Homeopathy

What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a form of holistic medicine used by over 200 million people worldwide to treat both acute and chronic conditions. It is based on the principle of ‘like cures like’ – in other words, a substance taken in small amounts will cure the same symptoms it causes if it was taken in large amount.

Homeopathic medicines are manufactured using a process combining serial dilution and succussion (vigorous shaking). Homeopathic medicines are perfectly safe to use for babies, children and pregnant or breastfeeding women, who are under the supervision of a medically-qualified practitioner.

Conditions for use

Long-term problems

Homeopathic doctors often see patients with long-term, chronic problems, many of which have failed to respond to conventional medicine, such as eczema, chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma, migraine, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis and depression.

Whole person medicine

However, as a system of medicine homeopathy is designed to treat the whole person and can therefore be considered in almost any situation where a person’s health is depleted. It can also be very useful in the treatment of minor ailments, from cuts and bruises to coughs and colds. A medical doctor trained in homeopathy will know when it is most effective to use homeopathic medicine, conventional medicine or a combination of both.

Doctors, dentists, vets…

As well as doctors there are nurses, midwives, dentists, vets, pharmacists, podiatrists and osteopaths, all using homeopathy in their daily practice.

The growing demand for homeopathy

Homeopathy has been integrated into the healthcare systems of many European countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and Portugal.

A survey conducted by Global TGI in 2008 found 15% of the population of Britain trusted homeopathy.

Research carried out by market research analyst Mintel estimates U.S. retail sales of homeopathic and herbal remedies reached $6.4 billion in 2012, up almost 3% from 2011, which means the market has grown 16% over the past five years. Mintel forecasts demand will continue to increase over the next few years and by 2017 sales are expected to reach $7.5 billion as more Americans become proactive about their health and the availability of these medicines increases through mass retailers.

In India homeopathy is one of the most popular forms of medicine. Today there are are over 200,000 registered homeopathic practitioners, 215 homeopathic hospitals and 7,000 homeopathic dispensaries.

High-profile support

MPs
Homeopathy enjoys a high level of support from politicians. In 2007, 206 MPs signed an Early Day Motion welcoming the contribution of homeopathy to NHS healthcare.

Celebrities
Paul McCartney, David Beckham, Twiggy, Roger Daltrey, Caprice, Susan Hampshire, Tina Turner, Louise Jameson, Gaby Roslin, Jude Law, Sadie Frost, Nadia Sawalha, Richard Branson, Debra Stephenson and Meera Syal, as well as The Queen are all users of homeopathy.

References:
1. Global TGI Barometer, January 2008; Issue 33.
2. Complementary Medicines – UK, Mintel April 2007
3. ECHAMP’s Facts & Figures, 2nd Ed, 2007.

Treatment

Homeopathic doctors work in the same way as conventional doctors do. History taking, examination and investigation are all important in establishing the diagnosis. However, as well as asking about your symptoms, a homeopathic doctor will be interested in you as an individual and the unique way in which your symptoms affect you.

The homeopathic consultation

Questions about your lifestyle, eating habits and preferences, temperament, personality, sleep patterns and medical history help the doctor to form a complete picture of you. This picture will be matched to the symptoms of your illness in order to prescribe a particular type and strength of homeopathic medicine.

 

As a guide your first appointment could take anything up to an hour, with follow-up appointments typically lasting 30 minutes. This does vary depending on the practitioner and the setting in which they work (NHS appointments may be shorter for example).

Preparing for your appointment

To get the most out of a consultation, it is helpful to make some notes beforehand and to think through all the issues that are affecting your health. Some homeopathic practitioners ask new patients to complete a questionnaire before their first appointment. This is a helpful way of saving time and to your advantage to do so if requested.

The medicine

At the end of the consultation your homeopathic doctor will give you a prescription and advise you how often to take the medicine. Homeopathy is usually taken in tablet or pillule form, but is also available in liquid and powder form. Homeopathic gels or cream may also be prescribed for some conditions.

Integrated approach

Homeopathy cannot replace all other forms of healthcare, but can be used as the first treatment option in a wide range of conditions. It can also be used in a complementary way in other situations, for example, to support good recovery after operations.

Homeopathy doesn’t interfere with conventional medicine and should be seen as a complementary treatment, not as an alternative.

The best of both worlds

Despite the differences in approach, homeopathic and conventional treatments can work very well alongside each other. Consulting a medical doctor trained in homeopathy allows you to receive the best of both worlds, with the most effective treatments being tailored just for you.

History

Homeopathy is based on the principle that ‘like cures like’ – in other words, a substance taken in small amounts will cure the same symptoms it causes if it was taken in large amounts.

This idea dates back to Hippocrates (460-377BC), who also thought that symptoms specific to an individual should be taken into account before making a diagnosis. This is also an important principle of homeopathy, where an individual’s unique symptoms are important in distinguishing the correct medicine.

Samuel Hahnemann

The idea of like curing like was not to re-emerge in any great way until a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) came to devise the system of medicine that we know as homeopathy.

Hahnemann trained in medicine and chemistry. Working as a doctor in the late 18th century, he was dissatisfied with the conventional medical practices of his day. Blood-letting, purging and giving patients large doses of toxic materials such as arsenic and lead were commonplace. Hahnemann disagreed with these harsh methods.

He was investigating the effects of various medicinal substances on himself and other healthy volunteers when he deduced that an illness could be treated with a very small amount of a substance that, in larger quantities, could cause that illness.

To avoid harmful effects from normal doses of the substances he diluted each medicine until he reached the greatest dilution that would still produce a response. These experiments were called provings and led him to observe and describe the basic principles of homeopathic medicine.