This is part 1 in a 3-part mini series on Homeopathy. In this post, we’ll get a short introduction to and learn about the history of homeopathy, how it works and where it stands in medicine around the world today.
Parts 2 and 3, which will be posted in the next few days, feature an interview with animal homeopath Shirley Moore, where she shares a LOT of great information and tips on remedies to keep around the house and how to use them with your animals. And two amazing case studies. Not to be missed!
What is Homeopathy and How Does It Work?
The concept has been mentioned in writings dating as far back as 1550 BC – the Ebers papyrus, an Egyptian medical text, talks about using venom from scorpions to treat those who had been stung by one – and ancient Hindu sages as well as Hippocrates supposedly practiced it, but homeopathic medicine as we know it today was developed in the late 1700s by German physician Samuel Hahnemann. Dissatisfied with the way medicine was practiced at the time, Hahnemann had given up his practice and made a living translating medical textbooks.
While working on a book by William Cullen, a Scottish physician, he came across a passage talking about how effective cinchona, the bark of a Peruvian tree, was in treating malaria. Intrigued, he started experimenting on himself and found that when he took cinchona, he ended up with Malaria-like symptoms. After several years of experimenting with other substances as well, he concluded that each naturally occurring element, plant, and mineral compound can, when diluted down to almost untraceable amounts, cause the same symptoms in a healthy individual that they can cure in someone who is ill.
He called this phenomenon the Law of Similars – “like cures like” (the word homeopathy comes from the Greek hómoios- “like-” and páthos “suffering”) and in 1833, published his homeopathic medical text titled “Organon of the Medical Art.”
In classical Hahnemann Homeopathy, you use single-source remedies directed at the symptoms, not the cause of them, but the diagnosis is based on the patient’s entire being, including personality and emotional state.
Homeopathy Around The World
Homeopathy is a controversial modality and has been under a lot of scrutiny lately. Yet it is still widely, and successfully, practiced around the world. In France, almost every pharmacy carries homeopathic remedies; in India, homeopathy is the second most popular system of medicine (Ayurveda is #1); the British Royal Family has had a Royal Homeopathic Doctor on staff since 1830; the Queen always travels with a box of homeopathic remedies; and according to the WHO, homeopathy is the second largest system of medicine in the world.
Veterinary homeopathy was first mentioned in writings in 1815. In 1837, German veterinarian J.C.L. Genzke published “Homoeopathic Materia Medica for Veterinarians”, and in the century following, several homeopathic veterinary associations formed, mainly in Europe. In 1986, the International Association for Veterinary Homeopathy (IAVH) was founded.
In the US, veterinary homeopathy is practiced by many and the [American] Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy was founded in 1995. Veterinary homeopathy has recently been the subject of much debate, due to the submission of “Resolution 3”, by the Connecticut Veterinary Medical Association, titled “Homeopathy has been identified as an ineffective practice and its use is discouraged”. The American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) House of Delegates voted on it in early January this year, and it was not passed. It is now referred to the Council on Veterinary Services (COVS) which is looking into it. Definitely worth keeping an eye on.
Veterinary homeopathy is also widely practiced in England, where the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital has been teaching it since 1984. The British Homeopathic Association has these very interesting tidbits on their website:
“Twenty-one homeopathic veterinary surgeons in the UK recorded data from their patients over a 12-month period and collected information from a total of 400 cats and 1500 dogs.
The most frequently treated feline conditions were dermatitis, renal failure, over-grooming, arthritis and hyperthyroidism. The most commonly recorded canine conditions were dermatitis, arthritis, pyoderma (a bacterial infection of the skin), colitis and fear. By owners’ assessments, a moderate or major improvement was reported overall for 63% of cats and for 68% of dogs1.”
1. Mathie RT, Baitson ES, Hansen L, Elliot MF, Hoare J. Homeopathic prescribing for chronic conditions in feline and veterinary practice. Homeopathy 2010; 99: 243-248
Table 1 shows the conditions and species for which there is statistically favourable evidence for homeopathy in published RCTs, where comparison has been with placebo or with another medication. In four of these studies, homeopathy was at least as effective as antibiotic treatment.
(see website for references)
New resesarch is continuously being done around the world. In 2006, the Veterinary Clinical Research Database for Homeopathy (VetCR) was launched by the Carstens Foundation in Germany with the goal to provide information on existing clinical research in veterinary homeopathy and to facilitate the preparation of systematic reviews in one place. Today, the database has 302 studies listed that cover a wide variety of conditions in many different animals and it’s very interesting reading; in one study, a rabbit was cured of Myxomatosis; in another a greyhound with Addison’s disease was able to cut back on steroids and had an overall improvement in health; and in a third, several cats with Eosinophilic granuloma complex made a “quick and enduring recovery”
It certainly is an intriguing healing modality, and once you start delving into it, you find yourself with millions of questions. Luckily, many of mine will be answered by Shirley in the upcoming interview, so make sure to check back!