The word homeopathy comes from Greek and means similar suffering. It is the treatment of illness by using medication (known as remedies) prescribed according to the principle that ‘like cures like’. That is to say, the patient is prescribed a remedy which, from experiment and experience, is known to produce very similar symptoms, when proved (tested) in healthy people, to the symptoms from which the patient is suffering.
The remedies used are derived from plant, animal and mineral sources which, through a process of serial dilution and agitation (succussion), are rendered dilute. (Lewith & Kenyon 2001; Thompson & Reilly 2002a) Homeopathy is not necessarily free of side effects, but a comprehensive search of the literature shows these to be rare, mild and transient. (Dantas & Rampes 2000) It is not possible to overdose on homeopathic medicines, in the usual understanding of the word, but taking more than one needs over a prolonged period can result in a proving of the remedy, which means that one starts to feel and exhibit the symptoms the remedy is meant to cure or relieve. These symptoms resolve when the remedy is stopped or changed to a more appropriate one.
There are different approaches to the practice of homeopathy. In the classical approach, one remedy is prescribed at a time, based on a match of one of the known remedy pictures to the patient’s whole symptom picture, including the symptoms of their presenting or diagnosed complaint. Pluralist homeopathy involves the prescription of several single remedies at a time or
close together, often in alternation, according to the practitioner’s perception.