I have been practising homeopathy for over fifteen years and have found there are certain questions that arise most frequently in patients' minds when they are considering whether to see a homeopath for the first time. The following is a selection of these questions - have a read through and please contact me, if your question is not answered here.
1. Why see a homeopath?
If you would like to strengthen your immune system and improve your health, you can see a homeopath. Homeopathy is safe for everyone, including the elderly, breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women, babies and young children. Homeopathic remedies are not addictive and will not interfere with the action of any medicines prescribed by a doctor, so they can be used alongside conventional medicines. Whenever you see a homeopath, you will always be advised to maintain contact with your GP.
Here are some examples of conditions for which people often seek homeopathic treatment:
- anxiety and depression
- skin problems
- digestive disorders
- recurrent headaches
- hayfever and asthma
- hormonal imbalances
Sometimes people have been through the process of seeing their GP or even a specialist, and have been signed off because no diagnosis could be made, yet they still feel unwell, maybe in an indefinable way.
2. How long will treatment take?
The nature of your condition and the length of time that you have been experiencing symptoms are important factors, but as a guideline you would typically expect to see a homeopath once a month for a few months to begin with. Consultations generally become less frequent over time as the homeopath gets to know you and your health starts to improve, but some people like to return every three to four months or so, to maintain their overall health and wellbeing.
3. How are homeopathic remedies made?
Homeopathic remedies are prepared by a process of serial dilution and vigorous shaking, known as succussion. The strength or 'potency' of the remedy is determined by the number of times the remedy has been diluted. The dilution ratio is usually one part in 100. This process is referred to as potentisation, or dynamisation, and has changed little since first being demonstrated by Hahnemann.
As an example, a label of 'Arnica 30' would indicate that the remedy has been prepared from Arnica tincture and has been diluted one part in 100 and succussed, thirty times.
What is left after dilution and succussion is the dynamic or vital quality of the starting material. The only other ingredients are ethanol and the tablets themselves, which are made from either sucrose, lactose or a combination of the two.
4. How can such dilute medicines work?
This is the burning question, both for advocates of homeopathy and critics of homeopathy alike.
Some homeopathic medicines are at low enough dilutions to contain molecules of the original substance (usually a plant or mineral) from which they are made, but others are diluted beyond the point at which you expect any molecules of the original substance to be present; it is these ‘high dilutions’ which make homeopathy controversial in certain circles, and has led some sceptics to say that homeopathic medicines are ‘nothing but water’. However, research suggests that vigorous shaking during the manufacturing process changes the properties of the water that the original substance is dissolved in, resulting in preparations that can exhibit biological activity at very high dilutions.
As yet, science has not been able to explain the mechanism of action of these ultra-high dilutions in the body, but laboratory experiments are increasingly showing that homeopathically prepared substances can cause biological effects. There is also a growing body of research evidence suggesting that homeopathic medicines have clinical effects too. However, the scientific debate over the evidence base for and against homeopathy continues.
5. What about homeopathic research?
A form of medicine which is this widely used needs to be researched, yet scientific research in homeopathy is a relatively new field. Consequently, there are some important, unanswered questions, such as, How effective is homeopathy compared with conventional medicine for specific medical conditions? and What does homeopathy cost compared with existing treatments?
Researchers around the world have begun to investigate these kinds of questions and some exciting results have been published, but more research is essential.
This was a high quality randomised clinical trial, set on a farm in the Netherlands. Rachel explains that antibiotics were the only other viable treatment method for this disease, which has a big financial impact for farmers. Results were very positive and showed that the placebo group faced over six times more diarrhoea than the homeopathically treated group.
This has potentially huge meaning, for two reasons: firstly, the theory that homeopathy relies on the 'placebo effect' and only works if a person believes in it cannot be applied here; and secondly, if the use of antibiotics can be reduced in the treatment of livestock, this would mean fewer antibiotics in the foodchain, which would be positive news for us all. You can read the original research paper here.
6. Is it possible that homeopathy relies merely on the theory of ‘placebo effect' to achieve results?
Homeopathic remedies are used with great success by parents to alleviate common infant ailments such as colic and teething pain. Furthermore, there are many veterinary surgeons using homeopathic medicines to treat domestic pets such as cats, dogs and birds, as well as larger animals such as pigs, goats, horses and cows. How can it be possible to achieve healing via the placebo effect, when treating babies and animals?
Geoff Johnson, vet and homeopath, and Principal of Wiveliscombe Homeopathic Surgery, talks in this two minute clip about using homeopathy with animals, antibiotics and homeopathy beyond the placebo effect.
7. What is good health?
Health is usually seen as the absence of physical symptoms and disease, but this is only the tip of the iceberg; there are many levels of health. As well as freedom from physical pain and emotional distress, good health includes mental clarity, stable energy levels, good sleep, a strong immune and digestive system and a sense of wellbeing.
Symptomatic relief might be brought about by orthodox medicines, but true health results from increased awareness about the underlying cause of symptoms and a willingness to address this. Holistic treatment that takes into account the mental and emotional aspects of a person's wellbeing, as well as the physical aspect, is much more likely to achieve true vitality and good health.