Let's look at an example: If your child accidentally ingests certain poisons, you may be advised to administer Syrup of Ipecac to induce vomiting. Ipecac is derived from the root of a South American plant called Ipecacuanha. The name, in the native language, means "the plant by the road that makes you throw up." Eating the plant causes vomiting.
Homoeopathy was discovered by the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, over 200 years ago. Hahnemann observed that there were therapeutic substances (i.e., used in the treatment of disease) which, when given in small doses to a healthy person, produced symptoms similar to the disease itself. As he explored this phenomenon, he developed a theory which is still the foundation of Homoeopathy today: "Similia Similibus Curentur" or "Like Cures Like," also known as the Law of Similar. Further experimentation and research by Hahnemann seemed to indicate that the smaller the dose, the stronger the effect - a counterintuitive finding which still puzzles physicians and researchers today. (It is thought by some to resemble the immunization process, but there are several other theories being postulated.)
Homoeopathy was brought to the United States in the 1820s, and in 1835 the first Homoeopathic college was founded. Although it was not successful, the spread of Homoeopathy was dramatic through the rest of the 19th century. Estimates of usage by the end of the century indicate 10% of all American physicians used Homoeopathy in practice, and there were more than 20 Homoeopathic medical schools (as well as courses offered in many regular medical schools).
Even as Homoeopathy reached its historic peak in the U.S. a hundred years ago, developments were already under way which would almost wipe it out by 1950. Chief among these was the successful effort by the American Medical Association to force medical schools into a uniform approach to teaching medicine, and state laws into a relatively uniform (and monopolistic) approach to practice. Schools which did not conform, were unable to survive. Another factor was the appearance of miracle drugs, making huge advances in treatment, in anesthesia and in antisepsis. It seemed for a good many decades in mid-20th century that we were on our way to discovering cures for everything. Many natural medicine alternatives declined (Homoeopathy, naturopathy, midwifery, herbalism, hydrotherapy and others) and their practitioners were harassed and suppressed.
Slowly but inexorably, the awareness spread through professional and consumer groups alike that heroic interventions such as drugs, surgery and radiation, while immensely valuable, are not panaceas. In addition, voluminous information began to accumulate about the cascade of conditions and illnesses that are side effects of their use. Consumers began to look for gentler, less toxic ways of treating all those ailments from which civilizations still suffer. Thus was born the current renaissance of natural health care; Homoeopathy has experienced a substantial rebirth in the last 20 years, and continues to grow rapidly today.
When a group of healthy volunteers took this substance to determine the effects of this drug, they found that the drug induced other symptoms as well. The mouth retained much saliva. The tongue was very clean. There was a cough so severe that it led to gagging and vomiting. There was incessant nausea. While it is expected that vomiting would usually relieve the nausea, this was not the case. Such an experiment, using healthy volunteers, is called a proving, and it is the homeopath's source of information about the action of a drug.
Of what use could this plant be? If a person were suffering from a gagging cough after a cold, or a woman were experiencing morning sickness with incessant nausea that is not relieved by vomiting, then Ipecacuanha, administered in a minute dose, especially prepared by a Homoeopathic pharmacy in accordance with FDA approved guidelines, can allay the "similar" suffering. Samuel Hahnemann described this principle by using a Latin phrase: Similia Similibus Curentur, which translates: "Let likes cure likes." It is a principle that has been known for centuries. Hahnemann developed the principle into a system of medicine called Homoeopathy, and it has been used successfully for the last 200 years.
Scope of practice
Homoeopathy does not have a well-defined legal scope of practice because practitioners in many different professions use it, and there are no uniform educational standards. Practitioners are usually able to adapt their clinical approach to the scope of practice permitted by their own discipline and regulatory environment. Homoeopathy is also practiced by lay homeopaths, who are often self-taught or minimally trained, and who do not hold a health care license of any kind. Homoeopathy does have a core philosophy and established methods (see Philosophy below), which because they don't closely resemble conventional medicine, can be interpreted to mean it is or is not the practice of medicine. Both interpretations have been applied by states, and there are still variations in state laws, which refer to Homoeopathy.
In the United States today, consumers may find lay homeopaths, physicians (medical, osteopathic and naturopathic), nurses, dentists, chiropractors, and many others offering Homoeopathy. Consumers should understand that there may be a wide range in training and expertise among practitioners, and the burden rests on each consumer to investigate a practitioner's background to his or her satisfaction. If you choose a practitioner who has a health care license, that person will be bound to the scope of practice established by that licensing law.
The Food and Drug Administration classify Homoeopathic medicines, which may be produced from plants, animals, minerals and other substances, as drugs. Although most are available over the counter, there are a few (those using disease materials or controlled substances) which are available only by prescription. The Homoeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States was incorporated into federal law in 1938, making the manufacture and sale of Homoeopathic medicines legal in this country, and prescribing accepted manufacturing standards. Today, there are more than 2000 remedies, and new ones are still being identified.
