How Do Homeopathy and Naturopathy Compare?

By Rachel Oppitz, ND
From INC Newsletter #8 Winter 08/09

People often mistakenly interchange the terms homeopathy and naturopathy, especially in states like Minnesota where naturopathic physicians are not yet licensed.  Homeopathy is not synonymous with naturopathy.  While it may be the exclusive treatment of the homeopathic profession, it is just one of many treatments, or modalities, taught in accredited naturopathic medical schools.  For instance, my alma mater, National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM), requires all students to take two years of homeopathy and offers two additional years of electives.  In Europe and India, most medical doctors (MDs) are trained in homeopathy, but it is not as widely embraced by the allopathic community in the US.

At this point you might be wondering what exactly homeopathy is.   Imagine a medicine that is completely non-toxic, has no side effects, is individualized for you, and is an effective treatment for mental, emotional, and physical ailments.  It was developed over 200 years ago by a German physician, Samuel Hahnemann.  Hahnemann was disillusioned with the medical practices of his time which included, among other things, blood-letting and the topical and internal use of mercury.  One night he was experimenting with the herb cinchona--a potent herb that contains quinine which  is used to treat malaria.  Shortly after ingesting the herb, he developed symptoms of malaria.  He wondered why a medicine that cures malaria in a sick person can also give a healthy person symptoms of the disease.  He then took a more diluted version of the same herb and his symptoms disappeared.  Consequently, a new system of medicine was born which he termed homeopathy (homeo=similar, pathos=suffering).  Hahnemann spent the rest of his life studying and developing new remedies from plants, animals, and minerals.  The process, still in use today, is to take a small amount of the original material, add it to a specified amount of water or alcohol and shake vigorously (succuss).  This process is repeated numerous times until the original substance is no longer traceable.  The essence or energy of the material is transferred and the resulting remedy gains strength with each subsequent dilution & succussion cycle.

Today over 3000 remedies exist, ranging from those made from honey bee and cobra to pansy and club moss.  To illustrate how homeopathy works, let's take an acute case of hay fever.  The person may complain of a runny nose with clear discharge and itchy, teary eyes.  Allium cepa (common onion) may be prescribed because a cut onion produces similar symptoms; and as Hahnemann discovered two centuries ago, a substance that causes a symptom in its natural state can alleviate that symptom when diluted. Acute prescribing differs from constitutional prescribing by how much of a person's character and individuality is taken into account.  Illnesses such as depression, ADD/ADHD, asthma, or ulcerative colitis require a skilled homeopath to match a remedy with a person on all levels, not just focusing on their physical symptoms.  The concept of homeopathy is not unlike vaccination where the immune system is launching its defense against a small amount of the injected non-viable viral particles.

If this treatment option intrigues you and has not yet been incorporated into your treatment regimen, please bring it up at your next office visit.  In addition, I encourage everyone to have a homeopathic kit with at least 30 remedies, ideally 100, with an accompanying homeopathy handbook to guide you through common ailments, including minor trauma, coughs, colds, ear infections, etc.  It also makes it easier for me to give you treatment suggestions when you call after hours and the clinic and local health food stores are closed.  Lastly, INC plans to offer homeopathy classes in the future; please e-mail or call us with specific topics you would like addressed.Back To Top Of Page