An Introduction – Homeopathy
Homoeopathy is a holistic medicine which uses animal, vegetable and mineral preparatios to cure a person’s illness. Its philosophy is to treat “like” with “like” to heal a person. It can help simple ailments like colds and diarrhea and more serious conditions such as fibrosis and psoriasis.
What is Homeopathy ?
This is a form of medicine that treats the body as a whole and helps it to heal itself. The treatment works for acute (short-term) illnesses and chronic (long-term) ailments and the aim is to prevent illness as well as treat it. The name homeopathy comes from the Greek word “homios” meaning like and “pathos” meaning suffering. Homeopathy simply means treating like with like.
In practice, this means a substance that causes symptoms of illness in a well person can also cure similar symptoms when they result from illness. This view is the opposite of conventional or “allopathic” medicine which treats illness with an antidote rather that a similar substance. For example, an allopatic doctor would treat diarrhea with a substance that causes constipation, while a homeopath or homeopathic doctor would treat it with a minute dose of a substance that actually cause diarrhea if given in a larger dose.
The minute substance used in treatment are called homeopathic remedies. These remedies are prescribed for the person and how they are reacting to the ailment, not just the disease. A remedy is not homeopathic because it is prescribed by a homeopath, but because it matches the patient’s condition. There are over 2000 homeopathic remedies that are usually referred to by their abbreviated name, for example, Argentum nitricum is known as Arg nit. In addition to homepathic remedies, homeopaths (and other therapists such as medical herbalists), also prescribe tissue salts.
Biochemic tissue salts are homeopathically preparated ingredient which were introduced at the end of the 19th century by a German doctor, Wilhelm Schussler. He believed that many diseases were caused by a deficiency of one or more of 12 vital minerals, and that a deficiency in each salt would manifest itself as specific symptoms. Lack of Calcera phosphorica (Cal phos), for example, would show up as teeth problems or an inability to absorb nutrients properly, while lack of magnesium phosphate (Mag phos) would affect nerve endings and muscles. He replaced the missing mineral with a minute dose of the tissue salt to correct the problem.
Tissue salts are prepared from mineral sources, but homeopathic remedies are made from animal, vegetable and mineral sources. These can be as exotic as snake’s venom, or as common as onions, but they are all diluted to such an extent that there can be no possible side-effects from even the most toxic substances. Extracts of the natural ingredient are dissolved in a mix of alcohol and water and left to stand for two-four weeks. During this time they are shaken occassionally and then strained. The strained solution is known as the mother tincture. The mother tincutre is then diluted to make the different potencies. Dillutions are measured according to either the decimal (x), centisimal (c) or millesimal (M) scale. On the decimal scale the remedies are diluted to the ration 1:10, on the centisimal scale it is 1:100 and on the millesimal scale it is 1:1000.
Between every dilution the remedy is shaken vigorously. To produce a 1c (one hundredth) dilution, one drop of the mother tincture is added to 99 drops of an alcohol and water mix and then shaken. To produce a 6c (six hundredth) potency, this happens six times, each time the one drop is shaken from the previously shaken solution. By the time it is diluted to the 12c (tweleve hundredth) potency, it is unlikely that any of the original ingredient remains. This is often the reason why skeptics are so reluctant to believe that homeopathic remedies can really work. Finally, these drops are added to tiny lactose (milk sugar) tablets, pillules, grannuels or powder and stored in a dark colored bottle.
Which problems can it help ?
It is probably fair to say that homeopathy works well for everything, but doesn’t work for everyone. Minor ailments such as colds, constipation, vomiting and diarrhea respond well. With more serious conditions, it can help rheumatoid arthritis, fibrosistis and psoriasis. Because a homeopathy remedy stimulates your body to heal itself, it will help recetify emotional, mental or physical complaints, but some people respond better than others.
Is it safe ?
Homeopathy remedies are so diluted that they are safe for everyone to take, from babies, to pregnant women and the elderly. Even if a child were to swallow a bottle of pills, he would suffer nothing more than a little diarrhea from the effects of the lactose. However, as with all medicines, take the remedies only as long as you need to. You can happily take homeopathic medicine while receiving conventional treatment although some chemical drugs may affect their action.
Clinical Studies –
Homeopathy has been shown in several clinical studies to be effective in treative many types of ailments and illnesses and various skin complaints.
A study was carried out at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1994 by a multidisciplinary team led by Dr. Reilly which assessed the effects of homeopathy or a placebo on 28 asthmatic patients allergic to dust mites. After one week’s treatment, nine out of the 11 patients being given homeopathy improved, compared to only five of the 17 placebo patients. Severe asthmatic conditions responded best to the remedies that were given. The effects of one week’s homeopathic treatment lasted up to eight weeks and improvements continued for all patients.
In another trial, Dr. Schawb Alenavia used a sulphur homeopahtic remedy plus a placebo to treat patients suffering from dermatological complaints.
In two trials 26 patients took the homeopathic remedy or a placebo. Around 50 percent of the subjects reacted to the homeopathic treatment and none to the placebo. Typical reactions were an aggravation of the skin conditions with some patients experiencing symptoms characteristic of sulphur 0 diarrhea, thirst, itching and heat sensitivity. The skin complaints then started to get better, with 58 percent of the patients experiencing permanent improvements. Those patients with the worst conditions showed the best recoveries.
In a trial in Verona, Italy, in 1991, 60 migrants sufferers were randomly divided into groups receiving treatment or just a placebo. The groups were compared to ensure that they had similar characteristics. Two different remedies were chosen for each patient from belladonna, ignatia, lachesis, silicea, gelsemium, cyclamen, Natrium muriaticum and sulphur according to the subject’s individual reaction and needs.
The subjects were given a 30c potency dose four times over a two-week period. While the placebo group showed a slight drop in migraine attacks, the treatment group’s average dropped frm ten to three per month after two months, going down to 1.8 after four months. The length and intensity of attacks also improved.