vigorously shaking it in its container, so he methodically shook his medicines after each dilution. He found that as the toxic properties were steadily reduced with each dilution, the therapeutic efficacy increased with the shaking - a seemingly paradoxical effect. It is this method of increasing therapeutic effect with each sequential dilution by shaking which is known as potentization. The resulting product of potentization is referred to as a micro dilution or potency. The potency of small amounts of medicinal substances is not novel, as is demonstrated in the case of thyroid hormone; free thyroid hormone in the human is one part per 10,000 million parts of blood plasma. Potentization also provides a means for releasing medicinal qualities from supposedly inert substances such as common table salt (Naturm Mur). In the actual preparation of the potentized medicine, one part of the medicine is either diluted with ninety-nine parts of alcohol and water solution or ground with ninety-nine parts of milk sugar (lactose). This mixture undergoes vigorous shaking (succussion) or grinding (trituration) to produce what is called a 1c potency. One part of this mixture is added to another ninety-nine parts of alcohol and water solution or lactose, and the shaking or grinding is repeated, resulting in a 2c potency. Potencies may range from 1c to 500,000c. If the dilutions are one part remedy to nine parts of either alcohol and water or lactose, then this is called an "x" (decimal) potency rather than a "c" (centesimal) potency. Potentization is controversial because, according to the laws of chemistry, by the time the 12c or 24x potency is reached, there are few if any molecules of the substance left in the solution. However, potencies such as 200x, 200c, or 1000c are effective over a longer period of time, and thus require fewer doses than the 3x, 6x, or 6c preparations. Homeopaths speculate that the process of potentization liberates the energetic essence of the substance and that the solvent (alcohol and water solution or lactose) acts as a template or vehicle in which the energy of the medicine is imprinted and preserved. This concept of a template can be better understood in light of the effects that pressure has on ice crystallization of freezing water. The late Harvard Physics Department Chairman, P. W. Bridgman, reported different crystallization patterns for water freezing at higher altitudes than for water freezing at lower altitudes. When the ice from the higher altitude was melted and refrozen at lower altitudes, the crystallization pattern of the higher altitude was maintained.4 The effect of pressure on crystallization was demonstrable and indelible. Perhaps the homeopathic remedy exerts a similar effect on its solute. Critics of homeopathy suggest that homeopathic medicines could only exert a placebo effect because the high dilutions do not contain measurable amounts of the medicinal substance. However, provings of homeopathic medicines using dilutions greater than 12c or 24x are a strong argument against this. It is unlikely that many different people would experience the same set of symptoms from a given medicine if the medicine were simply a placebo.
How Homeopathy Helps Health
Homeopathic View of Disease
An understanding of the concepts of health and disease from a homeopathic perspective is fundamental to comprehending the law of similars. The relationship of health versus disease can best be understood by examining the interaction of people and their environment. The nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system initiate and control the body's response to environmental pressures. These pressures may include internal or external factors such as inherited genetic weakness, emotional stress, mental or physical strain, injuries, environmental pollutants, bacteria and viruses, or nutritional deficiencies. If a person’s adaptive powers are strong enough to withstand the disruptive effect of these influences, health prevails. On the other hand, disease results if pressures stress the individual's adaptive powers beyond his or her ability to cope. Whether successful or not in the attempt to adapt, the body always strives for health. Consequently, a sick person’s symptoms represent an attempt to overcome internal and external stresses and stimuli in an effort to re-establish health. The symptoms are not the result of these stimuli, but rather an expression of the body and mind’s reaction to the stimuli.
Though people vary tremendously in their ability to adapt to stress in the environment, the homeopathic prescriber is concerned with all of the factors that are associated with the onset of a person's health problems. Characteristics such as oversensitivity, insecurity, lack of self-confidence, or laziness are important in understanding the nature of a person's illness and in choosing the correct remedy. Illnesses often date back to events which resulted in grief, worry, disappointed love, or childhood neglect.
