Letting ‘like be cured by like

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Homeopathy is one of the most popular, and yet most baffling of the complementary healthcare models. A startling array of followers, past and present, includes Yeats, Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir, Florence Nightingale, Mother Theresa, The British Royal Family, Sir Paul McCartney, David Beckham, Jennifer Aniston, Tony Blair and Bill Clinton. In fact over 30 million people across Europe use homeopathic medicine.

The baffling part of it is that the tiny pills used by homeopaths contain such diluted amounts of the original healing ingredient that virtually none of it remains. And often none of it remains whatsoever. This is as far from mainstream medical theory as it gets, but homeopathy is what’s known as an ‘energy medicine’. Practitioners believe that the ‘energy’ or essence of the original ingredient is locked into the pill, as a kind of memory.

The word homeopathy comes from the Greek for ‘similar suffering’, interpretable as treating like with like. As far back as the sixteenth century, Paracelsus taught that the key to a cure lay in the disease, and this idea was taken up again in the late eighteenth century by homeopathy’s founder, doctor and chemist Samuel Hahnemann. He believed that ‘we should imitate nature, which sometimes cures a chronic disease by another’, and that the whole person should be treated, rather than just the symptom.

I asked Sarah Leather, a well-established and well-qualified homeopath, to put it in her own words: ‘A substance that can produce symptoms in a healthy person can treat those symptoms in a sick person,’ she said. ‘Homeopathy is a safe, gentle but highly effective system of medicine using naturally occurring substances in the form of remedies to stimulate the body’s own healing power. The results can be very powerful and long lasting, and it’s suitable for everyone from pregnancy through to childhood, adulthood through to older age.’ Read more

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