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[Greek homios 'like'] A system of therapy based on the premise that substances which produce signs and symptoms in patients similar to those produced by a disease can also be used to cure them of that disease. The idea of treating 'like with like' was developed by German physician Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) in the early 1800s.
Peter Gravett, Making Sense of English in Alternative Medicine, Chambers Harrap Publisher, Edinburgh, 1993
Homoeopathy's founder was a German physician, Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843). He based his treatments on simple remedies such as exercise, good nutrition and pure air, and two fundamental principles. The first was the Law of Similars. He believed that diseases could be cured by substances which in a healthy person would cause similar symptoms to those the medicine is prescribed to treat. The second was the Law of Infinitesimals. This held that the smaller the dose, the more efficacious the medicine. A method of mixing, dilution and shaking was called 'succussion' and the resulting preparation a 'potency'. The process of dilution and succussion is still claimed by some to release a therapeutic 'immaterial and vital' force.
Homeopathy: A Christian Medical Perspective, Christian Medical Fellowship
Homeopathy is a comprehensive system of medicine in which practitioners use solutions containing minute amounts of animal, vegetable and/or mineral substances to promote healing. Homeopaths believe in what they call the ''law of similars.'' This means that ''like cures like'' and that illnesses can be treated by giving patients a small dose of a substance that produces similar effects to those of the illness. This is the same principle used in allergy treatments and immunizations.
Today, homeopathy is practiced mostly by persons licensed as physicians or holding another license allowing the prescription of drugs. Some lay healers use homeopathy, and homeopathic remedies abound in health food stores and many supermarkets that feature ''organic'' products. Some homeopathic healers continue the tradition of extensive patient interviews and the use of a single substance as instructed by Hahnemann's original treatises; others use several compounds simultaneously, and add other modalities to their range of treatments, such as massage and skeletal manipulation, acupuncture, and aromatherapy. While most homeopathic remedies are not known to have harmed anyone (probably because of the extreme dilutions involved), the efficacy of most homeopathic remedies has not been proven. Some think it a placebo effect, augmented by the concern expressed by the healer; others propose new theories based on quantum mechanics and electromagnetic energy.
Report 12 of the Council on Scientific Affairs (A-97) Full Text: Alternative Medicine, American Medical Association
Homeopathic products are made from minerals, botanical substances, and several other sources. If the original substance is soluble, one part is diluted with either nine or ninety-nine parts of distilled water and/or alcohol and shaken vigorously (succussed); if insoluble, it is finely ground and pulverized in similar proportions with powdered lactose (milk sugar). One part of the diluted medicine is then further diluted, and the process is repeated until the desired concentration is reached. Dilutions of 1 to 10 are designated by the Roman numeral X (1X = 1/10, 3X = 1/1,000, 6X = 1/1,000,000). Similarly, dilutions of 1 to 100 are designated by the Roman numeral C (1C = 1/100, 3C = 1/1,000,000, and so on). Most remedies today range from 6X to 30X, but products of 30C or more are marketed. A 30X dilution means that the original substance has been diluted 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times. Assuming that a cubic centimeter of water contains 15 drops, this number is greater than the number of drops of water that would fill a container more than 50 times the size of the Earth. Imagine placing a drop of red dye into such a container so that it disperses evenly. Homeopathy's ''law of infinitesimals'' is the equivalent of saying that any drop of water subsequently removed from that container will possess an essence of redness. Robert L. Park, Ph.D., a prominent physicist who is executive director of The American Physical Society, has noted that since the least amount of a substance in a solution is one molecule, a 30C solution would have to have at least one molecule of the original substance dissolved in a minimum of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000
,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules of water. This would require a container more than 30 billion times the size of the Earth.
(...) Actually, the laws of chemistry state that there is a limit to the dilution that can be made without losing the original substance altogether. This limit, called Avogadro's number, corresponds to homeopathic potencies of 12C or 24X (1 part in 1024). Hahnemann himself realized that there is virtually no chance that even one molecule of original substance would remain after extreme dilutions. But he believed that the vigorous shaking or pulverizing with each step of dilution leaves behind a ''spirit-like'' essence -- ''no longer perceptible to the senses'' -- which cures by reviving the body's ''vital force.'' Modern proponents assert that even when the last molecule is gone, a ''memory'' of the substance is retained. This notion is unsubstantiated. Moreover, if it were true, every substance encountered by a molecule of water might imprint an ''essence'' that could exert powerful (and unpredictable) medicinal effects when ingested by a person. Many proponents claim that homeopathic products resemble vaccines because both provide a small stimulus that triggers an immune response. This comparison is not valid. The amounts of active ingredients in vaccines are much greater and can be measured. Moreover, immunizations produce antibodies whose concentration in the blood can be measured, but high-dilution homeopathic products produce no measurable response. In addition, vaccines are used preventively, not for curing symptoms.