Homeopathic philosophy contends that from birth until death the individual is reacting with his or her environment in the most intelligent way possible. A vital healing force is always moving in the direction of greater overall balance for the whole person, and this healing force is clearly expressed in every mental, emotional, and physical symptom. The symptoms of an illness are a clear expression of this intelligence at work attempting to re-establish a state of health. In this context a fever or nasal discharge represents the body's attempt to fight infection, and giving a medicinal substance that encourages the immune reaction should generally help this immune response. This is precisely what the homeopathic remedy does because it works to stimulate the body in a similar way and in the same direction as the person’s own response to illness.
The homeopathic prescriber obtains information about the cause of disease by studying the body's reaction to it. This reaction is depicted by symptoms such as fever, cough, diarrhea, or pain. Based on the law of similars, a remedy is chosen which reinforces the symptoms that are representative of the mind and body attempting to heal itself.
Not only can homeopathic remedies treat disease, they can also prevent it. Even if there is no specific diagnosis of the group of symptoms and all diagnostic studies are within the normal range, homeopathic treatment is possible. This is because the symptom complex is an accurate expression of the forces of the disease process. There are signals or sensations of illness that may appear long before actual tissue damage takes place. By administering the appropriate homeopathic remedy, a disease process may be halted before it progresses to pathological changes. In this respect, homeopathy can be a preventive medical system.
For example, conventional allopathic doctors generally disregard the liver as being the source of illness unless liver enzymes are elevated. Only when these blood-test changes occur, or when X-ray proves pathological destruction, ultrasonic scan, or biopsy, will medicine be given. Even then, few drugs are considered effective in such liver diseases as hepatitis or cirrhosis. The homeopath, on the other hand, recognizes that certain changes in mind and body are signs of underlying liver dysfunction. Even if the liver enzymes are normal, symptoms such as a heavily coated tongue, vague abdominal pain in the right upper side, sluggishness in the morning, and a melancholy mood or hypochondriasis all suggest liver dysfunction. The homeopathic physician prescribes a remedy based upon the totality of these symptoms so that the liver functioning can return to normal. In this way, symptoms are eliminated and potential diseases are prevented. Similarly, other vague or poorly treated illnesses, such as viral infections or allergies, respond well to homeopathy, using the symptoms, which the mind and body produces as a guide to prescribing.
It is fundamental in homeopathy to view the symptoms of an illness as a curative response by the entire organism. This means that, despite the presence of symptoms in various parts of the body such as the skin, lungs, or joints, there is nevertheless only one illness present. Each symptom is related to another, forming a single condition. In homeopathic treatment, the one medicine, which can produce the entire constellation of symptoms in a healthy person, is administered to cure the ailing person.
Homeopathic View of Health
Homeopathic philosophy views health as a dynamic ongoing process in which a person constantly meets challenges in a positive way. Health is not simply the absence of disease, but represents the person’s constant adaptation to internal and external stresses. From this perspective, a person who has a chronic illness such as arthritis who continually strives to have a positive attitude and takes responsibility for doing appropriate joint loosening exercises, may be healthier than a person who is pain free but is stubborn, constantly angry, or hypercritical.
Emotional health is characterized by a person who feels and experiences the full gamut of human feelings, including love, anger, jealousy, compassion, and sadness. The individual who is emotionally healthy does not become overwhelmed by these feelings, does not feel enslaved by emotions, and does not dwell or brood on negative thoughts. Mental health is characterized by calmness, courage, patience, clarity of thinking, and creativity. Even after disappointment or loss of a loved one, emotionally healthy people are able to adjust to new life circumstances with reserves of strength.
The concept of the vital force is fascinating and integral to understanding homeopathic medicine. This concept helps to explain the dynamics of how the potentized remedy interacts with the sick person to affect a cure. Vital force is not a biochemical entity. Rather, it is a bio-electrical energy that effects a human's mental and physical functioning. It is that quality which animates living organisms and constantly seeks homeostasis and health in an inherently intelligent way.
