Homeopathy Running head: HOMEOPATHY Theory of Homeopathy Abstract A large portion of the United States population believes that alternative approaches to health care are less evasive and more effective than so-called Western medicine. This report looks at the efficacy of homeopathy. As this therapy moves into the mainstream there is a need for doctors and nurses to understand its benefits and possible adverse effects. Theory of Homeopathy Homeopathy is a type of medical treatment that is based on the theory of treating certain diseases with very small doses of drugs that, in a healthy person and in large doses, would produce symptoms like those of the disease (Webster, 1982). From the transcripts of Talk of the Nation (National Public Radio), the question of,What is Homeopathy? was asked to Dr. Judith Reichenberg-Ullman. She is naturopathic physician, board certified in homeopathic medicine, president of the International Foundation for Homeopathy, and author of, Homeopathic Self-Care.

Her reply was: It’s an approach that treats the whole person, and it uses the law of similars, which means that we use the same substance which would cause symptoms in a person in a healthy person to treat those same symptoms in a person who has them. Homeopathy is one of the fastest growing areas of alternative medicine. Homeopathic remedies are sold in pharmacies over the counter although some homeopathic drugs can be obtained by prescription only. Since homeopathy is attracting more interest and therefore an ever-increasing number of patients, it is also appealing to a large and quickly growing number of practitioners as well. Some of these are medical doctors who are frustrated by what they view as the limitations of conventional medicine.

These professionals, who are utilizing homeopathy as an alternative medical treatment to offer their clients, are seeking methods that emphasize treating the entire patient as opposed to focusing on just the illness, as conventional medicine tends to do. Homeopathy closes the distance between healer and patient. A gap that some argue mainstream medicine not only created but continues to widen with it’s tendency towards coldness and indifference to it’s patients. Homeopathic is effective for a wide range of ailments such as colds, flu, arthritis, allergies, and sprains to name just a few of the maladies for which there are homeopathic treatments for. But even homeopathy’s most devoted supporters can not explain why it works, only that it does work.

Critics of the homeopathic methods argue that the fundamental ideas behind homeopathy defy the laws of chemistry and physics and that it’s theory makes no sense in the scientific world. (Langman, 1997). They also claim that homeopathic ‘cures’ are due to the so-called placebo effect; that the patients and professionals of homeopathy believe so strongly in their treatment that their belief system is actually the cure, not the homeopathic method used. (Langman, 1997). Homeopathy’s newfound success also dismays many physicians, scientists and consumer advocates who regard the homeopathic formulas as ineffective, at best, and dangerous, at worst.

They’re especially concerned that by attempting to cure their ills with the homeopathic method, patients will not seek assistance from established treatments for very serious, perhaps life threatening ailments. Whether the treatment is mainstream or alternative medicine, as is the homeopathic method, there will always be critics as well of converts. Regardless of the criticism, as alternative medicine becomes more prevalent in western society there is a need to further educate nurses and other healthcare providers as to the advantages and possible disadvantages of homeopathy. Homeopathy is an alternative system of medicine that was founded in the early nineteenth century by a German physician, Dr. Hahnemann.

It had its greatest popularity in the late nineteenth century in the United States. During that time as many as fifteen percent of the doctors in this country were homeopathic practitioners. However, with the advent of modern medicine, homeopathy began to appear out dated and primitive. Modern medicine seemed more advanced and probably more ‘civilized’ as well. The popularity of homeopathy greatly diminished.

(World Book Encyclopedia, 1998). Homeopathy has seen a resurgence of interest in the United States and other areas in Europe in just the last fifteen to twenty years as patients have began questioning the effectiveness of modern medicine. Homeopathic books can be found in many bookstores and homeopathic physicians in most towns and cities.(World Book Encyclopedia,1998). As the practice of homeopathy become more prevalent in these modern times, it seems apparent that patients are seeking more than the current practices of medicine have been providing; treatment that is safer, less evasive, and which treat the disease and the patient simultaneously. Classical homeopathy rests on three principles: the law of similars, the single medicine, and the minimum dose.

As mentioned earlier, the law of similars states that a disease is cured by a medicine that creates symptoms similar to those the patient is experiencing in a healthy person. Therefore an important part of the prescription of a homeopathic medicine is a lengthy interview to determine all the symptoms the patient is experiencing. The homeopathic physician then determines which medicine that best matches the symptoms that the patient is experiencing and prescribes it to the patient. The principle of the single remedy states that a single medicine should cover all the symptoms the patient is experiencing mentally, emotionally, and physically. For example, a classical homeopath would not prescribe one medicine for a headache and another for an upset stomach if a patient were in his office with complaining of both.

He or she would find a single medicine that covered both symptoms and prescribe it. (Encarta, 1998). The principle of the minimum dose has two parts. In the first part, the homeopathic physician only prescribes a small number of doses of the homeopathic medicine and waits to see what effect the medicine has. Second, the medicine is given in an infinitesimal dose.

Homeopaths have discovered that the effect of homeopathic medicines is strengthened upon successive dilutions as long as the medicine is violently shaken between each dilution. Medicines are typically used in very high dilutions. (Encarta, 1998). It is the use of infinitesimal doses that is the most controversial aspect of homeopathy and the reason why most conventional doctors claim it functions only as a placebo. However, a number of controlled studies have been performed which show the effectiveness of homeopathic medicine in treating a number of diseases.

One summary of this research is a study published in the British Medical Journal. The authors of this study are not homeopaths but medical school professors who were asked by the Dutch government to review the existing research. The results reported neither positive nor negative effects of the use of homeopathic remedies. Instead the outcome suggested that homeopathy should continue to be researched as a possible, useful alternative to conventional therapy. (Kleijnen,1991). This information was a huge success in the eyes of naturopaths and others that use alternative medicine as a source of care. People who practice homeopathy as a form of medical treatment need to be prepared to deal with the potential consequences of that practice. There should be an understanding of anatomy and pharmacology, with a good formal grounding in homeopathy and clinical training. The best place to get the first part of the training is in medical, nursing or physician assistant programs. Good training in homeopathy, with clinical rotations, is not that easy to find.

As in conventional medicine, there are times in homeopathic practice where non-physician practitioners can prescribe safely. Although these practitioners should always have a physician backing them up. There are many case scenarios or clinical situations that recognize homeopathy as a valid treatment for certain ailments and not just the result of a placebo effect. For example, in 1980 the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology reported a study involving arthritic patients treated with an anti-inflammatory drug. Half of the group received a homeopathic remedy while a control group received placebos.

The double-blind study concluded that there was a statistically significant improvement in pain, stiffness and grip strength among patients who received homeopathic treatment. ( …