Homeopathy refers to a therapeutic method utilizing diluted preparations of substances whose effects when administered to healthy subjects correspond to the manifestations of a specific disorder (symptoms, clinical signs and pathological states) in the unwell patient. The homeopathic method was developed by Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). In contrast, at that time, to the heroic practices of allopathy back then (bleeding, purging, leeching, and the use of heavy metals for medication), Hahnemann proposed a more gentle means of aiding the person’s resistance to a particular disease. In a series of experiments from 1790 to 1810, Hahnemann demonstrated that a medicinal substance elicits a standard array of physical, mental and emotional signs and symptoms in healthy people. Later, he demonstrated that the medication whose symptom picture in healthy people most closely resembles a particular illness being treated is the one most likely to initiate a curative response by that patient. A therapy that is closely related to homeopathy is isopathy.
Disease and diagnostics
Homeopaths take a most detailed history and explore the patient’s problems in much detail. In practice, patients are invited to tell their story in its entirety in order to elicit the particular totality of symptoms. They put considerably less emphasis on physical examination than conventional physicians.
After the patient finishes, the homeopath searches the particular combination of symptoms in the Materia Medica with a view to finding the optimally matching homeopathic drug (“simile”). This follows the Law of Similars (“like cures like”). The Materia Medica is based on provings. During provings, homeopaths administer a substance to a group of reasonable healthy people in doses sufficient to elicit symptoms without provoking toxicity or organic damage. The sum of the observable responses results in a unique composite portrait (symptom picture), for each substance, differentiating it from every other substance. The Materia Medica recognizes more than 2000 remedies.
Homeopaths do not usually use conventional disease categories. Rather, the aim of homeopathy is built on two independent assumptions. The Law of Similars of “like cures like“ principle states that a remedy which causes a certain symptom (e.g. a unique headache) in healthy volunteers can be used in treating a headache in individuals who suffer from this unique complex of symptoms surrounding the headache. The totality of symptoms of the individual patient is compared with a compendium of symptom complexes (i.e. a set of symptoms caused by a remedy in healthy volunteers) until the closest possible match is found. Homeopaths often see patients with benign chronic conditions. The required homeopathic remedy may not yet be fully understood. Therefore, at times, homeopaths use two or more remedies simultaneously.
According to the second assumption, homeopathic remedies become stronger rather than weaker when submitted to stepwise dilution (combined with vigorous shaking). The Pharmacopoeia homoeopathica is the official standard for the preparation of homeopathic medicines. Homeopaths use the smallest possible doses and only repeat them if necessary. It is believed that remedies are effective in concentrations that are too small to be detected chemically. Mechanical shaking of the diluted remedies actually enhances their healing effect in a way that has never been fully understood. Closely related forms of classic homeopathy are Complex homeopathy, Homotoxicology and Homeosiniatry. Other therapies used in combination with homeopathy to break through blockades are Biochemical therapy (Schüssler salts) and Splengersan therapy.