All aspects of nature, whether mineral, vegetable, or animal, also have underlying energy patterns. Homeopathic remedies are derived from these three kingdoms. The energy pattern or vital force of these remedies is enhanced by potentization and when matched with the vital force of people, promotes a healing response.
Homeopathy maintains that the vital force permeates all levels of human existence - body, mind, and spirit - and is similar to the energy stimulated by acupuncture needles. People are viewed as a dynamic whole, with the vital force acting as the integrating factor. Healthy people have a particular quality or pattern to their vital force, but when they become sick this subtle energy is distorted. Even during illness this healing force reacts in the most self-preserving manner, and its plan is clearly articulated through the symptom complex.
In homeopathy, energy qualities of the remedy (as revealed by the proving of the remedy) are matched with the unhealthy person's energy qualities (as revealed by physical, mental, and emotional symptoms). Through the law of similars, unhealthy people can be cured. Perhaps the similar vibratory qualities of the remedy and the sick person produce a harmonic resonance that helps to balance the person's vital force.6
Western medical science describes the defense mechanisms of the human organism as a physiochemical phenomenon. Antibodies, lymphocytes, gamma globulin, and interferon are thought to somehow interact to protect and rid the body of internal or external disease agents. The factors that underlie their functioning, however, remain elusive. Homeopathic theory states that it is the vital force which underlies these defense mechanisms. If the vital force is aligned, then the defenses maintain homeostasis; if the life force is disturbed, illness results.
Allopathic medicine acknowledges that disease can result from the defective functioning of "physiologic energy," which generates heat, enhances metabolism, and along with various enzymes is responsible for maintaining important physiochemical reactions in the body. These latter energy reactions are responsible for the transmission of nerve impulses and production of ATP or cellular energy from oxygen and glucose. However, allopathic medicine does not recognize that disease and disharmony can manifest on a subtler energy level. As a consequence, no treatment is directed towards eliminating illness that reflects these energy imbalances.
The energy referred to in homeopathy is more fundamental and subtle and underlies the physiologic energy of the body. Without this deep energy, the biochemical reactions could not occur. However, technology has not been developed to a sufficient degree to analyze this vital energy. We cannot assume from that, however, that the energy is not real. Two hundred years ago people would have scoffed at the idea of electrical energy, and not long ago the concept of nuclear energy might have seemed preposterous. As technology advanced, these energies were isolated, channeled, and reproduced with amazing rapidity and skill. Eastern medical traditions and a few branches of Western medicine have discovered that the underlying subtle energy is not only real, but is also fundamental to health and disease. In time it may be recognized in traditional allopathic medicine. Perhaps the modern technologies of nuclear magnetic resonance (MRI), PET scanners, or electron spectrometry will someday be able to detect the energy described by homeopathy.
Susceptibility to Disease
Homeopathic philosophy has long understood the importance of susceptibility to disease. Individuals are continuously exposed to bacteria and viruses but do not always get sick. People actually have potentially deadly bacteria growing in their bodies. This includes meningococcus in the nasal-pharynx, which can cause severe meningitis, and pneumococcus that grows in the bronchial tubes and can cause pneumonia. What keeps people from getting these diseases is their underlying susceptibility and the ability of their immune systems to maintain health.
This susceptibility or predisposition to illnesses can also help explain why certain people respond to loss of a loved one or job with anger or extreme depression and others feel sad yet continue to lead productive lives.
