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Homeopathy; the whole story

Homeopathy; the whole story

Homeopathy is THE bombshell of the century. Almost not a day passes without various advertisements for “new homeopathic remedies” finding their way into our morning papers and local pharmacists;

carrying promises of cure without suffering, treatment by restoring the body’s normal balance and healing through naturally manufactured medicine.


Historical Background:

In the early 16th century; Paracelsus, a prominent pioneer of pharmacology, declared that small doses of “what makes a man ill also cures him”.

In 1796, a German physician by the name of Samuel Hahnemann introduced the concept of homeopathy, a kind of alternative medicine prepared by the principle of dilution. The word "homeopathy" is derived from the Greek words homoios (similar) and pathos (suffering or disease). The common procedures practiced back in those days aimed to balance the body’s humors by opposite effects; like bloodletting, leeching and  purging, were somewhat distressing and sometimes did far more harm than good, whereas homeopathy is based on the law that states that “similia similibus curentur ” also known as the Law of Similars “ let like be cured by like”. The idea was recognized by both Aristotle, Hippocrates  and by Omar al Khayam (the famous Arab physician) and it was also mentioned in the old Hindu manuscripts, but it was Hahnemann that turned it into a new art of healing.

But the very interesting law of similars proposed by Hahnemann is an "ipse dixit"  "axiom"; in other words it is an unproven assertion made by Hahnemann, not a true law of nature.

Hahnemann and his early followers conducted "provings" in which they administered herbs, minerals, and other substances to healthy people, including themselves, and kept detailed records of what they observed. Later these records were compiled into lengthy reference books called materia medica, which are used to match a patient's symptoms with a "corresponding" drug. The first collection of provings was published in 1805 and the Materia Medica Pura appeared in 1810.

The real test for homeopathy came when epidemics erupted. During epidemics of typhus, survival rates in homeopathic hospitals were significantly higher than those in conventional hospitals, and Hahnemann managed to cure 179 out of 180 cases.

Concepts of Homeopathy:

1- The basic concept in homeopathy is the law of similars mentioned previously.

Examples of this include:

  • If you are having an attack of hay fever with watering eyes and a burning nose, a homeopathic remedy made from onions can relieve it, since onion is a substance that can make your eyes water and your nose burn.
  • Since poison ivy causes redness, burning, intense itching, blistering and stiff muscles sometimes, it is used in many homeopathic preparations to treat almost everything from herpes and burns to eczema and arthritis.

2- A second principle of homeopathy is that you should give the least amount of medicine necessary to achieve a healing response, the “Minimum Dose” principle. Since it is common knowledge that normal medicines can cause side effects, Hahnemann began to successively dilute his medicines in order to find the point at which they are therapeutic, not toxic.

3- Later; homeopaths started using enormous dilutions, holding the theory that states that the smaller the dose, the greater the effect. This is the "Law of infinitesimals."

4- Homeopathy maintains that the vital force has the ability to react and adapt to internal and external causes, which homeopaths refer to as the law of susceptibility, which implies that a negative state of mind can attract hypothetical disease entities to invade the body and produce symptoms of diseases.

5- In 1828, Hahnemann introduced the concept of miasms; underlying causes for many known diseases. A miasm is often defined by homeopaths as an imputed "peculiar morbid derangement of the vital force". Hahnemann associated each miasm with specific diseases, with each miasm seen as the root cause of several diseases.

Originally Hahnemann presented only three miasms, of which the most important was "psora" (Greek for itch), described as being related to any itching diseases of the skin, supposed to be derived from suppressed scabies, and claimed to be the foundation of many further disease conditions; epilepsy, cancer, jaundice, deafness, and cataracts to name a few. Since Hahnemann's time, other miasms have been proposed, some replacing one or more of psora's proposed functions, including tubercular miasms and cancer miasms.

Methods of Preparation:

Homeopathic products are made from minerals, botanical substances, and several other sources. If the original substance is soluble, one part is diluted with either nine or ninety-nine parts of distilled water and/or alcohol (a process called dynamisation or potentisation) and shaken vigorously (succussed) against an elastic body; if insoluble, it is finely ground using the mortar and  the pestle and pulverized in similar proportions with powdered lactose (milk sugar). One part of the diluted medicine is then further diluted, and the process is repeated until the desired concentration is reached.

Dilutions of 1 to 10 are designated by the Roman numeral X (1X = 1/10, 3X = 1/1,000, 6X = 1/1,000,000). Similarly, dilutions of 1 to 100 are designated by the Roman numeral C (1C = 1/100, 3C = 1/1,000,000, and so on). Most remedies today range from 6X to 30X, but products of 30C or more are marketed.

A 30X dilution means that the original substance has been diluted 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times. Assuming that a cubic centimeter of water contains 15 drops, this number is greater than the number of drops of water that would fill a container more than 50 times the size of the Earth!

