Some of our brethren have been experimenting with homeopathy; but I read somewhere that it is a New Age practice. Can you comment briefly?

First, I must say I do not know much about homeopathy, apart from what I have been told and from some brief reading. For the sake of our readers who may not have come across homeopathy, it was founded by German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann, who had become dissatisfied with the medical practices of his day, which consisted largely in blood letting and the use of large doses of dangerous drugs. His theory was published in a book in 1810, and today it is recognised as a certified alternative medicine by the National Health Services in Britain.

From what I understand, the idea behind the system of cures invented by Dr. Hahnemann is based on the fact that the human body has the capacity to fight diseases or to correct any abnormal bodily conditions. This immune system reaction goes into operation whenever abnormal symptoms are detected by the body. The idea, then, is that if the immune reaction can be somehow stimulated, the body can be restored to a healthy state more quickly than if it we would leave it to handle the disease at its own pace. Dr. Hahnemann, through some experimentation, theorised that this immune reaction can be triggered and stimulated by small quantities of substances or poisons, which would normally cause the same symptoms (of the illness being treated) in a healthy person, if ingested or applied in larger quantities. Thus, as the symptoms of arsenic poisoning are headaches, confusion and sleepiness, arsenic may be used to treat diseases with these symptoms. Similarly, as caffeine causes sleeplessness, so caffeine may be used to treat insomnia. This idea of “using like to cure like” explains the term “homeopathy,” which is constructed from the Greek homoios, meaning “like” or “similar,” and pathos, meaning “suffering” or “passion.”

So far so good. The difficulties come when we consider how the homeopathic tablets are made. These tablets are really made of sugar and milk, to which are introduced a tiny (often insignificant) amount of the active ingredient. The method of preparing the tablets, described by Hahnemann, consisted first of all in making serial dilutions of the active ingredient in water or alcohol, alternating with violent shaking, called succussion. The serial dilution means that when droplets of the solution are finally introduced to the lactose tablets, any amount of poison remaining in the droplet is so insignificant as to have no effect even on very small animals. Since Hahnemann, many different levels of dilutions have been used. The most commonly used dilutions in Britain today, for example, are the 6th centesimal (1:1,000,000,000,000) and the 30th centesimal (1:5,000,000,000,000). At such dilution level, even precise instruments cannot detect any trace of the active substance in the solutions. In fact, once we get beyond about the 12th centesimal dilution, for all intents and purposes, no molecules of the original substance would be left in the solution. If that be the case, what is it that effect the cure or trigger the body’s self-healing mechanism? According to Hahnemann and other homeopathic practitioners, it is the succussion that does the trick. Somehow the succussions are supposed to leave some sort of molecular energy imprints on the water that can effect the healing process.

This is the aspect of homeopathy that is troubling and, at least, at present not supported by any scientific evidence. It is perhaps because of this apparently mysterious aspect, the fact that homeopathy purports to be a natural cure, and the fact that many Hindus practise it, that has caused it to be linked, by some, with New Age practice and philosophy. However, it appears to me that the link is at best incidental and associative.

I am in no position to comment on the effectiveness of homeopathy, though many would avow to have been cured by using it. However, in my opinion, there is no harm experimenting with it unless one relies on it to the exclusion of proven and effective modern medications (and therefore effectively denying proven treatment). If used cautiously and prudently, it is at worst only a placebo.

I am personally not extremely enthusiastic about homeopathy, simply because I am generally reticent when it comes to trying anything which I cannot fathom rationally, apart from spiritual truths revealed in the Word of God. But the basis of homeopathy is neither religious nor spiritual, and therefore I do not think it is right for anyone to sweepingly dismiss it as New Age as some have done. Neither do I think we should condemn anyone who experiments with it or advocates it out of good will. But “let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Rom 14:5).