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The basic principles of homeopathy are defined by the Greek meaning of the name: Homeo meaning similar and pathos meaning suffering or disease. Homeopathy follows two basic principles: The "Principle of Similars" and the "Law of Minimum Dose".
The "Principle of Similars" is based on the theory that "like cures like", meaning the symptoms produced by a natural substance can be matched to an ailment that causes the same symptoms, to treat the ailment. The "Law of Minimum Dose" is based on the theory that the smaller the dose, the more effective the remedy. Homeopathic remedies are very dilute doses of organic materials derived from plant, mineral or animal origins.
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Homeopathic medicine was developed at the end of the 18th century by a German physician named Samuel Hahnemann. The idea was born after Hahnemann learned of a malaria treatment using cinchona bark when translating "A Treaties of the Materia Medica" into German. At the time, it was believed that the mode of action of cinchona bark in malaria treatment, was that the bark strengthened the stomach. Hahnemann was critical of the accepted mode of action, believing there must be a different answer as to why the bark was beneficial in malaria treatment. To find the answer to how cinchona bark treated malaria, Hahnemann ingested 4 grams of Peruvian bark--a bark that contains similar qualities as cinchona bark--twice a day for several days. The bark caused Hahnemann to develop the same symptoms as seen in malaria patients. The results of the test led Hahnemman to the conclusion that a substance that induced symptoms in a healthy person could be used to treat an illness that caused the same symptoms and the "Principle of Similars" was born.
To find remedies for ailments based on the "Principle of Similars", Hahnemman and his colleagues, tested natural substances on themselves to learn the symptoms each one produced. The symptoms were recorded and matched with various ailments. The final results were recorded in the "Organon of Rational Therapeutics".
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How Homeopathic Remedies are Made
To eliminate the symptoms produced by the natural substances used in homeopathic remedies, they are largely diluted. In fact, they are diluted to such a degree that very few or no molecules of the original substance remain in the final remedy. The dilution method utilizes a technique to keep the "vital force" of the original substance in the remedy. The vital force is the energy from the natural substance that acts as the healing part of the homeopathic remedy.
Homeopathic remedies are diluted in progressive steps in either a 1 to 10 ratio or a 1 to 100 ratio. First, the natural substance is diluted with water, alcohol or lactose in either a 1 to 10 ratio (1 part substance to 9 parts diluent) or a 1 to 100 ratio (1 part substance to 99 parts diluent). Then the diluted substance is vigorously shaken to release the vital force of the natural substance into the diluent. The dilution step is repeated again with 1 part of the previously diluted mixture to 10 or 100 parts of diluent and then vigorously shaken again. The dilution and shaking steps are repeated until the homeopathic remedy reaches the desired concentration.
Homeopathic remedies diluted at a 1 to 10 ratio are marked with a "X" and when diluted at a 1 to 100 ratio are marked with a "C". A homeopathic remedy that is marked as 6X has been diluted at a 1 to 10 ratio 6 times and a remedy marked as 30C has been diluted at a 1 to 100 ratio 30 times.
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How Practitioners Use the Remedies
Homeopathy differs from conventional medicine. Instead of using medicine to directly treat an ailment, it treats the underlying cause of the illness. A homeopathic practitioner considers multiple factors when treating a patient. The practitioner observes the patient and asks questions about their lifestyle and mental health and records a history of symptoms. Using this information, the practitioner chooses the appropriate homeopathic remedy based on Hahnemman's research. Only one remedy is given at a time, so that they do not counteract each other.
The theory of how homeopathic remedies work is called the "Laws of the Cure". The "Laws of the Cure" follow three main principles.
- Homeopathic remedies start working at the top of the body and move down to the bottom of the body.
- Homeopathic remedies work from the inside out and from the major to minor organs.
- Homeopathic remedies make symptoms of ailments disappear in the reverse order from which they originally appeared.
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There has been limited scientific research on homeopathic medicine. Western conventional medicine does not accept homeopathy as a valid, effective medical specialty. Homeopathy is based on theories that are fundamentally different than conventional medicine, with the two fields often contradicting. Some doctors and researchers consider homeopathic medicine to be a sham, while others have a sceptical but brighter view of it. Kelly Karpa, associate professor of pharmacology at Penn State College of Medicine says "I won’t say that I buy into it 100 percent, but I won’t say that I think it’s quackery either."
While some scientific research concluded that homeopathic remedies had absolutely no effect, besides a placebo effect on patients, there is some research that shows more positive results. Frenkel M. et. al., wrote in the research paper, "Cytotoxic Effects of Ultra-Diluted Remedies on Breast Cancer Cells", published in the International Journal of Oncology, that ultra-diluted homeopathic remedies used in the study "exerted preferential cytotoxic effects against the two breast cancer cell lines, causing cell cycle delay/arrest and apoptosis”.
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Organon of Medicine (5th & 6th Edition); Samuel Hahnemman; 2002
Penn State: http://www.rps.psu.edu/probing/homeopathy.html
International Journal of Oncology; Cytotoxic Effects of Ultra-Diluted Remedies on Breast Cancer Cells; Frenkel M. et. al.; February 2010
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