What the Heck is Homeopathy?
While most of my clients are familiar with acupuncture, herbal and chiropractic medicine, many have never heard of homeopathy or at least have limited understanding of what it is. Sometimes there’s confusion between “homeopathy” and “holistic,” which is understandable, because many people have only a vague idea of what these terms really mean. While the term “holistic” refers to an entire medical philosophy, homeopathy is actually just one of many modalities a holistic or naturopathic medical practitioner might use.
Homeopathy is a medical treatment system that was developed in Germany in the late 1700s by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. The common medical treatments of the time were quite crude by our modern standards, and included bloodletting and administration of mercury and other extremely toxic substances. Dr. Hahnemann became so disillusioned with medicine that he quit his practice and began translating medical texts for a living. In one of these texts, he encountered the claim that malaria was remedied by cinchona (quinine), a substance made from the bark of a Peruvian tree. Wondering what it was about this bark that made it effective, he experimented by ingesting progressively higher doses of the substance himself. To his amazement, he found that by taking enough of the cinchona solution, he created symptoms in himself that were very similar to that of a malaria patient, though not as severe. Further experimentation led to him to conclude, “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.” This “like cures like” principle became the basis for homeopathy (homeo = same; + pathy = suffering).
Because he wanted to use medicine in the gentlest and safest way possible, Hahnemann experimented with smaller and smaller dilutions of what were often potentially toxic substances. He found that even extremely diluted medicines benefited patients, as long as the “Law of Similars” as he called it, was followed. A good example of this would be the homeopathic remedy made from the stinger of a bee, known as Apis. As long as the patient’s clinical symptoms are similar to that of a bee sting red, hot, swollen, painful, better with cold applications no matter what the cause of the problem, Apis will help improve the condition.
Hahnemann went on to test or “prove” hundreds of substances to discover their utility in various medical conditions. Because of the effectiveness and safety of his new system, and despite significant opposition from the conventional medical community, homeopathy thrived. By 1900, there were over a hundred homeopathic hospitals in the U.S. It attractedmany highly respected members of society from Mark Twain to John D. Rockefeller. Britain’s Royal Family has famously embraced homeopathy since the 1830s.
As conventional medicine improved dramatically in the 1900s, homeopathy fell out of favor. By 1950 all the 22 schools for homeopathy had closed, and fewer than 100 practicing homeopaths remained. There was, however, a rebound in the 1970s along with interest in other “holistic” medical modalities such as acupuncture and herbal medicine. Today homeopathy has grown in popularity all over the world because it’s safe, inexpensive and has shown exceptional healing ability.
The use of homeopathy in veterinary medicine can be attributed mainly to Dr. Richard Pitcairn, a veterinarian in Eugene, Oregon who also became disillusioned by the limitations of conventional veterinary medicine. He began using homeopathy exclusively in his veterinary practice in the 1980s, and went on to teach homeopathy to hundreds of veterinarians, eventually founding the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy in 2005. This is who I learned homeopathy from, and I feel very fortunate to have had the brilliant Dr. Pitcairn as one of my teachers.
There are now hundreds of homeopathic remedies made from just about any natural substance you could imagine, from arsenic and strychnine to sea water and dog’s milk. While this may sound strange and potentially dangerous to many people, homeopathic remedies are prepared in a way that “extracts” the energetic essence but none of the molecules of the original substance. The basic theory is that when a homeopathic remedy “resonates” energetically with the disordered state of imbalance or “disease” in a body, it cancels it out. In this way, wellchosen homeopathic medicine stimulates the body’s innate healing capacity on an energetic level. So whereas a pharmaceutical drug can effectively treat symptoms of a disease, homeopathy essentially treats the disease itself. Whereas drugs can have undesirable side effects, homeopathics, by their very nature, do not. They are energetic medicines, not chemical, and do not have any potential toxicity.
I know this sounds a bit far fetched, and it certainly flies in the face of conventional medicine and pharmacology. A sceptic by nature, I never would have believed in the validity of homeopathy if I hadn’t witnessed dramatic healing responses in some of my patients and myself. I find that homeopathy helps me to treat and sometimes cure conditions in my patients that I could never could do with conventional medicines. So here’s a big “thank you!” to Doctors Hahnemann and Pitcairn.
Great article Jeff. Do you think there is a homeopathic remedy for TaZ’s anxiety, over excitement ?
Homeopathy is not very straight-forward for behavior cases. It requires working closely with a good veterinary homeopath, and having patience when prescribing what can be several different remedies and hoping for one that has a good effect. It can work great if you get the right remedy, but finding that particular remedy can be very difficult, and takes time. there might be up to 50 different remedies for for anxiety, for example. Its easier with humans who can speak of the nature of their mental and emotional issues, but with animals we have to guess what is going on…so it’s harder to come up with an accurate prescription. So not saying it’s impossible, but it’s rarely ever simple or straight-forward.