Homeopathy is a system of medicine developed between 1790 and 1843 by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician whose aim was to restore health to the sick through rapid and gentle means. In short, homeopathy is a holistic medicine which understands that when a person is ill, he or she displays a unique set of symptoms through the mind and the body together. The totality of these mental, emotional and physical symptoms reflects the whole of the person's health. It is precisely this totality of symptoms that homeopathy treats. Treatment begins by giving the one remedy that best matches, and therefore is most suitable for, this unique symptom totality. Giving the remedy that is most suitable for the symptom totality, and therefore for the person's whole state of health, stimulates the body's inherent ability to heal itself. This way, each individual person – whether adult or child, human or animal – receives the best treatment for his or her unique health needs. By restoring health and harmony, homeopathy works to help each person strive for his or her highest potential in life.
The homeopathic consultation is essentially a dialogue between client and practitioner. First, the client conveys all that is troublesome about his or her health and all that keeps them from living life to the fullest. The practitioner then asks for clarification by inquiring about further details, e.g., about how the symptoms feel, what makes them better or worse, where they are located or felt, and when they first started. In this way, the practitioner and client together arrive at a full description of the client's health. The practitioner now matches this picture of disease as best as possible with symptomatology described in the homeopathic Repertory and Materia Medica.
Homeopathy is a profound and complex science that applies a set of definite principles to all cases and situations, making it comprehensive and logical in its reasoning and methods. Below you will find a basic outline of some of the principles and methods of homeopathy as described by Samuel Hahnemann and other renowned homeopaths, including what it means, how it works, and what to expect from treatment.
Homeopathy is a Holistic Medicine that Treats Your Totality of Symptoms
First of all, homeopathy is a holistic medicine, meaning it treats you as a whole person, and not simply one condition, symptom, organ, or vital system. Rather, homeopathy gives a single medicine for the totality of symptoms you have been experiencing, because this expresses your complete state of health.
Treatment Requires Knowing Your Symptoms in Great Detail
The totality of symptoms you experience is comprised of a collection of individual symptoms. Understanding your totality of symptoms requires getting to know each individual symptom you have experienced. For example, your headache may feel dull, splitting, pounding, pressing, or like a nail in the side of your head; and the pain may be aggravated by light, noise, moving about, eating, being outdoors, or at night; or it may be better from lying down, sleeping, eating, being outdoors, or applying pressure or cold to your head; your headache may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting, a raised body temperature, perspiration, a need to lie down or to be alone, sparks in your vision, or anger; your headache may be brought on by perfume, sunlight, heat, certain kinds of food, or from not eating when hungry. A simple headache actually has a whole host of characteristics to it, and the homeopathic remedy best suited for you has to match these characteristics, along with any other symptoms you experience. There are many remedies that help for headaches, but only one that suits your headaches, along with your totality of symptoms.
Homeopathy Holistically Treats Chronic Illnesses
If you have a tendency to get headaches regularly — for instance, every week, or every time you are exposed to heat, sunlight, perfume, or certain foods — then headaches are part, and only one part, of your everyday, chronic state of health. To treat your chronic headaches successfully, a remedy must be found that includes the entirety of all your mental, emotional and physical symptoms. The reason for this is that the headaches are not an isolated occurrence, but an aspect of your overall health. It is because your overall state of health is out of whack that you are having headaches. To truly rid yourself of your headaches, the whole of your health must be improved. Only then will the fundamental cause of your headaches be addressed, and as a result, the headaches will disappear. Once all your symptoms have been collected by your homeopath, he or she will have a complete, organized picture of your lifelong state of health. With this organized information, your homeopath can find the one remedy that best suits you as a whole person, eradicating your symptoms and bringing you into better health.
The same approach is used for acute illnesses or situations like colds, flu, poison ivy, injuries, or anything else that has come on which is not part of your chronic picture. The totality of symptoms of the acute illness, with all of its details, must be collected in order to find the one remedy that best suits your acute state.
When the body is vulnerable to illness, it is “susceptible” to becoming ill. For example, not everyone gets the flu during flu season – only those who are susceptible to the flu will get it. And of those who do get the flu, there will always be some difference from person to person, as each has their own unique symptom totality. This is true of both acute and chronic illnesses. Everyone has their own unique manner of being susceptible to illness, and therefore, has their own unique symptom totality. The most suitable remedy for your unique totality of symptoms lowers your susceptibility to becoming sick, and health prevails.
