In recent years, homeopathic remedies have joined herbs and vitamins on supplement shelves. While most Americans remain unfamiliar with the theories behind homeopathy, many have found healing and health by simply following the package directions.
Homeopathy is based on the premise that less is more. This holistic approach to healing relies on the use of infinitesimal amounts of substances, plants, minerals, chemicals, microorganisms, animal materials, and even modern drugs to boost the body’s defenses against illness.
To choose an active ingredient, homeopaths turn to the law of similars, or “like cures like”. One of the tenets of homeopathy, which states that a remedy taken in small amounts will cure the same symptoms that it would cause if taken in large amounts. In fact, the world homeopathy has its roots in the Greek words homo, meaning “like, similar” and pathos, meaning “suffering or disease.”
As an example, consider the medicinal use of belladonna, an extract from the poisonous plant deadly nightshade. If taken internally, belladonna can cause high fever, flushed face, confusion, and other flulike symptoms; when used as a homeopathic remedy, belladonna is used to treat fever and flu.
Of course, the actual amount of belladonna used in the homeopathic remedy is dramatically diluted. In fact, the active ingredients in homeopathic remedies are diluted to such a degree that not a single molecule of the active ingredient can be found in the solution in its final form. Despite the dilution, evidence indicates that homeopathic remedies work.
The dependence on dilution illustrates the second law of homeopathy, the law of infinitesimals. This theory states that the smaller the dose of an active ingredient, the more effective the cure. However, for the less-is-more principle to work, each time the solution is diluted, it must be “potentized” (or shaken) to create “memory of the energy” that cures the body.
The law of infinitesimals was discovered through careful experimentation by Dr. Samuel Christian Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German physician who became the founder of the practice of homeopathy.