Homeopathic practitioners recognize that the underlying susceptibility to disease is based on such complex factors as hereditary predisposition, childhood experiences, emotional traumas, accidents, life habits, and psychological attitudes. All of these factors effect and interact with a person’s immune and nervous systems to lower or increase susceptibility to disease. Homeopaths believe this interaction is coordinated in an intelligent, coherent way by the person’s vital force. It is this underlying energy on which the homeopathic remedy acts. The remedy activates the vital force when the immune system and other psychophysiologic factors need stimulation, such as in the case of colds, influenza, injuries, or depression. The homeopathic remedy also acts to reduce the activity of the immune or nervous system when they are overly stimulated, such as in the case of allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, or anxiety
Hering's Laws of Cure
Constantine Hering (1800-1880) is considered the father of American homeopathy and was responsible formany valuable contributions to medicine. Based upon his observation of mental, emotional, and physical symptoms as a barometer of the overall health of a person, he was able to measure improvement or deterioration of health. Hering's "Laws of Cure" state that:
- Healing moves from the deepest and most vital parts of the person (mental and emotional states and vital organs such as the brain, heart, or kidneys) to the most superficial and least vital parts of the person (joints, extremities, skin).
- Healing moves from the upper parts of the body to the lower parts.
- As healing progresses, symptoms disappear in the reverse order of their appearance. Healing moves from the most vital to least vital parts of the person.
The natural direction of cure is always outward or centrifugal as the organism attempts to establish homeostasis by externalizing disease. Although a person may complain of one or several limiting physical complaints, there are often mental or emotional problems that actually preceded the physical problem. It is uncommon to see a person with a physical problem without a pre-existing or associated psychological or emotional component such as anxiety, depression, or irritability.
Homeopaths believe that physical symptoms often relieve or decrease pressures that build up internally and limit mental and emotional freedom. Seen from this perspective, the physical symptom represents the healing force's ability to externalize the disease process and preserve the integrity of the more vital mental and emotional life. Mental and emotional health may be considered more crucial than physical health. An extreme example is a person who is paraplegic as a result of multiple sclerosis but is relatively balanced in mental and emotional functions. This person may be healthier and more able to enjoy a high quality of life than a schizophrenic with few physical limitations but with a delusional and paranoid mind.
There is also a hierarchy of which organs are more inner and vital. An example is seen in the condition of shock, either due to hemorrhage of blood or massive infection. To sustain life when a person is in shock, blood is shunted away from the less important organs to the most vital ones. The outer skin becomes cold and blue due to the redistribution of blood, and the intestinal tract and kidneys shut down. The majority of blood flow is to the brain and heart: the two organs that are most vital to sustaining human life.
Through its effect on the vital healing force, the homeopathic remedy acts as a channel for smooth, efficient transmission of the disease process from the mind to the body and finally out of the organism. If the first sign of an illness appears in the mental and emotional realm, treatment must take these symptoms into account. The person must first feel better subjectively if cure is proceeding in the proper direction. Physical symptoms, such as a skin rash, may get worse as the cure is taking place and the disease is being externalized to the least vital parts of the organism.
Cure moves from above downwards.
Symptoms move from higher areas of the body to lower areas during the curative process. For example, eczema that is being treated with a homeopathic remedy often descends from the eyelids to the elbows to the knees before disappearing. Sensations such as pain or tingling also progress in a downward direction when the person is improving. The reverse direction will often be found in cases where eczema or pain worsen.
Symptoms disappear in the reverse order of their appearance.
Detailed analysis of symptom regression has shown that as the person improves, the symptoms that appeared last are the first to disappear, while those symptoms, which appeared earlier, disappear later.
The reverse of these laws is also true in that disease progresses from superficial and less vital body parts to deeper and more vital areas; and that disease spreads from the lower parts of the body to the uppermost parts. This law exemplifies that the nature of disease is not random or mysterious. Natural laws govern all forms of life, and it is illogical to assume that health is an exception.
