Homeopathic remedies are designed to gently prompt the immune system into fighting a health problem by giving it the necessary information to do so. They are based on the notion that a diluted preparation of a substance that causes symptoms in a healthy person can cure diseases that cause the same symptoms in a sick person.
It is a holistic approach to healing in that it seeks to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms. Every remedy is tailor-made to suit the individual once the homeopath has carried out their diagnosis, which includes mental and emotional issues as well as physical problems.
Although homeopathy uses common substances mainly from plants and minerals, it is quite different to herbal medicine and the mechanisms by which they work are completely different.
The founder of homeopathy, Dr Samuel Hahnemann, identified ‘natural laws’ on which the method is founded:
The ‘Law of Similars’
The Law of Similars states that a disease can be cured by a substance that produces similar symptoms in healthy people, in other words, like cures like.
- Raw onions cause sore, tearful eyes. Extremely diluted extract of raw onion can be used in a remedy to treat colds, flu, or other illnesses that produce the same symptoms.
- Caffeine can be used in homeopathic dilution to help patients suffering from insomnia.
- Nettles can be used homeopathically if the skin has symptoms similar to a nettle sting.
Critics of homeopathy are derisory about the Law of Similars. They say there’s no scientific evidence that it works. Indeed, it directly contradicts Western medical practice which tends to use substances which are opposite to the problem to suppress it, thus preventing rather than supporting the body’s normal reaction. But homeopathy is non-suppressive. Practitioners believe that suppressing the symptoms doesn’t deal with the cause, and unless the cause is treated, the condition is likely to get worse.
The Law of Minimal Dose (Theory of Infinitesimals)
The debate around the Law of Similars pales into insignificance compared to the controversy surrounding the Law of Minimal Dose. This states that the lower the dose of a homeopathic medicine, the greater its effectiveness. Most homeopathic remedies are so dilute, they contain little or no ‘active’ ingredients, just an energy blueprint.
When preparing a homeopathic remedy, substances are dissolved in water or alcohol, then repeatedly diluted and vigorously shaken between each dilution. First, the ‘mother tincture’ is diluted by 1 part in 100 or 1000, and shaken. Then it is diluted again to produce a 1 part in 10,000 or 1,000,000 and shaken again. A one-in-a-million dilution gives only a 60% chance that a single molecule of the original mother tincture remains in the solution. Critics argue that this merely adds more water to what is just water, but homeopaths believe that this process transfers the information, energy or ‘essence’ of the substance into the diluted remedy. The body is naturally responsive when ill, so that it is able to respond to these otherwise undetectable amounts.
Homeopathic remedies usually come in the form of a small sugar pill. Once the remedy has been diluted to the required degree, sugar pills are dipped in the remedy and allowed to dry. The essence of the tincture is now believed to have been transferred to the pill. But detractors say they are just sugar pills that have been dipped in water, no more, no less.
Conventional science holds that the more there is of a substance, the greater its effect. Homeopathy contradicts the belief of the pharmaceutical industry that increasing the dosage increases the effect of a drug.
Homeopathy achieved good results in Hahnemann’s day, but it wasn’t one hundred percent successful. At first, he couldn’t understand why, then after twenty years in practice he deduced that there must some blockage that must be addressed before a cure can be achieved with the usual homeopathic remedy. He called these deep-seated causal influences ‘Miasms.’
He identified three chronic miasms – Psora (which causes under-functioning), Leutic (self-destruction) and Sycosis (over-functioning). He associated each miasm with specific diseases. For example, Psora is associated with Scabies and any condition that erupts on the skin and itches, hence the homeopathic remedy to address Psora should be produced from scabies itself.
Modern practitioners test for miasms and treat them with homeopathy or other methods such as EDS (electro-dermal screening).
Why the scepticism?
When something that has helped so many appears to have no value according to the scientific method, then surely it is the prevailing scientific method that is flawed!
The problem is, homeopathy’s key concepts are simply not consistent with our current understanding of science and is consequently difficult to study using current scientific methods. It has more in common philosophically with Oriental than Western practice. Each remedy is individually tailored to the patient, so it cannot be tested in random controlled trials, and because it is based on one remedy for one person, it is difficult to construct studies using standard scientific methods.
Hence critics argue that homeopathy relies largely on anecdotes rather than evidence and any success is mainly due to the beliefs of its followers. In other words, placebo. There are still those who consider the use of placebos as ‘fooling’ patients by giving them ‘useless’ pills and potions, even if they help bring about a cure.
Even so, the BBC report still refers to ‘sham’ treatments’ and ‘unproven treatments’ as if the author, Michelle Roberts, is still not really convinced. She writes that three quarters of doctors claimed to offer ‘unproven treatments’ such as complementary therapies on a daily or weekly basis, and even refers to ‘fake’ acupuncture (which has been used successfully for over five thousand years) in such terms. She misses the point – in most cases it is not the medicine that brings about healing, but the patient’s own healing abilities restoring equilibrium and removing the resistance to full health.
Research shows that placebos are most effective a relieving subjective conditions such as pain, and their effect is based on cultivating the patient’s expectations of a cure. Hence the size, colour and packaging of placebos all play a role, as does the presentation and manner of the practitioner who prescribes them.
Homeopathy has helped millions of people. The Law of Similars, Infinitesimals and the Principle of Miasms have proved their worth over and over again. It’s about time ‘science’ caught up!
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