What is Homeopathy?

by Barbara Antisdel
Homeopathy is a healing art and science that is safe, gentle and effective with over 200 years of clinical experience. Homeopathic medicine uses extremely small doses of substances prepared in a special way to re-vitalize a person's health. The choice of the medicine, referred to as a "remedy", is individualized for each patient according to the symptoms and characteristics of that patient. In true homeopathy it is possible for several persons with the same diagnosis to each receive a different remedy. So homeopathic treatment is not "one size fits all". Furthermore, it is even possible for a patient with an undiagnosable problem to receive effective treatment. When used correctly, homeopathic healing is gentle and long lasting, because the remedies work with the body's symptoms and other defense mechanisms instead of against them. 

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In the early 1800's Samuel Hahnemann, a German-speaking medical doctor, first systematized contemporary homeopathy. He found that if he prescribed holistically-not just for the patient's main complaint(s)--that the patient would experience a deeper healing. In some cases even life-threatening and "incurable" diseases have been cured without the usual side effects. So still today a homeopath treats each person as an individual and as a whole, taking into consideration all of who s/he is and all of the person's history not just the person's chief complaint. Homeopathy is a method of treatment available to lay persons for acute self-care, as well as a medical specialty prescribed by licensed practitioners. Homeopathic remedies are FDA approved.

If you are interested in learning more about the principles and the practice of homeopathy, you may read an excellent introduction: Homeopathy:  Beyond Flat Earth Medicine by Timothy Dooley, MD, ND. This brief book is available for FREE for reading or downloading from his website www.beyondflatearth.com

What Homeopathy Is Not
Very often homeopathy is confused with herbalism and herbology. Although homeopathy uses many herbs and botanicals for its remedies, it is a distinct and comprehensive system of medicine with its own principles and precepts. Special methods of preparation of the remedies, producing different strengths of the remedies (known as "potentization" or "dynamization") also distinguish homeopathy from herbology. The contemporary system of homeopathy, based on the teachings of Samuel Hahnemann and later homeopaths, is over 200 years old. Many herbal systems of medicine based on ancient teachings and folk medicine are much older and some less systematically defined. Another distinction from herbology is that homeopathy also uses many non-botanical sources for remedies. Homeopathy with the complement of occasional necessary surgery constitutes a complete system of medicine.

Homeopathy is sometimes mistaken for the art of "home" remedies. It is much more than that. The root "homeo" in homeopathy comes from the Greek meaning "similar" (not "home"). This refers to the "Law of Similars" in homeopathy, which in practice means "like cures like". This is a fascinating concept, but it is beyond the scope of this article.  

If you are interested in learning more about this, potentization or other aspects of homeopathy, allow me to again suggest the book Homeopathy:  Beyond Flat Earth Medicine by Timothy Dooley, MD, ND. (This brief book is available for FREE for reading or downloading from his website www.beyondflatearth.com

Treating the Whole Person, Not Just the Diagnosis
Homeopathy like many other "complementary and alternative" modalities is a form of energy or vibrational medicine. Thus, it views disease as an imbalance in the person's energy or life force (like ki or chi in Oriental medicine). More specifically homeopathy sees disease as an "untunement" of the life force, as if we were beautiful, sensitive yet strong musical instruments, which had lost their tuning. The correct homeopathic remedy then helps to "retune" the life force, putting us back into balance, so we can once again sing or play "on key", achieving our full potential.

Like other energy modalities homeopathy recognizes that a person out of tune (vibrationally, energetically) is more susceptible to disease. Being "tuned up" means being in balance: mentally, emotionally and physically.  So to be truly healthy a person needs to be in balance on all of these levels. Since the remedies work in an integrated way on all these levels, homeopathic healing is truly holistic with a general improvement of all symptoms. Even those symptoms that may have seemed unrelated may improve, ex. dental symptoms! The healing not only restores physical and mental health, but also generates better attitude and enjoyment of life. Long suppressed or repressed emotions are often released, sometimes in dreams. Sometimes major shifts in significant relationships occur. Everything is related and connected in the holistic homeopathic perspective.

