What is Homeopathy?
I am asked this question on an almost daily basis. It makes perfect sense that patients have some confusion about its meaning because it is a commonly misunderstood concept, even by other holistic practitioners. The term “homeopathy” is often used interchangeably with “Naturopathy”. Even though both practices share some common principles, there are some very distinct differences between the modalities.
Homeopathy is a philosophy of medicine, not a specific type of medicine. A medicine is prescribed homeopathically for an individual patients with very specific symptoms that indicate a specific medicine. The medicine is not homeopathic until that patient is considered. For example, Arnica Montana is commonly indicated and used homeopathically for bruises and muscle soreness. The Arnica sitting on the shelf waiting to be prescribed is not homeopathic. Arnica taken before work outs to try and minimize muscles soreness is not being used homeopathically. Only when an individual already has muscle soreness or a bruise and is given Arnica, is the Arnica now a homeopathic medicine.
Naturopathy can utilize any accepted modality to support healing for an individual. This may include giving medicine homeopathically, but also can include utilizing herbal medicine, nutrition, supplementation, hydrotherapy, TCM and acupuncture, minor surgery, and even pharmaceutical drugs.
It may seem that this is simply a matter of semantics, which in many ways it is. But I think the semantics of medicine are extremely important. It is not what we are doing, but why we are doing it that makes a difference. Here are a few of the proper terms used to describe what often is called homeopathy these days:
Potentized Medicines – procedure in which liquids (the mother tincture) are progressively diluted and succused (a striking of the liquid in its container against a specific surface) to enhance its healing properties while minimizes its potential side-effects. It is possible to make a potentized medicine from any substance or combination of substances.
Isopathy – is the prescription of a specific potentized medicine based specifically on the causative agent while ignoring the patient’s specific symptom picture. An example would be using Rhus Toxidendrum (poison ivy) to treat a poison ivy rash. This mentality ignores the symptoms of the patient as well as the symptoms of the remedy discovered by proving.
Organotherapy – uses the extracts from animal glands or organs to treat disease or dysfunction of those organs. Often this organotherapeutic agents are prepared as potentized medicines.
Combination Remedies – uses a combination of potentized medicines to treat a specific condition, regardless of the specific symptoms. Combination remedies may combine potentized medicines from any source. Combination remedies are often used to treat conditions with children: teething, colic, ear aches, etc.
Classical Homeopathy (single remedy prescribing) – It is important to distinguish the use of potentized medicines and the use of potentized medicines homeopathically. A medicine, by its own qualities is not homeopathic. But, a specific medicine can be used homeopathically… meaning that it is prescribed based on the presenting totality of symptoms of the patient, encompassing the mental, emotional, and physical realm. It must be a remedy that has been “proven” to invoke a similar symptom picture in a healthy individual.
Hahnemann distinguished homeopathy from other treatment philosophy and coined the following terms.
Allopathy from the Greek: allos = other and pathos = suffering
Treating disease with medicines that produce symptoms different than those of the disease. A term that has come to signify conventional or orthodox medicine in general.
Antipathic from the Greek: enanti = opposite and pathos = suffering
Treating disease with medicines that produce effects opposite to those of the disease. This is most of the palliative treatments used today.