Homeopathy: we’ve probably all heard of it and can mumble something about it using diluted plants and minerals to cure ailments - but how many of us really know what it is?

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A survey a few years ago found 15% of the population of Britain trusted homeopathy, while it’s already integrated into the healthcare systems of many European countries including France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland and Portugal.

But there’s no denying that for all the homeopathy proponents, there are plenty more opponents.

The NHS website mentions the fact that it’s a ‘treatment’ in inverted commas, the British Medical Association has described it as “witchcraft”, and the Parliamentary Science and Technology Committee concluded in 2010 that it was the same as placebos and that "the Government should stop allowing the funding of homoeopathy on the NHS".

But before you come down on either side, you need to know the facts.

And, thanks to Susanne Haar, homeopath and Pharmacist at Nelsons Homeopathic Pharmacy, here they are...

What exactly is homeopathy?

Homeopathy is a form of complementary healthcare that works with our natural healing process and has been used for over 200 years. The remedies stimulate the body’s natural healing process to relieve symptoms, helping a return to good health.

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It’s based on three principles

There are three central tenets to homeopathy:

• ‘Like cures like’ where something in a large dose produces a set of symptoms but in small doses can help treat those symptoms.
• Extreme dilution enhances the healing properties of a remedy.
• The whole person must be taken into consideration when choosing a remedy.

It’s from the Greeks…

Homeopathy originates from the Greek words ‘homeo’, meaning similar, and ‘pathos’, meaning suffering. The basic principle of homeopathy was recognised by Hippocrates as early as the fifth century. Hippocrates, acclaimed as the father of modern medicine and honoured by doctors in the Hippocratic Oath, was the first to suggest that a person’s own healing ability was vital in choosing the right remedy for an ailment.

…Via the Germans

The founder of modern homeopathy was the 18th century German physician, Dr Samuel Hahnemann, who was appalled by the practices of his day that he set out to find a healing approach that was, gentle and in tune with the body. He believed that rather than trying to suppress symptoms, the body should be stimulated to encourage its natural healing process.

It’s becoming more popular

The demand for natural medicines is growing and people are buying them again and again because of their positive experiences with the remedies.

And why does it work?

Like general anaesthesia, the explanation for the success of homeopathy remains unclear.

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How to go about seeking treatment?

Homeopathy recognises the importance of considering the individual as a whole. It is best to first have a consultation with a registered homeopath. During a consultation the homeopath will look at all aspects of your health including your medical history, lifestyle and personality type, as well as current health problems.

This information is used to select a homeopathic prescription tailored to suit your individual case. For more information, see Nelsons Homeopathic Pharmacy.

What about the NHS?

The NHS spends approximately £4 million a year on homeopathic medicine, and there are three NHS homeopathic hospitals in the UK - Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, Glasgow Homeopathic Hospital and Bristol Homeopathic Hospital.