(Gr. Homoiopatheia, from homoiopathes having like feelings or affections; hmoios, like, similar and pthos, feelings, sufferings). The theory or system of curing diseases with very minute doses of medicine which in a healthy person and in large doses would produce a condition like that of the disease treated.
As per the primary principle of Homoeopathy, Similia Similibus Curentur or the Law of Similars which is the natural law of healing, diseases are treated by medicines, which are capable of producing in healthy persons, symptoms similar to those of the disease, which it can treat in a sick person. The term "homoeopathy" was coined by Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann and first appeared in print in 1807.
The Law of Similars forming the basis of Homoeopathy, though finds a mention in the teachings of Hippocrates and Paracelsus, the credit of deriving an entire system of therapeutics from this principle, goes to the German physician Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann.
While translating the Materia Medica  of William Cullen, also called the Scottish Hippocrates, Hahnemann was intrigued by the explanation provided by Cullen about the reason why Cinchona bark was useful in intermittent fever. To understand the effects of Cinchona bark in intermittent fevers, Hahnemann experimented on his own self. Intake of Cinchona resulted in occurrence of condition simulating intermittent fevers. This effect that Cinchona bark produced on him gave birth to the novel idea of Human Provings, on which the subsequent therapeutics was based.
Hahnemann continued to experiment on himself and on others, close to him, noting that every substance he took produced definite distinct symptoms. He further noted that no two substances produced, exactly the same set of symptoms. Each substance provoked its own unique pattern of symptoms, both on physical and mental plane. At first, Hahnemann tested substances commonly used as medicines in his time (such as Antimony and Rhubarb) and also, poisons like Arsenic and Belladonna. The provings done by Hahnemann on himself and on others were recorded in his various writings from 1805 onwards. Eventually, Hahnemann began to treat the sick on the principles of Homoeopathy and achieved outstanding clinical success right from the outset.
Law of Similars
The 'law of similars' is an ancient medical maxim, but its modern form is based on Hahnemann's conclusion that vast set of symptoms produced by any substance on a group of healthy individuals can be cured in a sick person by application of same substance as per homoeopathic principles. A simple example is that of onion and homoeopathic preparation of red onion, Allium cepa. Watering and burning sensation in eyes and nose on peeling an onion is a common phenomenon. According to the principle of Homoeopathy, a person suffering from similar watering and burning of eyes and nose frequently seen with common cold can be treated by the medicine Allium cepa, prepared from red onion.
The symptom profile associated with various medicines are determined by proving the medicines on healthy human volunteers and the resulting physical and mental symptoms are compiled by the observer to form the 'Drug Pictures'. The Disease Picture of the sick individual is then matched with the Drug Pictures available in the Materia Medica and the most similar medicine is chosen and prescribed to bring about cure. This principle has been verified by millions of Homoeopaths all over the world.
Single Simple remedy
In a variance to the then prevalent medieval medical practice, Hahnemann directed his followers to administer single medicine at a time to each patient, and not as combination of medicine since the collective effects of the medicines would be different from that of individual substances used. Homoeopathic medicines are usually administered ideally in single, simple and unadulterated form. Even if a patient suffers from several complaints, the homoeopathic physician does not prescribe different medicines for different complaints; rather he administers a single medicine, at a time, which matches all/most of the important symptoms.
The homoeopathic medicine selected for a sick person is prescribed in minimum dose, so that when administered, there is no toxic effect in the body.
The most characteristic and unique principle of Homoeopathy is " Drug Dynamization". Homoeopathic medicines are prepared in a special way known as Drug Dynamization or Potentization. The crude drug substance is diluted and triturated or succussed to increase its potency, by virtue of which, only the medicinal power of the substance is retained and drug related side effects are eliminated. In medium and higher potencies of the medicines, the original drug substance does not exist, yet the medicinal power of the substance is retained and drug related side effects are eliminated. It is believed that this process of preparing Homoeopathic medicines liberates an intrinsic power within them, which makes them safer while retaining its disease curing power. The potentized medicine acts as a triggering or a catalytic agent to stimulate and strengthen the defence mechanisms of the body. The potencies differ from simple dilutions, in the mechanical process involved in their preparation.
Vital force/Life Principle/ Vital Principle
Homoeopathy system recognizes the existence of an invisible dynamic force in the living organism, i.e. the Vital Force, which regulates all the functions of the body and maintains life. By virtue of harmony of this Dynamic Force, health is maintained. When this force is deranged the healthy person becomes ill. The Homoeopathic medicine, when given to the patient, stimulates this Vital Force and restores health. It is apparent that, Hahnemann wished to impress upon his followers that it is the disorder in the internal being, a lack of harmony and balance, which gives forth the signs and symptoms, identified as disease. Health can be achieved, when this harmony is restored.
