What is it Homoeopathy?

Homoeopathy is a system of prescribing which uses plants, minerals, and some animal remedies, prescribed on the principle that "Like cures like". This is called the simile principle. The word "homoeopathy" is derived from the Greek words "homoios" meaning like or similar, and "pathos" meaning suffering.

" Let like be cured by like"

This exploits the property of some medicinal substances to stimulate the natural healing energy of the individual. The activity of this healing process is demonstrated by the symptoms of an illness, and a remedy is chosen which has been found when taken by healthy volunteers to cause symptoms similar to that illness.

This system of therapeutics was discovered by Hahnemann at the end of the eighteenth century. He found that cinchona bark, which was used to treat swamp fever (now known as malaria), when taken by him produced the same symptoms as the disease. Here was a strange phenomenon, a remedy which was an effective treatment for a disease inducing the symptoms of that disease when given to a healthy person. He decided to experiment further. He took further doses himself, and gave some to his family. He found in every case that symptoms of swamp fever occurred on taking the cinchona bark, which stopped on ceasing to take it.

He now began to determine and record the effect of a large number of substances on the human body. He gathered together a band of helpers to whom he gave remedies, interrogating them daily on sensations experienced .He called this a proving. He was thus able to produce a materia medica consisting of symptoms produced in healthy volunteers. This materia medica represented a vast collection of very accurate observations. These pictures, when matched with the symptoms of a sick person, enabled him to identify the remedy which would cure the patient. He found when actually treating patients that a small material dose of the substance would produce an aggravation of symptoms before it cured. He then started to dilute the remedies, and vigorously shaking them (succussing) between dilutions. This produced a cure without the aggravation. He also found that a remedy so treated was more powerful as a curative, and so he called the process potensisation.

Homoeopathy is still based on this principle when used today, 200 years later then Hahnemann's time. It is very different from conventional medicine and is frequently misunderstood and denigrated . In conventional medicine we are taught to think in terms of disease and pathological states, changes from the normal physiological state wrought by outside factors such as infection trauma and stress, and also conditions arising from allergy or even autoimmunity. In order to treat such disease states we try to make a diagnosis based on symptoms and physical signs. This may enable us to find a cause for which there is a specific treatment or failing this, to treat the patient's complaints by symptomatic measures. Although there has been an increasing emphasis on treating the patient as a whole, medicine is in actual fact becoming increasingly fragmented and specialised, and there are few treatments which cure the patient as a whole.

If we look more closely at the patient, we find that although symptoms of a disease fall into a variety of categories which are more or less well defined, there are also other symptoms present. These vary from case to case, and are unique to that person. Thus no one case, even of a well defined disease like chickenpox, or pneumonia, exactly resembles another, any more than two individuals are ever absolutely identical. In other words the symptoms and signs of the disease are modified by the reaction of the patient.

The basis of homoeopathy is that the most successful remedy for any given occasion will be the one whose symptomatology presents the clearest and closest resemblance to the symptom complex of the sick person in question.

That is: let like be treated by like. Examples of this are as follows:-

The effects of peeling an onion are very similar to the symptoms of a cold or hay fever, and the remedy prepared from onion is used to treat colds and hay fever where the symptoms are similar.

The symptoms and signs of arsenic poisoning are very similar to those of certain cases of gastro-enteritis, and the remedy arsenicum album is used to treat these cases, with success.

So the first and fundamental principle of homoeopathy is the selection and use of a similar remedy.

The second and more controversial issue is the use of remedies in apparently very small quantities. This in itself is not homoeopathy but a refining of the basic method worked out by Hahnemann. Recent research has indicated that during potentisation an imprint of the molecular structure of the remedy is left in the liquid ,and this is therapeutically active.

Further research has shown that homoeopathic remedies are more successful than placebo and in some cases than conventional treatment in certain illnesses. It is believed that the natural healing process of the organism is stimulated by the remedy.

In spite of the general scepticism of many conventional medical practitioners homoeopathy works and has a place in modern therapeutics. It is prescribable on the NHS, and has been used by the Royal Family for many years.

Homoeopathic treatment can aid recovery in many conditions where a medical practitioner might wish to avoid the use of allopathic medicines. Since it stimulates the natural healing process there is less likelihood of recurrence of the condition, and homoeopathic treatment leads to an improvement in general health. There are applications for the use of homoeopathy in some conditions which are difficult to treat by conventional means. Remedies may afford relief to sufferers who find side effects of some drugs too unpleasant. Homoeopathic remedies can be used together with allopathic drugs and other conventional treatment quite safely and effectively, they are without side effects and can be used in pregnancy, for young infants, and the elderly; they are inexpensive and treatment is cost-effective.

Homoeopathy is indicated in the treatment of many conditions:

  • in the initial treatment of acute infections, of the upper and lower respiratory tract, and skin.
  • for chronic conditions such as skin disease, arthritis, postviral fatigue.
  • for recurrent conditions-upper respiratory tract infections, glue ear, rhinitis, bronchitis, cystitis, vaginitis.
  • in the treatment of hormone related diseases-PMT, endometriosis, and menopausal problems.
  • for psychosomatic problems, stress related illnesses, including headaches, migraine, backache and muscular tension.
  • for allergies
  • for depression and anxiety

Article written by Dr Prunella E Mark

"Classical Homoeopathy" by Dr Margery Blackie
"Introduction to Homoeopathic Medicine" by Dr Hamish Boyd

Back to articles' list

Featured events

ITEC Level 3 Certificate in Anatomy, Physiology and Pathology
Distance learning

Tai Chi / Taiji
Regular class
Stockport Cheshire


To subscribe, simply enter your email address below:

We'll never share your email with anyone else.