The history of homeopathy.

What about the dilution?

The principles of homeopathy

Is it herbs?

Who can homeopathy help?

How safe is it?

How to take the remedy, and what to avoid

What to expect at your visit

Fees and Appointments

Homeopathy Cartoon

The history of homeopathy.

Homeopathy was discovered by chance by a Dr Samuel Hahnemann, who was born in Germany in 1755. In order to supplement his earnings from medicine, he translated many medical works from other languages, in which he was proficient. One such paper was by a Scottish Dr Cullen, who wrote about the use of quinine in malaria, suggesting its benefits were due to its effects on the stomach. Hahnemann was a very curious man, and something about Dr Cullen’s theory did not ring true for him, so he dosed himself with quinine, to see what effects it would have. Imagine his surprise when he found himself developing the symptoms of malaria!

Dr Hahnemann then set about testing other substances on healthy volunteers (possibly his long suffering family and friends). He recorded the symptoms they reported, and then when patients presented with those groups of symptoms (or syndromes) he gave them the matching substance. He was right – his patients did get better.

Figures recorded in the late 1700s and the 1800s show that Hahnemann and his followers had considerable success with their patients. Their patients in typhoid epidemics were mostly recovering, whereas the patients of other doctors mostly died – of course medical treatment at the time was usually worse than nothing, but even compared with the likely outcome of no treatment, Hahnemann’s results look good.

It was noticed that in epidemics, when most patients were treated with the same remedy, that after their recovery some of the patients reported a particularly good result, that other problems had cleared, or that they felt enhanced well-being. The homeopaths studied these people to see what it was about them that made them react so well, and it was found that for each remedy there was a ‘type’, involving specific traits held in common. This led to the concept of constitutional prescribing – that a remedy can be chosen as much for the client’s general or psychological symptoms, as for the local disease. Prescribing in this way is nowadays called “Classical homeopathy”, and it is how I approach most cases.

If you have read murder mysteries by writers such as Agatha Christie you will be familiar with arsenic. This is a dramatic example of a homeopathic remedy. In the stories the victim is dosed regularly with the poison, and develops vomiting and diarrhoea. The local doctor is called, and diagnoses gastric flu, or food poisoning. Then the patient dies, usually because the murderer has increased the dose, but a death certificate is happily issued. Hahnemann discovered that arsenic, in tiny doses, is a very powerful remedy in food poisoning or ‘tummy bugs’. (Homeopaths know this remedy as Arsenicum Album, in the Latin which used to be the international language, and still is to some extent in the medical world)

There is no danger of poisoning from homeopathic remedies – see “What about the dilution?”

What about the dilution?

When Hahnemann first started using his new remedies, he used ‘material quantities’, that is, small but actual amounts of the active substance. Some people developed side-effects, or got a lot worse before they improved. So he started diluting the remedies, to see how little would still work. He was surprised to find that when the remedies got very dilute, they actually had a better therapeutic effect as well as fewer side-effects.

Dilution of remedies is not a principle of homeopathy. It just makes them work better.

The remedies are now all prepared by the method Dr Hahnemann developed, called ‘potentisation’, which involves ‘serial dilution and succussion’. This means that the remedy is diluted, not by being added to a barrel of water, but a little bit at a time, and shaken thoroughly between stages. This shaking seems important to release the healing effect. Many substances which have no active medicinal qualities in their natural form develop therapeutic value after this potentisation process.

The remedy you are given will have a number that describes how much it has been ‘potentised’. This word is used to show that the remedy has been made, in a sense, ‘stronger’, by going through many dilutions. The higher the number the more potent your remedy. For example, I frequently use ‘12C’ remedies. This is quite a low potency, and is suitable for complaints that are not very deeply seated – such as food poisoning. Or you might be given a 200C, which is a high potency, more suitable for problems affecting the whole system, such as PMT or grief. The ‘C’ means that the remedy has been diluted, one active drop into 99 inactive drops, hence a total of 100, (Latin again – the Romans used ‘C’ to mean 100). The 12 or 200 tells you how often this has been done.

The correct potency for a remedy is something that homeopaths discuss a lot. So I will not confuse you any further – the important thing about a remedy is that it is the right one.

The principles of homeopathy

Homeo = like
Pathy = disease

(These words are from Greek, but again Latin creeps in, in the homeopathic motto –Similia Similibus Curentur, which means ‘let like cure like’)

The remedy must be chosen carefully to match the disease, or the patient with the disease.

Drugs that are prescribed, and bought from a pharmacist, work in a chemical way. They have some type of interaction with either one of the body’s organs or systems, or with an invading germ or parasite.

