Examining the Philosophy and Principles of Homeopathy

When you get the sniffles or your head has been throbbing all day, what do you do? Do you reach for an over-the-counter medicine to quickly assuage the symptoms? Do you lean on an old remedy your grandmother used to use? For a growing number of people in the United States, they fall somewhere in between, opting for homeopathic remedies to not only treat the symptom but treat the underlying issue.

“Many people think homeopathy means home remedies like vitamins, supplements, essential oils, or herbs,” Kari Wagner, co-founder of TapRoots in Forest said. “While those things are good and can be helpful, they are not homeopathy.”

By definition, homeopathy is “the treatment of disease by minute doses of natural substances that in a healthy person would produce symptoms of disease.” According to Wagner, homeopathy is its own system of medicine made from plants, herbs, chemicals, and other natural substances. Homeopathy has been practiced for over two centuries and has endured a litany of scientific research aiming to prove its inefficacy—and its popularity is starting to grow.

“It’s a highly diluted gentle preparation of the substance that is very different from allopathic [modern, conventional] medicine,” she said. “Homeopathy stimulates the body to heal itself. It works on the system rather than just the symptom.”

This means that, when a person takes a homeopathic remedy, it’s thought to stimulate the body’s healing energy and triggers the body’s natural healing responses.

Homeopathy was first devised as a medical system by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. According to Wagner, he believed conventional medicine sometimes did more harm than good, so he created homeopathy based on three core principles.

“His cornerstone healing principle is that ‘like cures like,’” Wagner explained. “This means that which can produce a set of symptoms in a healthy individual can treat a sick individual who is manifesting a similar set of symptoms. For example, if your eyes tear up, burn, or your nose runs when cutting a raw onion and you experience similar symptoms during allergy season, then a very minute dose of homeopathic remedy Allium cepa (made from onion) may help you reverse these symptoms.”

Hahnemann’s other two principles of homeopathy are “minimal dose” and “single remedy.” 

“Only the minimal dose should be taken to initiate the body’s natural healing process,” Wagner explained. “Minimum doses don’t produce harmful side effects that many people experience when taking conventional medicines.”

As for the third principle, “single remedy,” Wagner says that homeopathy’s mission is to treat the whole person, not individual symptoms. 

“When taking the correct single remedy, you’ll often notice a positive change in emotional health as well as physical health because you’re matching the person as a whole,” she said.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there’s little evidence to support homeopathy as an effective treatment for any specific health condition. But Wagner purports its effectiveness, including for her family of five.

“I’ve used a long list of homeopathic remedies over the years to help my family of five combat colds, coughs, flu, stomach bugs, sore throats, sleeplessness, anxiety, headaches, sore muscles, inflammation, itchy bug bites, skin infections, chronic dry eyes, lyme disease, and much more,” she said. “You name it and I believe there’s a homeopathic remedy for it.”

In addition to Allium cepa, as referenced above for reversing allergy symptoms, other homeopathic solutions include Belladonna for headaches, Euphrasia for eye infections, and Gelsemium for fever and chills. A diluted remedy of Belladonna, a deadly nightshade plant, is thought to trigger the body’s natural responses to alleviate the headache. Euphrasia, in its natural state, can cause symptoms like redness, watering, and irritation of the eyes, so it’s therefore thought that using it as a homeopathic remedy can alleviate those symptoms caused by an eye infection. Similarly, Gelsemium, which is made from the yellow jasmine plant, can cause fever, chills, and muscle aches. A diluted remedy is Gelsemium is thought to alleviate those cold-related symptoms and encourage the body’s natural defenses to kick in.

Homeopathic treatments are often customized for each person and it’s not uncommon for individuals with the same condition to receive different treatments.

“Homeopathy can be used in tincture form, but it’s most often taken as a dissolvable tablet or pill,” Wagner said. “It is a different system than taking supplements.”

Given its highly individualized approach, homeopathy is a practice for informed practitioners. Whereas most adults feel comfortable popping a Tylenol or two for a headache or backache, it’s recommended that individuals seek the counsel of an experienced homeopath before diving into specific remedies.

When speaking with a homeopath, aim to give them as much information as possible regarding your symptoms and experiences including primary and secondary symptoms, the location of the symptoms, the cause of circumstances present at the time the symptoms occur, anything that causes the symptoms to get better or worse, and the sensations you are experiencing (such as a dull pain, throbbing, aching, etc.).

This article does not constitute medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider before starting a new healthcare regimen. Homeopathic products are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any disease. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.

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