HOMEOPATHY ..... an in depth look


Hahnemann's grave in Paris





Although often confused with herbal medicine, homeopathy is a complete and separate system of medicine whose origins date back to the time of the Greeks. Most of what we know as modern day homeopathy stems from the work of a 19th century German doctor called Samuel Hahnemann. Although trained in the conventional medical practices of the time, Hahnemann gradually became disillusioned with the way in which patients were treated. He was particularly concerned by the use of toxic and poisonous compounds which often did more harm than good and with some of the more barbaric treatments like blood letting which did little for the patient.

Hahnemann’s experiments on Cinchona Bark

As a way of supporting his family, Hahnemann took to translating medical texts. One of the works he undertook to translate was a book by a Scottish physician called William Cullen. Part of the text described the use of a Peruvian bark known as Cinchona officinalis or China, which we now know, contains a compound known as quinine. The bark was used to treat malaria and was one of the few effective treatments of the time.

Cullen’s book suggested that the action of the bark was through the stomach, working by way of its bitter and astringent actions, to effect a cure where a patient was suffering from malaria. Hahnemann was aware that many other astringent remedies did not appear to have the same activity and disagreed with Cullen’s statements. He decided therefore, to set about proving how Cinchona might work in the treatment of malarial fever. Hahnemann’s initial experiment on Cinchona was to become a major landmark in the history of homeopathy and would ultimately lead to its rediscovery and development as the unique and safe system of medicine which is in use world-wide today.

Boiling up the bark, Hahnemann drank some of the fluid each day. After a few days he developed symptoms very similar to those of malaria. A few days after he stopped drinking the liquid, the symptoms disappeared. Since the bark could cure a patient with malaria and could induce symptoms of malaria in a healthy person, Hahnemann formulated his first homeopathic rule; Similia similibus curentur or “let like be cured by like”. This single statement has been the mainstay of homeopathy since Hahnemann’s time. The term homeopathy in fact was derived from the Greek homeos meaning similar and pathos which means suffering.

The development of homeopathy

Hahnemann repeated his Cinchona experiment with many other different substances, mostly plants and minerals, often carrying out the experiments on groups of his friends and family. Each time he used a different substance, he noted down all the physical and mental changes that took place, together with all the sensations that his subjects recorded. The results he called provings from the German word “prufung” which means “test” and compiled his results into a reference book of his remedies, called a Materia Medica. Books of this type are still in use today. There have of course, been many new remedy additions since Hahnemann’s time, as other compounds and substances have been brought into use as homeopathic medicines.

Homeopathy and the dilution factor

Gradually over a period of time, Hahnemann built up symptom pictures of a large number of remedies. This enabled him to choose the medicine most accurately matching his patient’s signs and then use the remedy to successfully to treat the problem.  To begin with he used material doses of his medicines but often he found that their toxic effects outweighed any therapeutic benefits.

In order to reduce the problem, he set about diluting the remedies to minimise their side effects. This certainly worked, but at the same time it appeared that diluting the remedies also increased their effectiveness if diluted in a special way. Hahnemann diluted his remedies by a process of serial dilution called succussion, which involved shaking the diluted remedy against a hard object several times. Hahnemann reputedly used the family bible for this purpose, but succussion is now carried out by machine.

In contrast to conventional medicines, which become less effective if diluted, homeopathic remedies become more effective with greater dilution. After several dilutions, the resulting remedy is diluted beyond a point where no molecules of the original substance can be detected. This is beyond what is known as the Avogadro number in scientific terms. Yet diluted remedies still remain effective. Although the mystery behind why infinitely diluted remedies still work remains undiscovered, active research is currently underway and may ultimately reveal an answer.

How homeopathy works

It is best to view homeopathy as a system of medicine which is based upon the healing energy present in the original substance and then concentrated through the process of dilution and succussion (shaking). This energy or force, is then is able to tune into the body when it is sick and induce healing. The clue to successful homeopathic treatment is in selecting the correct remedy based on all the patient’s symptoms. This even includes more general information such as the patient’s likes and dislikes, overall physical appearance, temperament as well as the effect of the weather and time on the patient’s signs and symptoms.

A simple analogy would be like putting a key into a lock, which has to fit exactly to open the door. Similarly the remedy has to fit the patient’s symptoms to heal. This is why choosing the wrong remedy will not produce an effect, yet at the same time will not do any harm to the patient.

How remedies are made

The combined process of dilution and succussion is called potentisation with the resulting remedy dilutions termed potencies. There are several different dilution factors which all start with the undiluted original substance in a form known as the mother tincture. From this, the decimals potencies (denoted by the Roman suffix X) are produced by dilutions of 1:10 and the centesimal potencies (denoted by C) are produced by dilutions of 1:100. You may also see M range of potencies where, for example, 1M indicates a dilution of one in a hundred a 1000 times and where 10M would indicate a dilution of one in a hundred, 10,000 times.

As an example Arnica 30c, a remedy frequently used for injury and shock would be prepared initially from the basic alcoholic extract of the plant, the mother tincture. One drop of this would be added to 99 drops of an alcohol/water mixture and the test tube shaken vigorously or succussed. The contents of this tube contain the first centesimal potency or 1c dilution. One drop of this would then be added to 99 drops of the alcohol/water mixture and once again this would be shaken to produce the 2c potency. This process would be repeated a further 28 times until the 30c potency was achieved. A few drops of the resulting liquid would then be added to base lactose tablets or powders which then become potentised with the active remedy and turned into effective medicines.

Care and storage of remedies

Remedies prepared in this way have along shelf life if stored correctly. Due to the “energetic” nature of the remedies they are easily affected by incorrect storage. They should be kept in a cool dry place, out of direct sunlight and well away from strong odours such as camphor, garlic and peppermint. Ideally, the remedies should not be handled as this can also affect their ability to work. They should also not be stored near sources of electromagnetic radiation such as computers, televisions, mobile phones or microwaves.

Remedies and their sources

More or less any substance can be made into a remedy, including obvious material from the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms. The remedy Sepia for example is made from cuttlefish ink, Natrum muriaticum is made from common salt and Urtica is made from the stinging nettle. Less obvious remedies can be made from modern drugs, magnetism, sunlight, moonlight and electricity. Today we use a wide range of remedies and the Materia Medica which contained relatively few remedies in Hahnemann's time , now contains several thousands.

Homeopathy - safe, effective and natural

Homeopathy can be used to treat a wide range of both acute and chronic conditions in all species of animal. It is safe to use in animals of any age and can be combined with other therapies where appropriate. Please do contact us if you need any furthur information.


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