The formal study of homeopathy started around 200 years ago with a discovery by a German doctor, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. While translating a book written by another doctor, Dr. Hahnemann disagreed with the other practitioner as to why quinine was helpful in the treatment of malaria. He took the medicine himself and found that the quinine produced symptoms of malaria, the same symptoms it was being used to treat! From that experience, Dr. Hahemann went on to discover other instances of "like cures like".
The word homeopathy means literally to "treat with a similar disease". It's central principle, "like cures like", contrasts with other medical approaches. The term allopathic means to "treat with other than the disease", and is used to denote the standard medical approach of today which attempts to counteract symptoms. For example, a patient with diarrhea may be given a drug that slows intestinal motility, counteracting the symptom.
Homeopaths do not ignore immediate causes such as infection, the primary focus is on the patient's attempts to respond and heal. The aim is the strengthen the patient's defense and shift the balance in favor of recovery. A simple analogy is that if a pond is sick and overrun with algae, would you prefer to use a chemical to kill the algae or would you figure out how to drain the pond and refresh the water? Or how about sick fish in an aquarium? If the fish were sick, would you attempt to give the fish some type of drug, or would you first change the water? On occasion, you might do both, but the clean water is imperative to healing.
It's the same with the body. It needs a clean energetic and physical environment to heal. This is where homeopathy comes in.
Back to Dr. Hahnemann. Dr. Hahnemann found that substances could be used to stimulate healing by applying the principle of "like cures like" in very specific ways. He would give the patient a substance that would gently nudge their system in the direction of the "disease", reproducing the same or similar syndrome or whole set of particular symptoms in a mild form. He found this to be a very effective way to stimulate the natural defenses. It is almost as if the patient's defenses cannot distinguish between the natural disease and what the similar substance is doing. Thus, homeopaths fine-tne the use of medicines to enhance the patient's own attempts to overcome the disease.
In this manner, homeopathy employs hundreds of substances that have all been thoroughly studied as to their unique effects on body, emotions and mind. Some of these are common herbs, others are poisonous plants. toxins, and venoms.
Homeopathic pharmacists carefully prepare these many substances in a time-tested manner that enhances their usefulness while minimizing potential harm. They carefully dilute them to eliminate toxic effects, at the same time shaking or grinding them in a way that energize the helpful effects. This is called "potentization". This use of dilute similar substance is somewhat similar to the use of vaccines or to the method of allergy desensitization.
In summary, homeopathic remedies stimulate the healing process through temporarily establishing an artificial disturbance of health. This disturbance, when similar to the disturbance caused by the disease, makes the body work harder to get well. The healing changes that follow are the result of that stimulation.
While simple in theory, the process requires skill and experience, particularly in "chronic conditions"- which include any type of illness except for trauma. The homeopath carefully evaluates the changes that occur after each dose of the homeopathic remedy. In this way, the patient can be guided to recovery of their health over the weeks or years necessary for the body to repel the disease and regrow damaged tissues.