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Healing Art and Science of HomeopathyHahnemann statue mosaic

The Healing Art and Science of Homeopathy

by Lia Bello RN FNP CCH

The healing art and science of Homeopathy has just turned 215 years old and is uti-

lized by thousands of health professionals around the world. What is Homeopathy?

Why and how does it work? What is its history and present position in the world of

complementary medicine?

 

Homeopathy is a highly systematized way of stimulating the regulating system of the

body to find balance. This natural pharmaceutical system uses micro-doses of sub-

stances from the plant, mineral and animal kingdoms to arouse a person’s natural

healing response. Its use is appropriate in any situation from family self-care for com-

mon ailments to serious emergencies (though homeopaths agree that conventional

medicine is invaluable in emergencies). Long standing chronic diseases and mental

and emotional imbalances are areas where homeopathy has seen great success. This

system of medicine is highly valued by sophisticated consumers and thoughtful health

care practitioners because of its safe, non-toxic and low tech, though thorough,

approach to the whole person.

 

Homeopathy is one of the truly holistic systems of medicine known. It is the leading

form of complementary medicine in Europe at this time and consumers worldwide are

spending billions of dollars each year on homeopathic products. In a homeopathic consultation the practitioner must create a thoughtful rapport with each patient and be available to support them in their transitions on the healing journey. There is lesser reliance on diagnosis than in conventional medicine, and the medicines are sold over the counter and have no known toxicity. For these reasons homeopathy is well suited to nursing practice.

 

HOMEOPATHIC PHILOSOPHY, PRINCIPLES AND HISTORY

 

Homeopathy is based on the “law of similars” or “like cures like”. The word “homeopa-

thy” is taken from the Greek “homeo”, meaning similar, and “pathy”, meaning disease.

Hippocrates is known to have said, ”Through the like, disease is produced, and

through the application of the like it is cured.” (1) Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843),

the German founder of homeopathy, used the Latin words “similia similibus curentur”

when he re-discovered this ancient concept.

 

As a young doctor, already distinguished as a chemist and a linguist, Hahnemann felt

that he could not practice medicine as he had been trained; which at that time meant

the use of leeches, purgation and caustic chemicals, and he was making his living

translating medical and scientific texts. His independent thinking created a need in him

to contradict a statement in Cullen’s Materia Medica, which claimed that Peruvian Bark

(Cinchona–or Quinine) cured intermittent fever (Malaria) because it acted as a bitter or

stomach tonic. To dispute this he decided to test this plant medicine on himself. After

repeatedly taking 4 drams of Cinchona, he became ill with all the symptoms of intermit-

tent fever- paroxysmal chills, fever, numbness and joint stiffness. These symptoms

disappeared when he discontinued the doses. This was the first “proving” (drug trial

on healthy human subjects) and the birth of homeopathy. This information led

Hahnemann to the conclusion that the reason that quinine cures Malaria is because

quinine is “similar” to Malaria in its characteristic adverse effects.

 

A “proving” familiar to us all is Ipecac, a root of the Rubiacaea plant family, known for

its universal ability to bring on nausea and vomiting by its ingestion in large amounts.

A Homeopath has a full proving in his reference books and uses homeopathically pre-

pared Ipecac to relieve gastric symptoms of nausea and vomiting in sick patients. A

few doses of highly diluted Ipecac can relieve vomiting whether the cause is viral, hor-

monal i.e. morning sickness, or even as a side effect to cancer chemotherapy. What

the homeopath also knows is that Ipecac is not only useful in nausea and vomiting,

but also in hemorrhage and asthma.

 

Other recognizably “like cures like” uses of substances include the use of the Poison

Ivy plant (Rhus Toxicodendron) for a case of poison ivy, or interestingly, anything like

poison ivy; for example certain dermatitis, herpetic, or eczematous conditions (like

cures like–remember? -not “same cures same”). Homeopathy users are known to

dose themselves with Allium Cepa (red onion) when allergy season comes on with its

symptoms of watery discharge from eyes and nose–just like you get when peeling

onions! Guess what homeopathic coffee (coffea) is used to treat? If you are thinking

homeopathically you would guess –insomnia and nervousness! Many remedies in the

homeopathic materia medica are poisons in their undiluted form, but are indispensible

for countless ailments in their dilute homeopathic form, i.e. white arsenic (Arsenicum

Album) is commonly used for abdominal flu or food poisoning gastro-enteritis symp-

toms. Homeopathic remedies are always referred to by their Latin names.

 

The concept of “like cures like” is based on empirical, rather than rational thought.

Through observation and experience it was seen that a substance which is capable of

evoking certain symptoms in an essentially healthy human being under controlled

research procedures, may become a potentially effective therapeutic agent when

administered in minute doses to a sick person with the same symptoms. The use of

vaccines and allergy desensitization are based on this law of similars but do not follow

the other homeopathic principles, like giving the minimum dose or individualization.

