What is Homeopathy?

The physician’s high and only mission is to restore the sick to health, to cure as it is termed.’

Samuel Hahnemann (Founder of Homeopathic Medicine)

Organon VI-§1

Homeopathy is a system of medicine based on the principle of treating ‘like with like’ (law of similars). Essentially, the law states that any substance that produces a specific set of symptoms in a healthy person will be able to treat a similar set of symptoms in a sick person1. Homeopaths assess a patient as a whole, taking into consideration the physical, psychological and emotional aspect of a person, including social, lifestyle and nutritional factors, and base specific treatment on this holistic view.

The second principle of homeopathy is concerned with dosage, where a process of specific serial dilutions is utilised in the production of a homoeopathic remedy. This is known as dynamisation or potentisation3. Homeopathic remedies are produced by potentisation of substances obtained from the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms. Other substances include micro-organisms and synthetic chemicals or medicines, although utilisation of these remedies is generally less common.

When a single homeopathic remedy is used based on the patients totality of symptoms, it is termed ‘classical’ homeopathy2. Remedies utilised for a specific physical complaint, or multiple remedies used simultaneously, is termed ‘clinical’ homeopathy.

Although the principle of the law of similars has been around for millennia, and described by historic figures such Hippocrates and Paracelsus, it was a German physician by the name of Samuel Hahnemann that cohesively formulated the modern laws and principles of practice of homoeopathy in the early 19th century4. He extensively researched the dynamics of health and disease, and many substances that are used in homeopathic practice.

‘No individual has done more good to the medical profession than Samuel Hahnemann’

Dr C. Everett Koop, M.D. (Surgeon General of the United States from 1982-1989)

Homoeopathy, considered a branch of Western Medicine5, is acknowledged by the World Health Organisation as the second largest system of medicine in the world. Although highly controversial in the scientific domain, the efficacy of homeopathy has been demonstrated in numerous clinical and laboratory experiments6.

What can homeopathy treat?

Homeopathy has a wide range of clinical application. It is especially useful in functional disorders and organic disease in which the body is still capable of reversing and returning to a state of optimal function, with many clinical trials showing evidence in specific conditions6. It is important to understand that homeopathy is most beneficial in conditions that are not associated with permanent damage or change in body structure (although associated symptoms can be addressed). Essentially, the correct use homeopathy is aimed at restoring the most optimal function a body can achieve. It is therefore not a miracle medicine to cure the incurable, but an essential component in the process of mental, emotional and physical healing.

‘I can’t manage without homeopathy. In fact, I never go anywhere without homeopathic remedies. I often make use of them.’

Paul McCartney 

Homeopathy can be used in isolation or in conjunction with other natural therapeutic modalities. It can be used alongside conventional treatments, but the benefit from homeopathy may be reduced due to suppression and control of normal function. This must be assessed by a trained and registered homeopathic Doctor.

Homeopathy is not limited to chronic complaints, and is also particularly useful and quick acting in acute conditions. Essentially, the application of homoeopathy is vast, with success based on the correct prescription for the individual (not the disease), a proper assessment by a Doctor, and the ability of the body to self-regulate.

‘Homeopathy is wholly capable of satisfying the therapeutic demands of this age better than any other system or school of medicine.’

Dr. Charles Menninger M.D. (Founder of the Menninger Clinic)

Homeopaths may combine other natural approaches to the management of disease and regulation of optimal health. These include herbal preparations, nutritional and lifestyle advice and nutritional supplements. For misconceptions of what does not constitute homeopathy, please follow this link.

Who can homeopathy treat?

Homeopathy is used in the treatment of males and females of all ages and with any condition. Homeopathy is safe and non-toxic for use in pregnancy, infants, babies and toddlers. It is also used in the treatment of animals5. Again, it must be stressed that a adequately trained homeopathic Doctor be consulted to identify the pathology and disease process and advise responsibly in the best interest of the patient.

The majority of patients who seek homeopathic treatment have already utilised the medical system without success, or the treatments prescribed are causing unacceptable side effects or discomforts. Although patients come from a range of socio-economic backgrounds, patients in developed nations (including South Africa in this case) are typically children and adults from more educated and affluent backgrounds.

Some countries have homeopathy integrated very successfully into public health care, making the benefits available to the poorer communities. In India, for example, homeopathy is available in 230 hospitals (over 10 000 beds), with 216 000 practitioners and 216 teaching facilities. England have five major homeopathic hospitals sponsored by the NHS, and homeopathy is integrated in a further six European countries, with medical students being taught homeopathy in nine European countries6.

