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May 24, 2008

 Although homeopathy as a form of therapy is more than 200 years old and has been practiced continuously during this period, few lay people today are familiar with its fundamentals. Unlike orthodox medicine, called allopathy by the homeopath, which has an ill defined set of assumptions about health and disease, the homeopathic practice is based on very definite conclusions about disease and its effects. For homeopathic treatment to be optimally successful, it is important for the patient to be acquainted with these basic principles and to be in agreement with the objectives the homeopath desires to obtain.

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), the founder of homeopathic medicine and a brilliant scientist of his day, abhorred the completely unscientific manner in which drugs then used for healing human ailments were selected, tested, and prescribed. From his investigations and the observations of his fellow practitioners, he realized that most drugs were discovered mainly by chance, often by those not in the medical professions and they were used basically for what has become known as the "primary effect," with little regard to their actual mode of operating within the body or their secondary toxic effects.

Many years have passed since Hahnemann's original observations, yet modern-day homeopaths find that despite our current improved technology, the basic information available to orthodox medicine concerning drug functioning has advanced only meagerly since Hahnemann's time. In fact, because there has been such a tremendous proliferation of drugs since Hahnemann's time and only a moderate amount of new revelations about their use, there probably is now more accumulated ignorance about the actions of drugs in use than there was in Hahnemann's time.

The allopathic school takes a simplistic and almost naive view of health and disease. Allopaths consider disease as that which is represented by certain sets of symptoms that are deviations from the normal parameters of body activity. They then attempt to discover a drug or drugs that will force these symptoms to regress to a point they consider normal. Only rarely do they concern themselves with the true causes of the symptoms or with the reason that the body produces them in the first place. The general assumption is that if the various body reactions they can measure by their insensitive methods are within normal ranges, the patient is healthy. This isn't to say that allopaths don't try to find the cause of an infection, or if the ankles are swollen that they wouldn't check the heart or kidneys for malfunction. On the other hand, they probably wouldn't attempt to discover what body imbalances enable the infection to occur or what deficiencies are causing the heart or kidney malfunction.

The homeopath, on the other hand, as do all natural healing physicians, tends to consider most symptom patterns not as the disease per se, but as the body's attempt either to warn of the disease condition or to cast off the basic disease entity. If the disease were only the symptom pattern, the allopathic method would be adequate to cure all our ailments. If the homeopathic and naturalist views are correct, however, the allopathic method would all too often tend to thwart the body in its actual healing efforts, making the person less healthy than he was before the treatment.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, Hahnemann began to develop a theory of medicine that he hoped would place the medical art on a solid foundation. He was a logical, methodical physician who did not believe in putting into the body any substance whose action he did not know as completely as possible.

He postulated that each drug used in treating the sick had a unique specific action on the body, and that before such a substance could be properly used, this unique and specific action must be thoroughly investigated to the point that the physician knew exactly what effect it would have in the human economy. In his day, there were no instruments capable of such a complete investigation, so the good doctor turned to biologic methods. After some thought, however, he rejected the much-used animal research of his allopathic contemporaries. Experience had taught him that the reactions of each species are individual and unique and one can't necessarily extrapolate information gained from one animal body system to that of another species.

Hahnemann therefore restricted all his investigation to the use of human subjects and with this he developed the method known as proving. In order to prove a drug, moderate physiologic doses of the compound were given to a large number of persons considered in to be in good health. Young medical students were usually used because they were available and were considered to be more observant than the average lay persons. The specific drug was continued until various symptoms caused by the drug's action began to appear. These symptoms were carefully recorded by the students and the drug was continued until either the symptoms had run their gamut or until signs of toxicity appeared.

Two groups of symptoms were generally elicited. First, a prevailing group that was more or less common to almost all the drug's provers; and second, individual idiosyncratic symptoms that occurred only in one or two prover. The more consistent set of symptoms was considered the most important; although the idiosyncratic symptoms were preserved and are available in the larger homeopathic texts on materia medica. They can be useful to the homeopath in difficult cases.

From these provings, Hahnemann ascertained the specificity of each drug he tested. In other words, after an extensive set of such provings, Hahnemann had information about the specific organs and tissues affected by each drug, and he also had knowledge about the exact manner in which this drug affected these structures. While such information went well beyond what had been done previously in pharmacology, it still didn't provide him with a method of curing diseases.

