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Why Homeopathy Works

Updated on March 6, 2010
Homeopathic medicine
Homeopathic medicine

To some, homeopathic medicine is a lifesaver, to others, quackery. Personally, I am not sure how efficacious this approach to health actually is, but I am quite certain that in theory, it could work. This hub is an attempt to show the reasoning behind the apparent logical fallacies of this practice and clear up some common misunderstandings.

But first, a little history.

Samuel Hahnemann, founder of homeopathy
Samuel Hahnemann, founder of homeopathy

The theory of homeopathic medicine was discovered by a physician named Samuel Hahnemann. This doctor felt that he could not practice, due to the harm caused by the medical practice of his day, because of the Hippocratic oath he had taken. He worked instead as a translator of medical volumes. While translating a German book on medicine, he came across a cure for malaria, which he found dubious. He ingested some of the remedy, Peruvian bark, which contains quinine, and found that he began to come down with the symptoms of malaria. Thus was born his theory, the Law of Similars. The substance which causes certain symptoms in a healthy person, can also cause the healing of a sick person exhibiting those same symptoms. From this he proceeded to experiment with other substances, noting their every effect, both physical and emotional, in great detail. These were called "provings". Hahnemann desired that his medicine be entirely safe and without the dangerous side effects caused by most drugs, so he experimented with greatly diluted doses. These were prepared, not by simply shaking the solution to mix it, but by striking it many times against a solid object, a practice called succussion. In this way, it is theorized that the electromagnetic imprint of the original substance is retained in the water molecules of the dilution, even if no chemical trace can be found. The end result of these serial dilutions was a solution with higher potency and no side effects.

Homeopathic substance
Homeopathic substance

Before dismissing the apparent logical fallacies in this theory, let's first reexamine the way we have been conditioned to view medicine.

When symptoms of illness begin to appear, our first impulse is to take something to suppress those symptoms. Thus the remedy superimposes itself upon the body's own systems. In order to do this effectively, it must overcome the body's instinctive action. If the body resists, a stronger dose is needed. Whether we take an anti-inflammatory for a headache or an anti-histamine for a runny nose, we are working against what our bodies are trying to do to heal themselves.

But what if a remedy could be found that works alongside our bodies? Instead of hampering it's own ability to heal itself, it merely aided that healing through a gentle form of communication relative to the area needing attention? This is precisely why a diluted substance could prove more effective than a stronger one with negative side effects.

What about the Law of Similars? How could a substance that, in it's undiluted state, cause symptoms in a healthy person, and yet in it's diluted state, assist the healing of those same symptoms in a sick person? Suppose you had a piece of dust stuck in your nostril. Your body will immediately try to expel it through sneezing. The modern, medical approach would prescribe an antihistamine to try and stop the sneezing. But it doesn't address the real problem. What the homeopathic approach would suggest is to take the stereotypical feather and give the nose a little tickle, not a painful jab, but a little tickle just at the right spot, letting the body know precisely where to secrete a bit of extra liquid to dislodge the offending speck. Homeopathic medicine works the same way. It gently provokes the body to react in the proper way to bring about it's own healing.

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