What is homeopathy?
In the late 18th century, a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann came upon
a passage claiming that the quinine-containing Peruvian bark (chinchona)
cured malaria. Using himself as a subject, Hahnemann swallowed a dose of
Peruvian bark. He began to feel feverish, drowsy, desperately thirsty, and
agitated—all of which he recognized as symptoms of
malaria. This caused Hahnemann to experiment further and form his theory that
like cures like, or the Law of Similars. This law states that when a
substance in large doses causes certain symptoms, in small doses it can cure
these same symptoms. Some treatments in conventional medicine rely on this
like-cures-like principle; vaccines, for instance, introduce small doses of an
illness-causing agent to prevent disease.
Other important principles of homeopathy are dilution and succussion.
Remedies are diluted and then "succussed," or shaken, in order to increase their
potency. The process of successive dilution and succussion is called
How does homeopathy work?
Homeopathic remedies start with simple substances, such as herbs, minerals,
or animal products. These substances are first crushed and dissolved in a
specified amount of a substance—usually grain alcohol
or lactose, mechanically shaken, then stored. This is the "mother tincture."
Homeopaths further dilute tinctures with alcohol or lactose, either 1 part to 10
(written as "x") or 1 part to 100 (written as "c"), and then succuss these
tinctures, yielding a 1x or 1c dilution. Homeopaths can even further dilute
these tinctures two times (2x or 2c), three times (3x or 3c), and so forth. In
clinical practice, any dilution may be used, but the most common are the 6x,
12x, and 30x and 6c, 12c, and 30c. The more diluted the substance, the more
potent its healing powers are thought to be.
Rather than simply suppressing symptoms of a disease, homeopathic remedies
act as catalysts that aid the body's inherent healing mechanisms. Moreover,
homeopaths believe that any physical disease has a mental and emotional
component. The homeopathic diagnosis is threefold, including physical symptoms
(e.g., feverish), current emotional and psychological state (e.g., anxious,
restless), and overall constitution of the individual (this includes more
enduring qualities related to a person's creativity, initiative, persistence,
concentration, physical sensitivities, stamina). The right remedy for a
particular condition addresses all of these aspects and requires a highly
Homeopathy is also used like other remedies, that is, according to symptoms.
Health-food stores and some pharmacies sell homeopathic remedies for a variety
of problems. Remedies are usually taken for no more than 2 or 3 days, though
some people require only one or two doses before starting to feel better. If a
remedy fails, it may be because it was the wrong substance for the set of
What happens during a visit to the homeopath?
An initial visit to the homeopath can take from 1 to 1½ hours. Because
homeopaths treat the person rather than the illness, the practitioner interviews
the person at length, asking many questions and observing personality traits as
well as unusual behavioral and physical symptoms. Determining the person's
condition also includes a physical examination and possibly laboratory work.
What illnesses and conditions respond well?
Conditions that respond particularly well to homeopathic treatment include
asthma, diarrhea, eczema and other types of skin rashes, depression, anxiety,
hot flashes, chronic fatigue syndrome, and otitis media (ear infection).
How can I find a qualified practitioner?
About 25 homeopathic schools and training programs exist in the U.S., most of
which offer 2- to 4-year programs. However, no diploma or certificate from any
school provides a license to practice. Many homeopaths are also medical doctors,
although there are homeopaths licensed in virtually every health-profession
category, including veterinarians. In most states, practitioners must be
licensed healthcare providers to legally practice homeopathy. Several respected
certification agencies exist. The American Board of Homeotherapeutics certifies
MDs and DOs (doctors of osteopathic medicine) who have specialized in homeopathy
(DHt is the indicator of a doctor of homeopathy). Naturopaths study homeopathy
extensively as part of their medical training and are certified by the
Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians (DHANP). All homeopathic
practitioners, including chiropractors, nurse practitioners, and acupuncturists,
can apply for Certification in Classical Homeopathy (CCH).
There are a number of directories listing homeopathic providers. To locate
one in your area use the web directory located at
or the directory of the National Center for Homeopathy at
http://www.homeopathic.org/. You may
also contact the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians at 877-969-2267
or visit their website at
http://www.naturopathic.org/ to find
a qualified naturopath who specializes in homeopathy, or the North American
Society of Homeopaths at
useful sources of information on homeopathy include Homeopathic Educational
Services in Berkeley, California, located on the web at
Does my medical insurance usually cover homeopathy?
Insurance companies are more likely to cover homeopathy when the person
providing the service is a licensed healthcare professional, such as an MD or DO
who also practices homeopathy.
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