What Is Homeopathy?Homeopathy is an alternative philosophy that believes highly diluted substances have the ability to stimulate the body to heal itself. It is largely based on the following core homeopathic beliefs:
- A substance that produces a certain set of symptoms in a healthy person has the power to cure a sick person manifesting those same symptoms. In homeopathic medicine this is called Law of Similars, or like cures like.
- Diluting a remedy makes it more powerful. In homeopathic medicine this is called Law of Infinitesimals.
- A homeopathic treatment is designed to facilitate a release of the illness. Allopathic treatments (traditional medicine), according to homeopathic beliefs, supresses the symptoms and drives the illness back into the body.
The Practice of Homeopathy: Constitutional Homeopathy vs. Disease-Oriented HomeopathyConstitutional (or classical) homeopathy follow traditional homeopathy philosophy. Constitutional homeopaths choose a product based on the symptom picture or pattern of a person, including psychological, emotional, physical, and hereditary factors. A simplified form of homeopathy called disease-oriented (or symptomatic) homeopathy has also been developed. In this form, the remedies are matched with specific diagnosed diseases.Both types of homeopathy have been studied scientifically, although disease-oriented homeopathy has received more attention for the simple reason that it is easier to study. Neither method has been proven effective.
Homeopathic DilutionsAs mentioned above, homeopathy requires that a chosen mineral, plant, or animal substance be significantly diluted in a solution to create a homeopathic product. The products used in the dilution and the creation process are outlined in Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS). The FDA requires companies to follow these guidelines to sell products. The HPUS was developed by the carefully recorded observation of symptoms caused by the included natural products.A small amount of the mineral, plant, or animal product is added to a dilution material, such as alcohol. This combination is then added to more dilution material. These steps are repeated until the desired dilution (or potency) of 6c, 12c, or 30c is reached. These products are so dilute that little or none of the original substance is left. According to principles of homeopathy, each dilution makes the product stronger. The process is called potentization. Sometimes homeopathic products are made with substances that are insoluble. In this case, they are ground up, mixed with lactose, and then made into a homeopathic product. Homeopathic products may be delivered within small white lactose pills, in liquids, or creams that are used externally. In addition to standard homeopathic solutions that use unrelated substances that happen to produce a similar symptom, there are two forms of homeopathic solutions that use substances specifically related to the condition:
- Isopathic products are made from the actual substance that causes the condition. For example, a homeopath may use a remedy prepared from cat dander to treat cat allergy.
- Nosodes are made from infected animal tissues or bodily secretions. Here, a homeopath may dilute ground up, tuberculosis-infected glands from a cow to create a homeopathic product for human tuberculosis.