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What does a homeopath do?
Homeopathy is a 200-year-old medical system that involves using extremely diluted substances of vegetable, animal or mineral origin to stimulate a healing response. A trained practitioner of homeopathy, called a homeopath, conducts an extensive interview with a patient about details ranging from sleep patterns, bowel movements and emotional state. Based on those answers, the homeopath precisely matches the symptoms with a remedy that will support healing in the body.
The homeopath will then instruct you how to take the remedy. Usually, remedies should not be taken within 15 to 20 minutes of eating or drinking. Certain substances, such as mint, tobacco, coffee, alcohol and strong spices, can interfere with the efficacy of some remedies. After the treatment, you may be asked to come in for a follow-up consultation.
Once you have taken a homeopathic remedy, your symptoms may go away immediately. However, it’s also common (and considered a good sign) that your symptoms may become worse before disappearing.
Key principles of homeopathy
Based on the Law of Similars (or “like cures like”), homeopathic remedies heal by creating similar symptoms to those you’re experiencing, thereby activating your body’s natural defenses. For instance, chopping onions makes your eyes tear and may cause you to sneeze. Likewise, if someone with sneezing and runny eyes from hayfever takes homeopathic onion (Allium cepa), the remedy produces the same symptoms, except its dosage is so infinitesimally small that it stimulates self-healing, and the tears and sneezing improve.
A phenomenon of homeopathy is that its remedies are most effective when they’re extremely dilute. In fact, the more diluted a remedy, the more potent it becomes. Remedies prescribed by a homeopath are likely to be diluted several hundred times — so dilute, in fact, that the molecules are no longer present in the remedy. Because of this, some homeopaths believe only the “energy” or electromagnetic essence of the original substance is present.
Which types of conditions are best treated by homeopathy?
Safe, nontoxic homeopathy can be used short-term for acute illnesses such as a cold, flu, headache and respiratory infection. However, it’s also well-suited for a wide array of problems, including allergies, eczema, menopausal problems, PMS, insomnia, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines and autoimmune diseases. Homeopathy is widely used to treat behavioral problems such as anxiety, ADD (attention deficit disorder), seasonal affective disorder and depression. And, under a homeopath’s supervision, pregnant women can take homeopathy for problems including morning sickness.
Most homeopaths undertake three or four years of training, which includes case analysis so that they learn the finely honed skill of matching remedies to specific symptoms. Most naturopathic colleges have programs in homeopathy; in fact, many naturopathic doctors (N.D.s) use homeopathy in their practices. Homeopathic practitioners who have attended a school of naturopathy also fulfill medical school-like training and clinical application.
Many homeopathic practitioners also are M.D.s, chiropractors, N.D.s and doctors of osteopathy. Unfortunately, a few people practice homeopathy even though they have little formal training. Your best bet is to ask whether the practitioner is certified in homeopathy.
Among the homeopathic schools accredited by the Council on Homeopathic Education are:
• Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington
• Hahnemann Medical Clinic in Albany, California
• International Foundation for Homeopathy in Seattle
• National College of Natural Health Sciences in Portland, Oregon
• Ontario College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto
What to look for when choosing a homeopath
Since a homeopath needs to collect very detailed information about you, it’s important that you feel comfortable enough with this person to be forthcoming about your health issues. You should also feel confident that he or she will take your health issues seriously and would refer you to another physician if your needs are beyond the scope of homeopathic medicine.
Although there are many good homeopaths who are skilled in the field, if you have a chronic or serious medical condition, consider seeing either a medical or naturopathic doctor who practices homeopathy.
To find a Homeopathic Practitioner in your area, contact:
Homeopathic Educational Service
Berkeley, CA (415) 649-0294
International Foundation for Homeopathy
Seattle, WA (206) 324-8230
National Center for Homeopathy
Washington, DC (202) 223-6182
Questions to ask the practitioner
• Are you qualified to give medical advice?
• Can you give me examples of patients you’ve treated and what their recovery was like with homeopathy?
• About how long will the initial consultation last?
• How long will I need to continue homeopathy treatments?
• How will I know that a homeopathic remedy is working?
• How often will I need to take a dose of the remedy?
• Will I experience any side effects or worsening of symptoms from taking homeopathy?
• Why is it necessary to spend so much time asking me about so many unrelated aspects of my habits and health?
• How much does a session cost?
• About how many follow-up treatments do you anticipate I’ll need to treat my particular symptoms?
• Is this treatment covered by medical insurance?