Healing Art and Science of Homeopathy

Hahnemann 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

Catching Illness Early and Chasing it Away

Nurses earn 1 CE for reading this article–and completing a post test and evaluation form.  Contact Lia at liabello6@gmail.com to request the post test, evaluation and certificate .

_____________________________________flu

 

Observant parents can usually tell when their child is coming down with a flu or cold. Signs like poor appetite or restless sleep, an overly clingy or irritable temperament, paleness of the face, red ears or lips, or tiredness are many times the herald of the earliest stages of illness. The right homeopathic remedy given at this time can catch an illness earl and chase it away, foregoing the cold or flu and its complications.

I think that for most families, if each member had just one or two uncomplicated colds, of one to five days duration per year, then they could proclaim perfect health. I see this as a reachable goal for many, and homeopathy can be a major tool in a family’s success. Just a short cold or flu, without complications like ear infection, sinus infection, and bronchitis, should be the extent of our susceptibility if we are using homeopathy and its skilled practitioners wisely.

Since homeopathic remedies are free of side effects, parents should feel free to treat the earliest symptoms that they observe in their child and expect to prevent a flu or cold from developing into a full-blown illness. In my home, and as I teach in introductory homeopathic courses, rarely do I need more than three remedies if I start at the first sign of a flu or cold. These three remedies are, Aconite, Oscillococcinum, and ferrum phosphoricum.

One of homeopathy’s more versatile and quick acting remedies is Aconite. This remedy fits the picture of a usually robust, healthy child who comes in from a day of playing outside in brisk, windy weather and suddenly begins to come down with fever and rosy, dry skin, thirst, watery discharge from the nose, sneezing, and chilliness. Keynotes are: sudden onset, exposure to cold or wind, and early stage of acute illness (first 24 hours).

Aconite is the first remedy needed for most children with croup- the barking cough that awakens a house around midnight with its frightening seal-like sound. Aconite has a middle of the night signature time of aggravation, which will help you know if it is needed. When Aconite is given during this early stage of acute illness the child will recover her balance quickly and many times be back to normal by morning.

How do you know how often to repeat a remedy in this early stage when illness is just presenting itself? Try to match the frequency of repetition to intensity of the symptoms. Repeat an acute remedy like Aconite or Belladonna every 10 to 15 minutes if a fever is actively rising. Low potencies (3X, 6X, and 12X) need more frequent repetition than middle potencies (30C). Go above 30C only if a 30C potency helps but doesn’t last due to the intensity of the symptoms. In an acute situation, expect to see some improvement after a few hours- otherwise switch remedies.

If you catch symptoms so early tat the similar remedy balances the vital force without any further progression then sometimes just one dose is needed, and then just a watchful eye to be ready for any reappearance of symptoms.

Oscillococcinum and “Flu Solution” are brand names for Anas barbariae hepatis et cordis extractum in the 200C potency, a remedy you won’t find in material medica, but an invaluable product to have on hand for its flu fighting power. Another interesting “like cures like” or “same cures same” idea, this substance is poetized from the liver and heart of a duck, which spreads viruses but is immune to them itself. Really all you need to know to use Oscillococcinum is that you have early signs of flu. Colds are flu’s, so use it at the first sniffle, scratchy throat or ache. What you’ll often find is that not only do you not get sick at all but also that you are getting sick less often than you used to.

Administer one dose of the remedy at the first sign of flu, and six to eight hours later reevaluate the health situation. If you still have any cold or flu symptoms take two or more doses. Since it’s a 200C potency product (i.e. relatively high potency), you will rarely need more than three doses. I find that it successfully routs a flu bug a good percentage of the time. If symptoms are continuing to mount or you are no better go ahead and choose a regular remedy for flu like Gelsnium, Arsenicum or Rhus toxicodendron, based on symptoms. Oscillococcinum sometimes gives us a break from what some may feel is the daunting task of choosing the similar remedy.

The relative newcomer to this 200-year-old homeopathic armamentarium (Oscillococcinum has been around since the 1930’s) is a well marketed remedy, unique in its presence on supermarket and drug store flu product shelves and not just in health food stores. (Remember that a dose of homeopathic remedy is always a small amount of sugar granules. More than a pea-sized amount is not necessary for a remedy to reach your vital force.) I recommend keeping your home stocked with this flu preventive.

Ferrum phosphoricum is another great early stage acute respiratory flu and cold remedy. Boericke’s Materia Medica sums this remedy up well by saying that it is “the remedy for all febrile disturbances and inflammations before exudation sets in: especially for catarrhal affections of the respiratory tract.” Use it at your child’s first complaint of burning or scratchy throat, or when fever is just starting- but is not high enough to indicate a need for Belladonna. Ferrum phos shines as the first remedy in earache- When there is just inflammation. If you have a home otoscope instrument and looked at the eardrum you would most likely see red blood vessels starting to stand out or general redness of the membrane without fluid or mucus. I suggest frequent, even hourly doses of Ferrum Phos 12C or 30C to start, and then phase out the doses when there are no indications for the remedy.

If you are super early in catching these symptoms coming on, you may have few indications or modalities on which to choose a remedy but, in each situation- the start of a sore throat, start of a fever, and start of an earache- what you can be sure of is that there is inflammation. The ailment may never progress on past its Ferrum phos stage after you’ve given a few doses. Isn’t that what we’re all looking for? – the comfort that our vital force can be quickly and gently and effectively stimulated to balance?

 

Recurrent colds and a tendency toward the complications of colds and flu’s are indication that your child would benefit from a constitutional remedy decided upon with your homeopathic practitioner. At my house we rarely need a remedy, beyond these three early stage cold and flu remedies, because they seem to catch illness early and chase them away.

Articles

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