What is Homeopathy and How Does it Work?

4 min read

Most people are familiar with the term “homeopathy” — but only to the extent that they’ve heard it thrown around here and there. While the average person generally associates homeopathy with alternative medicine, few are familiar with what it is.

In fact, you may find that the terms “homeopathy” and “alternative medicine” are often used interchangeably. Right off the bat, that indicates how much work needs to be done to diversify sources of knowledge and make healthcare more inclusive in terms of both theory and practice.

Homeopathy is a system of medicine that embraces a holistic, natural approach to wellbeing. Although the term was coined by Samuel Hahnemann — a German physician — in the late 18th century, the scientific principles he codified drew inspiration from cultures the world over.

The Mayans, Chinese, Greeks, and Native Americans are just a handful of the cultures that relied on homeopathic remedies for centuries. To this day, numerous indigenous groups and alternative health practitioners recognize the role that certain homeopathic therapies can play in supporting wellness.

What more, the regulation of homeopathic therapy varies so widely across the globe, that it can be difficult to make an informed decision about the efficacy and safety of certain homeopathic remedies without the appropriate guidance.

Read on to find out more about homeopathy, its uses, limitations, and ways to integrate it into your healing practice.

How Does Homeopathy Work in the Body?

The term “homeopathy” is derived from the Greek words “hómoios” meaning “similar” and “páthos”, meaning “suffering”. So, what does homeopathy do? In a “bigger picture” sense, it naturally supports the body’s inherent healing mechanisms.

Homeopathy is rooted in the principle that “like cures like”. In other words, a substance that causes a specific symptom or adverse reaction in an otherwise healthy individual can be used — in small doses — to treat someone with an illness that presents with similar symptoms.

There are 3 homeopathy basics. The first one of those theories is, of course, that “like cures like”. The second theory is the “law of minimum dosage”. The third and final one is the “single remedy” theory.

For example, Arnica montana — more commonly known as wolf’s bane — is toxic when ingested or applied topically. However, known for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory uses, the plant has been used for centuries to treat arthritis and physical injuries.

One 2013 study supports the use of topical arnica at 50% concentration to treat the symptoms of osteoarthritis — comparing it to ibuprofen, one of the most popular non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) out there.

This example perfectly illustrates the 3 founding principles of homeopathy. Respectively: to determine the best therapy; to trigger an immune response and/or support the body’s natural healing process and; to establish the body’s response to a specific therapy.

Homeopathy can be used to relieve a wide range of ailments including both acute and chronic illnesses. While some clients prefer to experiment with remedies at home, a practitioner will be able to recommend the appropriate remedies and objectively observe the body’s response and the patient’s condition.

How Effective is Homeopathy?

As with all therapies, whether alternative or conventional, the answer depends on who you ask! Seriously, when it comes to alternative therapies, people tend to draw conclusions on the efficacy of the entire system based on a single experience.

In truth, the knowledge and skill of a homeopathic practitioner or homeopath have a large bearing on the outcome of the therapy. To think otherwise would be akin to dismissing conventional medicine as a whole after one bad experience with your new doctor.

For example, a good homeopath can recommend the appropriate dose of magnesium phosphoricum to relieve abdominal cramping and menstrual cramps. This is just one of a host of other tried and tested homeopathic remedies that work.

If the client doesn’t respond to this kind of homeopathy therapy, then the practitioner can explore other therapies or recommend a consultation with a conventional doctor. This kind of individualized attention is one of the defining characteristics of homeopathy.

Of course, with all this talk about deriving remedies from substances that may cause an adverse reaction in healthy people, you may be questioning the safety of homeopathy.  Is homeopathy safe, you ask?

While a large part of that answer depends on the practitioner, it’s important to highlight that homeopathy, and its underpinning principles, was designed to safeguard the client and their wellbeing as far as possible.

Recommending minimal or watered-down doses and single-remedies helps practitioners monitor the immune response of each client and the efficacy of a certain remedy. While most critics will point to the lack of scientific evidence to support homeopathic therapy, it’s important to note that the standards and controls in early studies often fell short.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes and regulates homeopathic remedies which are manufactured under strict guidelines. However, the regulations are location-specific and it’s generally a good idea to familiarize yourself with your state’s position before seeking out homeopathy-related services or training.

That said, in isolation, homeopathy has limited application and efficacy. However, when combined with complementary therapies and treatments, homeopathy may contribute toward overall health and wellness.

For example, a general practitioner (GP), naturopath, and homeopath may formulate a regimen that supports a mutual client’s individual health needs The integration of conventional and unconventional methods adds a level of depth to the healing process that conventional medicine has historically excluded.


Homeopathy is one of a host of alternative healing techniques that you can and should explore. However, if you are on the prowl for a more holistic approach to healing, then an integrated approach to your natural health ambitions or goals should be your top priority.

On the lookout for a well-rounded natural health training program? Look no further than Institute of Holistic Integrative Studies for all practical training, certifications, and a world of useful resources to help you pave the best path for yourself!

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