Last Updated December 20th, 2021
What is a homoeopathic medicine?
Homoeopathy is an alternative medical practice that uses various natural ingredients to heal diseases. Most of these natural sources are vegetable, mineral or animal in nature. The concept of homoeopathy is expressed through the phrase “let likes cure likes,” which originated from Greek philosopher Hippocrates, who is also termed as the father of medicine.
The fundamental concept is based on the fact that the body has the inherent ability to cure itself from diseases. Homoeopathy provides assistance to the body and speeds up the healing process in the form of certain natural medicines. The process involves the weakening of these elements through the use of water and alcohol.
The homeopathic doctors believe that the lower is the dose of the medicine, the more potent it is. These medicines can come in various forms which include sugar pellets, liquid drops, creams and tablets.
Is homoeopathy placebo?
As of now, homoeopathy is practised in 85 different countries around the world and it is a very large industry. There is immense faith in the practice of homoeopathy and its effectiveness in the treatment of various acute and chronic health problems. The homeopaths consider the body, mind and emotions as a complete unit and judge the holistic aspects to help in recovery.
So along with the symptoms, the overall health of the person is also an important factor in determining the medicines and their dosage. At the same time, homoeopathic medicine is considered a placebo by science as there is no proper scientific explanation that explain its benefits.
In fact, some homeopathic medicines are so diluted that there is no actual medicine in the medicine. Since modern science can offer no explanation for homeopathic treatments, most health insurance services refuse to accept the claims based on homeopathic treatments.
The history of homoeopathy
While tracing its roots back to the Greek era, modern homoeopathy was established in the late 18th century by Samuel Hahnemann, a German doctor. Even though he was a qualified doctor, Hahnemann was disillusioned by common medical practices in that era and started experimenting with homeopathic medicine in the year 1790.
He worked on various substances as a chemist and based his study on the principle of “Similars.” He established the first homeopathic medical school in the United States and the school was successful in offering treatments for various diseases like scarlet fever, typhoid, cholera and yellow fever.
The medicines came from various sources which included plants like red onion, arnica, poison ivy, belladonna and stinging nettle. Minerals like white arsenic and animal products like crushed whole bees are also used. In the early 1900s the subject became very popular and very soon, respected institutes like Boston University, Stanford University and New York Medical College were offering courses in homoeopathy.
In the later years, homoeopathy faced a decline in the USA while its growth rate was high in Europe and Asia. In the past few years, the method is finding its footing back in the USA.
The principles of Homoeopathy
The fundamental principles of homoeopathy include two basic concepts which are discussed below.
- The first principle of homoeopathy states “let likes cure likes”. This concept provides the idea that a disease can be cured by a substance that generates the same type of symptoms in healthy people. Dr. Hahnemann worked on this principle by experimenting on himself and also on other healthy volunteers. The complaints of the patent and the psychological and emotional characteristics associated with the disease are carefully noted. The doctor then finds the drug whose drug picture or Materia Medica is similar to the characteristics described by the patient.
- The second principle of homoeopathy states that a minimum dose or the lowest dose is more effective. When Dr. Hahnemann was experimenting on patients with full-strength drugs he found that they had side effects which enabled him to develop the idea of potentization. These medicines are prepared through a series of steps that bring about more dilution and at each step, the solution is vigorously agitated which is called succession. This resulted in the fact that the minimum dose with almost no medicine provided the maximum therapeutic effect with the fewest side effects.
- The third principle is the policy of a single remedy which makes the practitioner prescribe one particular remedy at a time. The impact of multiple medicines on the system will be too difficult to ascertain and the system might behave in unpredictable manners. After experimenting with this, Dr. Hahnemann discarded this idea.
The concept of homoeopathy
The science of homeopathic medicines works on the fact that it is the patient who should be treated and not the disease. The disease can be due to various external factors that bring about pathophysiological changes in the patient.
The vulnerability of a person to a disease depends on various factors including health, lifestyle, habits, past history and other factors. A combination of these factors results in the weakening of the system which leads to diseases like hypertension, diabetes and COPD. This is the reason that some people are affected by some diseases while others are not.
Homoeopathy also considers the symptoms as the language that the body uses to communicate about its internal conditions. Even the minor symptoms at the physical, mental or spiritual level can help a homeopathic physician understand the details of a condition.
How does homoeopathy work?
There are general symptoms that are related to each disease which help in identifying the same. Apart from those, the interpretation and evaluation of various other symptoms in homoeopathy can be categorised into three different stages mentioned below.
Peculiar symptoms: These are symptoms that are not general to any disease and are specific to an individual patient. The interpretation of these symbols is an important step towards taking the correct remedial measures.
Mental and emotional symptoms: These symptoms tell the physician about the overall condition of the patient and throws light on the internal aspects that helped in generating the ailment. The physician uses these symptoms to tackle the disease from its root cause.
Specific symptoms: These symptoms are localized in the body and can include nausea, skin rashes or headaches. The depth, duration and intensity of these symbols help the physician to prescribe the right remedies.
The categories of Homeopathic Prescriptions
The treatment offered by the homeopathic doctors can be categorized into various segments depending on the assessment of a particular case. Some of the important types of prescriptions are described here.