Homeopathic Medicines Affect the Whole Person
Since we want to treat the whole of your state of health (your susceptibility) by treating the totality of your symptoms with a single remedy, we need to have medicines that can do just that. This is possible since every substance we ingest has an effect on the whole of our bodies or health to one degree or another, and not strictly on one part or organ. Even if a substance primarily affects one organ or physiological system, that organ or system is still part of the whole organism, and therefore other parts of the body are affected in some fashion. Hence, we want to give a medicine that has a beneficial influence on you as a whole person. This is the aim of homeopathy as a holistic medicine: to give a single remedy that affects the whole of a person’s state of health in order to effect beneficial, healthful change. We can gain a clearer understanding of this by looking at how homeopathic remedies are made, how they work on us, and how they are used.
How Homeopathic Remedies are Made
Homeopathic remedies are typically made from chemical, plant, fungal or animal sources, by taking a small amount of the substance and diluting it in a larger amount of water, alcohol, or powdered milk sugar (depending on whether the medicinal substance is soluble or not). Friction is then applied to this mixture of the medicinal substance diluted in water, alcohol, or milk sugar. The friction is applied by succussion (vigorous shaking) when in water or alcohol, or by trituration (grinding) when in milk sugar.
If a substance is not soluble and needs to be triturated, it is taken through three steps of dilution and trituration, after which it becomes soluble and is then switched over to liquid dilution and succussion.
This process of dilution and succussion (or trituration) creates the particular strengths or “potencies” of the homeopathic preparation. There are three potency scales available in homeopathy:
- The C potency, which uses a dilution ratio of one part medicinal substance to ninety-nine parts water, alcohol, or milk sugar. “C” is the Roman numeral for 100, as in a dilution ratio of 1:100.
- The X potency, which uses one part medicinal substance to nine parts of the diluting substance. “X” is the Roman numeral for 10, as in a dilution ratio of 1:10.
- The LM potency, which uses one part medicinal substance in fifty thousand parts of the diluting substance. “LM” stands for 50,000, as in a dilution ratio of 1:50,000. (The LM is also called the Q potency, stemming from the word “quinquagintamillesimal,” which is a combination of the Latin words for “50” (quinquaginta) and for “1,000” (millesimal), forming a word for 50,000).
Remedies can also be labeled as “M” potencies, which is just another way of identifying the centesimal potencies at 1,000C or higher, with “M” standing for 1,000. For example, the 1M potency means the 1,000C.
The number in the potency indicates how many steps of dilution and succussion or trituration the remedy has been taken through; for example, “30C” means the remedy has been taken through 30 steps of dilution and succussion with the 1:100 dilution ratio.
Here are two examples of how remedies are made in the centesimal potency scale. Salt is soluble in water. If we wanted to make a remedy out of salt, we take one part of salt and put it in 99 parts of water to make a 1 in 100 dilution ratio. Once succussed, we have the 1C potency. To make the 2C, we take one part of the 1C and put that in 99 parts of water or alcohol, and succuss it, and so on, going ever higher along the centesimal scale.
Gold is not soluble. To produce a C potency of gold, we triturate one part of gold in 99 parts of milk sugar. To make the 2C, we take one part of the 1C and triturate that in 99 parts of milk sugar; and once more for the 3C, triturating one part of the 2C in 99 parts of milk sugar. After three steps of trituration we continue with liquid dilution and succession, now that the previously insoluble gold is a soluble substance.
We proceed with our series of potencies in the various potency scales through serial dilution and succussion. For example, in the centesimal scale, the standard potencies are 6C, 12C, 30C, 200C, 1,000C, 10,000C, and even higher; in the LM potency scale, we have the LM1, LM2, LM3, and higher.
Dilution and Succussion Create Gentle Yet Powerful Medicines
By diluting a substance by a particular dilution ratio (1:10, 1:100 or 1:50,000) and then applying friction to it, the inherent medicinal quality of that substance is developed. Even though the substance becomes more and more dilute with each step, its medicinal quality greatly increases as the friction develops the medicinal energy inherent to it. This makes sense when we think about how heat is generated when we rub our hands together, or when we strike a match and it ignites: we create energy in the form of heat or fire through the friction applied to our hands or to the match. Every substance in Nature is energetic, and in so being, has its own inherent capacity or power. Einstein proved that all matter is energy through his formula E=mc2, and this proof was dramatically confirmed through the enormous destructive power of tiny amounts of fissile material. Everything has energetic potency, and medicinal energy is created as we apply friction to a diluted substance. Homeopathy utilizes the inherent qualities of substances to make medicines, gained through serial dilution and succussion or trituration.
