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What is the history of homeopathy?
Homoios in Greek means similar and pathos means suffering or disease. Homoeopathy is a complementary
system of medicine founded in the early 19th century by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. At that time he was dissa-
tisfied with the treatment of disease, which at times involved purging, and the use of leeches. He drifted away
from the medical profession and continued translating books. During this time, he translated a book of Materia
Medica written by Cullen, which described a-malaria-like cure using the bark of the quina tree of Peru, the
Cinchona. Hahnemann carried out some experiments that involved taking Cinchona Officianalis and to his sur-
prise developed malaria like symptoms that wore off when he stopped taking the drug. This lead him to believe
that if a healthy person is given a substance in a small dose it would cause certain symptoms and thus would
it not cure those same symptoms in a sick person? This thinking led him and his assistants to many trials and
research of taking many substances in small and repeated dosages. Hahnemann also found that by diluting a
substance, its effects were enhanced rather than lessened and this he termed 'potentisation'. It was done with
repeated diluting and shaking of the remedy. The potency is indicated by a number after the name of the remedy
and indicates the dilution. Thus, 6ch or 6th centesimal potency has been diluted by one part of the substance
mixed with 99 parts of water and shaken approximately 60 times. By the time this process has been repeated
12 times, to make a 12ch, not even a molecular trace of the substance is left. All of these findings and symp-
toms that arose from taking all these substances including the physical, mental and emotional symptoms were
carefully recorded. The recorded symptoms constituted the Materia Medica. The Materia Medica is a handbook
containing all the provings of remedies of the last 200 years and includes many modern day remedies.
What are potencies, what kind of potencies do you get and what do they do?
Potencies (medication strengths) include 9ch, 12ch, 15ch, 30ch, 200ch, 1M, and a 10M that has been diluted
and succussed 10000 times. This seems to be extraordinary but a few doses of the high potencies can work
for weeks. Many conventional or allopathic doctors negate the effects of homoeopathy because of its preparation
and state that it is due to the placebo effect. However, large number of controlled clinical trials has proved that
the clinical effects are not simply the results of a placebo. An article published in the Lancet (September 20,
1997) discussed a review of 89 double-blind or randomized clinical trials that revealed that the homeopathic
remedies had a 2.45 times greater effect than placebos. There have been many more such trials. A low potency
is thought to be useful in acute symptoms e.g. flu, coughs etc. while the higher potencies are used for chronic
conditions. This is only a guide and would depend on the homoeopath who is prescribing the medication.
What are homeopathic medicines made from?
Homoeopathic remedies are prepared from plant, animal and mineral substances. There are currently about
2000 remedies whose specific effects have been recorded e.g. salt, onion and the bee. These remedies are
available in different forms: tablets, liquids, granules, powders and injectables. The tablets, granules, and
powders are prepared from milk sugar (lactose) impregnated with the remedy, whereas liquid preparations are
solutions of the remedy in water with some alcohol to preserve it. As the base substance (the lactose) is the
same and only the remedies differ, this clearly explains why all the remedies appear to be the same.
How does homeopathy work?
As the remedies have all been thoroughly proven and the symptoms noted, it is the homoeopaths' job to
match a single remedy with the patient's emotional and physical ailments. To do this an involved case taking
is required. The initial consultation is between 60-90 minutes while a follow up is between 15-30 minutes. The
in-depth case taking is necessary to obtain a picture of the person to individualize the person. Thus, it can
never be enough to say I have this disease and what remedy can I take? Because a persons symptoms are
actually efforts of the body to reestablish homeostasis or balance and also represent the bodies attempts to
adapt and defend against various stresses or infections e.g. flu - a person develops a runny nose to get rid of
the virus, - sometimes the body is not successful in its attempts. Thus, a substance must be found in nature
that has the ability to mimic the symptoms found in the sick person in order to aid the body in its effects to
defend and ultimately heal itself. This is the law of similars, i.e. of like cures like.
What is an aggravation?
An aggravation may occur when a remedy is given and it 'over stimulates' the bodies defense system. It causes
a temporary increase in the person's symptoms, which lesson shortly. This is in fact a wonderful thing for the
homoeopath to hear as this means the remedy is correct and healing is taking place. Aggravations do not occur
routinely and very seldom in acute cases.
Is homeopathy legal in South Africa?
In South Africa, a unique situation exists where homeopaths are legally on par with medical doctors. Here the
lay homeopath as opposed to the medically trained homeopath has been through a rigorous 6-year training
(5-year theory and 1-year internship). This training covers all the basic sciences such as anatomy, physiology,
pathology and dissection. Further specialization occurs when the Materia Medica is studied together with
internal medicine (the diagnosis of disease, how to examine and refer for specific investigations i.e. blood tests).
This is the reason that homeopaths may be called doctor, as are vets and dentists. People who have done
homeopathic courses but are not registered with the Allied Health Services Profession Council are not allowed
to practice as homoeopaths and prescribe homoeopathic medications. Over the counter homoeopathic medi-
cation may be obtained from pharmacies and health shops where trained homoeopathic pharmacists exist and
individual remedies in low potencies may be dispensed.
Why can't I just take an over-the-counter remedy?
Many health shops and pharmacies stock prescription free homoeopathic remedies. These are complex
remedies (6-10 single remedies mixed together) and are generally labeled with the disease that they are used
for e.g. headache, allergies. Since careful individualized matching of the symptoms is needed to find the correct
remedy, these products rarely cure, they temporarily relieve the symptoms. The complex preparations are very
popular in South Africa as they are easy to use and they generally give good results. Since they are much safer
then conventional drugs, they are generally preferable to a growing number of customers. Complex remedies are
invaluable but most homoeopathic doctors have found that the medicine chosen individually for the person tends
to work more often and more deeply. It is generally believed that the complex remedies should not be prescribed
for chronic or serious health problems.
What does homeopathy treat?
Homoeopathy treats almost any disease both mental and physical. It cures many of the so-called incurable
diseases including arthritis, migraines, asthma, eczema, hay fever, glandular fever and chronic fatigue syn-
drome. Emotional states such as grief, trauma, and depressions can manifest as physical symptoms and
homoeopathic treatment can help overcome these problems. Homoeopaths cannot treat surgical conditions.
How fast do the remedies work?
This is a difficult question to answer as it varies from person to person and disease to disease. In general, an
acute illness (bronchitis, flu, ear infections) will have improvement within 24 hours provided the correct remedy
is given. But the following must always be taken into account: is the medication being taken properly?, is the
medication stored in the correct way, how strong is the persons constitution?, did the patient give the full case?
Even in a chronic case, the above is important. A chronic case may take many months to cure or shorter
depending on the case. Patience is required especially in a chronic disease.
If a person is using homeopathic medication, can they use conventional drugs at the same time?
Yes, it is possible to take them at the same time, though the homoeopathic medicines often work fast and
well enough that the person does not need to take conventional medicine. Some conventional medicines how-
ever are so strong that they may inhibit any action of the homeopathic remedies. In such situations, the person
must decide if he or she wishes to use the conventional or homoeopathic ones.
Advantages of homeopathy
• The remedies are non - toxic and not habit forming
• They are easy to take and use
• Homoeopathy treats the individual and not just the disease
• Homoeopathic remedies encourage the body to cure itself
• Homoeopaths are willing to listen to you and all your problems
(Verified by research: The Phenomenological Approach to Black Patients and their Experiences receiving
Treatment from a Homoeopathic Practice in Gauteng, 2000, N. Wolf.)
www.hsa.org.za - Homeopathic Association of South Africa
www.ahpcsa.co.za - Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa
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