(...) Dr. Park has noted that to expect to get even one molecule of the "medicinal" substance allegedly present in 30X pills, it would be necessary to take some two billion of them, which would total about a thousand tons of lactose plus whatever impurities the lactose contained.
Homeopathy: The Ultimate Fake by Stephen Barrett, M.D.
There are many examples of people claiming to make great scientific breakthroughs, only to have reality show otherwise. These range from cold fusion and perpetual motion machines to ESP and homeopathy. But they all have one thing in common, says Robert Park. They are all voodoo science. Park, a professor of physics who writes a weekly electronic bulletin, What's New, and directs the Washington, D.C., office of the American Physical Society, has put together a number of his encounters with this type of activity in his book, Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud (Oxford University Press, $25).
Real Science or Voodoo Science?, David Bloomberg, ThemeStream, Aug. 29, 2000
Diluting the scientific method: Ars looks at homeopathy In honor of World Homeopathy Week, John Timmer, Matt Ford, Chris Lee, and Jonathan Gitlin discuss why it shouldn't be celebrated.
Homeopathy - A Christian Medical Perspective by Dr. Robina Coker, author of "Alternative Medicine - Helpful or Harmful," published by the Christian Medical Fellowship.
Homeopathy - A Therapy Too Far? by George Smith, published by the Christian Medical Fellowship.
Homeopathy -- Dilute And Heal WIRED magazine, Mar. 15, 2000. "With a little help from a scientist looking for a way to clean car engines, a physician believes he can explain the confounding paradox behind why homeopathic medicine gets more potent as it's diluted." But note, this Skeptic's Dictionary article:
Another piece of bunk on homeopathy appears in Wired.com: ''Homeopathy -- Dilute And Heal'' by Andy Patrizio. The focus of Patrizio's article is a book by Dr. Bill Gray called Homeopathy: Science or Myth. Gray claims to have earned an M.D. from Stanford Medical School in 1970 and to have been a homeopath for 27 years and he has rubbed elbows with several Nobel Prize winners. Dr. Gray may be a bit confused, however, since he claims that George Vithoulkas of Athens, Greece, who trained Gray in homeopathy, was a ''1996 recipient of Nobel Prize for Alternative Medicine in Stockholm, Sweden.'' There is no Nobel Prize for Alternative Medicine. (Vithoulkas did receive some kind of recognition from the Right Livelihood Award Committee and apparently he did address the Swedish parliament but as far as I can tell he never received a Nobel prize for anything.)
Mass Media Bunk [on ''homeopathy'' addressed by the media), Skeptic's Dictionary
Homeopathy: Real Medicine or Empty Promises? FDA Consumer magazine, Dec. 1996
Homeopathy: The Ultimate Fake by Stephen Barrett, M.D. An article on the Quackwatch site.
Alternative Medicine – Helpful or Harmful? by Dr. Robina Coker. Published by the Christian Medical Fellowship, from which this book can be ordered. (Book is listed under "Ethics and Practice").
Many of us use some form of alternative medicine. Do we know what we are doing? Osteopathy, homoeopathy, acupuncture, herbalism, aromatherapy – what are all these remedies? What is their historical relationship with conventional medicine? Is there a spiritual dimension to health? What is the connection between alternative medicine and the New Age movement? Explored from a Christian perspective this short, informative book sets out some of the main medical and spiritual issues. (Co–published with Monarch)
Homeopathy - What are we swallowing? by Steven Ransom
Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs This book, by John Ankerberg and John Weldon includes an extensive treatment of New Age medicine.
Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert L. Park. (Review)
» More books on homeopathy
Items added after August, 2002:
» Religion News Blog's Homeopathy News Tracker & News Archive News Collection, various sources
» Database of archived news items on homeopathy
(Includes items added between Oct. 25, 1999 and Jan. 31, 2002. See about this database)
Quackwatch "Your Guide to Health Fraud, Quackery, and Intelligent Decisions." Operated by Stephen Barrett, M.D. (Search the Quackwatch site for ''homeopathy'')
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