Getting some answers to those questions about Homeopathy ...
Whether you are looking to get some simple answers about homoepathy or you want to do your own in-depth research, this is a great place to start. This page contains some detailed FAQs which cover the questions people usually ask about homeopathy.
Use the "Homeopathy explained" menu above to get more in-depth research information, including how to find and choose a homeopath for yourself, more about the history of homeopathy, details about how much homeopathy is used globally and much more.
Frequently Asked Questions about Homeopathy
What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a way of treating illness which uses the body's own abilities to make itself well, based on the principle of "like cures like".
How does Homeopathy work?
Homeopathic remedies trigger the body's ability to heal itself by stimulating a precise reaction in the body against the symptoms.
The body naturally reacts against attempts to make it behave differently. So homeopaths give a medicine (called a remedy) which in healthy people is able to cause a set of symptoms which are the same as the symptoms being treated in the patient. When the body reacts against the remedy it reacts against the symptoms too, and the patient gets better.
What are the key homeopathic principles?
What will cause symptoms in a healthy person will trigger the cure of a sick person with those symptoms (like cures like)
All the patient's symptoms need to be taken into account when choosing a medicine (totality of symptoms)
Only one remedy should be given at a time in order to avoid confusion about what is happening
The dosage should be the smallest that will work
Symptoms are part of a continuous process of change and indicate movement towards greater health or illness (law of cure)
What are the key benefits of Homeopathy?
Homeopathy uses the body's own healing mechanisms, so there are no side effects or rebound effects
Homeopathy speeds up the process of recovery
Homeopathy does not force the body to do anything, so its action is as gentle as possible
Homeopathy is based on full and detailed records of the case and its progress
It is easy to learn to treat yourself and your family for minor injuries and simple problems
Put simply, homeopathy is a way of treating illness which uses the body's own abilities to make itself well, based on the principle of "like cures like".
How long will homeopathic treatment take?
This depends on how chronic (long lasting) the illness is. A person who has had a chronic problem (e.g. an under-functioning thyroid) for a long time, will take several months, sometimes years to regain good or even total health. Acute problems, such as food poisoning, injuries, burns etc. may be helped within a few hours or even within seconds.
What happens when I see a homeopath?
During the first consultation the homeopath will take a detailed history of the case. The more details you are willing to share about your health, your lifestyle, your likes and dislikes and your emotions, the easier it becomes for her/him to find the right remedy for you.
Is it safe for children/babies/pregnant women?
Yes, homeopathic remedies use the body's own healing process, and so they do not force the body and do not have any side-effects.
Is there any evidence for homeopathy?
Yes, there is lots of evidence both historic and modern, in the form of randomised control trials (RCTs), meta-analyses of trials, outcome studies, in-vitro (test-tube) research and - most of all - clinical observations and records.
Some conventional medicines are used for conditions which can have a homeopathic relationship to the drug, such as quinine for malaria, silver nitrate for neonatal conjunctivitis, coal tar for psoriasis, or gold for arthritis. A recent discovery is that a sleeping pill can restore consciousness. Read about this in the Guardian here http://www.guardian.co.uk/medicine/story/0,,1870279,00.html
Will homeopathy work for any illness?
Yes, but with the following restrictions
If organ damage is so severe that it cannot be reversed, but homeopathy may be able to palliate the symptoms
If surgery is needed (e.g. as the result of an accident), but homeopathic remedies can greatly assist the healing process and are used in many German hospitals for this purpose, and in some UK hospitals too
If there is a "maintaining cause" that does not allow the body to heal itself, such as poor diet or living conditions, or continual exposure to the triggering effects of an allergen (such as wheat or dairy products for many people). In these cases it may be necessary to remove the problem at least temporarily until the person has recovered enough to be unaffected by it
If the symptoms of the illness are regularly suppressed by conventional medicine (e.g. period problems suppressed by the pill or problems suppressed by steroids)
What diseases can homeopathy treat?
Homeopaths do not have the same approach to illness as conventional doctors, and they do not treat diseases but people. The concept of diseases is a convenient approach for collecting together the information about common patterns of symptoms, so that one can identify a case of measles, 'flu or arthritis, for example. Individuals actually have their own patterns of symptoms when they are ill, and these may not include all the common ones but will include others peculiar to them. There is no proof that the common symptoms are more important in an individual case, and the evidence of side effects suggests the opposite is true: and that the individual's symptoms are critical for identifying the right treatment.
Homeopaths have observed that remedies have many symptoms in common, and that it is extremely difficult to pin down a single remedy for a case only on the basis of the common symptoms which identify diseases. Using the peculiar individual symptoms, however, it becomes much easier, because each remedy has its own unique pattern of action on the body, and so a homeopath can match the pattern of peculiarities of the patient with the same pattern in a remedy to find the individual remedy for the individual case. This often means that two patients with the same disease get different remedies, and that two patients with different diseases get the same remedy.
