Homeopathy: What is homeopathy?

The purpose of this column is to educate people about the uses of homeopathic remedies. It will be a tool for some readers in self-care. I will be discussing one remedy at a time or a group of remedies according to their uses in acute care. This column is not intended to treat or diagnose chronic disease, and only over-the-counter homeopathic remedies that can be obtained in health food stores will be discussed. I will also discuss the philosophy and history of homeopathic remedies and homeopathic medicine.

Many people who hear the word “homeopathy” wonder what it is and how it got the name. In case you are one of those people thinking, “Homeo-what?” here is an explanation for you. Samuel Hahnemann, the German physician who developed homeopathy, observed through experiments that the same substance that can produce a specific set of symptoms in an otherwise healthy person can cure that same set of symptoms when found in an ill person. For example, a person suffering from burning and teary eyes with running nose during a bad smog day in a big city has the same symptoms that are created by chopping onions. A homeopathic medicine of red onion is used for this kind of complaint. This idea is a cornerstone of homeopathy, referred to as the Law of Similars.

The idea that “like cures like” wasn’t thought up by Hahnemann. He learned it from the writings of Hippocrates in ancient Greece, who wrote about the medical practices of his day. He observed that there were two predominant schools of thought in medicine at that time. The first approach treated a patient using substances that opposed the patient’s symptoms. For example, white willow bark was given to a person with fever, and acted chemically to halt the fever. This dissimilar match of remedy to symptoms is what Hahnemann named “allopathy”, from the Greek word “allos” meaning other and “pathos” meaning sickness. This is the approach of much of the drug and surgery-based treatments used in standard medical treatment today.

The second approach was one of similars, where a sick person was treated with substances that produced similar symptoms in otherwise healthy people.

This same fever described previously could also have been treated with a substance known to induce fever, such as a homeopathic medicine made from red pepper. Think of it as helping the body do what it was trying to accomplish so that the problem is resolved. This likeness of a remedy to symptoms was what Hahnemann came to call homeopathy, from the Greek words “homoios” meaning similar, and “pathos’ meaning sickness.

So the next time you hear that funny word, homeopathy, just think of it as a method of health care that makes you well by helping your body accomplish what the symptoms were calling for: like curing like!

Krista Voysest has been practicing homeopathy for 15 years. She is a graduate of the Pacific Academy of Homeopathic Medicine (1995 in San Francisco Bay area), North American Homeopathic Master Clinician Course (1998) and the Koine International School of Homeopathic Medicine (a six-year course, May 2006). She is a certified member of the North American Society of Homeopaths, and is certified through the Council of Classical Homeopathy. Her office is in Beloit, Wis. To make an appointment call (608)-362-4940 or e-mail Homeopathy@kristavoysest.com. You can also visit her Web site at kristavoysest.com.

From the Jan. 17-23, 2007, issue

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