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HOMEOPATHY: THE GENTLE, EFFECTIVE HEALER
A Special Report from New Rootz
The Skinny on Homeopathy
Homeopathy (from the Greek words homeo meaning like or similar, and pathos meaning suffering or disease) is based on several key concepts, one of which is the idea that people possess the energy to heal themselves. In homeopathic circles this energy is called a vital force. (It can be likened to chi [or qi], the life force referred to in traditional Chinese medicine or prana in the Ayurvedic medicine
tradition.) When your vital force is upset or thrown out of balance, your physical and/or mental health suffers. Homeopathic remedies can be used to stimulate your body’s vital force and thus allow you to heal yourself.
The means by which homeopathy helps you heal yourself is the subject of much controversy and debate among the naysayers, skeptics, and ordinary curious onlookers. That’s because homeopathy involves ingesting extremely minute doses of substances which, if taken in larger doses by healthy people, will produce characteristic symptoms of illness. This treatment approach is called “like cures like” or the “Law of Similars,” which is one of the three guiding principles of homeopathy.
For example, if you were to eat the belladonna plant (the plant some say was in the sleeping potion taken by Juliet—but only Shakespeare really knows!), you would experience a throbbing headache, stomach pain, and cramps. If, however, the belladonna plant is used to make a homeopathic remedy, you would take it to treat those very same symptoms. However, you would take only a microscopic amount of the substance. Thus, like cures like.
Less is More
But if you are only ingesting an extremely minute amount of a substance that reportedly has healing abilities, how could it possibly work? That’s where the second guiding principle of homeopathy comes
in: Minimum Dose. The principle of Minimum Dose states that repeatedly diluting a substance increases rather than decreases its potency and thus its ability to heal. This dilution process also eliminates the risk of experiencing side effects from the substance. An explanation of Minimum Dose gives us a chance to share a little history lesson as well. Here goes.
Back in the late 1700s, a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann was disturbed by many of the medical practices of his time. While his colleagues were cutting open blood vessels to drain “bad blood” from patients and administering mercury to clear up congested circulation, Hahnemann was looking for a more gentle approach to healing. His highly adventurous spirit and curiosity lead him to serve as a guinea pig in his own experiments. After reading about cinchona bark, a folk remedy for curing malaria, he ingested some of the bark and noted that he developed symptoms similar to those suffered by people who had malaria. This development led him to think that a substance has the ability to cause symptoms that it can also eliminate. Thus was born the principle of “like cures like.”
Hahnemann was intrigued by his findings, so he conducted more experiments on himself using various undiluted substances. He also was curious about what effect dilution would have on the potency of these substances, so he recruited healthy volunteers for more experiments and used diluted formulas. Over time he combined his knowledge of herbs and medicine, information from his practice, and the results of his experiments to come up with what eventually became known as the gentle, homeopathic approach to healing.
The Success of Succuss
What Hahnemann discovered during the years he spent giving birth to homeopathy was that less is more: that diluting a substance, a process called “potentization,” makes a remedy more effective rather than less while also eliminating any toxicity from the remedy. To begin the process of potentization, you need a pure sample of the substance, whether it be a mineral salt, a tincture of a plant, or an animal part. Let’s say you have a tincture of red onion (Allium cepa) and you want to prepare a remedy at 6X potency. The number refers to the number of dilutions you will conduct with the tincture, while the letter refers to the proportions used in each dilution and the number of succussions (vigorous shaking actions) you will do during each stage of the process. The Roman numeral “X” means 10 and “C” means 100.
To prepare the remedy, you take one part of the Allium cepa tincture and combine it with nine parts of a carrier liquid (water or alcohol) and succuss it ten times, which results in a 2X solution. Repeat this process four more times for a total of six dilutions and succussions. The result is a 6X potency of Allium cepa. If, however, you wanted to make a 30C remedy, you would take one part of the tincture and combine it with 99 parts of water or alcohol and succuss it 100 times for a total of 30 steps. The resulting solution can then be used to medicate pills, powders, or tablets, or it can be taken as a liquid.
What Hahnemann found—as we mentioned previously–is that the more dilutions and succussions a substance undergoes, the greater the potency of the remedy—the principle of Minimum Dose. Now here’s the part that really drives skeptics crazy: Homeopathic remedies with a potency greater than 12C no longer have any measurable amount of the original substance in it, yet homeopaths say that such remedies are even more powerful than less diluted remedies. Even though experts do not completely understand why such remedies are effective, meticulous observations and research indicate that the answer is energy. Investigators theorize that during the potentization process, the chosen substance and the medium in which it exists undergo a change in energy level, and that change prompts the body to rev up its self-healing processes. Essentially what exists in the remedy is not a hard, physical element but the “memory” or “energy” of the element, and that’s what makes the remedy work.
This is not a farfetched idea. Although experts from the conventional medicine side of the fence are familiar with evaluating the chemical actions that drugs have on the body, they also know that nonchemical forces such as electricity and radiation, which are forms of energy, also have an impact on the body. Indeed, studies also show that other forms of energy therapy, such as therapeutic touch, electromagnetic energy, and reiki, have healing effects .(4) Therefore, it is certainly reasonable to consider that the energy emitted by homeopathic remedies have an impact on the body as well.
