Homeopathy is a system of medicine which has a different approach to disease and remedies than that of conventional or "allopathic" medicine. In the conventional approach, medicines are used that work against diseases and their symptoms. In homeopathy, the symptoms of an illness are viewed as an indication or sign of the body's attempt to heal itself. A homeopathic medicine in selected that is capable of producing similar symptoms. So homeopathy attempts to stimulate the body's own natural healing capacity, with homeopathic remedies acting as a trigger for the body's own ability to heal.
A brief history of Homeopathy
Homeopathy has been established for almost 200 years. Homeopathic practitioners have over 200 remedies available to them, although most diseases are in fact treated by less than 100 of these today.
Homeopathy was developed by Dr Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) although some credit must go to Paracelsus, born around 1493, who put forward the theory. History tells us that Hahnemann was translating a scientific paper by William Cullen, a Scottish physician, on his theory why Cinchona bark ( a source of quinine and a popular at the time) was successful in treating Malaria. Hahnemann found that he disagreed entirely with the findings. In his youth he had travelled in a particular area of Hungary where Marsh Fever or Malaria had been rife. He had used the herb, Cinchina Bark, but his experience did not support the conclusion of Cullen's paper. He decided to carry out some experiments of his own.
A Human Guinea Pig
Firstly he took a dose of the herb himself and he found that he developed symptoms very much like Marsh Fever. He realised that the cure of the disease could cause the symptoms of the disease. He tried it on his family, friends and volunteers and they all developed the same sort of symptoms. He experimented with this one drug on many people and the majority of them told the same story.
Like Cures Like
So he developed the principle that a substance which will create the symptoms of a disease in a healthy person will actually cure the symptoms of the disease in a sick person. Hahnemann called this principle "similia similibus curentur" or "let like be cured by like". He went on to "prove", as it is called, some 67 remedies on his many healthy students, family and friends. His findings were published in Materia Medica of 1810. Many of the substances Hahnemann used were highly poisonous, for example arsenic and mercury, and to avoid the toxic effect, he experimented with smaller and smaller doses. By experimentation, he found that successive dilutions of a substance became progressively more medicinally active, and less toxic.
The Principle of Homeopathic Dilution
Hahnemann developed the system of homeopathic dilution , where one part of the starting material (usually plant extract) is diluted with 99 parts of diluent (usually alcohol and water). The mixture is then "succussed" or "potentised", which is a rhythmical shaking of the liquid which helps to release the energy within the substance. The dilution is called a 1C homeopathic potency. The process of dilution can be repeated with the 1C potency to make a 2C potency, and so on until the desired potency is reached. Hahnemann discovered that by administering infinitesimally small doses, he not only cured ailments without undesirable side effects but in fact the cure was more effective than with larger doses.
The Growth of Homeopathy
Such was Hahnemman's success, particularly with endemic diseases, that homeopathy quickly spread throughout Europe and across to America. Dr Fredrick Harvey Foster Quinn introduced homeopathy into Great Britain in the late 1820's and in 1849 he founded the London Homeopathic Hospital.