Although the "like cures like" philosophy of Homoeopathy and the inverse relationship between dilution of the remedy and treatment effect are still poorly understood by scientists and practitioners at the theoretical level, there is a growing body of research to demonstrate the philosophy's validity. In addition to the Law of Similar, there are other important philosophic principles. Homoeopathy falls into the vitalist tradition of health care - meaning that practitioners have a belief in the "vis medicatrix naturae," or the healing power of nature. Homeopaths believe that their remedies strengthen and activate the body's own innate healing capacity, which is what finally accomplishes the cure. Homeopaths also believe that prescribing the correct remedy relies on understanding the totality of a person's symptoms not just those that appear to be directly related to the disease. In other words, this is also a holistic discipline, whose adherents believe that each individual forms a unique, whole being, and that the whole person must be treated to create optimal health. Homoeopathy's aim is the cure: "The complete restoration of perfect health," as Dr. Hahnemann said.
There are only three states which directly regulate Homoeopathy: Arizona, Connecticut and Nevada; in these states MDs practicing Homoeopathy must be licensed by the state Homoeopathic licensing board (and other providers must have it included in their legislated scope of practice). In those jurisdictions where naturopathic physicians are licensed, Homoeopathy is included in their scope of practice. Other professions and practitioners must determine whether or not Homoeopathy is permitted within their existing scope of practice; judging by the rapidly growing number of schools and practitioners, it appears that most health care practitioners are finding it possible to add Homoeopathy to their clinical practice without incurring regulatory problems. Still it is always wise for the consumer to ask what the regulatory situation is for a given practitioner, and it is imperative that you ask about training, because in the absence of state laws, education and credentialing are important elements in ensuring accountability.
Education and credentialing
Naturopathic physicians are the only practitioners today who undergo formal, medical school training in Homoeopathy as part of their standard didactic and clinical curriculum; Homoeopathy has been included in their scope of practice in every state where they are licensed since the early 1900s. Other than this one field with a continuous, well-established standard, it's open season. There is an astonishing array of programs and schools, for lay people, physicians and a whole range of other practitioners, both here in the U.S. and abroad.
The Council on Homoeopathic Education (CHE) was formed in 1982 to monitor and approve the quality of courses offered for licensed professionals; the agency is currently preparing itself to apply for federal recognition as an accrediting agency. It publishes a list of schools which are recognized and those which are in the process of obtaining recognition.
There are several certification boards of Homoeopathic practitioners: Council on Homoeopathic Certification (CHC), North American Society of Homeopaths (NASH), American Board of Homeotherapeutics, Homoeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians (HANP), and National Board of Homoeopathic Examiners. A practitioner who is serious about offering a high level of expertise in Homoeopathy should have obtained significant advanced training, and probably some form of certification as well.
What is Homoeopathy?
The word 'Homoeopathy' is derived from two Greek words, 'Homois' mean similar and 'pathos' mean suffering. Homoeopathy simply means treating diseases with remedies, prescribed in minute doses, which are capable of producing symptoms similar to the disease when taken by healthy people. It is based on the natural law of healing-"Similia Similibus Curantur" which means "likes are cured by likes".
Over 200 years ago, the German physician Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) discovered the principle that what substance could cause in the way of symptoms it could also cure.
Hahnemann was struck by the effect that certain drugs, when taken by him while quite healthy, produced symptoms that the drug was known to cure in sick persons. For instance, when he took Cinchona Bark, which contains quinine, he became ill with symptoms that exactly mimicked intermittent fever (now called malaria). He wondered if the reason Cinchona worked against intermittent fever was because it caused symptoms indistinguishable from intermittent fever in a healthy human.
Hahnemann continued to experiment, noting that every substance he took, whether a herb, a mineral product or a chemical compound, produced definite distinct symptoms in him. He further noted that no two substances produced exactly the same set of symptoms. Each provoked its own unique pattern of symptoms. Furthermore the symptoms were not just confined to the physical plane. Every substance tested also affected the mind and the emotions apart from the body.
Eventually, Hahnemann began to treat the sick on the formula 'let likes be treated by likes'. From the outset he achieved outstanding clinical success.
Concepts and Principle
Law of Similar
It is also called the Law of Cure. This law demonstrates that the selected remedy is able to produce a range of symptoms in a healthy person similar to that observed in the patient, thus leading to the principle of Simila Similibus Curentur i.e. let likes be treated by likes. To give a simple example the effects of peeling an onion are very similar to the symptoms of acute cold. The remedy prepared from the red onion, Allium cepa, is used to treat the type of cold in which the symptoms resemble those we get from peeling onion. The principle has verified by millions of homeopaths all over the world.