Homeopathy was developed in the early 19th century by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann.
It is based on two basic concepts:
The first one is “like cures like” - a remedy (homeopathic drug) may produce particular symptoms in healthy subjects (process called proving), and will cure the same symptoms in a particular patient:
"…that which can produce a set of symptoms in a healthy individual, can treat a sick individual who is manifesting a similar set of symptoms".
This principle has been adopted by Hahnemann after he experienced himself symptoms malaria following the proving of cinchona, the bark of a Peruvian tree – the very substance that was used to treat malaria. Since then he has expended his studies in additional homeopathic remedies that were proved by healthy volunteers (students), and carefully recorded the symptoms produced during the process of proving.
Samuel Christian Friedrich Hahnemann (1755-1843)
The studies of additional remedies have been further advanced by his followers and are collected in the Materia Medica of Homeopathy. According to this principle, symptoms and personality characteristics of a patient have to be recorded accurately, later on to be matched to the remedy that has produced the same symptoms during the process of proving.
The second principle is "the minimal dose" - the original substance is diluted in a process that involves succussions (shakings). Hahnemann applied this approach in order to avoid toxic effects of various substances, but noticed that the more they are diluted, the more they become potent. This is probably the major reason for the controversies around this field: since the process of dilutions often goes beyond Avogadro’s number (6.02 X 10-23), there is not even one molecule of the original substance in homeopathic remedies.
Thought the mechanism behind homeopathy is still not understood, there are several research studies that demonstrated clinical effect of homeopathy.
In order to find a correct remedy for a particular patient with a particular problem, there is a need to match the symptoms of the patient with the symptoms produced by remedies during the process of proving.
The interview with the homeopath requires therefore some time and patience in order to evaluate the symptoms needed to treat and match them to a remedy that produced the same symptoms in healthy volunteers.
Upon the prescription of the remedy, the patient is invited to the follow-up meeting in order to evaluate the effect of the homeopathic remedy and to assess the rationale for further treatment.