Homeopathy is a branch of medicine with a unique way of prescribing medicines, and its own range of medicines. Homeopathy as a system of medicine was developed by Dr Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843), a German physician and scholar. Since its inception, homeopathy has spread widely throughout the world. Homeopathy was brought  to New Zealand in 1849.

In recent years there has been an impressive resurgence of homeopathy worldwide and the number of homeopaths who can provide this safe, effective, comprehensive medical care is also rapidly growing.

In 1790 Samuel Hahnemann discovered the principle of “like curing like”.  Whilst translating a book by William Cullen, Hahnemann saw that Dr. Cullen attributed the efficacy of Peruvian bark (Cinchona) in treating malaria to its bitter and astringent properties.  Hahnemann disputed this point asserting that Cinchona must cure for reasons other than its bitterness and astringency, since there were many other herbs equally bitter and astringent.  He decided to experiment and began to dose himself with the herb until symptoms were produced.  The symptoms produced were very similar to those of Malaria.  His conclusion was that the drug might be effective in treating malaria because it could cause similar symptoms in a healthy person.

It was this startling idea that led him to experiment further.  Using himself, his family, and colleagues as subjects, he tested all sorts of substances.  He found that any substance of plant, mineral or animal origin, given to a healthy person in repeated doses, will cause that person to develop symptoms.  The same substance (in different dosage and form) will cure a sick person with a similar set of symptoms.  This principle is a foundational aspect of Homeopathy and embodied in the saying: “Like may be cured by like.”

Eventually Hahnemann began to treat people basing his prescriptions on this principle of treating “like with like”.  He would elicit from his patients all their symptoms and then choose a remedy which had produced symptoms that closely matched the symptoms of the illness.  From the outset his results were outstanding.

Everyone knows the effects of drinking too much coffee: the mind races and prevents sleep, trembling and palpitations may occur.  When a person has these symptoms, whether it be a case of insomnia, the result of an emotional shock, or some other issue, then the homeopathic remedy made from coffee (which is called Coffea) may remove those symptoms.

Homeopathic remedies are prepared by first grinding the substance in milk sugar to a very fine powder.  A tiny amount of this powder is then dissolved in a liquid (water or alcohol depending on the substance) in a vial.  This small vial of liquid is then thumped quite firmly against the palm of your hand several times.  A tiny quantity of this is again diluted in another vial of liquid and once more thumped (we call it ‘succussion’) against the palm of your hand.  This process is repeated a number of times until your remedy has reached the desired level of potency – each dilution and succussion makes the remedy more potent.

Surprisingly, this process of dilution and succussion can be repeated hundreds, or even thousands, of times so that even though there is none of the original substance remaining, the remedy becomes more potent.

The science behind the efficacy of this process is as yet undiscovered, but anyone who has taken an appropriate homeopathic remedy for a specific ailment will attest that the medicine is most effective – even if they were firmly convinced that it wouldn’t work.

Yes it is. With its careful testing of medicines on healthy human volunteers, the collation of the symptoms, and the continual testing of the hypothesis by giving the similar remedy, homeopathy’s results are repeatable experiments and form a truly scientific base. It is thanks to the data from thousands of such tests (called provings) that we know what the various homeopathic medicines can do. Since subjective symptoms are very important, only human beings can reliably provide these. This is why, although homeopathy can treat animals, animals are not used in proving medicines intended for human use.

Although there are several homeopaths who are also registered doctors, and many homeopaths who are registered nurses, most of the homoeopaths in New Zealand are not registered medical practitioners with the status of doctors.  In many countries homeopaths have trained as doctors and done further training in homeopathy (in Britain the qualification Member of the Faculty of Homoeopathy is recognised in law, for instance) or they have trained in homeopathic medical colleges graduating with qualifications recognised as equivalent to the usual medical degree.

Many Governments encourage homeopathy and give it funding just like any other branch of medicine.  Support from British Royalty is conspicuous.  There are several homeopathic hospitals covered by the National Health Service in Britain, similarly in India.  In many countries in Europe there is both state funding and medical insurers’ support for homeopathic consultations, notably Germany and France.

Central and South American countries support homeopathy in various ways, particularly Mexico, Brazil and Argentina.  The same sort of encouragement can be found in Africa, too – notably South Africa.  It has been estimated that all around the world more than 500 million people use homeopathic medicines as their sole, or main, therapeutic agents.

In New Zealand the qualification National Diploma in Homeopathy is recognised by the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.  The Qualifications Authority has the power to approve homoeopathic training institutions meeting all requirements, as well.

