Homeopathy is basically the medicine part of the holistic approach. It is the alternative medicine form first put forward by the German physician, Samuel Hahnemann, in 1796. It is based upon the premise that "like is cured by like," otherwise known as the "law of similars." In this form of alternative medicine the practitioners treat the patients using highly diluted preparations which are believed to cause the same symptoms as the ailment that they are fighting. In other words, if you have a flu, you would be treated with a diluted preparation that, if given to a well person, would produce flu type symptoms. Here is another, maybe better, example; onions make your eyes water when you cut them. So, if you have a cold with a runny nose, the likely remedy would be AlliumCepa, which is made from onions. Homeopathic medicine is intended to stimulate the defense systems, thereby allowing the body to heal itself, and just like most holistic treatments, the effects take time, and improvement is usually gradual. Or at least this is the belief.
Apart from the acute ailment's symptoms, homeopaths also examine the patient's mental status, psychological state, and their overall physical health status. They then refer to homeopathic reference books, known as repertories, and choose a "remedy" based upon the totality of the symptoms. In the context of homeopathy, "remedy" refers to a substance which has been prepared with a specific procedure, and is intended for patient use. This is not to be confused with the generally accepted use of the word, "a medicine or therapy that cures disease or relieves pain".
Homeopathic remedies are prepared by serial dilution and succussion. Succussion is the term that homeopaths use to describe a shaking by forceful striking on an elastic body. Each dilution is then followed by succussion, and this is assumed to increase its effectiveness. They call this repeated process potentization. The potenization very often continues until none of the original substance actually remains.
One of the better parts of homeopathy is that practitioners consider the patient's history and complete body before prescribing a treatment. In general, this is one large plus that holistic medicine has over the typical medical model, where the Doctor usually just sees the one ailment the patient is reporting. In holistic medicine, all symptoms are considered important. They want to know about changes in feelings and mental status, as well as all of the physical symptoms. Usually this will mean that there are far more symptoms and issues being considered in the homeopathic and the holistic approach, than in the traditional medical model.
The basic premise of homeopathy, the law of similars, put forth by Samuel Hahnemann, is not a true, proven, law of nature based upon the scientific method. Some studies have yielded positive results, however reviews of these published trials have failed to provide efficacy, and many trials intended to duplicate the positive results, have failed to replicate them, thus failing to meet the scientific methods standards (results must be able to be replicated). Therefore, the scientific evidence of homeopathy shows it to be no more effective than a placebo. Evidence not withstanding, many people swear by these treatments and by homeopathy remedies.
Even though homeopathic medicine is greatly diluted from its original form, often in parts per million, supposedly, the more dilute the medicine becomes, the stronger its potency. This is unlike Bach Flower remedies, and most other holistic remedies or treatments. No matter what, homeopathy or holistic treatments are more than simply going to Aunt Susie's kitchen for a home treatment. Certainly, this is NOT the way to go. Homeopathy, just like any other holistic or medical remedy, is not something that is safe to self prescribe. While some of the remedies are low in potency and may actually be safely given by a knowledgeable lay person, most should be prescribed by the professionals, the ones who have studied and can accurately predict cause and effect. Danger abounds, possibly even death, when mistakes are made! Additionally, homeopathic remedies are very sensitive to heat and light, so must be properly stored. And they can be contaminated quite easily, so extreme care must be taken to not touch the lid, the dropper, or the liquid.