If medicinal treatments are given for ailments without a thorough understanding of their origin and without an understanding of the whole person and the predictable patterns of disease progression or regression, the natural defense mechanism may be suppressed and a poorer state of health may result. For example, a typical problem often seen by homeopathic prescribers is infantile eczema. Allopathic doctors usually treat these skin eruptions with cortisone creams, but the underlying process and individual symptom pattern is neglected. Topical treatment of eczema is often suppressive and forces the problem inward. If the suppression is chronic, the skin symptoms may improve while the destructive force shifts to the internal organs. Classically, the lungs are affected and bronchial infections and possibly asthma result. In fact, homeopaths believe that most cases of asthma and eczema are the same disease. The eruptions and skin appearance so characteristic of eczema can be pushed further inward, affecting the mental state of the child, resulting in symptoms such as irritability and temper tantrums. The centrifugal healing response is suppressed, and there is an inward progression of disease. The deeper organs, and finally the mind, are affected because there is no way to release the disease through less harmful areas such as the skin. The original process becomes more deeply entrenched (as the eczema is suppressed and the disease has spread from less vital areas to more vital ones). In the process of cure, the homeopathic prescriber carefully observes the progression of symptoms. True cure occurs only if the mental state first improves and then the asthma is relieved. The external skin symptoms may reappear and then improve later in the course of treatment, as the centrifugal healing response is re-established.
A disease can be viewed as an obstacle, similar to a wall that a hiker must climb to continue a journey. As the hiker attempts to climb the wall, a boost may be given and the obstacle easily overcome, just as the homeopathic remedy assists the vital force's attempt to overcome obstacles to health.
On the other hand, a person can be pushed to the bottom as he or she attempts to climb over the wall. The force is applied in a direction opposite to the desired movement. This is similar to the dynamics of allopathic drug actions. Although it may temporarily reduce the discomfort of the climb, being pushed to the bottom of the wall does not help the hiker continue the journey since he or she is simply avoiding the problem. Similarly, an allopathic drug will not help the defense mechanism overcome challenges. That wall may have to be met sooner or later. If pushed to the bottom repeatedly, a person may become weak and frustrated, and the wall may become insurmountable. When this analogy is applied to health, it is seen that after repeated suppressions the defense mechanism becomes progressively weaker, the symptoms of illness are continuously present, and a chronic disease state exists.
The idea of suppression is very important in understanding homeopathy, especially when treating chronic illness. While this program deals mostly in acute illnesses, the concept is important to explain for a more complete understanding of homeopathy.
Allopathic View of Disease
Allopathy is the form of medicinal treatment that is used by most doctors in this country. It is a system for prescribing medicinal substances according to principles other than the law of similars. Allopathy is derived from the Greek root allo, meaning other or different, and means "Other treatment of disease." Hahnemann coined the word to describe the treatment based on the law of contraries and all other treatments not prescribed strictly in accord with the principles of homeopathy.
The forerunners of today's allopathic doctors were certain physicians of Greek and then Roman eras. They gradually replaced the importance of the abstract and indefinable vital healing force of the organism with an emphasis upon understanding the individual in terms of physiochemical laws. They began to view the body as a material and mechanical entity and sought to understand it through the laws of physiology, chemistry, and physics. The role of the vital healing force was neglected because it could not be measured with these tools.
Galen was a second-century physician whose extensive work and writings did much to establish allopathic theory as we know it today. Galen postulated a concept of disease based upon his knowledge of the body obtained through anatomy and physiology. He postulated that the vital healing force existed only as it was expressed in the various organs of the body, with each organ having its own behavior and manifesting certain qualities that could be rationally studied. This approach downplayed the functioning of the organism as a whole and instead focused on the many parts. Galen's teachings, with emphasis on the organ systems of the body as the key to understanding and treating disease, are easily recognized in modern allopathic medicine. Modern medicine is a highly subdivided profession with kidney, heart, or lung specialists who study disease processes as they eventually appear in these organs, and who use the physical laws of the scientific method.7
Allopathic medicine has traditionally tried to understand the cause of disease by examining its effects. Bacteria, tumors, and toxic products of metabolism, which are found in diseased tissues, are seen as causes of disease, whereas they might actually be the result of disease when viewed from the homeopathic perspective. Experimental science, using the same laws of chemistry and physiology as allopathic medicine, supports the allopathic approach as truly "scientific." However, the subtle factors that influence the appearance of disease, such as the individual's lack of internal resistance to environmental stresses, are disregarded in this methodology. In other words, factors which are important in the cause of disease but which cannot be studied by rational and reductionistic methods are overlooked by allopathic medicine. Also, since allopathy is oriented toward diagnosis using pathology as a guide, diagnosis and treatment of many states of ill health are vague or non-existent when tissue studies and laboratory tests are normal.