Homeopathy is very precise and thorough therapeutic system requiring an in depth consultation. For chronic problems an initial consultation may require an hour or more. When asking the client to describe symptoms, the homeopath wants to go beyond such blanket terms as merely “rheumatism” or “asthma” and to discover how that particular problem presents in you as an individual in your own unique response to the disease process.

To get a complete picture of the underlying disturbance and to clearly identify the physical, mental or emotional problems impacting on your life, a lengthy, detailed and personal interview is often necessary. This in-depth exchange between homeopath and client is quite different from the routine medical exam of a conventional doctor. During the interview you will be asked about many aspects of your life. Often it is that “peculiar” or “odd” problem, that may provide the all-important clue to your exact remedy.

Homeopathy is highly demanding of the homeopath. The reason such a long time is spent with new clients, striving to know them in such depth and subtlety, is because the homeopath needs to select, from hundreds of remedies, a remedy which best matches the symptoms of the individual. It is not an easy task.

In acute illnesses the response tends to be fast, and in some cases nearly instantaneous. It is commonplace for a child screaming with pain one moment (perhaps from teething or an earache) to calm down a minute or two later and fall asleep – after a dose of, say, Chamomilla. On the other hand some chronic problems of many years’ standing may improve slowly and gradually. As might be expected, complaints which have developed slowly over many years generally take longer to cure than those which have developed recently, though signs of improvement may be seen soon after starting the treatment.

Because the medicines have been considerably diluted, all toxicity is removed. There is therefore no risk of dangerous side effects. Remedies are commonly prescribed in such dilution that a medical substance cannot be detected when the remedy is analysed. This does not mean potentised medicines are absolutely harmless if taken heedless of directions, but they are probably the safest of all medicinal substances.

Some homeopaths are qualified registered doctors, but all other registered homeopaths have a basic knowledge of conventional medications and are careful with the management of clients who are taking conventional medications.

Ideally, the homeopath prefers to treat clients who are not taking any other medication. This permits the full range of symptoms to emerge, some of which might have been masked or suppressed by drug therapy. If it is dangerous to withdraw a drug, it can be continued together with the homoeopathic medicine and then gradually withdrawn (in consultation with the prescribing physician) as the condition improves.

The classical homeopath is guided by the principles set forth by Hahnemann:

  • the principle of “like cures like”
  • the minimum dose of the potentised medicine
  • the single remedy
  • the individualisation of every case of disease

By following these principles, classical homeopaths find they obtain the most consistent and reliable results.  Only one remedy at a time is used.  Classical homeopaths do not use machines or divining methods, or other alternative means to choose the remedy.

Many remedies sold labelled “homeopathic” are not true homeopathic medicines at all, and results from taking them are so unpredictable their use cannot be recommended. Bottles containing a mixture of remedies (several remedies in one bottle) with a name implying a particular use should be avoided.  If you are in need of a remedy but unsure of which remedy is the ‘simillimum’ (the remedy that most closely matches the symptoms) contact a homeopath.

You can learn to use some homeopathic remedies at home. It is particularly effective in first aid situations and this is a good way to familiarise yourself with homeopathy. Ask a homeopath (see the Yellow Pages phonebook under “Homeopaths”), one of the Qualifications Authority’s approved colleges, or contact the NZ Homœopathic Society for further information on courses and recommended books.

If any apparently minor complaint does not respond quickly to your owntreatment, consult a homeopath. Use only classical remedies, not mixtures.

Contact the Society for information on Colleges and in New Zealand

The main seller of books on homeopathy in this country is the New Zealand Homœopathic Society.  If you join the Society you will receive our quarterly Journal, Homœopathica, and can borrow books and tape recordings which we can post to you.

The Society’s Centre is at:

320 Mt Eden Rd,
Mt Eden,
Auckland
Phone + 64 9 630 5458
bookroom@homeopathy.ac.nz

The bookroom at the Centre is open on Wednesdays from 10 am to 4.00 pm.

The NZ Homœopathic Society was established in 1951 for the purpose of advancing the status and knowledge of homoeopathy, and has done much in this field, especially by preventing harmful changes in law.

Contact the Society for a booklist and other information by writing to:

New Zealand Homœopathic Society
Box 67-095, Mt Eden,
Auckland 1349
New Zealand
Or emailing  bookroom@homeopathy.ac.nz

The New Zealand Council of Homeopaths, a charitable trust, maintains a register of professional homeopaths. Council members use the initials RCHom.

Lists of members are available from:
The New Zealand Council of Homeopaths
Box 51-156, Tawa,
Wellington

A list of registered homeopaths can also be viewed at: www.homeopathy.co.nz