Since moving to Germany, I have had much more exposure to homeopathic medicine than I think I ever would have had in the USA. Although I am not completely convinced that it can "cure" illnesses, due to its mild and natural nature, however, it certainly comes in handy in treating symptoms and bringing relief, especially for children.
The founding father of homeopathic medicine is the German, Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, who worked at the turn of the last century. The ultimate goal of this physician, chemist and pharmacist was to find medications that were free from harmful side-effects. He discovered that if a healthy person took a particular substance which caused specific symptoms in the healty body, then it logically would follow that if a person sick with the same symptoms took the same substance, it would lead to a healty body; hence the theory that "like cures like" or "the hair of the dog that bit you", or for those of you who still know some latin "similia similibus curentur".
Here is a concrete example from The Practical Encyclopedia of Natural Healing. If you went to a homeopathic doctor with a fever, he would prescribe you a herbal or mineral substance which under nornal circumstances would cause such a fever in a healthy person. This medication should then stimulate your body's natural resistance, causing it to rise up not only against the purposefully induced fever, but also against the original fever which sent you to him in the first place.
I know, this is a far reach for those of you who have grown up with traditional Western medicinal practices. It is also true that very little "scientific" evidence has been presented in support of homeopathy; but just listening to the success stories is enough to make one believe that there must be something of truth to the whole matter.
Homeopathic medications are based on very small amounts of the substance in question. A small amount of an herbal, animal, mineral, metallic or pathogenic substance is crushed and diluted with alcohol or lactose at a ratio of 1:100. This basic mixture has the potency level C1 and is the basis for all other potencies. Further potencies are produced as follows: from the C1 mixture, a part is removed which contains 99% of the substance used for dilution; this is C2 potency. From the C2 potency, a part is removed which contains 99% of the substance used for dilution; this is a C3 potency, etc.
Homeopathic medicines come in liquid and solid forms, the most popular in Germany being the Globuli or Streukügelchen (tiny balls about the size of silver cake decorating balls). Anywhere from 1 to 10 are taken at a time and must dissolve slowly in the mouth. An experienced homeopathic doctor will know which potency and which form of medication to prescribe a patient. The advice of Ingeborg Stadelmann in her book Die Hebammensprechstunde is "the more physical the complaint, the lower the potency; the more psychological the complaint, the higher the potency".
I find homeopathic medications especially good for children, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding, due to their natural and mild nature. As the goal of Dr. Hahnemann was to produce medicine without harmful side-effects, homeopathic medications are excellent in cases where Western medicines must be avoided due to potentially harmful complications. Even newborns can be given homeopathic medicines to help relieve symptoms for which other medications are not safe to use.
Below is a listing of the most common homeopathic medications used for pregnant women and children:
Homeopathic medicines also come in combination forms, where certain ingredients have been mixed to treat certain situations. Here are some I can recommend from personal use:
Even though homeopathy may seem like child's play, it is to be taken seriously and should not be self-diagnosed without experience. Doctors working with homeopathic substances are specially trained to assess the situation and symptoms in conjunction with the functions of the entire body. This means that just because a substance brought you relief in one instance, it might not necessarily be the right cure for you the next time around.
Another important factor to keep in mind is the antidoting effect. Certain substances work as anitdotes to homeopathic medicines and should be avoided duirng a homeopathic treatment, for example: coffee, mint, camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus.
If you are interested in homeopathic medicines, be sure to ask your general practioner or pediatrician if he or she is trained in this area. If not, maybe he or she can recommend someone who is. If not, then try your yellow pages for a homeopathic doctor in your neighborhood. If you are still skeptical and want to rely mostly on Western medicine, then be sure to look for a medical doctor (M.D.) who also practices homeopathy, and not just a Heilpraktiker who has not been to medical school.
If you are convinced that treating minor illnesses and symptoms of other major diseases via homeopathic means is right for you, then I recommend buying a Homeopathic Hausapotheke, which is a small case (the size of a calender organizer) containing around 50 of the most used homeopathic medicines, including instructions for use and a detailed description of what each substance is good for. You can get a prescription for this from your doctor, which your insurance may or may not reimburse you for, and order it at any pharmacy; they run about DM 150.
For more information regarding homeopathy, homeopathic remedies, and homeopathic doctors, please visit the following interesting and helpful links: