Ask Pharmaca: What is Homeopathy?

Q: I don’t understand the difference between homeopathy and everything else. Isn’t all natural medicine homeopathic?

A. Homeopathy or homeopathic medicine is often misused as an “umbrella” term to talk about natural and alternative therapies. But homeopathic medicine should not be confused with herbal medicine, Chinese medicine or any other natural therapy.

Homeopathy is a complete system of medicine developed in the 1800s by German physicist and doctor Samuel Hahnemann, based on the Law of Similars (often expressed as “like cures like”). The Law of Similars holds that substances that induce symptoms in healthy people can cure diseases that have the same symptoms. The Law of Similars allows homeopaths to address symptoms of poor health with substances that produce similar symptoms in an otherwise healthy person.

The term homeopathy or homeopathic medicine has also been confused with natural or alternative solutions simply found in the home. Perhaps some of the confusion around homeopathy is that homeopathic medicines, also called “remedies” are derived natural substances such as plants, minerals and animal sources. Remedies are prepared from a natural crude material (such as sulfur, coffee or snake venom) and diluted over and over again until only the essence of the original material is left. Different dilutions result in different “potencies” of the remedy. The leftover essence of the original material ignites our own bodily forces to heal what’s ailing us.

Q: What are some homeopathic remedies?

For example, let’s look at the remedy Apis Mellifica (aka Apis), made from the honeybee. First, think about what happens when you get a bee sting or other insect bite. You might experience symptoms such as burning, stinging, redness and swelling. And the symptoms Apis treats are exactly that—burning, stinging, redness and swelling (aggravated by heat and ameliorated by cold). But Apis goes beyond just curing bee stings; it can help alleviate symptoms of burning, stinging, redness and swelling whether from infection, allergy or inflammatory causes. It happens to be a helpful remedy with hives and heat flushes, too.

Let’s take another example: Coffea Cruda, the homeopathic remedy made from coffee. A healthy person who drinks coffee for the first time might experience symptoms such as nervousness, over-sensitivity, racing thoughts, palpitations, increased urine production, shaking hands, excitability or restlessness. While coffee might cause these symptoms in a healthy individual, Coffea Cruda can cure these symptoms in an unhealthy person. Coffea Cruda is used for excitement of the mind, rapid thinking, nervousness, excitability, insomnia and racing thoughts.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Arnica Montana (aka Arnica) one of the most commonly used and well-known remedies for bumps, bruises, trauma, inflammation and swelling. Homeopathic Arnica is commonly used both internally and topically, and can work miracles for both acute and chronic conditions (making it a great remedy to have on hand at all times!).

Q: What kind of conditions can homeopathic remedies help?

Homeopathic remedies exist for a huge range of conditions, including allergies, colds and flu, digestive upsets, motion sickness, grief, depression, smoking cessation, sleep difficulties, bruising and trauma. In short, homeopathy is a safe, effective, non-toxic system of medicine that can be used in tandem with other natural, alternative or conventional therapies.