To say that we are developing medicinal energy is simply to say we are developing the medicinal action, capacity, force or power of the substance. “Potency” means power, but it also means inherent capacity for development. Hahnemann was developing the inherent medicinal capacity of different substances when he made his remedies through serial dilution and succussion, a process he called “Potentization.” For example, a substance that is essentially inert in its raw state, like charcoal or salt, is developed into a powerful medicine through serial dilution and succussion.
The Power Found in Minute Homeopathic Potencies
To further illustrate the minuteness of these potent remedies, the amount of medicinal substance in a 1C is one part in one hundred (with 99 parts consisting of water, alcohol or milk sugar). The 2C has one part medicinal substance in 10,000 parts (because the medicinal substance has been diluted by 100 twice). The 3C has a ratio of 1:1,000,000, since the medicinal substance was diluted by 100 3 times. The 30C has one part medicinal substance in 1 followed by 60 zeros. The 10,000C has one part medicinal substance in 1 followed by 20,000 zeros.
This may seem paradoxical, if not impossible, when we are used to medicine being more powerful when there’s more of it, as in the case of 500mg of aspirin being stronger than 250mg. But this is one of the many aspects of Hahnemann’s genius. He discovered that, with serial dilution and succussion, we develop to ever greater degrees the energetic output of a given medicinal substance: the more diluted and succussed the remedy, the more powerful it is.
Homeopathic Remedies are Energetic Medicines that Treat Energetic Lives
The reason we want to make medicines in this way is because, since we are treating your whole state of health, we need a type of medicine that can affect your whole body. How is this possible? As stated above, we, along with everything else in Nature, are made of energy. We are energetic; we are dynamic, active beings striving to achieve our greatest potential in life.
Homeopathy overtly recognizes this, as Samuel Hahnemann proved such conclusions (some 70+ years before Einstein) through his potentization of remedies. Hahnemann called the life energy that animates, governs and protects us the “vital force” or the “vital principle.” According to Hahnemann, our health is determined by the state our life energy is in: if it is in a harmonious state, we are healthy; if it is in a discordant or disturbed state, we feel ill. Our illness, with its totality of symptoms, is the expression of our life energy trying to remove or push out the disturbance as best as possible. If our body is unable to rid itself of the disturbance, medicine is called for. Because we need a medicine that can affect and assist our life energy, we need to make medicine that acts at the level of the life energy, on the subtler levels of our body. The process of serial dilution and succussion turns a crude substance into an energetic remedy. If the energetic medicine is suitable for treating your illness, matching the totality of your symptoms, homeopathy is able to change your state of illness into a state of health. To help understand how this works, we will first look at how we understand what illnesses specific remedies treat.
Homeopathic Drug Trials: Provings
After potentizing homeopathic remedies through serial dilution and succussion, we need to find out how they affect people’s health so we can use them accurately and holistically. The effects homeopathic remedies have on people’s health are discovered through homeopathic drug trials called “provings.” During a proving, the provers (healthy people participating in the proving) take one particular homeopathic remedy regularly for a period of time until they start coming down with symptoms, which are then recorded. These records document how the remedy affected the provers’ minds and bodies. (The effects of the remedies during provings typically do not last because the remedies are subtle and nontoxic.) Through the totality of symptoms caused during the proving, we are shown the ways particular remedies affect health. With the involvement of a variety of men and women in provings, we gain a wide array of information about how particular remedies are capable of affecting people’s health. The proving information is collected and compiled in the homeopathic “Materia Medica”: a catalog documenting homeopathic remedies and the effects they have on people’s health.
How Homeopathic Treatment Works: The Law of Similars
Having documented the symptoms remedies cause in healthy people, we are able to match a remedy to a person's state of illness (i.e., find a remedy that corresponds to ones susceptibility). To do so we use a law of Nature called the “Law of Similars”: a substance which causes a certain set of symptoms will be able to treat a state of illness that has a similar set of symptoms. In other words, when a person suffers with a certain symptom picture, we give a medicine that has been shown to cause a similar totality of symptoms during the provings.
