What is homeopathy?

Homeopathy refers to both a system and type of medicine. As a system, it dictates a specific approach to treatment, and the medicines are unique preparations of natural substances.


Someone who practices homeopathy is called a homeopath. A homeopath prescribes homeopathic medicines. There are thousands of different homeopathic medicines. However, some are used more often than others because they address symptoms common in many people.


Homeopathic Medicines


Homeopathic medicines have unique scientific names like Pulsatilla. The name seems strange because it’s a different language. Pulsatilla is derived from the Hebrew word “pasakh.” Translated to English, Pulsatilla means “pasque flower.”


Homeopathic medicines are named after whatever natural substance they’re created from. Pulsatilla or pasque flower is a type of flower that grows in the wild and is used in homeopathy for its medicinal properties.


The specific use of each homeopathic medicine has been recorded over the last few centuries. This information tells a homeopath what each medicine can be used for.


While some lay people use homeopathic medicines effectively, it’s a fairly complex process that requires significant study and experience.


Homeopathy as a System


The system of homeopathy defines a certain way of treating symptoms. Homeopathic medicines can be used to apply the principles of that system, but aren’t entirely necessary.


The main principle that defines homeopathy is this:


Whatever causes a symptom can also be used to treat that symptom.

For example, if you burn yourself on a hot stove, it’s common to put cold water or ice on your burn.


The homeopathic approach would be to put hot water or a hot rag over your burn. For this reason, the main principle can be simplified to “like treats like.”


You might think it’s counter-intuitive to apply heat to an area that has already been burned. But if you try it, you’ll see that it typically reduces the intensity of the burn. Cold water feels good but doesn’t actually help the burn heal.


The trick is that you have to apply the right amount of heat for the right amount of time. Another key principle in homeopathy is that the correct dose must be used.


There are various theories as to why and how this works, but no one is sure exactly why it works.


The next time you get a mild to moderate burn, try using hot water or a hot rag instead of cold. The idea is not to burn yourself again, but to use a temperature that causes slight, yet tolerable pain.


How are Homeopathic Medicines used in Homeopathy?


Homeopathic medicines are studied in special types of experiments called "provings" and through standard evidence based medicine (clinical trials, etc.). Both of these methods reveal the biological effect of each medicine from different perspectives. Ultimately, both methods provide information that can be used to describe the action of each medicine.


An experimental "proving" occurs when individuals repeatedly take the homeopathic and record the changes in their mood, energy, sleep, physical body, etc. Repeatedly taking homeopathic medicines, especially in low dose, results in physiological changes that can be easily observed by the individual taking the medicine.


The information is then collected from all participating individuals, and the commonalities are recorded. Provings have been occurring for centuries and have formed a compendium of information about the unique actions of each medicine.


For example, it's known that homeopathic Pulsatilla has a biological preference for the gastrointestinal, urogenital, and female reproductive system.


This means that the medicine acts especially on these body systems. It's therefore useful in conditions and symptoms involving those body systems. However, the specific symptoms associated with those body system must also be described before Pulsatilla can be used.


This is because many homeopathic medicines affect these body systems. The difference lies in the manner in which the symptoms are expressed, as described below.


The expression of symptoms commonly seen in Pulsatilla will almost always involve the gastrointestinal, urogenital, or reproductive systems either independently or altogether. Theoretically, any symptom, like bloating, cramps, heavy menses, etc. could be relevant. The specific symptom is less important than the involved body system and the way the symptom is expressed. Below are some descriptions of the way that a symptom may express itself:


  • feeling like there is a stone in the stomach

  • a gradual disappearance of symptoms after a sudden appearance

  • an increase in appetite experienced during anxiety


Pulsatilla is also suited for people who tend to be weepy, emotional, mild, timid, and generally have a changeable mood (as discovered during provings). Taking the medicine in a proving would result in the transient production of these emotional characteristics.


If an individual presents to a homeopath with the symptoms characteristic of Pulsatilla, as described above, then the homeopath would administer a dose of homeopathic Pulsatilla.


This is where the principle of "like treats like" comes into play.


Whatever creates a set of symptoms can be used to treat a similar set of symptoms.

Since Pulsatilla has been observed to produce the symptoms described above, and the person presented with those symptoms, then Pulsatilla can be used to treat those symptoms.


Relationship to Botanical Medicine


Homeopathic medicines can also be used outside the system of homeopathy to stimulate the function of the organs that they biologically prefer. This is where homeopathic medicines start to resemble the action of botanical medicines.


The basic difference between a homeopathic medicine made from a plant and a botanical medicine is the way that they're prepared.

Botanical medicines are typically soaked in alcohol for some time, which creates a liquid botanical "tincture." The tincture retains some of the medicinal qualities of the plant. The tincture is then taken several times per day, usually in a drop dose like 20-30 drops per day.


It's known that botanical preparations of certain therapeutic flowers like Passiflora (Passion Flower) have a biological preference for the nervous system. Particularly, Passiflora is known to have a "calming" effect on the nervous system. To get this effect, you would have to use a botanical preparation, which is not a homeopathic preparation.


Botanical medicines are prescribed by herbalists, who don't apply the principles of homeopathy. Herbalism refers to the philosophy and practice of using herbal/botanical medicines. It is therefore a system that differs from homeopathy.


The homeopathic medicines that are made from plants are basically ultra-dilute versions of botanical tinctures. A series of steps is taken to systematically dilute the medicine, followed by a special technique called "succussion." More dilution steps results in a stronger version of the medicine and a different overall action.


With only a few dilutions, the medicine is not as strong, but has an effect that's similar to the effect of the botanical tincture. There are various advantages to using a homeopathic medicine over a botanical tincture, depending on the circumstances.


Ultimately, the purpose of homeopathy and homeopathic medicines is to stimulate healing.

Whether that’s a burn, a stomach ache, or depression makes no difference. Your body can heal itself, and homeopathic medicines can help guide that process.


Give me a call today to learn more about homeopathic medicines.