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What is Homeopathy?

By Dr. John Gannage, MD

Homeopathic medicine offers a real, natural complement for treating illness. Instead of giving one medicine for a person's headache, another for constipation, another for anxiety and yet another to counteract the effects of one or more medicines, the homeopathic practitioner prescribes a single medicine at a time. The intention is to stimulate the immune and defense capacity while bringing about an overall improvement in that person's health.

Homeopathy is based on the theory that the body strives to maintain health by promoting a balance. For example, when the body is combatted by foreign bacteria, an imbalance has occurred. It would try to restore health by producing antibodies to fight the bacteria, and as a consequence cause perspiration to prevent the body from overheating. The human organism is very wise and adaptive, always attempting in the best way possible to maintain harmony within itself.

Symptoms such as fever represent signs that the body's natural defense mechanism is attempting to restore internal balance. Symptoms are the result, not the cause, of an unhealthy state. To a homeopath, much of what we label as "diseases", such as Strep throat, hay fever, irritable bowel syndrome and depression, are merely collections of symptoms, which reflect a deeper, immaterial disharmony. The homeopath would use the symptoms to understand what the body is trying to accomplish, and prescribe a natural remedy to assist the body's efforts and prevent any type of relapse or evolution of the problem. To meet this end, a detailed history is required to understand ALL of you, not a part of you, including mental, emotional and physical aspects which in their totality reflect the whole individual.

In contrast, conventional (or allopathic) medicine is based on the theory that an unhealthy body can be fixed with drugs. It is easy for those accustom to conventional medicine to confuse the symptoms of an illness, like pain, runny nose, or a rash, with the illness itself. Conventional practitioners prescribe drugs in an effort to relieve or suppress the symptoms, based on the assumption that if the symptoms are gone then the problem is cured. If there is depression, an anti-depressant may be prescribed. If there is inflammation, an anti-inflammatory medication may be suggested, or decongestants for the runny nose.

In simple terms, homeopathy is the system of treating disease, which gives extremely small amounts of a substance that would, in much larger doses, cause a healthy person to have the same symptoms as the sick person. This means treating like with like, or the "law of similars". (Conventional medicine often uses the "law of opposites" as described above.)

The homeopathic medicines support the wisdom of the body, and the small doses ensure that no side effects are created. It even goes beyond use of crude herbs, as many natural healers employ, which again can be used for symptom control or individual parts (e.g. Echinacea for Strep throat, which is not a homeopathic approach, but still very useful). Homeopathy believes in the value of good nutrition also, but the practitioner does not play the role of nutritionist while taking your history. Her goal is to record all of your symptoms so that the appropriate remedy matching those symptoms can be chosen, and used to improve your overall health. The key is rebalancing, on a holistic and individual level, and by considering the mental and emotional state of the patient in addition to the outward physical complaints.

Dr. Gannage practices Integrative Medicine in Markham, Ontario

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