With World Homeopathy Awareness Week kicking off on 9 May, homeopaths come together to celebrate the birthday of Dr Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy (also rendered as homœopathy) with a series of activities aimed at promoting the modality. The Australian Homœopathy Association (AHA) is featuring ‘Homeopathy for Musculoskeletal Wellbeing’ as this year’s theme, acknowledging the modalities ability to be of use in long-term chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis, sciatica and lower back pain - including for the elderly. Despite this success and the widespread acceptance of homeopathy in many quarters – homeopathy is reportedly the second most utilized form of medicine - it still faces sustained skepticism from a small but vocal minority. But unless you have had direct contact with homeopathy, how many of us actually know what it involves and is capable of?
Skeptics and Doubters
The most recent condemnation of homeopathy has been from a health committee in the U.K., which criticised its availability on the National Health Service (NHS), condemning it as 'medically unproven'. This is despite its increasingly widespread use in many parts of the world (Europe, South America and India particularly), as well as recognition by the World Health Organisation (WHO) - who acknowledge the modality as a legitimate form of health care and have endorsed it for use in rural areas where infrastructure prevents the availability of relatively expensive medicines and equipment. In its response the government made clear that the Department of Health will not stop allowing the funding of homeopathy on the NHS. A French virologist and Nobel Laureate, Luc Montagnier, has recently set the cat amongst his fellow laureates with an implicit endorsement of homeopathy – suggesting that water could retain a memory of substances it has been in contact with.
Education and Training
Melbourne-based homeopath Tanya Robinson believes that misconceptions about homeopathy are partly due to misinformed media coverage quoting dubious research. “In Australia the general public is perhaps more aware of naturopaths who generally offer some basic homeopathy as part of their overall treatment, but are unaware that they do not usually possess the same level of training as a qualified homeopath. Therefore they don’t see homeopathy as a stand-alone modality, where other parts of the world clearly do. One should also take into account the training homeopaths receive, which can involve a three to four year degree.”
While modern homeopathy is only around 200 years old, Hippocrates the ancient Greek physician, is recorded as subscribing to many of the principles central to homeopathy; including the Law of Similars – which is based on the principle that substances that produce symptoms in an individual can be used to treat similar symptoms in a sick person. The basis for all homeopathic medicines are the remedies which are made from a variety of plant, animal and mineral components. These are repeatedly diluted, a process referred to as ‘potentization’, which embodies the original energy and effect of the substance in the remedy. The other notable aspect of homeopathic care is the thorough case taking, where an initial consultation can last up to two hours.
This is a holistic approach that places the individual and their symptoms at the centre of any treatment plan. Patient’s unique responses to food, weather, emotional challenges, presenting symptoms and medical history are all considered. While conventional medicine has a one symptom - one pill formula, homeopathy has a very different approach with remedies formulated and prescribed for the individual. Michelle Hookham, National President of the AHA points out that with musculoskeletal injuries medications are often used to ‘mask’ these, which allow us to continue with our daily activities. “This might prevent you from realising the pain-free position your body needs to be in to relieve the cause of the problem, or keep you from taking the required rest to ensure a speedy recovery.”
If you are considering visiting a homeopath and exploring this gentle, holistic healing technique do make sure that they are a registered practitioner, preferably with the Australian Homœopathy Association (AHA). This ensures that they are in possession of the appropriate qualifications and also means that they are recognised by all the major health insurance funds. Homeopathic remedies are also regulated in the same manner as non-prescription drugs so you can rest assured that they are safe to be prescribed.