The body's innate intelligence, expressed through the symptoms that it produces, is ignored as instead the body's physiochemical properties are analyzed. The symptoms are not viewed as a reaction to disease but as the result of disease. They are considered abnormal by the allopath and, in accord with the law of contraries, medicinal substances that have an opposite effect are administered to eliminate the symptoms. From the homeopathic view, medicines applied according to this principle go "against the grain of the wood" in that they oppose or suppress the person’s healing response. Repeated exposure to these treatment principles, or even their occasional application in an individual with weak powers of resistance, may lead to further weakening of the individual's defense mechanism.
Psychiatry is one branch of traditional allopathic medicine, which has some appreciation of the problems that may result from suppressing symptoms. Psychotherapists contend that thoughts, feelings, and emotions that arise from the conscious and subconscious mind represent the person's reaction to psychological trauma. Greater mental and emotional health ensues as these thoughts and feelings are recognized, accepted, and integrated with greater understanding into the person's life. On the other hand, denial of strong feelings leads to the development of defenses, which may suppress these feelings into deeper layers of the conscious and unconscious mind and eventually lead to more severe mental and psychological limitation.
Allopathy's real strengths are in the same areas where this system has focused its emphasis. Anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, and pathology are highly developed. Technical aspects of surgery and laboratory diagnosis are highly sophisticated. The weakness of the system is its lack of attention to the dynamic and energetic nature of the human organism in disease progression and regression. Ultimately, the result has been the adoption of a fragmented system of medicinal therapeutics.
In traditional medical training in this country the approach to therapy is generally considered to be medicine first (i.e. allopathic medicine) and surgery second. This means that since medicine is relatively less invasive than surgery, medicine should always be the first choice to control a health problem. Those practicing homeopathic medicine try to use homeopathy first, allopathic medicine second, and surgery third. The reason for this is that homeopathy actually strengthens the sick person, which is preferable to drugs that do not enhance the person's resistance to disease but merely strive to reduce or eliminate the most distressing symptoms.
Obviously, surgery remains the first choice for illnesses such as some injuries from accidents, gunshot wounds, and other such forms of trauma. It can also be helpful as an adjunct to managing chronic disease, for example replacement of scarred heart valves resulting from rheumatic fever, total hip replacements in advanced arthritis, or removal of a cancerous tumor. But, although the surgery may be successful, it may be naive to consider the person cured without carefully assessing lifestyle, eating habits, and ways of coping with stress, which may have lowered the person's resistance and allowed the cancer, arthritis, or heart disease to begin.
Allopathic medicines can be helpful in the nonsurgical management of disease. Some examples include the drugs used to resuscitate people in cardiac arrest, medicines used to treat advanced pathologic diseases such as insulin in diabetes and digitalis in heart failure, and antimicrobial drugs such as penicillin used in bacterial meningitis or other serious or life-threatening infections.
Health care should selectively include all therapy that is available and appropriate. The first choice should be modalities that strengthen the person, resulting in less susceptibility and more resistance to disease.
My Personal Experiences
Looking back at my medical school experience at the University of Michigan, I remember hearing the word homeopathic once. I believe it was when one of my internal medicine professors talked about the small amount of replacement thyroid hormone needed for someone who had had their thyroid irradiated (and destroyed) as a treatment for Graves disease, a form of hyperthyroidism. He called this minute quantity a “homeopathic dosage.” Despite using this term, I’m virtually certain he had no idea what homeopathy really was. At the time, I wondered what he meant by this statement but quickly moved on as I was trying to absorb the voluminous amounts of information coming my way. Little did I know that I would later spend a life time studying, contemplating, absorbing, and practicing this absolutely fascinating, therapeutic system of medicine.
