Homeopathy is a natural system of medicine based on the "Law of Similars" or the principle that "like cures like". The name itself reflects this basic principle; "homeo" is Greek for "similar" and "pathos" means "suffering". The great Greek physician Hippocrates recognized that "The same things which cause the disease can cure it". It was not until the early 1800's that a German doctor, Samuel Hanneman, concretely recognized this same principle and began to use it therapeutically in his medical practice; "It would appear that certain medicines are able to cure symptoms which are similar to those which they themselves can cause". He observed that this was true only when very small or infinitesimal doses were used. For example, when used in large quantities ipecac produces nausea and vomiting in the healthy individual; in small doses, it cures nausea and vomiting in the dyspeptic patient. In homeopathy, we stimulate the organism's own healing processes in order to accomplish a cure.
Symptoms of acute and chronic illness are seen as the living being's response to the total composite of stresses acting on the individual at any given time (see "Theory of Compounding Stresses" page). In its attempt to maintain homeostasis or balance, one's VITAL FORCE (life energy) manifests what we see as symptoms on several levels; mental, emotional, and physical. Each of us responds as an integrated whole with our own characteristic totality of symptoms. These symptoms are a sign of our vital force striving to heal. This symptom manifestation process is most obvious in acute illness. All of these symptoms are our vital force fighting the virus in ordered to return us to health. As soon as the battle with the virus is won and we return to homeostasis the symptoms go away. It is the same with chronic illness. Our vital force manifests symptoms as it tries to heal us and return us to balance or homeostasis.
The task of the homeopath, then, is to gather as much information as possible about the totality of the symptoms (mental, emotional and physical) in order to understand the way in which the vital force is already acting, in its infinite wisdom, to re-establish homeostasis or health. A homeopathic remedy is sought which, ideally, will stimulate the vital force through similar action in precisely the ways in which the vital force is already acting, as evidenced by the symptoms. In the example given before, if someone has constant nausea and vomiting we know that Ipecac, which causes constant nausea and vomiting, will cure those symptoms when given in a very small dose. We seek to strengthen the vital force (and therefore the immune system) by stimulating the organism's own healing processes as expressed by the current symptoms in order to accomplish a cure. Homeopathic therapeutics act in the same way as the organism's reactions, stimulating these reactions in order to make them more effective. It works together with them, acting to gently support and encourage the already existing healing action. For this reason, only very weak or infinitesimal (i.e. homeopathic) doses are needed.
Having established the Law of Similars, Hahneman worked to reach the smallest effective therapeutic dose, for he realized that this was the best way to avoid unwanted side-effects. To his surprise, he found that using a special method of serial dilution, the more the similar (i.e. - matching the symptoms) remedy was diluted the more active it became, while dissimilar remedies were ineffective. He called this method "potentization", and his various dilutions "potencies", to indicate the level of homeopathic action which was achieved. This seeming paradox, that less of a substance can be more effective, allows a curative action to take place without any possibility of toxicity.
There are over 2000 homeopathic remedies, derived from animal, vegetable, and mineral sources. The original material substance is made into a "mother tincture" in alcohol (similar to a standard herbal tincture) which is then serially diluted by 1/10th, l/1OOt.h or 1/1000th a desired number of times. Each deconcentration undergoes energetic shaking called "succussion". This process of dilution plus succussion is called "potentization" and is an important aspect of the uniqueness of homeopathic medicines. As a result of their extremely infinitesimal amounts, these remedies do not act quantitatively, but rather qualitatively. Each remedy carries the reaction and therapeutic potential of the original substance diluted in accordance with homeopathic pharmaceutical procedures. Substances which in their natural state have little or no medicinal effect develop powerful healing properties when administered in this potentized form.
"Mother tinctures" which are diluted by one part original substance to 9 parts diluent (normally alcohol) and succussed are labeled 1x. If one part of the 1x liquid is then diluted again in 9 parts diluent and succussed the resulting remedy would be labeled 2x. If one part of the 2x liquid is then mixed with 9 part diluent and succussed, the resulting remedy would be labeled a 3x. If this process is repeated 30 times the remedy would be a 30x remedy.
A "mother tincture" that is diluted in the same manner as the "X" scale above but in which each dilution of 1/99 parts diluent is called the "C" scale. Example: "1 part "mother tincture" mixed with 99 parts diluent and succussed would produce a 1C potency remedy. If this 1/99 dilution and succussion process is repeated in a series 30 times the remedy would be labeled a 30C. If repeated 200 times the remedy would be a 200C potency.
The next scale is 1/1000 dilution scale and the remedies produced by this level of dilution are called the "M" scale. A 1M in this scale would be diluted one time 1 part "mother tincture" to 999 parts diluent.
Interestingly it is now known that the greatest dilution that is likely to contain even one atom of the original medically active substance contained in the "mother tincture" is about 12 C potency (a dilution of 1/100 diluted and succussed 12 times). Yet potencies more dilute and therefore "higher" prove out in practice to be stronger in effect than the lower dilutions or potencies. In other words, the more dilute a remedy, the stronger it's action. How is this possible? There are no proven explanations as to how this could work but there are theories and as nuclear physics comes closer to understanding the interface between energy and matter explanations begin to emerge and make more sense. There is some thought that in the dilution/potentization process the energy of the molecular structure of the original mother tincture (the remedy or medicine in its most dense material form) is somehow transferred to the alcohol or water used as the dilutant. In this way, the dilutant carries the molecular pattern in something like a mirror or relational image to the original medicinal agent and when administered this reflection is what the mind/body reacts to.
QUANTUM PHYSICS has a fascinating role to play in understanding homeopathy and its role and value in natural medicine. Recent research in physics has lead to the understanding of particle-wave duality. Scientists now know that the smallest building blocks that make up our entire universe and our mind/body are simultaneously a particle (of matter) and a wave (a frequency of energy). When matter is examined on the quantum level is can behave like both matter and energy at the same time. I believe this intersection or cross-over point between matter and energy is where homeopathy operates (as well as several other natural healing systems we will be discussing such as acupuncture, polarity therapy, etc). When a homeopathic remedy is potentized it is gradually taken from a material substance to an energetic version of the original material substance. The body, being simultaneously material and energetic in nature, can respond to any medicinal substance in its material form or its energetic form. It is important to consider here the VITAL FORCE. The father of homeopathy, Samuel Hahnemann (1755 - 1843), postulated in his groundbreaking ORGANON OF MEDICINE (5th edition published in 1833) the concept of the Vital Force, the energy of life that animates the inanimate matter of our mind/body and creates life, that makes the difference between a dead or a living body. The concept of the vital force in other cultures would be analogous to the life principle, life force, the soul, dynamic or vital energy. In eastern thought, it would be called the "QI" or prana. It is this energetic vital force that is the life force that must maintain homeostasis in our mind/body, that creates symptoms in an attempt to regain homeostasis when we are out of balance in acute and chronic illness, and that is impacted by the energetic value of the correct homeopathic remedy (the similar remedy or "similimum") to activate healing.