Once a part of mainstream medicine in the United States and taught at more than 20 homeopathic medical schools in the early 1900s, the use of homeopathic medicine declined as the pharmaceutical industry was developed and funding for the homeopathic medical schools was withdrawn .
Homeopathy, which means “similar suffering,” was developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in the eighteenth century. Concerned that he was harming more patients then he was helping with the standard medical cures of the day, the German physician began experimenting with Peruvian bark and other herbal preparations.
He eventually discovered that substances that cause mild symptoms of disease in a healthy person could cure a person with the full fledged disease. For example, if a small portion of a substance that caused loose bowels in a healthy person was given to a patient with diarrhea, the problem would clear up.
In time, Dr. Hahnemann devised the “Law of Similars,” a basic homeopathic principle that states that “like cures like.” Thus, rather than trying to suppress patients’ symptoms with drugs, homeopaths attempt to stimulate the body’s natural healing powers by giving tiny doses of the very thing that can cause symptoms in healthy people.
Homeopaths believe that ailments are merely signs that the body is attempting to heal problems afflicting patients on physical, mental and emotional levels. Thus, they look far beyond the physical symptoms when assessing patients. Attempting to get to the “essence” of patients, homeopaths will ask what they like to eat and drink, what they’re afraid of, what they dream of, when and how they sleep, whether they’re a day or night person, whether they prefer warm or cool weather, what diseases run in their families, how they react and respond to different stressors presently and previously in their lives and so on.
As part of this investigation, the homeopath will ask many questions about the patient’s ailment, including:
- When did it begin? How long has it been going on? What previous treatments have you had?
- What was happening in your life before the symptoms began?
- What other diseases did you have recently?
- Have you been depressed?
- Anxious? Overtaxed at work or school?
- Have you lost a loved one?
- Have you had any difficulty concentrating or sleeping?
The purpose of these and many other questions is to get to the essence of the problem, the fundamental “glitch” in the patient’s physcal/mental/emotional state that allowed the problem to blossom. Once that has been done, the homeopath can select the most effective “constitutional remedy” for the patient.
The concept of the constitutional remedy is vital to successful homeopathy. Rather than simply prescribing a homeopathic “remedy” (medicine) for an ailment, the homeopath selects the single remedy that best captures the essence (the true character) of the person. Each of the 2,000-some homeopathic remedies carry “portraits” of a person’s temperature, sleep patterns, food likes and dislikes, fears, anxieties, patterns of behavior and personality, and symptoms likely to be manifested.
Homeopathic remedies are derived from plants, minerals and (to a lesser degree) animals. Each remedy has been highly diluted in liquid until there is as little as one part per million of the original substance left in the remedy. During the dilution process, the remedy is repeatedly “succussed” (shaken and struck in a special way).