There are many other instances where modern medicine uses the law of similars, i.e.

stimulants for ADHD, digitalis for heart conditions.

 

Allopathic medicine, the name given to conventional medical practices today, from the

root word “allo” meaning other or opposite, is based mainly on the “law of contraries”,

or “opposite cures opposite”, hence its “anti” stance when approaching symptoms.

The drug categories of anti-biotics, anti-pyretics, anti-inflammatories, anti-hyperten-

sives, etc prove this point. Most conventional medicines go against or have an action

opposite to the symptoms that the patient is presenting. This system is more easily

understood by the rational mind, but experience shows that the outcomes for the whole

health picture using allopathy are rarely permanent or totally curative. Instead, allopa-

thy has excelled at substituting or replacing missing substances, i.e. insulin for dia-

betes, compensating to balance defective systems, i.e. diuretics in nephrogenous

edema, and suppressing symptoms, i.e. cortisone for allergic reactions, or antibiotics

for infections.

 

Allopathic medicine suppresses the body’s natural responses. But now modern med-

ical science is recognizing more and more symptoms as adaptive responses of the

body. Inflammation, coughing, diarrhea, discharges and fever are now understood as

important ways that the body protects itself and speeds healing. Homeopathic philosophy asserts that all symptoms are actually the body’s attempt to defend and heal itself and these symptoms are the body’s language. Homeopathy trusts this bodily response as the wisest way to proceed and seeks to cooperate with it by giving a minute amount of a substance which has been shown to create those same symptoms in healthy people. Homeopathic therapeutics has demonstrated again and again extremely effective curative results in a high percentages of cases, with long lasting benefits.

 

Armed with information carefully gathered in the provings of many different medicinal

substances in their original form, Hahnemann began to apply the concept of the similar

remedy to patients. He began to see improvements, but many patients reported wors-

ening of their symptoms before they got better. To prevent such “aggravations”

Hahnemann started to dilute and succuss (shake) the medicines in a serial manner.

To his surprise, diluted and shaken remedies not only forestalled “aggravations” but

seemed to act faster and more effectively. They were paradoxically weaker but more

potent. Dilutions of 1:1000 (diluting the substance 1:10 three times – called 3x) were

already quite dilute but 1:100,000 (6x) worked faster and better. Homeopathic practi-

tioners now use remedies diluted to 6x, 12x, 30x, 200x, and on up to 100,000x and

much more dilute. Prepared in homeopathic pharmacies, the remedies are found to

have a greater effect on the health the more dilute they are. Chemically, there can be

no molecules of the original substance left in the solution after dilution past 24x. The

energetic imprint of the substance appears to be left in the solution, perhaps because

of the shaking process. “This inverse relationship of dose to therapeutic effect is one

reason traditional allopathic practitioners find themselves at odds with homeopathy” (2)

 

Nuclear magnetic resonance testing done on twenty-three different homeopathic medi-

cines in different potencies showed distinctive differences in their readings of sub-

atomic activity. The studies on placebo did not. (3) With this amount of dilution it is

natural for concerns about placebo effect to arise. Homeopathy’s long history of effec-

tiveness in treatment of infants and in veterinary uses disputes this.

 

Disease consists of a disruption of the central regulating energies that maintain life.

Hahnemann called this regulating energy the “vital force”. Practically ignored by mod-

ern science, except under the limited term “immune system”, every other culture’s tra-

ditional healing system recognizes such a concept as central to understanding and

affecting the health. “Chi” in China, “prana” in India–the life principle that regulates

body, mind and spirit does not lend itself easily to technological investigation, but its

understanding is the next frontier in medicine. It is the vital force which a homeopath

attempts to reach and stimulate when a homeopathic medicine is administered.

Because of their dilute nature it is unlikely that the remedies exert any chemical action

on the cells of the body. Since the life force is an energy system, the remedies are

thought to work on the energetic level themselves.

 

One of the most important principles in Homeopathy is its focus on the “totality of

symptoms”. Each patient is listened to in the closest manner imaginable during the

lengthy interview when symptoms are being elicited. All aspects of the patient, mental,

emotional and physical, are inquired about. General symptoms, like tolerance of hot

and cold weather, energy level, food desires and aversions, what aggravates and ame-

liorates symptoms, body type, etc. are gathered by the practitioner. Personality traits

are thought to be very valuable. Emotional temperament, fears, sensitivities, and his-

tory of griefs or traumas are a few of the important aspects elicited.

