HomeDr. BirchNaturopathic MedicineHomeopathyResources
 Dr. Valeria Birch Dr. Valeria Birch

What is Homeopathy?

The highest ideal of therapy is to restore health rapidly, gently, permanently; to remove and destroy the whole disease in the shortest, surest, less harmful way, according to clearly comprehensible principles.By Rajan Sankaran from “The Spirit of Homeopathy.”

Homeopathy is a system of medicine founded by the celebrated physician Dr. Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) of Germany. It is based on the principle that "like cures like". In practice, this means that a medicine capable of producing certain effects when taken by a healthy human being is capable of curing any illness that displays similar effects.

BarkLike Cures Like

For example, if a healthy person takes a dose of Arsenic he will develop vomiting, diarrhea of rice-water stools, a rapid pulse and prostration. His skin will become cold and his expression anxious. In smaller doses or when taken for a longer time, he will develop a running nose, heavy head, cough and bronchial catarrh. Even later there will be specific disturbances of skin and nerves. He will have burning all over which is relieved by warmth, frequent thirst for sips of water, fear of death, restlessness and a worsening of symptoms at noon and midnight.

According to the Homoeopathic law that 'like cures like', countless patients displaying such symptoms have been cured by Arsenic, irrespective of the name of the disease (cholera, colds, eczema, asthma etc). This principle has also been mentioned by that ancient Indian poet Kavi-Kalidasa: "Shruyate hi pura loke, vishasya visham aushadham". Translated, this reads: "It has been said of old time in the world that poison is the remedy for poison". Hippocrates postulated this principle in the words, "Similia Similibus Curentur" (likes are cured by likes).

Click to read the book

The practice of Homoeopathy is based on certain fundamental principles. Firstly, the remedies that are used are tested on human volunteers (provers) to elicit the symptoms they can produce. The symptoms of each remedy experienced by the provers are recorded in exact detail and they form the Homoeopathic materia medica. The symptoms of the patient are matched with the symptoms of the various remedies in the materia medica to find out the single remedy whose symptoms are most similar to those of the patient (like cures like).


Hahnemann's scientific experiments led him to the process of potentisation. A step by step dilution and jerking of the drug makes it extremely powerful and at the same time renders it harmless. This is in direct contrast to the toxic drugs of modern medicine, and their "side effects".

Potencies employed by the homoeopath are from mother tincture to the 1,00,000th potencies. The 6th potency will have roughly a dilution of one drop of the original drug substance diluted in a lake full of water. Each potency is 100 times more dilute than the previous one. Imagine the 1,00,000th dilution! No one has been able to satisfactorily explain how medicines can act when diluted to such fantastic limits. Yet, potencies are found to act very powerfully. It seems that in the process of potentisation, stored up energy of the drug is liberated.

The Healer within

The practice of Homoeopathy convinces the physician to regard the body as more than a sum of its parts. Unlike a machine, it develops, carries on its function and repairs itself independently. In this sense, everyone carries within him his own doctor. Ancient physicians were familiar with this natural power of the organism to control disease and they invented for it a beautiful expression. "Vis Medicatrix Naturae" (Healing power of nature). This healing power is a function of the life force itself. Hahnemann called it the vital force. Disease is a disturbance of this force. Of ten people who get wet in the rain, only one gets pneumonia. Most bacteria can affect us only when our own healing power or resistance is low. By removing the bacteria (by antibiotics, etc) we are doing nothing to correct this lack of resistance. Homoeopathic medicine aims to correct the disturbed vital force and thus enhances the power of the body to heal itself. It does not aim at removing the symptoms of the parts affected, but treats the cause and restores health. According to Homoeopathy, symptoms are a reflection of me disturbed vital force. Sickness is like a Sitar whose correct tuning has been disturbed. Naturally, all the notes from such a Sitar will be far from melodious. There is no use trying to correct the individual notes. It is the disturbance in tuning itself which has to be corrected.

Treating Man as a whole

Another fundamental principle of Homoeopathy is that it treats the patient as a whole and as an individual. There is no medicine for any particular disease, but there is a medicine for the patient suffering from the disease. 'The individual, not the disease, is the entity" said the celebrated Sir William Osier. The homoeopath takes into consideration all the symptoms mat distinguish a person as an individual. Even a salesman of readymade clothes must try to fit the readymade suit according to the measurements of each individual. The homoeopath thus enquires into the details of the patient's past and family history, his appetite, thirst, bowel habits, sleep, etc. and, most important of all, he asks about his temperament. It is being increasingly acknowledged these days that the mind and body are interlinked. We now see the rapid rise of the holistic concept of disease with an emphasis on its psychosomatic aspect. Hahnemann recognized all this long ago, and stressed that bodily and mental symptoms are to be taken together to form the portrait of disease. The Homoeopathic Materia Medica is rich in mental symptoms and we especially use these in selecting the remedy.

The present problem of the patient is not usually an isolated occurrence. It is part of a sequence. The family history and the events through childhood are taken into account as homoeopathy treats not only the present symptoms, but the entire sequence, thereby preventing the progress of disease. Children under Homoeopathic treatment grow into more healthy adults, as they find relief from the scourge of bad inheritance as well.

It has been said that the child is father of the man. Thus, even in an infant, we can perceive the beginnings of future illness. The infant may perspire so much about its head during sleep as to soak the pillow. Perhaps the fontanelles are slow in closing. The child may be slow in walking and teething and also develop the habit of eating mud and chalk. She looks fat, but there is no strength. She may develop enlarged tonsils. She catches colds often and each cold further enlarges the tonsils. The menses occur too soon and are profuse. She feels cold all the time and lacks energy. Slowly a cough begins and there is the faintest trace of fever. There is a desire for cold milk and eggs. The cough further worsens and the evening fever becomes well marked - the X-ray shows tuberculosis. One can see that T.B. did not appear all at once; it has waived from childhood. The signs of ill-health were all there. They indicate the homeopathic medicine Calc. Carbonica. Had this remedy been given in infancy, the girl would not have developed the later troubles. But it is never too late. Even now Homoeopathy will build up her health. In this way many a problem child has been helped to normalcy by Homoeopathy. A good homoeopath learns to perceive disease as a continually evolving process which begins in the womb and, unless arrested and cured, ends in the tomb. There are many measures to palliate and ease the patient, but the journey continues unless treated on homoeopathic principles. In fact most, if not all, curative therapies (including some forms of psychotherapy, meditation, etc.) are (consciously or unconsciously) based on the 'Similie' principle. The Homoeopath applies this principle scientifically and systematically using carefully tested medicines.

Sometimes in the course of Homoeopathic treatment, the history of past illnesses appears briefly in the reverse order, like a film being played backwards. When this happens, we know that not only the present, but also its cause in the past has been treated and the future is secure.

To a Homoeopath, the knowledge of anatomy, physiology, medicine, surgery and gynecology is necessary since he has to examine the patient and come to a diagnosis. This will help him to know the natural course of the ailment and to manage me case well.

But his most important task is to understand the individuality of each patient fully and correctly, so that is he may select the right remedy.

Reprinted with Permission. Copyright 1991 Rajan Sankaran.
For more works by Rajan Sankaran visit www.thespiritofhomoeopathy.com

Valeria V. Birch, Naturopathic Doctor (ND)
Serving Northern Virginia and Washington DC.