Discovering Homeopathy as a Healing Tool
Homeopathy: Like Cures Like
Homeopathy is a two-hundred-year-old system of medicine based on the principle of "like cures like." It uses extremely dilute preparations of natural substances to stimulate the body's self-healing mechanisms.
At the end of the eighteenth century, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann first formulated the principles of homeopathy. A well-known German physician, Hahnemann was disillusioned by the harmful medical practices of his day, and set out to find a gentler approach.
In the 1790s, Hahnemann undertook an experiment with Peruvian bark, the source of quinine, which is now used to treat malaria. Twice a day he gave himself a dose of quinine bark, and soon developed symptoms of malaria. When he stopped taking the bark, the symptoms went away. He theorized that the same substance, taken in smaller doses by someone suffering from malaria, might stimulate the body to fight the disease. Thus he developed the Principle of Similars, or "like cures like."
He then successfully experimented with other substances. He called his new system homeopathy, from the Greek words homeo (similar) and pathos (suffering or illness). Emphasis in homeopathy remains in the principle of "like cures like," and the belief that the body's own healing and regenerative capacity can be elicited to restore health.
For the remainder of his life, Hahnemann conducted experiments in which he gave common herbal and medicinal substances to healthy people to see what symptoms they produced. He also began testing his theory on sick people. Hahnemann's subjects sometimes experienced dramatic and uncomfortable symptoms, so he tried giving smaller and smaller doses, to find the smallest amount of a substance that still produced its characteristic effects. For sick people, Hahnemann found that highly diluted remedies were not only less harmful, but also more effective.
Hahnemann's gentle new approach to medicine quickly spread in Europe, and reached the United States in the 1820s. One of the main reasons for the popularity of homeopathy was its success in treating the devastating epidemics of the time. Death rates for some of these diseases were markedly lower among patients treated in homeopathic hospitals. According to contemporary homeopath Dana Ullman, author of Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine and other books, during an 1849 cholera epidemic in Cincinnati, only 3 percent of the patients treated homeopathically died, compared with 40 to 70 percent among those treated with conventional medicine.
Homeopathy's fortunes began to decline with the growth and political advances of organized allopathic medicine, and by 1930 homeopathy had all but disappeared in America. In Europe, however, homeopathy remained relatively popular. Since the 1970s there has been a revival of interest in homeopathy in the United States.
Homeopathy's underlying theoretical principles appear to contravene the principles of modern scientific medicine. It is largely for this reason that homeopathy is often attacked by the medical establishment. However, proponents of homeopathy sometimes point out that the principle of "like cures like" was the basis for the development of vaccines and allergy desensitization treatments. This analogy, though, is not really accurate, since the substances used in immunization and desensitization are identical or similar to the disease-causing agents, whereas homeopathic remedies are usually substances different from those that cause disease.
Hahnemann believed that homeopathic remedies operate by influencing what he called the "vital force," the organizing, animating principle that maintains health in a living system. There is no concept parallel to vital force in Western medicine, but it is somewhat similar to qi in Chinese medicine, or prana in Ayurveda. A properly selected homeopathic remedy is believed to provoke the vital force, so that the body's own healing power can produce the cure. Homeopaths believe that modern pharmacological medicine may actually interfere with the body's efforts to heal by artificially suppressing symptoms and weakening the vital force.
Today, the leading theoretician and clinical practitioner of homeopathy is George Vithoulkas, author of The Science of Homeopathy, who teaches homeopathy curriculum in Athens, Greece. Training at the Vithoulkas school is limited to conventional physicians and osteopaths only, resulting in clinicians who are well versed in both conventional and homeopathic medicine.
Homeopaths have some two thousand remedies, prepared from plants, herbs, animal products, minerals, and chemicals. Remedies are prepared through a process of repeated dilution.