Homeopathy Today:

Recent evidence from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggests that homeopathy is used by over 500 million people today making it the second most common used medicine today.
The list of celebrities using homeopathy is lengthy and includes names as big as Queen Elizabeth (the patron of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital), Mahatma Ghandi, Harriet Beecher Stowe, John D. Rockefeller and Daniel Webster to name a few.

The Opinion Against:


1- Homeopathy is based essentially on the principle of dilution, but there is a limit to the dilution that can be made without losing the essence of the original substance. This limit is related to Avogadro's number corresponding to homeopathic preparations of 12C or 24X. Hahnemann himself realized this is true and that there is virtually no chance that an extreme dilution would contain even 1 molecule of the original substance. But he believed this could be dealt with by vigorous shaking or pulverizing with each step of dilution, since this leaves behind a "spirit-like" essence-"no longer perceptible to the senses"-that has the ability to cure by reviving the body's "vital force". But homeopathy aficionados claim that even after the last molecule has gone, a "memory" of the substance is retained. But if this was true, every substance encountered by a molecule of water can imprint an essence that could exert medicinal effects when taken by patients.

2- Some claim that homeopathy resembles vaccines because both provoke an immune response but this comparison is not valid. The amount of active ingredients in vaccines is greater and measurable. Moreover, immunizations produce antibodies in a concentration that can be measured, and they are used for prevention not for cure. On the other hand, high diluted homeopathic products produce no measurable response.

3- The basis for inclusion in the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia is not modern scientific testing; inclusion is based solely on the proving conducted by the homeopathic pioneers during the 1800 and early 1900. Provings involved taking various homeopathic medications and recording every single possible side effect (every sneeze, cough and twitch) for several days. They assumed that every phenomena recorded was due to the medicine taken and therefore this medicine can be used to treat any constellation of these symptoms in dilute preparations.

4- With the huge spread of homeopathy nowadays, severe regulations are needed since this is no longer a simple wave of interest that will fade soon. The "Associated Press" published on December 28th 2010 an article titled: "Alternative medicine sometimes dangerous for kids". This article mentioned the surveillance results from Australian researchers monitoring reports from pediatricians from 2001 to 2003, looking for suspected side effects of alternative drugs. The results were shocking, including 39 side effects and 4 deaths. In 44% of the cases, the pediatricians felt that harmful effects were due to the fact that those children did not take conventional medicines.

5- Homeopathic believers challenge the non-believers by asking them to see the "beneficial" effects of their remedies in various cases (the fact that they can cure diseases or soothe symptoms), but the reply would simply be that there are many explanations for this observation. Here are some:


  • Unassisted natural healing — time and the body's ability to heal without assistance can eliminate many diseases of their own accord
  • Unrecognized treatments — an unrelated food, exercise, environmental agent or treatment for a different ailment, may have occurred
  • Regression toward the mean — since many diseases or conditions are cyclical, symptoms vary over time and patients tend to seek care when discomfort is greatest, they may feel better anyway but because the timing of the visit to the homeopath they attribute improvement to the remedy taken
  • Non-homeopathic treatment — patients may also receive non-homeopathic care simultaneously with homeopathic treatment, and this is responsible for improvement though a portion or all of the improvement may be attributed to the remedy
  • Cessation of unpleasant treatment — often homeopaths recommend patients stop getting conventional treatment such as surgery or drugs, which can cause unpleasant side effects; improvements are attributed to homeopathy when the actual cause is the cessation of the treatment causing side effects in the first place
  • Lifestyle changes — homeopaths often recommend diet and exercise, as well as limitations in alcohol or coffee consumption and stress reduction, all of which can increase health and decrease symptoms
  • The placebo effect — the intensive consultation process and expectations for the homeopathic preparations can result in the release of endorphins or other body-effecting chemicals which alleviate pain or other symptoms, or otherwise affect an individual's biology
  • Psychological healing — the care, concern and reassurance provided by a homeopath as part of the consultation can assure the patient the symptoms are minor and easily treated, or alleviate tension that could exacerbate a preexisting condition. This caring engagement can prove particularly effective when conventional physicians have limited time with the patient or cannot provide a diagnosis or treatment.


The final word has yet to be said when it comes to homeopathy, since many of its very fundamental laws are currently put to challenge. However, one cannot easily ignore the vast numbers of people who have opted for homeopathy as means of cure nor is it possible to simply overlook the schools of homeopathy that produce vast numbers of graduates every year. The decision to believe or not to believe is very personal, and people should be free to choose whatever path they fancy as long as all has been clarified and points of debate were clearly explained.
I, for one, still need to be convinced.

اضغط هنا للقراءة باللغة العربية

Prepared by: Dr. Zaina Habrawi

Source :

- "Alternative medicine sometimes dangerous for kids", Associated press, December 28 2010.
- What is homeopathy? Definition and details, Alan N.Schmukler, November 2009.
- Homeopathy: The Ultimate fake, Stephen Barret,M.D.
- Homeopathy: An Introduction.  www.nccam.nih.gov/health/homeopathy
- Homeopathic preparations www.ww2.cancer.org/docroot/NWS

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