Homeopathy: Origin and Benefits
History of HomeopathyOver two hundred years ago, Homeopathy, as introduced by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, was believed by many to be another form of quack medicine. That was in 1796. It has now come full circle and the "inventory" of substances - about 2,000 so far - is used for making homeopathic remedies for every conceivable illness, discomfort, and even some terminal diseases.
Dr. Samuel Hahnemann was not only a physician, he was also a pharmacist. He wrote about 70 documents relating to chemistry and medicine, and was fluent in seven languages.
One could describe Dr. Hahnemann as a man "ahead of his time." He was known for being a strong proponent of medicine with compassion - especially when it involved patients suffering from mental illness. Dr. Hahnemann compiled all of his theoretical and practical treatises and created a whole system of medicine based on Homeopathy. He understood what contagion meant long before researchers managed to produce studies and evidence to support the germ theory; he was also a vocal advocate for public sanitation.
Dr. Hahnemann's final resting place is in France, and he is buried in a cemetery where other prominent people are also buried.
Americans have since recognized and admired the works of this indefatigable doctor and have erected a monument in Washington DC. Those of you who live in the District or have visited it may have noticed the monument at Scott Circle, at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Sixteenth Street.
The United States embraced the principles of Homeopathy in the early 19th century. Some in the medical field consider Homeopathy as a type of alternative medicine and, it is frequently associated with wellness and prevention. The best part, however, is that Homeopathy has a successful track record.
Health Incidents in History Where Homeopathy Proved Effective
No one doubts the growing popularity of Homeopathy. That growing popularity is not due to any hocus-pocus or medical mumbo jumbo that some people think it is. If we look back in history, some events demonstrated the higher success rate of homeopathic remedies over conventional or traditional therapies as outlined by Alan Schmukler in his book, Homeopathy, An A to Z Home Handbook (2006, ISBN: 13: 978-0-7387-0873-7)
Incident: influenza outbreak (worldwide)
More than 20 million people in the world suffered from this outbreak and half a million were in the US. Patients who received homeopathic remedies had a survival rate of 98% as opposed to 70% of patients who were treated with conventional medicine.
Incident: cholera (US)
The survival rate during that year was 42-52%. Patients who were under homeopathic care had a survival rate of 97%. The papers reported on this.
Incident: Yellow Fever (New Orleans)
The mortality rate for people diagnosed with yellow fever was 50%; that for homeopathy was a mere 5.6%.
In anticipation of a meningitis outbreak in Brazil, 18,640 children were given a homeopathic prevention remedy. Only four of these children actually contracted meningitis.
Basic Homeopathic Principles
Like cures like
The central theme of Homeopathy is the "law of similars", also called "like cures like." It states that a person is healed by taking a substance that triggers the same symptoms in healthy people. Dr. Hahnemann arrived at this theory when he took cinchona bark several times. Cinchona bark was a popular remedy for malaria, and after taking it, he exhibited the same malaria symptoms. So he concluded that if a particular substance causes symptoms in healthy people, tiny amounts of the same substance could cure a person with identical symptoms (source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health).
The principle of dilutions, also known as the "law of minimum dose" refers to the dosage of the medication in question. It states that the lower the dose, the higher its effectiveness. As explained by Dr. Richard Stein and Mehmet Oz in their book, Complementary and Alternative Cardiovascular Medicine (2004, ISBN: 978-1-58829-186-8), "the dilution and succession of a substance from its full strength makes it homeopathic", where the Avogadro formula (6.02 x 1023) is used to determine substance potency.
The principle of dilutions is linked to the "memory of water" theory that says that the substance, even after dilution, has "left its imprint or essence which stimulates the body to heal itself" (NIH, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine).
Although Homeopathy has been accepted by millions as a valid (and desirable) medical approach, the field remains controversial in some aspects because of the need for more advanced research. Doctors will not state outright that a particular homeopathic solution will cure such and such a disease, but the medical literature has a wealth of information on Homeopathy's benefits.
We'll name a few of the numerous benefits of Homeopathy.
- Antibiotic Replacement - homeopathic remedies take over where antibiotics leave off - people who are fighting some kind of infection can only take so much of an antibiotic. Eventually, the antibiotic loses its effectiveness and can no longer fight bacteria. The result is that the person has to switch to another antibiotic or increase the dosage. This has negative consequences on the body. A homeopathic remedy will continually work because germs and bacteria do not develop resistance to homeopathic substances. While the homeopathic remedy will not kill the germs directly, it can stimulate the body to heal itself.
- Affordability - compared to the cost of conventional medicines, homeopathic remedies don't cost an arm and a leg.
Case in point: Homeopathy Journal - vol. 98, issue # 1, January 2009. In Tuscany, Italy, doctors monitoring the treatment of 103 out of 223 chronic respiratory patients confined at the Homeopathic Clinic, Campo di Marte Hospital reported that "Homeopathic treatment for respiratory diseases (asthma, allergic complaints, Acute Recurrent Respiratory Infections) was associated with a significant reduction in the use and costs of conventional drugs. Costs for homeopathic therapies are significantly lower than those for conventional pharmacological therapy."
- Absence of Chemicals - when doctors hand us a prescription, the first issue that comes to mind is: will this prescription drug cause any harmful side effects? This question need not be asked when a homeopathic solution is recommended. Homeopathic remedies are formulated from purely natural ingredients and won't do any harm.
- Humane Approach - reputable homeopaths always treat people AFTER they obtain sufficient information about their genetic and personal health history and body types. Homeopaths will usually want to have complete knowledge of a person's physical, psychological and mental condition. The fact that one-on-one sessions last for a few hours so that a specific treatment can be personalized is a compelling argument for Homeopathy's humane approach.
- Supports Immune System - homeopathic remedies are formulated to "collaborate" with a person's immune system. Some traditional medicines tend to suppress the immune system. An example mentioned by the NIH is cough syrup which stops the cough reflex. The cough reflex is the body's way of expelling excess fluid from the lungs.
- Holistic Method - you've heard it said repeatedly by adherents of alternative medicine that one of Homeopathy's benefits is its holistic method. It examines a person's total body and mind make-up and considers all symptoms as one. This simply means that Homeopathy examines the cause, not the symptoms, so that healing is permanent. With this holistic method, symptoms do not recur.
Word of Caution...
Even if homeopathic remedies are generally safe and complement traditional therapies, you must advise your doctor if you plan to turn to Homeopathy. This is especially important when you are presently taking prescription medications for a health condition. Your doctor will guide you on which homeopathic remedies will not interfere with your therapy.