What is Homeopathy

This section is intended not for homeopathic practitioners and researchers, but for those interested members of the public and medical profession seeking further knowledge and information.


The principles of homeopathy

Homeopathy is a system of medicine based on the hypothesis that a substance can cure the same problem it can cause – ‘like cures like’. Homeopathic practitioners use these substances in dilute forms in varying degrees to treat their patients.

Homeopathic doctors take a holistic approach and form remedy pictures that include not only the presenting complaint, but also the patient’s mental and emotional state. Homeopathy is practised around the world with remarkable consistency in its prescription and there are thousands of medicines listed in the Homeopathic Materia Medica. These medicines can be obtained from homeopathic pharmacies. Homeopathy has been around for more than two hundred years and was developed as a complete system of medicine by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann in Germany in the mid 19th century, although the principle of ‘like cures like’ has been in medical thought since ancient times.

The practice of homeopathy

The following passage describes a typical homeopathic consultation by a medically-qualified homeopathic doctor.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Usually the first consultation will take up to an hour. The patient’s narrative is listened to, recording when the problem started, how it developed and what makes the particular symptoms better or worse; such as heat or cold and the position the patient adopts.

Even with acute illness, characteristics relating to the whole person may be important. For instance, the patient may usually feel the cold, but with an infection they feel very hot and want to be uncovered with the window open. The time of day when the patient feels best or worst and other general symptoms may be relevant.

In chronic illness, it is even more important to find out if the environment affects the patient: heat or cold, damp or dry weather, mountains or seaside. These variable factors, or modalities, are important in understanding the patient’s constitution.

Although the problem may not involve the digestive system it is important to know whether there are any food likes or dislikes: be it the type of food, or its being sweet, sour, or salty; and when there is a thirst, if it is for large or small amounts.

Sleep is usually restorative and since an illness may affect this, it is helpful to enquire about sleep quality, if there are dreams, what position is most comfortable and whether the patient wakes refreshed. Mood changes, and when they occur, need to be considered as well as other symptoms relating to the mind: such as fears, anger, tearfulness, desire to be alone or have company.

The prescription

An acute illness may require only a short appointment. The prescription of the homeopathic medicine will usually be in a medium potency to be taken frequently until relief. In a chronic illness when all the factors have to be considered it is usual to prescribe a higher potency to be taken less frequently and the response needs to be monitored with further appointments.

The second consultation

At the return visit the patient is asked the general question – “how are you in yourself?” Quite often the response is “much better” in spite of some of the old symptoms persisting. There may be new symptoms which, on closer questioning, were experienced in previous episodes of illness. The experienced physician will sense that the patient is making a recovery and will not prescribe a new medicine. However, troublesome symptoms may be alleviated by using a low potency homeopathic medicine which covers the symptoms and their modalities.


The lifestyle of the patient may be slowing down full recovery and in this case the physician will need to give advice including diet and exercise – areas which all doctors take into consideration. Other treatments, such as physiotherapy and osteopathy, may be needed for rheumatic conditions.

Ongoing treatment

At a further appointment, progress is again assessed and it may be that repetition of the initial prescription is needed to stimulate further recovery. In chronic conditions with a change of symptomatology, the history may need to be taken again and a new medicine prescribed to continue the healing process.

How to find a good Homeopath

The easiest way is to consult the British Homeopathic Association and the Faculty of Homeopathy.

British Homeopathic Association and the Faculty of Homeopathy.
Hahnemann House
29 Park Street West
Luton LU1 3BE
Tel: 0870 444 3950.
Fax: 0870 444 3960.

Homeopathy and the NHS

There are four NHS homeopathic hospitals and qualified homeopathic doctors work in community-based clinics, general and private practices. To receive any homeopathic treatment on the NHS you must be either referred by your GP or by a consultant.

Homeopathic Hospitals

Bristol Homeopathic Hospital
at South Bristol Community Hospital, Hengrove Promenade, Bristol BS14 0DE
0117 342 9661


Glasgow Homoeopathic Hospital
1053 Great Western Road, Glasgow G12 0XQ
0141 211 1616

Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine
60 Great Ormond Street
London WC1N 3HR
020 7391 8891