A homeopathy definition goes something like this. If you take someone fit and healthy and give them a poison, they’ll produce symptoms.
If the poison is dangerous, they might die, of course, but lots of lesser poisons are encountered every day. We don’t die from them! We just produce symptoms, from which we later recover.
Poisons? Homoeopathic? Examples?
Coffee shows how it works
After a strong coffee on an empty stomach, what happens to most people who aren’t used to it?
Here’s what happens to me, at any rate, and in one form or another, to many others like me. But you might not get ALL the symptoms.
Nerves become excitable;
You feel extra aware – your senses become more acute;
You feel ‘wired’: lively, awake, reactive, jittery, a bit hyper;
Then you become more sensitive to noise, touch, odours;
You feel more powerful; able to do anything – Superman! Coffee’s primary action in Chinese medicine is often to move Qi. Qi stagnation is a major problem, about which I’ve written a book (‘Qi Stagnation – Signs of Stress‘). Coffee seems to increase Yang energy (though there’s a price to pay for this, see coffee) but can make symptoms of Qi stagnation worse.
You feel hungrier. Often you want to eat foods that you know don’t suit you or even those that are bad for you.
You may find your bowels move more easily, and you may even get diarrhoea
Your sleep is disturbed, sometimes for several nights. Often you feel restless and cannot get to sleep from the rush of ideas. Or you wake often, from minor sounds.
You may get a mild headache, or notice noises in your ears.
As the symptoms wear off, you feel tired, mildly irritable and want another coffee!
Those are just a few of the symptoms you might get!
By the way, you may not agree that coffee is a poison! But apart from its stimulating effect, it carries no nutrition. Of course, we often take it with milk in which case the nutrition comes from the milk, not from the coffee. On its own, it just stimulates, forcing your adrenal glands to pump out adrenalin, making you hyper.
The primaryaction of the coffee was stimulating. Its secondary action was deflating. But it’s the primary action that we’re interested in.
Now suppose that someone who had never taken coffee came for homoeopathic treatment for symptoms like those listed above.
According to the homeopathy definition, the symptoms produced by coffee would match the symptoms reported by the patient.
If so, coffee would be the homeopathic ‘remedy’. (The word ‘remedy’ is used to denote the homoeopathic medicine. It seems, somehow, a friendlier word.)
So what’s the homeopathy definition?
A homeopathy definition
The basic homeopathy definition is called the ‘law of similars’.
That means, to cure your symptoms, take something that would produce something like them.
Note the word ‘similars’. This means ‘like’, not exactly the same. Otherwise, if you got the above coffee symptoms from taking a strong coffee, you’d expect to get rid of them by taking more coffee!
A second part to the definition
Less important than the law of similars, but still important as part of the homeopathy definition, is what is called the minimum dose.
The Minimum Dose
This means that you should only give enough to stimulate change in the right direction. In other words, don’t keep taking the medicine until you are sure you need it again.
We aren’t used to this in Western medicine. For a pain, you’d continue to take the painkiller until the pain went away.
But in homoeopathy, with the minimum dose and the law of similars, you’d take only just enough to start your body mending itself, so that it got rid of the symptoms itself.
This important principle was first expressed by Samuel Hahnemann, who discovered homoeopathy. He wrote the ‘Organon of Medicine‘ in which he explained his ideas about health and treatment. They were far in advance of medical thinking of his day in many ways. For example, he regarded hygiene, living conditions and food as very important for health.
On the question of food, he pointed out that changes in likes and dislikes often occur during illness and these changes can help identify the correct treatment. Chinese medicine and Five Elements acupuncture theory also have this and go into the whole question of nutrition in even more detail.
But it is really on the question of minimum dose that science parts company with Hahnemann. People cannot accept that the minute doses given produce measurable effects. For more on this see our page on homoeopathic research.
There’s more on this below.
This can mean that some patients sometimes need to take just one dose of the homeopathic remedy, once. Just one dose: if that is enough to get your body to make whatever changes are necessary to get better, why take more?
It sometimes also means, that if you’ve taken many medicines for your symptoms over the years, or had surgery for them, you may get what is called an ‘aggravation‘ after taking the correct remedy.
An aggravation happens after you take the remedy, when you get a flare-up of your symptoms, inexplicable in any way except as having been caused by taking the remedy.
Not everyone gets aggravations.
If you do get one, it usually means the remedy was correct. Aggravations don’t last long, usually just a few minutes or hours. If you can, put up with them and try not to take anything to antidote them.