My first exposure to homeopathy came in 1975 when I was studying meditation and yoga with an American trained psychologist and meditation teacher, Swami Ajaya. I was doing a residency in psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin and he introduced me to the work of his teacher Swami Rama and to one of his fellow students, Rudolph Ballentine, MD. They were living and practicing holistic medicine in the Chicago area, incorporating conventional medicine with the complementary approaches of nutrition, yogic therapies, meditation, psychotherapy, Ayurveda (traditional medicine in India), and homeopathy. Their work at the time was brilliant, unique, and inspiring.
Swami Rama invited my wife, Jan, and I to study with him at the Himalayan Institute and to work in Dr. Ballentine’s medical clinic, the Center for Holistic Medicine. Our one year commitment turned into a four year stay which included the birth of two of our four children, two years of supervised training in homeopathy, and two years of helping train many other young physicians in the art and science of homeopathy. In the mid 70’s, there were only a few living homeopaths in the US and these people were bridges to the great physicians of homeopathy’s golden years. We were fortunate to study and learn from these the elder statesmen, including Drs.Rood, Panos, Sutherland, White, Williams, and Rodgers.
During this period, the doctors and staff would have weekly clinics to discuss difficult cases with Swami Rama, himself was an experienced Indian trained homeopath (and accomplished yogi), seeing many patients in a short time. We would all have huge Indian lunches together, teach classes, and meditate in the evening together. We were a community brought together with a common goal of healing, study, and meditation. This
When my family moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1981, I set up a solo medical practice, using and refining the same methods and modalities that I had studied at the Himalayan Institute. In 1987, we bought two beautiful Victorian homes and moved these buildings three miles from downtown Ann Arbor, restoring and connecting them together to create a truly complementary and holistic medical center. Presently, I continue to treat patients there and to teach interested doctors, health care practitioners, medical students, and lay people about homeopathy.
In 1996, an engineer from Minneapolis, Kurt Swanson, asked me to write the information for a software program on homeopathy. Because I had already co-written one book about homeopathy (Homeopathic Remedies) and another on holistic medicine, which included a chapter on homeopathy (Health: A Holistic Approach), I thought creating a CD on homeopathy would present an interesting new challenge. After one year of hard work, we finished the program and we were pleased to have won an award as the best new software program of 1997.
Many patients, colleagues, and friends, especially those with Apple computers and those who don’t especially like using computers, have suggested over the past few years that I write a book based on the same information contained in the CD. This book, then, is in response to
I would like to thank several people who have helped and studied with me during my thirty year homeopathic odyssey. Swami Rama, who died in 1996, initiated me into this science and for this I am extremely grateful. Rudolph Ballentine, MD helped me get started and encouraged me to be precise and at the same time to think creatively. Several fellow homeopathic physician colleagues who studied with me in those early years still remain good friends and confidants. This includes: Greg Manteuffel, Rick Frires, Jerry Gore, Dale Buegel, and Barb Bova. Kurt and Carla Swanson were instrumental in helping to compile and edit the original information on homeopathy for the CD.
Links / Resources
Books On Research
Dana Ullman, Homeopathic Family Medicine (an ebook). Current review and description of clinical research in homeopathy. www.homeopathic.com.
Paolo Bellavite and Andrea Signorini, The Emerging Science of Homeopathy: Complexity, Biodynamics, and Nanopharmacology, Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2002. (the former 1995 edition was entitled: Homeopathy: A Frontier in Medical Science). This is the best book on homeopathic research to date. Chapters present compelling theories on how homeopathic medicines may work in the light of new physics, biophysics, fractals, chaos, and complexity theory. Some chapters are technical.
Dana Ullman, The Consumer's Guide to Homeopathy, New York: Tarcher/Putnam, 1995. User-friendly book to homeopathy with a solid review on homeopathic research.