Classical homeopathy is considered a complete medical system, capable of addressing a wide array of health problems. It can treat acute and chronic illnesses, especially in the earlier stages, before there is tissue damage. Migraines, allergies, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, and chronic viral and bacterial infections have all been reportedly treated successfully. Many lay people also consider homeopathy an excellent method for self-treating minor illnesses, such as flu and colds, and for stimulating general health. In the case of flu, a properly prescribed remedy, such as the popular Oscillococcinum, can provide relief within a few hours to a day or two. Homeopaths do caution that there is no one remedy for the annual varieties of flu, and that self-diagnosis and care are often ineffective. Chronic conditions generally require a longer time, perhaps from a few months to two years.
Homeopathic practitioners may use laboratory testing to help establish an allopathic diagnosis or to determine how severe an illness is. This can help to define expectations about the course of treatment. Clarification of the appropriate use of diagnostic laboratory procedures is reviewed in an excellent 1996 book, Healing with Homeopathy, by Dr. Wayne B. Jonas and Dr. Jennifer Jacobs. Laboratory testing is not a major part of homeopathic practice, since prescribing is based on a patient's detailed symptoms rather than on laboratory tests per se. Homeopaths use lab tests much less frequently than do allopaths. According to a survey by Jacobs in 1996 for the American Institute of Homeopathy, diagnostic testing was used among homeopaths less than half as much as by allopaths, 30 percent of the time as compared with 68.5 percent.
For clinicians practicing homeopathy, the two books widely recognized as among the most definitive modern texts are those published by homeopath and conventional physician Dr. Roger Morrison of the Hahnemann Medical Clinic. These books are the Desktop Guide to Keynotes and Confirmatory Symptoms, from 1993, followed by Desktop Companion to Physical Pathology, published in 1998 as a companion volume.
Homeopathy has always been considered particularly helpful for children. It is reported to resolve, gently and effectively, such problems as recurrent ear infections, colic, croup, diarrhea, bladder infections, teething pain, hyperactivity, emotional problems, and even learning disabilities. Children apparently respond very quickly, because their symptoms are often relatively simple and uncomplicated. Many parents prefer homeopathy, since pharmaceutical drugs can have unpredictable and long lasting, even toxic effects on children. Homeopathy is also a valued approach for treating health problems in pregnant women and nursing mothers, since they must avoid many pharmaceutical drugs that could be passed on to the infant.
Homeopaths warn patients about the possibility of canceling out the beneficial effects of a remedy with certain substances. These substances, called antidotes, vary with the individual but are thought to include coffee, camphor, mint, some prescription and recreational drugs, strong-tasting or -smelling substances, electric blankets, and dental anesthetics and drilling. Although coffee does appear to antidote or nullify the effects of homeopathic remedies in some cases, Dana Ullman has noted in The Consumer's Guide to Homeopathy that homeopathy is used widely and effectively in Europe despite the fact that Europeans have tended to drink strong, espresso coffee more frequently than in the United States until quite recently. Although various substances can antidote remedies, they do so quite rarely. Homeopathic physicians often advise patients to avoid these potential antidotes "just in case," especially during and immediately after treatment. Homeopaths disagree as to how great a danger there is of antidoting a remedy. Many believe that a properly selected remedy is less vulnerable to antidoting. Susceptibility to antidoting also varies from individual to individual.
Problems that homeopathy cannot address include broken bones and surgical emergencies, although homeopathy can help to speed the healing process. Genetic illnesses and diseases cannot be cured by homeopathy, and serious infections may require immediate antibiotic treatment, although homeopaths often report treating such infections successfully. Homeopathy cannot replace the insulin required by diabetics, but in some cases may help reduce certain diabetic complications. One of the greatest risks of homeopathy, in the eyes of critics, is that it may discourage a patient from seeking medical treatment.
Surely, the most controversial aspect of homeopathy is the claimed curative power of highly diluted homeopathic remedies. However, homeopaths are not particularly dismayed at the inability of science to demonstrate the postulated principle by which the remedies work. They point out that for many commonly prescribed allopathic drugs, including aspirin and some antibiotics, the mechanism of action remains equally unknown.
