What is homeopathy?

What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy has been around for 250 years. It is the most popular complementary therapy in Europe, based on the principle that ‘like treats like’. It treats the whole person not just a single symptom or disease.

What is “like treats like”?

In theory a substance which causes symptoms when taken in large doses, can be used in tiny amounts to treat similar symptoms. For example, drinking too much coffee can cause sleeplessness and agitation, so according to this principle, when taken in microscopic doses, coffee would be useful to treat sleeplessness (and it is). In homeopathy sleeplessness and agitation would be 2 of many symptoms cross-referenced to arrive at the remedy coffea which may be prescribed if the homeopath thinks the whole remedy picture matches.

This concept is sometimes used in mainstream medicine, for example, the stimulant Ritalin is used to treat patients with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, and small doses of allergens such as pollen are used to de-sensitise allergic patients. Tinnitus aids, which create a buzzing noise in the ear, are used to cancel out the buzzing noise of tinnitus.

Homeopathic remedies are used in different potencies some of which are ultra high dilutions, which are vigorously shaken between each dilution. Some are made from plants and minerals, which may have been poisonous or unpalatable in the crude form but they become non-toxic when processed.

The idea that a substance can be damaging in large amounts but beneficial in small amounts  (referred to as hormesis) has been known to science for decades and is increasingly well documented the fields of biology and toxicology.

In the past cinchona bark was used to treat Malaria. Cinchona causes an intermittent fever, which is a symptom of Malaria. This gave a German doctor the idea to develop homeopathy. His name was Hahnemann.

Homeopathy today is used throughout the world: by 100 million people in India, by 40% of the French public; it is taught in 6 French Medical schools, 20% of German physicians prescribe homeopathic remedies occasionally etc. It is available on the national health services of many countries, including the UK.