What is homeopathy?

There are certain words that I don’t know what they mean, but I’ve heard them so much that I feel like I know what they mean and I absolutely don’t! That’s the case with homeopathy, the topic of this “What Is” blog. I thought that homeopathy just meant the use of natural ingredients in the practice of medicine. For example, I thought that chewing on a piece of ginger when you get nauseous is a form of homeopathy. I was wrong! Here’s why.

Homeopathy is more than just using what we think of as ‘natural’ ingredients—it’s the use of using what could make you sick to make you feel better, by supposedly triggering your body’s natural defenses against what was making you feel ill in the first place. Homeopathy has two main principles, according to the experts on homeopathy.  The first is that “likes cure likes.” This principle is first found in the writings of Hippocrates, an ancient Greek man who is considered to be the father of medicine. But the person who made this principle into a system of medical treatment would be the German doctor C.F. Samuel Hahnemann. Hahnemann created the official practice of homeopathy nearly two millennia later.

What does “likes cures likes” mean? It means that in very small, diluted portions, the things that could kill you—and, theoretically, might be killing you right now—can actually save your life, by prompting your body to take action against what is causing you harm. It must be noted that in the practice of homeopathy, the ‘cures’ are often diluted past molecular traceability.

The second principle is that less is more: it is believed that a minimum dose has a greater impact, and is less likely to cause harm, than an excessive dosage.

The third principle is ‘the single remedy.’ This is referring to the fact that most homeopathics will only prescribe one cure at a time per patient, with the idea that simplicity is better in allowing a patient to heal.

While the idea of homeopathy might seem appealing (who doesn’t want more simplicity in their lives?) there is unfortunately little evidence that homeopathy works. There’s also the danger of products labeled as homeopathic containing active ingredients that could cause serious harm. It’s also important to know that homeopathy is not an effective alternative for vaccines.

Dr. Hahnemann, at the time he started practicing homeopathy, was concerned with practices that had been carried over from the Middle Ages, such as bloodletting (the practice of making a patient bleed because it was thought they had too much blood). It makes sense that he wanted to find a way of curing his patients without doing harmful practices that made the patient infinitely more ill than they would have been otherwise. That said, homeopathy should be approached with great care, and should not be considered a replacement for modern medicine.