Classical homeopathy depends for its clinical effect on a homeopathic remedy. A successul prescription requires a properly prepared remedy made from the correct source material as determined individually for each person.
Homeopathic remedies are made from a seemingly limitless variety of substances, but all of them share a similar preparation process. It is the specialized process of preparation that makes homeopathic remedies unique. In addition to being prepared correctly, a homeopathic remedy must be prescribed correctly according to the principles of homeopathic philosophy in order to act effectively.
Sources of homeopathic remedies
Each homeopathic remedy originates from a any one of a huge variety of substances of natural or man-made origin. Remedies can be prepared from various minerals, from plants, from animal products, from synthetic chemicals, and even from sources of radiation such as x-ray.
Samuel Hahnemann (the founder of homeopathy) prepared his first homeopathic remedies from substances that were in medicinal use at the time: chemicals such as mercury, silver, and sulphur; plants such as Belladonna and quinine; and animal products such as musk. By the time of his death in 1843 Hahnemann had prepared around 100 remedies.
Homeopaths that followed him have expanded the selection of remedies to well over 1000, preparing many remedies also from many more chemical and plant sources, from animal sources such as snake poisons, from microogranisms, and from various synthetic chemicals.
Remedies are prepared by alternating dilution and ‘succussion’
Whatever the source, the starting material is next dissolved in a mixture of water and alcohol. Soluble substances are dissolved directly, whereas insoluble ones need to be ground to a fine powder before they can be dissolved. Following the initial dissolution of the substance, the remedy is prepared by a serial process of alternating dilution and succussion. Dilution involves taking one part of the original solution and diluting it in a much larger portion (usually 10 or 100 times as much) water. Succussion involves vigorous mixing of the solution — a specialized process which is unique to homeopathy.
The entire process of dilution and succussion is repeated anywhere from three times to many thousands of times. This is nowadays performed by homeopathic pharmacies with the help of specialized equipment that automates this otherwise tedious process.
Regardless of the source product, the remedy is dispensed either in liquid form or as sugar-based tablets suffused with the mixture. The remedy contains very little or none of the original substance, because the process of preparation has diluted away the original substance to such an extent that there is no possibility that its action is through chemical means. Because of the remedy’s ultra-diluted nature, the patient need not ever worry about ingesting a harmful substance or about chemical interaction with other medications.
Mechanism of action
The claim that the homeopathic remedy does not act through chemical means alone makes most people view the claims of homeopathy with disbelief, because all medicines are assumed to work through chemical means. But the only effect that homeopathic remedies could have is through a mechanism, possibly electromagnetic in nature, that is still not understood by science but nevertheless is shown to work in the clinic.
Although homeopathy continues to be shunned by most scientists, in recent years several clinical trials have provided results that provide support for the mysterious efficacy of homeopathy, and research in the field is gradually becoming more and more widely known.