What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a scientific system of healing discovered in 1796 by Samuel Hahnemann, a physician who was disillusioned with the techniques employed by the doctors of his time. It employs the principle of ‘Like Cures Like’, also known as the Law of Similars. (The word homeopathy is derived from the Greek words meaning ‘similar suffering’.) Homeopathy treats illness with a substance which, when taken by a healthy person, produces symptoms similar to those experienced by the person who is ill.

The symptoms that each remedy is capable of producing, and therefore curing, is revealed by a process known as ‘proving’, during which volunteers take the remedy and record new symptoms that they experience along with changes in any old symptoms, and cured symptoms. With some remedies (such as mercury or arsenicum album), symptoms produced by documented poisonings are also taken into consideration.

What can homeopathy do for me?

Homeopathy can be used in a large number of different ailments, ranging from acute illnesses such as the common cold, to long-term chronic conditions such as asthma, hayfever or depression.

In any given condition, homeopathy maximises the potential for the individual, by working alongside the body’s natural curative mechanisms. In many ways, this approach is the opposite to that used by conventional (allopathic) medicine. Many drugs and procedures employed by allopaths express this difference by the prefix anti-. Examples of these include antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antacids, and so on.

Homeopaths view symptoms as a natural reaction of the body to ‘dis-ease’. If the body is denied this particular avenue of expression, it will then have to find another way of manifesting the imbalance. It is important to realise that a particular bacteria or virus does not cause the illness. The illness is a collection of symptoms produced by the body in response to the presence of the bacteria or virus. It could also be argued that the individual must have been in a state of ‘dis-ease’, which made the body susceptible to the bacteria or virus. In such a model, illness precedes the presence of a ‘germ’ and thus is not caused by a germ.

Homeopathy is able to address an individual’s susceptibility and can therefore increase a person’s health, even where a diagnosable disease is not present.

The denial of the body’s natural expression of symptoms is known to homeopaths and some other healthcare professionals as ‘suppression’. We often see the progression of disease after symptoms have been suppressed and in some instances this progression is accepted by conventional medics. For example, there is a commonly accepted link between eczema and asthma. If the eczema is suppressed by the use of steroid creams, the body’s natural expression has been denied and the imbalance moves deeper into the body – often to the lungs. Similarly, repeated use of steroids in arthritic conditions may give rise to heart problems in later life. These are not side-effects of the medication but an attempt of the body to correct the original imbalance.

Constitutional treatment

Homeopathic treatment can be roughly divided into three types:-


The first type of treatment would be used for conditions such as a cold or ‘flu, ear infection, food poisoning, etc. It relates to diseases which are short-lasting and self-limiting. In such instances, a homeopathic remedy is selected on the basis of symptoms relating only to the acute condition. In the case of a cold, the patient would be asked questions relating to the colour and texture of any mucus, whether they are hot or cold, prefer company or prefer to be alone, if they are thirsty or have any strange food cravings, the nature of any pain and any possible causative factor (e.g. cold wind, emotional stress, etc.).

The second type of treatment would relate to the treatment of individuals with long-standing conditions such as asthma, eczema, arthritis, insomnia, depression, etc. Such conditions don’t usually have very violent symptoms and may get worse over time if left alone. Treatment of chronic conditions involves a much more thorough analysis and the homeopath will ask questions that appear unrelated to the condition to be treated. A patient will be asked about personality traits, childhood experiences, how they sleep, what they like to eat or drink, what ‘makes them tick’, etc. Of course, symptoms relating to the condition will also be required such as what make the condition better or worse, the precise nature and quality of any pain, if the condition is affected by time of day or year, or by emotional factors.

The third type of treatment is similar to chronic treatment in that the homeopath will attempt to identify a remedy which covers the most striking and characteristic symptoms relating to both mind and body. It is therefore possible to treat individuals with homeopathy even if they have no medically recognisable or diagnosable disease. In many ways, treating a ‘healthy’ person makes the most effective use of homeopathy and in this way, it can be used as a prophylactic – there’s no better prevention against disease than good health!

Some homeopaths use ‘constitutional types’ in order to simplify homeopathic diagnostics. It is used to identify patients according to temperament, appearance, certain characteristics of behaviour and their variance from the ‘normal’. According to this system, a
pulsatilla person is expected to be fair skinned with fine blonde hair, weepy and emotional, soft, warm-hearted, loathes fatty food, seldom thirsty and any pain gets better on movement in open air. In contrast, a nux vomica person is generally tall, thin, dark haired, can be spiteful, is pre-disposed to intestinal problems, is addicted to stimulants such as coffee and narcotics and can be very irritable and touchy.

Such stereotypes are useful to a certain extent, but most individuals do not fit neatly into a category. The ‘types’ themselves are very limited; the
pulsatilla type, for example, would automatically rule out the majority of the population of the world who are not Caucasian! There is no doubt that pulsatilla is a remedy that may be required by people of all races. This is clearly a very basic model and should be treated with some scepticism. Most introductory books on homeopathy have a section where remedies and their symptoms or types are listed. It is important not to attach too much importance to these and remember that they are only simplified stereotypes.

Where can I get more information on homeopathy?

The Society of Homeopaths is the main registering body for classical homeopaths in the United Kingdom. They can be contacted by telephone on 01604 621400. Their website www.homeopathy-soh.org includes a number of on-line leaflets which you may find useful.

The British Homeopathic Association is the registering body for medical doctors who have subsequently trained in homeopathy. Their website www.trusthomeopathy.org provides some useful information which may be of interest.

There are many websites on the internet relating to homeopathy. Some which may be of interest are listed below.



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