In 1990, Dr. Emilio Del Giudice, an Italian physicist, theorized that water molecules form structures that can store minute electromagnetic signals. This theory is bolstered by the findings of German biophysicist Dr. Wolfgang Ludwig, who has conducted preliminary research showing that homeopathic substances give off electromagnetic signals, indicating specific dominant frequencies in each homeopathic substance, according to physicist Dr. Beverly Rubik of Temple University in 1991. Using nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) imaging, a 1968 study demonstrated subatomic activity in twenty-three different homeopathic remedies, while such activity was not found in placebos. Similar NMR findings have been confirmed by Dr. J. L. Demangeat and colleagues in a series of 1992 studies and Dr. Luc Montagnier in 2005 till the present (See Nobel Prize Laureate Luc Montagnier Water Memory Documentary https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8VyUsVOic0).
Most recently, two research papers by physicist Dr. Shui-Yin Lo and his colleagues at the California Institute of Technology indicated that there are novel, stable structures which occur in water molecules at room temperature and under normal atmospheric pressure. These stable molecular forms occur in water containing "very dilute solutions" through a mechanism apparently similar to the formation of ice crystals at low temperatures. While such basic research is preliminary, it does suggest that a proposed mechanism of dilute remedies as residing in the "molecular memory" of the water molecule may ultimately have a basis in modern physics.
Most recently, several studies conducted in both immunology and chemical engineering at UCLA have replicated Dr. Lo's findings. These results are so new that they have only been reported at conferences and have not yet been published and subjected to peer review.
In keeping with the ‘like cures like’ principle, before we can use a homeopathic medicine we need to know what its ‘picture’ is, i.e. what symptoms it can produce in a healthy person. The process for discovering this is called a ‘proving’. Provings must follow a rigorous protocol so that accurate and reliable information is generated.
Dr Samuel Hahnemann (the founder of homeopathy) and his co-workers conducted provings on themselves and colleagues in order to discover new medicines. Nowadays provings are usually undertaken by homeopaths and students. They take the medicine under controlled circumstances in order to experience the symptoms the medicine is capable of producing - and thus treating.
Here is a typical proving methodology. The proving group consists of a master prover, supervisors, provers (healthy people of both sexes who take the medicine) and collators. The master prover may decide which substance they will prove, or the decision may be left to a homeopathic pharmacy. The substance is then made into a medicine in different potencies at the pharmacy and the vials of medicines and placebos are coded to ensure double-blind conditions (where neither the provers nor the master prover knows who is receiving the active medication and who is not).
Before taking the medicine, the provers keep a daily log for a month under the scrutiny of a supervisor who will later continue to monitor them as the proving progresses. This establishes their ‘base state’ as well as introducing them to the format of keeping the proving diary. They then take the unknown medicine at regular intervals for a maximum of two days, stopping as soon as they feel any symptoms arising that are new to them. They continue to keep a daily diary and are in regular contact with their supervisor whilst the symptoms are emerging. The supervisor is there to answer queries, ask questions and ensure that all symptoms are faithfully recorded.
Once all the symptoms have abated, the notebooks are handed to the collators who then start to make sense of all the information. The symptoms are separated into mental, emotional and physical categories. The full picture is then written up by the master prover and presented to the proving group at which point the name of the medicine is revealed.
The proving gives a comprehensive picture of the new medicine with the mental, emotional and physical symptoms it is capable of curing. We learn each medicine’s affinity with particular organs of the body and the medicine’s modalities (better and worse for...). All of this information is added to homeopathic materia medica and repertories, the reference books used by homeopaths when working to find a medicine to match the individual symptoms of each patient.
DIRECTION OF CURE
In an acute situation, where the complaint is of recent onset and the person has no previous history of chronic disease, homeopathic treatment invariably works with great success (providing the medicine is accurately chosen).
Recent symptoms abate and the afflicted individual is returned to their previous state of good health. The storm that may have been life-threatening passes without trace.
In the case of chronic disease the story of how health is restored is more complex and the duration of recovery usually in direct proportion to the length of time that the illness was present. There is no way of predetermining what this will be as each one of us differs, however we can say that long-term illness requires time to heal. We can also make observations about how cure proceeds, for example the first symptoms to appear will be the last to resolve, while the most recent symptoms will be the first to disappear. The original symptoms may have manifested a very long time ago!
