What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy is often used as an alternative or a complementary option to allopathic (conventional) medicine. Since being pioneered by Samuel Hahnemann in Germany over 200 years ago, it is widely used all over the world, even though it appears to be rather a controversial topic in the UK at present.
Many people decide to try homeopathy at a point in their lives when they feel they are looking for a natural and gentle alternative to drugs. They may be after suffering from the side-effects of drugs they have been taking, and also sometimes when they have exhausted the allopathic options, and are desperate for relief from their condition.
The name homeopathy
This name is derived from the Greek words ‘homoios’ (similar) and ‘pathos’ (suffering), which refers directly to the law of similars.
The law of similars
This means – what a substance can cause, it can cure. For example Hahnemann’s initial experiments were with Cinchona bark, from which quinine is derived. If quinine was taken by a healthy person, it would cause malaria-like symptoms. Then he found that this diluted substance could cure patients with malaria. Another example of this would be in the use of diluted stinging nettles which usually cause a skin rash when it comes in contact with the skin, to treat hives in a patient.
The minimum dose
Hahnemann developed a system called potentisation, in which he would dilute various substances to create an effective homeopathic remedy when patients’ symptoms match the remedy picture. Homeopathic medicines are prescribed in potencies which will match the severity of the patient’s condition.
In order to study the effect of these highly diluted substances, Hahnemann tested the substances through provings on healthy volunteers. Volunteers would note their resulting symptoms in great detail, and these would be used to build a picture of the symptoms a remedy could treat. Substances tested included plants, herbs, minerals, flowers and poisons.
So, when Hahnemann treated a patient displaying particular symptoms, he would match it to the remedy which caused similar symptoms in a healthy patient.
All the information gathered from provings and treatments were compiled into a catalogue called the Materia Medica. The Materia Medica is like the homeopath’s bible, and continues to expand to this day, as more remedies are proved and matched to patient conditions. These days you can find electronic Materia Medica too.
A key part of CHE homeopathic practitioner training is teaching students to competently use the Materia Medica.
What can homeopathy treat?
Among the most common conditions people seek homeopathic treatment for are:
- allergies, such as food allergies
- chronic pain conditions such as headache
- digestive issues
- ear infections
- hay fever
- high blood pressure
- mental health conditions, such as depression, stress and anxiety
- skin conditions such as acne and eczema
Research in homeopathy
Research into homeopathy continues all over the world. By the end of 2013, 188 randomised controlled trials on homeopathic treatment of 100 different conditions existed. It is widely acknowledged that there is a great need for more research in homeopathy, particularly to follow up on some of the most positive studies. Only a small amount of funding is made available for research into Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in the UK, and a small fraction of this is spent on homeopathy.
The Research Module is a key part of CHE degree-level training. Students are taught how to navigate and understand scientific information and to critically evaluate studies. If this is an area which interests you find more information on the Homeopathic Research Institute website.
More articles which might be of interest:
- How people find homeopathy
- What do we mean when we say homeopathy is a holistic therapy?
- 5 Key Skills of a Good Homeopath
- 5 Ways Homeopathy Can Help You
- 10 Top Homeopathic Remedies for Your First Aid Kit
Interested in learning more about homeopathy? Check out our beginners’ courses and full practitioner qualifications. We also hold regular open days if you’d like to visit the college and get a feel for how we work.