This article was written with the patient in mind and for those who wish to learn more about homeopathy. For this reason, some of the terminology has been simplified as far as possible, to make for ease of understanding.
The Organon and Homeopathic Philosophy
The Organon of Medicine, written by Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy is the cornerstone of homeopathic principles and practice. The first edition was written in 1810 in aphoristic style (paragraphs with numbers.) The book lays out the doctrines of homeopathy in a logical sequence of thoughts, philosophy and practice. In total there were 6 editions, five of which were published in Hahnemann’s lifetime, the 6th completed in 1842, but he sadly passed away in June of 1843 before it could be published. Thanks to the efforts of William Boericke. the 6th edition was published in 1921.
In order to fully embrace homeopathy, it is helpful to understand basic homeopathic philosophy. With patients, and those that wish to learn, I repeatedly refer to the mind/body connection and how symptoms should be treated in their totality as opposed to being seen as separate problems. The fundamental tenet of homeopathic medicine is to treat the imbalances of ‘the vital force’ leading to ill health as a whole, ideally with one remedy which matches the symptoms of the mind, body and spirit (this remedy is known as the Simillimum.) The Vital Force is an undefined energy, capable of fuelling an organism, it is inherent in all living things, which if disrupted or disturbed can result in disease. “The material organism without the vital force is capable of no sensation, no function, no self preservation; it derives all sensations, and performs all functions of life solely by means of the immaterial being (the vital force) which animates the material organism in health and disease.” (Aphorism 10, The Organon)
Hahnemann refers to it also as ‘dynamis’, ‘vital principle’ and ‘vital energy’. James Tyler Kent refers to it as ‘The Simple Substance,’ which is the dominating force in the organism; the absence of this force, is death. To help with an understanding of this, energy parallels can be found in various cultures; the Ancient Chinese know The Vital Force as ‘Chi, the Japanese and Koreans as ‘Ki’ and in the ancient Sanskrit writings of India it is known as ‘Prana.’ Underlying this, there are 4 basic principles which govern homeopathy; each of which will be discussed.
The first principle, the law of similars
The derivation of the word ‘Homeopathy’ (originally homoeopathy) comes from the Greek homoeo, meaning ‘similar’, and pathos, meaning ‘suffering’. This leads on to the first principle which is ‘Similia Similbus Curentur,’ translated from the Latin as: ‘like cures like.’ This principle predates Hahnemann and in fact, goes back to ancient ayurvedic scripts. The idea/concept of ‘The Law of Similars’ had first been mentioned by Hippocrates (The Father of Medicine, 460-377 B.C.) then by P.A. Paracelsus (1493-1541) although Hahnemann was responsible for creating ‘Homeopathy’ as we now know it, a complete system of medicine. Through much research and hands on practice, Hahnemann proved that a substance that can cause disease in a healthy person, can actively heal the same or similar disease in another. For example, Belladonna, a well known homeopathic remedy is used to treat high fevers, redness in the face and tongue. Were belladonna to be ingested in its raw form, the symptoms of the poisoning would be exactly this. Also, think of what happens when you are exposed to a raw onion. Your eyes water and nose burns. The homeopathic remedy allium cepa (made from onion) can relieve these symptoms, once again, treating ‘like with like.’ The task of the homeopath is to match the patients’ symptoms to the correct homeopathic remedy, specifically those that are characteristic to the patient. This is explained in aphorism 26 in the Organon, where Hahnemann states: ‘In the living organism a weaker, dynamic affection is permanently extinguished by a stronger one which although different in nature nevertheless, greatly resembles it in its expression.’ The simillimum is just that, totality; not partial, but a complete reflection of a state that is mentally, physically and spiritually in alignment with its subject.
The second principle, the single remedy
The second principle of Classical homeopathy is The Single Remedy. Hahnemann was forceful in his opinion in prescribing with one remedy for the totality of symptoms, using words such as ‘it is inadmissible’ to prescribe more than one remedy at a time (Aphorism 273, The Organon.) The reasoning and thinking behind this lies in the fact that if many remedies were prescribed at once, it would be impossible to ascertain which remedy was actually working and could massively confuse a case. It is simple common sense when we consider that each remedy is ‘proved’ individually, the combined interaction of many remedies’ at once has not been. This obviously has many similarities to where a GP of conventional medicine, prescribes single drugs for single complaints, the interaction of all these drugs, collectively untested, at times, with devastating consequences. Why should homeopathy be any different, given the powerful effects of so many of the remedies?
It remains the case that there will always be one remedy that resonates with a case more than another; wherever possible, the homeopath should go with this. However, as ever in life, there will always be grey areas and flexibility at times is necessary as long as a remedy is given sufficient time to act, and if there is a definite change in the presenting symptoms and aspect of the Vital Force. In this instance Hahnemann, in the 4th edition of the Organon suggested that remedies could be alternated, given in short succession, and condones the use of tissue salts, in specific cases that demanded a different approach. Catherine Coulter, in ‘The unfolding of Experience’ sums up the ideal situation in prescribing, by stating that: ‘the strongest, deepest current in classical homeopathy – the tug that pulls the stream to the river and the river to the sea- is to address the multiple manifestations of the single disordered life-force with a single remedy; in a phrase, to shape unity from multiplicity.’ (Coulter, C: 2008:100) It remains the case that if this pure, philosophically appropriate method of prescribing can be attained and in whilst doing so, promotes healing without other remedies being involved, we have demonstrated the dynamic power of pure, classical homeopathy.
