Homeopathy is probably the form of alternative treatment that confuses
conventional science the most. The confusion is because it violates
every known law of chemistry and physics. Yet many claim it works.

Homeopathy uses diluted portions of natural substances to cure symptoms
of disease. The more diluted the substance, the better. The treatment is
aimed at revving up an invisible life force or vital energy. At first
this may actually stimulate the symptoms, which homeopaths consider
good. They believe symptoms are the body’s way of healing itself. 

Homeopathic practitioners also believe that illness is unique for each
person. Two people with the same condition may be treated very

Homeopathy is based on a very unusual group of ideas:

Like cures like. You can cure a problem with a little bit of the
same thing that caused it. The old hair of the dog. They take very
diluted doses of substances that in large doses would produce the
symptoms you are having. This is called The Law of Similars. As an
example, large amounts of coffee would make you wired and excitable so
they use tiny diluted amounts to treat insomnia. The system of healing
by “similars” dates back to the Greek physician Hippocrates in
the 5th century BC. And was modernized in the 1790s by a German
physician named Samuel Hahnemann. Some modern conventional medical
treatments, such as allergy treatments and immunizationa, act on the
same theory. 

Nothing may be something.
The substances used are so diluted that
they may contain one millionth of a drop of the active ingredient. A
standard remedy may be made by taking a single drop of a plant substance
and mixing it with 100 drops of water. After that a drop of this mixture
is added to 100 drops of water. This process may be repeated as many as
30 times. They call the result a 30C dilution-30 separate 100-1

Water with a memory. The dilutions have to be shaken not stirred.
(like a martini??) They claim this leaves an imprint of the substance on
the water molecules so it remembers whatever was in it before. 

The healing crisis. The part of homeopathy that many find
frightening is that you have to expect your symptoms to get worse before
they get better. This makes sense when you look at the belief that a
symptom is the body’s way of healing itself.

Many homeopaths claim that if a remedy doesn’t work you
are simply using the wrong remedy. Others call that a convenient excuse.
Other homeopaths believe you can mess things up by taking an antidote
that counteracts the remedy. For example, coffee may antidote certain
dilutions. Other antidotes can include electric blankets, xrays, mint,
prescription drugs, even acupuncture. 

If after researching the most confusing of all alternative treatments
you want go give homeopathy a try, find someone who has completed at
least one of the five programs accredited by the Council of Homeopathic
Education. Because no national standards exist at least you know they
have received some training. 

Alternative Medicine for Dummies, James Dillard, M.D., D.C., C.Ac., and
Teraa Ziporyn, Ph.D.
The Encyclopedia of Alernative Medicine, Jennifer Jacobs, MD,
MPH-consulting editor