What is homœopathy?
Homœopathy is a holistic system of medicine developed by German physician and chemist, Dr Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), based on the principle of "let likes cure likes". This law or principle is based on a long held belief as far back as Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, and other ancient healers such as Paracelsus, that substances that produce symptoms in a healthy individual can be used to treat similar symptoms in a sick person. Thus homœopathic treatment is believed to stimulate the body's ability to fight infection and susceptibility to disease.
An example of this principle is coffee. Some people are very sensitive to its effects and can be over stimulated by taking it. They may experience overly heightened mental and physical alertness, and become unusually reactive to normal stimuli such as sounds and smells, etc. When a person presents at a homœopathic clinic with symptoms of insomnia, headache, irritability and an over stimulated nervous system, Coffea cruda may be chosen to alleviate their condition, prepared according to special homœopathic principles. It has been shown that this may settle the symptoms of insomnia in such cases.
Homœopathy is now used worldwide, with a 200 year history of clinical experience. It is recognised by the World Health Organisation as a valid form of healthcare. Homœopathy has legal recognition as an individual system of medicine in 42 countries and is recognized as a part of complementary and alternative medicine in 28 others.
Homœopathy may be used in the management of a variety of illnesses and conditions and minor accidents requiring first aid. It is a traditional medicine and may be used alongside conventional treatments and medications where applicable or required.
What conditions can homœopathy treat?
Homœopathy aims to treat the whole person, taking into account personality, lifestyle and hereditary factors as well as the history of the disease. Since all patients are unique, homœopathic medicines are prescribed to treat patients as individuals. For example, headaches in different patients would each be treated with different medicines, according to the patient's individual symptoms.
Homœopathy can be of benefit at any stage of life: men, women, mothers, fathers, very young and older children, teenagers, and the elderly. It may be used in the management of a wide range of conditions including, for example:
- Acute complaints – coughs, colds, earache, food poisoning, hangover, travel sickness etc.
- Chronic complaints – skin conditions, hormone imbalances, mood swings, headaches, behavioural problems, digestive disturbances, arthritis etc.
- First aid situations – bites, stings, hives, injuries, trauma, emotional shock etc.
- Vague symptoms - where there are no identifiable causes of disease, but the person feels far from well.
The system of homœopathy is based on the selection of a medicine that causes symptoms similar to those that the sick person is experiencing. This 'Law of Similars', as it is called, is a practical method of finding the substance to which a person is sensitive. Wherever a set of symptoms can be obtained, a condition can be treated. For example, headaches in different patients would each be managed with different medicines, according to the patient's individual symptoms.
What does a visit to a homœopath involve?
The first consultation with a homœopath may take an hour or more, however simple acute complaints may only take 15-30 minutes. Information relating to current symptoms and past medical history will be required. Questions may also be asked about diet, sleep, lifestyle, and about some mental and emotional aspects. Physical examinations may be required according to the particular complaint.
Treatment then involves the prescription of the most suitable medicine, matching all of the symptoms and individual characteristics of the patient to the medicine. Two people with the same condition may have very different prescriptions because of their own unique set of symptoms. Your practitioner might also advise general lifestyle and dietary changes as part of a treatment plan or recommend a visit to a General Practitioner or for tests to be carried out.
What type of medicine will be given?
Homœopathic medicines are made from a variety of sources, such as plants, animals and minerals. They are prepared according to strict guidelines set out in international pharmacopoeias and under the control of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Since the medicines are very dilute, homœopathic medicines are considered gentle in their action when prescribed by a registered homœopath. These medicines can be given in the form of liquid, granules, powder or tablets and are designed to stimulate the body's natural healing forces.
A single dose or repeated doses of medicine may be given. These small amounts of medicine are sufficient to stimulate the body's healing process.
Where illness has developed over a long time, several successive medicines may be needed during the course of weeks, months or years.
Are there any side effects?
Healing takes place in different ways and reactions to a medicine vary. Sometimes there is an immediate improvement. Sometimes healing begins with an increased feeling of well being, even though symptoms initially remain. In some cases, old symptoms recur as part of the healing process. Occasionally there is a temporary worsening of the symptoms prior to improvement. You should tell your homœopath if you have any of these reactions.
Your homœopath may also work in consultation with your doctor or other healthcare practitioner if necessary.
Can homœopathic medicines be taken with conventional medicines?
Homœopathic medicines may generally be taken in conjunction with conventional drugs without any adverse effects; however, it is recommended that the advice of an AROH-registered homœopath be sought regarding this matter. All professional members of the AHA are registered with the Australian Register of Homœopaths (AROH).
How to take homœopathic medicines?
- The medicine is usually taken away from food or drink, or as directed by your practitioner.
- Avoid taking the medicine immediately before or after using such substances as tobacco, coffee or toothpaste.
- Store the medicine away from extreme heat, direct sunlight, electrical (radiation) devices and strong smelling substances such as strong perfumes, eucalyptus or tea tree oil, mentholated liniments and camphor.
- If you have any questions concerning your treatment, please contact the professional homœopath treating you. If you require a second opinion, please consult with your practitioner and then, if required, contact another AROH-registered homœopath.
Naturopathy and homœopathy
It is important to note that a practitioner of naturopathy is not the same as a homœopath. Naturopathic training does not meet the government's education standards for homœopathy, although some naturopaths may have undertaken additional studies to meet these requirements. If a person dispenses homœopathic medicines it does not necessarily mean that they are a fully qualified and registered homœopath.
Many people mistakenly think that "Homœopathy" and "Naturopathy" are one and the same thing. Naturopathy is a broad-spectrum practice which includes a number of natural therapies, and practitioners are likely to prescribe multiple medicines and treatments such as herbs, nutritional supplements, massage, acupuncture, diet and iridology, and may include some homœopathy as well. Naturopaths are often considered to be the 'General Practitioners' of natural therapies, whilst homœopathy is a specialist and separate therapy in its own right.
Naturopathic training only includes training in homœopathy as an elective option amongst a range of therapies, rather than as the major dedicated focus of study. Government endorsed training standards specifically state that naturopaths who have not undertaken the full training required are only qualified to treat acute and simple first aid cases homœopathically, and that they should refer more complex cases to qualified homœopaths.
Choosing a Practitioner
If you want to use homœopathic treatment, you should consult a registered practitioner. All Professional Members of the Australian Homœopathic Association (AHA) are registered with the Australian Register of Homœopaths (AROH), and are recognised by all the major health insurance funds for rebates on ancillary benefit tables.