As traditionally developed, homeopathy is a holistic art that looks at the symptom picture of a person, including psychological, emotional, physical, and hereditary information for the individual. When practiced in this form, it is often called constitutional homeopathy, because it attempts to address the constitution (underlying health) of a person rather than surface symptoms. Other terms for this form include constitutional and traditional homeopathy.
To understand how classical homeopathy works, consider the following imaginary scenario: Sam has felt tense and nervous for months. His workload has increased dramatically since he started a new job last year. He has not been sleeping well, and he’s lost weight. His conventional physician recommends a stress reduction program consisting of gentle exercise and regular relaxation, but he decides to try classical homeopathy instead.
His initial homeopathic consultation consists of a lengthy interview. The homeopath makes note of small nuances that would not be considered important by a conventional physician. Aside from his nervousness, Sam has been suffering from frequent nosebleeds, easy bruising, dry cough, hoarseness of voice at times, and occasional diarrhea and stomach aches. The doctor asks whether cold drinks relieve his stomach pain, and Sam nods.
Next, the homeopath asks him several questions about his family history, personality, and psychological tendencies. Sam says that he is outgoing and friendly and likes company. “You wouldn’t happen to be afraid of thunderstorms,” she asks, and Sam answers that, in fact, he is. The interview continues for an hour.
Based on her analysis of Sam’s “constitution” as revealed by close questioning, the homeopath carefully selects a homeopathic remedy that matches, based on the classic description in the Homeopathic Materia Medica. This text reports the symptoms to be expected when taking an overdose of various substances. These descriptions are complex and elaborate, covering physical and psychological symptoms that developed in the individuals who undertook the experiment; taken together, they represent the “ symptom picture ” of the remedy.
Sam’s homeopath chooses the remedy Phosphorus, because its symptom picture matches him closely. He is told to take the remedy for 1 month and then call for a follow-up visit, at which point he may be given a new remedy to treat “deeper” problems that may emerge.
During the period of treatment, he is advised to avoid the use of any pharmaceutical drugs, medicinal herbs (such as St. John’s wort), or foods with drug-like properties (e.g., coffee), because they have properties that might “antidote” (counteract) the effect of treatment.
Thus the traditional or classical homeopath searches for a constitutional or all-encompassing remedy to treat the whole person—body and soul. This process may take time, as deeper and deeper “diseases” are brought out and cured, but practitioners of classical homeopathy believe that such treatment can lead to lifelong improved overall health.
However, there is as yet little scientific evidence that the traditional homeopathic approach is actually effective.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board