In order to find the correct remedy the homeopath must understand the patient as a whole: all the patient's noteworthy dreams, fears, and patterns, as well as symptoms. The patient must be able and willing to reveal all these, while the homeopath listens for two to three hours! The homeopath must learn about every major event and trauma of the person's life and how they have contributed to any imbalances in the patient's energy, in their life force.  The homeopath looks for how this person's life experiences and symptom manifestations are different or special compared to other persons with the same diagnoses.  Since the process is holistic, the woman patient does not "take her uterus" to one practitioner and her joints to another! Thus, in many cases only one medicine heals both the reproductive system as well as the joints!

Although this interview process may sound like a counseling session, it is not. The homeopath's purpose is to listen and to discern indicators for the person's correct remedy. The homeopath will generally not offer advice or make judgements, but only ask questions to get more relevant information, which points to the correct remedy.

How Homeopathy Helps Women
At the mental and emotional levels homeopathy has been very successful in the treatment of anxiety, depression and mood swings. In the areas of general reproductive and menstrual complaints homeopathy has had very good to excellent results in the treatment of abnormal menstrual bleeding, endometriosis, heavy periods, irregular periods, low sexual energy, menstrual pain, PMS, vaginal infections, and genital warts/ HPV (human papilloma virus).  It is helpful during pregnancy with any of the common complaints of pregnancy.  During pregnancy not only is homeopathic treatment safe for the unborn child, but it also benefits the child physically, mentally and emotionally. Homeopathic treatment can even help turn a breech baby! Postpartum symptoms including depression are also reversible with homeopathy.

Other common women's complaints for which homeopathy is usually successful include: acne rosacea, eating disorders, headaches, herpes, fatigue, gall bladder problems, urinary incontinence and urinary tract infections (both acute and recurrent).

Menopause & HRT
Homeopathy acknowledges that menopause is a natural transition in a woman's life, just as puberty was. Since we do not try to avert puberty with special treatments, why should we try to avert the transition at the other end of the spectrum? Most women in good health with appropriate diet and exercise should be able to complete this transition with little discomfort, without hormone replacement and live gracefully for years beyond menopause. Research has not verified that hormone replacement is consistently a preventive measure for bone loss. On the other hand, many studies have shown that calcium loss and bone weakness are life-style related (excess ingestion of meat, coffee, sugar and alcohol, as well as lack of proper exercise and lack of natural calcium in the diet). Last but certainly not least, hormone replacement may contribute to a higher risk of cancer.

During menopause if a woman is "out of tune", she may experience bleeding, fatigue, headaches, hot flashes, insomnia, lower sexual energy, vaginal dryness and other symptoms. All of these can be relieved with homeopathic treatment. The conventional treatment of hormone replacement can be avoided by homeopathic treatment which gradually transitions the woman through menopause, as the symptoms wane and disappear.

In the words of a popular homeopathic doctor:
"The current trend in medicine is to give hormone replacement at the first signs of menopause as indicated by decreasing hormone levels on lab work. This reflects an empty rationality. Menopause is no more a disease than puberty is a disease.  In homeopathy we do not treat the lab work; we treat the patient.  Menopausal women experiencing discomfort with menopause are treated as unique individuals the same way all patients are treated with homeopathy.  Homeopathy has an excellent record of treating women through this transitional time without the use of exogenous hormones."

"A number of natural plant hormone-like substances are promoted as alternatives to synthetic hormone replacement. These may be preferable in many instances to synthetic replacement, but they still reflect a disease-oriented approach to what is, in reality, a natural process."  (Timothy Dooley, MD, ND in Homeopathy:  Beyond Flat Earth Medicine, p. 72)

Dr. Dooley concedes that a very few women may benefit from HRT, but this must be individualized by their history and by the potential risks of hormone replacement therapy.

