Homeopathy is a holistic system of medicinefirst coming into popularity over two hundred years ago. The term is acombination of homoios (similar) and pathos (suffering) and is based on the ‘lawof similars’ meaning that substances that cause sets of symptoms in a wellperson can cure a sick person of those same symptoms (Mcintyre, N. 2002).
Homeopathicremedies are produced by diluting the therapeutic substance in either water oralcohol and using the method of succusion (deliberate agitation) in betweendilutions ‘potentising’ the preparation. Homeopaths can match a single remedyto the patient’s unique condition. Homeopathy’s benefits include affordability: A homeopathicdoctor (HD) in India is half asexpensive as a medical doctor (Prasad, 2007). In Western nations such as Australia, a HD can treatthe whole person with a single remedy, making it more or as affordable asconventional healthcare.
Transportability: a roving HD can travel to rural andremote areas with a kit of medicines, thereby treating those who wouldotherwise not receive any healthcare. Homeopathyis often considered the safer alternative. This is especially so with children,babies or with elderly patients who are more likely to be prescribed multipledrugs presenting significant risks (Mallet, Spinewine & Huang, 2007). Homeopathy can offer a single remedy per patient,removing the need for potentially dangerous polypharmacy. Riley, Fischer& Singh, (2001) concluded that homeopathy is equally as effective as biomedicinein treating upper and low respiratory tract complaints including allergies andear complaints.
Although new research has shown thathomeopathic remedies contain ‘nanoparticles’ of the substances they are made ofas well as silica from the glass they are processed in (Chikramane et al., 2010),it is difficult to pin-point an exact mechanism of action that applies to allhomeopathic treatment and is communicable across disciplines. The philosophical understanding and basisfor practice can sometimes differ among homeopaths causing further confusion.Homeopathic treatment relies on the HD’s ability to interpret the symptoms accuratelyand this is idiosyncratic to each homeopath. As a result homeopathy can produceeverything from astonishing to poor results depending on the practitioner(Cartwright, 2002). In addition, an accurate homeopathic consultation may beconsiderably more time consuming than a conventional medical consultation.
Despite the successof homeopathy in significantly saving lives during the European epidemics ofthe 19th and early 20th centuries, the advent and victoryof antibiotics and vaccines in conventional medicine slowed down the popularityof homeopathy. In recent times however, antibiotic resistant bacteria is againpushing us to seek alternatives. Homeopathy has been shown to successfullyreplace antibiotics in recurrent acute rhinopharyngitis in children (Trichard,Chaufferin & Nicoloyannis, 2005). Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier continues his study of electromagneticwaves found coming from DNA particles at high dilutions – the positive resultsof which could be favourable in the study of the homeopathic mechanism ofaction (Enserink, 2010). It may still be some time before the availableevidence can persuade biomedical science to accept and integrate homeopathy into themainstream.
Even so, around 500 million peoplesuccessfully use homeopathy worldwide (Bell & Schwartz,2013).