In its fight against illness, humankind is developing more and more complex medicines. However the germs that are being targeted by these medicines are getting much smarter and they are developing resistance to all the different types of antibiotics. There is, therefore, always a race to get the better of the germs and we have often lost. Hence newer generations of medicines are being developed everyday; stronger chemicals are entering the human body with their vicious side effects. So a doctor ends up giving one medicine for the disease, and another to combat the side effects.
Therefore, it is no wonder that the alternative systems of medicine are seeing resurgence throughout the world and in the United States in particular. As people are getting disillusioned with traditional (i.e. Western or allopathic) medicines, naturopathy, and homeopathy are becoming much more popular.
Homoeopathy is derived from the Greek words homoeos, meaning similar, and pathos, meaning suffering. It is a system of medicine propounded by Samuel Hahnemann, a German physician, over 200 years ago. It may be difficult to believe that just a couple of centuries ago, the most common method of treating diseases in the Western world was venesection (or bloodletting), leeching, branding (to drive away evil spirits), and other such barbaric means to remove disease from patients. Many people died as a result of this treatment than the actual disease itself! In disgust Dr. Hahnemann quit his practice. In order to survive, he started translating books, since he was fluent in German, French, English, and Latin.
In one such book, A Treatise on Materia Medica by William Cullen, Hahnemann came across a statement that the Peruvian or Cinchona bark could cure malaria because it was bitter and had astringent properties. Hahnemann knew of many other substances that were bitter and astringents, but they did not cure malaria. He took a few grains of the powder of Cinchona daily, and soon developed all the symptoms of malaria—chills, body ache, and fever. He realized that Cinchona cured malaria not because it was bitter, but because it had the capacity to produce symptoms similar to malarial fever.
Thus was born homoeopathy: Similar Suffering, and the law of cure—that is, “Let likes be cured by likes.” In simple terms, it means, “any substance that can produce a set of signs and symptoms in a healthy person can be used to cure a similar set of signs and symptoms in a diseased person.”
For instance, we know that when cutting a strong onion, we often experience an acrid runny nose, irritation in the throat, and burning and watering of the eyes. So, a homoeopath will prescribe Allium cepa, the remedy made from the red onion, for the patient who has a cold and bad throat with these particular symptoms.
The greatest advantage of homoeopathy is that it is holistic medicine. Homoeopaths do not treat physical, emotional and mental illnesses separately, but regard them as intimately connected. They also understand that symptoms of illnesses are evidence of the body’s natural and automatic efforts to heal it. It has been long recognized that there is a capacity for self-healing within the organism. This is easily seen in acute diseases such as colds, chicken pox, etc., where the body naturally resists infection, and in time, gets better through mobilizing its own defenses. In long standing chronic diseases, the body’s vitality is too depleted to do this without assistance. In these cases the right remedy will stimulate the body’s self-healing powers to start the process of cure.
This self-healing power has been given various names in different cultures: prana in India, chi in China, and the vital force in Europe. In modern medical terminology this could be localized in the immune system.
Since the body’s energy is influenced rather than its chemical balance, the remedies do not cause any side effects, as there is no chemical to accumulate in the body.
People suffering from all kinds of illnesses from depression to arthritis, migraine to ulcers, and now the more modern illnesses can be helped by homoeopathy to regain their health. Many patients suffer from psychosomatic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, angina, bronchial asthma, acidity and peptic ulcers. The holistic approach of homoeopathy helps in treating not only the soma or body, but also the psyche or the mind. This makes it a very important method of treatment.
Daxa Vaishnav ([email protected]) and Vijay Vaishnav ([email protected]) are homeopathic doctors from India. They have are professors at Mumbai’s homeopathic medical college, where they have taught for 25 years. www.drvaishnav.com.