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What is Homeopathy?

By Caitlin Potere  •   7 minute read

What is Homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a natural and gentle healing system that uses specially prepared homeopathic medicines. These medicines are composed of minute doses of plant, mineral and animal substances and stimulate the body’s innate healing abilities.  The foundation of homeopathy is the concept of “like treats like,” also known as the “Law of Similars.”  These medicines in much stronger doses have caused in a healthy person the same symptoms that the sick person is suffering from.  When these substances are given in an extremely small, safe dose they bring about a healing reaction.

Homeopathic medicines are inexpensive, have no known side effects and are completely safe to use with infants, children, elders, and pets.

Unlike conventional medicines, homeopathic medicines work with the body to defend itself, supporting the natural healing process instead of suppressing it.  Although conventional drugs may be of great value in certain circumstances, it makes sense to try homeopathic medicines and become familiar with their uses.

For an even more in-depth introduction, check out Dr. Dennis Chernin's explanation here.

Suggested Reading

If you would like to learn more about homeopathy, we recommend checking out the National Center for Homeopathy, which has lots of information and free resources.  If you become a member, you gain access to the digital archive containing decades of their magazine, Homeopathy Today.  We also recommend visiting Dana Ullman's website and browsing the Articles section.

A couple of our favorite recommended articles:
"Why Homeopathy Makes Sense and Works"
"A Modern Understanding of Homeopathy"


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How old is homeopathy?

Homeopathy traces its roots back to 1796, when it was invented by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician and chemist.  After observing the Law of Similars in action by testing small doses of many different substances on himself, Samuel Hahnemann worked tirelessly throughout his life to develop the system of homeopathy and discover the uses of new remedies.


Is there any research supporting homeopathy?


Here are some resources where you can find research studies about homeopathy:

National Center for Homeopathy's Article Bibliography

Homeopathy Research Institute

Dana Ullman's Collection of Homeopathic Research

Thousands of studies and clinical trials have been performed on homeopathy.  It's important to keep in mind that any study on homeopathy needs to be carefully designed in order to provide valid results.  Ideally, the homeopathic medicine is prescribed on a case-by-case basis, individualized for each person in the study.  For instance, ten people who have all been diagnosed with "arthritis" may need ten different remedies; a different remedy for each person depending on what symptoms that person is experiencing.  It's important for the team conducting the study to either have a homeopathic practitioner on the team, or at least to consult with one while designing the study.


Is homeopathy popular?

It really depends on what country you’re in.  Homeopathy was popular in the United States in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when around twenty percent of U.S. doctors were homeopaths.  For many decades, homeopathy fell out of common use.  Some attribute this to political and social changes orchestrated by practitioners of conventional medicine, who felt threatened by the success of homeopathy.  Around the 1960s, homeopathy began to experience a resurgence in the United States and has been growing in popularity ever since.

The World Health Organization estimates that homeopathy is currently being used by over 500 million people around the world.  Homeopathy is more widely accepted in many countries, such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, France, India, Germany, Great Britain, Mexico, Pakistan, Switzerland, and others.  Some countries even include it in their public healthcare systems, and others don’t even consider it an “alternative” medicine.  Approximately 30% of French doctors and 20% of German doctors use homeopathic medicines in their regular practice.  Over 40% of British doctors refer patients to homeopathic doctors.  In fact, the British Royal Family has used and publicly supported homeopathy since the 1830s.


How does homeopathy work?

Homeopathy appears to work by stimulating the body's natural healing abilities.  Homeopaths often refer to these healing powers as the "vital force."  The vital force can be understood as the body's innate intelligence that seeks to maintain balance, health, and life.  For example, when we have a minor cut, the vital force mobilizes the body systems necessary to help ward off infection and heal the cut over the course of a few days.  Homeopathy seems to stimulate and assist these natural processes.

The exact mechanism by which homeopathy acts is currently unknown, but there are many theories put forth by homeopaths.  These theories range from spiritual in nature to extremely scientific.  There are scientists around the world conducting in-depth research into the exact nature of homeopathy, using complex machines to test theories involving quantum physics.  This may not be a very satisfying answer, but keep in mind that just because we don't yet know exactly HOW something works, it doesn't negate the fact that it works.  For example, scientists still don't know exactly how acetaminophen (Tylenol) works.

