The system of homeopathy
was founded at the turn of the nineteenth century by a German pharmacist
named Samuel Hahnemann, who abhorred the drastic healing practices of
the time, such as bloodletting. Experimenting on himself, he discovered
that cinchona bark (from which the anti-malarial quinine is made) would
induce in him – a healthy person – the same symptoms it
would cure in a sick person. This principle became known as the law
of similars, or ‘like cures like’.
are tailored to the symptoms and the patient, rather than an illness,
so patients with the same illness but different symptoms will be treated
with different remedies. Using extremely small doses of plant and mineral
extracts (a ‘microdose’), the remedies are given in sugar-based
tablets that are taken by melting under the tongue.
Homeopathy is mainly used to treat chronic conditions such as asthma, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, eczema, irritable bowel syndrome, ME and repeated infections, as well as patients who are unwell but whose doctor can’t find a specific problem. Some allergies also respond well to homeopathy, particularly hay fever and related pollen allergies. Homeopathy is useful for patients who do not tolerate the side effects of conventional treatment well, and as it is such a gentle treatment children are also commonly treated.
A homeopath will take a detailed medical history, as well as details about the patient’s eating, sleep and work patterns in order to choose a suitable remedy. A follow up consultation will usually be required, and the homeopath will want to know any changes that the patient notices. Sometimes patients may have flu-like symptoms, a discharge or rash may appear, and this is regarded as a sign that the patient’s system is going through a cleansing stage. As homeopathy is based on such small doses there are no contraindications to treatment, though it is thought that strong smelling substances such as essential oils (often found in cosmetic and personal hygiene products) can counteract the homeopathic effect.
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