Homeopathic medicine is a natural pharmaceutical science
that uses various plants, minerals or animals in very small
dose to stimulate the sick person’s natural defenses. The
medicines are individually chosen for their ability to cause
in overdose the similar symptoms the person is experiencing.
“Homoios” in Greek means similar and “pathos” means disease or suffering.
Since one’s symptoms are actually efforts of the organism to
reestablish homeostasis or balance, it is logical to seek a
substance that would, in overdose, cause the similar
symptoms the person is experiencing. The medicines, thus,
go with, rather than against, the person’s natural defenses.
In essence, homeopathy is composed of two highly systematic
methods: toxicology and casetaking. First, homeopaths find
out the specific physical, emotional, and mental symptoms
that various substances cause in overdose. Homeopathic
texts have more detail on toxicology than any other source.
Second, the homeopaths interview their patients in great
detail to discover the totality of physical, emotional and
mental symptoms the person is experiencing. The homeopath
seeks to find a substance that would cause the similar
symptoms the person has and then gives it in small,
specially prepared dose.
IT SEEMS ILLOGICAL TO GIVE DOSES OF SUBSTANCES THAT CAUSE
SYMPTOMS TO THOSE THE SICK PERSON HAS IN ORDER TO CURE
THEM. EXPLAIN THIS.
Homeopaths, like many modern physiologists, recognize that
symptoms represent the best efforts of the organism to adapt
to and defend against various stresses or infections.
Because the body is not always successful in dealing with
every stress or infection, it is important to find a
substance in nature that has the capacity to mimic the
symptoms the person is experiencing in order to aid the body
in its efforts to defend and ultimately heal itself.
The “law of similars,” the basic principle of homeopathy,
is even used in some conventional medical therapies, such as
immunizations and allergy treatments. These treatments,
however, are not pure homeopathy since homeopathic medicines
are more individually prescribed, given in smaller doses,
and used to treat sick people and to prevent disease.
HOMEOPATHS USE SUCH SMALL DOSES THAT THEY COULDN’T POSSIBLY
HAVE ANY PHYSIOLOGICAL EFFECT. HOW CAN YOU RESPOND TO THIS?
Although we don’t understand precisely how the homeopathic
medicines work, there is clear evidence that the medicines
are active and can heal. Homeopathy became popular in
this country and in Europe during the 1800s because of its
success in treating the many infectious diseases that raged
during that time, including yellow fever, scarlet fever,
cholera, and many others. The death rate in homeopathic
hospitals was between one-half to one-eigth of those in
conventional medical hospitals. Homeopathic medicines also
have been shown to work on infants and on various animals
(including dogs, cats, horses and even cows) where it is
highly unlikely that they are acting only as a placebo.
Homeopaths also find that people who are being treated
with homeopathic medicine for a chronic disease sometimes
experience a temporary exacerabation in their symptoms as
the body’s defenses are being stimulated. Homeopaths have
found that a “healing crisis” is sometimes necessary to
achieve healing. It is highly unlikely that this temporary
worsening of symptoms is the result of a placebo response.
There has also been some good scientific research published
in medical journals and other scientific publications. A
survey of research published in the British Medical Journal
(February 9, 1991) indicated that there have been 107
controlled clinical trials, 81 of which showed that the
homeopathic medicines had beneficial results.
Of the various studies, 13 of the 19 trials showed
successful treatment of respiratory infections, 6 of 7
showed positive results in treating other infections, 5 of 7
showed improvement in digestive disorders, 5 of 5 showed
successful treatment of hay fever, 5 of 7 showed faster
recovery after abdominal surgery, 4 of 6 promoted healing of
arthritic conditions, 18 of 20 showed benefit in relieving
pain or trauma, 8 of 10 showed positive results in reducing
psychological problems, and 13 of 15 showed benefit of
For more detail about many of these studies, see my book,
Discovering Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century (North
Atlantic Books, 1991) or see Drs. P. Bellavite and A.
Signorini’s new book Homeopathy: A Frontier in Medical
Science (North Atlantic, 1995).
The small doses used by homeopaths only have an effect when
a person has a hypersensitivity to the small doses given.
If the wrong medicine is given to a person, nothing happens.
If the correct medicine is given, the medicine acts as a
catalyst to the person’s defenses. In any case, homeopathic
medicines do not have side effects.
IF THE MEDICINES ARE SO EFFECTIVE, WHY ISN’T HOMEOPATHY MORE
Actually, homeopathy is quite popular in many countries in
the world. As for homeopathy in the U.S., it was also very
popular here. At the turn of the century, 15% of physicians
were homeopathic physicians. The A.M.A. was seriously
threatened clinically, philosophically, and economically by
homeopaths. As distinct from other unorthodox
practitioners, homeopaths graduated from respected medical
schools. The A.M.A. was so threatened by homeopathy that
from 1860 to the early 1900s a conventional physician would
lose their membership in the A.M.A if they simply
consulted with a homeopath. The A.M.A. also applied
pressure on various funding sources so that the homeopathic
schools had difficulty staying alive. Despite the strong
pressure from A.M.A. and the drug companies, homeopathy has
survived and has flourished throughout the world.
