Homeopathy as it is practised today was established in the late 18th and early 19th century by Dr Samuel Hahnemann, founded on three principles: 1) A substance that causes symptoms in a healthy person can be used to treat these symptoms when they occur in an ill person. 2) Diluting the homeopathic medicine increases its curative powers and avoids unwanted side-effects. 3) Health is a dynamic process; homeopathy treats the whole person and not just the illness.
The homeopath attempts to best match the patient's symptoms to a remedy "symptom picture". A "symptom picture" is different than a disease state as defined by conventional medicine; patients with the same disease state but different symptom pictures will be prescribed different remedies. Such individualized treatment of specific symptoms is fundamental in the practice of "classical" homeopathy. Homeopathic remedies are made from plants, minerals and other natural substances. They are prepared by a process of step by step repeated dilution and shaking, which makes them capable of stimulating the body's own immune system. The remedy is usually given one time only, and then allowed to work for a long time. Homeopaths believe that the patient is best served by the least amount of intervention necessary to achieve health.
Homeopathic medicines also have been shown to work on infants and on various animals (including dogs, cats, horses and even cows) where it is highly unlikely that they are acting only as a placebo. Homeopaths also find that people who are being treated with homeopathic medicine for a chronic disease sometimes experience a temporary exacerabation in their symptoms as the body's defences are being stimulated. Homeopaths have found that a "healing crisis" is sometimes necessary to achieve healing. It is highly unlikely that this temporary worsening of symptoms is the result of a placebo response.
Sales of homeopathic medicines grew at a rate of 25-50% per year during the 1980s in the USA, with similar growth in western Europe, where sales have reached over US$600 million a year.
2. So-called "potentised" medicines are so diluted, so little of the original substance remains, that they cannot have any effect.
3. How do homeopaths explain this supposed potency of infinitesimal doses, even when the dilution removes all molecules of a drug? They invoke mysterious vibrations, resonance, force fields, or radiation totally unknown to science.
4. Unless the laws of chemistry have gone awry, most homeopathic remedies are too diluted to have any physiological effect.