Stephen Malthouse, MD
In orthodox medicineIn homeopathythe diagnosis of the disease is everything.
In orthodox medicine
the diagnosis of the disease is everything. The disease is treated, but
the symptoms are covered up and not treated at the level of internal
the patient with the disease is everything. Symptoms are treated,
returning the patient to a healthy state of equilibrium.
A doctor has to stand on his head to practise homeopathy. Everything is
upside-down and contrary to medical school training.
It's not surprising that so few doctors opt to learn the principles of this
healing system, yet its power to help patients is as close to miraculous as
you can get in medical therapeutics. So what's so contrary about homeopathy?
Why don't doctors roll up their sleeves and get busy?
Like cures like
In 1793, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann observed that symptoms similar to malaria
could be created by taking large doses of quinine, a drug that cured malaria
in small doses. Thus, the Law of Similars, or "like cures like," was
rediscovered. (It had previously been mentioned in Indian ayurvedic texts
and by Hippocrates and Paracelsus). Hahnemann coined the term "homeopathy"
from the Greek words homos ("similar") and pathos ("disease") for this
healing principle: Small doses of a substance can cure the same symptoms
that large doses of the substance can cause. For example, too much coffee
can cause a type of insomnia where the mind is very active and the senses
keen, so homeopathic Coffea can cure this particular type of sleeplessness.
There are more than 2,500 remedies in the homeopathic pharmacopoeia that can
be applied to a wide range of diseases using the above principle. To prepare
them, plant, mineral and animal products are made into tinctures and
repeatedly diluted and "succussed" by vigorous shaking. Homeopathic remedies
actually increase in potency with each subsequent round of dilution and
Doctors just can't seem to grasp this idea of the homeopathic microdose.
Even today's pharmacists cannot remember the Arndt-Shultz Law taught in
school, which states that every substance has an opposite effect in high
doses from its effect in low doses. How can a homeopathic remedy, diluted
beyond the point where there are no molecules of the original substance
left, exert a healing influence? Doctors are bound to be puzzled!
When you're used to prescribing grams and micrograms as the measure of a
drug's strength, it's hard to conceive of the transfer of information alone
as being a powerful agent. How homeopathy transfers this information is
still unknown; science does not have an answer yet. But investigators such
as Dr. Jacques Benveniste are searching. Recently, he carried out
experiments demonstrating that cells experiencing allergic reactions can be
successfully stimulated to release histamine by exposing them to water that
previously (but no longer) contained the triggering allergen. In other
words, water seems to have a memory of its own. The use of extremely small
doses has been confirmed in clinical research and homeopathic daily practice
for the last 200 years. The fact that animals and infants respond to
microdoses helps rule out the placebo effect. (My 17-year old dog can still
kick up his heels thanks to homeopathy.) Unfortunately, lack of a
theoretical basis of action is a huge stumbling block for physicians.
What is Homeopathy?
Homeopathy is a type of medicine that treats illnesses by stimulating the
body's own healing mechanisms. Effective and gentle, it has been used since
the early 1800s. A homeopath recommends remedies based on the pattern of
symptoms that an individual is experiencing in order to correct any
It is more important to know what sort of patient has the disease than what
sort of disease the patient has. -Sir William Osler, Canadian physician
Canada's great physician Sir William Osler wrote: "It is more important to
know what sort of patient has the disease than what sort of disease the
patient has." Homeopathy is individualized to each patient using the
characteristic way in which the disease process is expressed in that person
to select the correct medicine. In orthodox medicine, the diagnosis (of the
disease) is everything; in homeopathy, the patient (with the disease) is
everything. Conventionally, once the diagnosis, say rheumatoid arthritis,
has been reached, the treatment regimen is standardized. However, in
homeopathic treatment, more than 50 remedies have successfully treated
rheumatoid arthritis. The symptoms each patient exhibits will determine
whether they get Kali carbonicum (chilly, worse when damp, worse between 2
and 4 a.m., anxiety about family, swelling over the eyes) or Rhus
toxicondendron (worse with rest, better after initial movement, better with
heat) or one of many other remedies.
In orthodox medical practice, the emphasis is on treating the part without
recognizing its relationship to the whole. Thus, a patient with PMS, severe
menstrual cramps, varicose veins, acne rosacea and migraines is given four
or five different drugs (and probably surgery) over time to treat these
problems. Homeopathy tries to put it all together by asking the question,
"What single remedy will help correct all these issues simultaneously?"
(Probably Sepia in this case.) The correctly chosen remedy will also
stimulate the person's intrinsic healing abilities in such a way as to
prevent the recurrence of these problems.
The doctor who stands on his head (i.e. the homeopathic doctor) views
symptoms as the unsuccessful attempt of the body to get better under its own
power. The characteristic symptom pattern will guide the homeopathic
physician to the correct remedy if he/she can understand the language being
spoken by the body. However, as in orthodox medicine, if symptoms are
covered up and not treated at the level of the internal struggle, the way to
a real cure will be lost and the patient frequently made worse in the long
run by inappropriate treatment. Homeopathy avoids this harmful approach and
returns the patient to a healthy state of equilibrium.