Homeopathy» Find a therapist dealing with Homeopathy
Homeopathy is a complementary therapy involving medicines made from heavily diluted plant, animal and mineral extract designed to activate the body's natural defences. Although frequently met with scepticism in the West, homeopathy is rapidly gaining credence in the UK thanks to increasing scientific backing. Worldwide, homeopathic remedies are thought to be used by around 500 million people.
Although homeopathy has its roots in Ancient Greek medicine, the system as we know it today is only around 200 years old. It all began with the observation that some remedies, when taken in raw form by a healthy person, produced very similar side-effects to the illnesses they were meant to treat. This led to the conclusion that 'like cures like' or, in other words: substances that produce symptoms can be used to treat those same symptoms when they are produced by an illnesses. This explains why Allium cepa (taken from onion, which causes watery eyes and running noses) is used to treat hay fever and common cold symptoms (like watery eyes and running noses). Another example is poison ivy, which causes itchiness, redness and intense burning and is used to treat conditions such as herpes and eczema, which both cause itchiness, redness and burning.
Taking a substance that produces the same symptoms you already have is thought to activate your body's natural healing system.
There are four NHS funded homeopathic hospitals in the UK and thousands of private practitioners prescribing over 3,000 homeopathic remedies for a wide range of physical and mental health conditions. Thanks to reputable professional bodies upholding rigorous industry standards, along with increasing scientific study, this form of complementary therapy continues to be an effective health-care avenue for millions of people in the UK and beyond.
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How was homeopathy first developed?
Homeopathy was developed in the 1700s by German physician Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. Hahnemann was opposed to the invasive and often dangerous nature of the treatment methods available at the time, such as blood letting, purging and the use of highly toxic and damaging substances like arsenic. Hahnemann wanted to develop a medicine system that would cause as little harm to his patients as possible, while treating their ailments effectively with natural remedies.
Like cures like
After many years and much trial and error (mainly involving his wife and six children), Hahnemann eventually built up an extensive database of illnesses matched with their corresponding remedies. To work out which remedies treated which illnesses, Hahnemann followed the Ancient Greek concept of 'like cures like'. Quite simply, he would test a natural substance on his wife, children, or other healthy subjects, document the side-effects they experienced, and then match the substance with an illness that produced symptoms similar to these side-effects, with the idea that taking the substance would help treat the illness.
Because the side-effects of taking these substances were often rather unpleasant, Hahnemann wanted to find a way to minimise suffering without sacrificing the potency of the remedy. He soon discovered that by putting each substance through a special process of dilution and vigorous shaking (known as dilution and succession), he could produce a solution that had sufficient healing power without producing the nasty side-effects. In fact, he soon realised that the greater the dilution, the greater the healing power of the solution.
How are homeopathic remedies prepared?
Homeopathic remedies are prepared via a process known as 'potentisation', which is a method of infusing liquid with natural extracts to such an extent that only a fraction (and sometimes none) of the natural product is left, but the potency is either maintained or increased.
Homeopathic remedies begin with an extract of the original drug substance dissolved in alcohol, known at the mother tincture. The mother tincture is then diluted multiple times and shaken vigorously throughout (known as succession) in order to activate and maintain its original properties.
At the first stage of dilution, the mother tincture is known as a potentised 1C solution; at the second stage it becomes a 2C potentised solution, and at the third a 3C solution and so on.
Hahnemann believed that the more times a property was diluted, the more powerful it would become. Once the solution has reached the required potency, it is then made into sugar pills which are dipped into the remedy and left to dry.
Does homeopathy really work?
Homeopathy is frequently met with a great deal of scepticism - and for valid reasons. For one thing, most homeopathic remedies contain little to no trace of the original healing ingredient; sometimes not even a single molecule. How can a substance with healing properties have any effect on a patient when it is diluted almost completely out of existence? And how do homeopaths explain the seemingly illogical concept that a substance becomes more powerful with every stage of dilution? Surely logic dictates that when a substance decreases, it becomes less effective?
Some laboratory tests do show that there are physical differences between homeopathic remedies and pure water, even when those remedies have been diluted to 'beyond Avogadro's number' - meaning they have been diluted to such an extent that no original molecules are left in the solution.
