What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a natural form of medicine used by over 200 million people worldwide to treat both acute and chronic conditions. The name homeopathy, coined by its originator, Samuel Hahnemann, is derived from the Greek words for ‘similar suffering’ referring to the ‘like cures like’ principle of healing. In other words, a substance taken in small amounts will cure the same symptoms it causes if it were taken in large amounts.
Hahnemann (1755-1843) was born in Germany. While translating William Cullen’s A Treatise on the Materia Medica, Hahnemann encountered the claim that cinchona, the bark of a Peruvian tree, was effective in treating malaria because of its astringency. Hahnemann believed that other astringent substances are not effective against malaria and began to research cinchona’s effect on the human body by self-application. Noting that the drug induced malaria-like symptoms in himself, he concluded that it would do so in any healthy individual. This led him to postulate a healing principle: “that which can produce a set of symptoms in a healthy individual, can treat a sick individual who is manifesting a similar set of symptoms.” This principle, like cures like, became the basis for an approach to medicine which he gave the name homeopathy.
Homeopathic medicines are safe to use as they rarely cause side-effects. This means when used appropriately under the guidance of a qualified homeopath they can be taken by people of all ages, including babies, children and pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Before the medicines are decided upon, their curative powers are discovered by testing them out on healthy human subjects and carefully noting emotional, mental and physical changes. This is termed a ‘proving’. This information constitutes the basis for ‘like cures like’, for a medicine’s unique symptom picture must match up with the individual’s unique expression of their disease, that is, the present and persisting symptoms of the disease. Homeopathic medicines given in minimum doses, while they do stimulate the body’s vital response, do not produce the gross side effects that are so often the pit-fall of conventional treatment.