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What is homeopathy?
Homeopathy means treating like with like - symptoms caused by a substance can also be cured by it. For example, for most people a cup of chamomile tea will have a mildly relaxing effect. If someone drinks too much chamomile tea the effects are likely to become the opposite of relaxing, with anxiety, irritability and restlessness appearing. If someone is feeling 'wired up', irritable and restless, the effects of drinking chamomile can ease this. This effect is homeopathic.

A homeopath notes down the symptoms of the patient, and finds the remedy which most closely matches the symptoms that need to be cured.

Although not strictly necessary to be considered homeopathy, nearly everyone calling themselves a homeopath will use 'potentised' remedies. This means diluting and succussing a raw or crude substance. The dilutions are usually 1:10 or 1:100. The 1:10 are considered low potencies referred to as "decimal" potencies or "X's" eg Chamomilla 3X and Arnica 6X. The most used potency here is 6X, ie the original, crude substance is diluted by 10 times its volume or weight, 6 times. Between each dilution the substance in its glass vial is banged several times on a hard slightly giving surface such as a hard bound book. This is known as succussing or potentising. The 1:100 dilutions are known as "centesimal" or "C's" eg Arnica 6C and Coffea 200C.

(The X scale of potencies usually goes no higher than 12X. The C range of potencies can be as high as 1M or MM, where M stands for 1,000.)

Crude Substance v Potentised Remedy
crude substance potentised remedy
need frequent repetition can be either frequently or less frequently repeated, even given as a single dose
can have "toxic" side effects depending on substance toxicity is non-existent after a few dilutions/potencies even with highly toxic substances
tend to focus more on the physical level act on physical and very deep mental/emotional/spiritual symptoms
tend to be slower acting can act instantaneously

It is therefore apparent that potentised remedies are the most advantageous, with the exception of when a more material or "herbal" dosage is required - which is best prescribed by a herbalist.

Remedies
Homeopathic remedies can only be used if the symptoms which they will treat are known. This is discovered by conducting a "proving", though some information may already be known, for example in the cases of the remedies made from herbs that are used medicinally: venom from a snake, or the sting of a bee.

In a proving, a remedy is taken by healthy individuals until they begin to develop symptoms. After this point, all the "prover's" symptoms are noted down until it seems that the "proving" has finished. Symptoms that are normal for the prover are taken away. Symptoms that the prover often gets are treated with a pinch of salt unless they are found in other "provers". There are usually 8 to 30 provers in a proving. All provers' symptoms are collated. Symptoms that occur in more than one prover are highlighted, though all the symptoms that stem from the point the remedy was first taken by the provers are put into the remedy picture. The overall symptoms of the remedy appear, and a general sense of the process and character of the remedy tends to emerge.

The bark of the cinchona tree has been used since the 1660's in the treatment of malaria, Samuel Hahnneman the originator of homeopathy, noticed that it can also cause similar symptoms to malaria when taken by otherwise healthy people. His method was to give a very tiny dose of the bark to treat symptoms that it could create. This is the principle of like cures like, from which comes the term 'homeopathy', which translated from the Latin means the way of similars.

Patient Experience
Most patients come to a homeopath with a specific ailment, a physical one, a general low energy, or some mental or emotional problems. They will tell the homeopath the basic symptoms they have, much in the same way as they would tell a doctor. Most homeopaths will take between one and two hours over the initial consultation, whereas most doctors will take between five and ten minutes. The reason for this is the complaint that the patient brings to the consultation is usually linked into other aspects of themselves. I'll go into more depth on that later. The homeopath will also examine the initial complaint in detail by asking:
  • what makes it worse and better (modality)
  • what the sensation is (sensation)
  • how the sensation changes or moves (modality/sensation)
  • when it first appeared and what else was happening then or just previous to its appearance. This can include mental or physical ailments (causation)
  • how the patients mind, emotions and even dreams are effected by the complaint (mental/emotional)
  • overall accompanying symptoms like temperature, tension, thirst, energy levels (generals)

This itself can take some time, but is crucial to enable the homeopath to find the remedy. There are over 450 remedies that relate to a sore, inflamed throat. To find the best remedy for the patient, the homeopath needs to match the symptoms of the patient to the symptoms of the remedy. To keep it simple to understand, each of those 450 plus remedies relating to sore throat have different modalities, causations, sensations, generals, and mental/emotional symptoms. The ones that match the patient's overall condition most closely will be most similar and so will resonate more fully.

It is usually the case that in a chronic condition, the appropriate remedy to use is the one that most closely matches the patients overall chronic, or constitutional state. The homeopath may ask, "Is there anything else?" several times to uncover more information. This entails the homeopath finding out all, or at least the most prominent symptoms that the patient may feel are unrelated to their main complaint.