What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a holistic health practice that uses safe, nontoxic preparations to stimulate your body's natural healing abilities. In homeopathy the energy for healing comes from within, resulting in easier recovery, fewer side effects, longer-lasting health and a more resilient system.
The practice of homeopathy is based on the Law of Similars: A substance that can cause certain symptoms in a healthy person can help a sick person throw off those same symptoms. The homeopath's goal is to find the remedy that most closely corresponds to your state of health. Such a remedy is said to be "homeopathic" to you.
The remedy that most closely matches you will also be the remedy you are most sensitive to, so the homeopathic remedy cannot be given in a large dose, which might cause more symptoms. Homeopathic remedies are ground extensively and diluted to tiny doses that are gentle and safe. The remedy substance is diluted over and over in small increments, and pressure is applied to the solution at each stage ("succussion"). The remedy actually becomes more powerful as this process continues. (This preparation is one of the things that makes homeopathy different from medical treatments that use similar substances, like vaccines or antigen therapy.)
Homeopathically prepared substances do not overpower your body or compromise your immune system. They stimulate your body to correct patterns of imbalance that create or maintain disease. The power to heal remains with you.
How long has Homeopathy been practiced?
For 200 years Homeopathy has been applied successfully in epidemics, acute complaints and chronic illness. In much of the world (France, Germany, Mexico, Great Britain, India, Brazil, to name a few) it is used in hospitals for emergency and trauma medicine, as well as for outpatient and long-term care.
Homeopathy as a medical practice was founded by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in Germany around the beginning of the 19th century. Hahnemann was a young physician and an accomplished linguist with a large family. He supplemented his meager physician's income by translating the Latin and Greek medical texts into German. While translating these manuscripts, he began to notice that substances that had been traditionally used to cure certain ailments were the same substances that could, in an overdose, cause similar symptoms to the disease they were meant to treat.
Sulphur, for instance, was often used to treat skin conditions with lots of heat and itching. An dose of crude Sulphur can cause exactly these symptoms. Cinchona bark (the source of quinine) was traditionally used to treat malaria and, when ingested, causes malaria-like symptoms.
Hahnemann also noticed that giving people measurable doses of such a "similar" substance could make them quite ill, so he experimented with smaller and smaller doses until he began to treat people with highly prepared solutions of the original medicines. He found that as the remedy was processed to smaller and smaller doses, the healing power of the medicine was increased. And so Homeopathy was born.
Hahnemann's new system was widely ignored by conventional physicians until his spectacular successes a few years later in two epidemics of cholera and typhoid fever. Homeopathy became quite popular in the mid- to late-1800s. It has had a resurgence since the 1970s as the limitations of chemical drug therapy have become more clearly understood.
What conditions does Homeopathy treat?
Homeopathy is the closest thing to comprehensive healthcare. It has been used to treat extremely serious acute infectious diseases (cholera and typhoid fever are two of the earliest epidemics treated successfully with homeopathy; leptospirosis, or swamp fever, is a more recent epidemic treated with homeopathy). Homeopathy is used in hospitals across the world as an adjunct to trauma medicine and surgery, to treat infectious disease and to treat serious degenerative disease.
Because nearly any chronic medical condition can have different causes in different people, and because each person responds to disease in a slightly different way, homeopaths do not base remedy selection solely on medical diagnoses, syndromes or other broad categories of disease. Instead, the homeopath seeks to match a remedy more specifically to what is most characteristic about your disease, to the particular ways in which your particular system has been affected by ill health.
The goal of homeopathic treatment is to make you stronger so that your body can heal itself. What we observe is that as people begin to feel better in themselves, their physical complaints begin to improve as well. This holistic approach makes Homeopathy useful any time your health is less than optimal.
Certainly, it would be helpful to be able to list for your information all the medical conditions that we have seen improve under homeopathic care. But because Homeopathy is an unlicensed practice in North Carolina, it would be illegal for us to suggest that a certain medical condition has been treated or cured with homeopathic remedies.
As radical a proposition as it may seem, Homeopathy is not miracle care. It cannot stimulate your body to re-grow organs that have been removed or revivify tissues that have been irreversibly damaged. It cannot set a broken bone or remove a cancerous tumor. These latter are jobs for the surgeon. However, even in clients with advanced disease, Homeopathy can help people to live the best life possible.
What is classical Homeopathy?
"Classical Homeopathy" refers to Homeopathy the way it was originally practiced by its founder, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. For a homeopathic prescription to be "classical," the symptoms of the illness being treated should match the symptoms elicited during an earlier homeopathic trial of that remedy. The substance should be given in the minimum possible dose to cause a response in the organism. Only one remedy should be given at a time, and that remedy should be given sufficient time to act in the organism before it is changed or another prescription made.
This provision for giving only one remedy and allowing it time to act makes approaches like Heilkunst, or serial tautopathy ("clearing"), not classical homeopathic approaches. Likewise, in a classical prescription, remedy substances should not be mixed together into one prescription, which makes many of the homeopathic preparations you see at the health food store non-classical in their application.
