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Homeopathy is a theory of alternative medicine which tries to treat illnesses with infinitesimal doses of the drugs that cause the same symptom as the illness. Homeopathy is based on the ideas of Samuel Hahnemann, a 19th century physician who observed that some contemporary medicines evoked symptoms similar to those of the illnesses for which they were prescribed.

Homeopathy is popular in Europe and has been used by the British Royal Family.

Critics claim there is no clear evidence to support the efficacy of homeopathic remedies.[1] They further argue that the reported effects are equivalent to placebo.[2] A group of studies examined by the National Center for Biotechnology Information and U.S. National Library of Medicine found that homeopathic treatments had weak evidence of efficacy and that they were likely a result of the placebo effect. [3]

Critics say that homeopathic beliefs have no standard theory; practitioners vary widely in their prescriptions.


The term "homeopathy" was coined in the 19th century by German physician Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann.[4] The concept was first thought up of when he tested upon himself cinchona bark (a purported cure for malaria at the time) and noticed that the symptoms it induced in him were similar to the symptoms of malaria. He then developed the Law of similars based on this "discovery".[5] He then cataloged the effects of various substances on humans in what he called "provings." These provings, he believed, were best applied to the self.[6]

Given the inertness of homeopathic remedies, Hahnemann's ideas spread widely when put up against contemporary medicinal quackery which killed patients instead of curing them.[7]

Homeopath beliefs

Core Principles

  1. Law of similars-this posits that introducing an agent or disease producing similar symptoms as those of the patient will cure the patient[8]
  2. Potentisation- potentisation refers to the belief that the more a substance is diluted, the more powerful it becomes.[9]

Homeopathic remedies involve treating an illness with an infinitesimally small dose of a substance that, at bigger doses, can cause symptoms that are like those of the illness (treating 'like with like'). Homeopaths believe that the 'potency' of a remedy can be increased by serial dilutions (repetitively adding water or alcohol) combined with vigorous shaking, to the point where little or none of the original solution remains as part of the final prepared remedy.

The word 'homeopathy' was first used by the German physician Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). Hahnemann was an eminent physician and a prominent public health reformer. He believed that his new system was more humane and effective than the conventional medicine of his time[10], but it was greeted by the establishment with derision and contempt.[11] Today, homeopathy is not an accepted part of conventional medicine, and its theories are not generally regarded as scientifically credible, but nevertheless it has more than 100,000 practitioners worldwide, and 500 million users.

Homeopathy (from the Greek hómoios (similar) and páthos (suffering)) regards diseases as 'morbid derangements of the organism', that involve some disturbance in a 'vital force.' Today, most homeopaths still believe that the fundamental causes of disease are internal and constitutional and that it is contrary to good health to suppress symptoms. They also accept the concept of 'latent Psora', the early signs of an organism’s imbalance which indicate that treatment is needed.

Memory of Water

One of the most crucial theories regarding the viability of homeopathy, water memory was first claimed to have been observed in 1988 by a French scientist only to be debunked two months later.[12] The idea behind it is that water retains an imprint of whatever chemicals have been swimming in it. This would vindicate Hahnemann's Potentisation, as even when homeopathic remedies are diluted down to the final product without even a single molecule remaining in the solution, the remedy could still have an effect.

See also


  1. http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/horizon/2002/homeopathy.shtml
  2. http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/homeo.html
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16125589
  4. Archived with the Wayback machine
  5. http://www.skylarkbooks.co.uk/Hahnemann_Biography.htm
  6. http://altmed.creighton.edu/Homeopathy/philosophy/provings.htm
  7. "British Medical Journal", BMJ 1 (533): 283–4, 1871 Registration required for access
  8. http://altmed.creighton.edu/Homeopathy/history.htm
  9. Kayne SB (2006), Homeopathic pharmacy: theory and practice (2 ed.), Elsevier Health Sciences, pp. 53, ISBN 9780443101601.
  10. Hahnemann S (1796) translated into English as "Essay on a New Principle". Hahnemann's Organon der Heilkunst in English translation
  11. Dean ME (2001) Homeopathy and the progress of science Hist Scixxxix
  12. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,968080,00.html