Homeopathy is a system of medicine that was developed 200 years ago by Samuel Hahnemann, a German doctor. The basic principle of homeopathy is that a substance that produces a set of symptoms in a healthy person can be used to cure a sick person who is showing a similar set of symptoms. Following this discovery in 1796 — which was, in fact, a method of treatment referred to in the writings of Hippocrates — Hahnemann spent the rest of his life experimenting, developing and refining this system until he was satisfied that it would be effective in both acute (short-term) and chronic (long-standing) illness.
At first, Hahnemann used normal doses of herbs and minerals for his patients but was worried at the increase in severity of their symptoms that these doses caused. He then discovered that he could dilute these substances whilst still retaining their medicinal effect, which reduced the danger to the patient. He then found that following dilution the medicinal effect could be enhanced by vigorous shaking and developed a particular method of preparation of remedies, which he referred to as “dynamisation.” This method of potentisation (as we call it today) involves a series of dilutions, with a number of vigorous agitations (called succussions) accompanying each step of dilution. These succussions appear to cause the energy of the original substance to be amplified throughout the solution and ensure the effectiveness of dilutions beyond the point at which there is no longer any measurable quantity of the original substance left for each dose. (We still don’t understand this yet but modern physics does offer some insight into how this may be possible, and recent research has shown differences between the properties of potentised versus simply diluted solutions.)
As most of the remedies used by homeopaths are potentised beyond the point at which a single molecule of the original substance remains in each drop of the solution, it follows that remedies cannot act by chemistry (the way that drugs work). When a dose of a potentised remedy is taken, it is the energy of the remedy that is recognised by the body and it is the body that then does the healing.
So how does homeopathy work? Hahnemann came to the conclusion that we have a “vital force” that is the intermediate agent between the spirit and body and is what gives our bodies life. When this is weakened, we experience disease (or ‘dis-ease’ with ourselves). As all diseases come from a disturbed state of energy, we can only expect to heal ourselves following the stimulus of an energised (potentised) medicine. However, Hahnemann’s observation was that a remedy would only work when its symptom picture (its effect on a healthy person) matched that of the sick person. It is crucial, therefore, that the energy pattern of the remedy is in tune with that of the patient so that the body can be stimulated to heal itself. (As an analogy, two sound sources producing the same note ‘in phase’ produce a louder note than that achieved by a single sound source; if the notes are ‘out of phase,’ they cancel each other out and nothing is heard [or the volume is greatly reduced].) It therefore follows that a remedy can only be called ‘homeopathic’ after it has worked – if it is not sufficiently similar to the patient, nothing happens.
This is, in fact, the definition of homeopathy. The word ‘homeopathy’ can be broken down into “Homeo” (or “homoeo”) meaning ‘similar’ and “pathy” meaning ‘suffering.’ The principle of Similars — that like cures like — is a paradox but has been shown to be consistently true by homeopaths across the world over the last 2 centuries.