The third principle, the minimum dose
Healing according to Hahnemann should be done ‘rapidly, gently and permanently; to remove and destroy the whole disease in the shortest, surest, least harmful way, according to clearly comprehensible principles.’ (Aphorism 2.) The minimum dose of a remedy, (one of these principles) simply means the minutest amount of a substance to nudge the vital force in the direction of healing. Too high a potency of a remedy or unnecessary repetition can result in unwelcome aggravations. In homeopathy, less is more. The body has a way of signaling through the manifestation of symptoms, when a higher potency is needed or more frequent repetition of a remedy.
If there was one ‘principle’ in homeopathy that people had a problem with understanding, it would be the infinitesimal doses of a remedy given; in other words, the perception is, there is nothing in a remedy. This has been said to me on many occasions. However, it remains the case that empirically, and in thousands of studies, both observational and through clinical outcome and randomized controlled trials, homeopathy has been seen to heal many people worldwide. For those who cannot come to terms with the fact that homeopathic remedies do not contain any active material because of the molecular limits of Avogrado’s number, the current scientific evidence suggests that homeopathic remedies are nanoparticles and not ordinary conventional bulks of source material. Given this, intense scientific consideration must be seriously focused now on how nano particles can act in the body to stimulate a healing process. Much of this research is headed by Dr Iris Bell (MD, Ph.D.) from the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and for those who would like more detailed information, please read and study the research: (Bell, I, Koithan, M, 2012.) Research in this area is ongoing and is constantly being updated, by various eminent scientists and homeopaths throughout the world.
The fourth principle, the potentized remedy.
Homeopathic remedies are made from natural substances such as plants, minerals and animals but the process of their manufacture is unlike that of any other medicine. A remedy made from a specific substance is put through a process of serial dilution, the end result being a very dilute extract is made. Each step of this dilution involves the substance being shaken with force; homeopathically this is referred to as ‘succussion.’ It has been found that by succusing in this way the remedy becomes active and dynamic (generally latent in its crude form) and the degree of the succussion produces a final potency of a remedy which will be given in accordance with the presenting vital force. Fundamentally, potentization means that a substance has been prepared according to homeopathic philosophy and homeopathic pharmaceutical standards, through serial dilution and succussion.
To show the extent of its popularity, even in the wake of fanatical sceptisism by institutions of often dubious repute, over 200 million people worldwide use homeopathy on a regular basis, which undoubtedly is testament to its effectiveness. It is included in the national health systems of a number of countries e.g. Brazil, Chile, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Switzerland, United Kingdom. 10% of people in the UK use homeopathy, an estimated 6 million people. There are over 400 doctors in the UK that use homeopathy, regulated by the Faculty of Homeopathy and promoted by the British Homeopathic Association. In the NHS approx. 40,000 homeopathic prescriptions are provided to patients per year by doctors working within the homeopathic service. There were originally 5 homeopathic hospitals (Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Bristol and Tunbridge Wells). Tunbridge Wells closed in 2007 and in 2010, the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital changed its name to the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine. There are more than 1,500 professional homeopaths (non-medically qualified homeopaths) in the UK, regulated by the Society of Homeopaths (65%), Alliance of Registered Homeopaths and Homeopathic Medical Association. They largely operate in private practice outside the NHS. In addition, there are many vets that use homeopathy as an integral part of their practice. Randomised controlled trials, clinical outcome studies and observational studies are ongoing via The Clinical Outcome Research in Homeopathy data base (CORE-hom). It currently comprises over 1015 clinical trials in homeopathy and is updated regularly as new trials are completed. (Source: Homeopathy Research Institute.) In addition, there are many other research projects continuously being performed throughout the world by a variety of eminent institutions.
The objective of summarizing the underlying homeopathic principles was to help and clarify philosophy and practice, whilst also discussing the extent of its popularity as a system of medicine world wide. Even though homeopathy is over 200 years old, confusion still exists as to its foundations, its underlying philosophy, and its role in health care; hopefully any grey areas are now clearer. Please feel free to share if you think others would benefit.
This article was originally published in a similar form, in 5 parts for www.findahomeopath.org.uk
Bell, I.R. Koithan, M. (2012) A model for homeopathic remedy effects: low dose nanoparticles, allostatic cross-adaptation, and time-dependent sensitization in a complex adaptive system. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012; 12(1):191(epub) Available at:
http://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-12-191 [Accessed: 20th May 2016]
Coulter, C (2008) Homeopathic Education, The Unfolding of Experience Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, Ninth House Publishing
Hahnemann, S. (2003) The Organon of Medicine, London: Orion (New Translation Kunzli, Naude and Pemberton)
Homeopathy Research Institute