History of Homeopathy
Born in Germany in 1755, Samuel Hahnemann became a conventional medical doctor of that time, practicing using techniques such as bleeding and high doses of toxic poisons as medicine, such as mercury. Like most doctors of his time, his results were poor. During a cholera epidemic two of his children died -- Hahnemann was unable to save them. He swore off the practice of medicine, declaring that it was ineffective and unethical. To support his family, he worked translating older medical literature from Greek or Latin into German. As he did, he repeatedly found observations from earlier physicians such as Paracelcus, that, the most effective medicine for treating any set of symptoms was usually a substance which, if given in high doses to a healthy person, would cause those same symptoms.
Intrigued by this, Hahnemann began to experiment. He found that this older observation was often true, however, many times the "right" medicine would still produce unwanted side effects. He came up with the idea of diluting the medicines, which he did and also thoroughly mixed them through a process known as succussion, striking the mixing container against a firm object, such as a leather-bound book. When even his dilute medicines still produced some side effects, he diluted them again, succussing the mixture with each dilution.
When the results were finally satisfactory, Hahnemann began a series of studies to determine what the effects of various substances were on healthy people. He started by testing the medicines on himself, then branched out to family members, friends and colleagues. This process became known as a "Proving" from the German word for 'test'.
Over time, two main principles came to be identified with this new time of medicine Hahnemann was using. First, is the concept of choosing a medicine based on the similarity of the medicine symptom picture with the symptom picture of the patient. This concept is referred to as the Law of Similars, and is summarized as "Like Cures Like". The Second principle is that of preparing medicines through the two-part process of dilution and succussing. Leaving out either of these steps will result in a medicine that does not have the same effect. Hahnemann called his system of medicine "Homeopathy" which translates as "Same Disease". By giving a sick person a medicine which could essentially give someone a similar symptom picture, we are in essence giving someone "the same disease" they already have, just a highly attenuated form of it.
How Does Homeopathy Work?
Theories as to how Homeopathy produces its effects have abounded ever since the time of Hahnemann. This is referred to in medical circles as the "mechanism of action". Because some of the medicines used in homeopathy are so dilute, that it is statistically impossible for the medicine to contain any of the original source material used to make it, conventional science has always been suspicious of it, even to the point of blatant antagonism. Numerous scientific studies of the clinical efficacy of homeopathy have been conducted and the vast majority of these end up finding that the homoepathic approach is highly effective.
Perhaps one way to explore the question of "how does homeopathy work?", is to start by stating what we know most reliably, which amounts to "how homeopathy DOES NOT work". Since the medicines are so dilute that they no longer contain any biochemicals from the source medicine, and since we know that homeopathy works, we can conclude that the mechanism of action of homeopathy IS NOT biochemical in nature. Homeopathic medicines do not follow traditional pharmacology principles, where a medicine is absorbed into the blood stream, circulates and is diluted, and eventually binds a receptor on the surfact of a cell and initiates a chain reaction in that cell.
Most modern theories about homeopathy are centered around some type of wave phenomenon. Experiments have been conducted in animal models which show that homeopathic medicines can have a biological effect even when sealed inside glass vials and no contact occurs between the medicine and the target. Other experiments have been done in which a radio antenna/amplifier system collects whatever signals are naturally radiating from homeopathic medicines, and re-broadcasts those signals to animal subjects in another location resulting in a measurable effect. The only type of model which supports these observation is some kind of field effect or wave phenomenon.
What are Homeopathic Medicines Made From?
Homeopathic medicines could, at least in theory, be made from anything. In practical application, however, they are made from any substance which is either a strong medicine or a strong poison. This includes plants, animals and minerals, as well as human tissue, disease-causing micro-organisms, even isolated hormones and neurotransmitters. A new field of detoxification uses homoepathic medicines made from substances which are environmental poisons.