What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is an independent and highly-refined system of medicine that is based on a set of principles and philosophies.

Author's note: When the word, "therapeutic agent", is used, it refers to any substance that causes a change. This can include herbs, individual nutrients, homeopathic remedies, pharmaceutical drugs, etc.


There are 4 main principles in homeopathy:

1. Similia similibus curanturmeaning "like cures like".
In the conventional medical world today, symptoms are often treated with therapeutic agents that produce an opposite effect. Examples would include anti-pyrectics for bringing down fevers, anti-inflammatory agents to calm inflammation, and antibiotics to fight infections. From a homeopathic perspective, you would use therapeutic agents, or remedies, that would cause those symptoms that you are treating at high doses. 
In 1781, Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, had an interesting discovery. During this time, Cinchona, or Peruvian tree bark, was used medicinally to treat malaria. Samuel Hahnemann realized that should a healthy individual take large doses of Cinchona, they would produce malarial-like symptoms without actually have the disease. 
An interesting side note is that quinine, a compound found in Cinchona, was extracted and synthetically produced in the lab. Quinine became the first western medicine used to treat malaria, but today, the FDA no longer recommends it use. 

2. Small Doses. 
When Samuel Hahnemann realized that Cinchona produced malarial-like symptoms at high doses, he experimented the effects of this plant at incrementally smaller and smaller doses. The result was that the people who had malaria benefited from taking minute doses of Cinchona. It was as if their symptoms were negated or cancelled. 
Over the years, Samuel Hahnemann became more and more daring with his dilutions. Dilutions of the various plants and minerals became physically immeasurable, falling below Avogadro's number, and yet an unusual phenomenon occurred. As the substances became more diluted, the effects became more powerful and specific. How is it possible that a substance that has been diluted to the point where no material of that substance is left could still have a measurable and physical response in a person?
There is no clear explanation yet, but it is widely understood in quantum physics that the world around us is no longer simply composed of atoms and its components. What used to be considered to be the basic building blocks of this universe can now be further divided into smaller particles. It has been theorized that even these particles are not the smallest components in the universe, and that beneath these particles lies an infinitesimal world of energy, which gives birth to matter by communicating information via frequencies. Of course, this is still just theory, but I have often wondered if homeopathic remedies operate within this realm of frequencies and energy. 

3. One remedy at a time.
As mentioned above, when substances became more diluted, their effects became more powerful and specific. This means that these homeopathic remedies only seem to have an effect on individuals where their symptoms match the symptom profile of the remedy.
When Samuel Hahnemann experimented to see what symptom profiles various substances would produce, he noticed that these symptom profiles were very specific, just as they are in people.
A person who has a sore throat may have enlarged tonsils with pus. Another person with a sore throat may have throat pain that switches from the right side to the left side. Another person with a sore throat may feel really warm, and their face is quite red. The point is that though all these individuals share the same symptom, such as the sore throat, they do not present or experience these symptoms exactly the same. They will present their illnesses as individually as they are individuals. This means that each and everyone of us has inherent predispositions towards certain illnesses and present them through the filter of these predispositions. 
The quest of the homeopath then becomes discerning and appreciating the specific symptom picture of the individual and matching that symptom picture with the symptom profile of a remedy. Just as individuals present their illnesses in a specific way, remedies have a specific picture associated with them. For example, the remedy, Apis, which comes from the venom of a honeybee, has a symptom profile of someone whose sore throat has a burning quality with incredible redness, swelling of the tonsils, and pain on the right side of the throat. There may also be cravings for ice-cold water, and the person who needs Apis may feel quite warm and is intolerant of warm applications or warm rooms. The symptom profile of Silica, a mineral, presents a sore throat also with swollen tonsils but with a marked expression of pus, and the individual may complain more of feeling chilly. 

4. Totality of Symptoms. 
By understanding that each remedy has as individual a symptom picture as any individual person, it becomes necessary to take in the whole symptom picture of each person. For the individual who has the sore throat, it would be important to not just take note that the person has a throat throat, but also the quality of the sore throat, the location, the timing, the intensity, and the various other symptoms that occur at the same time as the sore throat. Perhaps, this person with the sore throat may also have a headache, and that headache will also present with its own set of variables. 
Taking a person's medical case homeopathically will certainly take a longer time than someone may be used to having their case being taken. The beauty of taking a correctly prescribed remedy is not just to quickly and wholly resolve symptoms, but to also strengthen one's own vitality and health to decrease their predisposition towards those illnesses. 


What a homeopathic visit will look like:

Typically, a homeopathic session will take time, but it also depends on the illness that the patient presents with. Acute illnesses, such as common colds, a sprained ankle, abscesses, and bladder infections, usually will take as long as any typical case taking, about 30 minutes. An acute illness is defined as an illness that has a rapid onset and a short duration, like the common cold. Sometimes, an acute illness can turn into a chronic condition and become a problem for the patient for many years. In such cases, the way that the illness is presented will become more complex and will require a longer homeopathic case taking session. The first homeopathic case taking session may take as long as 90 minutes, because the homeopath will not only want to become familiar with the various symptoms that the patient presents with, but he or she will also want to understand how that illness has affected the patient's life emotionally, socially, mentally, and/or spiritually. Unfortunately, many chronic illnesses do not occur in a vacuum. They start to seep into and affect the many aspects that make the whole of a person's life, and it is important for the homeopath to really get to know their patient.
Accurately prescribed remedies given for acute illnesses should have a quick effect on the patient. Conversely, remedies given to patients with chronic illnesses will take longer to act. During the first follow-up visit for a chronic illness, the homeopath will assess the current situation to see if the remedy is a good match or not. If it is clear that the remedy given had no beneficial effect, another remedy may be given. 
There are well over 2,000 homeopathic remedies to chose from, and because homeopathy is such a precise form of medicine that is also dependent on the prescriber's knowledge and abilities, this homeopath (myself) asks that she be granted at least 3 tries with chronic cases. This, of course, will be different with acute cases, because, depending on the severity of the acute illness and the preference of the patient, time may not be a commodity to be wasted. In such circumstances, this homeopath will take the opportunity to provide, in addition to a possible homeopathic remedy, other naturopathic and/or pharmaceutical options.