Homeopathy is classified as a comprehensive healing system that is not embedded in a world culture. The techniques of homeopathy are both nutriceutical and energy based.
Homeopathy originated primarily as the discovery of one man, Samuel Hahnemann. He was a German physician in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that rejected the conventional medical practices of his time such as bloodletting and the medicinal use of various toxic agents. Curious about the curative properties of cinchona bark for malaria, he experimented with it on himself and discovered that it produced a malaria-like illness in him. He concluded that such symptoms represented resistance to disease and that substances producing certain symptoms or effects in normal individuals would be effective in treating diseases that caused those same symptoms.54 This led to the "doctrine of similars'' or "like cures like.'' Hahnemann carried out innumerable "provings'' on himself and others using hundreds of substances including botanical, animal, and mineral extracts. He developed the Materia Medica, a text of remedies that identified the substances and their associated effects. Many remedies were noxious and themselves toxic. Repeated dilutions would reduce the toxicity and apparently preserved and even increased the curative effect. This concept, called "potentization by dilution,'' is central to homeopathic practice and puzzling to the scientific mind. Typical dilutions of remedies are designated 2X, 6X, 12X, 30c, 200c, 1000c, 10,000c, and 50,000c. 2X refers to a dilution of 1:102; 6X is a dilution of 1:106 and so on. 30c is a 1:10030 dilution. Substances that are diluted beyond 1:1024 result in a liquid without a single molecule of the original substance since the number of dilutions exceeds Avogadro's number. Such dilutions are common in homeopathy and impart some confidence in the safety and tolerability of the remedy. How such a liquid can exert a healing property forms the basis of homeopathy theory.
Substances are believed to contain an essential energetic property that is not diluted out, but increases with successive dilutions. It is this energy or essence that strengthens the body's defenses against an illness. The preparation of remedies involves dilution and "succus-sion'' or shaking the diluent vigorously to release or increase its energy. The potency of a remedy is determined both by the number of dilutions and the number
The homeopathic physician must take a different kind of history from the patient than an allopathic physician would. The homeopathic history is a detailed inquiry into the symptom complex and the environment and mind of the patient with respect to the symptoms. The purpose of this is to individualize the selection of remedies to match the symptoms. Classification of diseases and pathophysiology are not as important as the nature of the symptoms. Thus, diabetic neuropathy is not as relevant to a homeopathic assessment as burning, sensitive skin, interference with sleep, etc. This construct becomes useful to the allopathic practitioner, particularly when the pathophysiology of symptoms, such as chronic pain, may be obscure.
Homeopathy is widely practiced in Europe, India, and Asia. It has a growing popularity in the United States as a complementary and alternative therapy, but was systematically excluded and obstructed by the American Medical Association in the early 1900s.56 Forty percent of general practitioners in the Netherlands practice homeopathy and 42 percent of general practitioners in Britain refer patients to homeopaths.57
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