History and Evolution
Following its discovery 200 years ago by Samuel Hahnemann, a German doctor, the practice of homeopathy spread rapidly throughout the world and has been practiced in many countries ever since. During the 20th century the advent of much of the new pharmacy and surgical techniques of modern conventional medicine led to a temporary decline in homeopathy’s popularity in many countries.
Now it is once again rapidly regaining popularity around the world as an alternative option to conventional medicine for the treatment of many conditions which conventional medicine only has limited effect in. Homeopathy is also useful at times as a complementary therapy when the effects of conventional treatment can be supported or mitigated as the case may be.
Field of Application
In all European and other countries homeopathic medicines are widely used by members of the public for the treatment of minor injuries and simple self-limiting ailments in the home. There are an increasing number of books on the market which offer indications on such treatment.
In all European countries doctors who have done additional training in homeopathy and an increasing number of homeopaths who train solely in homeopathy as a discrete clinical discipline treat patients for a wide range of conditions. As with any therapy homeopathy has certain limitations in which conditions it can treat but it is probably true to say that it is one of the therapies with the broadest scope in terms of the range of illnesses it can treat as well as the severity of pathology being suffered.
It is particularly useful in a whole range of conditions for which conventional medicine either has nothing to offer or offers only palliative approaches of ‘symptom control’ or ‘disease management’ e.g. allergic complaints, eczema, asthma, arthritis, mental illness, digestive problems etc.
Homeopathic medicines are prepared from source substances derived from all three of nature’s kingdoms, vegetable, mineral and animal as well as from the realm of energy where medicines have been produced from different forms of radiation for example. The standardized process of ‘potentization’ involving repeated serial steps of dilution and succession by which all homeopathic medicines are prepared renders all original source materials innocuous to the human system. The potentized medicine maintains the curative properties of the original source substance which are effective when a chosen medicine is applied homeopathically to a particular patient according to the ‘law of similar’.
Potentized medicines are prepared according to the instructions recorded in homeopathic pharmacopoeia. The two main pharmacopoeia used in Europe are the German and French pharmacopoeia which differ in a number of ways. There is currently a project underway to produce a European Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia to eventually replace the existing ones.
Homeopathic medicines are uniquely recognized within European Union pharmaceutical legislation by two directives (92/73/EEC & 92/74/EEC) which acknowledge the particular nature of homeopathic medicines and give them special status and requirements alongside the rest of conventional pharmacy. The main difference in requirements is that for single homeopathic medicines for which no therapeutic claim is made proof of efficacy is not required for them to be licensed and be put on the market.
There are currently some 3000+ remedies listed in the homeopathic materia medica. This list is continually being added to as new medicines are ‘proved’ i.e. tested, for their therapeutic potential on groups of healthy humans.