What is Homeopathy?
If ever there was a form of treatment that shouldn't work then homoeopathy is it!
See there must be something in the water below.
There are many web sites and books that explain the origins of Homoeopathy, but we leave that to others, here we just present the facts and the science behind this form of treatment... Homoeopathic remedies are created from many sources - plants, minerals, insects, even from drugs like morphine, cocaine and arsenic and from everyday substances such as sand, charcoal and salt - all in absolutely tiny doses.
The basic principle of Homoeopathy is that of "treating like with like". If you take a substance and administer it to a normal healthy body (human or animal), it will produce certain symptoms. That same substance, when given in minute homeopathic quantities, will help to cure those same symptoms when they are produced in the body by some other cause, like illness or disease. This has been called a "hair of the dog" type of treatment.
See also Veterinary Homeopathy
The fact that in a normal healthy person (or animal) a substance will produce particular symptoms is described as Proving the homoeopathic remedy and using that substance as a homeopathic remedy is known as the principle of Similarity.
Take coffee as a simple example. The active ingredients in coffee act as stimulants. If you drink too much coffee the symptoms you get are that you can't sleep, your brain is over active, some people get more physical symptoms such as headaches, raised heartrate and jumping or twitching muscles etc.
These are similar symptoms to someone who has insomnia.
So, the active ingredients in coffee could be used homoeopathically (in tiny quantities) as a remedy for insomnia - treating like with like.
How Homoeopathy Works
Does anyone really know?... Doubtful! You will find it difficult, if not impossible, to find a clear scientific explanation of how Homoeopathy works.
Any doctor or vet will tell you that they never actually "cure" a patient - the body cures itself - all they do is create or facilitate the conditions in which this healing can take place and this is what a homoeopathic remedy does.
You could say that a vaccination is a kind of homoeopathic treatment. A vaccine is a very mild dose of the disease in question. This mild dose provides a stimulus which enables the body to identify the disease and build up the right kind of defence and resistance to it. It may be that a homoeopathic remedy works in a similar way - even once the disease has become apparent. On the other hand, this may not be the case at all.
All we can say is that Homoeopathic remedies are recognised by UK Act of Parliament as a safe alternative form of medical treatment, there are four Homoeopathic Hospitals in the NHS, there are some 2000 GPs thought to be using homoeopathy, prescriptions are available on the NHS, it is available through the Social Security services in most EEC countries, an increasing number of UK vets are qualified and practising Homoeopaths and the British Homoeopathic Association has, amongst others, Prof. David Bellamy OBE as a Patron. The Queen Mother was also a Patron.
How Homoeopathic Remedies are Produced
The key thing in the preparation of homeopathic remedies is the dilution and, in the process, succussion. If done correctly, the more dilute a remedy, the more potent and effective it is...
The substance to be made into a homeopathic remedy is first dissolved in a mixture of water and alcohol - this is then known as the Mother Tincture. This tincture is further diluted according to one of two scales:-
- Decimal scale - D or X - one drop of Mother tincture is added to 9 drops of water/alcohol mixture
- Centesimal scale - C - one drop of Mother tincture is added to 99 drops of water/alcohol mixture
Once diluted in this way the mixture is shaken violently - this is the Succussion.
So if a Mother Tincture is diluted once in either of these ways it is known as the first potency - a 1D remedy on the decimal scale or a 1C remedy on the centesimal scale.
To produce the next dilution the first potency is diluted again, in the same way, producing a 2D or 2C potency. This dilution process is repeated again and again creating homeopathic remedies typically between 6D and 30D, some are as much (or as little!) as 30C. This is why a homoeopathic remedy is safe and harmless even in "overdose". Even homeopathic remedies made from, say, arsenic are so diluted that no harm or side effects have ever been recorded. This, however, is also the bit that sceptics get their teeth into...
There must be something in the water!
The smallest amount of something in a solution is one molecule and in one drop of a solution there are only a certain number of these molecules. When this solution is repeatedly diluted there are less and less of the original molecules in each subsequent dilution. There comes a point where there can be NO molecules of the original substance left in the liquid. This point is reached, and often exceeded, in many homoeopathic dilutions! So sceptics say that if there is not one single molecule of the substance left in the homeopathic remedy, how can it possibly be any good?
Well... no-one really knows. It is said that the water retains some sort of memory or imprint of the original substance and indeed some research has shown that the water in this type of solution is "different" to that of "normal" water. Click here to see an abstract from one such scientific research paper from 1999. However as this is starting to border on the areas of Quantum Physics - a relatively new area of (brain liquidising!) science where the laws of physics keep getting turned upside down - we will just leave it there!
Homoeopathy has its sceptics, but it also has the weight of a great many eminent doctors, vets and other notable people behind it. The very fact that many VETS (of all people! - apologies to vets everywhere) believe that homoeopathic remedies work proves that the effect is not placebo, as could be said in the field of human treatment. An animal, given a homoeopathic remedy, couldn't possibly get better because it believed it would. Our advice is - keep an open mind, remember that it is against the Law for anyone other then a vet to prescribe homoeopathic remedies to an animal and if your vet is a trained homoeopath discuss any possible treatments with him/her.
Article written by the owners of this website, with help from John Saxton MRCVS VetFFHom.