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
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
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
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-
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.
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
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
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
- Quoted in Maesimund Panos and Jane Heimlich, Homeopathic Medicine at Home
(Los Angeles:J.P. Tarcher, 1980) p.11
- Sidney Skinner,”The World According to Homeopathy”, Journal of Cardiovascular
- 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
- Cook, Samuel Hahnemann, pp. 142
- Dana Ullman, Discovering Homeopathy, p.42
- Coulter, Divided Legacy, vol. 3, pp.124-126
- Reilly, Taylor, McSharry, et al., “Is Homeopathy a Placebo Response? Controlled
Trial of Homeopathic Potency, with Pollen in Hayfever as Model” Lancet, October 18,
- J. Jacobs, L. Jimenez, S. Gloyd, “Treatment of Acute Childhood Diarrhea with
Homeopathic Medicine: A Randomized Clinical Trial in Nicaragua,” Pediatrics, May
- J. Kleinen, P. Knipschild, G. ter Riet, “Clinical Trials of Homeopathy, “British Medical
Journal, February 9, 1991, 302:316-323
- M. Muscat, “News Briefs”, Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, April,
1999 Vol. 4, No.2:p. 30
- 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