Why homeopathy

Why should you choose homeopathy for yourself and those you love? Because it works.

My patients and I have seen that closely matching a homeopathic remedy to a specific symptom picture is the only way of making a person both feel better and achieve good health. This is what homeopathy’s founder Samuel Hahnemann called the “law of similars,” where the remedy mimics the body’s response to the illness or trauma and “like cures like” and the “totality of symptoms,” even when they are from apparently unrelated parts of the organism—which is misconception because the whole organism, the whole person, is one: body, mind and “spirit”—defined as all the immaterial, energetic forces around us that influence and affect us.

This individualized approach is excellent for relieving symptoms. It is also outstanding for addressing underlying causes of illness or distress, treating chronic conditions, and promoting healing. This leads to greater overall well-being.

If you are new to homeopathy, here is a brief history. Homeopathy is a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) system of health that has had a controversial history which continues today. In the early nineteenth century, it was a treatment approach that was in high favor in the United States among influential individuals, but later it was largely discounted, particularly after publication of the Flexner report (King, 1984). Yet, homeopathic training and investigation continued outside the dominant health system, and there is currently a substantial subset of health professionals practicing homeopathy and large numbers of patients utilizing it throughout the world. It is estimated that homeopathic rose 500% between 1996 and 2003, and sales of homeopathic medicines grew 39.5% between 2003 and 2005 (Jonas, Kaptchuk, & Linde, 2003; Spins, 2006). The literature base on homeopathy has grown since its early days; however, the wide variations in study designs and results leave as many questions as answers. Nonetheless, popularity of homeopathy continues to grow, and there are proposed applications for psychiatric treatment among its practitioners.

Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) was a German physician who became dissatisfied with the medical practices of his time, which included bloodletting, purging, vomiting, and the corporal punishment of persons with mental illness. He turned to translating medical texts for income, which inadvertently led to his developing homeopathy. While translating Cullen’s Materia Medica section on Cinchona (Peruvian Bark), which was used to treat malaria, he noticed that Cinchona’s secondary effects resembled the symptoms of malaria itself. This led to Hahnemann’s concept of treating diseases with substances capable of producing pathological conditions similar to the patient’s complaints, which he tested on 99 substances across the domains of mineral, vegetable, and animal. Hippocrates had previously postulated this therapeutic approach (Haehl, 1922). Hahnemann referred to his testing process as “proving,” which he did initially in substantial doses of one to four grains (a grain equals approximately 62 mg). Hahnemann changed the practical application of his theory during his career, and later he prepared the medicines by serially diluting the solutions in flasks that were forcefully shaken and struck against a hard surface; the dilutions could go up to one part in ioo-3°, a quinquillionth. This dilution would be then labeled “30C.” Although these dilutions are well beyond Avogadro’s number and are expected to have no atoms of the original substance, Hahnemann postulated that some essence of the substance remained. Dilution of a given remedy can vary widely. In homeopathy the dilution process is referred to as “potentization,” hence, the more dilute a preparation is, the more “potent” it is said to be. The phenomenon of a dose—response phenomenon characterized by low-dose stimulation and high-dose inhibition has been observed in pharmacology in both in vitro and in vivo experiments and is referred to as hormesis (Calabrese & Blain, 2004; Merizalde, 2005). However, in the non-homeopathic literature, the phenomenon describes the reactions of substances that have a measurable amount.

In Hahnemann’s early investigations, preparations were ingested by “healthy” individuals in a semicontrolled manner, with close observation of the symptoms elicited. To participate in a proving, an individual had to be free from any evident pathology, so that the symptoms could get recorded accurately. The Materia Medica is the reference database, with an alphabetical inclusion of the medicinal substances including all symptoms elicited in the provings. Homeopaths decide dilution strengths based upon numerous variables related to the examination of the patient and the nature of symptoms presented (Dunham, 1984).

Although the philosophical concepts that define homeopathy are elusive, there are interesting parallel concepts in conventional biomedical science. For example, sleep deprivation or insomnia (a symptom of depression), taken to the extreme, can be a treatment for depression (Post & Weiss, 1992). Likewise, the model of time-dependent sensitization (TDS) indicates that exposure to a strong compound sensitizes an organism to a smaller dose of the same compound, which results in an amplified response. This type of effect has relevance to kindling phenomena, and also overlaps conceptually with hormesis (Antelman, 1988).

Like several other CAM modalities, there are no “one size fits all” treatment protocols for a given diagnosis or set of symptoms. This can make doing and interpreting homeopathic research a challenge. Some investigators have chosen to use a number of different remedies (four to eight) that may suit a majority of patients with a diagnosis. There are also consistency issues with potencies chosen and amounts of the remedies given.

Talk with your homeopath. Find out which remedies work best for you.

Antelman, S. M. (1988). Time-dependent sensitisation as the cornerstone for a new approach to pharmacotherapy: Drug as a foreign/stressful stimuli. Drug Development Research, 14, 1-30.

Calabrese, E. J., & Blain, R. (2004). The hormesis database: An overview. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, 202(3), 289-300.”

Dunham, C., (1984). Homeopathy: The science of therapeutics, B. New Delhi, India: Jain Publishers.

Haehl, R. (1922). Hahnemann, his life and work. London: London Homeopathic Pub.Co. Hahnemann, S. (1842/1996). Organon of medicine, 6th Ed. Trans. Brewster-O’Reilly, W Redmond, WA: Birdcage Books.

Jonas, W. B., Kaptchuk, T. J., & Linde, K. (2003). A critical overview of homeopathy. Annals of Internal Medicine, 138(5), 393-399.

King, L. S. (1984). The Flexner report of 1910. Journal of the American Medical Association, 251(8): 1079-1086.

Merizalde, B. (2005). Samuel Hahnemann: Hormesis and a probably mechanism of action of homeopathic remedies. American Journal of Homeopathic Medicine, 98(4) 249-254.

Post, R. M., & Weiss, S. R. B. (1992). Endogenous biochemical abnormalities in affective illness: Therapeutic versus pathogenic. Biological Psychiatry, 32, 469-484.

Spins, Information and Services to Grow the Natural Products Industry (2006). Homeopathic medicines are growing at double-digit rates, A. C. Nielsen ScanTrack, 52 W ending 12/31/2005.

Portions of this post are excerpts, written by Bernardo A. Merizalde, which originally appeared in Integrative Psychiatry, edited by Daniel A. Monti and Bernard D. Beitman and published by Oxford University Press.