WHERE IS HOMEOPATHY POPULAR?
Homeopathy is particularly popular in France, England,
Germany, Greece, India, Pakistan, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico,
and South Africa. Approximately 40% of the French public
have used homeopathic medicines, and 39% of the French
physicians have prescribed the medicines. About 20% of
German physicians occasionally utilize these natural
medicines, and 45% of Dutch physicians consider them
effective. According to a survey in the British Medical
Journal” (June 7, 1986), 42% of British physicians survey
refer patients to homeopathic physicians, and a New York
Times” article reported that visits to British homeopaths is
growing at a rate of 39% a year.
Despite these impressive statistics, homeopathy is
particularly popular in India where there are over 120 four-
year homeopathic medical schools.
Homeopathy is also growing very rapidly in the United
States. Market research shows that sales of homeopathic
medicines have grown at a rate of 25-50% per year during the
past ten years.
IS HOMEOPATHY LEGAL IN THE U.S.?
Certainly! Most of its practitioners are conventionally
trained medical doctors who have furthered their training
with the study of homeopathy. Some of its practitioners are
other types of health professionals, including dentists,
podiatrists, psychologists, physicians assistants, nurses,
naturopaths, chiropractors, and even veterinarians.
There are also some laypeople who have seriously studied
homeopathy and are very good practitioners, though the legal
issues surrounding their practice remains unclear. Because
homeopathic medicines are legally considered “drugs,” some
authorities assume that anyone who prescribes or
recommends them needs to be a physician or have the license
to prescribe drugs. However, because the vast majority of
homeopathic medicines are consider “over-the-counter drugs”
which means that consumers do not need a prescription to
purchase them, some authorities assume that one does not
need a license to use them. While homeopathic practice by
unlicensed individuals may be legal if they practiced under
the supervision of a physician, this physician would subsume
all legal responsibilities for patient care.
ARE HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINES SAFE?
The small doses used in homeopathic medicines make them
extremely safe. Of course, it is important to know how to
prescribe the medicines. The book I co-authored with Dr.
Stephen Cummings, Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medcines”
(J.P. Tarcher, new edition-1991) provides the step-by-step
information on how to use the medicines and when it is
necessary to seek medical care.
The homeopathic medicines are officially recognized by the
F.D.A. as “over-the-counter drugs” and thus any person can
order them without a prescription. Because they are
recognized as drugs, their manufacture is regulated by the
F.D.A. to assure consumers that they are getting what they
IF A PERSON IS USING HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINES, IS IT POSSIBLE
FOR THEM TO USE CONVENTIONAL DRUGS AT THE SAME TIME?
It is” possible to take them together, though the
homeopathic medicines often work fast and well enough that the person
does not need to take conventional drugs. Some conventional
medicines, however, are so strong that they inhibit any
action of the homeopathic medicine. In such situations the
individual must decide if he or she wishes to use the
conventional or homeopathic medicine.
THERE ARE HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINES SOLD IN HEALTH FOOD STORES
THAT ARE SUPPOSEDLY FOR SPECIFIC DISEASES. IF HOMEOPATHY IS
BASED ON FINDING A MEDICINE INDIVIDUALLY SUITED TO THE
PERSON, ARE THESE MEDICINES REALLY HOMEOPATHIC?
These homeopathic medicines found in most health food
stores are called “combination medicines” or “formulas,”
since they have between three to eight different homeopathic
medicines mixed together in them. The various manufacturers
choose the medicines most commonly prescribed for specific
symptoms and assume that one of them will help cure the
ailment that the consumer has. These combination medicines
are popular in the U.S. and in Europe because they are so
easy to prescribe and because they work. Because of this,
the homeopathic combination medicines are “user friendly.”
Also, since these medicines are much safer than conventional
drugs, they are generally preferrable to a growing number of
Combination medicines are invaluable, but most professional
homeopaths have found that the medicine individually chosen
for the person tends to work more often and more deeply.
Still, if a person does not know how to choose the
individual homeopathic medicine or if it isn’t readily
available, the various homeopathic combination medicines
are invaluable. It is, however, generally believed that
combination medicines should not be prescribed for chronic
or serious acute health problems. Such conditions require
the supervision of homeopathic or medical experts.
HOW DO I LEARN MORE ABOUT HOMEOPATHY?
The best source of homeopathic books, tapes, home medicine kits, and software is:
Homeopathic Educational Services
2124B Kittredge St.
Berkeley, CA 94704
(510) 649-1955 (fax)