Modern science recognizes that an organism's response to stress occurs in a highly organized and interrelated manner. In homeopathy the concept of homeostatic balance on physical levels is expanded to include the mental and emotional realms as well. In other words, one's body, mind and emotions are viewed as always working to maintain a relative degree of homeostasis or balance. Because the body, mind and emotions respond in unity to stress, the homeopathic approach to understanding disease is holistic. This means an attempt is made to evaluate any problem in the context of the whole person--physically, mentally and emotionally--and to understand how the person is limited.
The homeopathic approach does not combat disease symptoms in the same manner as one would in conventional practice. Instead, homeopathic philosophy states that if the organism is brought back into balance, the symptoms of disease (imbalance) will resolve accordingly. The homeopathic means to this end is unique to each person; therefore, whereas a conventional diagnosis is based on a defined set of common symptoms, and will be treated conventionally with common treatments, a homeopath looks for a broad and unique picture of imbalance specific to each person.
An example of this difference between conventional and homeopathic practice can be made by looking at how each would approach an inflammatory condition. Conventional practitioners might view a chronic inflammatory disease as the result of an overly-aggressive immune system, and could make a diagnosis based upon a pattern of common symptoms. They could then choose from any number of anti-inflammatory or immune-modulating agents, hoping to suppress the problem.
For a homeopath, the signs and symptoms of inflammation are just the starting point for understanding the full breadth of disease. The common signs of inflammation--'rubor, calor, dolor and tumor'--are simply the tip of the iceberg. A conventional diagnosis would not be specific enough for selection of a remedy, and one would need to consider other broader or unique expressions of disease.
The effort to target inflammation alone is also be viewed by homeopaths as 'suppressive', meaning that although the most obvious symptoms of imbalance (e.g., inflammation) may be quelled, the underlying stress and imbalance from which this problem arose have not changed. Therefore, a person with a chronic inflammatory condition is treated but not cured. Homeopaths also view the effort to suppress symptoms as one which occurs at the expense of the rest of the organism. That is, if the organism works as an integrated whole, one cannot single out and combats individual symptoms without the battle spilling over in effects on the whole.
Therefore, to rid a person of their chief complaint is not enough in homeopathy. The improvement must also be in line with a general 'direction of cure'--if a person's chief complaint is resolved, one should not see a subsequent problem develop at a deeper or more vital level of function.
Does Homeopathy Work?
Homeopathy has a two hundred year track record of curing illness. Homeopathy received widespread public attention through its effectiveness during epidemics of cholera in the 19th century. During the great influenza epidemic of the 1920's, homeopathic hospitals reported low death rates, while hospitals employing conventional medicine reported death rates of 20% to 30%.
Since the late '40's, double blind trials testing homeopathy on various medical conditions have led to mixed results. Some are claimed to support the use of homeopathy. In other cases, this method of evaluation proved itself incapable of documenting the success of homeopathic cures.
In a report published in the September 20, 1997 issue of Lancet, Dr. Wayne Jonas, head of the Office of Alternative medicine, and Dr. Klaus Linde, concluded that, when the evidence of the 89 studies of homeopathy judged to be of good quality was pooled, homeopathy was deemed to be 2.45 times more effective than placebo.
In 1996, an unpublished study from the Homeopathic Medicine Research Group, an organization formed by the European Union to determine the effectiveness of homeopathy, concluded that homeopathy was more effective than a placebo... and the probability was only 0.027% that this result might be due to chance! Remarkably, a group skeptical toward homeopathy had assisted in the study's design.
In the February 9, 1991 issue of the British Medical Journal, an analysis by two Dutch researchers asked to assess the efficacy of various forms of alternative medicine, reported that although initially they had been sceptics as to homeopathy and alternative medicine in general, "The amount of positive results came as a surprise to us... The evidence presented in this review would probably be sufficient for establishing homeopathy as a regular treatment for certain indications."
Another, more recent, study stated “Compared with placebo, homeopathy provoked a clear, significant, and clinically relevant improvement in nasal inspiratory peak flow, similar to that found with topical steroids.” British medical Journal August 19th 2000.
Today, as we learn more and become more sensitive to the relationships between all living things, homeopathy has rightfully attracted the interest of a great many intelligent, inquisitive and perceptive minds within both the lay and the medical community.