Of course, if to make your living you have to perform and the aggravation is preventing that, then you must take whatever medicine you’ve been prescribed by your doctor. But keep a note of what happened.
If the aggravation is bad, ring your homoeopath.
So that is the second part of the homeopathy definition.
The Minimum Dose is the Problem!
Why is the minimum dose a problem?
Because in an effort to reduce the physical effects of taking a poison, Hahnemann (see picture) and his successors diluted the remedy.
Samuel Hahnemann 1755-1843
They found that by diluting the remedy again and again, between very solidly shaking it (in a glass vial, of course, and the shaking was actually hitting it firmly on a big book, like a bible, a process known as ‘succussing’), although it reduced its purely poisonous chemical effects, the ability of the remedy to heal was enhanced.
They did this so much that they ran out of any traces of the original medicine from which the remedy was derived!
Because of such high dilutions in water, to the point where no trace of the original remained, most modern scientists can’t believe the remedy has any beneficial qualities.
Why, they argue, should water have any effect?
It’s a good point, and until recently homeopaths didn’t know. There may now be perhaps a glimmer of an answer.
However, many homeopaths use dilutions which, whilst safe, DO include some traces of the original material.
Like people, homoeopaths vary. Speaking for myself, I have had remarkable results using both high and low dilutions. If people suggest that my results are due to the action of placebo, I merely say that when I give homoeopathic ‘placebos’ – ie homoeopathic remedies – I seem to get better results than when the ‘placebo’ is not homoeopathic.
In other words, when the remedy has been individualised to the patient in question. What does individualised mean? Read on!
But, and it’s a big BUT, the remedy must be individualised to the patient:
Just giving the same remedy to lots of people with a given illness won’t work. Each of them must be carefully assessed, their case history taken and considered, and the appropriate homoeopathic remedy for that individual given in the right potency and dose.
And sometimes I’m wrong in one of those three variables and need to think again. That it doesn’t get a patient right immediately doesn’t mean homoeopathy doesn’t work!
The volume has well over 1000 pages and I was clueless!
Later I attended a lecture on gynaecological problems and acupuncture theory given by Kathy Boisen, I think, who – almost as an aside – said if she were starting again she’d study homoeopathy rather than Chinese medicine.
So – alongside my studies in acupuncture – I studied at the College of Homoeopathy in London for their qualification. I’ve used homoeopathy ever since. For some years I saw far more patients for homoeopathic treatment than for acupuncture and Chinese medicine. I’ve learned to appreciate their different strengths. Knowing both has often helped me recognise symptom pictures and broadened my ability to treat successfully.
Children and their parents often prefer homoeopathic remedies. For a start they consist of small ‘sugar’- like pills. Much nicer than needles!
However, reaching the correct – ‘homoeopathic’ – remedy for someone can take a lot of work. This work is done behind the scenes after the patient has gone. Sometimes it takes just a few minutes. Sometimes it takes hours, possibly including further calls with the patient. Few homoeopaths become rich, but then they don’t usually study it with that aim.
After the patient takes the remedy, he or she needs to take careful notes of changes because these help the homoeopath decide on the correct next treatment, or whether to wait.
So patient education is important, otherwise as changes occur the patient may revert to previous medical suppressive measures, not understanding that recurrence of old symptoms can mean the body is responding well.
Homoeopathy’s ‘Constitutional’ remedy and the Five Elements School of Acupuncture
The first acupuncture college I attended, and from which I duly graduated, was set up by an Englishman, Jack Worsley. He developed his concept of the ‘causative factor’ from the homoeopathic idea of a ‘constitutional’ remedy. This remedy is like Polaris (Alpha Ursae Minoris) which is aligned with the axis of the Earth. If you know in which direction this lies and where you are, you can work out in which direction to go.
The constitutional remedy stimulates your body at a deep level to start making changes from the inside-out, and can gradually influence every part of your body towards health. Finding it is not always easy, and often impossible within the time-frame available in an acute homoeopathic clinic. However, many homoeopaths regard it as the Holy Grail of their work. Knowing when to give the constitutional remedy and at what potency can transform lives.
Just so for what Jack Worsley conceived of as the ‘causative factor’ which his Five Elements acupuncturists use. It comes down to the zangfu organ in one of the Five Elements that may have been out of balance since birth or soon after. In fact it goes further, and can be a specific yuan-source point on the acupuncture channel of that organ.