Homeopathy is a therapeutic method that uses natural substances to relieve symptoms. It derives from the Greek words homeo, meaning "similar," and pathos, meaning "suffering" (such as the pathology of a disease). Homeopathy operates on a "like cures like" principle that has been used empirically for more than 200 years and continues to be confirmed in pharmacological research and clinical studies. What this means is a person suffering from symptoms can be treated by microdoses of a substance capable of producing similar symptoms in a healthy person. It is said that homeopathic medicines stimulate the body's physiological reactions that restore health. This is accomplished with a very low risk of side effects due to the use of microdoses.
Homeopathy is a form of alternative medicine in which practitioners treat patients using highly diluted preparations that are believed to cause healthy people to exhibit symptoms that are similar to those exhibited by the patient. The collective weight of scientific evidence has found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo.
In the context of homeopathy, the term remedy is used to refer to a substance which has been prepared with a particular procedure and intended for patient use; it is not to be confused with the generally accepted use of the word, which means “a medicine or therapy that cures disease or relieves pain”.
An example of how homeopathic medicines work is the similarity of symptoms between allergies and chopping onions. When you cut into an onion, your eyes will water and your nose runs. If similar symptoms appear after contact with pollen or a pet, the homeopathic medicine most appropriate to treat these symptoms is made from a tiny amount of onion. Instead of masking symptoms, the medicine sends the body a signal to help it rebalance and heal.
The basic principle of homeopathy, known as the “law of similars”, is “let like be cured by like.” It was first stated by German physician Samuel Hahnemann in 1796. His “law of similars” is taken on his word as an unproven assertion, and is not a true law of nature based on the scientific method. Homeopathic remedies are prepared by serial dilution with shaking by forceful striking on an elastic body, which homeopaths term succussion. Each dilution followed by succussion is assumed to increase the effectiveness. Homeopaths call this process potentization. Dilution often continues until none of the original substance remains. Apart from the symptoms, homeopaths examine aspects of the patient’s physical and psychological state, then homeopathic reference books known as repertories are consulted, and a remedy is selected based on the totality of symptoms.