Each of us is biologically unique, with unique histories, environmental influences, and patterns of being, including the way we express illness. Thus when infected by the same pathogen, your healing response, i.e. symptoms, may be different from ours. Classical homeopathy recognizes the many dimensions of the human being and aims to see the totality of a person’s illness mental—emotional and physical. It pays particular attention to those symptoms and patterns that are idiosyncratic so that a medicine can be selected that is individualized to the person. This contrasts with pharmaceutical drugs which are aimed at common symptoms… ignoring our uniqueness.
Principle of Similars
The principle of similars is the cornerstone of homeopathy. It says that a substance that produces characteristic symptoms in healthy people will heal a sick person with similar symptoms.
It is an old idea known to Hippocrates and rediscovered by Samuel Hahnemann (1755-1853), a German physician, chemist, and researcher.
Hahnemann became curious about the healing effects of Peruvian bark, a treatment for malaria, and tested it on himself by taking repeated doses. He developed symptoms like those of malaria and hypothesized that the bark’s ability to cure was related to its ability to produce symptoms similar to the disease. This was the beginning of Hahnemann’s quest to find an alternative to the dangerous and ineffective treatment methods of the late eighteenth century.
Dr. Hahnemann left traditional medicine and began to experiment with the principle of similars. Over the next 20 years, he tested mineral, vegetable, and animal substances on himself and other healthy subjects and meticulously recorded the effects he observed. These drug provings became the foundation for his encyclopedia on drug effects, the Materia Medica, still used by homeopaths today to match remedies with physical and psychological symptoms in patients.
Contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just exposure to the infectious agent that makes us sick, but there must also exist some weakness or disruption in our healing system. We all can tell of the time when everyone around us came down with the flu and we escaped it! Some factors that can influence susceptibility include:
- Inherited predispositions to disease
- Poor self-care
- A history of using suppressive drugs
- Mental or emotional stress
- Exposure to environmental toxins
Constitutional homeopathic treatment aims to strengthen a person’s vitality and reduce their susceptibility to illness.
Direction of Cure
After a lifetime of witnessing what happened as sick people became well, Constantine Hering, the father of American Homeopathy, observed that the curative process tends to progress in three directions. The most recent symptoms disappear first, followed chronologically by symptoms that occurred earlier in life.
For example, if a person with eczema was treated with suppressive creams after which they developed allergies, in the process of healing, once the allergies are cleared, the eczema will return briefly.
Symptoms move from within to without, from the most vital to the least vital functions. So someone with disease in a vital organ may later experience skin eruptions as the healing process continues. Symptoms also disappear from above to below, starting with the head and continuing down to the hands and feet. This can be observed very clearly with skin disorders.