At this time, the inspiration came to Hahnemann that resulted in the homeopathic school of medicine and laid the foundation for the fundamental basis of cure by all the natural therapeutic methods. Some inner wisdom brought him to see that the symptoms usually present in most diseases weren't actually the disease itself, but were in truth the body's attempts to overcome the disease and that a true healing method should encourage the body in these efforts and not discourage the body from carrying out its constructive eliminative processes.

As Hahnemann began to appreciate the true nature of health and disease, he also began to develop a method by which drugs, and the knowledge of their action, could best be used to help the sick. He hypothesized that because the symptoms produced by the body in most diseases were really an effort by the body to overcome such conditions, we should help the body in this effort in every way we can. If drugs are to be used to treat disease, the most practical way, he reasoned, was to use them to stimulate the body in its efforts to eliminate the disease.

In his provings on drugs, he discovered that individual drugs were capable of stimulating specific tissues in the body in the same manner that the different disease processes could. "If the drugs and disease cause similar effects, what would happen," he asked himself, "to a patient, who has a certain set of symptoms which the body is creating to overcome a disease, if I gave a drug which in a healthy person would cause that identical set of symptoms? Would this drug stimulate the body in its efforts to overcome the disease more rapidly than it could without this help?" Such reasoning put into practice was the beginning of homeopathic medicine.

When this new method was put to the test, Hahnemann was overjoyed to discover that it was more successful than even he had hoped. He found that when the specific drug that caused a certain set of symptoms in a healthy person was given to a diseased patient with a similar set of symptoms, a speedy and apparently complete recovery ensued. For example, belladonna, when given in large doses to a healthy person produces a hot, dry, very red, sore throat. When such a throat is encountered as a disease entity, it usually is rapidly cured if small amounts of belladonna are given. Thus, although the allopath and the homeopath both use this drug in their treatment programs, the conditions and principles behind the administration of the drug are entirely different.

Let's use the sore throat again to show the difference between these schools. The allopath holds that if he can destroy the bacteria, the disease is cured and the body will be healthy once again. Hahnemann and the homeopaths would look on this matter from an entirely different viewpoint. They know our body is always inhabited by bacteria; in fact, almost all the known pathogenic bacteria can be cultured from the healthy human throat. The homeopath would therefore consider the sore throat an attempt by the body through an inflammatory process to eliminate a morbid or unhealthy condition that may have been building up in the body, rather than consider it a disease per se. The homeopath would consider bacteria as the agents by which this morbid matter is destroyed and not necessarily as detrimental agents. This would be particularly true of recurring sore throats that are controlled but not cured by the usual antibiotic therapy.

The disease process then is actually this morbid or toxic matter that has accumulated within the body. The throat inflammation is the body's attempt to overcome and cast off this disease material. The homeopath gives the patient a remedy that will help the body in its efforts to eliminate this matter. When this is done, the bacteria, their job finished, disappear and the throat returns to normal.

Antibiotics, as used by the allopath, prevent bacterial growth and suppress the acute inflammation, thereby leaving the body with the disease still fulminating within its depths. Homeopathic treatment helps the body to cast off the disease so that when the symptoms subside by the use of homeopathic remedies, not only is the patient pain-free, but also the morbid disease matter itself is eliminated. In other words, the patient usually becomes healthier after the proper treatment of conditions by homeopathic methods, whereas all too often he may become less healthy when treated by allopathic methods.

Over the years, there have been many explanations about why homeopathic medicine works. One theory is that because the remedy and the disease are nearly identical in their effects, there is created within the body a neutralization somewhat like that caused when two out-of-phase sound waves of identical frequency cancel one another.

Hahnemann's original explanation, however, was not quite so complicated. He merely said that the drug has a stimulating effect on the specific cells affected by the disease and that this reaction greatly hastens the body's attempt to cast off the ailment. In chronic diseases, he believed that the body's attempts to overcome the disease were unfortunately quite feeble, thus enabling such chronic ailments to persist. Here he particularly thought the homeopathic stimulative method to be very important to properly direct and activate the vital force in its efforts to overcome such conditions.

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Posted: Saturday May 24, 2008, 11:04 pm
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Suzanne K.
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