Cure tends to proceed:
from more recent to older symptoms
from vital organs to less vital organs
from the centre to the circumference
from above downwards
As well as symptoms disappearing in the reverse order of their appearance, healing often proceeds from within the organism and extends outwards. Improvement may occur on the mental or emotional levels before the physical level. For example, we may be relating in better ways to our partner or job before our inflamed joints improve.
REMEDIES IN HOMEOPATHY
A homeopathic medicine (‘remedy’) is made into different strengths by a process of dilution and succussion (the application of energy through vibration).
Homeopaths call this the ‘potency’ of the medicine. In keeping with homeopathy’s individual approach, we match the potency of the medicine to the healing energy the individual has to respond with.
The process of serial dilution was developed by Dr Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). He found that whilst his medicines were helping people they often produced side effects as many of them were poisonous. To minimise these effects he diluted the medicines into weaker and weaker doses (serial dilution) then, between each stage of dilution, he succussed them, vibrating the vessel containing the dilution to release the energy of the medicine. He found that the higher the potency of the medicine the more it stimulated healing ability.
Homeopaths are regularly challenged on the issue of potency as we are unable to provide a fully satisfactory explanation. But scientists cannot provide an explanation for many phenomena, including the most basic of forces, gravity.
Albert Einstein spent the better part of his life attempting to create a unified field theory that could integrate electromagnetism and gravity.
He did not succeed in this endeavour. However, he brilliantly and famously demonstrated to the scientific community that matter is simply another form of energy. This equivalence implies that matter is inter-convertible with other forms of energy. This is the basic principle behind atom bombs and the production of energy in nuclear reactors and stars. Or, put another way:
“We may therefore regard matter as being constituted by the regions of space in which the energy field is extremely intense.”
- Albert Einstein
In homeopathic pharmacy an equivalent process is acted out, but on a micro-scale. Through serial dilution and succussion, matter is successively imbued with the power to heal by becoming accessible to the regenerative capacity all living things possess. Thus remedies start off in the form of matter but are translated into energy which in turn can influence the energetic regenerative field everywhere in the body. Today we like to think of a medicine as being information (in-formation: deriving from the form within). This is similar to an instruction, in that it is without physical substance but has the power to exert an influence. Imagine reading that you have won a huge amount of money. The chances are high that you would leap out of the chair, your arms up and your voice excited. All that has actually happened is that you have read some words on a piece of paper, and then your emotions, mind and body have followed. The words on the paper are comparable to the new level of energy flowing into the individual from a homeopathic medicine.
SUSCEPTIBILITY TO DISEASE
SUSCEPTIBILITY & SUPPRESSION
Each of us has certain triggers or situations to which we are highly sensitive and vulnerable and to which we are most likely to react. This is known as ‘susceptibility’ and is an important factor for homeopaths to consider, especially when prescribing at a constitutional level.
Susceptibility is one of the things that makes us unique, because sensitivity to situations is different for each of us. We do share some susceptibilities however. This is best demonstrated in epidemic situations where we are overwhelmed by a contagion and produce similar reactions and symptoms. Susceptibility can be linked to certain events, such as always getting ill after being exposed to harsh cold wind, or suffering a stomach upset after being embarrassed about something. Or it may be the result of our living conditions – anyone living in a damp house is likely to experience upper respiratory tract symptoms after a while, although for some of us it will be sooner rather than later. Susceptibilities can manifest on any level: mental, emotional or physical. Good homeopathic treatment can change our core susceptibility (or to a lesser degree address some of the effects of our susceptibility), strengthening us so that we are not affected by an ‘attack’ on our vulnerabilities.
Another factor that affects our reactions to situations is suppression. Suppression means stopping or limiting an action. Frequently we limit the vital energy in our body by the use of conventional ‘cures’. How often do we use a cream to ‘remove’ a rash, a pill to take away a pain, a medicine to calm our nerves? The main action of these medicines, however, is to palliate the symptom and to moderate its expression rather than to address the susceptibility behind it. They can never constitute a long-term cure.
