Homeopathy is an increasingly popular alternative system of healing whose basic philosophy has attracted much skepticism from the conventional medical profession because it has been difficult to prove ‘scientifically’. However, its success with patients has meant that it has continued to grow and develop over the past two hundred years and has even enjoyed a resurgence in the past twenty years.
The principles of homeopathy were first formulated at the end of the eighteenth century by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician. Hahnemann had given up the practice of medicine because he found the therapies of his time to be ineffective and extremely harmful, and did not resume practice until he discovered, in homeopathy, a means to help people heal gently, rapidly, reliably – and without side effects. Homeopathy spread quickly throughout Europe and to the United States, where at the beginning of this century 15-20% of all doctors were homeopaths. Despite repeated criticism from orthodox medical circles, the validity of Hahnemann’s ideas has been demonstrated for over 200 years.
Homeopathic treatment, like all natural therapies, seeks to stimulate the innate healing power of the individual so that all systems function at their best. As a person moves toward their optimal level of general health, they feel better in themselves. As their symptoms improve their strengthened body defenses become active. The homeopathic remedy does not directly treat a symptom or condition. Instead, it helps to initiate the process by which the person heals him or herself.
Law of Similars. This is homeopathy’s guiding principle. It states that any substance which can cause a set of symptoms in a healthy person can cure those same symptoms in a sick person. The symptoms the sick person experiences are therefore the most important guide to the choice of the correct remedy.
Whole Person. Homeopaths view a person’s health as a condition of that entire individual rather than as isolated symptoms. A remedy is selected which best corresponds to that person’s total state. Important indicators of general health, like the level of vitality a person experiences, stress factors, and his or her emotional well-being, along with specific physical symptoms, demand close attention.
Minimum dose. As little medicine as possible is employed. After a dose is given the individual’s response is carefully observed, and the remedy is repeated or changed as necessary.
Homeopathic remedies are derived from plants, minerals and other naturally-occurring substances. They are prepared via a unique, highly controlled process of dilution, which renders them non-toxic yet, paradoxically, more effective.
Since homeopathy is used to treat people rather than illnesses, anyone, whatever their diagnosis, can benefit from homeopathic treatment. Homeopathy works effectively in a wide variety of acute and chronic problems including infectious disease, allergies, gynecological difficulties, digestive problems, and so on. It also helps to prevent future trouble by increasing the individual’s strength and resistance.
Homeopathy does have its limitations: advanced organic pathology, like severe heart disease or crippling arthritis, involves changes in the structure of the body that can rarely be reversed. Those who suffer from such conditions however, are often helped to become stronger and more comfortable with homeopathy. Surgery may be required for conditions like appendicitis, hernias, or ectopic pregnancies; acupuncture or manipulative therapies may be recommended for certain musculoskeletal conditions; psychotherapy for emotional stress and so on.
Finally, homeopathy must not be seen as a substitute for good health habits. In the long run health depends in good measure on eating well and exercising adequately, getting enough rest, dealing effectively with stress, and living creatively and compassionately.
The Homeopathic Consultation
Essential to effective homeopathic treatment is the information that you provide to your homeopath. The homeopathic interview involves extensive questioning that may cover unfamiliar ground for those who are used to a few quick questions from a busy doctor. To better prepare you for the consultation, the kinds of information the homeopath requires are described below.
You will be asked to describe in your own way and as fully as possible, the conditions that bother you, the ones that have caused you to seek treatment.
Probably the most crucial information to the homeopath concerns what makes your complaint better or worse. Does your condition vary with the time of day or night, or the seasons? Is it affected by your position (sitting, standing, lying, etc.) or by activity (motion of any body part, walking, vigorous exercise, rest, etc.)? How do temperature, weather, eating, and sleeping affect your condition? Anything that clearly influences the intensity or pattern of your symptoms should be reported.
Anything that regularly occurs in association with your symptoms should be mentioned. Do you feel nauseous when you have a headache? Does your skin clear up when you get your menstrual period?
Can you associate the onset of your condition with an emotional upset, prolonged or pronounced stress, lack of sleep, exposure to weather, an injury, drug use, surgery, or any other factors?
In addition to information about your symptoms, the homeopath will ask about you in general in order to understand how vital and energetic you feel on the whole, and how your sense of well-being (not any particular symptom) changes as a result of environmental or emotional factors. How are you affected, in general, by temperature, weather, time of day, activity level, eating, and sleeping? What makes you feel good and healthy and what doesn’t? This may be different from what makes a particular symptom better or worse.
Your homeopath will also be interested to know which kinds of foods you love and which you strongly dislike.
Finally, the homeopath will want you to discuss your emotional nature. What are the most characteristic emotional patterns you experience? During what activities or in which situations do you feel most happy?
Are there any emotional responses which limit your ability to fully express yourself? How expressive of emotional states are you, and in what ways do you express them? What about your memory, clarity of thought, and so on?
Based mainly on the information you provide, a remedy will be selected that fits you and your symptoms best. This remedy is designed to stimulate your healing process.
Finding Out More About Homeopathy
There’s a tremendous amount of information now available.
The following websites are a great starting point – they each have a Directory of Homeopaths and various information pages. The NCH represents the grassroots homeopathic movement, and NASH and the CHC are the certifying organizations for the professional homeopath in the US.
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