The underlying idea of Homeopathy has been known for at least 2500 years. Around that time, its principles were mentioned by the Greek physician Hippocrates, the "Father of Medicine."
However, Homeopathy has only been in use as a practical method of healing for about the last 200 years. The German Physician and Chemist, Samuel Hahnemann (1755 - 1843), discovered the principles and laws of Homeopathy. He clarified, formulated and developed them into a practice of Homeopathy same to the one we have today. He is rightly regarded as the founder of Homeopathy.
Hahnemann set down the basic philosophy for Homeopathy in a book called The Organon of Medicine. It was first published in 1810, and Hahnemann revised it through six editions before his death. The Organon is still the Bible of homeopaths. During his long life, Hahnemann introduced about 100 remedies, most of which are the core medicines still used today.
Since Hahnemann's time, Homeopathy has certainly developed, and it has also waxed and waned in popularity. But the whole philosophy and practice of Homeopathy springs entirely from the genius of his thoughts and experiments.
Hahnemann was originally trained as a doctor. But he soon became dissatisfied with the crude, unscientific, painful and downright dangerous medical practices of the time. Much of this centered around blood letting, sometimes in excessive and fatal quantities, and the use of large doses of poisonous drugs, such as mercury. It is no exaggeration to say that the disease was often preferable to the cure.
Eventually Hahnemann gave up medicine for a time. To support his large family, he earned a small income from writing and translations. He was an impressive linguist, fluent in at least five languages.
In 1791, Hahnemann was translating an English article on the use of Peruvian or cinchona bark, also known as quinine. Quinine is a drug that is used in the treatment of the infectious tropical disease, Malaria. Hahnemann became interested in this idea and started to experiment on himself. He consumed small pieces of the bark. Very quickly he developed a number of symptoms, including heart palpitations, drowsiness, alternating fever and chills, and drenching sweats. Each attack of symptoms lasted two or three hours and reappeared at regular intervals.
Hahnemann had produced in himself all the symptoms of malaria, but without actually experiencing the disease itself. As soon as he stopped taking the bark, the symptoms disappeared. He had discovered a remedy, which we now call China, and had developed the Law of Similars. From this, he reasoned that something in the bark could produce a symptom pattern that mimicked Malaria -- and the same mysterious something could treat the actual disease of Malaria.
Hahnemann now set about testing all sorts of substances, which he thought might contain curative powers. He experimented on himself and on his friends and colleagues, methodically recording the results for over 100 substances, which were then used to make remedies. This process of testing a substance on a healthy person to bring out the symptoms is called "proving."
Since Hahnemann's original 100 provings, at least 2000 more have been scientifically carried out.
Summaries of the symptoms produced by these substances have been listed, collected, compiled and set out in books known as Materia Medica. There have been various versions of Materia Medica prepared by a number of authors through the years. A Materia Medica and a Repertory -- which is really a detailed index to the Materia Medica -- are the two essential books that a practising Homeopath always has by his or her side.
Although Hahnemann had discovered the basic law of Homeopathy, that "Similia similibus curentur" (like cures like), there was still a problem. Many of the substances he wanted to use as remedies were very poisonous. Even in minute doses, there could still be risks and dangers. To avoid this, Hahnemann started to dilute the substances many times. Being a well-trained scientist, and an expert in pharmacy, he took great care in keeping the remedies pure and uncontaminated, as he made them into greater and greater dilutions. In fact, he diluted the remedies so many times that it seemed they could not possibly work. The dilutions were so weak that virtually nothing of the original substance remained!
Between each dilution, Hahnemann devised a method of vigorous shaking of the solution. This had a powerful effect and "energized" the remedy, releasing huge reserves of curative energy from the original mother substance. The vigorous shaking process is known as succussion. The combination of alternate dilution and succussion at each stage of the remedy preparation is called potentization.
Homeopathic remedies are usually available as pills in bottles. The bottle bears a label with the remedy name, a number and a letter, for example, Arnica 6C. The number refers to the number of successive dilutions that have been carried out. The letter refers to the proportion or quantity of the dilution. For example, C stands for 100, which means that for each stage of the dilution and succession process, one part of the previous dilution was added to 99 parts of water (or alcohol). Sometimes you see X, which means a dilution of one in 10, or M, which is 1,000C.
The combination of number and letter indicates the potency -- the "power" of the preparation.
For Arnica 6C, one part of the original Arnica plant was first diluted in 100 parts of alcohol, and succussed. This process was repeated five more times. In the final dilution, there is only one part in 1,000,000,000,000 (one million million) of the original Arnica.
Although the origin of Homeopathy can be traced back to the time of Hippocrates, it was first organized by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann. Hahnemann believed that the medical practices of his day, which included severe bloodletting, were barbaric, outmoded, and made for poor patient compliance. He coined the term allopathy for this practice of medicine from the Greek word "allo" meaning "other than" and "pathy" meaning "disease". He described these medical practices as the suppression of symptoms.
For more than 10 years, Hahnemann researched the profiles of a large number of plants. He recorded the findings and named this process a proving, a test of the effects of a substance on a healthy person. Hahnemann wrote the first Homeopathic Material Medica (a book that lists substances and the symptoms produced by their ingestion) and published it in 1810.
When someone became ill, Hahnemann conducted physical exams and questioned the person thoroughly about their general health, outlook on life, and symptoms they were experiencing. Hahnemann then attempted to match the patient's symptoms to the "provings" and administer a dilution of the matched compound. And he found curing diseases with medicines which are capable of producing similar symptoms.
The curative agent is given in an appropriate dilution to effect the safest cure without aggravating or intensifying the pre-existing symptoms. Hahnemann knew that giving even small doses of toxic material could have negative effects, so he developed a unique system of dilution. By this method, he found that he could take advantage of the curative properties of an agent without causing any side effects.
Nature is the fountain of Homeopathic medicines. The Homeopathic medicines are prepared from a wide range of natura l sources. Over 75% of the medicines origin from the vegetable kingdom, i.e. flowers, roots, leaves and the juice.
Certain chemicals and minerals are also used to prepare some medicines. For instance, sulphuric acid, nitric acid etc. Most of the minerals and metals are used as a source of medicine, such as gold, silver, zinc, tin, iron etc.
Some microbes, bacteria and virus are also used to prepare a special group of medicines ( called Nosodes). For instance, influenza virus, bacteria which produce tuberculosis, Some body secretion such as the hormones ( thyroid hormone, for instance) also find place in the wide source.
Animal kingdom has a special place in the Homeopathic pharmacy. Homeopathic medicines are prepared from the animal sources. Some insects such as Spanish fly (Apis Mellifica) and certain animal products like the venom of Cobra (Naja) are used in unique manner.
As you can realise, there is infinitesimal original drug substance in the higher potency medicines. Actually it crosses the Avogadro's limit. There is no detectable material in the potency higher than 24. What is left behind is the power or energy of the medicine. One may call it dynamic power, which is capable to induce definite changes in the body system to bring about the healing process.
It has been the day to day experience of thousands of Homeopaths world-over, for last 200 years, that Homeopathy medicines, even in the smallest form, works !