The name “Homeopathy” expresses the Law of Similars, as it stems from the Greek words “homoios,” meaning “like or similar,” and “pathos,” meaning “suffering.” Hahnemann coined the word “homeopathy” because the Law of Similars is the central principle of homeopathy.
The Direction of Cure
A homeopathic remedy is most suitable for you if it satisfies the Law of Similars, meaning that it most closely matches your state of health as expressed through your totality of symptoms. Being most similar to your state of health, this homeopathic remedy frees your body from the influence of the illness, allowing your body to heal itself. In this way, the homeopathic remedy acts as a catalyst, enabling the whole of your body to change from a state of illness to one of health. This beneficial change in the whole of your state of health is called the curative response. But what does the curative response actually look like?
From the homeopathic viewpoint, we observe people as having different levels, so to speak. At the very center of the person lies the mind, complete with ones emotions, intellectual faculties, personality, sense of self and purpose, as well as the overall sense of well-being and level of energy one feels. From there we observe the vital organs, the non-vital organs, and so on, out to the skin. We view these “levels” as going from the innermost to the outermost of the person: the innermost being the mind, the outermost being the skin. If we are to truly achieve health, we must be sure that improvement comes from the innermost of the person, arising out of their core, the center of who they are. Since the homeopathic remedy works with your life energy, its effects work from the center outward. This rule is called the “Law of the Direction of Cure.” No matter what the situation, health has to begin with an improvement of your mental and emotional state, as well as anything else that corresponds to you as a unique individual on general and essential levels, such as your level of energy and your sleep. When healthful change occurs according to the Direction of Cure, your vitality will increase and sustain your newly achieved healthy state.
The Homeopathic Aggravation
As part of the curative response, some of your symptoms may be exacerbated for a brief period of time. This is called the homeopathic aggravation (some also refer to it as a “healing crisis”). The homeopathic aggravation is nothing more than the perceptible effect of the remedy in its curative action. But there ought not be any worry about the aggravation; because the remedy is a subtle, nontoxic substance, its impact soon passes and the body proceeds to gently heal itself.
Homeopathy Without Side Effects
The homeopathic aggravation should not be confused with side effects. Homeopathic remedies do not cause side effects because they are extremely minute and nontoxic. Of course, like any other medicine, homeopathic remedies have to be used correctly and wisely. When they are used appropriately, in accordance with the Law of Similars and the Law of the Direction of Cure, they work in concert with your body, safely and effectively.
Administration of the Remedy: Dry Doses
The way the remedy is administered is determined by your needs. The remedy is typically given in one of two ways: in a dry dose or in a liquid preparation. When given in a dry dose (in the form of dry, medicated sugar pellets), you usually take a single dose, especially if you are taking potencies of 30C or higher. A single dose means taking the remedy only once – not once daily, weekly, or monthly, but one time and that is all.
In the case of a chronic illness, after taking this one dose, improvement ought to be noticed within a month’s time, if not even within a few days. Acute cases ought to respond within a few hours if not sooner. As long as improvement continues, no medicine is given. The momentum gained from the one dose is allowed to progress naturally until improvement stalls or symptoms start to return, then the second dose may be given in a higher potency. Please be aware that your practitioner may practice differently and use different dosing regimens.
Administration of the Remedy: Liquid Doses
If it is determined that a liquid preparation is better suited for your needs, medicated pellets are dissolved in a bottle of water and administered in a particular way, depending on the potency scale being used and what your needs are. In any case, the remedy is taken regularly by the spoonful or dropper as directed. In addition, the stock bottle is usually succussed a number of times to raise the potency of the remedy with each dose. A truly beneficial effect is gained only when these succussions are applied to the remedy, as they raise the potency and allow the remedy to act more deeply and more profoundly.
Resources About Homeopathy
This has been a very general description of homeopathy. If this is new to you, much of what has been said may be somewhat strange or difficult to understand. Nevertheless, homeopathy is based on sound science. If you wish to read further to gain a better understanding about homeopathy, the best sources are the writings of the most celebrated practitioners of homeopathy, namely H.C. Allen, J.H. Allen, T.F. Allen, Clemens von Boenninghausen, C.M. Boger, Stuart Close, Harvey Farrington, Constantine Hering, G.H.G. Jahr, James Tyler Kent, Adolph Lippe, Constantine Lippe, E.B. Nash, Herbert Roberts, Margaret Tyler, Elizabeth Wright-Hubbard, and, of course, Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathy.