The late 1700’s and early 1800’s was the height of so-called “heroic medicine”, which favored violent treatments, even at the risk of the patient's health. These included bloodletting, vomiting, intestinal purging, sweating and blistering, and mercury treatments. These so-called “treatments” stressed a body that was already racked and weakened with illness, and often were harmful and sometimes deadly to the patient.
Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1843) was a German physician who was disappointed by the miserable results from the conventional medicine of his day. He observed, as did his contemporary Jonas Salk (inventor of the smallpox vaccine) that patients sometimes seemed to benefit from small doses of certain medicines that, in larger doses, would cause similar symptoms in healthy patients. From these observations, Hahnemann framed the rule that “like-cures-like”, a principle has become known as the “Law of Similars” and the founding principle of homeopathy, a system of medical treatment which has endured for more than 200 years, and now has adherents all over the world.
Homeopathic medicines are prepared by a process of serial “dilution and succession”. The starting material (or “mother tincture”) is diluted with a particular inert substance (the “diluent”), such as water, lactose, or sucrose. At each step, the dilution ratio is the same, usually either 1:10 (the 'X” scale) or 1:100 (the “C” scale). After each dilution, the mixture is vigorously shaken together, which is believed to imprint or transfer the homeopathic properties of the starting material on the resulting diluted blend. After the first dilution, this resulting medicine would be a termed a “1X potency” in the case of a 1:10 dilution, or a “1C potency” in the case of a 1:100 dilution. If this process was repeated 2 more times (for 3 times total) then the potency would be 3X or 3C, respectively. Potencies up to 30 are commonly available in both the X and C scales.
The important thing to understand about homeopathy is that the amount of the beginning “mother tincture” is so small as to be insignificant. Skeptics of homeopathy feel that it must be a fraud, because the doses of the mother tincture are so dilute that they cannot possibly be effective. Homeopaths believe that the energy signature of the mother tincture has been imprinted on the chemical memory of the diluent in such a way that the whole preparation has been energized as a homeopathic remedy.
How small is the dose of original medicine? Well, one measure is the kinds of materials used as the starting tincture, which include poisons like lead or arsenic—but in dilutions so small they are far safer than the water you drink, the food you eat, or the air you breathe (all in much larger quantities and on a much more regular basis). In fact, homeopathy is far safer than any other branch of medicine. Many remedies are diluted to the point where the statistical likelihood of even a single molecule of the starting material being found in any given dose is very nearly zero. Even its harshest critics will generally concede that homeopathy is safe -- they just assume it can't possibly be effective.
The other important thing to understand is that the medicine used will usually be the opposite of what conventional medicine would recommend. For example, a person with insomnia might take a remedy based on coffee (coffea cruda). While this may seem backwards, homeopathy suggests that a trace dose of the energy signature of coffee will trigger a homeopathic “healing response” in the body, which will encourage sleep. This is how the Law of Similars (“like-cures-like”) works in practice, which explains why homeopathy uses many ingredients which sound deadly (including arsenic and lead) but in fact are common homeopathic remedies in very dilute form.
So the next time you have a bump or bruise, or some simple aches and pains, try some homeopathic remedies and see if you can solve your problem in a gentler, more natural way! Look for higher potencies (above 10X or 10C) and match the remedy to your symptoms according to charts and other tools available online or in many health food stores.