Homeopathy: A Natural System of Medicine

Developed by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann over 200 years ago in Germany, homeopathy is a medicinal system inspired by the body’s propensity toward healing, preventative care and natural therapeutics. Homeopathic medicine works with the body in order to treat the causes of symptoms instead of just eliminating symptoms. In 2007, an estimated 3.9 million adults and 900,000 children used homeopathic medicine, according to the National Health Interview Survey (1).

 Homeopathy and Herbal Supplements: The Differences

Although homeopathic medicine and herbal supplements are derived from some of the same sources, these treatments are distinctly different. Herbal supplements are extracts of botanical substances or plant materials. Homeopaths are derived from a much wider range of materials, including plants, minerals and other natural substances (e.g., animal substances).

In addition, homeopathic medicine is a complete system of medicine equipped with its own theoretical foundations, definitive practices and applications. Herbal supplements work in conjunction with other treatments whereas homeopathy is an independent form of medical treatment. Naturopathy specialists are typically versed in both homeopathy and herbal treatments and will prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Philosophy of Homeopathic Medicine

“The principle of similars.” The term “homeopathy” is derived from the Greek words “homeo” (similar) and “pathos” (suffering). “Similar suffering” defines one of the foundational principles of homeopathy: the principle of similars. This principle states that symptoms are indicators of healing and not signs of disease. Thus, homeopathic medicine should not intervene in natural bodily functions in order to fight off or suppress symptoms. Rather, homeopathic medicines should assist the body’s natural tendency toward healing. A common example involves a runny nose and a red onion remedy. If a patient has a runny nose and watery eyes, then some small doses of red onion will promote healing because red onion causes a runny nose and watery eyes. The symptom of a runny nose indicates the body’s attempts to heal, so promoting the symptoms actually facilitates healing!

“Treat the whole person.” Another foundational tenet of homeopathy is that health is comprised of an aggregate of physical, psychological, emotional, environmental, social and spiritual constitutions. This aggregate forms what homeopath expert Peter Chappell calls the body’s “inner healing intelligence” (2). Homeopathy accesses this biological intelligence in order to facilitate the natural process of bodily self-healing and promote permanent improvements in overall health.

Allopathic physicians prescribe treatment based on the identification of disease type whereas homeopath practitioners prescribe remedies based on the “totality of symptoms” (3). All symptoms (emotional, physical, psychological, etc.) are observed in relation to each other, resulting in a prescription tailored specifically to the patient’s overall health status. This approach to treatment ensures that both the ailment and the individual’s general attitudes and physical well-being are addressed and improved.

“Attitude is everything!” Another way in which homeopathy treats the whole person is by encouraging patients to play an active role in their treatment. Doctors instruct their patients in the philosophy of homeopathy and encourage self-responsibility for health. Active participation extends the domain of the treatment beyond a simple medication regimen to psychological and spiritual transformations. Patients receiving homeopathic treatment oftentimes show marked improvements in self-confidence, motivation, optimism and mental clarity, regardless of the original complaint or ailment (4).

Naturopathic Medicine

Becoming an N.D. In order to become a licensed Naturopathic Doctor (N.D.), one must complete four years of graduate coursework and pass national board exams. There is no national licensing program for naturopathic medicine, so every state/ jurisdiction regulates the professional practice of naturopathy differently. Moreover, homeopathy is considered by many to be an “art,” and thus the practice of homeopathy varies from practitioner to practitioner (5).

Materia Medica. Materia Medica are reference books naturopathic doctors utilize to develop a homeopathic remedy that sufficiently addresses all a patient’s symptoms. These books are accessible to non-professionals and are an indispensible resource for anyone developing homeopathic remedies. Although these books guide readers to the correct remedy, it is important to note that dosage frequency and potency in homeopathic treatment is very crucial. Too much or too little of a treatment may result in adverse effects or none at all. Therefore, naturopathic doctors encourage individuals to seek their experienced and professional care when undertaking a homeopathic treatment. WF


1. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, “What Is Complementary and Alternative Medicine?” April 2010, http://nccam.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/, accessed Oct 22, 2010.

2. P. Chappell, Emotional Healing with Homeopathy (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2003).

3. V. McCabe, Household Homeopathy: A Safe and Effective Approach to Wellness for the Whole Family (North Bergen, NJ: Basic Health Publications, Inc., 2005).

4. A. Hershoff, Homeopathic Remedies: A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and their Homeopathic Treatments (Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group, 2000).

5. J. Yasgur, Yasgur’s Homeopathic Dictionary and Holistic Health Reference. 4th ed. (Greenville, PA: Van Hoy Publishers, 1998).

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, December 2010