A recent study by the American College of Homeopathy found that patients had a greater positive response to classical homeopathic prescriptions than to approaches like serial tautopathy or polypharmacy.
Is the homeopath an M.D.?
No. Hart Matthews is not a medical doctor or physician. He is not a licensed health practitioner. By state law, he cannot diagnose or treat disease or claim to have treated or cured any medical condition or patient. Homeopathy is not a substitute for licensed medical care. As a certified professional and classical homeopath, Hart Matthews works with clients who are already under the care of licensed physicians.
There are licensed M.D.s who also practice homeopathy, although they're pretty rare. The most well-known in the region is Dr. George Guess, originally from Durham, who now practices in Charlottesville, Va.
Do you use herbs in Homeopathy?
Generally speaking, a homeopath will not tell you to drink an herbal tea or mix up a preparation using powdered roots. That is the province of the herbalist or naturopath.
Homeopaths prescribe remedies that may have been made from herbs or minerals or animal products, but they have usually been homeopathically prepared. That is, they have been ground, diluted and succussed so that what you see is not a root powder but a small white pill or a liquid solution.
Sometimes, a mild substance like Calendula officinalis or Plantago major or Hypericum perfoliatum might be used in herbal tincture to heal an external injury like avulsion (Calendula), abrasion (Plantago) or a painful burn (Hypericum). These tinctures are diluted in water so that the high alcohol content doesn't cause pain.
What makes something homeopathic?
Because homeopaths use such a wide variety of mineral, plant and animal substances to make remedies, people often wonder what it is that makes these things "homeopathic."
It is not the naturalness of the substance (many "natural" substances are quite toxic) nor even the way in which the substance is prepared. Some homeopathic remedies are used as herbal tinctures rather than potentized into what we think of as the homeopathic pellet.
What makes a substance homeopathic is the way in which that substance can create symptoms in a healthy person that it can take away in a sick person. That is to say, what makes a substance homeopathic is how the symptoms of that substance match the symptoms of the patient.
We say a substance is "homeopathic" to you if that substance might cause your disease state in a healthy person if taken repeatedly. This is an example of the homeopathic law of similars, or "like cures like." The homeopath chooses a remedial substance that produces symptoms most "similar" to your own.
The remedy that most closely matches your symptoms will also be a substance you are fairly sensitive to, so the homeopathic remedy should also be given in a small enough dose to be safe.
To create potentized remedies, we prepare the substance by grinding extensively and progressively for three hours, then diluting repeatedly in small increments, each time applying pressure to the solution (succussing) before diluting it again.
Though long experimentation, it seems that the more a remedial substance is potentized, the more powerful its potential effect on the body.
Is Homeopathy an holistic practice?
Yes. Although it is a Western discipline, homeopathy has a lot in common with Eastern holistic medical practices like traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. In the holistic viewpoint, disease is considered to affect the entire organism, so every facet of a person's health is important in determining a proper treatment.
The homeopath is generally more interested in how you experience your symptoms than in the fact that you have a rash, for example. How that rash feels when you scratch it (does it itch less or more, does it burn or sting or ache, does the itching move around when scratched?) is much more important to a homeopath than whether a diagnostician would call it lichen simplex or atopic dermatitis.
Just as important are how the patient experiences health and disease. That is why a homeopath asks questions about seemingly unrelated matters such as whether a person likes hot or cold weather and what sorts of foods they crave.
Homeopathy is also considered a form of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), although many holistic practitioners take issue with this phrase. Since holistic medicine is often able to improve the lives of people even before they get sick by conventional standards, many holistic practitioners think the surgical and drastic chemical techniques of conventional medicine should be considered "complementary" to those holistic disciplines that can treat a much wider variety of ill health.
Is Homeopathy expensive?
Because one's first visit to the homeopath often takes two hours and requires a fair bit of office time after the appointment, this first visit is reasonably expensive (but much less expensive than spending the same amount of time with a conventional physician). This situation is complicated by the fact that homeopathy is generally not covered by insurance.
Currently, our new-client fee for adults is $320, $270 for kids under 12 years old. Followup appointments are more affordable ($89) and are subject to a discount when more than one family member is in long-term care. As people improve with homeopathic treatment, they need less frequent appointments and fewer remedies (as well as fewer conventional interventions), so overall health costs are lower on average for people using Homeopathy.
At Dynamis Homœopathic, the remedies themselves are included in your appointment costs. The remedies tend to last anywhere from five weeks to many months. The vast majority of clients need only one remedy at a time, so this is a huge money-saver over conventional treatment.
Most importantly, successful homeopathic care can free the client from future expense. When a remedy has been successful, the client no longer needs to take the remedy or keep regular followup appointments with the homeopath.