The Principles of Homeopathy
Homeopathy is based on three major guiding principles that separate it from conventional medicine. They are:
• Law of Similars. Also known as “like cures like,” this principle
states that ingesting extremely small amounts of substances will, if taken in larger doses by healthy people, produce characteristic symptoms of the illness you want to treat. For example, if you eat a red onion (Allium cepa), your eyes will tear, which is a symptom of allergy. Allium cepa is one of many homeopathic remedies for allergy.
• Minimum Dose. Of the three principles, this is the one that usually
fires up the skeptics. This “less is more” principle states that repeatedly diluting a substance increases rather than decreases its potency and thus its ability to heal or reduce symptoms. (Read more about this under “What the Allernone Label Means.”) This process also eliminates the risk of experiencing side effects from the substance.
• Whole-Person Prescribing. This concept states that selection of a
remedy should be based on a person’s overall physical, mental, emotional, and social makeup. If you go to a professional homeopath, he or she will ask you many questions to uncover what makes you tick: for example, questions about your hobbies, favorite and least favorite foods, what makes you sad or angry, how you feel physically. All of your answers are important because they help homeopaths choose the most appropriate remedy for you.
What the Allernone Label Means
If you look at the Allernone label, you will see “12X” next to each group of related ingredients. This refers to the remedy’s potency. Here’s how it works.
The “less is more” principle involves diluting a substance, a process called “potentization.” To begin the process of potentization, you need a pure sample of a substance: in the case of Allernone, the substances include various plants, bacteria, and household irritants. Let’s say you have a tincture of American elm (Ulmus americana) and you want to prepare a remedy at 12X potency. The number refers to the number of times you will dilute the tincture, while the letter refers to the proportions used in each dilution and the number of succussions (vigorous shaking actions) you will do during each stage of the process. The Roman numeral “X” means 10.
To make a 12X remedy that contains American elm, you would take one part Ulmus americana tincture and combine it with nine parts of a carrier liquid (water or alcohol) and succuss it ten times, which results in a 2X solution. Repeat this process for a total of 12 dilutions and succussions, and the result is a 12X potency of Ulmus americana, as is found in Allernone.
The part that drives skeptics crazy is that even though homeopathic remedies have only a minute amount of the original substance—or indeed, no measurable amount at all—they have been found to be very effective in relieving symptoms. Experts do not completely understand why such remedies are effective, but meticulous research indicates that the answer is energy. Scientists theorize that during succussion, the substance and the medium in which it exists undergo a change in energy level, and that change prompts the body to rev up its self-healing processes. In other words, the energy contained within the remedy stimulates healing.
This is not a farfetched idea. Experts from the conventional medicine camp know that while drugs cause chemical actions in the body, nonchemical forces, such as electricity and radiation, have an impact as well. Studies show, for example, other forms of energy therapy, such as therapeutic touch, electromagnetic energy, and reiki, have healing effects.(1) Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that the energy emitted by homeopathic remedies can impact the body as well. Are you up for the positive energy of homeopathy? Are you ready to chase your allergy symptoms away?
Studies on Homeopathy
“Homeopathy isn’t real medicine. Don’t waste your time.” “Homeopathy? I don’t understand it so I don’t trust it.” “My doctor told me homeopathy doesn’t work.”
Do these comments sound familiar? Maybe you’ve made similar ones yourself. Perhaps you’re among the skeptical or downright nonbelievers in homeopathy. But the truth is, millions of people around the world have and continue to get relief from homeopathic remedies every day. Although the stories about these people do not get written up for medical journals or get reported on television or in newspapers or magazines, that doesn’t make them any less real or dramatic.
A few do get reported. Consider the 147 cases of respiratory allergies reported in the April 2006 issue of Homeopathy. The researcher noted that there were 105 cases of ear, nose, and throat allergies, and only two of the cases had no improvement after being treated with homeopathic remedies. Among the 42 cases of pulmonary allergies, three patients did not improve after treatment, and two got worse. Overall, then, homeopathic treatment was successful in 87.6 percent of the cases .(1)
Or consider the more than 200 children with stomach spasms and cramps who were treated with homeopathic remedies. The remedies were effective and well tolerated by the children, who got relieve from spasms, sleep disturbances, eating difficulties, and stomach cramps, and the researchers concluded that the homeopathic therapy was an effective alternative to conventional medicine for these children.(2)
And then there are the 113 adults with acute maxillary sinusitis who underwent a 22-day, double-blind trial. Half were treated with a homeopathic remedy and the other half received a placebo. By the end of the study, 68 percent of the treated patients were symptom-free compared with only 9 percent of the patients who had received
The list of success stories goes on and on. Oh, and did we mention that tens of millions of people in Europe depend on homeopathy for their medical care, or that the most popular hay fever drug in Germany, and the most common cold and flu medicine in France, are homeopathic remedies?
To see what the FDA has to say about Homeopathy please go to http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/096_home.html