The word miasm comes from Greek word Miasma which means taint, stain or pollution. Hahnemann names three miasms, Psora, Sycosis and Syphilis. Each miasm is seen as the root cause for several diseases which are chronic in nature. Miasms are either inherited at birth or acquired from environment during lifetime. Miasms act as a fertile soil for chronic diseases to grow.
Homoeopathic Pathogenetic Trials (Drug Proving)
Drug Proving concept is unique to Homoeopathy, whereby the pathogenetic effects of a drug substance are ascertained on the basis of their effects on healthy human beings. The drug substance is given to healthy human volunteers in controlled conditions, and the symptoms produced are carefully documented to evolve the Drug Picture. This documentation of symptoms is made in the form of Materia Medica. The medicines are used to treat sick persons after matching their symptoms given in the Materia Medica.
However, the provings of drugs were done by others before Hahnemann, like Anton von Strck (1731-1803) and Albrecht von Haller (1708-1777). Hahnemann had hugely admired their contributions.
Holistic and Individualistic approach
Homoeopathic approach is holistic as well as individualistic; holistic in the sense that the medicine is selected for the patients as a whole, but not for individual diseased organs/parts; individualistic from the view point that each individual patient is considered different from others, although all are suffering from the same disease.
Medicine is selected for each individual patient based on his/her totality of symptoms, and not according to the name of the disease. Therefore, even if a number of patients suffer from the same disease condition, they may require different medicines, due to variation in the expression of symptoms in different patients. Such a variation of symptoms is found in respect of location of symptoms, their sensations/characters, modifying factors and associated features and also, variation in the general constitution, physical and mental attributes of the patient.
In short, Homoeopathy treats the PATIENT who suffers from the disease but NOT THE DISEASE that the patient has.
Organon of Medicine
Organon of Medicine is the Bible of Homoeopathy, which lays down the principles and the philosophical background of the practice of Homoeopathy. Written by Hahnemann, it saw five editions during the lifetime of the master, the sixth edition was published long after his death.
Materia Medica is the compilation of the symptoms of individual drugs, on the basis of which Homoeopathic prescriptions are made. Hahnemann recorded his first provings in Fragmenta de viribus medica mentorum de positivus. The first Materia Medica Pura was published in 1811. Since then many different authors have published materia medicas and many new drugs have been added.
Repertory is the index of symptoms, listing all the remedies associated with the specific symptoms (rubrics). The first such Homoeopathic repertory was written by Hahnemann himself, but George Jahrs repertory was the first published repertory. Now many repertories (with different philosophical background) and related softwares are available in the market.
MERITS OF HOMOEOPATHY
- Principles of treatment are in conformity with the Natures laws of healing.
- The medicines are palatable.
- The treatment is highly cost effective.
- Simple method of application of medicines: orally
- Use of medicines whose actions on healthy human volunteers are known
- Medicines are used in potentised form and in minute doses, and are, therefore, harmless.
- Medicines can be prescribed on the basis of symptoms without waiting for laboratory investigations.
Some diseases amenable to homoeopathic treatment:-
- Diseases of viral origin - Hepatitis, Rhinitis, Influenza, Conjunctivitis, Eruptive fevers (Chicken pox, Measles, Herpes Zoster) etc.
- Common problems of Children, acute or chronic, which are not life threatening.
- Complaints during pregnancy, labor and puerperium.
- Skin diseases: Skin allergies (Atopic Dermatitis, Urticaria), Psoriasis, Eczema, Warts, Corns, etc.
- Diseases of Psychosomatic origin: Migraine, Acid Peptic Diseases, Irritable Bowel syndrome, etc.
- Female disorders: menstrual irregularities, Dysmenorrhoea, Reproductive Tract Infection, Menopausal syndrome, Cervicitis and Cervical erosion etc.
- Mental disorders like Anxiety neurosis, Depression etc.
- So called surgical diseases : Renal Calculi, Benign Prostate Enlargement, Piles, Anal Fissure/Fistula etc.
- Homoeopathy can enhance the healing process and reduce the recovery period especially after surgeries and deliveries and hasten the union of fractured bones etc.
- Homoeopathy can assist in relieving conditions of drug dependents and help in overcoming withdrawal symptoms.
Homoeopathy has limited scope in:
- Irreversible/advanced organic changes e.g. complete optic atrophy, advanced pulmonary tuberculosis, etc.
- In artificial chronic diseases resulting from long continued use of allopathic medicines, in large doses
- In cases, where the individualizing features are lacking, which are essential for selecting a Homoeopathic medicine
- Where the patient is lacking a vital organ, e.g. a patient whose spleen has been removed previously may very well be palliated from time to time, but cannot be completely cured.
- Severe hypertension with complications damaging eyes, kidneys, brain, etc.
- Severe diabetes mellitus with complications
- In cases where surgery is unavoidable and in case of congenital defects, e.g. Strangulated hernia, cleft palate, mitral stenosis, etc.
In each of these situations, Homoeopathy can provide corollary assistance, improve quality of life and act as a complementary therapy.