Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Philosophy and Treatments

Homeopathy regards diseases as morbid derangements of the organism, and states that instances of disease in different people differ fundamentally. Homeopathy views a sick person as having a dynamic disturbance in a hypothetical "vital force", a disturbance which, homeopaths claim, underlies standard medical diagnoses of named diseases.

Homeopathy is based on the 'principle of similars', first expressed by Hahnemann as similia similibus curentur or 'let likes cure likes'. This is opposite to the 'principle of contraries' which was central to the Galenic medicine in which Hahnemann had been trained. The 'law of similars' is an ancient medical maxim, but its modern form is based on Hahnemann's hypothesis that a constellation of symptoms induced by a given homeopathic remedy in a group of healthy individuals will cure a similar set of symptoms in the sick. Symptom patterns associated with various remedies are determined by 'provings', in which healthy volunteers are given remedies, of varying concentrations, and the resulting physical and mental symptoms are compiled by observers into a "drug picture".

The law of similars is more of a guiding principle than a scientific law. It is not built on a hypothesis that can be falsified. A failure to cure homeopathically can always be ostensibly attributed to incorrect selection of a remedy.

There are many methods for determining the most-similar remedy (the simillimum), and homeopaths sometimes disagree. This is partly due to the complexity of the "totality of symptoms" concept. That is, homeopaths do not use all symptoms, but decide which are the most characteristic. This subjective evaluation of case analysis relies on knowledge and experience. Finally, the drug picture in the Homeopathic Materia Medica is always more comprehensive than the symptoms exhibited by any individual. These factors mean that a homeopathic prescription can remain presumptive until it is verified by testing the effect of the remedy on the patient.

Hahnemann tested many substances commonly used as medicines in his time, such as antimony and rhubarb, and also poisons like arsenic, mercury and belladonna, to discover what symptoms they produced in healthy individuals. Homeopathy uses many animal, plant, mineral, and synthetic substances. Examples include natrum muriaticum (common salt), lachesis muta (bushmaster snake venom), opium, and thyroidinum.

Other homeopathic remedies involve dilution of the agent or product of the disease. These are the so-called "isopathic remedies", and include nosodes made from diseased tissue, and sarcodes made from healthy tissue. Rabies nosode, for example, is made by diluting the saliva of a rabid dog. Apis mel., another homeopathic remedy, is made from the venom of the Western honey bee, and is used to treat bee stings and fever induced by viral infections.

Today, about 3000 remedies are used in homeopathy; about 300 are based on comprehensive Homeopathic Materia Medica information, and about 1500 on relatively fragmentary knowledge. The rest are used experimentally in difficult cases based on the law of similars, either without knowledge of their homeopathic properties or through speculative knowledge independent of the law of similars. This modern approach also harks back to the ancient 'doctrine of signatures,' which Hahnemann rejected as uncertain guesswork.

Modern efforts to further develop homeopathy

The constant efforts by homeopaths to develop new treatments are driven by many different forces. For example, some are tempted to use an isopathic, or disease-associated agent as a first prescription in a 'stuck' case when the beginning of disease coincides with a specific event such as vaccination. Also, it is common to try a chemically-related substance when a remedy that was well-indicated fails. A good example of this is the use of bowel nosodes, which were introduced by the British homeopaths, Edward Bach (1886–1936), John Paterson and Charles Edwin Wheeler in the 1920s. Their use is based on the variable bowel bacterial flora thought to be associated with persons of different homeopathic constitutional types. Though receiving more attention today, the bowel nosodes are rarely used outside British homeopathy.

More recently, homeopathy has embraced substances based on their elemental classification (the periodic table or biological taxonomy).This approach may create convenient systems for grouping remedies and classifying the ever-burgeoning Homeopathic Materia Medica, but its usefulness is questioned by some purists on the basis that it involves speculation about remedy action without provings.

Some modern homeopaths are exploring the use of even more esoteric substances. These are known as "imponderables", because they do not originate from a material but from electromagnetic energy or other energy presumed to have been "captured" by a substance like alcohol or lactose. The captured "energy" can be in many forms, such as X-rays, Sol (sunlight), Positronium, Electricitas or even light collected using a telescope (for example, from the star Polaris). Recent ventures by homeopaths into even more esoteric substances include Tempesta (thunderstorm), and Berlin wall

1 comment:

Elena Rudakova said...

Hello! I am a Russian homeopath. I found this post really interesting and useful. Can I ask your permission for posting a translation of it on the website of the medical centre I’m working at? Of course I will put a hyperlink to your web page. My email: elleth@mail.ru
Thank you,
Elena