Doesn't homeopathy just treat the symptoms?
Yes and no, because there is a big difference between treating some symptoms and treating them all. Because homeopaths take all the symptoms into account, their remedies treat the whole process of the illness, not just its superficial aspects.
For homeopathy the symptoms (all of them) are what is wrong with you and they need to be used in selecting the choice of treatment. In conventional medicine the symptoms are often grouped according to disease definitions or medical specialisms reflecting the changes in tissues in the body. As a result they are dealt with separately rather than as a whole, and any connection between the disappearance of one group of symptoms and the later appearance elsewhere of another group is rarely noted. Homeopaths would say that this is treating the symptoms rather than the illness, whereas conventional doctors maintain that they are treating the problems that cause the symptoms and homeopaths only the symptoms.
The key difficulty here is that homeopathy has a clear definition of the nature of symptoms, while conventional medicine does not. Both approaches recognise that symptoms may be clear mechanical consequences (such as tissue destruction from chemicals or injury), but where homeopaths consider all other symptoms to be solely the body's response (such as nausea, fever, or a headache in response to a toxic substance, an infection, or an emotional upset), conventional medicine regards some symptoms as the direct effect of a causative agent (such as a virus) and others as the body's reaction to this agent. This confusing approach means that sometimes symptoms are reallocated from one category to the other. For example, it is only recently that conventional medicene has discovered that the fever in 'flu is not a product of the virus but the body's attempt to kill it, and treatment has had to be modified to allow the fever to continue so long as it is not life-threatening.
Do I still need to see a doctor?
In general you will see your doctor less as you recover, but there are also good reasons for seeing a doctor as well as a homeopath:
If you have a chronic illness and have been seeing a doctor, you should tell her/him that you are consulting a homeopath. If you are on medication it may be necessary to monitor and adjust the dosages as the body starts to recover, so good liaison with your doctor is helpful and may be very important.
Your doctor can provide the necessary tests and check ups on the NHS
Some employers will not accept a sick note from a homeopath, and there may be occasions when one is needed, so it is important to keep your relationship with a doctor
Will homeopathy work with conventional medicine?
Yes, homeopathy can work well with conventional medicine. However, it is essential that your homeopath is aware of any conventional medication you take, whether prescribed by a doctor or bought over the counter, including vitamins and other supplements. There can be conflicts between the two systems of treatment, and so it is important for the homeopath to be able to identify when this is happening. There may come a point when these conflicts mean that you need to decide which treatment you are going to rely on.
At the same time:
No responsible homeopath will ask you to come off your conventional medication without consulting with your GP
In some cases, where conventional medicine is suppressing a major system of the body (such as steroids and hormone treatments) homeopathic treatment may be more difficult; remedies may have to be given more often or over a longer period of time; or sometimes homeopathy fails to work at all.
Is homeopathy the same as herbalism?
No. Herbalism is a system of medicine using plant extracts and herbs, whereas homeopathic remedies can come from any kind of source, animal, vegetable, mineral or even electromagnetic (such as x-ray). Herbal medicine is used in material doses, while most homeopathic remedies are highly diluted and succussed (vigorously shaken). Herbalism is based on traditions of medicines being used for particular illnesses, whereas homeopaths have tested their remedies on healthy people and prescribe according to a specific relationship between the action of the substance and the patient's symptoms.
Is it true that homeopathy is a natural form of medicine?
Yes, homeopathy matches the medicine to the patient's needs so as to use the body's own process of healing. It does not force the body but merely triggers the healing process. Remedies need not be made from naturally occurring substances, though many are, and their virtue as medicine depends entirely on their relationship to the patient's symptoms, so they cannot be patented. In theory, anybody can make homeopathic remedies, but in practice the process is time-consuming and requires a lot of experience and quality control.
What does a homeopath mean by "getting better"?
Homeopaths have very clear ideas about what "getting better" means because they have observed a pattern to the process of healing. This was summed up by Constantine Hering MD in his Law of Cure. According to this, symptoms move from the more important organs to the less important, from the interior of the body to the surface, from higher up the body to lower down, and disappear in the reverse order of their original appearance. In short the symptoms become more superficial in position and time. Of course, getting ill is the reverse of this sequence.
Homeopaths still use the popular definition of cure too, i.e. cure is achieved when the person no longer has anything wrong with them. Whereas conventional medicine says that a particular group of symptoms is cured when it is absent for five years, whatever other symptoms may have appeared in that time.
Homeopaths work with patients to build a complete (holistic) picture of the patient's health. This involves homeopath and patient talking through physical symptoms, emotional wellbeing, state of mind and anything else which is important to the patient. This "symptom picture" is then matched with a remedy or remedies.