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Basics of homeopathy (Proceedings)

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Aug 01, 2009

The term "homeopathy" has its roots in one man's vision, the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Homeopathy is a philosophy of health and a system of therapeutic remedies that has been used for nearly two centuries. Thousands of practitioners have verified its effectiveness by observing the results on patients they have treated. At the turn of the 20th Century nearly one-fourth of all U.S. physicians were homeopaths.

Today, homeopathic medicine is practiced extensively in Europe by both veterinarians and physicians, but there are currently only a few dozen U.S. veterinarians who have taken this country's course work to become certified as a veterinary homeopath.

Homeopathic medicine is perhaps the one alternative medicine that is most different from allopathic/conventional medicine. There are thus several basic principles of homeopathy that folks using it should understand. Following are some tips to help with an understanding of these basics:

"Like cures like"

Homeopathy derives from the Greek homoion (similar) and pathein (disease or suffering). The basic principle of homeopathy relies on the Latin phrase "Similia similibus curantur": " Like shall be cured by like ".

Using this basic premise, the idea is to find a natural substance with actions that closely mimic the symptoms of disease. By giving the patient very small doses of the substance, her/his body will react and, through this reaction, be able to heal itself.

In this regard homeopathy differs dramatically from its counterpart, allopathic medicine, which is the orthodox, western medicine of today. Allopathy derives its meaning from the Greek words allos (different) and pathein (disease or suffering). In allopathic medicine the premise is to confront or attack the disease. We see the application of allopathic medicine when the physician uses antibiotics against a certain type of bacteria or when he uses steroids to combat joint inflammation.

Hippocrates was actually the first to coin the term "like cures like", but Hahnemann built a consistent system of therapeutics based on the principle. Hahnemann believed that substances derived from plants, animals and minerals contained vital healing properties. He further reasoned that he could identify these healing properties if he tested the substances on healthy people and observed the people's reactions. Hahnemann was thus one of the first of the true scientists — applying scientific principles of observing (and recording) phenomena in an unbiased manner.

Homeopathic provings

Hahnemann (and other homeopaths since) have tested thousands of naturally occurring substances on healthy people. Typically, hundreds of people are tested to add scientific and statistical validity to the results. Practitioners observe the reactions or symptoms that occur after giving the remedy and record all these symptoms. These tests are called " provings " and the process of proving continues even today. (A recent homeopathic proving has been performed on chocolate.)

Homeopathic physicians note that with all substances or remedies tested some people respond at a low potency of dosage, and these same people often have very severe symptoms. Another small percentage of the provers show no symptoms until very high potencies are reached. The symptoms that consistently occur in most of the people are considered the most important ones for that particular remedy. These consistently seen symptoms are those that are highlighted in the various repertories and materia medica , the treatment and prescribing "bibles" of homeopathic physicians.

The aim of homeopathy is to treat the patient's complex symptom picture with a remedy whose known effects most closely resembles the symptoms of the disease. For the homeopathic doctor, symptoms encompass the whole patient — physical, mental, and emotional. For the veterinary homeopathic practitioner it can be a challenge to derive a patient's mental and emotional symptoms, but close observation often gives us a good idea for what is going on inside a critter's head.

Similimum

Ideally, one remedy will perfectly match all the patient's symptoms and will work as the cure for the individual's disease. The curative remedy will be the remedy whose provings most closely match the symptoms presented by the patient. This remedy is called the disease "similimum".