If you are interested in reading in-depth about the modern scientific theories about homeopathy, check out this article: 

Exploring Possible Mechanisms of Hormesis and Homeopathy in the Light of Nanopharmacology and Ultra-High Dilutions [Sage Journal]

It's a very long and very interesting article.  For even further reading, check out the studies in the "References" section of the article linked above.


What’s the difference between homeopathy and other alternative holistic approaches like herbalism, Ayurveda, or Traditional Chinese Medicine?

It’s common to confuse the words “homeopathy” and “holistic.”   “Homeopathy” refers to a unique therapeutic healing system using unique approaches and specially prepared medicines.  “Holistic” means that the whole person is being taken into consideration during treatment, including mental and social factors, rather than just the symptoms of a disease.

Herbalism, Ayurveda, and Traditional Chinese Medicine are each their own distinct therapeutic healing system, with their own unique histories, approaches, and medicines.  Ideally, treatment using any of these alternative methods would also be holistic, meaning that the practitioner would take the entire person, including physical, emotional, and mental symptoms as well as social context into account during treatment.


Are homeopathic remedies safe?

Homeopathic remedies have been used by millions of people for over 200 years and have no known side effects and no known drug interactions.  Homeopathic remedies are not habit forming and are also non-toxic and non-habit forming.


Are homeopathic remedies regulated?

Yes.  In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the manufacture and sale of all homeopathic medicines.  Pharmacies which manufacture homeopathic remedies must abide by the standards set forth in the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States (HPUS), which is an official manual that contains information about proper identification of raw materials, guidelines for remedy manufacture, and quality control information.


How can I learn how to use homeopathy?

It is easy to learn how to use homeopathy at home for treatment of acute illnesses such as colds, flus, sore throats, ear aches, minor injuries, upset stomach, mild headaches, and more.  Castle Remedies offers a comprehensive Introduction to Homeopathy class.  We also carry many books about homeopathy.   For chronic or serious health concerns, you should always work with a qualified homeopathic practitioner.


When should I consult with a professional homeopath?

Homeopathy can help speed recovery from many common acute illnesses like colds, flus, sore throats, ear aches, bruises, bug bites, upset stomach, and more.  For more serious, chronic or long-standing health concerns, such as arthritis, asthma, autism, depression, or eczema, it is recommended to seek the help of a professional homeopathic practitioner.

Homeopathy is practiced by a wide variety of health care practitioners.  There are homeopaths, who specialize in only homeopathy.  However, many other types of practitioners can receive training in homeopathy, including (but not limited to) acupuncturists, chiropractors, dentists, medical doctors, naturopaths, nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, osteopaths, registered nurses, and veterinarians.


Are professional homeopaths licensed or regulated?

Each country has its own systems for training and regulating homeopaths.  In the United States, there is currently no government body that licenses homeopathic practitioners or schools.  There are many independent schools and training programs for homeopathy in the U.S.  You can view a comprehensive list here.

There are also independent commissions and certification boards for  homeopathy.  The Accreditation Commission for Homeopathic Education in North America (ACHENA) reviews and certifies the programs offered by many schools in the U.S.  Once training is complete, prospective homeopathic practitioners can seek certification through the Council for Homeopathic Certification (CHC), the American Board of Homeotherapeutics (ABHt), or the Homeopathic Association of Naturopathic Physicians.


How much does an appointment cost to see a professional homeopath?

The first appointment with a homeopath typically lasts between one to two hours and the cost can range from $150 to $500 depending on several factors such as the practitioner's experience level and location.  The first visit usually includes a long conversation between practitioner and client, wherein the practitioner asks questions and gathers information about the client's full symptom picture, including mental, emotional, physical, and social aspects.

Follow up visits are typically shorter and cheaper and are usually scheduled every four to six weeks, depending on the client's needs.  Follow up appointments usually last between 15 to 60 minutes.


Will my health insurance cover consultation with a professional homeopath?

It depends.  Some types of practitioners are more likely to be able to accept health insurance, such as medical doctors, osteopaths, and nurse practitioners.  Check with your practitioner as well as with your health insurance.


Still have more questions?

We welcome your questions.  Please don't hesitate to contact us.

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