Homeopathy is a system of medicine developed 200 years ago by German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Hahnemann discovered that the body’s responses to illness (manifested as various symptoms) are an effort to heal itself. Of course, in conventional medicine, we commonly suppress these efforts (symptoms), ignoring the fact that symptom relief does not ultimately bring about cure. Hahnemann realized that these efforts to heal were not always strong enough to complete the healing process, and he concluded that treatment should stimulate the symptoms developed by the body in response to illness.
Homeopathic medicines are called remedies. To cure a patient, Hahnemann found he had to choose the remedy that most closely fit the patient’s symptoms. More specifically, the task of the homeopathic physician is to match the symptoms of the sick patient to the one homeopathic remedy which has been shown to produce those same symptoms in experiments on healthy people. It is the unique combination of physical, emotional, and mental symptoms expressed by the patient that guides to the selection of the one best remedy. In other words, the practitioner needs to find a remedy for the patient, not a remedy categorically selected to treat a particular disease as is done in conventional medicine. Therefore, homeopathic medicine is highly individualized. For example, 20 patients with asthma could end up with 20 different homeopathic remedies because each person is different even though they all have asthma.
Aside from the main symptoms, how the symptoms are affected by various modalities such as heat, cold, and motion is also important in choosing the remedy. Emotional and mental symptoms may be as important or even more important than physical symptoms.
Hahnemann found that what was being treated with the homeopathic remedies was the “vital force”. The “vital force” refers to a person’s overall, interconnected energetic and defense processes that aid in self-healing. The vital force guides the homeopath to determine whether or not a remedy is working.
There are about 2000 homeopathic remedies in use today, made from plant, mineral and animal sources. Hahnemann found that the more diluted substances had fewer side effects, and were actually, counter to a layman’s intuition, more powerful.
Can I buy homeopathic medicines over-the-counter?
Yes and no. You can buy lower potencies (12 C and 30C) over the counter, but the higher potencies (200 C, 1 M, 10 M, and 50 M) are prescription medicines.
Should I try taking over-the-counter homeopathic remedies as is commonly done with nutritional supplements and herbal medicines?
No. Homeopathic medicines can and do cause aggravations in some individuals. Not to say that nutritional supplements and botanicals do not, but I would be more cautious with homeopathics because sometimes the effects of the aggravations can last much longer than those caused by the wrong nutritional supplement or herbal medicine. Selection of a homeopathic remedy takes a lot of experience and expertise, and even though the lower potencies are available to the general public, I would not advise self-prescribing unless you have studied homeopathy.
What can I expect in a homeopathic intake?
For chronic conditions, the homeopath does a “constitutional” homeopathic intake. The average constitutional homeopathic intake takes about 1.5-2 hours. Acute prescribing can be done in a much lesser amount of time for acute conditions.
The patient is encouraged to speak about all areas of his or her life. Information that might seem unnecessary and irrelevant by most other health care professionals is carefully elicited and considered by the homeopath in order to understand the patient as a whole.
Factors that can interfere with homeopathic treatment:
Coffee, camphor and other aromatic substances, drugs, dental work, and electric blankets. Some people are more sensitive than others. For highly sensitive individuals, even a cup of coffee can antidote their homeopathic remedy.