|Photo: Peter Macdiarmid
From the flu to chronic pain, homeopathy has been used to treat a wide range of illnesses in its adherents for hundreds of years.
"I don't really understand how it works, and I really don't care. I just know it does," Rebecca Burbank* of New Orleans says, who has been using homeopathic remedies to ameliorate her mood for the past 18 months. The practitioner who treats Burbank,
Robin C. Myers
of Baton Rouge, La., explains that a correctly chosen homeopathic remedy often provides patients with healing on more than a physical level.
Although the word is now commonplace, many are not familiar with the broad effects of the practice. As Myers explains, it "fully embraces the patient, at all levels, and allows for graceful wellness to become the norm, instead of a faint possibility."
Homeopathic medicine was created more than 200 years ago by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician who did not agree with harsh conventional 18th century medical practices such as bloodletting.
His quest to truly understand the nature of disease and find a scientifically sound methodology of treatment resulted in the system he dubbed "homeopathy," from the Greek word
, meaning similar, and
, or suffering. It is a form of alternative medicine that is widely used today in the U.S., Europe, Japan and India. The practice, though, is not without its skeptics who question its effectiveness and say its benefits have not been verified by scientific and clinical studies.
The deep healing so many proponents speak of comes from the core philosophy of homeopathy: Hahnemann believed that the root cause of acute and chronic diseases lay in a disturbance in a person's vital life force (also known as
in traditional Chinese medicine), and that in order to cure a patient , homeopath needed to take into account all aspects of a patient -- not just their symptoms and complaints -- to find the appropriate rebalancing remedy.
The Law of Similars
Both the medical system of Hahnemann's time and our current system of Western medicine are described as allopathic: diseases and complaints are treated with substances which suppress the symptoms by creating the opposite effect. For example, allopathic medicine often treats arthritis (an inflammatory condition) with an anti-inflammatory drug.
*The name has been changed.