Remedies prescribed or chosen on the homeopathic principle do not do this. They are thought to work through the body’s energy field, providing information to the body on how to fix itself, or showing the body how to find the original ‘blueprint’ for health. This can be likened to putting a new disc into a computer – as soon as the computer understands the language on the disc it will start to act, and continue responding to those instructions until something intervenes.

A homeopathic remedy taken at random will probably have no effect at all, as it is not homeo –pathic, that is, not like the disease, or not like the patient. Using the computer metaphor, it is not speaking the right language, and this body will ignore it, as though it was only static noise. Remedies taken inappropriately will usually have no effect – so “the worst thing that can happen is nothing”.

Is it herbs?

No, homeopathic medicine is not herbalism. Fewer than half of homeopathy’ remedies are made from plant material, but also, they are chosen and prescribed on totally different principles than those of herbalism. Very many remedies are of mineral or animal origin, and a few are made from other materials, such as bacterial cultures.

Who can homeopathy help?

Almost everybody!

Homeopathic treatment is directed towards the individual patient or client, rather than towards the disease. A list of illnesses would therefore be misleading, as it cannot be exhaustive, and if a condition is not on such a list it does not mean a person with it cannot be helped.

People commonly attend with recurrent respiratory infections; skin problems; menstrual and menopause difficulties; PMS; hayfever; children’s recurrent earaches or asthma; and many emotional problems including unresolved grief. It is also useful in measles, mumps, flu and other viral infections which generally have no conventional cure. Very deeply seated psychiatric complaints such as schizophrenia can be difficult to address, although a person with such a complaint can be helped with her other problems.

Very deeply seated psychiatric complaints such as schizophrenia can be difficult to address, although a person with such a complaint can be helped with her other problems.

It is not necessary to stop conventional medicines when starting homeopathic treatment.

How safe is it?

Homeopathic remedies are very safe. They can be used by day-old babies, by the very elderly or dying, and by pregnant women, without any ill-effects. They do not contain any chemicals, and cannot interfere with other medication, (although other medication may sometimes prevent the homeopathic remedy working) so even people on heavy medications, such as cancer patients or transplant recipients, can benefit from the addition of remedies.

The only way you could cause yourself any trouble with a homeopathic remedy is if you were to take an inappropriate one frequently over a period of time. If you were sensitive to that remedy, you could develop its symptoms, just as Hahnemann did when he took quinine. (See history of homeopathy). So only take your remedy as directed, or for as long as your symptoms persist. It is not necessary to ‘finish the course’.

How to take the remedy, and what to avoid.

You will be given either small round sweet pills, or flat almost flavourless tablets. You will be given your own instructions for the timing of taking the remedy, but both pills and tablets must be sucked, in a clear mouth. As their main action is directly from the mouth, it is helpful to have nothing else in your mouth for about 20 minutes before and after sucking each pill or tablet.

It is not totally forbidden to touch the remedy, but it is better to handle them very little, as they can lose their medicinal value if they are over handled. Do not allow small children to take them into their hands, as they rarely get quickly into little mouths if you do.

Some things can have an antidote effect. The worst is camphor, which will cancel out the homeopathy. This is found in such things as Vapour-rub, and Tiger Balm Chinese remedy. Other smells to avoid are eucalyptus, menthol, and strong peppermint. A tiny amount of toothpaste is usually okay, if the remedy is not taken at the same time.

Coffee can antidote the remedies’ effects in some people. This is not because of the caffeine, so you must avoid decaffeinated coffee too.

All these possible antidotes must be avoided, not just on the days when you are taking your remedy, but until your follow-up visit, as your system is still trying to respond to the remedy for a long time after you actually take it.

What to expect at your visit

A homeopathic consultation is just a long conversation. Expect to be asked all the details of your complaint as it is now, but only a little about its history and other treatments tried. Also I will want to know about you as a person – ‘how you tick’, as this is often very important in choosing a suitable remedy. This may include such things as your favourite foods, how you react to weather, whether you dream, and how you have been affected by various events in your life.

Although formal physical examination plays only a small part in the consultation, I do need to see the actual patient, so it is not possible to prescribe for a person who is not present. This applies particularly to children, who can teach me a lot about themselves just by how they behave in the consulting room!

Fees and Appointments

A first visit takes an hour for all but small babies. The fee is €170, this includes your first follow-up visit, and will include most remedies. Babies of 6 months or less have a half-hour first visit, for €70.

Repeat visits are 30 minutes for all ages, and are €70.

Although it can vary, depending on the age of the patient, and the nature of the complaint, the second visit is generally about 5 weeks after the first one. Homeopathic appointments are available on Thursday and Friday, morning and afternoon.

More about homeopathy, and the Faculty

You can read more on Faculty of Homeopathy