Vital Force

When we look at something that has died, be it an insect, a fish, an animal, or a person, it is easy to see that there was something beyond the body -- an energy, a force, an intelligence, an organizing principle -- that was responsible for what we experienced as life in that being. In homeopathy, this animating principle is called the vital force. One key difference between conventional (allopathic) medicine and homeopathy is that allopaths treat the body, while homeopaths treat the vital force.

Stress and Strain

You have your own unique vital force, and your experience of health depends upon how strong your vital force is -- how well it animates your body and mind, given your particular genetic heredity; how well it responds to changes in your environment; how resilient it is after a stress. The stress could be a physical injury, a pathogen (virus or bacteria), an emotionally disturbing event. In fact, it could be anything that demands that you change or adapt.

The vital force is not static; it is dynamic. When stressed, it resists being harmed by the stress. It strains back, trying to maintain its equilibrium so it can return to its original state of resilient vitalism.

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Significance of Symptoms

Disease arises when the vital force is weakened to the point that you start to experience symptoms of discomfort because the vital force is no longer able to do its job and restore you to health unassisted. The symptoms show us the pattern of the disease. They show us where and how the vital force is struggling to adapt, and where it is failing. The failed attempts are not the disease, but they point us towards where it is. This is another difference between allopathy and homeopathy. For the allopath, the symptoms are what is wrong; for the homeopathy, they are what is right. They are evidence that the vital force is alive and well, and valiantly trying to restore health.

Law of Similars

Given the difference in perspective on symptoms between allopaths and homeopath, it is easy to see why each approaches the treatment of disease differently. Since the allopath finds the symptoms to be problematic, allopathic treatments focus on eliminating symptoms, usually by stimulating a response from the organism which is opposite (allopathic) to the disease state. So, for example, if your cholesterol is high, you're given a drug that causes the body to produce less cholesterol.

The homeopath, on the other hand, wants to support the vital force in its current efforts to rebalance itself. So instead of looking for a substance to suppress the symptoms, the homeopath tries to help the vital force mount a stronger effort to rebalance itself and looks for a medicine that, when taken by a healthy person, will produce symptoms similar to those experienced by the person who is currently ill. This process of remedy selection was first conceived by Dr. Samual Hahnemann (1755-1843), considered to be the "father of homeopathy". He called it the law of similars,similia similibus curent, let similar things take care of similar things. In fact, this is the origin of the word homeopathy: homeo = similarity + pathy = disease.

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Infintessimal Dose

Dr. Samuel Hahnemann was, first and foremost, a scientist. In fact, contrary to popular belief in modern scientific circles, it was he, and not they, who devised the first double-blind placebo-controlled studies, and it was through his extensive research into how different drugs exacted their observed effects on people exhibiting particular patterns of disease that he drew his conclusions about the practice of medicine that came to be known as homeopathy.

In addition to noticing that an effective cure was best achieved by prescribed medicines whose effects on a healthy person matched the symptoms of a sick person, he also discovered that the smaller the dose, the more complete was the cure. He called this phenomenon the law of the infintessimal dose.

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Whole Person Prescribing

Since the vital force animates a person (or animal) as a whole, and diseases affect the vital force, it stands to reason that symptoms will manifest throughout the body-mind unity of that organism. This is, indeed, what we observe. Whole person prescribing refers to the way that homeopaths gather information in order to choose a remedy that best matches the complete collection of symptoms that a person is experiencing. Hahnemann referred this as the totality of symptoms of a disease and all homeopaths use a methodology that allows them to interview a person about symptoms throughout the body and mind. This process of gathering information about a person's symptoms is called "taking a person's case" or, more simply, case-taking.

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In recognition of a great man

Some two hundred years ago a great adventure began. A brilliant and creative physician whose motto was "be bold and be sensible" dared to question the medical establishment.

Faced with certain practices in medicine that did not make sense to him, Samuel Hahnemann started out to find the why behind the healing action of a single drug, and ended up taking a giant leap in uncovering the link between drugs and diseases.

In my mind, Samuel Hahnemann was to medicine what Sir Isaac Newton was to physicas. Both offered us a new way of thinking and new laws to match it. Both developed their views by incorporating old theories, observations and experimental data, and both came up with universal concepts that explained aspects of nature.

Newton's model and rules enhanced our understanding of how things work -- things that we observe every day, such as gravity and the movement of the planets. Similarly, Hahnemann's ideas explained the why of ordinary things -- why people become sick and why certain symptoms manifest.

Using Newton's theories, it was possible to accurately predict phenonmenon that would not be discovered or understood for two hundred years. Similarly, Hahnemann's theory of miasms and disease foreshadowed the discovery of germs, bacteria and viruses.

Paul Herscu ND DHANP MPH 1996 Stramonium