If we keep palliating a symptom long enough, we may not be able to continue to externalise the illness. As a result, the untreated internal state will be forced to find another outlet in order to re-balance itself. While we may suppress, or apparently ‘remove’ a symptom from a particular part of the physical body, the next available vent may be anywhere on the mental, emotional or physical level. A simple example of this is when someone has been indulging in many ‘flu cures’ to fix their cold, and then becomes irrationally bad-tempered as the discharge dries up.
Many more examples of the effects of suppression exist, from the development of asthma in children whose eczema has been suppressed by steroid creams, to breast lumps, which are believed to correlate directly with the use of antiperspirants, to childhood inoculations resulting in a chronically sick adult population.
HOMEOPATHIC POTENCY SCALE EXPLAINED
Several potency scales are in use in homeopathy. Hahnemann created the centesimal or "C scale", diluting a substance by a factor of 100 at each stage. The centesimal scale was favored by Hahnemann for most of his life. A 2C dilution requires a substance to be diluted to one part in one hundred, and then some of that diluted solution diluted by a further factor of one hundred. This works out to one part of the original substance in 10,000 parts of the solution.] A 6C dilution repeats this process six times, ending up with the original material diluted by a factor of 100−6=10−12. Higher dilutions follow the same pattern. In homeopathy, a solution that is more dilute is described as having a higher potency, and more dilute substances are considered by homeopaths to be stronger and deeper-acting. The end product is often so diluted that it is indistinguishable from the dilutant (pure water, sugar or alcohol).
There is also the continued flow mode of dilution that is measured on MFC.
Hahnemann advocated 30C dilutions for most purposes (that is, dilution by a factor of 1060). In Hahnemann's time it was reasonable to assume that preparations could be diluted indefinitely, as the concept of the atom or molecule as the smallest possible unit of a chemical substance was just beginning to be recognized. We now know that the greatest dilution that is reasonably likely to contain one molecule of the original substance is 12C, if starting from 1 mole of original substance.
Some homeopaths developed a decimal scale (D or X), diluting the substance to ten times its original volume each stage. The D or X scale dilution is therefore half that of the same value of the C scale; for example, "12X" is the same level of dilution as "6C". Hahnemann never used this scale but it was very popular throughout the 19th century and still is in Europe. This potency scale appears to have been introduced in the 1830s by the American homeopath Constantine Hering. In the last ten years of his life, Hahnemann also developed a quintamillesimal (Q) or LM scale diluting the drug 1 part in 50,000 parts of diluent.] A given dilution on the Q scale is roughly 2.35 times its designation on the C scale. For example, a preparation described as "20Q" has about the same concentration as one described with "47C"g. Potencies of 1000C and above are usually labelled with Roman numeral M and with the centesimal 'C' indicator implied (since all such high potencies are centesimal dilutions): 1M = 1000C; 10M = 10,000C; CM = 100,000C; LM (which would indicate 50,000C) is typically not used because of confusion with the LM potency scale.
The following table is a synopsis comparing the X and C dilution scales and equating them by equivalent dilution. However, the homeopathic understanding of its principles is not explained by dilution but by "potentisation", hence one cannot assume that the different potencies can be equated on the basis of equivalence of dilution factors.
X ScaleC ScaleRatioNote
1X―1:10described as low potency
2X1C1:100called higher potency than 1X by homeopaths
8X4C10−8allowable concentration of arsenic in U.S. drinking water
24X12C10−24Has a 60% probability of containing one molecule of original material if one mole of the original substance was used.
26X13C10−26If pure water was used as the diluent, no molecules of the original solution remain in the water.
60X30C10−60Dilution advocated by Hahnemann for most purposes: on average, this would require giving two billion doses per second to six billion people for 4 billion years to deliver a single molecule of the original material to any patient.
400X200C10−400Dilution of popular homeopathic flu preparation Oscillococcinum
Note: the "X scale" is also called "D scale". 1X = 1D, 2X = 2D, etc.