Homeopathy from its inception blended the best of Eastern and Western forms of healing. Its founder, Samuel Hahnemann, was a physician medical translator. Disillusioned with the toxic medicines of his day, he studied medical texts from many parts of the world as he translated them. His concept of the Vital Force or healing energy in the body is similar to the Eastern concept of prana (in Ayurvedic medicine) or chi in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Hahnemann also used his abilities as a master pharmacist to develop a method to make toxic medicines harmless. At the same time, he said his method was awakening a healing spirit or energy in the medicines. So his paradigm of healing was energy-based, while the actual substances he used were drawn from the herbal medicines and even the toxic conventional medicines of his day.
Naturally his discoveries were controversial, as he was challenging the medical and pharmaceutical establishment. The story of homeopathy’s spread throughout Europe, North and South America, and India is fraught with attempts by the authorities to suppress it, alternating with dramatic successes in treating scourges like scarlet fever, cholera, tuberculosis, and other illnesses which conventional medicine still is not able to treat successfully.
In the US, homeopathy became quite popular after its introduction in 1828. As in other parts of the world, American homeopaths made remedies out of the local herbal medicines, many of which came from the Native American tradition. It became increasingly popular through the 19th century, especially among the most highly educated groups (like the Emerson-Alcott circle in New England).
Unfortunately, homeopathy suffered from direct attacks from the allopaths (who are now the conventional medical doctors). They used political and legal power to force the closing of homeopathic medical schools and hospitals. The rise of the “magic bullet” drugs gave the allopaths a further edge; homeopathy seemed to take too long to study and too long for its remedies to work.
Homeopathy is now enjoying a renaissance as people are looking for a modality that is curative rather than just suppressing symptoms longterm, and one that is safe and without side effects.
When you go to a homeopath for treatment of a chronic problem, the homeopath will most likely interview you for two hours or more, to find out not only the details of your health problem, but also many things about you as a person – your nature, your temperament, your likes and dislikes. This is because homeopathy has many remedies for each condition, and the one that matches you as a person is most likely to relieve your particular symptoms.
The homeopath may be especially interested in any particular stress or trauma at the onset of your condition, because in the homeopathic understanding of healing, symptoms are a way for the body to express a “mistunement” of its healing energy, often caused by a stress or trauma. If the homeopathic remedy can go to the root of the problem and relieve this cause, it is likely to relieve your symptoms – and other things are likely to get better as well.
While people tend to enjoy the opportunity to talk about their problems for two hours, homeopathy is not a form of psychotherapy. The actual healing process begins when your homeopath gives you a remedy – typically in the form of tiny sugar pellets, sometimes in a water solution of these pellets. You may be asked to come back in a month or two for a redose, or you may be given enough for daily or occasional doses at home. Your homeopath might see you once every month or two at first, then every three to six months over the course of a year or several years.
Most homeopathic remedies are made from medicinal plants, with others made from minerals, animal products, or even chemicals that might have caused your problem (based on the idea of “like cures like”). The starting substance is so highly diluted that it was long believed that no molecules of the substance remained in the homeopathic remedy. Recent research in India, however, indicates that nanoparticles (extremely small particles) do remain in the remedy and cause a form of clustering in the water (somewhat like snowflakes, which have very different patterns but are all made from water molecules).
From the point of view of the patient, the remedies have no taste or a slightly sweet taste, and children like taking them. This and the infrequent need for appointments generally makes it an easy form of healing to comply with. It tends to work especially well when there is a mind-body component to the illness, although historically it has worked well on purely physical problems too.
Professional training in homeopathy varies widely because in almost all states, there is no legal enforcement of standards for practicing homeopaths. Also, many homeopaths have no previous medical training, while others hold licenses as medical doctors, nurse practitioners, chiropractors, acupuncturists and other conventional health care professionals.
There are benefits either way – homeopaths with conventional medical training may be better qualified to treat patients with serious illnesses on major medications. On the other hand, non-medically-licensed homeopaths have often had more intensive training and sometimes are better able to understand the homeopathic view of health and illness, which is radically different from that of conventional medicine.
Ideally, no matter what their previous background, homeopaths should be graduates of full-length professional training programs providing at least 500 hours of classroom instruction plus supervised clinical training. However, the schools of homeopathy also vary widely in their length of program and in whether or not they provide clinical training.
Some homeopaths receive training through a different route. For example, all graduates of the accredited schools of naturopathy have some training in homeopathy, while naturopaths who want to specialize in homeopathy do postgraduate work at a homeopathy school (and receive the DHANP credential).
Since most states do not prevent someone from claiming to be a homeopath despite skimpy training, the “buyer must beware” and check the credentials of a homeopath they are considering.
The CCH credential (see below) is the most widely accepted credential. There are a dozen other credentials indicating that the person is both a homeopath and licensed in another health care profession. Details are in the practitioner directory section of the National Center for Homeopathy.
Credentials and Regulation Bodies
The main certifying body is the Council for Homeopathic Certification (CHC), which grants the CCH credential to homeopaths who have completed substantial classroom and clinical training, passed several exams and submitted cases for review.
Homeopaths who also hold medical degrees may be certified through the American Board of Homeotherapeutics (for MDs, who then can use the credential DHt) or Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians (for naturopaths, who then can use the credential DHANP).
In two states, only medical doctors can practice homeopathy (Connecticut and Nevada). In 2011, Arizona created a new professional category, homeopathic medical doctors, for graduates of the new American Medical College of Homeopathy. Graduates of this program have training comparable to a physician’s assistant.
The North American Society of Homeopaths has traditionally represented only the non-medically-licensed homeopaths, although this distinction is breaking down as it has opened membership to all CCH-credentialed homeopaths.
Professional associations based on homeopaths’ conventional medical licensure include the American Institute of Homeopathy (for doctors, dentists, osteopaths and nurse practitioners), the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists, and the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians.
To learn more about homeopathy, visit the National Center for Homeopathy (NCH).Pricing
A treatment from a credentialed homeopath can range from $100 to $300. Your first visits or consultations may cost more than other follow-up visits. Medicine will vary depending on the type and dosage.