Finally, in the words of the late Dr. Maesimund Panos:
"Unless you are going to take estrogen for the rest of your life, sooner or later you must experience the shifting of the hormone balance, and some of the symptoms that accompany this change. Our own defense mechanism is well equipped to make the necessary adjustments without the interference of a drug whose purpose is to block the normal action of the body.  Taking estrogen is a risky and expensive way of postponing the inevitable readjustment that Nature has decreed." (Maesimund Panos, MD in Homeopathic Medicine at Home, p.229)

Homeopathic Medicines or "Remedies"

Homeopathic remedies are safe, effective, FDA approved and inexpensive (generally costing $5 - $20 per vial). A vial of a remedy may last days or years, depending on the patient's needs. Homeopathic medicines do not cause allergic reactions.  But because they work at the energetic level, they can stimulate the recurrence of old symptoms or the worsening of current symptoms.  This phenomenon is called "aggravation" and can also occur with treatment by any other deep-acting energy medicine or modality.  Aggravation may last a few minutes or hours or a few days, but it is a small price to pay for reversal of symptoms that have lasted years.  No pain, no gain! There are methods of administering the remedies that make the aggravation process more gentle.  So if this is of concern to you, be sure to ask your homeopath about this.

After the preparation of a homeopathic remedy the original substance is usually so highly diluted that there is little or no molecular substance left in the remedy. Hence, the accusations of quackery ("just sugar pellets or water"). As the king in the "King and I" stated to his children: "If we only believe what we see, what is the use of school?" What is left in the remedy is the healing "energy" or healing vibration of the original substance, acting as a stimulus to a woman's life force, helping the woman to re-tune, re-balance, re-vitalize, and thus cure herself. The field of quantum physics is approaching an explanation for this and may someday have a definitive one, but we do not need to wait until then. Life is too short and "miracles" abound!

What are the miracles?  In my own life menstrual cramps, pre-menstrual symptoms and later hot flashes were relieved. More significantly, debilitating headaches due to environmental and food allergies are 90% improved!  My daughter who is quadriplegic due to an accident is at a very high level of health and has excellent quality of life partially due to homeopathy.  Unlike most quadriplegics--who are very susceptible to respiratory infections and to those infections turning into bronchitis and pneumonia--she rarely catches "colds". When she does, they never turn into bronchitis or pneumonia!  She only had pneumonia once, during the first months after her accident and recovered within a week with homeopathic treatment and without hospitalization.  After her accident, which included a closed head injury, the doctor anticipated swelling of the brain. But to the doctor's astonishment there was none, probably due to her homeopathic treatment for the trauma! So additional brain damage had been prevented.

To learn about more "miracles", actual case studies of others' experiences, you may read the books listed below. Since some of them are self-published, they may not be readily available at your local bookstore, but they can order them for you. Or you can order them yourself online.
Everyday Healing by Linda Johnston, MD www.homeopathic.com (This website also has the most frequently asked questions and answers about homeopathy.)
Impossible Cure by Amy Lansky, PhD:  www.impossiblecure.com
Prozac Free by Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, MSW and Ullman, ND  
Rage Free by Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, MSW and Ullman, ND  

Conclusion and Finding a Homeopath
Think divinely, drink good water, eat well, keep good company and get exercise. These are prerequisites for health. Stay "in tune" and stay healthy. If you find that these are not enough, know that a good homeopath may help you. The best way to find a good homeopath is by personal referral. Helpful hints about finding a homeopath and criteria for determining if a homeopath is good can be found at the website www.nationalcenterforhomeopathy.org There are also directories of homeopaths on the websites of the National Center of Homeopathy www.homeopathic.org and the North American Society of Homeopaths www.homeopathy.org

About the Author: Barbara Rayska Antisdel, MA, has been using homeopathy for herself and her family for over 25 years.  She has been teaching homeopathy throughout the Midwest for over 20 years. Currently she is co-teaching the Champaign-Urbana homeopathic study group, which is affiliated with the National Center of Homeopathy (of which she has been a member for 25 years).