 

The symptoms unique to each patient, much more than diagnosis, are viewed as the

most valuable information in homeopathic prescription choice The individuation of

each patient’s disease picture is sacrosanct in homeopathy. After all, 10 doctors might

offer different diagnoses on the same patient, (and give different treatments) , but that

patient’s description of what he is experiencing is unique to him, even when compared

to others having the same diagnoses. Homeopathic therapeutics are conducted based

on the principle that the best therapy for any given patient is the single medicine

whose adverse effects most closely mimic the totality of symptoms. We now have

documentation of 1000+ substances proven on healthy people for homeopathic practi-

tioners to use to find the similar remedy. When a patient seeks treatment for chronic

health problems, one remedy is sought that covers all of the symptoms for that

patient’s constitution. When the correct remedy is administered it is common to see

swift, improvement in that person’s well-being and physical health lasting months and

years, from just a few micro doses. To aid them in their investigative search for the

most similar remedy, homeopaths have computer software to correlate information

from their hundreds of reference books.

 

Hahnemann’s new system began healing sick people in a gentle and more effective

way than the almost barbaric methods of the day. His primary treatise on homeopathy

in 1796, the “Organon of the Art of Healing” laid out the revolutionary premise of

homeopathy, yet despite the cures it was met with scorn by Hahnemann’s peers.

Nevertheless, homeopathy became popular and spread throughout Europe and

England. England’s Royal Family has retained a homeopathic physician since the

1830’s.(4)

 

In 1825, homeopathy was brought to America and it flourished here for 100 years. By

1900 there were 22 homeopathic medical schools (including Hahnemann Medical

School in Philadelphia, which retains the name but teaches no homeopathy), 100

homeopathic hospitals, and 1000 homeopathic pharmacies. Nursing schools connect-

ed to homeopathic hospitals trained “homeopathic nurses”. Many respected members

of society supported homeopathy, including Mark Twain, John D. Rockefeller, Daniel

Webster, Harriet Beecher Stowe and many more. Homeopathic medical schools were

the first to admit female students.

 

Perhaps “the most important reason that homeopathy developed such immense popu-

larity was its success in treating the various epidemics that raged throughout America

and Europe during the 1800’s. Statistics indicate that the death rates in homeopathic

hospitals from these epidemics were often one-half to as little as one-eighth those in

orthodox medical hospitals.”(5) Cholera, Typhoid, Yellow Fever and Influenza took many lives and history does not reflect the successes of homeopathy accurately.

 

Homeopathy grew so fast that in 1844 the American Institute of Homeopathy was

formed (and still exists today–now admitting advanced practice nurses into its ranks.)

In 1846 the American Medical Association was formed, which then vowed to slow the

development of homeopathy. It promptly purged all local medical societies of homeo-

pathic physicians. Eventually, the harsh and incessant destructive tactics of the AMA,

in conjunction with the effects of the 1910 Flexner Report, a biased evaluation of

American medical schools, virtually suppressed all subsequent homeopathic educa-

tion.(6)

 

Between 1930 and 1970, homeopathy in America almost disappeared but for the

devoted patients and the few surviving homeopathically trained physicians. In the

1970’s it was quickly revived when health consumers started to take back control of

their own health and demand safe, non-suppressive medicine. Today there are thou-

sands of health professionals who have incorporated homeopathy into their practices.

In other countries the opposition to homeopathy was not quite so systematic and

intense and it is now widely practiced in almost every country.

 

HOMEOPATHIC RESEARCH

 

Since 1980 there have been numerous pieces of research in attempts to prove the effi-

cacy and the principles of homeopathy. Because of the importance of individualization

of treatment even within the same diagnosis it was an added challenge to design

research for homeopathy.

 

In 1986, allopathic Scottish researchers at the University of Glasgow published

research in Lancet about giving a homeopathic hay fever remedy made of pollen to

144 people with pollen allergy. The study was double blind and placebo controlled.

Compared with those who took the placebo, the homeopathic group showed a signifi-

cant reduction in symptoms, and their need for anti-histamines was reduced by

50%.(7)

 

Jennifer Jacobs M.D., assistant clinical professor of epidemiology at the University of

Washington School of Public Health in Seattle, recruited 81 Nicaraguan children under

age five who had acute diarrhea. She gave one half of the group rehydration fluid, and

the other half got rehydration fluid plus a homeopathic medicine individualized to the

child’s specific symptoms and temperament. Among the children in the control group,

the diarrhea lasted an average of 4 days. In the homeopathy group, it lasted only 2

and 1/2 days–a significantly faster recovery. Published in Pediatrics, this was the first

study involving a homeopathic treatment to appear in an American medical journal.(8)

 

A meta-analysis of 105 studies of homeopathic medicines performed from 1966 to

1990 was published in the British Medical Journal by Dutch researchers from the

Department of Epidemiology at the University of Maastricht. in 1991. They concluded

that “the evidence presented in this review would probably be sufficient for establishing

homeopathy as a regular treatment for certain conditions.”(9)

 

