What Is Homeopathy?
"I am interested in going into alternative medicine. At first I was thinking of becoming an herbalist, but then I heard about homeopathy. It sounds interesting, but I don’t quite understand what it is. It’s kind of confusing because I fail to see how administering poison can make somebody better. Can you please try to explain the theory of homeopathy to me and some of its history, and then tell me what I would do if I became a homeopathic practitioner?"
asked by Robert from Reno, NV
The principles of homeopathic medicine date back to the 18th century. The idea is that your body has a strong immune system and is capable of doing a great dealing of healing on its own, but sometimes needs a bit of a kick in the pants to get going on the process. The first homeopathic doctors in Europe came from Germany, and homeopathic practices spread quickly throughout the continent.
The principle is that “like cures like.” If a person is given a very small dose of a substance that would generally cause illness (i.e. a natural poison, as you indicated), but not so much that it is likely to be genuinely harmful, it may be enough to jump start the body’s natural healing processes. If you become a homeopathic practitioner (also known simply as a homeopath), you will administer a pill or solution to a patient which contains a very tiny, diluted amount of a substance which would normally cause illness.
Generally the substance will be plant matter or a mineral. Homeopathic medicine is used to treat many different types of health conditions. Some of these include IBS, allergies, dermatitis, arthritis, and minor injuries. Homeopathic medicine is a supplementary treatment and not a replacement for standard treatment, and is not the right option in an emergency or for treating a major illness or injury.
Does homeopathy really work, and is it safe? There is a great deal of heated debate about how homeopathic medicine works, but studies have shown that there is a difference between homeopathic remedies and the placebo effect in terms of effectiveness. So the evidence does support homeopathy as a real, effective branch of scientific medicine, despite our limited understanding of how it works.
As to whether it is safe, homeopathy has been regulated since 1938 in the US and is therefore considered to be safe when used properly.
Homeopathic remedies can be purchased over the counter and used without direction as long as directions are followed, but many customers prefer to speak to a homeopath first to make sure they are following the best treatment plan. Homeopathic substances are quite dangerous in the wrong quantities, so homeopaths need to be experts in administering the right dosages so as to help patients get better instead of worse.
Homeopathy is a fascinating field, and more and more people are taking an interest in it now that alternative care is becoming more popular with patients. It may well be a career worth considering.