This type of prescription is used for an acute disease which is self-limiting. These sort of ailments have a fast onset and develops into an intense infection. Such ailments include colds, flu, bronchitis, childhood illnesses, tonsillitis, appendicitis, etc. These diseases need remedies that offer a rapid response and enhances eh body’s own ability to heal itself.
This sort of prescription depends on the causation of a disease. The causation is studied with due importance before selecting the right type of remedy. The remedial measures for various emergency, acute, or a chronic diseases are directly related with the causation.
This is a type of prescription which is often provided by experienced homeopaths who have a vast knowledge of the Materia Medica. The keynotes capture the significant aspects of the patient as well as the disease and aids in selecting the right remedy with similar characteristics.
This sort of prescription is based on the overall constitution of the patient which include physical, mental and emotional characteristics. It is a holistic approach to cure various diseases including chronic ones and they are also aimed to improve overall health. This prevents chances of the future recurrence of the disease. This is a long-term approach towards treating a particular disease.
This sort of a prescription is used when a particular remedy works for some time but then fails to provide the desired results. It is also used to handle acute and urgent cases that need a fast response. These include crisis like epidemics, severe trauma, injuries, etc. It is also used to accelerate the healing process or to remove any obstacles in the path of healing.
The stages in a homeopathic treatment session
The treatment process involves the normal pathway of studying the case history, necessary examinations and investigations. The doctor lays more stress on the overall condition of the patient and there are questions about the patient’s lifestyle, eating habits and preferences, temperament, personality and sleep patterns.
Each patient is treated as a unique case with specific individual characteristics. The doctor also investigates the other physical and mental issues, even the trivial ones, which are troubling the patent. The stress levels, relationship issues and personal traits of a patient are also studied for completing the detailed analysis.
This is used to form the complete picture of the patient that will determine the type and strength of the medicine that is prescribed. The medicine prescribed can be in a tablet, powder or in a liquid form. Topical gels and ointments are also used in some cases.
Components and process used in homeopathic medicinesThe medicines are based on various flowers, roots and leaves of plants. These include components like honeybees, duck extract bushmaster venom, etc. A number of metals like gold, silver, zinc, tin and iron are also used to complete the formulations. In some cases, chemicals like nitric acid and sulphuric acid are also added. Other chemicals used include calcium carbonate, magnesium sulphate, potassium dichromate and others.
All the materials are used in extremely low does to generate a healing response from the body. While preparing a medicine, the original material is diluted and the repetition of this process determines the level of dilution of the medicine and its potency.
Constant dilution results in a final product that is only water but it is stated that the information of the original material is imprinted in the water or alcohol that it is diluted in. The process of succession causes the necessary physio-chemical changes that make a particular medicine potent. The exact process by which it occurs is something that researchers have not been able to figure out as yet.
Scientists also state that any medicine without any active component in it can provide no benefits other than generating a placebo effect. At the same time studies have proved that many homeopathic medicines provide better outcomes when compared with placebo.
Research regarding homeopathic medicines has shown that while some of them work, others do not. There are other researches that are ongoing to find out the details about the action of these medicines. These include nanoparticle mechanism and immune-modulating effects of homoeopathy.
Advantages of homeopathic treatments
Homoeopathy is not a superficial treatment but treats the patient from within. It aims to remove the disturbances originating in the body and mind to bring the right level of balance in the system. The following are the advantages offered by homoeopathy.
It is effectiveHomoeopathy is effective in treating a wide variety of conditions which include both acute and chronic cases. It also helps in treating various problems including those of behavioural nature in children. It is effective for conditions like skin diseases, musculoskeletal pain, arthritis, sciatica, constipation, irritable bowel symptom, pain of various kinds, anxiety and depression. Certain viral infections can also be effectively treated through homoeopathy.
It is safeAs homeopathic medicines are non-toxic and harmless, they do not have any adverse side effects on the patient. This also makes them suitable for pregnant women, infants and children. Their long-term use is considered safe and they do not result in any form of allergies either. They also do not affect the process of digestion or lower the immunity levels of the patient.
It is low cost optionHomoeopathy is a cost-effective treatment and is less expensive than normal drugs in the long run. This is because these medicines are generic and being produced from natural substances, they are not patented. It results in patients having better overall health which results in fewer visits to the doctor. There are also no costs involved due to complications resulting from adverse medications.
Adverse effects of homoeopathyThere are some concerns about the level of safety offered by these medicines. There have also been some cases that have resulted in the withdrawal of homeopathic medicines from the market due to adverse effects. In 2009, Zicam, a homeopathic cold remedy, was withdrawn from the market as some patients reportedly lost their sense of smell.
In Japan, the government started an investigation about the alleged death of babies born with vitamin K deficiency, from homeopathic treatments. It is best to consult an authorised practitioner to ensure that homeopathic medicines do not have an effect on the medications that you might be already consuming.
The last wordsHomoeopathy is a popular method of treatment across the world at present. It offers a flexible treatment method where the physician can switch from one method to another based on the response of the medication and also on his or her experience. As it involves a holistic approach to health, homoeopathy can also lead to substantial cost savings for various public health bodies.
It offers a wide range of gentle but deep-acting medicines that can bring relief from a variety of ailments. The underlying modes of action of homoeopathy are still not clear and hence it needs an open-minded approach from patients to derive the full benefits of the 200 year old practice.
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