Homeopathy: Best academic journal in homeopathy. To subscribe, go to: www.elsevier.com
Internet Sites on Homeopathic Research
Homeopathic Educational Services': http://www.homeopathic.com
Samueli Institute for Information Biology: http://www.samueliinstitute.org
National Center for Homeopathy's: http://www.homeopathic.org
David Reilly said, "Either homeopathy works or clinical trials don’t.” To dismiss the double-blind evidence for homeopathy hurts the reputation of the double-blind method, and to admit the evidence for homeopathy in order to preserve the double-blind method allows homeopathy a place as a proven method.
Thomas Huxley, a nineteenth-century naturalist, said "Sit down before fact like a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly to wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads or you shall learn nothing.”
Books on Homeopathy
Allen, H. C. Allen's Key Notes. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers; 1988.
Allen, T. F. Handbook of Materia Medica and Homoeopathic Therapeutics, New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers, 1979.
Allen, T. F. Encyclopedia of the Materia Medica, New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers, 1979.
Barthel, H. Synthetic Repertory, Vol.I: Psychic Symptoms. Heidelberg, Germany: Karl F. Haug Verlag, 1973.
Bhanja, K.C. The Homeopathic Prescriber, Calcutta: National Homeopathic Laboratory, 1978.
Boericke, W. Homoeopathic Materia Medica and Repertory. New Delhi: Homeopathic Publications, 1927.
Boericke, W. Organon of Medicine of Samual Hahnemann. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers, 1974.
Boericke, W. and Dewey, W. The Twelve Tissue Salts of Schussler. Philadelphia: Boericke and Tafel, 1914.
Bellevite, Paolo, and Signorini, Andrea. Homeopathy: A Frontier in Medical Science. CA: North Atlantic Books, 1995.
Boger, C. M. A Synoptic Key to Materia Medica. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers, 1931.
Chernin, D., Buegel, D., and Lewis, B. Homeopathic Remedies for Health Professionals and Laypeople. Honesdale, Pa.: Himalayan Institute Press, 1992.
Clark, J. A Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica. New Delhi: B. Jain Publlishers, 1978.
Dewey, W.A. Practical Homoeopathic Therapeutics. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers, 1976.
Farrington, E. A. Clinical Materia Medica. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers, 1976.
Gibson, D. Studies of Homoeopathic Remedies. Bucks, England: Beaconsfield Publishers Limited: Beaconsfield, 1987.
Hering, C. The Guiding Symptoms of the Materia Medica. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers, 1974.
Hering, C. The Homeopathic Domestic Physician. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers, 1974.
Jouanny, J. The Essentials of Homeopathic Materia Medica. France: Laboratoires, 1985.
Kent, J. T. Lectures on Homeopathic Philosophy. Chicago: Ehrhart and Karl, 1919.
Kent, J. T. Repertory of the Homeopathic Materia Medica. New Delhi, India: B. Jain Publishers, 1988.
Lilienthal, S. Homeopathic Therapeutics. New Delhi: B. Jain Publishers, 1925.
Murphy, R. Homeopathic Remedy Guide. Pagosa Springs, Colorado: Hahnemann Academy of North America, 1993.
Nash, E. B. Leaders in Homeopathic Therapeutics. Philadelphia: Boericke and Tafel, 1926.
Pierce, W.I. Plain Talks on Materia Medica. Calcutta, India: Haren & Brother, 1970.
Rose, B. The Family Health Guide to Homeopathy. Berkeley, Ca: Celestial Arts, 1992.
Tyler, M. L. Homoeopathic Drug Pictures. Devon, England: Health Sciences Press, 1975.
Ullman, D., Cummings, S. Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. New York: GPPutnam/Jeremy Tarcher Books, 2001.
Ullman, D. Homeopathic Medicine for Children and Infants. New York: The Putnam Publishing Group, 1992.
Vithoulkas, G. Homeopathy, Medicine of the New Man. Wellingborough: Thorsons, 1979.
Vithoulkas, G. The Science of Homeopathy. New York: Grove Press, 1981.