Various experiments have also found that homeopathic remedies do cause biological effects. One study found that ultrahigh dilutions of histamine can alter the activity of white blood cells, and another managed to make a piece of rat's intestine contract using an ultrahigh dilution of toxic plant Belladonna, which is commonly used as a homeopathic treatment for convulsive movements.
In the biggest survey of the homeopathy service ever conducted, researchers found that 70% of patients noticed improvement after taking homeopathic remedies for conditions including aesthma, chronic fatigue, eczema, depression, arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.
Some experts conclude that the dilution process causes an interaction between the original healing extract, the water and the alcohol, creating new nanostructures that alter the properties of the water and remain present even after the original molecules have disappeared.
What to expect during your appointment
In order to find the right remedy for you and your symptoms, you will be required to have an initial consultation. This is an opportunity for your homeopath to gain a detailed understanding of your complaint, medical history and general lifestyle. You'll be asked a series of detailed questions about yourself, including your emotional state, sleep patterns and how you cope with stress. All of this information helps your homeopath to gain a better picture of your individual needs, so the more information you give them, the more accurately they can assess your case.
The first session will involve an initial consultation which may take between 1 and 2 hours, with follow-up appointments lasting between 20 and 45 minutes.
In terms of how you receive medication, your homeopath will usually prescribe the remedies either in a tablet form designed to dissolve in the mouth, or (occasionally) a liquid remedy with instructions for use.
The remedies can be used alongside conventional medication but you must discuss any medicine or supplement that has been prescribed by your doctor as it could effect your homeopathic treatment. It is really important that both your GP and homeopath have the full picture of what is going on, not only in the initial consultation but all the way through treatment.
If there comes a point when you notice your symptoms begin to change, then you may need to consult your homeopath about the matter.
Post treatment reaction
Once you have taken your remedy you might start to notice some small changes. Your symptoms may even temporarily worsen for a short time, but this is often a sign that the treatment is working. It is also fairly common to experience a minor cold, rash etc., which means your body is in the process of clearing itself out.
All of the above are important factors in the healing process and generally don't cause a huge amount of discomfort. However, if you are ever concerned about the side effects of a remedy then you are advised to talk to your practitioner immediately.
In terms of how long it will take you to recover, this is dependent on what sort of illness you have as well as other contributing factors. Issues you have been experiencing for a long period of time will take longer to improve, whereas recent complaints may show improvements relatively quickly.
In general most patients respond very positively to the treatment and usually report feeling an increased sense of well-being, optimism and relaxation after a course of homeopathic treatment.
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits that come with supplementing your health-care with homeopathy, some of which include:
- it is a good option for patients who suffer adverse effects from conventional medication
- gentle enough to be suitable for children and the elderly
- it is a holistic approach so aims to improve patients' general well-being as well as tackling the ailments at hand.
What training and qualifications does a homeopath need?
There are currently no laws in place which specify what training and to what level a practitioner must be trained in order to practice homeopathy. However, there are professional associations that therapists can choose to register with. In order to register, individuals must meet certain requirements set by the association and must also agree to comply with their code of ethics and complaints procedure.
Listed below are some of the professional associations for homeopathy in the UK. This information is subject to change so please visit the individual websites for full details. This list is not exhaustive:
The Alliance of Registered Homeopaths (ARH) is a UK professional association which aims to support and promote high standards and effective practice in the profession.
All members of the ARH must hold professional indemnity insurance and must agree to practice in accordance with the ARH Code of Ethics as well as agreeing to undertake regular Continued Professional Development in order to further develop their professional skills.
The Faculty of Homeopathy encourages the education, training and practice of homeopathy by statutorily regulated healthcare professionals.
All members of the faculty are dentists, doctors, nurses, midwives, osteopaths, pharmacists, podiatrists and veterinary surgeons who incorporate the use of homeopathy into their practice.
The Society of homeopaths is an organisation which represents homeopaths in Europe. All members are bound by the society's Code of Ethics and Practice and carry full public liability and indemnity insurance.
All registered members are also responsible for continuing to acquire new theory and practice by participating in Continuing Professional Development.
All content displayed on Therapy Directory is for provided for general information purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for advice given by your GP or any other healthcare professional. Whilst some people have benefited from complementary and alternative therapies, no claims can be made to treat, cure or heal, and we strongly advise individuals with any health problem to seek independent medical advice from their GP before considering complementary or alternative medicine or treatment.Submit feedback on this page