‘Homeopathy cures a larger percentage of cases than any other method of treatment and is beyond doubt safer and more economical and most complete medical science.’

‘Homeopathy cares for a larger percentage of cases than any other method of treatment.’

Mahatama Gandhi

In South Africa, homeopathy is available through registered homeopathic doctors in private practice, and is paid for by most medical aid schemes (this will depend on the scheme and that the patient has been consulted by a properly registered practitioner).

Is homeopathy safe?

As the principles of homeopathy involve serially diluted and dynamised medicines, all toxic compounds of the original crude substance are effectively removed. Homeopathy is therefore considered safe and non-toxic for use by people or animals of all ages with any condition5.

‘Homeopathy for me are effective natural remedies that have no side effects.’

Dr. Robert Mendelsohn (Paediatrician, Author and Professor at the University of Illinois Medical School)

A proper diagnosis of your symptoms is important, and a proper medical workup may be required in order to identify a more serious pathology presenting with subtle and non-specific symptoms (i.e. to prevent unnecessary delays in a medical diagnosis). South African registered homeopaths are trained and able to identify reasons for a more serious medical concern (see The Homeopath as a Primary Health Care Practitioner), and refer the patient to the appropriate specialist if required.

‘The introduction of homeopathy forced the old school doctor to stir around and learn something of a rational nature about his business. You may honestly feel grateful that homeopathy survived the attempts of allopaths [conventional physicians] to destroy it.’

Mark Twain


Although homeopathy is widely used, it is often suggested that homeopathy does not have a scientific basis5,6. However, this appears to be a clouded and biased judgement in light of the evidence put forward. This website will seek to provide a basic summary of this research, and will also include further details for those who are interested.  In the meantime, please read the article ‘Homeopathy – where is the evidence?

‘It is not as if our homeopathic brothers are asleep: far from it, they are awake–many of them at any rate–to the importance of the scientific study of disease.’

 Sir William Osler, the ‘father of modern medicine’

Homeopaths in South Africa:

Homeopaths in South Africa undergo six years of medically orientated training in order to qualify. The pre-graduate years predominantly comprise of medical science subjects, including anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology and diagnostics. This provides a strong basis in the understanding of disease and in the ability to effectively and responsible make a medical based diagnosis. The management of patients in orientated around homeopathic philosophy, material medical and homeopathic pharmaceutics. A Master’s degree research project must be completed in order to qualify with a Master’s in Technology: Homeopathy. Other subjects include herbal medicine and nutrition.

Homeopaths must be registered with the Allied Health Professions Council of South Africa (AHPCSA) in order to legally diagnose and treat patients. It is essential that your practitioner is registered. Registration with the Board of Health Care Funders (BHF) is required in order to obtain a practice number and legally practice and claim from medical aid (as required by medical doctors). A homeopath must also obtain a compounding and dispensing license if they are dispensing medications from their practice. Please ensure your practitioner has all these registrations that will ensure adequate and effective diagnosis and management of you and your family. Refer to the article The Homeopath as a Primary Health Care Practitioner’ for more information.

‘Very different would be the position of the profession toward homeopathy if it had aimed, like other doctrines advanced by physicians, to gain a foothold among medical men alone or chiefly, instead of making its appeal to the popular favour and against the profession. … And as its adherents do not aim simply at the establishment of a system of doctrines, but wage a war of radicalism against the profession, and seek to throw down the barricades and guard it from the intrusion of ignorance and quackery … our duty is to expel them.’

Proceedings of the Connecticut Medical Society

Quoted by Harris L. Coulter in ‘Divided Legacy: the Conflict Between Homeopathy and the American Medical Association (1982)’


  1. Witt CM, et al. 2005. Homeopathic medical practice: Long term results of a cohort study with 3981 patients. BMC Public Health 5:115.
  2. Linde K, et al. 1997.  Are the clinical effects of homeopathy placebo effects? A meta-analysis of placebo-controlled trials. Lancet 350:834-843.
  3. Kleijnen J, et al. 1991. Clinical trials of homeopathy. British Medical Journal 302:316-23.
  4. Lockie, A. 2000. Encyclopoedia of Homoeopathy. London, England. Dorling Kindersly.
  5. Reilly D. 2006. The evidence for homeopathy. http://www.adhom.com/adh_download/EVIDENCE_9.0_Sept_06.pdf [accessed February 2010]
  6. Van Wassenhoven M. 2009. Evidence based homeopathy: Scientific framework of homeopathy. 64th LMHI Congress http://liga.iwmh.net/dokumente/upload/556c7_SCIEN_FRA_2009_final_approved.pdf [accessed February 2010]