Much more research is sorely needed to bring homeopathy into the mainstream. The

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (former Office of

Alternative Medicine) at the National Institutes of Health’s FY2001 budget is $50 mil-

lion.(10) Homeopathic research is more possible than ever before because of this

 

 

Implications for the Future

Homeopathy is a system which challenges the bio-medical, or disease model of medi-

cine. It is better defined as “wellness care” within the holistic healing model in which

vital energy is nourished, balanced or stimulated.(11) Most states do not regulate or

license homeopathic practice at this time and the unique aspects of homeopathy’s non-

toxic, energetically active remedies and health enhancement capabilities lie outside of

the present bio-medical model. The FDA does recognize homeopathic remedies so they

are protected and the United States Homeopathic Pharmacopeia Association is

instrumental in attempting to regulate the many remedies and new pharmacies desiring to

get in on a growing market.

 

Homeopathic schools are now turning out high quality professional homeopaths.

A good portion of homeopathic health care is education of the patient. Consumers need to

know the basics of homeopathic philosophy, remedy administration and avoidance of

antidotes.

 

Homeopathically trained nurses and nurse practitioners are finding

that the alternative job market is opening up and predictions are that they will be

sought after much more as the HMO’s and insurance companies continue to incorpo-

rate alternatives into their covered services.

 

Imagine a busy family practice, a primary care setting in which antibiotics are pre-

scribed only twice a day instead of 15 times; where Ritalin and Prozac are prescribed

to only 2 patients a month, and where cortisone is used only in an emergency. This

potential exists with homeopathy and would greatly reduce the world’s growing prob-

lem of bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Elderly people would use a small fraction of

the drugs normally given now and adverse drug reactions would be greatly reduced.

Children would start to see that you don’t need a drug for every mood, or energy burst

and would be less attracted to mind altering substances. There are hundreds of health

practices around the world where this is a reality because of the use of homeopathy.

Almost all homeopathic remedies are available over the counter from homeopathic

pharmacies. One remedy vial costs less than $10 and will last a family several years.

Many consumers buy a small kit of remedies to have at home to handle acute care

themselves or with the help of their practitioner. The remedies, which are prepared on

sugar pellets, are easily taken orally by all ages. Homeopathic health care for

chronic ailments is best left to a professional homeopathic practitioner. The remedies

have been used safely for pregnant, and nursing women and infants for 200 years.

 

The National Center for Homeopathy is a non-profit membership organization which

promotes and teaches homeopathy. Their monthly magazine, Homeopathy Today, is

a good way to begin to understand homeopathy, and the NCH distributes a directory of

homeopathic practitioners and resources, like schools and pharmacies.

 

It is likely that homeopathic medicine will be a primary pharmacological modality in the

21st century as modern medicine comes to value methods that stimulate the body’s

immune response. Enjoy exploring this natural and effective system, the healing art

and science of homeopathy.

_____________________________________________________________________

 

Contacts for Homeopathic Information

 

Homeopathic Nurses Association

National Center for Homeopathy

 

REFERENCES

 

  1. Quoted in Maesimund Panos and Jane Heimlich, Homeopathic Medicine at Home

(Los Angeles:J.P. Tarcher, 1980) p.11

 

  1. Sidney Skinner,”The World According to Homeopathy”, Journal of Cardiovascular

Nursing 1996;10(3):p.68

 

  1. Adam Sacks, “Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy of Homeopathic

Remedies”, Journal of Holistic Medicine, 5 (Fall-Winter 1983):172-175;

 

R.B. Smith and G.W Boericke, “Changes Caused by Succussion on N.M.R. Patterns and Bioassay of

Bradykinin Triacetate Succussions and Dilutions,” Journal of the American Institute of

Homeopathy, 61 Nov.-Dec. 1968):197-212

 

  1. Cook, Samuel Hahnemann, pp. 142

 

  1. Dana Ullman, Discovering Homeopathy, p.42

 

  1. Coulter, Divided Legacy, vol. 3, pp.124-126

 

  1. Reilly, Taylor, McSharry, et al., “Is Homeopathy a Placebo Response? Controlled

Trial of Homeopathic Potency, with Pollen in Hayfever as Model” Lancet, October 18,

1986, 881-86

 

  1. J. Jacobs, L. Jimenez, S. Gloyd, “Treatment of Acute Childhood Diarrhea with

Homeopathic Medicine: A Randomized Clinical Trial in Nicaragua,” Pediatrics, May

1994, 93,5:719-25

 

  1. J. Kleinen, P. Knipschild, G. ter Riet, “Clinical Trials of Homeopathy, “British Medical

Journal, February 9, 1991, 302:316-323

 

  1. M. Muscat, “News Briefs”, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, April,

1999 Vol. 4, No.2:p. 30

 

  1. M. Cohen, “Complementary medicine:legal status of the non-licensed provider in

the USA, “ Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery, August 1997, Vol 3

No. 4:p. 101

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