The American Medical College of Homeopathy's 2007 National Homeopathic Patient Survey found that the average homeopathic client spent roughly 40 percent less per year on health care than those who use conventional medicine.
Here at Dynamis, we do our best to make homeopathic care affordable for all clients!
Is Homeopathy safe?
Homeopathic remedies are safe, gentle and nontoxic. Although the remedies are made from some of the most powerful substances on earth, even the lowest potencies have been processed to one part in a million, or even one in a trillion. It may sound paradoxical, but the higher potencies actually exert a more powerful influence on the body.
The remedy that most closely matches you is a substance to which you are sensitive, so sometimes there are aggravations of existing symptoms when you first start a remedy. Aggravations are usually mild and transient and are easily managed by adjusting the way the remedy is taken.
Because the homeopathic dose is so small, the remedies are completely nontoxic. They never overwhelm the body's defenses with chemicals, and they do not put strain on the organs responsible for filtering foreign substances from the body.
By and large, the processing of homeopathic remedies today is done at professional pharmacies. These facilities meet FDA safety standards, and the remedial substances themselves are listed in the FDA's Homeopathic Pharmacopeia of the United States.
One of the biggest criticisms aimed at alternative forms of health care is that patients may forego important conventional approaches to their disease. We work with clients and their regular physicians to make sure they get thorough and effective care. We do not work with life-threatening disease unless the client is also under a physician's care.
Does health insurance cover homeopathic treatment?
Although many national health services abroad do cover homeopathic care (Canada, England, France, Germany, Switzerland, to name few), most U.S. insurance companies do not. We are not aware of any North Carolina insurance companies that cover homeopathic treatment.
If you have a medical savings account, check with the company. Some medical savings plans will allow you to withdraw funds for the cost of homeopathic care. It's still your money, but at least it's tax-free.
Is Homeopathy effective?
Numerous studies authored over the last hundred years and more have shown homeopathy's efficacy. Dana Ullman of Homeopathic Educational Services has a nice set of articles examining the issue. And here is a web page with literally thousands of studies finding Homeopathy effective.
If you wish to read the dissenting literature, there is plenty of it online, much of it funded directly or indirectly by a certain industry. The detractors are so prolific that one wonders where they find the time to write so much about something they have no intention of ever trying for themselves.
Is Homeopathy scientific?
In the opinion of this non-scientist, Homeopathy is the most scientific of the healing arts. That is because it has (1) a theory of health and healing (the Law of Similars) and (2) a standard for drug trials that has the potential to be the most scientific in the field.
Homeopathic drug trials are called prufung. These trials start with healthy subjects who take a substance until they feel symptoms. The subjects and their supervisors record all symptoms as they occur. These records are then compiled by the trial administrator and submitted to the homeopathic community for use in matching the characteristic effects of that substance to the characteristic symptoms of individuals under homeopathic care.
Despite a lot of modern prufung that are anything but scientific, when it is done right, this kind of testing yields high quality data that can be applied directly to the treatment of patients.
The strength of the prufung model lies in its use of a healthy pool of subjects who have not been vetted, as well as its respect for the holistic experience of disease and its use of both signs and symptoms (both objective and subjective).
As suggested by a recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the practice of culling trial subjects based on criteria chosen in advance by the researchers has the potential to introduce large biases into drug trials.
Will a homeopathic remedy work with my current medications?
Homeopathic remedies do not contain enough of the original remedy substance to interfere with the biochemical action of conventional medications. So the answer is generally "yes." This is also because a homeopathic remedy, even when it still contains trace amounts of the original substance, works on a different level of the organism than crude chemical drugs do.
Long experience shows that Homeopathy works even alongside some pretty intense drugs. However, there are certain drug types that are so powerfully suppressive of the immune system that they may prevent the body responding well to a remedy. The homeopath manages such a situation by giving a low potency remedy in frequent repetition and during times of the day when the effects of the pharmaceutical drug are not as strong.
Can I treat myself with homeopathic remedies from the health food store?
Absolutely. Most health food stores carry at least some of the single homeopathic remedies. It is possible for a lay person to choose an effective remedy for mild, transient symptoms by researching her symptoms on a website like Homeopathic HouseCall. However, long-term care is best supervised by a homeopath who can get an objective look at your symptoms.
CAVEAT: In almost any store that sells homeopathic single remedies you will also see some other preparations labeled "homeopathic." These often claim to treat some specific condition like sinus congestion or earaches or teething. As explained above, the very idea that a certain preparation is specific to a certain medical condition is antithetical to homeopathy itself. What's worse, the pharmacies that sell these preparations do not do homeopathic drug trials to test these mixes. They just mix together a certain number of the most common single remedies for a particular complaint.
It is possible that one of the, say, ten remedies in a "sinus" mix might ameliorate your sinus congestion, but this is homeopathic roulette. There are hundreds of remedies that have an effect on the sinuses. Normally, any relief from these "combination remedies" is fleeting. A properly chosen single remedy can do much more.